Interview: Chelsea Tadeyeske (pitymilk press and gritty silk journal)

Chelsea Tadeyeske interviewed by Kit N. Edwards

1) pitymilk is a fairly new press; how do you see this project developing over the next few years?

As far as the future for pitymilk, we take it project by project. When we started making things under this insignia we always had in mind that we wanted to produce both tangible objects as well as digital, thus the gritty silk project emerged alongside our chapbook series. They are both very different projects that involve varying relationships with contributing authors as well as the product itself. Both projects present unique issues that are fascinating to us. So, as we move forward, to keep the same balance of tangible and digital projects is something we are confident we will want to keep intact. So long as there is interest in the press and what it does, we will keep making. We have some lofty dreams that could involve a reading/performance series (need to move out of this town first) and other elaborate tangible/digital collaborations between ourselves and other authors/artists. We are enthusiastically open to any and all possibilities.

2) How does pitymilk afford to print these limited edition chapbooks? Does this press run as a non-profit?

Well, we pay for all materials and printing out of pocket. Since non-profit is a legal term, technically pitymilk is not a non-profit, however, we tend to break even when all is said and done if you consider costs for materials, printing and time. This is/was definitely never intended to be a money-making endeavor but rather one that simply existed because it loves to make things to show the world, work with other talented minds and showcase beautiful poetry and art.

3) By looking through and reading the first two issues of gritty silk I noticed there seems to be a certain cohesion that holds each issue together. How do you go about curating each issue so the work flows together seamlessly? How do you find contributors? Is it primarily through random submissions, curated calls, or writers you have worked with previously? If it is a mix of all three which one is the primary source?

Prior to starting pitymilk, we’ve done work on journals and chapbooks through our sister press, plumberries press. Through this, we established very complex networks of poets and artists who I will always want to see new work from throughout years of books and projects under that insignia. Each time a gritty silk issue is due, we solicit a lot of the voices we’ve seen do interesting things in the past, but also send out wide calls via social media outlets, personal letters, etc. that also give us new voices which is always the best surprise in working on a big project such as gritty silk. I think it says on our website something about “surreal and tactile” and I think that juxtaposing extremes and seeing what surprise pops out is the best way to describe the work we like to read and work with.

4) How do you feel the physical location of pitymilk helps and or limits the press as a whole? Would you ever want to relocate? If not, why not? If yes, where to?

pitymilk materialized in my hometown, Milwaukee, WI a few years ago. It was there that I met my partner in many publishing endeavors, Edwin Perry (of plumberries press) and sort of got my introduction to small publishing culture. I fell in love with the culture almost immediately and knew that I wanted to get my hands dirty making things for other people. I was reading and performing in Milwaukee and also around the country, hosting traveling performers in my living room and in other venues around the city, etc. and through those activities started meeting other poets, publishers and performers. I guess I understood very quickly that living in one spot was not necessarily that important to me in terms of the press, but rather the ability to move around and create/maintain contacts through travel and movement. Not that I don’t value certain locations for their ability to draw and foster awesome, creative minds, I just found that I could build a network by moving around to/from these locations and other hidden gems to meet artists and invite them to visit the city I happen to be living in at the time when they are out on the road. So I guess that means I find my community by traveling and building it up cumulatively rather than seeking out and remaining in a location-specific community. Which may or may not limit the amount of access to the press depending on how you look at it. I like to think of pitymilk as a mobile endeavor.

5) How do you determine who gets a published in a chapbook versus the online publication gritty silk?

I’d like to say that I have a structure in place for that, but I really don’t. I suppose I get chapbook submissions here and there throughout the year without needing to put out specific calls for chapbook submissions, whereas if I want to start working on another gritty issue, I attack social media and e-mail poets for collaborative work. Sometimes though gritty, poets will send shorter versions of manuscripts or chapbook projects. There is a book cooking up now that in part appears in gritty issue two, but will be blown up into a full chap sometime later in the year!

6) How do you distribute these chapbooks outside of Wisconsin? Do you have a demographic? If yes, who and why? If not, why not?

As of now, pitymilk is relocated to Ohio (Cincinnati area) while I finish up grad school. The thing about grad school that is pretty alright is your ability to travel during long breaks. When I go on reading tours, I bring a huge suitcase of books with me and this is my main method of spreading books around out there. There are a few places I restock books regularly like Quimby’s in Chicago, Guide to Kulchur in Cleveland, and Powell’s in Portland and other places that I frequent on my travels. Other than that I use the expansive mass that is the internet to highlight new releases and direct people to the website. I suppose the demographic are other poets/publishers that I’ve met at various readings or book fairs or just know via the broader poetry/publishing community. Usually younger folk that also make and do and share things.

7) About how much time do you set aside to read through submissions? Do you take breaks in between and come back to things? Or do you do it all at once? Do you have any help in this process? If so, how many people? How do you think working together/alone affects the process of submissions review?

I wish I would say that there is some rhyme or reason to the submission process. I’m currently trudging through the trauma and horror that is grad school so the amount of time that I dedicate to the press has suffered in the last few months particularly. When I do sit down to look at submissions, I oftentimes will read through them all without making any formal decisions and go about my day. If there are particular images, lines, ideas, etc. that stick with me, those submissions are usually the ones that I will accept during the second round of read-throughs. Sometimes my partner will help me read them/discuss them with me (he is the editor of our sister press, plumberries press), and that helps to generate dialogue I find useful in thinking about the piece(s) before making any decisions.

8) What part of running a tiny press inspires you to continue? What are some frustrations you have run into along the way and how have you dealt with them? What is the most intriguing/exciting part of chapbook production and distribution?

I love the process of collaboration with other poets and artists, so I think that is the big will to continue pitymilk. It was always a goal of mine to work with visual artists for each book to get a third perspective. On the whole, making the finished products is always a magnificent surprise. There’s this ineffable feeling you get after you’ve finished the final product, hold it in your hands and realize it looks better than how you originally imagined it. Hmmm…there are always some things that are frustrating like equipment failures (printers, presses, etc.) or rushed deadlines/lack of time…but all of that I think adds a nice adrenaline to the process that really raises stakes and affirms to me that this is something I care about and want to keep doing. As far as what is most intriguing, I must say it’s that surprise I was talking about earlier that’s the product of the complex collaboration for each book (editor, poet and artist).

9) My final question is a bit strange but bear with me as I hope it will be enlightening in some way. If you were interviewing a tiny press editor what are some questions you would ask?

I’d totally be interested in the birth of the idea of the press. What about their press do they feel sets their aesthetic apart, or, what voice they think their press gives to the community and how. I also am very interested in technical things like, where do you do your printing, where do you get your materials, how you solicit work, etc. Most of all though, to discuss the passion for such work!