Lightscatter Press hosted a launch party on February 28, 2020, which included beer, wine and a table chock full o’ charcuterie.

Lightscatter Press Launch Party @ The Mandate Press 02.28

Art

On Friday, Feb. 28, literature lovers converged to celebrate the opening of the Lightscatter Press. The atmosphere was warm as incandescent bulbs glowed (the type that make millennial hipsters relax immediately like lizards under heat lamps) over Salt Lake art professionals bubbling in conversation. Lightscatter is an arthouse literary press that plans to publish one poetry manuscript per year. They are currently accepting poetry submissions for their first big project. The press is happy to announce the 2020 Lightscatter Press Prize, which includes $1,000 and publication of a book-length manuscript. The launch brought together local, arty types and every time I greeted a new person, I was met with an interesting backstory and intelligent insight into the growing city’s art and community-building scene. 

The softly-lit location of the launch party, Mandate Press, is a modern letterpress shop smack-dab in the middle of Salt Lake. The shop created a subtle, arty vibe with its vintage, brick walls, art and well-stocked bar. In one corner, artists and non-profit professionals mingled over drinks and picked at an impressive charcuterie spread. The major Lightscatter volunteer board members dedicated to getting the press off the ground were sprinkled throughout the gathered crowd, explaining their plans to get the city’s newest poetry press up and running.

“We’re excited to be open to poetry submissions, especially manuscripts with an experimental element,” says Danielle Susi, President of the Lightscatter Press Board. “This additional component could be digital or an idea for a community event. We are excited to work with writers to create something wonderful that comes from the final published book.”

The acceptance of additional, related components means that local poets can propose novel accompanying elements to their manuscript and get feedback if the publishing house chooses their work. Susi says Lightscatter looks for work that stands out to the board and selects a single manuscript for publication they think would make a difference to bring to the world. They are dedicated to supporting poets who present a compelling vision for their art.

Utah is peppered with publishers, but many specialize in novels or The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints-specific content. The press follows in the footsteps of Utah’s first poetry publisher, the Sugar House Review, founded in 2009 by John Kippen, Nano Taggart, Jerry VanIeperen and Natalie Young. But Lightscatter enters a poetry publishing landscape largely barren of competitors, so the existence of the organization looks to be a needed addition to the local art scene.

Lightscatter Press is joining a cohort of Salt Lake small businesses and non-profits in the art space who are leading this generation’s art creation and support network. In attendance at the event were Salt Lake visual artists and community organizers, including David Hyams and Christine Baczek owners of Luminaria, a photography studio down the road from the Mandate that specializes in vintage photographic processes, including platinum palladium and gelatin silver prints. They said they’re excited for the growing art scene and the resources being offered to help undiscovered artists. The University Neighborhood Partners was also represented, an organization dedicated to bringing together the University of Utah and the west side. Their goal is to share learning and resources to benefit underserved people in the least-advantage sections of the city.

As the stated end time of the Lightscatter launch came and went, the night’s bartender (Dora Nicole) started clearing tables and turning off lights. A few dozen people engrossed in their conversations kept socializing, ignoring the sidelong glances of the caterers. The positive turnout to the launch bodes well for the future of Lightscatter Press and the local art scene in the city’s future. The submission’s portal opens Feb. 15 and closes March 31. The judge is Katharine Coles, author, most recently of Wayward, Flight, and Look Both Ways. If you are interested in submitting your poetry to Lightscatter, visit lightscatterpress.org/submit or email questions to [email protected].

All photos: John Barkiple