If we hope to truly challenge or reimagine literary canon, it is not enough to consider the academic programs where young writers are taught and trained. We must look beyond the classroom and the professoriate, past endless reams of syllabi making and remaking what constitutes canon, and consider the practical matter of how these texts enter the field in the first place.
In this post, we present a list of POC-helmed presses that are currently in operation. In a follow-up post, we will offer a list of POC-run literary journals (ie. journals who led at the highest levels by editors of color). Granted, we'll be passing on some journals and presses which have one or two POC assistant or associate editors or staff, but that's not really the point. It's difficult to gauge the autonomy of such assistant & associate editors and staff -- while some presses and journals might allow their POC associate editors to operate without much oversight or micromanaging, in other cases the POC associate editors find themselves in the precarious position of balancing their own aesthetic inclinations with pressure to defer/conform to those in power who may not share an awareness or interest in showcasing voices, experiences, or aesthetic approaches which do not reflect their own lived experiences.
This listing of active literary presses ranges from pioneering presses like Broadside Lotus Press and UCLA's Asian American Studies Center Press which have been publishing since the 1960s and 1970s respectively, all the way to brand new literary presses like No Chair Press, founded just last year in 2017 by Allison Joseph. Some presses have a very narrow focus, others take on a wide range of genres, concerns, and voices. When you study the history and mission statements of these different presses, it becomes clear that most were started as a response to a need to make available the voices, experiences, literary art of writers who were not being otherwise heard or championed. Rather than be silenced or forgotten, writers and readers worked together to found these presses and create legacies. Many of bright lights in the literary world today were first published in these presses -- and it is thus not surprising, that many newer presses are founded, supported, and championed by those who were given a chance to be heard when they were still getting started.
If you are wondering what you can do - or considering starting a press yourself - I highly recommend reading the advice and guidance on starting a press which Allison Joseph provides on No Chair Press.
ACTIVE PRESSES RUN BY POC
- AJAR Press - http://www.ajarpress.com
- Ala Press - https://craigsantosperez.wordpress.com/ala-press/
- Arte Publico Press - https://artepublicopress.com
- Artepoetica Press - http://www.artepoetica.com
- Aztlan Libre Press - http://aztlanlibrepress.com
- Backbone Press - http://backbonepress.org
- Broadside Lotus Press - http://www.broadsidelotuspress.org
- Cherry Castle Publishing - http://www.cherrycastlepublishing.com
- Civil Coping Mechanism - http://copingmechanisms.net
- Dominica Publishing - http://dominicapublishing.com
- Flower Song Books (VAO Publishing) - http://flowersongbooks.com
- Glass Lyre Press - http://www.glasslyrepress.com
- The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective - http://greatindianpoetry.org
- Jaded Ibis Press - http://jadedibispress.com
- Just Us Books - http://justusbooks.com
- Kaya Press - http://kaya.com
- Lee & Low Books - https://www.leeandlow.com
- Nightboat Books - http://www.nightboat.org
- No Chair Press - http://www.nochairpress.com
- Noemi Press - http://www.noemipress.org
- Organic Weapon Arts - http://www.organicweaponarts.com
- Peepal Press - http://www.peepaltreepress.com
- RE/Search - https://www.researchpubs.com
- Redbone Press - https://www.redbonepress.com
- The Raving Press - https://www.theravingpress.com
- Tia Chucha Press - http://www.tiachucha.org/tia_chucha_press
- UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press - http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/aascpress/contact.aspx
- Willow Books - https://willowlit.net
- Writ Large Press - http://writlargepress.com
CLOSED / INACTIVE PRESSES
- Future Plan & Program - http://futureplanandprogram.com/about/
- Lucid Moose Lit - https://www.facebook.com/lucidmooselit
AJAR Press [2014-] | http://www.ajarpress.com
AJAR is dedicated to the discovery of poetry and art in both ordinary and hidden places, providing a space for these works to be exhibited, loved, and challenged. As a bilingual journal and independent small press based in Hanoi, AJAR provides an opening for questions, imaginings, and poetic (im)possibility to be shared across borders, inhabiting language as it moves between worlds and words. In bringing fresh and critical voices of Vietnamese literature and art into English, and welcoming those voices from everywhere into Vietnamese, we focus on quality translations and envision books as artifacts of artistic collaboration. Alongside single author poetry collections, AJAR publishes a bilingual journal of poetry, short fiction, essay, and artwork that revolves around a specific word of choice for each issue.
