Interview with John Colburn


_John Colburn is editor and co-publisher of Spout Press, a collectively run organization that has been “serving weird writers since 1989.” The press publishes_ Spout, _a journal of poetry, thought, and fiction, as well as books. One of Colburn’s many roles is to set up and promote special events, such as Spoutstock, the annual fundraiser and cover song contest in which local musicians turn out to donate a song for the evening. Colburn also teaches literature at the Perpich Center for Arts Education, and is an adjunct faculty staff member at Hamline University. His poetry chapbook,_ Kissing, _was published by Fuori Editions in 2002._

*What does Spout Press do that distinguishes it from other publishers?*
Well, for one thing we throw a lot of parties! I suppose a nicer way of saying that is we’re very community-oriented, and we like to collaborate with other kinds of artists such as filmmakers and musicians. We also publish a lot of local writers, and often mix the work of nearly unpublished writers with that of well-established, nationally known authors. We reach out to young artists and to start-up organizations, and try to make products and shows that feel accessible, not pretentious. And we like to make things that have a hand-made quality to them. There’s an unconscious populism to what we do, which really stems from wanting to have a good time.

*What have you been working on lately that you’re most excited about?*
We always have a lot of projects going at once. For example, we’re working on the layout of a book called Lush, which is a combination poetry anthology and cocktail guide, and includes comics by local visual artists. We’re excited about it because it’s a national anthology, containing writers like Kim Addonizio and Arielle Greenberg, but also it’s going to be a weird book with plenty of local people in it. We just published issue #29 of Spout Magazine. And then there’s our fiction contest, in which we publish our Story of the Year. The winner gets a $250 prize.

*How does your work as a teacher affect your work as a writer and publisher?*
All the work I do is in the same area of language and consciousness and free expression. So in a way, it’s one work. It’s about having fun with language and freeing yourself by doing that, and about knowing more via that freedom. I guess they are different routes around the same landscape—and the people I meet as a teacher, writer, and publisher are really interesting and influence me a lot. So there’s probably a networking aspect to it as well.

*What recent book or books have you been recommending to your friends?*
Lately, given our political climate, I find myself recommending anything by essayist Eliot Weinberger. And also Alice Notley’s book Disobedience. For local publishers, Ted Mathys’s book of poems, Forge, from Coffee House Press. And local poet Dobby Gibson’s book Polar. Also every Spout Press book ever made. I tell my friends, you really, really need this book.

*Which local writers/artists are you keeping an eye on?*
There’s such an amazing poetry scene here. Bill Waltz, Dobby Gibson, Juliet Patterson, Sarah Fox, Amanda Nadelberg, Steve Healey, and the list goes on. And there’s such a great spoken word community. We’re planning to partner with Dessa from the rap group Doomtree for a show or two. The next generation of musicians is very exciting, bands like Best Friends Forever and Brother and Sister, or singers like JoAnna James. They’re very conscious of building community and making a scene and helping each other out, and they’re very connected to the literary scene.

*What projects do you have planned for the future?*
We’re organizing a show that will be a youth showcase for younger writers, musicians and filmmakers in the Twin Cities. Also, we’re making a sequel to _Blink,_ the anthology of sudden fiction we published a few years back. It’s called _Blink Again,_ and it will contain very short stories by local writers. We’ve also got single-author books of poetry coming out by Emily Graves and Kirsten Dierking. Again, there’s more, there’s more. We’re always busy and that’s how we like it.

_For more information on Spout Press, visit Read excerpts from_ Lush, _due out this winter, at