For Julie Carr, poetry is a practice, a profession and a public service. Not only does she use her expertise as a renowned poet to inspire the minds of university students with a thirst for the written word, but she is also the co-founder of Counterpath, an innovative combination of publishing venture, bookstore and event space that calls central Denver home.
Although Counterpath has already published more than 40 works of poetry and prose to date, the venture had humbler beginnings. According to Carr, associate professor of English at the University of Colorado Boulder, the idea for the press began shortly before she moved to Colorado in 2006 to teach English at CU-Boulder.
Carr attributes much of the credit for the creation of the press to her partner, Tim Roberts. “It began the day that Tim came home from work and said, ‘I know what we should call our press.’ Sometimes a thing becomes real once you name it.”
The name is Counterpath, a title that succinctly summarizes the conceived artistic mission of the press: to provide a platform for writers and artists who dynamically challenge systems of convention and strive to create a lasting cultural impact.
Counterpath is classified as a nonprofit, and Carr emphasizes the importance of this, calling the space, “more of a service and one we love to offer.”
Under this name, Carr and Roberts began publishing around six literary works a year from their home. When Roberts’ other work, Field Editorial, began to expand, he sought out an office space, and his decision to rent in a location with a storefront provided the springboard that launched Counterpath from a small scale publishing venture into a multifaceted artistic endeavor.
One aspect of this project is the bookstore, which is dedicated to selling copies of works published not only by Counterpath but by independent presses from all corners of the nation. It’s unlikely that any of these books will make the best-seller stand at the local Barnes & Noble, but that is precisely the point.
As an independent publisher, Counterpath can provide readers with access to new and innovative artistic work difficult to find elsewhere. Further, Carr and Roberts remain concerned with bringing the works of underrepresented writers to light.
Carr acknowledges the difficulties that face both women and ethnic minorities within the modern publishing world: “If one is not vigilant as a publisher, one will end up publishing more white men than any other group, simply because these people are more likely to send their work to you!”She adds: “When groups of people are and have historically been divided, one can’t sit passively hoping for that to change. One actually has to work for that change – as a reader, as a publisher, as a colleague and as a friend.”
This means visitors to Counterpath can expect to encounter works that present the voices of a wide variety of authors with unique cultural and feminist perspectives.
While the sale of these titles lends some small fiscal help toward keeping the operation running, Counterpath is classified as a nonprofit, and Carr emphasizes the importance of this, calling the space, “more of a service and one we love to offer.”
Counterpath certainly provides a service, not only to the talented, creative and diverse writers whom it continues to publish, but also to the artistic community of Denver.
Apart from the bookstore, the venue also serves as a gallery, and Carr and Roberts remain interested not only in printed works but also “in media generally and in the different kinds of knowledge that different media makes possible.”
Examples of these different kinds of media include the film screenings, poetry readings, visual and digital-art exhibits and scholarly talks that occur regularly and continue to establish Counterpath as a cultural hotspot within Colorado’s capital.
Carr and Roberts are not alone in their efforts. Carr emphasizes the hard work and dedication of Oren Silverman, the full time event coordinator of the space who received his MFA in poetry from CU.
Silverman’s commitment to Counterpath has already led to the booking of more than 70 events for 2014, and there are many more currently in the workings. All of the events are free and open to the public.
For a complete listing of events and new or soon to-be-released titles, see http://counterpathpress.org/