On the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair

Posted by Devin Stabley-Conde, GD Poetry Editor for 3.2

As a native Buffalonian, I grew up immersed in all of the rich culture that the greater Buffalo area has to offer. From concerts at Town Ballroom to the bustle of small businesses on Elmwood Avenue, there is always something new to discover in the city. So when I discovered the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair (BSPBF) through a creative writing class, it came as no surprise.

The BSPBF was founded in 2006 by Chris Fritton and Kevin Thurston after organizing zine and art fairs in NYC and Toronto. In a blog post about organizing a fair in Buffalo, Fritton states, “Buffalo has such a rich literary tradition, but an even richer tradition of progressive work, experimentation, and cultural innovation … I wanted to create an event that reflected that ethos-something where DIY ethics and handmade objects were privileged, but also something that was affordable, inclusive, democratic, and egalitarian. I simply couldn’t believe that our city didn’t have one … if there were no venues to peddle our own work, we’d make the venue ourselves.”

2015 BSPBF at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Buffalo NY

2015 BSPBF at Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Buffalo NY

The first BSPBF was held in March 2007, and attendance has increased every year since then. It has grown from a one-day event to a four-day celebration of local literature and art, complete with food trucks and open readings. New vendors can be found every year, and they range from bookstores to jewelry makers. The fair has gained national attention, and according to Fritton has “revealed a deep need for an affordable, inclusive, and uncensored space for micro-presses, individual authors, printmakers, and book artists.”

But what does this have to do with Gandy Dancer? The answer is a lot, actually. Gandy Dancer is a small journal that runs from the Creative Writing Department at SUNY Geneseo. The magazine was formed three years ago and is funded by the school, so a fair that celebrates small presses is exactly the kind of place we want to be. This is the third year that Gandy Dancer has taken on the small press fair as visitors, but for a journal that is run and funded through a small SUNY school, the opportunities continue to grow. At the beginning of April, two of Gandy Dancer’s former managing editors attended the Association of Writers and Poets (AWP) conference in Minneapolis with founder Rachel Hall. As I said before, Gandy Dancer has only been operating for three years, so the opportunity to have a table at a conference as big as AWP is a huge stride for the journal.

I agree with Chris Fritton. The world needs to see more small journals, local presses, and independent artists in a local setting, and the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair is exactly the space for it. Every year, the list of papermaking companies, small presses, and artists grows. I have such pride for the culture in my city, and this event really showcases all that Buffalo has to offer. If you don’t go for the readings, then go for the shopping and food trucks, and if you don’t go for the food trucks, then I can’t help you.

Missed the fair this year? Keep up to date with news for the next one by following the BSPBF on Twitter @bflosmallpress!

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