Ala Press [2011-] | https://craigsantosperez.wordpress.com/ala-press/
Founded by Brandy Nalani McDougall & Craig Santos Perez
“Ala” means “basket” and “nest” in the Chamorro language and “path,” “fragrance,” and “to rise up” in the Hawaiian language. As such, we chose to honor our press with the name Ala because of our belief that literature has the power to carry, nurture, guide, beautify, and awaken. We publish a diverse range of styles in poetry, fiction, creative non-fiction, drama, graphic novels, and children’s books by writers who trace their genealogies to the native peoples of “Polynesia,” “Micronesia,” and “Melanesia.”
Arte Publico Press [1979- ] | https://artepublicopress.com
Founded by Nicolás Kanellos
From its beginnings on the artistic fringe during the Hispanic Civil Rights Movement to its current status as the oldest and most accomplished publisher of contemporary and recovered literature by U.S. Hispanic authors, Arte Público Press and its imprint, Piñata Books, have become a showcase for Hispanic literary creativity, arts and culture.
Artepoetica Press [????-] | http://www.artepoetica.com
Artepoética Press Inc. is a Hispanic publisher based in New York City that specializes in works by Ibero-American authors residing inside and outside the United States.
Aztlan Libre Press [2009- ] | http://aztlanlibrepress.com
Founded by Juan Tejeda and Anisa Onofre
Aztlan Libre Press is dedicated to the promotion, publication, and free expression of Chicana/o literature and art. Aztlan Libre is based out of San Antonio, Texas.
Backbone Press [2012- ] | http://backbonepress.org
Managing Editor: Crystal Simone Smith
Backbone publishes distinct, engaging chapbooks by emerging and established poets. Their press, titles, and authors have been featured in interviews, podcasts, and reviews throughout various literary venues.
Broadside Lotus Press [1965/1972/2015 ] | http://www.broadsidelotuspress.org
Broadside Press founded by Dudley Randall (1965) / Lotus Press founded by Naomi L. Madgett (1972) / Presses merged in 2015
The primary mission of Broadside Lotus Press in the 21st century is to provide processes, structures and literature to engender and support a literate, politically conscious, socially responsible community capable of giving clear voice to the reality, experiences, needs and struggles of humanity. The realities of the 21st century reflect the growth and expansion of the post-industrial information era, in which power is based on the control and manipulation of knowledge by groups of people who share a common history, race/ethnicity, and place in the world.
In this knowledge-dominated age, Broadside Lotus Press will identify and support young writers who possess an awareness of the dynamics governing 21st Century life, and understanding of the ways in which these dynamics impact our communities, and the talent and skills necessary to clearly and persuasively articulate our current challenges and achievements as a people.
Cherry Castle Publishing [2015- ] | http://www.cherrycastlepublishing.com
Founder & Managing Editor: Truth Thomas
Cherry Castle Publishing, LLC is one of America's newest and most energetic publishers of great literature—a press where words grow mighty trees. It is a press that honours the vibrant multicultural voice of American literature, one book at a time. Our fundamental commitment is to practice literary equality and to embrace work that is informed by the social, political and cultural vigor of our times.
Civil Coping Mechanism [????- ] | http://copingmechanisms.net
Publisher-in-Chief: Michael J Seidlinger
Civil Coping Mechanisms (CCM) is a DIY kind of press. We take the same level of angst as our colleagues in shunning those that would be in the immediate position of neglecting our efforts as artisans. We take the sentiment of doing it ourselves while stating to the tired publishing process, “To hell with it.” Why not do it our way? What only matters: Offering a space for the innovation so sorely shamed and disregarded as unmarketable by the major and indie presses too busy selling the next celebrity memoir, paper-thin creative nonfiction spine of lies, the wax-intellectual pursuits of yet-again the same vision wrapped in newer trim, or the same regurgitated genre-fiction and prose you’d expect would have become stale by now. Oh yes, we rant. This is our place. We’ll do as we damn well please.
