A statement by Spotlight Series editor Garrett Caples on the occasion of the publication of the 20th volume in the series.
In September 2020, City Lights is published two volumes in the Spotlight Poetry Series: No. 19, Facing You by acclaimed Nigerian-American poet Uche Nduka, and No. 20, Natch, the debut collection of Bay Area queer poet Sophia Dahlin.
Twenty is something of a milestone and, while this is hardly the time for self-congratulation, I want to express both gratitude and astonishment at having made it this far. Given the unique and historic role City Lights has played in American poetry, a myriad of poets of different generations and diverse backgrounds consider the press to be part of their own lineage, and the series is meant to reflect this. It is not restricted to one group, aesthetic, or geography, but rather attempts to use the visibility of City Lights as a platform to present a broad spectrum of exciting contemporary work.
Hoping to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number of poets, the series has been limited to one volume per author and that author must be someone who hasn't yet had the opportunity of publishing a book on a press of comparable size. Is the series biased toward collections of individual lyrics, does it favor the poem over the project? Absolutely. For the Spotlight series, everything stands or falls on the idea that a person in a bookstore could pick up a volume, read one poem, and decide, "I need more of this!"
The economics of publishing contemporary poetry on a trade press level are, of course, dire, but poetry is too fundamental a part of our DNA to even imagine City Lights without it. Many people have contributed to making the series possible, from the artists who have donated the use of their work for our covers to the poets themselves who have foregone advances in favor of royalties to City Lights' publishing and bookstore staff, who work extremely hard to make every title a success. As the organization approaches the 70th anniversary of its founding, City Lights is proud to continue to contribute to our national and international poetry community.