December 11, 2015
Lost Pablo Neruda poems—found and crowdfunded
by Chad Felix
In June 2014, upon reading about the discovery of new poems by Pablo Neruda, Michael Wiegers, executive editor at the nonprofit poetry publisher Copper Canyon Press, wrote the Neruda Foundation, expressing his desire to make these poems available in English.
On Christmas Eve of that year, the Neruda Foundation responded with the manuscript, a locked PDF that, Wiegers tells Publishers Weekly, “I couldn’t even print.”
Following meetings with his co-publishers and board members, who immediately agreed to the project, Wiegers decided to move forward. Copper Canyon put together a comprehensive proposal to the Neruda Foundation, one that included staged events across the United States; sought collaboration with Consortium, Copper Canyon’s distributor; and detailed the press’s specific plans for printing, production, and promotion of the new poems—“a real cogent plan for how we were going to publish this book,” Wiegers says.
And while the press is no stranger to publishing Neruda—they already have ten of his volumes on their list—never-before-read Neruda doesn’t come cheap. The work would require an advance well beyond normal for a poetry press of Copper Canyon’s size. As Wiegers told Publishers Weekly, “The two-book deal was in the mid-five figures—very high for poetry, where advances often don’t break $1,000.”
On November 2nd of this year, the press launched a Kickstarter campaign to help offset the cost of acquisition, printing, marketing, et al. They set a goal of $50,000 dollars. Five days later they were halfway there. By November 12th, the goal had been reached: 50K for new Neruda. By the time the campaign closed, on December 4th, the press had raised over $100,000 for the two titles, an amount that no doubt exceeds the cost of the project. In response to this generosity, Wiegers explained that additional funds “will play out over the next several years and allow us to publish younger and riskier voices.” So, an investment in Neruda is an investment in Copper Canyon Press, and in the future of poetry.
Then Come Back: The Lost Neruda will be released in April 2016, and is translated by the poet and novelist Forrest Gander. Pablo Neruda’s first book, Crepusculario, which has never before been translated, will follow in 2017.
Chad Felix is the Manager of Direct Sales and Library Marketing at Melville House, and a former bookseller.