Passion and partnership at Three Rooms Press

Three Rooms Press founders Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes, in the Paris studio of Susan Shup.  Photo by susan shup

Three Rooms Press founders Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes, in the Paris studio of Susan Shup. Photo by Susan Shup

BY PUMA PERL  (pumaperl.blogspot.com)  |  met Kat Georges and Peter Carlaftes for the first time at the HOWL Festival in Tompkins Square Park, close to ten years ago. They were manning their Three Rooms Press table, an operation that they co-founded in 1993 whose name references a theme (the parameters that one needs to get the job done) of Harold Pinter’s play “The Homecoming.” One may also look at the three rooms as the ego, id and superego, as per Peter. Their warmth and friendliness immediately engaged me and they greeted me as a dear friend every time I ran into them, which was, literally, everywhere that I went. The Small Press Book Fair, the Bowery Poetry Club, galleries, arts events — they were there. I had recently returned to the poetry scene after a long hiatus and their openhearted acceptance and enthusiasm encouraged me to stick around.

These days, running into them regularly might entail a passport and a lot of airplane miles, as they have expanded globally, hosting cultural and literary events all over the world while maintaining their New York City base, and continuing their monthly series at the Cornelia Street Cafe, called, appropriately, “The Monthly.”

Bassist Mike Watt (right) at the book release party for his collection of poetry and photographs (“On and Off Bass”). At left, poet David Lawton.   Photo by Puma Perl

Bassist Mike Watt (right) at the book release party for his collection of poetry and photographs (“On and Off Bass”). At left, poet David Lawton. Photo by Puma Perl

Three Rooms Press continues to publish newly emerging writers as well as established artists, including Gerard Malanga, Israel Horovitz and Mike Watt (best known as the bassist for the Minutemen and the reunited Stooges). When his volume of poems and photos, “Mike Watt: On and Off Bass” was released, it resulted in one of the most epic blowouts of a book party I have ever attended. In addition to the usual book signing and Q&A, he played an intense eighteen-minute set of Stooges songs with his pals J Mascis and Murph, and including special guests such as Thurston Moore.

Upcoming Three Rooms Press releases include April 28’s “Dark City Lights,” an anthology of New York stories edited by the esteemed crime master, Lawrence Block, and “Moon Poem” (Fall, 2015), a collection of forty years of memories by Living Theater founder Judith Malina. In June, the eighth annual (and first color) edition of “Maintenant: A Journal of Contemporary Dada Writing and Art” hits the stands, accompanied by a series of surreal celebrations and readings. The journal is archived in the Museum of Modern Art and includes a legendary list of American and international writers and artists (including Charles Plymell, Jerome Rothenberg, Philip Meersman, William Burroughs and Puma Perl).

Jan22_3Rooms_Gerald

Three Rooms Press continues to publish newly emerging writers as well as established artists, including Gerard Malanga (seen here, at Le Poisson Rouge). Photo by Lynn Cappiello

Yes, I just mentioned myself. That is because I sometimes cannot believe my good fortune in having the opportunity to share a stage and pages with my literary idols. I am able to maintain my cool around rock stars, but I am an absolute geek around the writers I most admire. I stuttered and babbled when I asked Lawrence Block to sign “Have a NYC,” a Three Rooms Press short story collection in which we were both published. Kim Addonizio, one of my favorite living writers, was on the roster at January 2’s annual Charles Bukowski Memorial event, at which I also read. I once saw her perform, then gave her one of my books after I finished the stammering thing — and now, I’ve participated in an event with her. Like I said, I’m a total geek — the type of geek that hugged a signed copy of Gerard Malanga’s newest volume, “Malanga Chasing Vallejo.” The work is a translation of eighty-two of Cesar Vallejo’s poems, revealing a mysterious, spiritual connection between the two. It is so named because of the many years that Malanga had yearned to find a home for this vision. Several days after the book release party, which was held at Le Poisson Rouge, I attended a screening of previously unseen Andy Warhol films at BAM. Onscreen, a young, beautiful Malanga sits on a couch with Kerouac, Ginsberg, Corso and others, all of whom were punching and tickling him. In another filmstrip, he lies on the floor as Mary Woronov grinds her stiletto heel into his neck. And I had just met and been enchanted by the recital from this man, who remains as beautiful as ever. I am the luckiest geek ever.

