Nikki Reimer: Meredith Quartermain on a Nomados Moment

Meredith Quartermain
Small press literary publishers Nomados (Peter & Meredith Quartermain) have been publishing since 2002. They released their 33rd chapbook, The Ends of the Earth by Jacqueline Turner, this past December. Kootenay School of Writing and Nomados will co-present a launch, reading & party: Nomados Moment on January 30 in Vancouver.

Below is my email conversation with Nomados publisher Meredith Quartermain about the press.

Nikki Reimer: Can you talk briefly about when & why you and Peter started Nomados?

Meredith Quartermain: In 2001 over several months Robin Blaser sent us by fax a series of short poems, and I set myself the task of responding to each one with a poem of my own. The somewhat cheeky project involved my echoing in different words the exact same syllable count, line break and stress pattern as his lines used. By the spring of 2002, we had collected 19 of these pairs of poems. I said to Peter, let’s publish them.

We had already operated a movable type press (Slug Press 1978-97) and were setting up another movable type press. But setting whole books in movable type is a very time consuming process. I had taught myself Adobe Pagemaker and published chapbooks of my own electronically. We both knew a lot of poets and writers (in Canada), the US and England, so we decided to start a digital publishing imprint and make the 19 pairs of poems our first project. (A Thousand Mornings.) The cover is a watercolour by Peter, which responds to one of Robin’s poems.

NR: Where does the name Nomados come from?

MQ: Casting about for a name, we were drawn to Robin’s poem “Nomad” which we published as a broadside through Slug Press in 1995. The word comes from the Greek nomas, pasturing. We chose the genitive form of the word for our name. We thought of ourselves as wanderers, eclectic in what we would publish. Aware that the ground is always shifting, needing a rambling approach to the labour of sense-making. We wanted to avoid the droughts in theologies and romanticisms.

NR: Why small press?

MQ: We both have other lives, so we cannot do publishing full-time or even half time. I don’t think we ever considered anything other than something on a small scale that we could finance ourselves. There are some advantages to that too, such as we don’t get tied up in the requirements of granting agencies. We don’t pile up projects years in advance. We can take up new projects quickly if we desire to. Small presses are the lifeblood of writing in our culture anyway.

It turns out you can contribute a lot this way. Almost as soon as we started, with no prompting from us, we were discovered by a major distributor in Canada – Coutts Information Services, which supply books to libraries. Our publicity is mainly through author readings and email lists. Yet now we can look back with satisfaction on 33 books published to date by some of the most interesting writers of our time.

NR: How do you and Peter split the work?

MQ: I do all the typesetting, still using Adobe Pagemaker. Over the years I’ve worked out a fairly standard book design using Garamond for the text and Century Gothic for the cover, or alternatively, using graphics on the cover. I do most of the liaising with authors, the editing and proofing, although Peter has done certain projects in the past such as George Bowering’s last book, or Kevin Killian’s play. I also oversee the printing process at Budget Printing, our local digital printer. And of course I package up the orders. Sometimes I do marketing projects such as developing a mailing list of libraries (and) I run the website.

Peter does all the financing, banking, record keeping and ordering of Mohawk superfine acid free paper that we use. He also does all the subscriptions, and will sometimes work with specific authors (in whom) he’s interested. George Stanley’s book was another of his projects.

How does your editorial/production work with Nomados impact on your own writing practice?

I have found it enormously instructive to work closely with other authors on publishing. From Susan Holbrook, I learned about list poems. From Margaret Christakos, I learned about procedural poems, from Rachel Zolf I learned about structuring a conceptual poem, from Louis Cabri I learned to value the rich texture of sound morphology, from Larissa Lai I learned about pronouns. My writing has changed with this awareness, as I think will be clear in my next book, coming out next year from BookThug.

Meredith Quartermain
‘s most recent book, Nightmarker (NeWest), explores the city as animal behavior, museum and dream of modernity. Another recent book, entitled Matter (BookThug), playfully riffs on Darwin’s Origin of Species and Roget’s Thesaurus. Vancouver Walking won the 2006 BC Book Award for Poetry. Recipes from the Red Planet will be published by BookThug in 2010.

Nikki Reimer blogs and plans arts events in Vancouver, where she is a member of the Kootenay School of Writing and a board member at W2 Community Media Arts. Her poetry has been published in such magazines as Matrix, Front, Prism, BafterC and filling Station. A chapbook, fist things first, was recently published by Wrinkle Press and a book, [sic], is forthcoming from Frontenac House. She has never been to grad school.

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