Graywolf Press may be considered a small press, but try telling that to the moving guys the publisher hired to tote 35 years of publishing history from St. Paul to Minneapolis next week. “We have a lot of stuff,” says Erin Kottke, marketing director. “And books are very, very heavy.” Just about any serious reader has learned that at least once. But your typical reader isn’t packing up four semi-truckloads worth of stuff; Graywolf is.
The load is lightened, however, by the fact that the University of Minnesota recently purchased Graywolf’s archives, so some serious poundage has already been hauled off to the U’s vaults. Additionally, many boxes of damaged and overstock books have been donated to prisons, Books for Africa, and Chicago’s Women and Children First, a bookstore that runs a large book sale to raise funds for the Women’s Voices Fund.
That means that Graywolf’s nine staffers have been sifting through correspondence (including handwritten letters by poet Albert Goldbarth, who doesn’t use email); first editions and random titles by other presses; and boxes upon boxes of old-school production materials. “It’s been really interesting to see the archives from the old catalogs we did by hand. Now production is all electronic,” says Kottke, who marveled at finding carbon copies of documents. New media is so much lighter.
Graywolf has been in its current space on University Avenue in St. Paul since 1990. Previously, its offices were above W.A. Frost in St. Paul, near what is now Common Good Books. The press was founded in Seattle and this year celebrates its 35th anniversary.
“We love St. Paul and St. Paul has been really great to us, and it’s not like we’re leaving the state,” says Kottke, who says the move was inspired in part by a leaky roof in the current space. “Common Good is there, and we’re good friends of Micawber’s Books [on Como Avenue]. We’re definitely a little sad to leave. But now we’ll be closer to Milkweed and Coffee House, and it’ll be nice to feel like we’re part of a community with them.”
The new building, in the Traffic Zone Visual Art Center, a building in Minneapolis’ Warehouse District, puts the press in easy access to light rail, the downtown library, and restaurants, and the offices will be part of a new artist community; Traffic Zone is an Artspace building and offers affordable rent to artists and small art organizations. Most tenants are visual artists. The building includes a gallery. The current exhibit is X Libris, a show of deconstructed and repurposed books — in other words, books that have been vandalized in the name of art. It’s enough to make a publisher cringe just a little bit. But the guys tasked with moving all those heavy boxes probably would approve.