Publishing Talks: David Wilk interviews Dan Halpern

In this series of interviews, called Publishing Talks, I have been talking to book industry professionals about the future of publishing, books, and culture.  This is a period of disruption and change for all media businesses. How will publishing evolve as our culture is affected by technology, climate change, population density, and the ebb and flow of civilization and its economics? Publishing Talks interviews help us understand the outlines of what is happening, and how we might ourselves interact with and influence the future of publishing as it unfolds.

These interviews give people in the book business a chance to talk openly about ideas and concerns that are often only talked about “around the water cooler,” at industry conventions and events, and in emails between friends and they give people inside and outside the book industry a chance to hear first hand some of the most interesting and challenging thoughts, ideas and concepts being discussed by people in the book business.

In May, 2010, Dan Halpern was honored by the Poetry Society of America along with the Academy of American Poets and NYU’s Creative Writing Program on the occasion of the fortieth anniversary of the Ecco Press (the publishing imprint of which he is the founder).  Aside from being well-known as a successful publisher of quality literature, Dan is himself a poet, writer and editor of a number of important anthologies.  Along with his mentor, Paul Bowles, he founded the literary magazine Antaeus (out of which Ecco originally was born).   He is currently the editorial director of Ecco Press, which is now an imprint of HarperCollins. He has received many grants and awards, including fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

While I do not know Dan well, we have some friends in common and shared experiences as editors of literary magazines and a deep interest in poetry.  I wanted to talk to him for the Publishing Talks series, as he has been able to maintain his deep commitment to publishing important literary work, continuing to write and edit himself, within a commercial context during a period of massive change in the publishing business.  I think his perspective on books and writing, past, present, and future, is a valuable one, and instructive for many of us in the book business whose expectations are being severely challenged by the state of the current book marketplace.  Dan’s commitment and dedication to writing, ideas, art and culture inform his outlook on the past, present and future of publishing and books.