Ahsahta Press publishes off-beat, unique poetry

Boise State-based publisher Ahsahta Press is an all-poetry, independent press that is selective about the wide variety of distinctive poetry they choose to publish.
“You find a unique voice in each book that’s doing something different with poetry than you might expect,” Ahsahta Press Director and Editor Janet Holmes said.
Recent recipients of their first National Endowment for the Arts grant of $7,500, this nonprofit literary publisher is one that isn’t afraid of taking risks, often choosing works many other publications would tend to steer clear of.
“Universities have traditionally taken on the role of publishing work that isn’t necessarily going to make a profit … so we’re a nonprofit, university-affiliated publisher and that allows us to take the risks of publishing books that may not be bestsellers,” Holmes said.
Ahsahta Press is deliberate in their selection process, valuing true substance over what may be considered mainstream, as they continue to boldly seek unique and surprising works.

In 1974, they began as a publisher to preserve the works of early poets of the American West and soon began publishing contemporary poetry by Western poets along with reprint titles. They have since expanded, selecting work from different poets across the country. They express their belief that everyone deserves to be heard. They aim to give a voice to the originality and incredibly creative writers of noncommercial works that may have remained otherwise unpublished.
“There are a lot of things that are worth doing that aren’t popular, (some of the books) are not going to appeal to every poetry reader in the world but it’s going to appeal to a lot of people … And it deserves to be published,” Holmes said.
Ahsahta Press publishes seven poetry books a year, but aside from being a publisher, it is a company that represents a generation of writers who care less about winning popularity contests and more about connecting with readers and preserving the art of poetry.
“It’s a service to literature, it’s a service to poetry and it’s also a service to these authors who are exploring ways of using language that may not be the most popular thing … not everybody wants to write Steven King novels or ‘Twilight,’ ” Holmes said. “We have amongst our small press distributer, many best sellers … so it balances out. We’re developing an audience, a niche for our books.”

by Jenn Haskins

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