History

 

2011

Button Poetry was founded in 2011 by Sam Cook and Sierra DeMulder, who were shortly joined by Rachele Cermak, and Heidi Lear. They launched the first Button website and blog.

In March, Button hosted its first event, a recording party to produce Button Poetry: Volume One, featuring Sierra DeMulder, Sam Cook, Dylan Garity, Hieu Nguyen, Kait Rokowski, and Shane Hawley, along with many other Twin Cities poets.

Starting in May, Sam and Button teamed up with local filmmakers and poets to film and produce a series of high-quality poetry videos. The first product of this work was called Poetry Observed.

 

2012

Sam Cook and Dylan Garity rebranded Button with a stronger focus on video and social media. Under their direction, Button launched several new projects, including the Button Tumblr and Button Youtube.

In April, Button filmed its first poetry tournament—the College Unions Poetry Slam Invitational (CUPSI). Button would go on to film many tournaments and festivals that year and for years after, including filming the Rustbelt Festival and the National Poetry Slam in 2012. Videos from those early festivals and many more can be found on various playlists on Button Poetry’s YouTube Channel.

Michael Mlekoday joined the Button  team to launch the inaugural Exploding Pinecone Chapbook Competition, judged by Bao Phi.

In October, Intermedia Arts awarded Sam Cook and Dylan Garity a Verve Grant for Spoken Word Artists to facilitate video projects.

 

2013

Button filmed numerous poetry tournaments festivals across the country and captured 1000’s of videos including Neil Hilborn’s iconic “OCD”, now the most-viewed slam performance in history.

In July, Button released its first perfect-bound book, me Aunt Jemima and the nailgun, announced the second annual Exploding Pinecone Contest (judged by Rachel McKibbens), and launched it’s website along with Button’s first webstore.

In August, while filming the 2013 National Poetry Slam Button had a video go viral and receive over 4 million views in a matter of days, which began a series of mentions of Button and Button poets in major media including (but not limited to): NPR, Fox News, Time, The Huffington Post, and Upworthy.

2014

Button opened up its first offices in the Tallmadge building in the heart of downtown Minneapolis.

 

2015

Button Poetry releases its first full-length collection of poetry, Our Numbered Days by Neil Hilborn.

 

2016

Button Poetry Live is launched with a successful Kickstarter and a grant from the Knight Arts Foundation. BPL is one of the first independent poetry series to offer featured performers payment comparable with universities, to pay all its staff and to offer cash prizes and and career opportunities to every poet who stepped on stage.

 

2017

Button formally hires Hanif Abdurraqib as its Poetry Editor.

Button expands its offices to accommodate the growing team.

Button incorporates formally becoming a business and offering its teams salaries and benefits.

 

2018

Button expands its offices again now sprawling over half of the third floor of its downtown home.

 

2019

Button released its first book with Andrea Gibson, one of the biggest names in the modern history of spoken word poetry.

Button made a deal that saw its books on the shelves of Target stores across the country. Though the partnership was short lived Button was the smallest press to ever have its books stocked at Target.

Button’s Founder, Sam Van Cook and his wife Emily Van Cook gave birth to their first child, Ella.

Button moved into new offices in a new building – leaving downtown Minneapolis for the first time in the history of the org.

Button saw a changing of the guard with a few long time team members moving on to new projects. Two key team members who left during this transition were Dylan Garity and Yashin Quirk, both of whom had been students and mentee of Van Cook’s while in college and then members of the founding team when Button incorporated as a business in 2017.

 

2020

In February Button sent a team to AWP in San Antonio where it participated in the book fair and put on its final show before suspending Live Events indefinitely in light of the global Covid-19 Pandemic.