Jane LeCroy, at a Three Rooms Press installment of “The Monthly.”   Photo by lynn cappiello

Jane LeCroy, at a Three Rooms Press installment of “The Monthly.” Photo by Lynn Cappiello

Kat and Peter make their creative partnerships look easy, and they bring people together in a natural and unforced way. When you work with Three Rooms Press in any capacity you are family, and family goes out to one of their favorite West Village haunts after readings — and since everyone is family, the after parties are sometimes as good as the real events. They are born to be the mayors of the neighborhood, bringing people together to break bread and get drunk, hosting out of town visiting artists, greeting every restaurant owner, waiter and bartender by name. Their engaging spirit, coupled with a quality press and a growing staff, continues to attract a wide and disparate group of artists and friends from all walks of life.

Peter, a Bronx boy whose love for the Yankees is high art, and Kat, a Southern California girl with roots in the punk and hardcore scenes, first laid eyes on each other in a San Francisco bar called the Rite Spot, where they were sitting at opposite ends editing their poetry. “Simultaneous combustion!” Peter called it, describing their initial meeting and the collaborations that quickly followed. “Our motto,” he added, “was ‘Don’t Think,’ because as soon as you think, you are you in the world, and there is no escape. That’s what we learned to do in the theater — provide escape, and maybe because of that, there was no need to escape each other.”

Ryan Buynak, at Cornelia Street Cafe, taking part in Three Rooms Press’ “Prose! Poetry! Party! 2!” event.  Photo by lynn cappiello

Ryan Buynak, at Cornelia Street Cafe, taking part in Three Rooms Press’ “Prose! Poetry! Party! 2!” event. Photo by Lynn Cappiello

For several years, they lived in a tiny loft space above a stage where they each produced fifteen plays. With the first dot-com boom, the rent quintupled, and, in 2003, they made the move to New York City, arriving the day after Thanksgiving and staying at the Edison Hotel. Once they were settled, Three Rooms Press, still a humble chapbook venture, began to grow. In 2009, they published their first perfect bound poetry collection, and, in 2010, began their foray into the world of fiction and nonfiction. The press is now distributed nationally and internationally by PGW/Perseus. Recent international activities include hosting a book launch in Corsica, participating in the Berlin performance art festival, CUT, hosting a Dada festival in Paris, as well as a three-day International Festival of Underground Poetry in Brussels. Not bad for what started as a two-person operation living and working over a theater and using the stage as a kitchen, since their quarters did not include one.

Prior to sitting down for a chat with Kat and Peter, I emailed them five questions so I would have some additional background information. They decided to play an updated version of “The Newlywed Game” and answer separately, not revealing their responses to one another until the day of our meeting. None of us were surprised that their replies not only mirrored, but also enhanced one another, as they seem to do in life. There was one variation. In one of my queries, I asked about what their dream show would be.  Peter replied, “The dream would be to keep going, to keep putting out meaningful work to the world.” Kat wrote, “Iggy Pop and David Bowie, performing side by side after a launch of books on Three Rooms Press.” I reminded Peter that he had not completely answered the question. He paused for thirty seconds. “Iggy Pop!” he yelled, suggesting to me that this dream may, in the future, be realized, and forcing me to admit that I may have lied a little about my extreme cool around rock stars.

The next Three Room Press “Monthly” will take place at 6 p.m. on Fri., Feb. 6, at the Cornelia Street Cafe (29 Cornelia St., west of 6th Ave., off Bleecker). “Burroughs 101” is an informative, inspirational exploration into the mind and writings of William S. Burroughs with Anne Waldman, Penny Arcade, Burroughs publisher Jan Herman and others in TRP’s second annual WSB memorial reading. Admission is $12, and includes one drink.

Peter Carlaftes’ new book, “TEATROPHY: Three More Plays,” will launch on Mon., Feb. 23, with a performance of his play, “ANTI,” at Barrow Street Theater (27 Barrow St., at 7th Ave., South of Christopher St.). Showtime is 7 p.m. (free admission). Keep up with TRP through their website: threeroomspress.com.

Puma Perl and Friends will join a special Valentine’s Day show on Sat., Feb. 14, at Beast of Bourbon (710 Myrtle Ave., Brooklyn, btw. Spencer & Walworth Sts.). Monica Passin (L’il Mo), with special guest Johnny Jake, will open the show at 7:30 p.m. and the Love Pirates will follow Puma Perl at 11. No cover or admission, great BBQ and a full bar, including over 100 kinds of bourbon. This is a Bicycle Joe Low Fi Sound and Vision Production. More information about Puma Perl can be found at pumaperl.blogspot.com.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *