Iris Press was founded in 1975 by Patricia Wilcox in Binghamton, New York, as a small publishing company emphasizing literary quality and innovation. An important goal of Iris was, and still is, to give talented but underappreciated writers an audience and to help them reach their potential. The first book published by Iris was Don Revell’s first book of poems, The Broken Juke. The Press has published a number of important books since those early days, but it has never been a high volume publisher. In 1977 Iris published the 310 page New and Selected Poems (NASP) by George Scarbrough, which Rodney Jones, in a 1978 review, called “A cathedral of a book.” This single book has had an important role in the subsequent development of Iris Press, though other landmark books followed.
In 1980 Phyllis and Sam Tickle bought Iris Press, which was then moved to Tennessee. The presence of Scarbrough’s NASP in the list and Iris’s demonstrated ability to identify outstanding writing were factors in the Tickles’ decision to purchase Iris. Phyllis Tickle published two more major Scarbrough books during her 12-year tenure as owner and/or editor of Iris Press. In 1986 the press was sold to Peachtree Publishers of Atlanta, but Phyllis stayed on as the editor. In 1990 Peachtree sold Iris to the Wimmer Group of Memphis Tennessee, but still Phyllis Tickle remained as its editor and guiding spirit. In 1992 The Wimmer Group disposed of Iris and some other literary properties, and Maggie Vaughn, the current Poet Laureate of the State of Tennessee, acquired Iris Press and managed it along with her other publishing entity, Bell Buckle Press.
In 1996 Robert B. Cumming of Oak Ridge, Tennessee, who was also interested in working with George Scarbrough and some other major writers, acquired Iris Press. The mission of Iris has largely remained the same but it has also expanded. Iris was incorporated in 1996 and became The Iris Publishing Group, Inc.This company retains the Iris Press name as its flagship imprint and will use that imprint for print publication of high quality works of poetry and literary prose. Another unit, Iris Audio Publications, has been created to publish recordings of readings by significant poets and authors of their work.