Thursday, September 02, 2010

Josephine Miles

Fields of Learning
Josephine Miles
Berkeley, CA
(c) 1968

Not enough can be said of Josephine Miles as a catalyst for the development of the "Beat Generation" as well as the San Francisco Renaissance. Her importance lay both in her own work and in her position at U Cal - Berkeley, but additionally as a mentor and sponsor for a number of younger poets who were gathering in the Bay area during the late 1950s and into the 1960s.

This small collection, 25 pages, focused on some of her experiences in academia. While not written in a "Beat style", her questioning mind and rich use of metaphor does provide linkage to the Beats. Josephine was written about in acclaimed 1996 Women of the Beat Generation by Brenda Knight.

The following is a history of Oyez Press which I took from the Thomas Dodd Research Library archives page concerning their holdings of Oyez Press books; "Robert Hawley was born in 1929 in Stockbridge, Wisconsin. He was a student at Black Mountain College in 1956, shortly before that institution closed its doors. Although he already had an M.A. in English and was an aspiring poet, Charles Olson discouraged him in this regard, but suggested to Hawley that he give publishing a try. By 1957, Hawley was in Berkeley, California, working as a bookseller specializing in Western Americana at the Holmes Book Company.

In 1964, Robert Hawley and Stevens van Strum started the Oyez Press by soliciting poems from noteworthy American poets to be published in a series of broadsides, effectively pioneering this publishing medium for poetry. This initial series consisted of ten broadsides, by such poets as William Everson (Brother Antoninus), Gary Snyder, Charles Olson, Michael McClure, and others. The first Oyez book was a collection of poetry by David Meltzer. It was during this period that Hawley began his business relationship with printer Graham Mackintosh. The Oyez poetry editions were well regarded for the simplicity and elegance of their designs. Although not all Oyez books were designed by Mackintosh, several of his designs did receive awards, including an edition of William Everson's Single Source that was selected as one of the 50 books of the year by the American Institute of Graphic Arts.

By the late 1960s, Oyez was publishing about ten books a year, even after Stevens van Strum departed the concern (around 1968), and even though Hawley continued with his day job at the Holmes Book Company. Although the print runs of Oyez books were limited at the cost of the books was kept low, the press did well so long as it had standing orders from universities and book stores with an interest in poetry and rare books. However, inventories began to mount and the cash reserves of the press began to dwindle in time. Hawley eventually turned over the distribution of the Oyez titles to Serendipity Books.

In 1978, Hawley opened his own book shop, the Ross Valley Book Company, in Albany, California (near Oakland). Even though the Oyez press continued to publish sporadically during the next few years, money troubles seriously limited the pace of Hawley's publishing projects. While a collection of poems by Samuel Charters was published in 1992, it is the only book-length project put out by Oyez since 1987. However, friends of the press have also received periodic keepsakes and pamphlets with the Oyez imprint over the years."

My own copy came from a collection that was purchased by a comics and used books dealer in San Francisco. It's a very simple chapbook, staple-bound, type-written pages as was the style of the times, and devoid of any info about the Press or the author.
Nonetheless, it's a valuable slice of late 1960s poetics.

1 comment:

Curtis Faville said...


Hawley's little bookshop moved from Albany to a place on Shattuck Avenue for a while, but Bob became very ill (the rumor was lung cancer), and he closed it soon after, the elegant bookcases ending up at another ill-fated bookshop ("Books by Jerome"), which also closed within a couple of years. I don't know what happened to those magnificent cases!

I've seen Hawley and his wife three times in the last year over at the El Cerrito Re-Cycling Center by the dumpsters beside the book turn-around. I mentioned to him that he should consider placing his publisher's archive somewhere, but he seemed oblivious. I think he must be in his late 80's.