In Praise of Small Presses and Slow Poetry

Over at the Atlantic, Adam Roberts has been writing a fascinating five-part series about contemporary poetry. In the fourth part of the series, Roberts proposes that contemporary verse might take a cue from the Slow Food and other Slow movements and “help us transition away from monocultural reading habits.” He goes on to praise small presses:

In the world of literary culture, the small press is probably the closest equivalent to your local farmer’s market. (The carrots might look funnier, but, after you’re used to it, they taste about five times better.) There are tons of small presses, spread out over the country, and they’re often run at either no-profit or a loss. These are labors of love—not engaged in the production of commodities for consumption, but something closer to Lewis Hyde’s notion of “the gift.” Hand-sewn chapbooks take time to make, the poems in them take time to read, and the poets (most likely) took a lot of time to write them. Their production occurs on a smaller (and less grandiose) scale, and like the Slow Food and broader Slow Culture movement, they want to restore to us a sense of time that our current world system strips away from us. Perhaps they wouldn’t want to be in the airports, even if we let them. But they can, like the local food economy (which is growing at a spectacular rate, nationally), become viable alternatives with our support.

Princeton University Press hasn’t yet made his list of recommended small presses, but with the return of the Princeton Series of Contemporary Poets, which includes Kathleen Graber’s The Eternal City (a National Book Award finalist), and the new Facing Pages series, you can support what Roberts calls “obscure, high-brow lit”–or come spring, the cheeky offerings of Troy Jollimore’s At Lake Scugog and the lush and spiritual poems in Anthony Carelli’s debut collection Carnations!

You can (and should) read his other posts in the series here, and for more information on Slow Poetry visit the Slow Society site. Don’t forget to savor all of your reading experiences!


  1. Actually I have read Adams series on contemporary poetry and would highly recommend this to any poetry lover, really is first class.