By Stephen Sparks, Little Infinite Editor
I ran through several drafts of an introduction this interview with Copper Canyon’s Joseph Bednarik, but finally came to the conclusion that the most effective way to present the forty-five year old nonprofit press was to provide a list of some of their authors. And so, before getting to Joseph’s answers below, consider that Copper Canyon, the best poetry publisher in the U.S. if not the world, has published the likes of Pablo Neruda, W.S. Merwin, Ocean Vuong, Adrienne Rich, C.D. Wright, Lucille Clifton, Octavio Paz, and hundreds more.
What's your elevator pitch for Copper Canyon?
The most efficient elevator pitch is our mission statement: "Poetry is vital to language and living. Copper Canyon Press publishes extraordinary poetry from around the world to engage the imaginations and intellects of readers."
What are you looking for in your poetry books?
As we tell prospective poets on our website, "We are looking for exceptional poetry from writers who love to work and play with language, who make us see and think in new ways."
If you had to recommend only 5 Copper Canyon poetry titles to a bookseller or librarian, which would you start with?
Easy. Start with a magician's top-hat filled with 500 slips of paper. Written on each slip is the author and title of a Copper Canyon book currently in print. Now blindfold both the librarian and bookseller, spin them around 17 times clockwise and 13 times counterclockwise, then guide their hands into the hat for a fistful of papers. Instruct them to throw the slips into the air. Watch how the fluttering slips catch the sunlight and breeze. Repeat this process until there are only five pieces of paper left in the top-hat. These would be the books I would recommend.
If then the librarian pulled me aside and asked, in a library whisper, "What is the one Copper Canyon book that is in most libraries?" I'd say Ted Kooser's Delights and Shadows.
Then if the bookseller pulled me aside and asked, "Which Copper Canyon book has sold the most copies ever?" I'd have to say Pablo Neruda's Book of Questions.
Then if both stared at me intensely and asked, "Which Copper Canyon poets do you reach for when you need a good poem to make it through the day?" I'd say Jim Harrison, Ellen Bass, C.D. Wright, any Chinese poem translated by Red Pine, and each and every Copper Canyon poet who happens to be reading this interview.
What might someone not know about Copper Canyon that you would like them to?
That we just printed 250 letterpress broadsides of a great Hayden Carruth line "Let justice be primary when we sing." That broadside hangs in the window of our front door. We look forward to distributing the remaining 249 copies for doors and windows around the world.
Because as C.D. Wright says, "It is a function of poetry to locate those zones inside us that would be free, and declare them so."