Poet with Port Townsend’s Copper Canyon Press named Pulitzer Prize finalist
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Copper Canyon Press interns Cara Ehlenfeltdt, left, and Sascha Lapointe listen to co-publisher Joseph Bednarik read a poem from Compass Rose, a Copper Canyon book that was a Pulitzer Prize nominee. Charlie Bermant/Peninsula Daily News

By Charlie Bermant
Peninsula Daily News

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PORT TOWNSEND — Copper Canyon Press has published the works of more than its share of Pulitzer Prize winners and nominees, a co-publisher says.

The small nonprofit publisher located at Fort Worden State Park published Compass Rose by Arthur Sze, which was recognized as a finalist for the poetry award in an announcement of the winners of the coveted prize Monday.

Copper Canyon Press did not publish this year’s winner, Gregory Pardlo’s Digest, but did publish Pardlo’s previous poetry volume, 2007’s Totem.

Since 2005, Copper Canyon has published six books that have either won the prize or been recognized as a finalist for it, something that co-publisher Joseph Bednarik calls “an amazing track record.”

“I don’t know if any other publisher can make that claim,” said Bednarik, whose fellow publisher is George Knotek.

“This means a lot because the Pulitzer and the National Book Award are the only two literary awards that translate into numbers,” he said.

Copper Canyon poet W.S. Merwin won the 2005 National Book Award for Poetry and Ted Kooser won the 2005 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and was appointed to a second year as U.S. poet laureate.

Merwin later won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry and in 2010 assumed the poet laureate mantle.

Bednarik said the average poetry book sells between 2,000 and 5,000 copies, numbers that satisfy Copper Canyon.

A Pulitzer can push sales numbers to 100,000, Bednarik said.

“People should read poetry because it uses language at the highest level,” Bednarik said.

“It provides windows and doors and tunnels into all the different levels of meaning that language provides.

“Any curious person who is a reader will be interested in some poetry.”

Bednarik said Port Townsend “is incredibly rich with poetic tradition,” citing the poems displayed at Memory’s Vault in Fort Worden State Park as an example.

Sam Hamill, Tree Swenson and other associates founded Copper Canyon Press in 1972 in Denver.

Hamill and Swenson moved it in 1974 to Port Townsend, where it established a permanent residency with Centrum, a nonprofit arts agency, at Fort Worden State Park.

Copper Canyon Press publishes about 20 books a year and has a staff of 10, Bednarik said.

Copper Canyon is the subject of the Jefferson County Historical Society’s First Friday Lecture at 7 p.m. May 1 at the museum, 540 Water St.

The presentation, “The Early History of Copper Canyon Press,” is to be given by Swenson.

In addition to co-founding Copper Canyon Press, Swenson has been the executive director of Hugo House in Seattle since 2012.

She previously served as the executive director of the Academy of American Poets in New York, director of programs for the Massachusetts Cultural Council and board president of the Association of Writers & Writing Programs.

For more information about the lecture, call 360-385-1003.

For information about Copper Canyon, go to www.coppercanyonpress.org or call 360-385-4925.

All Copper Canyon publications are available at its office in Building 313 at Fort Worden from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Fridays.

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Jefferson County Editor Charlie Bermant can be reached at 360-385-2335 or cbermant@peninsuladailynews.com.

Last modified: April 22. 2015 7:02PM
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