Flower Song Books (VAO Publishing) [2014-] | http://flowersongbooks.com
FlowerSong Books nurtures essential verse from the borderlands. A division of VAO Publishing, the imprint is named for the Nahuatl phrase in xōchitl in cuīcatl—literally “the flower, the song,” a kenning for “poetry.”
Glass Lyre Press | http://www.glasslyrepress.com
Publisher & Editor: Ami Kaye
Glass Lyre is an independent literary press interested in publishing poetry collections, chapbooks, select short & flash fiction, and the occasional anthology.
In a society faced with frequent assaults to one’s psyche and spirit, Glass Lyre Press offers fine literature to rejuvenate the spirit, fuel inspiration and nourish the soul. These are collections which, rather than being stashed away after reading, one returns to time and again—beautiful, highly crafted books created with love and care by a dedicated publishing team.
Glass Lyre Press is interested in acquiring titles focused on quality and artistic vision from an eclectic range of talents—work which is technically accomplished and distinctive in style, as well as fresh in its approach and treatment. Glass Lyre seeks writers of diverse backgrounds who display mastery over the many areas of contemporary literature, writers with a powerful and dynamic aesthetic, and ability to stir the imagination and engage the emotions and intellect of a wide audience of readers.
The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective [2013-] | http://greatindianpoetry.org
The (Great) Indian Poetry Collective is the coming together of poets who believe words can transform lives. Founded in 2013 in Bangalore, India, as a not-for-profit press, the Collective publishes innovative, diverse poetic voices from India & the Indian diaspora. Through a mentorship model, members of the collective support one another in producing beautiful poetry books, chapbooks, and anthologies. Through workshops, readings, and community and school events, the Collective is building a poetry community in which artistic expression leads to positive action, as each poem initiates a dialogue with society and the greater world.
Jaded Ibis Press [2008-] | http://jadedibispress.com
Current Editors: Dasha Kelly and Elizabeth Earley
We are a feminist press committed to publishing socially engaged literature with an emphasis on the voices of people of color.
Just Us Books [1988-] | http://justusbooks.com
Founded by: Wade and Cheryl Hudson
Just Us Books was founded in 1988 by Wade and Cheryl Willis Hudson. Wade, President and CEO, is the author of more than 30 published books for children and young adults, and has received numerous honors for his contributions to children's literature, including the Stephen Crane Literary Award. Cheryl, Publisher and Editorial Director, has authored more than 25 books for children, and is a member of the PEN America’s Children’s/Young Adult Book Authors Committee. They have been widely recognized for their pioneering work in children’s publishing, and have been inducted into the International Literary Hall of Fame for Writers of African Descent, received the Ida B. Wells Institutional Builders Award, the Phillis Wheatley Award, and The Madame CJ Walker Legacy Award for entrepreneurship. Today, Just Us Books is a recognized leader in multicultural publishing, and in October 2018 the company will celebrate 30 years of continuous publishing.
Kaya Press [1994-] | http://kaya.com
Publisher & Editor: Sunyoung Lee
Kaya Press is a group of dedicated writers, artists, readers, and lovers of books working together to publish the most challenging, thoughtful, and provocative literature being produced throughout the Asian and Pacific Island diasporas. We believe that people’s lives can be changed by literature that pushes us past expectations and out of our comfort zone. We believe in the contagious potential of creativity combined with the means of production.
