We talk with Ashley Schaffer & James Grinwis about their beautiful press-journal-boat.
1.) Who do you imagine your ideal reader to be?
Well, anyone who can read! We really strive to have an eclectic body of work in each issue. This word is thrown around a lot: eclectic. To us, it means various modes and styles of getting into the realm of being that each piece of writing embodies. We think of our jobs as populating a room with this “eclectic” crowd. We have 100 or so pages to orchestrate an interesting conversation between artists. Our ideal reader is someone who looks for this multi-faceted relationship in their reading. Not just reading to find a “good” poem, but someone who reads in order to be pushed a bit out of his/her comfort zone and who puts thought into that experience.
2.) How did your Journal start?
Ashley has worked in publishing in various modes since high school. For years in different circles, she had been dreaming up possible scenarios for a literary magazine. In grad school at UMass-Amherst, she met with many writers’ dreams for literary magazines, and they weren’t just dreaming. She met James who had been doing a little daydreaming of his own. James liked the scenario of Kayak magazine. It was this simple, little magazine that published the early work of now major poets. Kayak was a one-man show and kept trucking along for 64 issues and twenty something years. The simplicity of it is appealing—although it wasn’t simple at all of course. So James had the name “bateau” rattling around in his head for awhile as a nod to Kayak. Ashley and James both have boating of various sorts in their backgrounds. Also the image of a boat is multi-faceted and apropos as a literary module. People frequently reference “Le Bateau Ivre” when asking about Bateau. Not really but ok yeah that too. We talked about design. Ashley’s love of letterpress and design. It had to be a package deal. It was important to make a product that was really beautiful. We didn’t want to throw it together. We’re not in a hurry. We’re interested in respecting the content with what we deem a suitable presentation. We like that mutual balance. We look for it. The environment was also a concern of Ashley’s. While we definitely wanted to make something printed. Something tangible. Really tangible. We were also very conscious of this project as a product being made and put out into the world. We wanted to do the least harm we could and hopefully more good. So the paper had to be only certain paper. The people we worked with had to be people we were in community with. It had to be done a certain way. So all of this was floating (ha) around in our heads and I remember one night musing about it with James and finally saying it. Are we going to do this or what. Because if we’re going to do this, then let’s do it. And if we’re not, then let’s stop talking about it like it’s out there somewhere lost. So then we started having more practical, logistical conversations. Talking to local printers. Finding artists. Setting up a website. Agreeing on a logo. All that stuff. We put ads up in various places and the submissions started coming in. We were quite shocked!
3.) What other Journals do you imagine to be in the same aesthetic constellation as you?
We feel kinship content-wise with Quick Fiction, Conjunctions, Backwards City Review, Handsome, 6×6, 20×20. We like to think we have a spunky quirk in the vein of Lungfull! and Conduit. And we of course have an affinity to other chapbook and letterpress publishers such as Pilot Books , Rose Metal Press, Effing Press, Factory Hollow Press, Greying Ghost, Ugly Duckling… Also presses that are not university affiliated.
4.) If you had infinite funds or resources, what do you imagine you magazine would look like?
Frankly, Bateau would look just about the same. We don’t cut many corners. We bemoan this fact at least weekly. But we want to do it how we want to do it or what’s the point. There are so many publishers out there doing great things. We’re not going to waste so much time, money, and energy on something we’re not totally into.
We recently changed it from a biannual to an annual. So perhaps we might hire an actual staff to keep it a biannual. Or maybe not. We definitely wouldn’t charge a reading fee for our contests. We’d give away more money for the winners. We’d pay writers for their published work. We would be more technologically advanced. We’d have a cooler website —meaning it’d have more fancypants web magic involved. Perhaps. We’d have a Bateau app. Or whatever is next. Letterpress on a computer? We’re so into the tactile, I don’t know what all this technology would do to us. We like it relatively simple. That’s part of us too. We’d host more readings. We’d print more copies. We’d donate them around the world. We’d market poetry as successfully as junk food is marketed now. We’d definitely have more parties!
5.) What is you favorite non-art, non-lit magazine? (This could be print or electronic)
James likes reading the New Yorker (for the articles mostly, not the poetry/fiction) as well as Discover. Ashley likes Permaculture (or any gardening mag, really); ReadyMade is fun; and Tennis Magazine always publishes the same articles with different titles but she keeps reading them all anyhow. We sometimes read Mental Floss to each other.