Founder's Statement

Lucille Lang DayI founded Scarlet Tanager Books in 1999 because I love literature, and much of the work I love best has not been available to the general public. This is the work I hear at poetry readings and writers' groups, read in small literary magazines, or learn about because the author is a friend of a friend.

A tremendous amount of writing, especially poetry and short fiction, is overlooked by publishers, large and small. You might wonder if maybe the publishers pass on this work because it is badly written, too complex for anyone but a literary scholar to understand, or concerns topics of interest to very few. I have found that none of these possibilities holds true: much of the work that never finds its way into print is exquisitely crafted, accessible, and concerned with themes of interest to a broad audience. By publishing collections of poetry and short fiction, I hope to enable some of this work to reach the audience it deserves.

The first book I published, released in 1999, was Everything Irish, a collection of poems by Judy Wells. These poems tell the story of Wells's Irish Catholic girlhood in the San Francisco Bay Area, reveal the myriad ways in which this girlhood has left its imprint on her adult life, and describe her trips to Ireland to search for her roots. The poems are moving and witty, and have the narrative flow of a novel or memoir.

The second Scarlet Tanager book, released in January 2000, was Catching the Bullet and Other Stories by Daniel Hawkes. What drew me to these stories was their perceptive treatment of relationships between brothers, fathers and sons, and male friends. These are relationships that I want to know more about but, as a woman, can never fully experience firsthand.

In June 2000, our third and fourth books appeared: red clay is talking, poems by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky; and my own poetry collection, Wild One. In red clay is talking Lowinsky takes us on a spiritual journey where milestones are built from myth, dream, and pivotal life experiences. The poems oscillate between the quotidian and the unconscious, revealing unexpected bridges and making sudden leaps. The poems in Wild One are narrative and autobiographical. Collectively telling the story of my life, they trace a psychological journey from childhood to adulthood, through rebellion, juvenile delinquency and teen motherhood to maturity and acceptance of myself and others, with all our differences and shining flaws.

Visions: Paintings Seen Through the Optic of Poetry, by Marc Elihu Hofstadter, and The "Fallen Western Star" Wars, edited by Jack Foley, came out in September 2001. Visions is a collection of poems inspired by the paintings Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, ChangDai-chien, Georgia O'Keeffe and the California Impressionists. In The "Fallen Western Star" Wars, Jack Foley has compiled letters and articles responding to Dana Gioia's provocative essay "Fallen Western Star: The Decline of San Francisco as a Literary Region."

In March 2002, Scarlet Tanager published Embrace, poems by Risa Kaparo. These poems are the work of an alchemist who turns loss and abuse into celebration and redemption. Would that she could show us all how to do so! Her work abounds in beauty and lyric intensity.

In July 2005, three poetry collections were added to the Scarlet Tanager line: Bone Strings, by Anne Coray; crimes of the dreamer, by Naomi Ruth Lowinsky; and Call Home, by Judy Wells. Each of these books is uniquely compelling. Coray explores the starkly gorgeous landscapes of her native Alaska and the inner landscapes that are their emotional counterparts; Lowinsky, a Jungian analyst, shares the dreams that came to her during her own analysis; and, with grace and affection, Wells tells the story of her mother's death and the painful but sometimes humorous process of dismantling her mother's longtime home with her three siblings.

The Number Before Infinity (September 2008), poems by Zack Rogow, and Luck (October 2008), poems by Marc Elihu Hofstadter came out in 2008. The Number Before Infinity is a remarkable love story told in verse; Luck offers a bounty of moments from a life lived fully and deeply.

Turning a Train of Thought Upside Down: An Anthology of Women’s Poetry (2012), edited by Andrena Zawinski, is a collection of poems by 41 San Francisco Bay Area women poets. This is the first in a projected series of Scarlet Tanager anthologies.

Catch and Other Poems, by Richard Michael Levine, came out in January 2015. This stunning debut collection includes poems on themes ranging from childhood to mortality to romantic love.

In January 2016, Scarlet Tanager published Red Indian Road West: Native American Poetry from California, which I co-edited with Kurt Schweigman. To the best of our knowledge, there are no previous poetry anthologies that include poems from the Native American diaspora in California alongside poems by members of California tribes. With more than 720,000 Native Americans, California has by far the largest Native American population of any state and perhaps the most diverse. There are currently more than one hundred American Indian tribes indigenous to California, as well as many Native Americans from tribes nationwide now residing in the state. Red Indian Road West includes an introduction by writer and performance artist James Luna along with work by 31 poets from 29 tribes.

The latest Scarlet Tanager title is my children's picture book, The Rainbow Zoo, which came out in November 2016. It's the rhyming story of two children, Autumn and Devlin (named for my grandchildren!), who visit a magical zoo where animals can have any color. The book features beautiful illustrations by Gina Aoay Orosco.

Scarlet Tanager books are available from Small Press Distribution (spdbooks.org) and Amazon.com. They can be ordered through any bookstore.

Lucille Lang Day
November 2016