Max Crinnin’s father, Gerry, taught him that poetry is all around him.
Crinnin, a ‘16 alum and first-year medical student at UB, holds his father’s teachings close today as co-founder and editor-in-chief of Foundlings Press.
“If someone had said a really odd phrase or a strange quote, my dad will always be like ‘end of poem,’” Crinnin said. “We’d play little games like that about finding poetry so this idea of found poetry is a big influence on Foundlings, hence the name.”
Crinnin, Aidan Ryan, Darren Canham and S. James Coffed started Foundlings Press as a magazine in 2016. Two years later, the press is reaching audiences in Buffalo and beyond, receiving nationwide submissions for its chapbook contest last year. Foundlings increased its market with newly released books by poet Lytton Smith and The Public writer Bruce Fisher.
The term “foundlings,” Crinnin said, comes from a section the four friends discovered in the Canon Law of the Roman Catholic Church.
“We were going to look for funny quotes in it and there was this one passage, Canon Law #1115: ‘Foundlings are presumed to be legitimate until the contrary is proved,’” Crinnin said. “We liked that word, ‘foundlings.’ It spoke to finding poetry where it’s hiding in plain sight, writing some poems, too, and tying it all together.”
Crinnin said almost everything the press does is in print because of its impact in his life.
“[Ryan] and I have a nostalgia for reading as children, reading books specifically. We spent years as undergrads reading literature, reading physical books,” Crinnin said.
“For me, it’s always more impressive to combine the creative design work that someone like [Canham] is able to do with words on a page and be able to flip through it, having it all together. For me, I don’t get the same effect when I’m scrolling down a browser.”
Crinnin, a former senior arts editor at The Spectrum, said his English degree has been a guiding force for the things he’s chosen to do in his career. Part of that life journey, Crinnin said, included the lessons of UB professors like Barbara Bono, Don McGuire and the now-retired Robert Daly.
Crinnin said since Foundlings’ advent, managing editor Ryan has been the “locomotive that keeps Foundlings chugging forward.”
Ryan, a former editor-in-chief at Canisius College’s The Griffin, said the press doesn’t come from experience in the industry and the editors learn as they move along.
“There’s no roadmaps to this, and we’re sort of winging it,” Ryan said.
“It’s hard to say it’s an advantage. I’m happy we’re not coming from the New York City publishing world. I don’t want to subscribe to anyone’s stamp of influence. We’re making it up as we go along and now we’re getting some national interest so hopefully we continue building on that.”
S. James Coffed, a UB ‘16 alum, is Foundlings’ editor-at-large. Coffed said he maintains Foundlings’ West Coast-Trans-Pacific Office in Pasadena, California, primarily investing his time in talent and material research for the press.
Coffed said he spends most of his weekends at Southern California trailer park estate sales, searching for images, words, notes and artifacts looking for “found art.”
“My hope is to start networking in the pre-dawn warehouse poetry scene, based primarily in the Fashion District, though that's proven difficult to balance with my day job [at NASA],” Coffed said. “I'd like to see more West Coast talent, especially from a more diverse group of writers. We're always looking for people from new backgrounds. Buffalo has proven to be a petri-dish for poetry and literature, but it's still a small, tight-knit community that can benefit from a few new bastards on its doorstep.”
The biggest project on the horizon for Foundlings, according to Crinnin, is a commemorative anthology on the late Frank Stanford, “one of the all-time great poets.”
“Stanford’s work is amazing and in his own timeline it got some recognition for being amazing but because he died so young, I don’t think he ever took off and became famous,” Crinnin said. “Our work, our idea, is to publish a collection of people who have been influenced by Frank Stanford and people, if we pull everything off, who knew Stanford.”
Crinnin said he hopes the upcoming release of the anthology will coincide with a festival celebrating Stanford’s life and work.
Editor’s note: Foundlings previously published work by Copy Chief Dan McKeon.
Benjamin Blanchet is the senior engagement editor for The Spectrum. His words have been seen in The Buffalo News (Gusto) and The Sun newspapers of Western New York. Loves cryptoquip and double-doubles.