Genius Awards 2016
To publish books people are still reading in 50 years.
Category-defying writers and poets like Don Mee Choi, Joe Wenderoth, Eileen Myles, Maggie Nelson, and Mary Ruefle.
Their gorgeous books from the inside out.
Editor in chief Joshua Beckman (left) and editor at large Matthew Zapruder helm one of the best-respected independent presses in the country out of a modest, book-lined office in Eastlake.
Their curatorial efforts are supported by a staff including managing editor Heidi Broadhead (right), publicity director Brittany Dennison (center), subscriptions and distributions manager Blyss Ervin, and a rotating cast of interns from local creative-writing programs.
For what it's worth, Zapruder is now less involved than he used to be, but he was one of the founding editors of Wave, which began life as Verse Press, and he's busy with other things—these days as poetry editor for the New York Times Magazine.
Wave has consistently published books that readers didn't know they needed. They're books that it's hard to imagine other presses publishing with the level of care and attention required to make them really hit, including CA Conrad's genre-defying/defining A Beautiful Marsupial Afternoon, Mary Ruefle's syllabus-ready Madness, Rack, and Honey, and Tyehimba Jess's dense and musical Olio.
And over the course of the last 10 years, Wave Books has also hosted a bunch of fun one-off events around Seattle—ranging from translation festivals to a "poetry bus" tour.
The general mission of the press seems to be to develop close relationships with authors, and then let those authors write what they want. Broadhead told me that some of the relationships between the authors and Wave editors go back "years and years and years," and that many of the books take just as long to write.
"We want to publish books that people are still reading in 50 years—that's our dream," Broadhead says. Many literary presses have a similar dream, but, thanks to a generous endowment by founder Charlie Wright, Wave has a little more room to make their editorial decisions based on what they think is the right thing to publish, not on what they think will sell. They still have to sell books, of course—and they do—but the money goes back into making more books. What began as a six-book-per-year operation is now a 13-to-14-book-per-year operation.
Wave may keep its poetic aesthetics fluid, but thanks to poet and book designer Jeff Clark, you always know a Wave book when you see one. Each book gets a solid-color hardback and a matte-white paperback. They never have blurbs or images, so you can "experience the book as the author wants you to experience it," says Dennison.
"Each book is designed from the inside out," Broadhead says, which means that each book's size is responsive to each poet's line, and that the book's typography always bears some metaphorical relationship to the text. The result of this close attention between design and text is an object that needs to exist as a book. Not as an e-book (though Wave does have some—they don't sell very well), not as an app, not as a website, but as a book. A book book.
In a publishing landscape where people openly wonder if we require the technology of the book at all anymore, each year Wave keeps giving us reasons to answer that question with a yes.