In this installment of The Machinations Of we hear from William Waltz, founder and editor of Conduit—a beautiful print journal that never fails to capture the imagination with both its content and design. The volumes are tall, literally, expertly unhinged and welcoming, and continually refreshing after more than 10 years. Go forth and see for yourself.
1.) Who do you imagine your ideal reader to be?
Our ideal reader probably has a favorite chair and a pocket large enough to accommodate a tall, thin magazine. A person who appreciates cross-pollination, transoms, and moths clinging to a screen. This person travels with a song in their bones. It’s someone with a curious mind and revolution-ready shoes. An explorer, a dreamer, a troublemaker with a sense of humor and above-average peripheral vision.
2.) How did your press start?
Divine intervention. A vision came to me on Pleasant Street after midnight. It said do something impractical and important. Ah, that’s only partly true. The other part of the truth is that, as I was wrapping up my tenure at the University of Massachusetts, I realized that there weren’t many journals I enjoyed reading or that I could image my own poems even inhabiting. I had a bachelor’s degree in economics and I was steeped in punk rock and its DIY culture, so I had a little different take on what a poetry magazine might look and feel like. And, at the risk of sounding like an old geezer, the literary scene in 1993 wasn’t nearly as vibrant or multifaceted as it is today, or so it seemed me. Another crucial component to the Conduit genesis was the fact that I was lucky enough to be surrounded by many excellent young poets, all of whom deserved to be published but weren’t being published. I wanted to change that and I convinced my wife-to-be, Brett Astor, to help me to try.
3.) What other presses or publications do you imagine to be in the same aesthetic constellation as you?
I don’t know exactly. I don’t know the coordinates of our constellation. I can tell you some of the presses, magazines, and projects that I admire, and if it were to be said that Conduit occupied the same constellation, I’d be honored. But first, I’ve been advised to make the following disclaimer: this isn’t all-inclusive list and there are certainly many killer projects that I’m not even aware of. For different and sometimes conflicting reasons, I like and admire Bateau, Denver Quarterly, jubilat, McSweeney’s, Spout, and Ugly Duckling. I also like things I get in the mail for free.
4.) If you had infinite funds or resources, what do you imagine your magazine would look like?
Conduit would probably look a lot like it does now. It’s full-color throughout and we’re proud of our design qualities, so we’d continue those traditions. I think we’d probably try the short and impossibly wide look for fun, and we would almost certainly include a CD with each issue. But, if Conduit were to be the beneficiary of some blessed windfall, I would, without hesitation, handsomely pay all of our contributors and everyone on the masthead, all of whom work really hard and devote so much of their time and energy to the cause for nothing but the greater good.
5.) What do you want the future of publishing , or just the future, to look like?
I hope the future is full of freethinkers who question authority and their own assumptions, who pursue their passions and interests with gusto, not to be different but to be themselves. Those people will make all sorts of wonderful things including books and magazines.
6.) You need to tell us a secret.
Through twenty-three issues, we have published over 400 poets and writers. Many of these lovely people have been incredibly generous in thought and deed and have championed us wherever they’ve gone, but there was this one poet and he was a royal asshole.
Visit Conduit here.