Lee & Low Books [1991-] | https://www.leeandlow.com
Lee & Low Books is the largest multicultural children's book publisher in the country. We are also one of the few minority-owned publishing companies in the United States, as well as a throwback to what many publishers used to be: independent, generational businesses in which the people running the company have a personal stake in its success. is committed to publishing diverse books that are about everyone, for everyone. We are dedicated to cultural authenticity, and we make a special effort to work with new authors and illustrators of color. We publish multicultural children's books for every age, including leveled books for beginning readers, picture books, early chapter books, middle grade, and young adult books. We also publish a wide selection of bilingual and Spanish language books.
Nightboat Books [2003-] | http://www.nightboat.org
Publisher: Kazim Ali
Nightboat Books seeks to develop audiences for writers whose work resists convention and transcends boundaries, by publishing books rich with poignancy, intelligence and risk.
The name Nightboat signifies travel, passage, and possibility—of mind and body, and of language. The night boat maneuvers in darkness at the mercy of changing currents and weather, always immersed in forces beyond itself. By our way of thinking, this image speaks directly to the creative process. Particularly in the generative stages, the writer is a navigator, a listener, a seeker of truths original to one’s individual course and vision. A writer trusts the symbiosis between body, mind, spirit, heart, and those things larger than the self. Her allegiance lies with the written word, not unlike the sailor and the sea, or the mountaineer and the mountain. The writer is the vehicle, the guide, and the terrain all in one, yet she’s none of these things. Simultaneously lost and found, she revels in this exotic foreignness, the grace of existing between places and states of mind, and of not really belonging anywhere. Perhaps writing a book is a way of locating and capturing something that will never stop moving. Perhaps reading a book is a related gesture. It is our goal at Nightboat Books to shed enough light, so the writer and reader can find one another.
No Chair Press [2017-] | http://www.nochairpress.com
Publisher: Allison Joseph
I started this press because I personally write a lot of formal verse that I never publish since there's a resistance to it. I write both free and formal verse and love both. But I figured there were other poets, particularly other women poets, writing rhymed and metered work and either throwing it away or not doing anything with it. No Chair Press is a small solution to that problem.
What will I be looking for for No Chair Press? Well, chapbook manuscripts where the majority of the poems are rhymed and metered, say about 80 percent. I won't eliminate a book with a free verse poem in it, but more of the work in the collection should be formal than not (it should not be a manuscript with one lonely sonnet or villanelle in it).
I would love to see rhymed verse plays! Oddities of invented forms that use meter and rhyme as well. Purely syllabic work probably won't work for me--I want manuscripts that rhyme and scan.
Someone asked me where the name for the press came from--three sources: 1) my mother, who literally didn't have a chair of her own in my childhood home (my dad did), 2) the fact that there's been "no chair"--no press with this focus until now and 3) Allison spelled backwards is Nosilla. No silla=no chair (silla is Spanish for chair).
Noemi Press [2002-] | http://www.noemipress.org
Publisher: Carmen Giménez Smith
Noemi Press is a 501(c)(3) literary arts organization based in Blacksburg, Virginia, dedicated to publishing and promoting the work of emerging and established authors and artists. Noemi is housed at Virginia Tech University.
Organic Weapon Arts [2012?-] | http://www.organicweaponarts.com
Publisher: Tarfia Faizullah
The Organic Weapon Arts Chapbook Series was started with the hip-hop tradition of the mixtape in mind. When an artist is in the studio working on a studio release, they may also be performing shows with audiences yearning to take a piece of what they’ve just experienced home with them. The mix tape is way to get music in their hands before the more extensive project is honed. Often the mix tape works as a kind of opening salvo, a hint to what’s coming from the studio release, often featuring early versions of tracks that will be on the album. It also has served an important financial purpose, as the low overhead and direct marketing nature of the product means more money directly in the artist’s pocket.
Peepal Press [1985-] | http://www.peepaltreepress.com
Founding Editor & Publisher: Jeremy Poynting
Peepal Tree aims to bring you the very best of international writing from the Caribbean, its diasporas and the UK. Our goal is always to publish books that make a difference, and though we always want to achieve the best possible sales, we're most concerned with whether a book will still be alive in the future.
