Wake Forest University Press is withstanding the ill winds buffeting the publishing industry — and riding the winds of change sweeping Ireland.
By the time Tribble Hall Opened in 1962, anxiety over the threat of nuclear war with the Soviet Union had built to a critical mass in the United States. The ten days of the Cuban Missile Crisis detonated all that pent-up tension into full-blown fear that October, and Wake Forest College responded to the emotional fallout by designating the building’s basement as a bomb shelter. Food, medical supplies, bedding, and barrels for drinking water were stored on its subterranean level to withstand the hard rain that many were certain was going to fall.
Today, Wake Forest University Press is located there, and somehow a former fallout shelter seems a fitting site for a small press in a precarious publishing environment, especially one with a specialty as circumscribed as Irish poetry. The Internet, with its loose adherence to copyright and even looser standards of quality; the economic and distribution challenges posed by publishing as it becomes more homogenized and commercially driven; the diminishment of poetry in secondary schools; the truncated attention spans of younger readers and the implications of that for a literary form whose concentrated language demands focus and reflection; the waning of the independent bookshop, the traditional and stalwart source for poetry; the dwindling purchases of poetry volumes by academic libraries as they emphasize the building of their digital collections…all of this can be toxic to the long-term survival of an enterprise such as this.