Pyramid Editions was established in 2015. It publishes limited editions of ‘small and beautiful’ poetry pamphlets. The poems inside ‘feature three poems by a single writer. These poems are not discrete, but part of a unit; a three-faced form of poetic examination (thus, a ‘pyramid’).’ The interview that follows was carried out with Owen Vince by email exchange.
First, some background: this is a new enterprise with two people behind it: yourself (Owen Vince, Managing Ed.) and Penny Elliott (Design Editor). Please could you share the story of how the idea was born and then translated into a whole website and first publication?
I can be quite impatient. My last project, HARK Magazine, had come to an end, a death by natural causes. Our model was unsustainable, and we were still very green to publishing. After it closed, I still wanted to be involved in publication in some capacity or another. I was also using that time to re-engage with poetry at a personal level, and came across this dense ecosystem of smaller presses – principally in the United States, such as Electric Cereal, Calamari Archive, and now Dirty Chai magazine, who are going to be releasing chapbooks – and really it was a question of 'why not?' Especially when I started using websites such as Entropy magazine, which is a US-based publication that publishes an exhaustive ‘where to submit’ post every couple of months. You get an insight into so many presses, doing their thing! It's inspiring. So yes, it was the general massing together of an idea. Also, a possibly misplaced confidence that it would work. I was looking across the poetry landscape in the UK and thinking what I was looking for wasn't necessarily available or strictly visible. Annexe shut down reasonably recently, for example. And the presses I admire specialise in larger collections, such as Test Centre, and not pamphlets. The bigger the pool of presses, the more voices you find swimming there. That was the idea.
I initially started the press, set up the website, and began looking for the poetry I wanted to publish, which was experimental, guided by a more ‘surreal’ imaginary, and very specific. I guess you might say ‘alternative’ but I am interested in the operationalization of that term as a critique. I spend a lot of time thinking about it and I can bore people with it. To put it another way, it was the poetry I wanted – and continue to want – to read.
Anyway, at that time I was living in Norwich and had heard Sophie Essex, our first poet, read at a local event and thought, hey, this is really good, and then Sophie submitted poems, unprompted, and something clicked. I said yes. It was a joy. Sophie runs the magazine Fur-Lined Ghettos and Salò Press, which obviously everybody should check out.
After selecting Sophie's work I brought Penny onboard because she’s very good at the more technical side of putting websites together and design, and it seemed natural to play to her strengths. So that's how Sophie's pamphlet came to be.
In terms of the ‘idea’, I probably explain that in more detail in later questions. I’d say the key trigger for it was the fact that I didn’t want to work in collection size and saw a landscape very dense with longer-form pamphlets. I just traced the impulse back to the question ‘so why do we choose one structure over another?’. It seemed natural to go for three poems, because of the almost primary, psychological human obsession with groups of three (it's a central organising principle in fairy tales, music, artistic composition). I also have an ongoing in-joke with friends about the Illuminati, and somebody once asked me, after I set the press up, whether it was the Illuminati, whether it was related. Regardless, I wanted to dictate the length, and wanted writers to respond to that criterion. That's all.
How does your experience with HARK magazine feed into this new enterprise? Has it shaped the way you do things?
Yes and no. Running a poetry magazine had been a very different experience, partly because there are more moving parts to it. Even with four people it often felt like too much work simply to run the magazine. Too many things could potentially go wrong. I wanted to work with single poets, over time, in a sequenced way. HARK gave me the kind of rough tools anybody in small-press publishing uses to get by. I'd gotten to know people (such as Andrew Wells, who's our fourth poet), magazines, the small press landscape, about marketing and SEO. It didn't feel like starting from square one. PYRAMID felt like a refinement.