We had the good fortune of connecting with Timothy E. G. Bartel and we’ve shared our conversation below.

Hi Timothy, can you walk us through the thought-process of starting your business?
After writing and publishing poetry seriously for a few years, I began to see a need in the poetry world: I knew many poets who, like me, wrote more traditional, formal verse who were having trouble finding venues to publish their poetry collections. Further, many of the poets I knew shared a unique approach to poetic subject and form: we were poets from California who were interested in the religious and cultural history of California and how it stood in relation (and disrelation) to the cultures that had shaped it: indigenous cultures, Spanish colonial culture, Asian immigrant cultures, Anglo-American culture and, further back, the Christian and classical roots of europe. Thus I slowly began, first as a literary review, and then as a chapbook series, publishing the creative writing of writers I knew who were interested in exploring these things. Eight years in to the Californios Press project, we still publish new work by emerging West Coast poets, but we also have published work by poets from across the nation who take form, history, and mythos seriously. And in my own writing I continue to explore the poetic possibilities inherent in the Californian subject. 

Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
Currently my artistic practice is twofold. First and foremost I am a poet: I write in traditional forms, most often sonnets, and have been recently experimenting with long verse narratives. Three collections of my poems have been published, both here and in europe. Most recently I published an E-book of a long narrative poem, Calafia, on Amazon Kindle. It’s an experiment in telling an old medieval story in contemporary verse, and it shares many concerns with my shorter poems, especially those found in my 2019 collection Aflame but Unconsumed (published by Kelsay Books). Second, as editor of Californios Press, I design, edit, and publish poetry chapbooks by emerging poets. 2020 saw Californios Press publish two chapbooks, by California poet Christ Davidson and East Coast poet Matthew E. Henry. Both collections have sold well; people seem hungry for art to help them make sense of and cope with the stresses and complexities of contemporary life, and Chris’s and Matt’s chapbooks are especially relevant, reflecting as they do on this era of pandemic and protest. As a poet and editor with over a decade of experience in the poetry world, I’m learning that poetry is never going to be the easiest art in which to be involved. Poetry is deceptive: though poems are short and easy to overlook, they take concentrated time and patience to create and read. Novels and cinema promise more and are often more easily accessible than books of poems. And yet, poetry is a more portable and elegant art form than either film or fiction: you can hold a whole poem in the palm or your hand, or, even better, in your memory. You can take it out and gaze at it whenever you want. I hope to write and publish poetry that makes people excited to read and savor these beautiful little creations.

If you had a friend visiting you, what are some of the local spots you’d want to take them around to?
As a Houstonian who once lived in both Edinburgh and Los Angeles, I go back and forth between exploring those aspects of Houston that are unique, and those aspects that remind me of those two other world capitols. I’m married to a visual artist, and I love huge museums filled with gallery upon gallery of art. The MFAH is one of my favorite spots in Houston, both for its diverse pieces from across history, and also for its furniture; the seating (not to mention the architecture) by Mies Van Der Rohe adds to the overall appeal of the place for me. If someone was in the mood for something a little less grand, I’d recommend the Rothko chapel area, with its lovely park and the stunning sculpture by Barnett Newman. The Rothko chapel was the first place I visited the very day I moved to Houston, and its lovely trees and haunting paintings are still, for me, at the heart of the Houston experience. Another highlight of Houston for me are its breweries, especially St. Arnold’s. I’d definitely be interested in taking a visitor for a pint at St. Arnolds and enjoying the lovely paintings by local artist Nick Papas. Nick is certainly my favorite artist working in Houston today; I love how he marries traditional Byzantine iconographic styles with colors that are contemporary and vibrant.

The Shoutout series is all about recognizing that our success and where we are in life is at least somewhat thanks to the efforts, support, mentorship, love and encouragement of others. So is there someone that you want to dedicate your shoutout to?
It was through many conversations with the poet and literature scholar Jonathan Diaz that Calfornios was born. Jonathan served as co-editor on the Californios Review, and was the author of the first Californios Chapbook, Rumors of Rain, in 2017.

Website: timothyegbartel.wordpress.com, californiospress.com
Instagram: @timothy.bartel
Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/californiosreview/?ref=bookmarks
Other: Author page on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Timothy-E-G-Bartel/e/B0866FLT6T/ref=dp_byline_cont_ebooks_1

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