CONVERSATION: PERADAM PUBLISHING HOUSE
Despite critics’ recent concerns about the intrusion of scrollable Internet content and e-readers, people continue to read printed books. Now we’re faced with another dilemma: how to print them. Small presses are increasingly important for the perpetuation of literature in its truest form: paper, bound, original text that strives for artistry in its language and representation. Poetry absolutely relies on the small press for distribution. The novel, we have established, is alive and well (or at least not quite ill), but the book of poems is sputtering. Even the best poets today are printed cheaply and often not very carefully, since bigger presses simply can’t take the risk and many smaller presses have too little experience to create a beautiful object worthy of the poetry it contains.
In fact, I am more wary every year of large publishing houses and their necessarily commercial output. I can’t help but imagine I’m only being asked to read the predecessors to blockbusters, characters for big-name actors to get into. Not that I can equate good material to its publisher in a simple formula (a smaller press does not necessarily equal a better book). But, although there are possibly too many of one kind of book published in the world, there are not enough of another. For this reason we need more places for the outcast, underappreciated books to communicate and multiply, despite the seeming proliferation of publishers today.
In January of this year, Elizabeth Jaeger, Alex Damianos, Sam Cate Gumpert, and Justin Williams founded the publishing group Peradam, named after “an object that reveals itself only to those who seek it.” The name, like much of the content they feature, is almost tongue-in-cheek. “We thought [it] was an appropriate name for a small-run press,” says Jaeger.
Peradam recently celebrated its launch at PS1 with readings by Sarah Sieradzki (from her haiku book Aeron), Jessica Calvanico (from her book of prose, Avalon), and Nick DeMarco (from Pøems, a book of jokey symbol-clusters).
I asked the artists how their projects with Peradam started. Sieradzki’s began in a corporate office: “I worked as a secretary at a financial consulting firm in Manhattan, and on my down time, I would surf the Internet. I found a few websites that generated haikus from a random archive of words. I started writing my own haikus from one or two words that I generated from [one] site, while adhering to the idea of an abstract algorithm. Primarily, I am a fine art photographer, and these poems seemed to parallel the way I approach my practice as an artist. Once I wrote several hundred, it made sense to make a book. I was originally going to self-publish through a website like Blurb, but I didn’t just want to produce X amount of carbon copies.”
Peradam publishes books that rely on design – a plus for any poet. Says DeMarco, “The poems in my book, Pøems, focus on the ways that we read and write today: skimming our way through massive amounts of information, and doing the best we can to get the gist of it. The poems are highly formal and abstracted, with no consistent structure or layout.”
The Los Angeles-based artist Chris Lux worked with William Rockwell, a San Francisco-based writer, on a book of paintings and fiction inspired by The Golden Legend by Jacobus de Voragine, called Twelve Saints. “We recently took an extended trip to live on a farm in Tuscany,” says Lux. “During the stay, I was reading The Golden Legend. Compiled in 1260, it is a key text to understanding the cult of saints that flourished in the 1400s.”
“[Lux] relayed several of the stories to me as he went along, and eventually got me interested in The Golden Legend,” says Rockwell of the impetus for Twelve Saints. “I believe around Christmas of last year, we joined Elizabeth [Jaeger], who we have both known for some time, for a drink at a bar in San Francisco. Chris and I had been wanting to collaborate on a project for some time, and it seemed like a good way to do it.”
“I created a series of simple gouache illustrations based on certain stories which I have summarized in the book,” says Lux. “William wrote two short [pieces] loosely based on the same stories.”
Sieradzki adds, “Manifesting [my] project through a smaller, and literally hands-on publishing group made much more sense. I had very specific ideas of the book as a hand crafted object (not DIY), of releasing several different versions dispersed with marbled paper I made, and maintaining an integrity that is inherent in artist-run coalitions. The reason Peradam’s first run of books is successful is because they are stylishly resourceful.”
From what I can see, Peradam is off to a brilliant start, including all types of non-familiar faces: a deck of cards that reads as an art catalogue, a collection of paintings inspired by ancient legend, a book of original film stills, and a series of posters. The authors are far-spread and diverse even in taste, but they share one common trait and outlook, which lends to any new press’s momentum: youth.
“We started it as a means to [initiate] intimate conversations with people we’re interested in,” Jaeger explains. “A book in some sense is a slice of a person’s mind, and we were really interested in using publishing as a tool to bridge the acquaintance gap, and really start talking with people about their ideas. After that, we’re trying to focus on publishing texts that in some capacity need to be a book to function, and not per say a Tumblr or an art show.”
by Natasha Stagg