Coach House Books puts poetry ‘on hiatus’

Independent Toronto press Coach House Books has placed its prestigious poetry program “on hiatus” and will not be accepting any poetry submissions until further notice.

The announcement was made on the company’s blog on Tuesday.

“Poetry is changing, and the way people read is changing,” Alana Wilcox, editorial director of Coach House, told the Star. “We live in a Twitter world now — what does that mean for poetry?”

Coach House still has six poetry titles planned for publication this year and another six for 2019.

“I just want to have the opportunity to consider possibilities. It’s important for everyone to take a step back sometimes and think about what they’re doing,” Wilcox said, adding that economic reasons were not a consideration.

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The announcement also states that “During this time, we will revisit the mandate, policies and procedures that guide our poetry list.”

When asked whether the move had any connection to recent scandals at the University of British Columbia and Concordia creative writing programs, Wilcox said “No.”

“We want to think about how we’ve been working and what we can do differently. It’s important for everyone to take a step back sometimes and think about what they’re doing.” She noted that “we have so many manuscripts we need to just take a breather.”

Despite Wilcox’s assurances, and emphasizing her observation that we now live in a Twitter world, reaction was quick, if not immediately widespread.

“I can’t think of a bigger loss to Canadian culture than no more Coach House poetry books,” tweeted Matt Carrington, book editor and former co-editor of Descant Magazine.

Coach House was founded in 1965. Its first publication was a book of poetry by Wayne Clifford.

Since then the press has published some of Canada’s most important and influential poets, including bpNichol, Gwendolyn MacEwan, Michael Ondaatje and Anne Michaels. It is also the publisher of fiction and non-fiction, including the Giller Prize-winning Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis and Griffin Poetry prize winner Christian Bok.