By Emily Witt 10/10 3:34pm
When Barbara Epler received the news last week that Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer had won the Nobel Prize for literature, she had one reaction: “I said, ‘Call the printers!’” she recalled.
Ms. Epler is the president of New Directions, publisher of Mr. Tranströmer’s The Great Enigma: New Collected Poems, an anthology translated by the Scottish poet Robin Fulton. For New Directions, Mr. Tranströmer’s win was big news — by Friday its book was ranked #12 on Amazon, a rarity for the independent publisher, which is known for its commitment to publishing difficult poetry and literature in translation.
“For a poetry book to be number 12 that just kills me,” said Ms. Epler, adding that while Mr. Tranströmer “sells perfectly well in our terms” the spike in sales last week was positively “stratospheric.” In response, New Directions quickly arranged to have an additional 1,500 copies of The Great Enigma printed for shipment by tomorrow, forcing its short run publisher to work through the Columbus Day holiday. Another 8,000 copies will follow in a few weeks.
In Minneapolis, Graywolf Press, the independent publisher of The Half-finished Heaven: The Best Poems of Tomas Tranströmer, selected and translated by the poet Robert Bly, celebrated the award with scones and muffins. Then they went to work. “We were all pretty busy actually,” said Graywolf publicity director Erin Kottke. “We didn’t have time to really revel in it because we were scrambling to figure out what the next step was.” Graywolf’s reprint is now also underway: 10,000 copies with a Nobel Prize sticker on the cover for release in three weeks and a planned second printing with an amended cover to follow.