The 2023 Lord Nose Award Citation and Acceptance Speech

On June 22, 2023, CLMP held the annual Firecracker Awards Ceremony to celebrate the finalists, announce the winners, and honor the recipient of the 2023 Lord Nose Award​, Christine Holbert, founder and publisher of Lost Horse Press. The Lord Nose Award is given to a publisher or editor in recognition of a lifetime of work in literary publishing to honor and celebrate the memory of Jonathan Williams, founder and publisher of the now legendary literary press, The Jargon Society. The Lord Nose Award was established in 2017 by David Wilk, with support from Jeffery Beam, Stanley Finch, and Tom Meyer. David Wilk presented Holbert with the award during the ceremony, and the following transcript includes David Wilk’s citation, followed by Christine Holbert’s remarks.


In preparing for this presentation, I was surprised to realize that today we are presenting the seventh Lord Nose Award, which commemorates and honors the work of poet and literary publisher Jonathan Williams. In 2017, we established this award to celebrate and recognize the achievement and value of a long-term commitment to literary publishing.

Jonathan Williams was the founder and publisher of the Jargon Society. He was a poet, essayist, photographer, raconteur, and cultural observer whose wit was legendary. Jonathan was deeply dedicated to the poets, photographers, and extraordinary folk artists whom he published and promoted indefatigably for more than 50 years.

Beginning in 1951 at Black Mountain College, and continuing wherever Jonathan traveled and lived, Jargon published 85 books and over 30 broadsides and ephemera, expressing Jonathan’s unique vision no matter the challenges of time, money, and distribution he encountered. His commitment to making beautiful, powerfully expressive books never wavered.

The Jargon list represents many of the most important creative figures of the late twentieth century. Jargon books express Jonathan’s lifelong dedication to words and art, to discovery, beauty, and the joyful social act of making public the work he believed in.

I would like to thank Jeffery Beam and Stanley Finch for their contributions to this project, as well as Tom Meyer, Jonathan’s life partner, for his endorsement of this award, and CLMP for giving Lord Nose a home.

It is now my honor and privilege to give the 2023 Lord Nose award to Lost Horse Press and its founder, Christine Holbert.

Christine founded Lost Horse in 1998 immediately after earning an MA in publishing at Eastern Washington University. Lost Horse publishes emerging and established writers, and, much like Jonathan Williams, Christine is a literary activist and an advocate for the writers she cares about so deeply. So far Lost Horse has published over 150 books of poetry, many of which have won national and international awards.

After overseeing projects like the Lost Horse Press Human Rights Series and the Lost Horse Press Native American Series—Holbert began the Lost Horse Press Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry Series in 2017, important to her, as she is a first-generation Ukrainian immigrant whose parents were refugees to the US after World War II. There are 11 books in the series so far, submitted by poets in Ukraine, now winning book awards and rave reviews. Eccentric Days of Hope and Sorrow by Natalka Bilotserkivets was short-listed for the Griffin Prize for Poetry; Lyuba Yakimchuk was flown from war-torn Ukraine to Las Vegas to read from her Lost Horse book, Apricots of Donbas, with John Legend playing piano behind her at the Grammy Awards in 2022.

Like Jonathan’s Jargon Society, Lost Horse has become known as a poetry press.  Christine Holbert exemplifies his approach to publishing. It requires dedication and a commitment that few of us are able to sustain. But this is precisely what exemplifies the value and necessity of poetry presses—their individuality, their heartfelt belief in poetry and in poets, and the tenacious commitment to making public beautifully important words that transport and transform us, that help us understand who we really are.

Literary presses are mostly ephemeral. They take form and substance through dedication and effort that is often transitory. Many literary presses have produced one or several great books each, but only a few are able to produce great work over decades. Those that last do so out of a powerful need that expresses the love and devotion of their founders. They are truly precious and special, deserving our attention and recognition—because we know how difficult and challenging it is to create a sustained body of work over such a long time. The sacrifices required for any publisher to stay vital and meaningful over many years should be recognized and honored by all of us in the literary community. This lifelong dedication to making art through struggle is so important, and all too rare.

Lost Horse Press exemplifies the tradition of independent publishing that Jonathan Williams embodied.  Here is what Christine said in a recent interview about her work:

“We look forward to publishing in translation the work of many more Ukrainian poets, whose writing has not been translated into English (or why would a tiny little press be publishing the likes of Serhiy Zhadan, the rock star of Ukrainian literature, or Lyuba Yakimchuk, the revered Ukrainian poet) because I feel like it is my duty as a Ukrainian and a publisher to give a voice—in English—to those Ukrainian poets who need a voice right now, a voice into the wider world so that the atrocities and inhumanities of the Russian invasion of Ukraine are disclosed and remembered.”

I am quite certain that Jonathan would have enthusiastically joined us in honoring Christine Holbert’s 25 years of publishing books that truly matter.

Thank you, Christine—and congratulations!


