Another World, Another Imaginative Work: Poet and Publisher Paul B. Roth

Paul B. Roth
BY Judith S. Buck

PAUL B. ROTH published his first poetry chapbook, After the Grape (University of Tampa Press) in 1969, which was followed by Basement of Tears in 1973. After graduating from Goddard College in Vermont in 1974, he went on to complete his graduate degree in contemporary French poetry, while working in a business he eventually co-owned. During this time of work and studies, he founded The Bitter Oleander Press, with the vision of publishing a magazine as well as books of imaginative poetry.

The small press survived for a little over four years with critical success until economic, family, and time constraints led to a hiatus. Upon his retirement in 1995, Roth revived The Bitter Oleander. To this day, it has published over thirty issues of its biannual journal of contemporary international poetry and short fiction.

Roth’s work is widely anthologized and published in literary venues, both local and abroad. He now lives and gardens in Fayetteville, Upstate New York with his wife, the Hungarian artist Georgina Heksch Roth. They have three sons.

How have you evolved as a publisher and editor?

I’d have to say, slowly.

Right from the beginning my sole purpose was to create a forum: an imaginative poetry from all over the contemporary world that could be brought together between two covers. It was the only direction in poetry that inspired me. It generated energy behind passion that grows and deepens. Although I knew I was in for a long journey, my intent was to only publish what I thought to be both engaging and imaginative. There were always flavors of Surrealism, Imagism, The Deep Image, Leaping and Immanentist poetry. The issues were small back then. But as the reputation of the press grew, so did the volume’s size and scope.

Nothing seems more important than bringing together so many writers . Not to mention, my own unending gratitude for having been welcomed so graciously into so many lives, hearts and homes all over the world.

Creating a culture behind the press itself was another deep concern of mine. I also insisted on personalizing every aspect of the editorial work. If anything is accomplished one person at a time, then being an attentive and dedicated editor is exactly that. It’s tremendously important to me that I make some kind of connection with everyone who is generous enough to share their work with me. This is also the case with those who relate to me from the business side of the press. I respond to every inquiry, every acceptance, every rejection. I do not share this responsibility with anyone else. It’s my hand that writes every note, or types every electronic message.

It’s been that way from the start, and in spite of technology taking away — little by little — this personalization. I’m always finding ways to work around it so that all who are interested continue to feel embraced and important. This is because they are. A fourteen-year-old poet from Mississippi should feel just as welcome as those whose work I’ve read for over forty years, along with French poets Joyce Mansour, Benjamin Péret and Jacques Dupin; Mexican poet Alberto Blanco; and Bolivian writer Nicomedes Suaréz-Araúz, to name a few published by the press. Nothing seems more important than bringing together so many writers . Not to mention, my own unending gratitude for having been welcomed so graciously into so many lives, hearts and homes all over the world.


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