Columns

02_MatthewLim_ForDiscorder_October2018

Shelf Life

RAHILA’S GHOST: A GROWING FAMILY OF POETS

author
Judah Schulte
photography
Coltrane Yan
illustration
Matthew Lim

 

Since its conception in May 2017, Rahila’s Ghost Press has published six chapbooks. The Vancouver-based press publishes poetry exclusively, taking submissions from emerging or established writers, and strongly encouraging women, writers of colour, LGBTQIA2S+ writers, Indigenous writers and writers with disabilities to submit.

Founder and publisher, Mallory Tater, got the name of the press from her great-great grandmother. Curious about her heritage, Tater and with her fiancé, who is also RGP’s Managing Editor, Curtis Leblanc, made a trip out to Saskatewan to investigate her family’s beginning in Canada. As RGP’s website states, they learned that “Rahila Corches [was a] mother of three, [who] immigrated from Campeni, Romania with her husband Samson.” Rahila’s interest in reading and her untimely death made an impression on Tater. It seemed a fateful coincidence that at the time she learned this information, Tater had been planning on starting a press. It wasn’t only homage that inspired the name, but its ties to the concept of family. “I’m a firm believer in chosen family,” says Mallory, “and looking backwards to forwards on the relationships in my life links the idea of chosen family to the press.” And a family she made.

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Mallory Tater and Curtis Leblanc || Photography by Coltrane Yan for Discorder Magazine

The RGP team is made up of seven editors, all of them decorated with published work of their own and awards or nominations. Tater met her team through university and the Vancouver poetry scene. Together the group reads submissions, fundraises and attends book launches. As a family performs labours of love, the team (Tater included) labours for free; only the contributors receive honorariums. “One of the nice things about having such a big group is that we can pair the writer with an editor that fits them properly — in terms of interest, personality and aesthetic,” explains Tater. This intentional pairing is indicative of the passion with which the press is run and the identity that it maintains.

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Illustration by Matthew Lim for Discorder Magazine

For the cover of each chapbook, Rahila’s Ghost solicits a different local artist and converses at length with the poets to make certain they feel their work is accurately represented. Tater cites the time this back and forth takes as one of the greatest hurdles in the process of publishing, but one that is worth the struggle. “When writers are submitting and want their work to be taken care of, I take that seriously,” says Mallory. “It’s such a privilege and an honour to take on that role.”

Having published a collection of poems and signed a novel with major Canadian publisher, HarperCollins, Tater is versed in the challenges of the industry. With poetry not being as lucrative as some other forms of writing, it can be a trial for poets find platforms for their work. And Vancouver, with its high cost of living and a younger art scene than major city centres, can add to that difficulty. Inspired by other chapbook presses like Metatron, Tater saw a way of leveraging these problems into opportunity. “I had the time and energy to provide a platform for the voices in my community and across the country.”

The poetry in their list of published titles is clear and contemporary. Much like the press itself, Rahila’s Ghost seeks out work that is accessible and thoughtful. “To me personally, the best poetry is the kind that takes the internal into the external smoothly and in a way that everyone can connect to,” Tater explains. Submissions go through the hands of all the editors for consideration. The ones that resonate with the most members of the team get accepted. “I don’t like doing the rejection part, but that process needs to exist. If we could publish 40 manuscripts a year, we would do it.”

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Mallory Tater and Curtis Leblanc || Photography by Coltrane Yan for Discorder Magazine

RGP is a press that views itself as a home for poetry. It was founded by a local poet who saw a need and is maintained by local poets who see the same. Projecting the voices of emerging artists, Rahilia’s Ghosts understands as well as anyone that any community is a family and family sticks together.

 

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For a list of releases and submission information, visit rahilasghostpress.com and follow Rahila’s Ghost Press on social media for upcoming events.