Literary Profile: Monster House Press on poetry, punk and the personal

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From the March 20, 2014 edition

For Monster House Press, “book” is both a noun and a verb — they make books and book events. Informed by the aesthetic of the overshare and the DIY show, this self-described “amorphous collective” has published nine books (with its most recent, Rachel Lee’s “Truth or Consequences” released in the last few weeks). I sat down with Ryan J. Eilbeck and James Payne, the press’s Columbus members (others live in Cleveland and Bloomington, Indiana), to talk about zines, alt lit and sincerity.

Monster House Press was founded in 2010, a time when Monster House was still an active, collective living space that had a lot of shows in the basement and readings in the living room. There were anywhere from eight to 12 people living in the same place who wanted to be creative and collaborate. It was on 10th Avenue, on Campus. –Ryan

We moved in there in 2007. I lived there for four years. We’d do music shows constantly, a couple times a week. I noticed that there were more and more readings at DIY events, so we started doing poetry with bands. Everyone was already making zines or writing, so it just seemed more intentional to do a press. –James

Starting my first year of college, being exposed to punk culture, I did make bad zines. –Ryan

I made my first bad zine when I was 16. –James

We feel like we’re representing some kind of voice that’s not always represented in literature, somewhere between academia and more accessible or personal. In the nine releases we’ve done, it is a very eclectic and diverse group. –Ryan

What’s important about MHP for the writers is it’s more about the process, and that you’re collaborating with others. We all cross-promote, and most of us book events, too. If someone comes in and publishes with us, they aren’t just getting a book, they are getting what the collective has access to. –James

A lot of our writers fall into the Midwestern/authenticity/genuineness voice, which is usually overly sentimental, oversharing about personal experience... –Ryan

[Many of our books explore] the outskirts of the alt-lit scene. But it’s just more punk, in general. Even something that may come off as being apolitical can be very political ... while still being fun to read. And not didactic. –James

Our next goal is to release a 10th poetry chapbook, and collect one through 10 in a way that’s easy to distribute. After that, we’re going to get more into perfect-bound books while keeping a similar aesthetic. We want to have them released in print first for a certain amount of time, and then to have them up online. That’s some people’s only connection to literature, reading online, and I think that’s important. –Ryan

Photo by Meghan Ralston