Virgogray Press at the 21st Annual Austin International Poetry Festival

Thom Woodruff, poet emeritus and one of the founders of the Austin International Poetry Festival.

I’ve been attending the Austin International Poetry Festival semi-consistently for the past decade. The festival is truly a staple, a cornerstone of the Austin poetry scene. The Austin International Poetry Festival began twenty-one years ago. In fact, this year’s theme was “Lucky 21” because, as board members remarked, this year “we were lucky” to have a festival. Still, the festival began humbly over two decades ago, has gone through changes in board members and directors, and has withstood the test of time. This year, the festival ran from April 11-14. and hosted over two hundred registered poets and dozens of lit-interested Austinites in several central locations around Austin, TX. Several poets from local to international status featured, giving readings, hosting workshops, hosting open mics, giving lectures and speaking on panels. There was something of interest for everyone interested in literature and the many facets literature can break into. The Austin International Poetry Festival, a celebration of National Poetry Month, brought maximum exposure to the citizens of Austin, invading university and college campuses, bookstores, coffee shops, music venues, libraries and theaters.

For my part, I’ve participated in the festival, volunteered for the festival, served briefly as a member of the board in 2010.This year, I was asked to host a workshop at the Austin Community College Rio Grande Campus as part of the festival’s itinerary. The workshop was about d.i.y. and self publishing as that is where Virgogray Press’ roots are. The workshop actually focused on the publication history of Virgogray Press as a sort of spine for the topic. Virgogray Press first began as a print-at-home engagement, all chapbooks from 2003-2010 were hand assembled and self-distributed. As one may or may not be able to imagine, the process, from receiving the submission, to the selection process, to the review and editorial process, to the design and formatting process and on  and on through the printing and binding was very time-consuming; a true labor of love. In 2010-2011, Virgogray began using print on demand technology for the printing and binding of its publications. Since that time, I’ve ceased the print-at-home, traditional chapbook, in favor of the “professional,” perfect bound publication.

Virgogray Press at 2013 Austin International Poetry Festival as part of a work shop on d.i.y. publishing at Austin Community College Rio Grande campus.

Because I’ve worked both avenues of D.I.Y. publishing, both self-publishing and press publishing where other poets, writers and artists are involved, I was able to present relevant information and insights into both facets. Sparing the history of chapbook publishing, I presented those in attendance with a free “classic” Virgogray chapbook, most of which are now out-of-print, to show how self-publishing, d.i.y. publishing, started as single or double sided sheets (broadsides), or books of folded paper stapled or stitched together. We spoke about what it takes to self-publish, including all the above mentioned aspects of revision/design/format, etc., but also included discussion on pricing, distribution, bar-coding, registering with the Library of Congress, marketing, promotions and royalties. I spilled the guts on Virgogray Press, sharing our business models and sharing ideas on publishing. Most participants were interested in self-publishing, but thought the idea of housing their work under their own press moniker worth venturing into. Mostly, the writers were interested in the process of publishing and the easiest ways of execution. Our discussion also included internet publishing and e-book publication, social networking and website basics. The Virgogray Press self-publishing workshop was a great experience and a nice way to share the press’ brief history. The Austin International Poetry Festival is now preparing for its 22nd year, for more information visit:

The New Age of the Poet

There is a great push, energetic with a life all its own. In all forms of art, poetic voice is giving wonderment to the age-old questions of life. There has only been times like this, when the poets are singing the origins of consciousness, when the ends necessitate the means. These times are impressive as interesting. The entire paradigm of reality and status quo buzzing with change, we begin to hear the sound of the light. The answer is in the process of the soul as displayed into art form via the poem. That is the main context Virgogray takes in sharing the work of others. Above form and structure, whether manicured or not, but maintained within the wellness of basic grammar, the content, the truth spoken in the artists words is the driving force. I have seen a spectacular display of such poetic art these past few days in the bustling period that is National Poetry Month. From the marathon that is the Austin International Poetry Festival to the continued poetic mayhem at the Austin Salon Poetic to the new faces of poetry I bore witness to at the Fresh Meat Poet Showcase to the independent TV broadcast celebrating poetry and Austin poets, the East By Southeast (EXSE) Poetry Showcase, to the poets slamming it around town at such venues as Spoken and Heard at Kick Butt Coffee and Ruta Maya Poetry, there was much to do in the month of April, and that’s not all. There’s much more I’ve not even mentioned. If there is one art form that is thriving in the city of Austin it is poetry. Of course, all art forms are, I just get higher doses of this one. But one thing I did appreciate, as at the venues I attended at this years Austin International Poetry Festival was the wealth of loving insightful, enlightened-like poems that were all about spreading light and being aware. And they are not new age type poems or sentiments, either, they are direct rays of truth shattering societal paradigms. Now that is art. Anyway. The richness is vast and growing still. As the influence of the artist is to surface the hidden and stifled conscience of man, and even as that has been seemingly compromised, that is why we turn to the local and the independent.  It merely takes an individual willing to share that with the community, and there are several examples out there. One mark I’ve always found important is a lack of consideration for the style or skill level versus the paramount message and content is the key equation when considering a fair and consistent standard among poet talent. Because not all of us are fortunate to have Harvard Masters in poetry, and that is not to malign the dignity of suffering such programs the academic dictates, but it is a truth we must all consider. The insightful work I’ve been exposed to, delivered in fashions all over the spectrum of poetry reading and performance, and its writing, naturally, have satisfied the desire of a deeper understanding to arise in the majority of humanity. It starts inside the hearts and souls of a few who burn as beacons and as candles, and spreads to the minds of many through the hidden net of consciousness and extols itself through the art and poetry of those who create. And it recycles becoming greater. I am looking forward to the many messages to come and to their deliverance, the voices to come.


Austin This Week: AIPF

This week the Austin International Poetry Festival will take place April 7-10, 2011. This is a great way to kick off National Poetry Month and we here at Virgogray Press are happy to be there. For the previous 18 years the Austin International Poetry Festival has drawn 100’s of poets and poetry enthusiasts to share in the art of poetry and the written and spoken word. All types of poets and artists gather from traditional poetry writers, to spoken word artists, to slam-style poets, music and poetry and everything else in between. The festival is headquartered at Ruta Maya, just south of downtown Austin on Congress Avenue near St. Edwards University. There will be several city-wide readings and workshops taking place at bookstores, libraries, cafes, universities, restaurants and more. I will be hosting a reading on Saturday evening at Brave New Books located at 1904 Guadalupe St, near UT Austin from 7 PM until 9 PM. The reading will feature participants of AIPF and is open to the public. I will be reading earlier that day, but details have not been released. I will be reading as part of the City-Wide Poetry read at the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum earlier in the day. I will also be there Thursday at Ruta Maya. Though no VGP writers will be featured, several who have published their work with us will be out reading their respective work. Some of those writers include Elzy Cogswell, Christa Pandey, Thom Moon Bird, and Shubh Sheisser. Virgogray titles will also be on hand for purchase.  Visit for more information.