History of the Press

             In 1969 Dr. Robert (Bob) McGovern and Dr. Richard (Dick) Snyder founded the Ashland Poetry Press. Beginning with a small stipend from Ashland University and grants from the Ohio Arts Council, they published an anthology, Sixty on the Sixties (1970). In subsequent years they brought out chapbooks, full-length collections, anthologies composed of work from the remaining decades of the century, and collections of essays on poetry. In the fall of 2019 the press celebrated its fiftieth anniversary.

             When Richard Snyder died in 1986, Robert McGovern became the sole editor. He was aided in his work from 1989 until 1991 by Joan Baranow and by Dr. Stephen (Steve) Haven beginning in 1992. When Robert McGovern retired in 1998, Steve became sole editor. Dr. Deborah Fleming became associate editor in 2002, editor in 2007, and director in 2016 when Steve Haven moved to Lesley University in Boston. Dr. Jennifer Rathbun of the Department of Foreign Languages became associate editor in 2018. Dr. Charles Carlise became director in 2022 when Deborah Fleming retired. Editors and directors were aided in their work by Administrative Assistants Nancy Grimm, Lisa Pawlikowski, and Kari Lindecamp and by Managing Editors Sarah Wells (2007-2014), Cassandra Brown (2015-2018), and Paige Webb (2018-2020).

             In 1996, Bob and Steve raised the press’s profile by launching the Richard Snyder Memorial Publication Prize with the editors choosing the finalists and Robert Phillips of the University of Houston, choosing the winners. The press rose to national attention in 2005 when Vern Rutsala’s The Moment’s Equation, chosen as a finalist by Deborah Fleming and winner of the Richard Snyder Prize for 2004, became a National Book Award finalist. Since Robert Phillips retired, the prize has had a different judge each year, sometimes chosen from the Advisory Board. Judges have included David St. John, Natasha Tretheway, Elton Glaser, Elizabeth Spires, Angie Estes, Maggie Smith, Indran Amirthanayagam, Maggie Anderson, and Mark Irwin.

             After Robert McGovern’s death in 2002, the press launched the Robert McGovern Prize for poets over forty who had no more than one published book. Submissions were nominated by members of the Advisory Board and chosen by the editors. Seven titles were published in this series before it was changed in 2018 to the Robert McGovern New and Selected series. During some years the press published manuscripts selected by the editors either from the finalists for the Richard Snyder Prize or from other manuscripts submitted to the press.

             In 2020, under the editorship of Jennifer Rathbun, the press published its first bilingual title, The New York City Subway Poems/Poemas del metro de Nueva York, by Carlos Aguasaco and translated by Carol O’Flynn and Pilar Gonzalez. In 2021 this book won the gold medal for the Juan Felipe Herrera Best Poetry Book Award (for a single-author bilingual collection) from the International Latino Book Awards. Carlos Aguasaco also won the Ambroggio Prize from the Academy of American Poets.

             By 2022, the press had published twenty-five Richard Snyder Memorial Publication Prize winners, eighteen Editor’s Choice selections, three volumes of essays, seven anthologies, ten chapbooks, and seven New and Selected or Collected editions. Ashland Poetry Press titles have won numerous awards and received honorable mentions including the Eric Hoffer Award, Independent Book Publishers Award, Colorado Book Prize, Florida Book Award, Los Angeles Times Book Award, North American Book Award from the Virginia Poetry Society, and others. The press was represented at the Associated Writing Programs Convention from 2007-17 and in 2019 as part of its fiftieth anniversary commemoration. An archive of its publications is currently housed in the Center for Humanities in Bixler Hall at Ashland University. Copies of all publications with ISBN and LCCN numbers have been sent to the Library of Congress.


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