Black Thistle Press is a small independent press specializing in non-fiction and poetry. We publish peoples’ stories, visions and dreams. To date we have published six books. Each book is a classic, each has its peculiar challenges and each tells the story of someone who might not have gotten the ear of the mainstream, but nevertheless needed to be heard. Decisions are made in agreement with the authors. We try to maintain an environment of integrity, trust and truth. Each book evolves like a tree growing in a field—slowly, steadily, organically filling the space. All of the books are published on recycled paper, using soy-based inks.
Black Thistle Press was founded in 1990. It grew from a desire to publish Jonas Mekas’ early diaries which he had translated from Lithuanian, as he envisioned them. The diaries had been circulating through his agent to various publishers for about a year. They had been cut up and edited with a view to the commercial market. The only offer that he received was from a British American publisher who offered to publish them as a memoir. It was important for him to preserve the work as a diary and he said, “no thank you” and I suggested that we publish them ourselves and filled out the incorporation papers.
The name, Black Thistle, came on the wind; the incorporation papers came in the mail. We worked on restoring the diaries to their original form, and I worked on smoothing out some of the funny English that had crept into the translation. It seemed like an endless process, but the next year I Had Nowhere to Go became a book.
In 1991 I also published City Country by Vyt Bakaitis. He’s been a friend for more than twenty years and translates Jonas’ poetry into English. I had always like his poetry and told him that I would one day have a small press and publish his poems.
That same year I met a woman named Spider in a sweat lodge. She spoke of how the Grandmothers had told her to write a book, that now it was complete. She needed to find a publisher. After the sweat lodge ended, I told her I was interested in reading the manuscript. The day I told her I wanted to publish her book, a little spider dropped down in front of me as I was standing by my kitchen sink. I took it as a positive omen and committed myself. Songs of Bleeding was published in 1992. Spider had a good design and wonderful illustrations. Songs of Bleeding is a beautiful combination of songs and celebrations to honor menstruation, a life changing, nourishing book that will help any woman who is ready to receive it.
During the time I was working on Songs of Bleeding, my good friend Anne Marie Santoro told me about a business course for women business owners that was sponsored by the Small Business Center and New York State at the Fashion Institute of Technology. I was very hesitant and resistant to the idea, but I would walk around hearing her voice in my ear, “Did you call to set up and interview?” and finally applied. $100 for a six week course that covered marketing, budgeting, raising capital, business plans, self image, public relations, etc. How could I lose? I gained self-confidence, new friends and a new attitude. The most gratifying thing of all was when the man who was in charge of the capital funds part told me I was viable because I had been in business for two years and was still publishing books.
A major part of the course was definition. Who am I? What do I do? Why is my business unique? Over and over we honed our definitions, videotaped them, condensed them, evolved them. At the end of the course I had a strong definition of Black Thistle Press.
The next project was to publish We Have the Right to Exist, A Translation of Aboriginal Indigenous Thought. The first book ever published from an Ahnishinbeotjbway perspective. It is the story of what happened to the Ahnishinbeotjibway people of Red Lake, Minnesota, as told by an elder, Wub-e-ke-niew. It took two years to complete. We worked together on the editing of the manuscript for a year and then Wub-e-ke-niew and his wife, Clara Niiska took it back and did more research, more polishing, and finally it was published in 1994 with support from Jean Houston’s Mystery School Raffle. Noam Chomsky liked it and wrote a quote for the back cover. Jean Houston wrote the introduction.
On October 15, 1997 Wub-e-ke-niew died very suddenly. We were very saddened by his death.
This was the most successful book; I reprinted it in 1995, and again in 2014. It is used as a text in college courses.
In 1995 I published Miss Laughinghouse & the Reluctant Mystic, the collected poems of Judith Morley, with a Foreword by Jean Houston. It’s a delightful book by a woman who has crystallized her life history into beautiful, witty, poignant poetry.
In 1996 I published is a dual language version of the poems of Jonas Mekas, There is No Ithaca, translated from the Lithuanian by Vyt Bakaitis, with a Foreword by Czeslaw Milosz.
In 2013 I published “Bear Boy Sayings.” It’s available on Amazon.
I no longer publish books. I sell the books that were published. “I Had Nowhere to Go” was republished by Spector Books and is available on Amazon. “We Have The Right to Exist” is available on Amazon, ‘Miss Laughinghouse’ and “City Country are out of print, but you can see descriptions of them and read the excerpts in the Archive page of this website..
—Hollis Melton, Publisher