Friday, September 19, 2008

Beauty Belief and Bawdry.

That was the founding motto of Les Figues Press. It was January 2005, and Les Figues had committed to publishing the first book of its first series—TrenchArt: Material—by April 1 of that year. Yet even then we knew Les Figues wanted to do far more than pick, publish and sell books.

Les Figues would make beauty—not in the classical sense (though Les Figues books are aesthetically pleasing)—but beauty as irresolvable tension and contradiction, beauty as conversation, beauty as verb.

And Les Figues would stir up belief in a new way of publishing, one that foregrounds how individual books—like individual minds—do not exist in a vacuum. We wanted something different than the standard small press plan of having one or two big-name. We wanted to create a conversation between books, writers, and readers.

Finally, Les Figues would engage in bawdry by pushing the limits of acceptability. What do you call this kind of writing? Poetry? Prose? Litteral Poetics? In a world of sound bites, how complicated can we make this?

So like any group of good Americans with an idea, we made a business plan, though instead of projecting potential financial profits, we projected something like this:

[Every book we make will be beautiful by our definition of beauty; that is, 100% of books we put into the world will be beautiful. At first, only a few people will believe in this idea, an estimated 1 out of every 10 people we meet, understanding, of course, that we meet mostly writers and artist-types. If we were meeting more accountants and avid-skiers, the percentage of initial belief will most likely be lower. We project the percentage of belief will rise and as it rises, bawdry will decrease, for the more something is believed in, the more acceptable it becomes to believe in it. Yet bawdry will never decrease beneath the level of belief because we can’t help it: we like bawdry books.]

Four years later, we’re still making beauty, belief and bawdry, as evidenced in the annual TrenchArt series. Every year, we group four similarly-concerned books together, work with each of the writers to develop an aesthetic essay/poetics, then publish these aesthetics in a uniquely-bound, limited-edition book, available for members only.

Join in on the onversation be becoming subscribing members of Les Figues Press. When you do you'll receive each of the five books in the current TrenchArt: Tracer series, including works by Allison Carter, Kim Rosenfield, Amina Cain and Sophie Robinson, and art by Ken Ehrlich and Susan Simpson.

Say yes, let there be figs.

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