Most who know me have already heard that I’ll be moving next month to Billings, Montana, where I’ve accepted a position at Rocky Mountain College. And now, six years – almost to the day – since I moved to here, I’m finding it strange to realize that, even though I only planned to pass through Baltimore, it is impossible to separate myself from this city. Baltimore is now inextricably a part of who I am.
In the flood of congratulations and well-wishes, there has been a mixture of commentary about how the departure of Cobalt Press would impact the Baltimore literary community. I started the Cobalt Press, which publishes full-length books and the literary magazine Cobalt Review, four years ago. I leave only one year after Publishing Genius Press and the literary arts magazine Artichoke Haircut moved. After they left, when the local literary community talked about their absence, we spoke of them in the past tense, as though the dust in the air was still clinging to their silhouettes. They are only just gone.
The point, though, is that many are here to recognize the absence. We are still here. And just as when any other publisher has left Baltimore, if Cobalt leaves entirely, the literary community would continue to evolve. New journals, new writing workshops, new education initiatives in creative writing and publishing are created every year. The folks at Ink Press have made great strides in developing a stronger and more inclusive literary conversation. Sounding Sea has launched with exciting new workshop programs. Even the local community colleges – which often struggle to develop creative writing courses that will transfer to four-year schools – have recently emphasized a dedication to building or expanding on creative writing opportunities for students.
Our literary magazine, Cobalt Review, has been around for a little over four years, and we’ve been publishing full-length books since June 2014. On the day of our first editorial meeting, when the first item on the agenda was selecting a name for the publication, cobalt was Merriam-Webster’s word of the day. It was that simple. We tell people that it’s “co-Balt(imore),” that Baltimore is a central part of who we are and the audience we are serving; and that’s true to some extent (we even inserted a hyphen in our original logo in an effort to reinforce this, though there’s still the a-ha moment when I pronounce it “co-balt”). In 16 online issues, three annual print issues, and four books, an enormous amount of our work has come from authors with Baltimore connections.
The hardest question for me to answer in the week since I announced that I was leaving: “So are you taking Cobalt with you?”
How can I explain that Cobalt isn’t exactly anchored anywhere? It’s not exactly in Baltimore. It’s not in the trunk of my car; it’s not something I can box and pack away. Do I talk in metaphors, say (smugly) that it exists in the cloud – it’s everywhere? When I go to Billings, I won’t be taking Cobalt anywhere; rather, Cobalt will be the tether that keeps me connected to this diverse and vibrant literary community that has celebrated great art with me for the past six years. The most important stuff will still be in the hands of my editors and the authors we work with.
Tonight at Almack’s on North Charles, during what might be the most fitting event possible, a festival celebrating arts of all sorts, Cobalt is hosting its first large(ish)-scale event. The authors of our last two books (Jonathan Travelstead of How We Bury Our Dead and Kate Wyer of Black Krim) will join Brian Oliu and guest readers for a book launch celebration for Oliu’s NBA Jam-themed essay collection Enter Your Initials for Record Keeping. Oliu is a graduate of Loyola University and Wyer attended University of Baltimore’s MFA in creative writing program. Travelstead is visiting from Murphysboro, IL.
Our event tonight is not a goodbye. We’ll gather, we’ll toast, we’ll enjoy short bursts of reading from each author. It’s a celebration of all that we have accomplished in our first four years, and we will look to the many years ahead in Baltimore and wherever else we go. Tonight, Cobalt will give back to the the city in which it was born.
Farewell, Baltimore, and thank you.
Join Publisher Andrew Keating and the rest of the staff of Cobalt Press at Almack’s Coffee, 1210 N. Charles Street, Baltimore at 7:00 p.m. Visit https://www.facebook.