March 2024

Back to Issue 15

Jock Macleod in conversation with Rosanna E. Licari

1. Calanthe Press has been in Australian publishing since 2018 and is published by the Calanthe Collective. Can you tell us about the history of the press and why you called the press Calanthe?

Calanthe Press is a small, not-for-profit press based on Tamborine Mountain and founded in 2018. Mainly publishing poetry, it is named after Judith Wright’s and Jack McKinney’s house, Calanthe, on Long Rd. Calanthe was named after Calanthe triplicata, a terrestrial orchid with a delicate white flower that grows on the Mountain.

The Press is part of a community-based organisation, Calanthe Collective, which started in 2015 (the centenary year of Judith’s birth) with the local production of a play, Hearts Ablaze!, written by Janis Bailey and based on the couple’s Tamborine years.  The Collective and the Press are both inspired by Judith’s and Jack’s lives and work. Judith printed one of Jack’s philosophical works, after his death, under the imprint ‘Mountain Press’, and Calanthe Press connects to that history.

 2. What made the Collective get into publishing?

Our first publication, Jena Woodhouse’s Green Dance, came about when a Calanthe member searching the Val Vallis papers in the Fryer Library, found some poetry manuscripts, unattributed but definitely not Val’s. A detective search revealed them to be by Jena, to whom Val had lent his Tamborine Mountain House, in Knoll Rd, for weekend visits in the 1980s and early ‘90s. Jena gave these poems to Val, friend and mentor as well as host, as a gesture of thanks.  The discovery of these poems led to Calanthe Collective forming the Press to publish Green Dance and others. The previous year, 2017, Calanthe members had helped local poet Raymond Curtis crowd-fund and lay out his self-published collection The View Westward, which gave us all a taste for publishing poetry.

 3. Are you funded by any particular body?

Calanthe Press is a not-for-profit publisher.  Some volumes have been published with the acknowledged support of donations from individuals, particularly artisan knitter Adele Spain, who exhibits her tea cosies regularly and donates all her takings to Calanthe Press, and from Griffith University. We should mention Adele’s 2023 collection based on children’s literature; her ‘Where is the Green Sheep?’ tea cosy was particularly memorable. We of course also generate our own funding via sales.

4. What poetry publication is offered by the press?

Calanthe Press is committed to publishing high quality poetry in beautifully designed books, using 100% recycled paper.  We offer chapbooks (typically 40-50 pages) and full volumes (usually about 100 pages).  

The Press has published volumes by Jena Woodhouse (Green Dance, 2018), Anthony Lawrence (Time Machine, 2019), Jane Frank (Wide River, 2020, and Ghosts Struggle to Swim, 2023), Vanessa Page (Botanical Skin, 2021), Stuart Cooke (Land Art, 2022), B. R. Dionysius (Critical State, 2022), and Stephanie Green (Seams of Repair, 2023).  In 2024 we will be publishing an anthology, Ten Poems of Tamborine Mountain (April), Small Epiphanies by David Terelinck (August), and a volume by Olivia De Zilva (November), with a further three publications slated for 2025.

5. How are writers selected for publication?

The Press began with a focus on Queensland writers, but has expanded its remit to include proposals from elsewhere.  In addition to unsolicited proposals, some have been triggered by invited poetry readings hosted by Calanthe Collective; in others, invitations to submit a proposal have followed recommendations from well-known poets.  Proposals/draft manuscripts are considered by the Press’s six-member editorial committee.  If the committee agrees the draft has the potential to be published, we work closely with the poet to make the full manuscript as strong as it can be.

6. How are publications marketed and distributed?

We have a website,, and sell a lot online. We also sell through launches, and our regular Mountain events. Our biggest retail outlet is Tamborine Mountain’s Under the Greenwood Tree Books and Art. Owner Janene Gardner does a great job. We’re always grateful to those journals that publish reviews and/or launch speeches, notably StylusLit and Rochford Street Review.

7. What are the challenges of being a publisher?

Interestingly, the challenges have changed in the five years we have been publishing poetry.  Initially, our concern was finding suitable quality manuscripts that fitted with our vision; more recently, as our reputation has grown, it’s more a matter of mapping out a publication schedule over two or three years.  Of course, the constant challenge is to remain financially viable.  This is managed by being a non-for-profit venture, supported by an enormous amount of volunteer time and effort.

8. How do you see yourself positioned in the Australian publishing industry.

We just focus on our mission of publishing beautiful work, and having fun while doing so.  We hope the varied views and backgrounds of our editorial committee, and the fact that we try to work very closely with our authors, mean that we have a unique vision and a special place in Australian poetry. 


Books can be bought at Calanthe Press based at Tamborine Mountain in South East Queensland.