Forget your usual business-for-profit expectations. Boukra Publishing or, as they call it, Boukra Collective, is not a way to fill pockets or create jobs. The project involves about 16 people so far – editors, translators and writers gathered around Old Capitol Books in downtown Monterey. They all have day jobs, like Stephanie Spoto, who, on top of co-owning the bookstore, works as a lecturer at CSU Monterey Bay teaching literature, feminist theory and writing.

“Monterey is a frustrating place when it comes to independent art,” says Brian Sheffield, a local poet and poetry editor for Boukra. He is one of many who at some point left for New York, and now is back, determined to convince others there’s a way to stay and write.

“A lot of art that exists in the area tends to be insular. You see people painting landscapes on the beaches all over the place. Those landscapes are being sold to tourists. The tourist industry absorbs almost everything and the art is very scarcely made for the sake of the locals.”

“One of the things that is motivating all of us is finding creative local talent and giving that talent a platform,” says Spoto, who is behind the poetry readings, open mics, discussion groups and poetry workshops the group has been putting together each month.

Boukra Press limits itself to poetry and essays to be published in pocket size, run under 100 copies and cost $5 each. The idea is to spread “interesting radical ideas” or “cool poetry” among the community. Boukra means “tomorrow” in Sudanese, a language important to the collective because the other owner of Old Capitol Books and Soto’s husband, Ali Elfaki, is Sudanese.

“For us, writing and creative work is collaborative,” Spoto says. “We don’t just publish those writers, we sit down with them for a lot of long conversations and collaborate with them to edit.”

The group has been talking about starting a small press for years, and finally made it happen early this year, putting up a website and gathering manuscripts.

“A lot of us live together in this big house,” Spoto adds. “So often we are sitting in the evening and just start working on a manuscript. I often joked that I want to start a small press just to publish all my talented friends.”

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