It's Lit: Beard Poetry
As if producing a performance series, running a gallery space, and hosting Blingo weren’t enough to keep one man busy, the prolific Lewis Mundt also lends his talents to the local publishing scene by way of his press, Beard Poetry. “It’s primarily a poetry press, but we also do large format art books. We’ve done fiction. We’ve done anthologies.”
Beard Poetry began in 2010 as an umbrella name for the chapbooks Mundt was producing of his own work. “At that point I was doing radio in college as DJ Beard, which tells you most of what you need to know about my college life.” He soon started helping friends design their own chapbooks, and they in turn let Mundt put “Beard Poetry” on the back cover. Before too long, a press was born. Today, Beard Poetry considers itself “a small Minnesota press dedicated to producing affordable, high-quality publications for readers and writers.”
Mundt first discovered his love of literature in middle school. “I grew up as an indoor kid, I spent a lot of time holed up with a book. Always the person on road trips, and on outings, who just wanted to sit in the back seat and keep reading Harry Potter. And so that led me, when we finally got the internet in my small town, somehow stumbling into these online writing communities. I literally started by just copying nearly word for word other people’s stories. Just getting the act of writing down, taking my hands and playing out the stories, really helped me learn structure.”
“Literature’s always been a way for me to process the world, a way to kind of take control over confusion. I think literature helps us compartmentalize stories, and by extension [helps us] to think about what’s going on with ourselves, with the world, with the things we do and don’t understand. Reminding us how to tell stories helps us figure out how to narrate the world on our own terms. And I think that’s why literature is really important, because if we can’t actively participate in the story of the world I don’t know what we’re left with.”
As we talked about literature’s place in the world at large, Mundt was careful not to assign any sociopolitical roles or responsibilities to writers. “I don’t think we individually have an obligation to write about the social climate of the world.” He also argued that all writing inherently serves as a sort of record, and therefore contributes to society in that way. “I think that we, as a community, have a responsibility to address [the world] and keep a record of it. It makes no sense to have only one kind of a record of history, and for that to be a very factual record. There needs to also be that qualitative record of humanhood. And for some people that’s writing about themselves, and for others it’s writing about the world.”
We also talked about literature in the more tangible sense. Specifically, how do you know which poems to include in a manuscript? “I can really only talk about my own process. I always think of a book as a room, and a poem as a person. So, when you’re putting together a manuscript, you’re hosting a party. And you need to know: What’s the occasion? How long do you want people to hang out? Who do you invite to the party for it to be a good party? Who do you think will talk to each other and have a really great time? Consider the room, and consider who’s in the room.”
Once you’ve settled on the guest list, how do you decide who sits where? “I think there’s a lot to be said for poems holding their own wherever they are in the manuscript. I also think there’s a lot to be said for poetry being just as narrative as anything else. I think there’s an arc to every creative work. When I look at a piece, I look at the start of it and the end of it. I think: Where have we been? And where do we want to go? So, again thinking about this little party you’re hosting, what would be the excellent trajectory for the conversation?”
One book sure to spur some excellent conversations is Beard Poetry’s forthcoming release A Field Guide to: Dragons, Wyrms, and Serpents of the World, a large format art book of watercolor paintings. The artist is Minneapolis local and owner of Jackalope Tattoo, Bambi. Because the book is so much larger than anything else Beard Poetry has produced, Bambi decided to run a Kickstarter to help cover printing costs. The goal was $2,500. The Kickstarter campaign raised over $70,000. “I’m so grateful that this happened for Bambi. Like I said, she works so hard, she’s a really wonderful artist, and she’s like a rad woman and local business owner here in the Twin Cities.”
You can find Beard Poetry books at beardpoetry.com, Subtext Books in downtown St. Paul, and Boneshaker Books in Minneapolis. And follow them on Facebook and Twitter for announcements and more information.
Lewis Mundt is a writer, publisher, and event producer living in Minneapolis. His work has been published by Revolver, Paper Darts, and The Rumpus, among others, and his debut poetry collection The God of the Whole Animal was released in 2015. He is founder and host of the New Sh!t Show Minneapolis, a monthly series of world premiere, multigenre work, as well as publisher at Beard Poetry. More at lewismundt.com.
Sara Krassin is a Minneapolis based poet, editor, and bibliophile. She currently serves as Poetry Contest Editor for the Water~Stone Review, reads submissions for Jellyfish Highway Press, and interns at The Loft Literary Center in Marketing & Communications. Her poems have appeared in Third Point Press, Artemis Journal, and The Sand Canyon Review. Find her at @MsKrassin.