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Chax Press is a publisher of experimental and avant-garde poetry run by bookmaker and poet Charles Alexander. The press publishes both trade paperback and handmade artist's books. Chax is the oldest publisher of poetry in Tucson, AZ, a city where the press was initially founded in 1984, continuing the work of Black Mesa Press that Alexander had begun in 1981 in Wisconsin. The first book published was French Sonnets, by Jackson Mac Low. Chax Press continues to publish about 10 titles a year. Chax Press is funded by grants from the Tucson-Pima Arts Council and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Fund for Poetry, and other organizations, as well as by its earned income from book sales and by donations from individuals.
Notable Books and Influence
The press is known for its innovative work in combining avant-garde poetics with unusual book forms which create new types of reading experiences, such as Individuals by Lyn Hejinian and Kit Robinson. The accordion-bound volume features a collaborative poem in which each poet's contributions are bound as separate cards to be read in any order, separately or together. The fact that the book may be stood in a circular manner on a table provides additional possibilities for "embodied" reading. Awareness of one's body during the reading process (along with other modes of alternative reading) is a typical goal for the bookworks of the press. Chax is also known for being a publisher of the Language poets.
Notable books published by Chax Press include Traffic by Gil Ott, when new time folds up by Kathleen Fraser, "tv eye" by Todd Baron, Art Facts: A Book of Contexts by b.p.nichol, A Reading 8-10 by Beverly Dahlen, and Demo to Ink by Ron Silliman. Chax publishes the New West Classics series which attempts to redefine "western" writing. This series has included The Architextures by Nathaniel Tarn, As in T as in Tether by David Bromige, A-Reading Spicer and 18 Sonnets by Beverly Dahlen, Trascendental Studies by Keith Wilson, and Erased Art by Tenney Nathanson. Chax has published the only volume of criticism and commentary on the work of the late poet Gil Ott, The Form of Our Uncertainty, edited by Kristen Gallagher. The press currently publishes an annual book series in memory of Gil Ott called the Gil Ott Award, which is edited by Charles Alexander, Eli Goldblatt, Myung Mi Kim, and Nathaniel Mackey. The first volume to be published in this series is Since I Moved In, by Tim Peterson.
The Chax Press Board of Directors features Charles Alexander, Heather Nagami, Ken Bacher, Cynthia Miller, Tenney Nathanson, Hank Lazer, Cythia Hogue, Laynie Brown, and Barbara Henning. Chax Press has hosted the literary journal EOAGH (edited by Tim Peterson with Alexander in an advisory role) since the journal's inception in 2004. The title of the journal comes from a poem in Alexander's book near or random acts in which the neologism EOAGH appeared as the "sonic graph of a word" in a dream.