Peepal Tree is a wholly independent company, founded in 1985, and now publishing around 20 books a year. We have published over 300 titles, and are committed to keeping most of them in print. The list features new writers and established voices. In 2009 we launched the Caribbean Modern Classics Series, which restores to print essential books from the past with new introductions.
RE/Search [1980-] | https://www.researchpubs.com
Founding Editor & Publisher: V. Vale
In 1977 V. Vale founded as sole proprietor Search & Destroy, San Francisco’s first Punk Rock publication. It was published at City Lights Bookstore, where V. Vale worked, and was funded by $100 each from Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Allen Ginsberg. In 1980, V. Vale launched as sole proprietor RE/SEARCH. V. Vale is most likely the longest lasting (and still active) Punk publisher. Although Vale released books which include Jello Biafra, Henry Rollins, Lydia Lunch, and many other Punk notables, RE/SEARCH is actually best known for its impact on the total world of underground culture.
In the early years RE/SEARCH gained international attention by introducing the world to artists such as William S. Burroughs, J.G. Ballard, Genesis P-Orridge, SPK, Monte Cazazza, and many others. RE/SEARCH has continued to remain vital in its lengthy history by refusing to adhere to a formula for an easily identifiable “Punk Culture.” Its best-selling books include The Industrial Culture Handbook (which inspired 10,000 “noise music” bands), Incredibly Strange Films (little-known filmmakers), Incredibly Strange Music Vol. One and Two(little-known vinyl LPs), Modern Primitives (which launched the body-piercing underground), Pranks (and its follow-up, Pranks 2), Zines Vol. One and Two, Modern Pagans, and many more.
“Possibly the ONLY Surviving 70s Punk Publisher who NEVER QUIT, V. Vale continues to provide ‘Against-the-Status-Quo’ Publications that Stimulate the Imagination, & Inspire Creativity and Optimistic Skepticism.”
Redbone Press [1997-] | https://www.redbonepress.com
Founding Editor & Publisher: Lisa C. Moore
RedBone Press publishes work celebrating the cultures of black lesbians and gay men, and work that further promotes understanding between black gays and lesbians and the black mainstream.
RedBone Press was created to address a dearth of black lesbian voices in lesbian feminist publishing. Founding editor, Lisa C. Moore began researching the histories of feminist presses in 1995 while collecting and editing material for RedBone Press' first book, does your mama know? An Anthology of Black Lesbian Coming Out Stories (1997). does your mama know? won two 1997 Lambda Literary Awards, for Small Press and Lesbian Studies. RedBone Press' second title, the bull-jean stories by Sharon Bridgforth, won the 1998 Lambda Literary Award for Small Press. In 2004, Moore changed RedBone Press' mission to include quality literature by black gay men. Most titles since 2004 have been Lambda Literary Award finalists; additionally, Blood Beats: Vol. 1 by Ernest Hardy won a 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award (now called PEN/Open Book Award). RedBone Press is renowned for publishing award-winning, quality literature by black lesbians and gay men.
RedBone Press titles can be ordered by the public directly through this website or from independent bookstores across the United States; most titles can also be ordered from Small Press Distribution. RedBone Press accepts bookstore orders (e-mail or fax a purchase order; terms 40%, net 30, no minimum, returnable within one year in resellable condition) and from library jobbers. Most orders are shipped either the same day or the day after they are received.
The Raving Press [1998-] | https://www.theravingpress.com
Publisher: Gabriel H. Sanchez
The Raving Press seeks to publish quality anthologies and conduct book festivals throughout the Rio Grande Valley. The Raving Press is the publisher the borderlands need. We are setting the groundwork for "things that never were" because we dare to ask "why not?"*
Our motto: "We give voice to the future."
Tia Chucha Press [1989-] | http://www.tiachucha.org/tia_chucha_press
Founding Editor & Publisher: Luis J. Rodriguez
Tia Chucha Press is one of the country’s leading small cross-cultural presses, focused on socially engaged poetry and literature that matters.
