A History Like No Other

Anderson Library Hosts a New Exhibit on Graywolf Press

Photographer: Annie Burdick

Photographer: Annie Burdick

Nestled among a multitude of other red-brick academic buildings on the University of Minnesota’s West Bank sits the Elmer L. Anderson library. It is not full of the characteristically foreboding and endless stacks of books that most other campus libraries are known for. This place is different, housing frequently changing exhibits on any matter of literary and academic merit.

Right now this library is also host to a fascinating new exhibit called “A World of Voices,” which is centered on Graywolf Press, a Twin Cities nonprofit publisher that recently celebrated its fortieth anniversary. Colorful panels line the walls of Anderson library, each one filled with photos, letters, and literature that depict an inside look at the publisher’s history. While beneath this exhibit there are two enormous caverns cut into the Mississippi bluffs that hold thousands of books, archives, and special collections, what’s here at the surface proves to be just as interesting.

Photographer: Kellen Renstrom

Photographer: Kellen Renstrom

Graywolf Press was founded in 1974 in Port Townsend, Wash., by a man named Scott Walker. The first book he published was called “Instructions to the Double,” a collection of poetry written by a woman named Tess Gallagher. Not only was this Walker’s earliest publishing project, but it was Gallagher’s first ever published collection.  The poems in her book range from lyrical and beautiful to the dark and serious.  She pays tribute to her childhood, as well as the places she’s been and the commentary she wanted to make about the world. By choosing Gallagher as his first author, Walker set the precedent that Graywolf Press would continue to maintain: to publish those voices that may not be known but that deserve to be heard.

Photographer: Annie Burdick

Photographer: Annie Burdick

As the publishing house grew to become a nonprofit in 1984 and a Minnesota resident in 1985, it took on more of a group dynamic. This was new for Walker, who had started the Press on his own. Over the years, Graywolf Press developed and matured, with a goal to represent a wide variety of authors from different countries, backgrounds and perspectives. They now include novels, memoirs, poetry, short stories, and essays among the 33 books they publish each year.

Today, these pieces of literature help comprise a part of the beautifully curated collection of memorabilia spanning the company’s 41-year history. The bulk of the display is made up of large, attractive panels, each focusing on a different part of the Press’s history or legacy. Some show early manuscript notes for books that later won prizes. Others display charming letters or cards sent between authors and publishers, all giving a glimpse into the process of creating a memorable book. In two glass cases lie manuscripts, early brochures, marketing materials, and beautiful hardcover books, including an early edition of the poetry book that began it all.

On every brochure and party invitation is Graywolf Press’s trademark, a simple line drawing of three wolves, each connected to the others. They use this image time and time again in different colors, with different backgrounds, for different events. It is a representation of the community and connection that comes with being a part of Graywolf.

The exhibit is open until Dec.31.  More information about Graywolf can be found on their website: https://www.graywolfpress.org/

More information about the exhibit here: http://www.continuum.umn.edu/2015/09/graywolf-press-a-world-of-voices/