What are some upcoming trends?
We tend not to focus too much on trends. We always seem to be looking at the past (interesting influences on current poets or people who are not as recognized as they should be) and at the future (finding books that are really great and will hold up for many years). Of course, we do see certain things coming through more frequently in poetry manuscripts, at times—like poets working in prose or mixed genres, or images and text, or all in sonnets, for instance—but because we solicit our work, that’s probably more a reflection of our interests than of a particular trend. Also, we work with authors over time on multiple projects, so we are more focused on their interests and development than we are on trends. For example we've done six books with Mary Ruefle since 2006, including her lectures (Madness, Rack, and Honey, 2012) and one of her erasures, A Little White Shadow. We've published six collections of poems by Matthew Rohrer since 2001 and are releasing his verse novel, The Others, this spring. We worked with Tyehimba Jess on both his books (leadbelly, in 2005, and Olio, in 2016). We've published two collections and a book of collected early work (Red Juice) by Hoa Nguyen. Renee Gladman published her book of essays, Calamities, with Wave last fall, and we are now working on a book of her drawings. I have many more examples, many amazing artists that we are lucky to work with.
What book/genre/topic would you like to see cross your transom?
I should say up front that our press does not accept unsolicited manuscripts. When soliciting or accepting manuscripts for publication, we are interested in books that combine a heightened attention to language with a genuine human resonance, which can be philosophical, confessional, political, bodily—anything that helps the reader connect to the person who wrote the book. It’s common to find one or the other of these qualities in a manuscript and pretty rare to find both.
How are you working with self-published writers?
Poets' manuscripts are often compiled from previously published work, and depending on the poet this can mean a number of small chapbooks or broadsides which are handmade or self-published in small print runs. Some poets self-publish online as a regular practice. Poets can also read and present their poems a number of times before they show up in a book. In that way, many poets are "self-published." So that’s the primary way we work with self-published writers. We don’t really offer any self-publishing opportunities and are not likely to reprint a self-published book, though we have released at least one collection that was completely published on the poet’s website before we made it into a book.
What don’t you ever want to see again?
Even though we say clearly on our website, and in most resources for writers, that we don’t accept unsolicited manuscripts, we still get a number of pitches for books, both from agents and from individuals, that are completely off the mark. I don’t really understand that. As far as general queries, we’re happy to see what people are up to, but we don’t seriously consider any books that are not related to poetry.
What is unique about your corner of the industry?
Poets and poetry book buyers seem more interested in the printed books as objects. A good poetry book will live in your house for many years and be read multiple times, so we find that poetry buyers are particular (we are, too!) about anything from typesetting to the feel of the book to how it looks on the shelf.
Heidi Broadhead is senior editor at Wave Books, an independent poetry press based in Seattle and dedicated to publishing exceptional contemporary poetry, poetry in translation, and other writing by poets.