A Brief History of Spoon River Poetry Press, Ellis Press, Plains Press, Kickapoo Press and Affiliates
Spoon River Press was founded in 1976 at Western Illinois University to publish The Spoon River Quarterly and poetry chapbooks. Two years later the press, and the Quarterly, moved from Macomb to Peoria, Illinois, and incorporated as a State of Illinois not-for-profit corporation, assuming the name Spoon River Poetry Press to differentiate itself from another Spoon River Poetry Press, also operating out of Peoria. With growing financial assistance from the Illinois Arts Council (and at times from the National Endowment for the Arts), Spoon River Quarterly became a prefect-bound journal, and Spoon River Poetry Press began publishing perfect-bound paperbacks. Publication of hardbacks began with Norbert Blei’s Door Way (1981).
The imprint of Ellis Press was used to avoid the contradiction of a Poetry Press publishing prose work. In 1980 Spoon River Poetry Press absorbed Kickapoo Press, founded in Peoria in a failed attempt to attract Illinois Humanities Council funding, which had lived just long enough to publish two Jerry Klein titles. During the 1980s the combined Spoon River Poetry Press-Ellis Press-Kickapoo Press continued in Peoria, Illinois, as a house built on Illinois Arts Council support. The Press remains grateful for Council support from those years.
Reviews quoted in this catalog attest to the critical success of the separate presses. Meanwhile, the editor of Spoon River Poetry Press-Ellis Press had moved to Minnesota, founding there, with support from the Otto Bremer Foundation, a Minnesota NFP, Plains Press. Gradually both editor and presses solidified their positions in Minnesota. Spoon River could no longer in good conscience call itself an Illinois press or accept Illinois Arts Council funding, and the success, at the time, of Bookslinger and ILPA distributors suggested that literary presses, properly managed, could break the grant addiction and sustain themselves.The Spoon River Quarterly split from the Press and moved, with the Illinois incorporation, to Illinois State University.
In 1993, Spoon River Poetry Press, Ellis Press, and Kickapoo Press officially merged with Plains Press, absorbing in a few cases stock of titles from bankrupt or foreign publishers, and settling in Granite Falls, Minnesota.
At least for a time. In 2003, Pichaske received another Fulbright Fellowship, this time to Ulaanbaatar, Montolia. His adventures there are recounted in his book UB03: A Season in Outer Mongolia. In 2012, he returned to Poland on an E.U. Fellowship to teach at Lodz International Studies Academy. Meditations of that year are contained in his book, Bones of Bricks and Mortar. In 2016, Pichaske published a memoir titled Here I Stand (the reference is to Martin Luther), and in 2017, he published a companion volume of essays on academia, the countryside, scholarship, and travels, titled Crying in the Wilderness (this reference is to Isaiah).