Tia Chucha Press is the publishing wing of Tia Chucha’s Centro Cultural & Bookstore. We only publish poetry at this time. We do full poetry manuscripts of more than 60 pages. We publish all types of poetic expression and are not bound by poetic style, form, school, or era. We only publish books that “knock us off our feet.” Please submit your best work — no fillers please: all poems must work. We are cross cultural — our poets have been Chicano, African American, Jamaican American, Native American, Irish American, Italian American, Korean American, Japanese American, Puerto Rican, Cuban American, and more. All ages, genders, sexual orientations, disabilities, and spiritual persuasions are welcome.
UCLA Asian American Studies Center Press [1970-] | http://www.aasc.ucla.edu/aascpress/contact.aspx
Publisher & Editor: David K. Yoo
The UCLA Asian American Studies Press is the only press in the world committed to publishing scholarship on and the histories of Asian Americans. It serves as the publications arm of the UCLA Asian American Studies Center, the premier research and teaching institution in the field of Asian American Studies.
The Press publishes award-winning books, memoirs, and anthologies on race relations, war and peace movements, religion, activist politics, gender and sexuality, community history and settlement, literature and the arts, and transnational societies and the Asian diaspora. The Press releases Amerasia Journal, the leading scholarly journal on Asian American Studies, as well as AAPI Nexus Journal, community directories, and almanacs.
We publish to counter the failure of books and scholarship to recognize the histories and experiences of the East Asian, South Asian, Southeast Asian, and Pacific Islander peoples who live and have lived in the United States.
We publish in the spirit of the Asian American movement of the '60s and '70 -- fostering education and building research relevant and responsive to the needs of our peoples and communities.
We publish because the stories and views of Asian Americans are essential parts of the American experience and history.
We publish because these are our issues, our histories, and our stories to tell.
Willow Books [2007-] | https://willowlit.net
Willow Books, founded in 2007, is the flagship imprint of the award-winning Aquarius Press. The mission of Willow is to develop, publish and promote writers of color. Collaborations include the University of Michigan Special Collection, Poets House in New York, the African Libraries Collective, PEN/Faulkner, University of New Haven, Cave Canem Foundation, Inc., Harlem Arts Salon, Thurgood Marshall Center, Idlewild Writers Conference, Pratt Women Writers of Color Showcase, Split This Rock, Furious Flower, Weeksville Heritage Center, Busboys & Poets, and numerous other universities and cultural institutions. In addition to publishing and providing professional development opportunities, Willow has created a platform for its authors to engage with the public through workshops, conferences, digital streaming broadcasts, and public readings in the U.S. and abroad. Several of its authors are national fellows. Signature events include the national LitFest readings and its Literature Awards, which sponsors cash prizes and publication. The Willow Arts Alliance sponsors fellowships for talented multidisciplinary artists. The press maintains an active annual roster of over 40 single-title authors and has published over 300 writers in anthologies and journals. An industry leader, the press is known for its excellence in design, content, and diverse selection of award-winning titles.
Writ Large Press [2007-] | http://writlargepress.com
Editors: Chiwan Choi, Judith Oden Choi, Peter Woods
Writ Large Press is a downtown LA based small press. Founded in 2007 to publish overlooked Los Angeles writers, WLP continues to experiment with the idea of publishing and explore the role of the book in society with DTLAB, a pop-up bookstore and performance space project, PUBLISH!, a continuing underground publishing project, and Grand Park Downtown BookFest, a festival for LA writers and publishers.
(Writ Large Press, as of June 2017, is in a partnership with Civil Coping Mechanisms and Entropy. The three publishing entities are known as The Accomplices.)
Neil Aitken is the author of two books of poetry, Babbage's Dream (Sundress 2017) and The Lost Country of Sight (Anhinga 2008), winner of the Philip Levine Prize. His poetry chapbook, Leviathan, was the 2017 Elgin Prize winner for science fiction poetry. A former computer programmer and a past Kundiman poetry fellow, he is the founding editor of Boxcar Poetry Review, the administrator of Have Book Will Travel, and co-director of De-Canon: A Visibility Project.