I grew up dirt poor in the Midwest. Reading and writing were good for me, as they are for all humans. I made it to college and decided that if I just spent the rest of my life immersed in art, this would be a life worth living. I met many writers, such as Crystal Wilkinson, Silas House, Danni Quintos, and Nikky Finney, who showed me that literature is a thriving and subversive force for positive personal and social change.
In 2010, I started Rabbit Catastrophe Press, a feminist, experimental, book arts micropress that published a biannual literary magazine and ran a chapbook contest for women and nonbinary writers. The books were something in between a zine and an art object. Every copy was a little different, hand-bound, with screenprinted cotton rag covers. In design, we were inspired by/stole all our ideas from/learned everything from pitymilk press, bathmatics, MC Hyland, and so many others in the kind and supportive micropress and printmaking community. We published weird, experimental, sassy stuff. Editing felt like a creative act. Besides crafting the books themselves, I loved putting writers in conversation with each other, balancing out an issue with tone, form, image, and content. The press closed in 2020 during the pandemic, but I am proud of the decade of work we did to support our diverse literary community.
I had moved to Kentucky in 2010 to start a PhD in Literature, which I hated from the beginning, but stuck with for four years because I was a stubborn, first-gen college student. Eventually I got so depressed, “you must change your life” became an absolute truth for me, and I transferred over to do an MFA in Poetry. I was already writing poetry all the time anyway, and I never wanted to write another seminar paper again. Being an editor while also in an MFA program was helpful. I was not only reading historically important work in my classes, but also contemporary work by people tapped into the zeitgeist. I learned to not assess publishers and journals by name recognition, but by quality of design and trajectory of vision. Maybe most importantly, it helped me not take submission rejections personally.
After Rabbit Catastrophe Press closed, I was missing the direct involvement with books and writers, particularly those from underrepresented communities. This led me to apply for, and receive, this internship at Sundress Publications, another organization fostering an inclusive literary community in the South. It feels so good to participate in this important work again. I cannot wait to meet and work with all you interesting people.
Robin LaMer Rahija (she/her) did her MFA in Poetry at the University of Kentucky. Her work has appeared in Puerto Del Sol, FENCE, Guernica, and elsewhere. She loves books, writers, and Excel documents.
- The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: about:blank by Tracy Fuad - March 28, 2023
- Sundress Reads: Review of This Body I Have Tried to Write - March 27, 2023
- We Call Upon the Author to Explain—Zoë Fay-Stindt - March 27, 2023