Welcome to my interview with Thirty West Publishing house founder Josh Dale — an individual who genuinely cares about the state of affairs with regards to poetry and the way it manifests itself via different mediums. Want to hear an interesting story about a tremendous writer and his mission of creating a beautiful storefront publishing house — where indie artists a like can go not only to have their work showcased but also printed and bound?! Then this dialogue is for you.
I do have to say, while I was spelunking the Thirty West website — I noticed a section where hand-bound chapbooks were being sold with specific paper weight, colour and size. Which made me relish the homegrown mandate — this \’micropress\’ publishing house has. I must say due to prior experience binding book by hands can be quite tricky but indeed a labour of love — which forced me to genuinely appreciate the philosophy behind Thirty West even more. Sit back, relax and read all about Josh\’s journey — once you\’ve done that please feel free to follow him on social media via Facebook, Instagram & Twitter.
RMMW: All artists have to contend with their inner critics — how do you contend with yours?
JD: Before we get started, I just wish to say thank you for the opportunity of being interviewed. This is a refreshing outlet for me. How I deal with my inner critic is in one of two ways. The first, simply, is to not look back at my older works. The human mind state changes on an unconscious level, unless of course a major life event has occurred. I\’d rather not give the past a hard look, more like a passing glance. My second method is to completely disassociate myself from the work and assume the role of a workshop participant. It makes it far easier to analyze and deconstruct the work when looking though an unbiased lens. I do this frequently with my narratives but surprisingly it\’s harder with poetry. I rather have my peers edit for me.
RMMW: Has your idea of what poetry is changed since you began writing poems?
JD: Absolutely. I give credit to the wonderful time spent at Temple University for the formalities of reading both metered/verse and prose poetry alike. The amount of detail that can be explicated from a poem is akin to revealing an Ancient Greek artifact. Take for example William Carlos William\’s \’The Red Wheelbarrow\’. At first, I would write anything that came to mind in various notebook. Today, however, I prefer to observe and ponder over the piece or allow an experience to form the muse. To some it may seem less organic and non-spontaneous, but to me, it enables imagination to dig deep into my subconscious to exhume a gem.
RMMW: What do you use to write: pen, paper, typewriter or computer and why?
JD: I like to carry around a pen and notebook everywhere. The one thing about notebooks that I enjoy is the freedom of expression and form, but the downside is the size. (3.5\”x5.5\”) In lieu of that, I use my phone or computer; Evernote has become my new go-to. I work in an office during the week so it\’s readily available without skipping a beat. I\’ve used a typewriter once, which belonged to my late mother. It is electronic. Other than that, I never have and will most likely never use a mechanical typewriter for my works. Despite the classical \’allure\’ and peculiarities they may bring some writers, I feel it to be obsolete and a tool to fuel capitalistic intent.
RMMW: What do you feel most poorly written poems have in common?
JD: Lack of metaphor. What irks me the most is having the work explain everything to me, right to my face, if that makes any sense? Talking about the concept of love (or lack thereof) is an argument in itself, but being told such a sensation in a concrete way undermines the imaginative quality that poetry is meant to spark. Adversely, these populist poems are being peddled to many as a basis of reliability–which if done right, can be marvellous, don\’t get me wrong–but my subjective opinion sees a lot of these works as trite and unoriginal. \’Show, not tell\’ is an absolute, concrete notion that spans all of prose and even into poetry, so why try to rebel against it?
RMMW: Have you ever read a bad review of your work? if yes, how did you handle the rejection?
JD: I have one 1-star review on Amazon but it was penned by a curmudgeon of a writer with an axe to grind that did not even turn one page of my career collection, so that is null and void. I did submit \’Duality Lies Beneath\’ to the Writer\’s Digest self-publishing competition and received a semi-snarky review. I aggregated the review to the equivalency of a 2 or 3 star, but took all comments piecemeal and noted for future use. Ironically enough, one piece was written in a typewriter-style font which was, for lack of a better term, bashed as a \’gimmick to appease a romantic vision of the written word\’. $45 bucks for 8 months of waiting and this? Totally worth it in my eyes. All in all, I am fully open for critique and encourage someone to unbiasedly review my work, no matter how positive or negative it is.
RMMW: What advice do you have for emerging poets looking to self-publish or submit poems online?
JD: Submit first, publish later. Duotrope is a wonderful resource to find free and paid submissions, if you can afford it. Think of it as a literary classified page. I was simultaneously submitting to various literary mags/journals way before I even began the template for Duality Lies Beneath, to see if any pieces were lucky enough to have and acknowledgement tag (some did, thankfully). You will get accepted at some point, but prepare to lace up your boots and trudge through declinations; I have and countless others have before me. Preceding that, I was reading and writing \’practice poems\’ as I mentioned earlier. I do not claim to write liquid gold, but a lot of people do thanks to the hyper-realism that comes from a high follower/like count on social media. Also, there are sects of people that write strictly to ease a deep-seated pain or internal conflict with no desire to publish commercially or academically. l believe respect is warranted, no prioritized, for these individuals, over someone who plays the numbers game. I also believe there is no correlation between high followers and inherent talent, for social media is a man-made, algorithmic construct that should not impede on pure subjectivity. This is art, not consumerism.
RMMW: Where do you see Thirty West PH 5 – 10 years from now?
JD: I do hope that Thirty West will obtain enough success to be a completely autonomous storefront-printshop-gallery platform. I tend not to think money as an issue for Thirty West\’s mission, for the welfare of the arts supersedes monetary value, but things happen and I need to uphold my debts and living expenses. Other than that, I wish for Thirty West to become a bastion of the creative community in Philadelphia and the tri-state area (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware). I hope that our internal network of artists will promote further growth and possibly a Pushcart-nominating press.
RMMW: Thirst West PH has a very exciting project coming up, please tell us about THArtbook and what you hope to accomplish with such an eclectic massive global project?
JD: I take credit for the idea and physical manifestation of #twartbook but the forthcoming work that will be inscribed within is not. In a world where I could talk to someone thousands of miles away in mere seconds, we as artists need to appreciate the tangible distances between us. By sending this notebook around the world, one gets to \’witness\’ the experiences of others from many, many avenues of life. Humanity needs to be more in touch with the sublime, as: Longinus, Kant, and Woolf explain in their work/theory. Hopefully this art book births but a sliver of sublimity.
RMMW: How do you feel the internet and social media shapes the well-being of poetry on a whole as it relates to Thirty West PH and your own personal writing?
JD: To be frank, I\’m not sure. There are upsides and downsides. Call me a nihilist, but the inundation of an Amazon ebook market plus commercial self-publicists makes selling handmade chapbooks extremely difficult to keep the lights on. But on the other side, it enables anyone to express a story, an experience, a sensation that was unheard of in previous movements. The advent of spoken word through YouTube has made waves enough so that would make even the most stout of fishermen question his existence (Hemingway allusion). All I want to accomplish is the re-connection of the physical art of the written word, and what it can do to your soul that an electronic device can never accomplish.
RMMW: If you had a superpower what would it be?
JD: I like how you close with a whimsical answer haha. It would be flight. I try to imagine the sensation of flight when I am running or biking. I want to romanticize everything the poets could while sitting on the ground. Don\’t get me wrong though, I\’d probably lose my lunch if I was to skydive!