In January of this year, local writer Brian Warfield launched Turtleneck Press, a publication that makes small chapbooks of new prose and poetry.Â He hosted an inaugural reading at Moonstone Arts Center in Philadelphia where he read from his collection of linked stories Grey Inserts Himself, Like an Oven Mitt in a Top Hat.Â This was one of the first books he published under TNP, in addition to Furnace by James Tressel, who also shared some poems from his book at the reading.
Warfield discusses the origin of his chapbook press, his literary inspirations, upcoming projects, and future publications.
Michele Zipkin: What made you start Turtleneck Press?
Brian Warfield: I’ve been making little books for myself for a while because I really like the physical object. Holding something in your hands makes it more real than just looking at it on a computer screen. I started selling my stories at first Fridays and then I thought I would like to do that for other people.
MZ: What is the definition of a chapbook?
BW: I’ve never really liked the word, but I call what I make chapbooks because that word already exists and you can read about it here. Basically, they are handmade small books featuring a collection of poetry or short stories.
MZ: What’s on the burner for you in terms of upcoming projects?
BW: Besides the chapbooks, there is also a mini book series. About once a month we will offer a pack of four short stories (300-700 words) or poems as individual tiny books that you can download and make. They are available at pachydermini.tumblr.com.
MZ: Who are your inspirations as a writer, and what made you start writing in the first place?
BW: I admire a number of authors whose writing influences me such as Kurt Vonnegut, Quentin S. Crisp, Yannick Murphy and Philip K. Dick. But I am also influenced by artists (Gerhard Richter, Joseph Cornell, Joel Peter Witkin), ambient and electronic music (Stars of the Lid, Aphex Twin), and movies (Eraserhead, The Apu Triology, Orpheus).
What made me start writing was an impulse to understand what writing was, specifically poetry. I was in high school and I didn’t really get it and it wasn’t being taught. So I just started writing really awful poems and trying to understand what made them awful and then trying to make them better. Writing short stories came later and expanded the desire for understanding myself and the world around me.
MZ: One of the chapbooks you published is your collection of linked stories, “Grey Inserts Himself, Like an Oven Mitt in a Top Hat.” What inspired the Grey stories? What is the underlying meaning?
BW: What I like about fiction is that it gives me the opportunity to explore certain ideas by talking about other things. At the risk of sounding too evasive, I don’t tend to like revealing what those other things are. Part of it is up to the reader to discern. The underlying meaning is that there is an underlying meaning. I actually am very interested in hearing what other people’s interpretations are. I’ll say this: I was thinking about authorship, of the possibility of re-authoring one’s life, coping mechanisms and external manifestations of internal phenomena.
MZ: What authors intend to publish under Turtleneck Press in the near future, and how did they come to hear about it?
BW: Our next chapbook is “Oak Ridge” by Adam Moorad which should be coming out at the end of March. We have another chapbook slated for June which we aren’t announcing just yet. And then through the Pachydermini book series we have a bunch of authors such as Berit Ellingsen, Howie Good, Mark Baumer, Jimmy Chen, Carissa Halston, Lucas Southworth, Nathaniel Hunt, Marcus Speh, David Maverick, Zach Yontz, James Smith, Ofelia Hunt and Janey Smith. We are listed on Duotrope as well as having some nice friends who have been kind in spreading the word.
MZ: How do you feel about hosting and participating in readings?
BW: I feel incredibly nervous while attempting to maintain a calm exterior. It’s really fun to share your work and to represent other people’s work that you believe in. I’d like to do more of it.
MZ: Where can we buy your chapbooks?
Brian Warfield frequently sells his books at First Friday.Â He will be selling them tomorrow in the vicinity of 2nd and Arch streets.Â Check out his website at brianwarfield.weebly.com