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The Little Poetry Publisher That Could?

On the eve of National Poetry Month, a Seattle Post-Intelligencer profile of Copper Canyon Press recognizes the Pacific Northwest publisher’s emerging dominant role in contemporary American verse, beginning with the fact that CopCan authors won both the Pulitzer (poet laureate Ted Kooser) and the National Book Award (W. S. Merwin). And though it’s very cool that they were able to woo Merwin away from Knopf, I gotta admit I think the article overhypes the triumph to some extent.

scrooge.jpgJohn Marshall describes the signing of Merwin as “a giant leap into the publishing major league, where big bucks and big egos rule.” But we’re talking about poetry here, and it turns out that when CopCan decided that they could match whatever offer Knopf made for Merwin’s second volume of collected poems, “the press mounted a separate fund-raising campaign that attracted 26 donors, including several newcomers, and ultimately produced the largest advance ever paid by the press, a five-figure sum.” Emphasis mine—if that’s Marshall’s idea of “big bucks,” he must think Dan Brown has three cubic acres of royalties (…and never mind my feeling that in a just world, Merwin and Brown’s levels of renown and readership would be reversed).

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