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Buffalo Small Press Book Fair showcases regional literary scene

Despite the ongoing recession, Census figures that continue to indicate population losses across the Western New York region, and the widespread perception that book culture is a creative anachronism in an increasingly digitized world, there's something remarkable happening in the Buffalo literary and book arts community that not only defies these trends, but seemingly stands them on their heads.
 
We offer as exhibit # 1 to anyone skeptical of this claim this week-end's fourth annual Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, a growing local early spring  tradition that combines art with commerce, literacy with viral marketing, and the community-at-large with a joyous cacophony of  widely disparate voices representing the varieties of book-related expression across Western New York, southern Ontario, the Finger Lakes and Great Lakes regions, and points aesthetically beyond. 
 
According to organizer Chris Fritton, who was one of the co-founders of the book fair in 2007, last year's event featured more than 80 vendors and drew more than 2,000 attendees.  Demand for vendor space at this year's fair peaked so early that Fritton sold out all available exhibition space for the event more than three weeks ago.  While comparisons with similar events in other (usually much larger) cities in North America are inevitable, there is little doubt that the Buffalo alternative publishing scene thrives on an indigenous, low overhead business model and a do-it-yourself ethos that is sui generis.
 
The two day event begins tonight (Friday) at 7 p.m. at Western New York Book Arts Collaborative, 468 Washington St. (at Mohawk St.) with a Small Press Poetry Fest featuring a series of readings by what amounts to an all-star cast of small press authors curated by several of the region's leading small press publishers, ranging from Buffalo's "post-avant" BlazeVox Books, Habenicht Press, and House Press to Toronto's Book Thug; from the multi-generational feminism of Earth's Daughters to the experimental poetry &  text-based art of Outside Voices Press.
 
Then tomorrow (Saturday), it's on to book fair itself, running from noon to 6 p.m., once again this year at the Karpeles Manuscript Museum,  453 Porter Avenue (between Normal Ave. and Plymouth Avenue) on Buffalo's West Side.  As has been the case since the inception of this community's largest annual celebration of National Small Press Month, admission to the Buffalo Small Press Book Fair and its related events is free and open to the public.
 
Among the more than 90 vendors exhibiting in the main concourse of this year's event, you can expect to find:
 
--regional independent bookstores and booksellers like Talking Leaves Books and Rust Belt Books
 
--dozens of small presses and indie publishers: not only those with nationwide reputations and distribution potential like Geoffrey Gatza's BlazeVox, Ted Pelton's Starcherone Books, Dennis Maloney and Elaine LaMattina's award-winning White Pine Press and the groundbreaking and venerable Earth's Daughters Collective, but also lesser known publications of considerable merit, including Jessica Smith's Foursquare Magazine and Outside Voices Press, editor Andrew Rippeon's formidable P-Queue (a UB Poetics Program publication exploring the boundaries between poetry and prose) and Edric Mesmer's idiosyncratic Yellow Edenwald Field
 
--various book makers, letterpresses, printers, book foundries, and book artists
 
--literary and arts magazine publishers, journal editors, and zinesters
 
--individual poets and fiction writers
 
--various editorial and book indexing services
 
--representatives of some of the region's leading arts and literary organizations. 
 
Additionally, in the upstairs assembly room of the museum, there will be workshops and presentations by comic book artist Peter Lazarski (1 p.m.), event organizer Chris Fritton (3 p.m) on the making of "assemblings"--collage-like collections of found objects, ephemera, and one of a kind works, brought together in a variety of text formats--and Sugar City's Aimee Buyea in a "Make Your Own Zine Workshop" at 3:45 p.m.
 
Speaking of Sugar City, the nearby Allentown arts collective and performance space will be the site of the book fair's concluding event on Saturday, an open reading featuring presses and individuals not able to participate in the Friday night Poetry Fest, along with a post-event gathering from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at 19 Wadsworth St. (off Allen).
 
For more information about the 2010 Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, visit the event's website or contact  Chris Fritton with your last-minute inquiry.
 
--R.D. Pohl 
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