There’s still time to nominate local icons for Best of D.C.
The Afflicted: Brookland poets Michael Gushue and Dan Vera, publishers of itsy-bitsy print-on-demand outfit Vrzhu Press.
Diagnosis: Tome in search of a home. Gushue and Vera started Vrzhu last year to help publish “poets that we admire,” says Gushue. When Vera completed his own book of poetry this year, Vrzhu’s co-conspirators wanted to keep production close to the family but didn’t wanted to be dismissed as self-publishers. “Publishing ourselves wasn’t the point of Vrzhu,” says Gushue. “In our minds, that’s a different magisterium.”
Symptoms: Bloat to self. “I don’t subscribe to the self-publishing taboo, but I feel the social pressure of it,” says Gushue, who counts himself as a fan of Vera’s work. “Our desire is to shield Vrzhu,” says Vera. “We’ve published four books now, and we want to protect them against that stigma of the vanity press.” Still, Vera wasn’t eager to hand his book over to another publisher, citing one big benefit of the DIY approach: “aesthetic control over your work.”
Treatment: Clout’s in a name. Instead of printing Vera through Vrzhu, Gushue dreamed up a new press, Beothuk Books. Gushue says he took a cue from Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa, who wrote using numerous literary personalities, or “heteronyms.” “I like the idea of being a heteronymic publisher,” says Gushue, who took the editorial reins while working with Vera on the book’s look. Vera’s The Space Between Our Danger and Delight will be released by Beothuk next month—and another Gushue/Vera press is already in the works. “We joke about the old ads for the Johnson family of wax products,” says Vera. “I’m not sure where we’re gonna stop.”
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