Highlighting the people who live and work in Ascension Parish

Leslie D. Rose Weekly Citizen Editor
Geoff Munsterman creates books.

In a small house next to a murky pond, 29-year-old Geoff Munsterman creates books.

His hands, sometimes covered in glue, other times grasping a large needle for which to thread together binding – he is the making of a veteran bookmaker, a self-taught publisher and the mastermind behind Next Left Press.

Named after a labor dispute between the unionized workers of Kenyon College in Ohio – where Munsterman attended school – it is the concept of upholding working-class ideals that birthed the theme for his press company.

Munsterman is the son of a carpenter. Utilizing that same concept of building, Next Left Press’s books are handmade volumes that use various kinds of bookmaking and print techniques to reflect the tastes and personalities of their authors, ensuring each collection is distinctive.

Joined by business partners William Brian Sain, editor and Raven Cole, community outreach coordinator, Munsterman has concocted a community-based formula to not only put books in people’s hands, but to mentor and support local authors, ensuring that the craft is always the true beneficiary.

“We don’t publish books for money, recognition, or to accelerate the company to fortune 500 status,” Munsterman said. “We are avid readers who have read poetry all our lives. We publish books because we live and breathe art. It is our passion, our life force, and what consumes us. We love to read poems.”

And Munsterman isn’t too shabby of a poet himself. Published in various journals, even authoring his own books, he seems to have a great understanding of what it takes to craft poems people want to read, sometimes even crafting the poet as well.

For each Next Left Press product, the process varies.

“Sometimes I receive a manuscript that is proofread and in the order the poet wants it, others I just receive a massive collection of poems that need to be widdled down, sometimes upwards of 400 poems. Other times I get composition notebooks and I’ll have to transcribe,” Munsterman said.

It is in the receipt of poetry that Munsterman begins the mentoring process. Next Left Press is different from large press companies, in that there is a personal relationship fostered between the poet and publisher, but Munsterman also encourages poets to send collections elsewhere as they grow, which is why explaining the official process is important to him.

“It’s not only going through the poems and helping to edit them, it’s also saying – this is not how you submit to a press or a journal and showing them what general cover letters look like – it’s not just about making a book, it’s about making a professional,” he said.

Munsterman said that putting a book out also requires a certain level of maturity – a poet must have a general concept and a complete understanding of what they hope to accomplish with the work.

“It’s not so much mentoring – it’s preparing,” he said. “I want to make sure the poets know how to sell themselves and sell their work.”

To his credit, Munsterman has published 11 books under Next Left Press since 2014, with nine upcoming books by year’s end. Before the branding of Next Left Press, Munsterman was responsible for the creation of 29 books/collections of poems.

After helping to prepare a proper manuscript, Munsterman begins the press work. This includes layout and design, including cover artwork, paper selection, printing, page cutting and binding.

The binding process alone takes Munsterman between 3-5 minutes per book. But he doesn’t always work alone, sometimes his business partners assist, other times friends will join, and ever so often, Munsterman’s mother, Rhonda will stop by and join in the book-making production.

It is a labor of his hands, but more than giving of himself physically, Munsterman said he believes he provides poets with the benefit of working with someone who is also a practicing poet.

“I can read the poems and have a pretty good sense of what they’re trying to say and how they’re trying to say it – finding a way to communicate that visually, is the fun part for me,” he said.

“I try to use the poetry to decide what the book’s gonna look like, that’s why all the books look different because all of the poets are different.”

The latest project of Next Left Press is TURN, a new journal highlighting poetry from across the country. The inaugural book will feature 14 poets from Maine, Idaho, Texas, Missouri and all over Louisiana. Munsterman’s partner Sain said in a previous interview that he hopes to publish the literary journal twice annually.

TURN can be purchased for $10 at NextLeftPress.com. Book lovers can also access links to purchase other Next Left books on the website, and learn more about Munsterman and his growing press.