Thursday, May 24, 2007

the Perishable Press Limited

I have previously mentioned that one of my favorite small presses is Toothpaste Press which was most active from during the 1970s and 1980s. I wish to add to this small list the Perishable Press Limited. Brainchild of Walter Hamady and located in Mount Horeb, Wisconsin, this small press has made an incredible contribution to the advance of “book art” in the 20th century. Begun in 1964, the press has defied categorization. Known for their fine hand-made paper, distinguished typography, and unique colophons, the Perishable Press challenges traditional notions of the book. Perishable Press Limited is best known for their work with Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Paul Blackburn, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti. However, the books I have to discuss are by lesser known poets; George Oppen, J V Cunningham, Carl Thayler (and a rare gem by William Stafford).

The number and size of chapbooks by Perishable Press, a name taken from the notion that books – like people – are perishable and limited, make them rare to find since few were printed for each project. In the case of Oppen, Cunningham, and Thayler, poets whose work I never read or had only heard of, it’s a precious moment indeed to hold a finely made book of some of their rarely published work.

Some Salt J. V. Cunningham (1967) 8” X 5”. Olive green cover. 14 pages. Single sided. On hand-made paper. 250 copies printed, letter press.

Eleven Untitled Poems William Stafford (1968) 8” X 5 3/4”. Dark Blue with image on front cover. Uncut pages. #123 of 250 numbered copies. On hand-made paper. Letter pressed.

The Drivers Carl Thayler (1969) 8 3/4” X 5 1/2”. Grey cover with impression of title on front cover. Etching inside front by Jack Damer. One of only 130 for sale. 11 poems. Dedicated to Toby Olson.

Alpine George Oppen (1969) 9 1/2” X 6 1/2”. Tan cover with title imprinted onto front cover. 4 poems. 250 copies printed, letter press.

The dedication of Oppen’s chapbook speaks to all of us who are interested in the work of the letter press printers and “book artists” across the nation. ‘To those who as poets and publishers have rescued a nation’s literature”. Indeed so.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007


Chapbooks 14

Wit’s End with Bric-A-Brac
Jessica Dessner
Green Zone
New York City

What is it about Green Zone that is most intriguing and beguiling? The incredible talent with the complete absence of publishing information? That’s it! Jessica Dessner’s work is funny and profound. The book is another testament to the work presented by Green Zone. It’s a book worth finding, if one can.

Dacotah Territory 6
Special Native American Issue
Dacotah Territory
Moorhead, MN

This small journal, edited by James L. White, has work by Joy Harjo and several other Native American writers included as well as images by Jim McGrath. These 56 pages are stuffed with great writing. It’s a treat for the eyes and the mind. I have been told that the journal is still producing issues at Moorhead State College which is quite impressive in these days of instant gratification and disappearance. Dacotah Territory was a proud member of COSMEP. How many current publications can make that claim?

Axe Factory III
Louis McKee/Joe Farley, ed.
Philadelphia, PA

Published by Axe Factory and edited by Lou McKee and Joe Farley with cover art by Jeff Vetock, this issue is a time piece into the Philadelphia poetry community of 1990. In addition to work by Lynne Savitt, Tina Barr, Greg Geleta, Ann Mennbroker, and others, there are book reviews by books of Greogry Djanikian and Christopher Bursk as well as a listing in the back of received journals and zines. A must for anyone serious about collecting Philadelphia based publications.

Sex Toy
B.L. Kennedy
12 Gauge Press
San Clemente, CA

Don’t let his disclaimer throw you; B.L Kennedy is a serious artist who is intent to follow in the footsteps of d. a. levy and Kenneth Patchen. This small sliver of a book is a fine art book which might have been a little more polished but as it is, is a great book. The pages are a series of “picture poems” done in 2002. It’s an incredible merging of image and text. If you want more than black ink on white paper, this book is for you!

Standing In the Sky
Karen Bashkirew
new moon press
Lenhartsville, PA

This fine book by Karen Bashkirew is quite the find. These 26 poems in this well made little book are accessible and well crafted. I can’t help but also hear Suzzy Roche’s voice since one of Bashkirew’s poems have become a “song” on Roche’s album, Zero Church. I look forward to more work by Bashkirew.