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The Pikestaff Press, a small independent literary press, publishes original poetry and prose fiction for general distribution.


Current editors: Robert D. Sutherland and James R. Scrimgeour

Scrimgeour and Sutherland: The Two KingsHistory

In August, 1977, Pikestaff Publications was incorporated in the State of Illinois as a not-for-profit press organized exclusively for literary and educational purposes. Its goal: to publish original literary works and disseminate them to the general public. Its founder/editors were Robert D. Sutherland and James R. Scrimgeour, both of them at that time teaching in the English Department at Illinois State University in Normal, Illinois.

Originally, it produced two literary magazines—The Pikestaff Review and The Pikestaff Forum—and books (under the imprint of The Pikestaff Press). After three issues, the book-format Pikestaff Review was retired as having production costs too great for Pikestaff’s limited resources; and the editors concentrated their efforts on making the Forum a distinguished literary journal.

The Pikestaff Forum was a 40-page newsprint tabloid with a relatively low production cost. Each issue had a print-run of 1,000 copies which were bulk-mailed to subscribers, libraries, and other magazines (as complimentary exchanges). It published poetry, short stories, photographs, drawings, reviews of small press books, commentary on literature and small-press publishing, profiles of other literary magazines written by their editors, and (in the center-fold pages of every issue) work by young authors aged 7 through 17. It was one of the very few magazines of the time that published the work of young authors.

The 11 1/2 X 17 1/2-inch page dimensions provided marvelous opportunities for innovative and artistic layout and design: each page presented its own challenge, each two-page spread presented another, separate challenge. The sequencing of items, the balancing of text and graphics, and the creative use of white space gave ample opportunity for experimentation. The tabloid format enabled each issue to have a large amount of material showcased in open, uncluttered, and esthetically-pleasing space.
Submissions arrived from all over the United States and some foreign countries. Editorial standards were high: for a piece to be accepted for publication, both editors had to agree to its inclusion. Over the 19 years of the Forum’s publication, acceptances fluctuated between 1.7% and 2.5% of material submitted in all categories. In its run, the magazine published the work of 444 writers, 17 photographers, 14 graphic artists, and 142 “young authors” – the work of 617 individuals, comprising 645 poems, 107 works of prose fiction, 2 plays, 30 essays on literary topics, 43 book reviews, 37 photographs, 82 original drawings, and 52 editorial profiles written by editors of other magazines about their publications – a total of 998 items. The Forum acquired the reputation of an excellent literary magazine and, in its design, served as a model for other tabloid publications. It was terminated in 1996.

Books published under the Pikestaff Press imprint comprise both poetry and prose fiction. There is currently a line of Pikestaff Poetry Chapbooks (shorter volumes not exceeding 20 pages), longer poetry collections, and two novels.

Philosophy

From the outset in 1977, the editors resolved that Pikestaff would be a press “with a difference.” Requiring agreement of both editors for a piece to be accepted hopefully would help to assure that the quality of published work would be consistently high. Further, it would be editorial policy to respond to every submission with a written critique explaining the basis for the editors’ decisions, and offering helpful suggestions as to how a piece might be improved. Pikestaff would invite submissions from established and non-established writers, welcoming both traditional and experimental works. It would remain eclectic in its tastes, subscribing to no specific “school” of poetry or fiction. It would be particularly interested in providing launchpad exposure to new writers and to those who might have difficulty in getting a hearing. Its published CREDO reads: “We believe that good writing communicates intense, basic human experience which is conductive of change and growth, and that such communication, when achieved, is as plain and as pointed as a pikestaff.”

We feel that Pikestaff has remained true to its resolution, and through its practices has succeeded in being a press “with a difference.” Though we no longer publish literary magazines, The Pikestaff Press will continue publishing books containing excellent poetry and prose fiction. See Submissions.

Editors

Robert D. Sutherland

Born in Arkansas in 1937, Robert D. Sutherland grew up in Kansas, graduated from the University of Wichita (now Wichita State) in 1959, and earned a Ph.D. in English at the University of Iowa in 1964. He joined the English faculty at Illinois State University, Normal, Illinois, where he taught courses in Linguistics, Creative Writing, and Literature until his retirement in 1992. He particularly enjoyed teaching Descriptive Linguistics, History of the English Language, semantic theory, and Old English (a two-semester sequence, the second half devoted to Beowulf). In his workshops in the writing of poetry and prose fiction, he encouraged students to read widely and hone their critical skills for self-editing; to develop a keen sensitivity to the sounds of language (speech rhythms and the affective interplay of vowels and consonants), and, when creating line-breaks in poetry, always to be mindful of the integrity of the syntactic phrase.

For nineteen years (from 1977 until 1996) he edited The Pikestaff Forum, a literary magazine of national distribution. Since 1981, he and his wife have traveled extensively in in various parts of the world, and have worked diligently to promote peace, social justice, and preservation of the natural environment. They have two sons and four grandchildren. His book publications include a scholarly work, Language and Lewis Carroll (1970), and two novels, the first of which, Sticklewort and Feverfew (1980)—written for children, adolescents, and adults and illustrated with 74 of the author’s pencil drawings—received the 1981 Friends of American Writers Juvenile Book Merit Award for author/illustrator. The second novel, The Farringford Cadenza (2007), is a suspenseful, humorous literary mystery which subtly skews generic conventions to continually surprise readers with reversals of their assumptions and expectations. In addition to his books, he has published poetry, short fiction, and essays on literature, education, and publishing.

James R. Scrimgeour

James R. Scrimgeour is a Professor of English and Co-chair of the English Department at Western Connecticut State University.

He has published a critical biography of Sean O'Casey (G. K. Hall) along with numerous reviews and articles on poetry and drama. He has also published seven books of poetry:

Entangled Landscapes, with John Briggs (Pudding House)
Brushstrokes of the Millennium (WCSU Foundation)
Dikel, Your Hands (Spoon River Poetry Press, 1979)
The Route and Other Poems
(Pikestaff Press, 1996)
James R. Scrimgeour: Greatest Hits (Pudding House Press, 2001)
We Are What We Have Loved
(Hanover Press, 2001)
Monet in the Twentieth Century
(Pudding House, 2002)

and over 200 poems in anthologies and periodicals. He was co-editor of The Pikestaff Forum with Robert Sutherland from1977 – 1996. Furthermore, he served as Editor of Connecticut Review from September 1992 – September 1995. He has written over a poem per week since January, 1993.

"Nothing goes by luck in composition. It allows of no tricks. The best you can write will be the best you are." —Thoreau

Wild Rhythms Uhigh Class of 80 reunion

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Contact us: staff@pikestaffpress.com
telephone: (309) 452-4831
surface: The Pikestaff Press
P.O. Box 127
Normal, Illinois 61761

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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