—David Wilk


What a delightful surprise to have been named the recipient of this year’s Lord Nose Award! When David Wilks called to tell me, I thought it was a joke. I suspected a few of my poets were pulling my leg. As a publisher, I typically have not been in the spotlight, since my job, I felt, has always been to promote the books and the poets. But when I realized that the news was true—that I had been selected—and I read the account of poet and independent publisher Jonathan Williams for whom the award was established, and read the bios of previous illustrious winners of the Lord Nose Award, I was genuinely moved. I’m used to poets receiving book awards and prizes, but never did I expect to receive a recognition such as this for myself and the press. I’m truly grateful and honored.

I founded Lost Horse Press after earning an MA in publishing—I knew the moment I began pursuing my degree that I had discovered my passion, I wanted to create books, gorgeous books that were a pleasure to hold and behold—I was still wet behind the ears, although I had several years of solid experience working at a university press and a nonprofit small press. But, I leapt! I was determined to produce aesthetically innovative and beautifully designed books. To this day I believe that if you think too hard or ask too many questions about starting a literary journal or small press, you’ll never launch one: There are so many obstacles and challenges to overcome, money is always tight, the work is hard and there is more than plenty of it…. But what I have discovered over the years is that the rewards are greater: The gratification and sense of accomplishment that come with the creation of beautifully designed and produced books are colossal, and the many connections with writers, poets, fellow publishers, printers, and booksellers, who have become as close as my own family, are irreplaceable. I’ve had several careers in my life—I was an antique and fine arts dealer and I raised Scotch Highland cattle before I returned to finish my education to become a publisher—but I truly believe that people involved in all aspects of book creation and distribution are the most generous, kind, interesting…the best people of all, and I am filled with respect and appreciation for them all, and for my first twenty-five years learning this profession. I anticipate many more happy years creating books.

When I first started the press, I knew if I hired a staff, the money I invested to start the press wouldn’t last long. Since poetry books are the most challenging genre to market in the US, I didn’t fool myself thinking I’d make enough to pay salaries, print and promote books, and still be able to publish yet one more title. I decided then that I would do much of the work myself, except for help from the occasional stray university intern.

Fortunately, over the years, I have had consistent help from a young poet who interned at the press during summer breaks from his studies at Brandeis University. Additionally, he assisted the Press throughout his graduate studies in poetry at the Michener Center for Writers, and he reads for the press even now as a Stegner Fellow at Stanford. Jackson Holbert—no relation even though we share a last name—has read every submission to Lost Horse Press’s twenty-year-strong book contest, the Idaho Prize for Poetry, an annual, national competition offering a monetary prize plus publication for a book-length poetry manuscript. The competition, which I established in 2004, is conducted according to the CLMP’s Code of Ethics and has given opportunities to emerging poets’ first books, as well as to established writers. Without Jackson’s dedication, endurance, and brilliance as a poet and editor, the Idaho Prize could not still exist. Recently, Jackson Holbert won Milkweed Press’s Max Ritvo Poetry Prize with his first book, Winter Stranger.

And without another collaborator, Grace Mahoney, I would never have achieved my ultimate dream for the press: to publish Ukrainian poetry in translation. When founding the press, I envisioned a time when I could bring to English-speaking audiences the passion that Ukrainians have for the written word, for poetry in particular. This love of reading and literature was instilled in me by my Ukrainian mother—my parents were Ukrainian refugees after WWII—who recited from memory, until the day she died, long passages from the works of Ukrainian perpetual poet laureate Taras Shevchenko, as well as poems by other Ukrainian poets.

But wishing I could publish Ukrainian poets, and actually having the contacts and connections in Ukraine to do so—which I did not!—were different things altogether. But two poets I had published, to whom I had mentioned my flamboyant intentions, introduced me to Grace Mahoney, who was studying for a PhD in Slavic and Ukrainian studies at the University of Michigan, while doing research in Kyiv on a Fulbright. In Kyiv, Grace was attending literary events and programs, meeting and mingling with poets and writers. She had recently translated Iryna Starovoyt’s manuscript A Field of Foundlings and was hoping to find a US publisher. She found her publisher and I found my brilliant Series Editor for the Lost Horse Press Contemporary Ukrainian Poetry Series. Grace and I are now working on the 13th and 14th titles in the series, to be released in fall 2023.

These days, I feel like I am at the apex in my late-blooming career—I received my publishing degree in my mid-40s—with the Ukrainian Series receiving accolades, great reviews, and book awards like the Griffin Prize, the Derek Walcott Award, and PEN America’s Translation Award for Poetry. As well, our US-published poets’ books are garnering impressive reviews and attention. Lately, journals have been requesting review copies of our books rather than my having to beg reviewers to take notice of them, a remarkable achievement in anyone’s book.

I am delighted to receive this honor from CLMP, an organization that I have leaned on long and hard for information and counsel to help produce and promote our publications. Without their support and guidance I would have stumbled many more times than I have over the years. So thank you, Mary Gannon, David Wilk, and the entire staff at CLMP for your support over these many years, and for this recognition. I am grateful and honored to be among the ranks of previous distinguished recipients of the Lord Nose Prize, and I will do my best to carry on the esteemed traditions of this tribute. Thank you.

—Christine Holbert