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One Loud Voice: Buffalo’s Small Press Book Fair

This Saturday (March 27) marks the return of the fourth annual Buffalo Small Press Book Fair, bringing booksellers, authors, bookmakers, zinesters, small presses, artists, poets, DIY crafters, regional cultural workers, and everyone in between together in Buffalo’s Karpeles Manuscript Library to share ideas, promote their trade, and sell their work.

With three fairs under his belt and a fresh grant from the WNY Book Arts Collaborative, organizer Chris Fritton hopes to set a new attendance record after selling out vendor slots in a few short weeks. This year, the event has attracted nearly 90 vendors—the most in its four-year history—from Buffalo, Toronto, Chicago, Washington DC, and across the country.

“Its growth means greater visibility for Buffalo on the national literary scene,” says Fritton. “People see this amazing event and how it brings together such a diverse cross-section of cultural workers, and they take that home with them. I like to think of the fair as an impetus for personal growth too, not just community growth—each fair is a chance for artists and writers to produce something new.”

Visitors can expect to find a plethora of materials ready for tender: small press poetry and fiction, comics, print-on-demand novels and nonfiction, local interest, letter press and book art, antique collector’s editions, zines, gig posters, binding equipment, bookmarks, and bookplates. Some of the vendors setting up shop at the fair include Allentown’s own Rust Belt Books, BLAZEVOX, Blowfish Bookbinding, Amy Greenan Art and Design, and Spruce Tree Press, among many, many others.

In addition to the open bazaar aspect of the fair, workshops in comic book making, zine assembly, and other skills will be held throughout the day in the upper room of the Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum. One workshop slated for the fair is a presentation/forum hosted by comic book artist Peter Lazarski, inviting newcomers and enthusiasts alike to discuss the craft of making comics, as well as the tumultuous process of self publishing.

Just Buffalo will kick off the weekend with the Small Press Poetry Fest—a poetry reading working in conjunction with the Small Press Book Fair—on Friday at 7pm (March 26) at the WNY Book Arts Collaborative (468 Washington Street, corner of Mohawk). This year the Small Press Poetry Fest will feature writers from BLAZEVOX, Habenicht Press, Earth’s Daughters, Book Thug, House Press, Outside Voices, and many others.

“Buffalo has always had a strong independent literary community, and it has a long history of small press and self-published work as well,” Fritton says. “But what really makes this event work here is the grassroots mindset. We build everything in this city from the bottom up. Whether it’s the music scene, the poetry scene, or the art scene, in Buffalo it’s an emergent system. It’s the amalgamation of a thousand tiny actions instead of the directive of one loud voice.”

jon wheelock

Noon to 6pm. Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, Porter Hall (453 Porter Avenue). Free.