Q&A with poet/publisher Michele McDannold of Roadside Press, work with a bunch of unabashed free-thinkers

"With the abundance of everything fighting against it, it’s difficult to get beyond personal revolution. But I believe it’s still possible. In my own lifetime, we’ve seen remarkable shifts in societal attitudes and values, reflecting the power of grassroots movements and individual enlightenment. It seems the government, the systems, are much behind the individual minds. They say that AI will change everything. I’m interested to see how."

Michele McDannold: Roadside Legion

Michele McDannold has organized poetry events and/or performed poetry with a bunch of unabashed free-thinkers across this great United States, most happily by roadtrip but sometimes by plane, train or coincidence. She spends most of her time producing and publishing books, when she’s not out killing miles with her magical jeep. Stealing the Midnight from a Handful of Days (Punk Hostage Press) and By Plane, Train or Coincidence (Roadside Press) are her full-length poetry collections.

(Photo: American Poet, Publisher/Editor, Michele McDannold)

About Roadside Press: Roadside Press was formed on 2/2/22 by poet/publisher Michele McDannold with the aim of publishing some of the best underground lit circulating today. Last year, Roadside Press released 16 new titles including those by Dan Denton, Misti Rainwater-Lites, Kerry Trautman, Westley Heine and Karl Koweski, to name a few. Michele says: "A couple of years ago I was running a little press called Gutter Snob Books, mostly chapbooks and shorter works. Once I perfected that, in my mind, I wanted to tackle full-lengths, longer works and just generally felt as if a change was needed from the aesthetic and business model of Gutter Snob, so Roadside was born."

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Underground Literature and Counterculture influenced your views of the world?

Underground literature and the counterculture have profoundly shaped my perspective of the world, offering refuge where I feel understood and connected. Instilling in me the sense that humans, more often than not, are not only good, but inherently fascinating, despite or maybe because of our flaws. It’s all about breaking down boundaries, is it not? Be rid of the gatekeepers. To examine the unexamined. And my favorite… speak truth to power.

When did the idea of Roadside Press come about? How do you describe your philosophy and mission?

A couple of years ago I was running a little press called Gutter Snob Books, mostly chapbooks and shorter works. Once I perfected that, in my mind, I wanted to tackle full-lengths, longer works and just generally felt as if a change was needed from the aesthetic and business model of Gutter Snob, so Roadside was born.

The mission is simple: to publish some of the best underground lit circulating today…and, do it in a way that honors the author and publisher relationship, in turn opening a space for community to thrive. A very easy way to explain it is that I’m curating a list of all the things I really want to read and people I admire. Sometimes I want to be entertained, sometimes challenged and everything in between, given it comes in an economy of words. One of the Roadside Press authors, Westley Heine said it best, they’re “A legion of underground writers who like rats are patiently chewing at the support beams of the brainwash machine.”

"It’s as simple as ‘if you don’t name it, we can’t talk about it.’ Underground literature is of the day. The authors and poets bear witness to the sociocultural limits imposed on the underdog, the marginalized. They open up a space for change-making thought. On their worst day, publications are someone creating." (Photo: Michele McDannold's books)

Why do you think that the Beat Generation Movement continues to generate such a devoted following?

It was a bona fide scene, and these are some of our most recent influences. Though, it’s not just the books but the fascination with the relationships between the artists, authors, poets. Connection. Inspiration. And I mean, fuck, they’re as cool as book nerds get. Nostalgia for when being an intellectual was placed in high regard. They were the embodiment of the counter-cultural movement, embracing non-conformity in new and exciting ways.  

How important was music in your life? How does music affect your mood and inspiration?

Extremely important. Around the 5th grade, my friend and I wrote some lyrics to a popular tune at the time. Eventually, it got around to the music teacher, and she decided to teach it to the class and perform it during assembly. That was kind of the bee’s knees. Later it would be Metallica and the Cure that would influence my lyric writing and eventually morph into writing (really bad) poetry. Nirvana was getting better. The Dresden Dolls have been an influence of late. Amanda Palmer (swoon).

Which has been the most interesting period in your life? Do you have a dream project you'd most like to accomplish?

Haha. The most interesting period in my life is the one I don’t talk about. I leave that to poems and riddles.

A dream project for me would be curating something along the lines of The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. The This Is Poetry series is probably the closest I will get. I still have the East Coast volume to compile and then I will have the United States covered, at least.

What is the role of publications in today’s society? What is the impact of literature on the socio-cultural implications?

It’s as simple as ‘if you don’t name it, we can’t talk about it.’ Underground literature is of the day. The authors and poets bear witness to the sociocultural limits imposed on the underdog, the marginalized. They open up a space for change-making thought. On their worst day, publications are someone creating.

"Underground literature and the counterculture have profoundly shaped my perspective of the world, offering refuge where I feel understood and connected."

(Photo: Michele McDannold)

What is the biggest revolution which can be realized today? What do you think the major changes will be in near or far future of the world?

With the abundance of everything fighting against it, it’s difficult to get beyond personal revolution. But I believe it’s still possible. In my own lifetime, we’ve seen remarkable shifts in societal attitudes and values, reflecting the power of grassroots movements and individual enlightenment. It seems the government, the systems, are much behind the individual minds. They say that AI will change everything. I’m interested to see how.

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