SF Zine Fest talks with Amy Berkowitz of Mondo Bummer

In three sentences, tell us what your work is about.

Mondo Bummer publishes poetry (and sometimes prose, fiction, and plays) in a disappointing way. It's not exactly a zine, it's more of a chapbook press with a DIY / punk / minimalist aesthetic. Mondo Bummer is interested in making brief poetry books you can wipe your greasy pizza hands on and not feel guilty about it.

How did you first find out about zines? What inspired you to make your own zines?

The first time I saw hand-bound, homemade poetry chaps was at Unnameable Books in Brooklyn. I was 22, I think, and I asked Adam, who owns the store, if he would carry a chapbook of my poems if I made one. He said sure, and his sister, who happened to be hanging out with him that day, explained what a pamphlet stitch was. That was all I needed. I went home, made my book, and then got excited about publishing other people's writing.

What do you do when you’re not creating?

I take long walks (I got very lost in Mount Sutro Forest last weekend), I bake things (I'm exploring my cultural heritage with a Hungarian baking period at the moment), I travel to Oakland a lot (to see friends and go to poetry readings), I work as a freelance writer (and also a writing tutor), I am pleasantly surprised whenever something interesting happens in San Francisco (like I just found out there is an art gallery in a garage up the street from my house), and I host a monthly reading series at my apartment (to prove to myself and others that interesting things still go on in San Francisco).

What is an unexpected benefit that you’ve experienced from reading/ making zines?

Getting weird shit in the mail. From the beginning, I welcomed barter as payment for Mondo Bummer books (I think "barter welcome" is followed with 10 exclamation points on the website). And I am so glad I did. From noise cassettes to poetry books to collages to a Blockbuster Video membership card belonging to EAT, MY FUCKING ASS, it's been a cornucopia of riches.

How would you advise first timers on making their first zines?

Have fun and don't be afraid of failure.

What are you working on for this year’s SF Zine Fest?

Well, in addition to the Classic Bummers, which are just poems printed out on regular paper, corner stapled, and then folded like letters, we're also working on some books that have a more complex aesthetic. Right now, I have a bag of alpaca wool on my desk, and I can't wait to start production of Jennifer Marie Hoff's NZ Is Terrible. The chapbook is a series of surreal dispatches from a lousy trip to a New Zealand alpaca farm, and we're going to bind it with yarn from Hoff's travels. 

For more from Amy, check out: