Friday, August 27, 2021

Small Press History 7: John M. Bennett/ Lost and Found Times (1975-2005) and Luna Bisonte Prods (1974-Present)

BE: When did you begin Lost and Found Times and Luna Bisonte? What prompted you to start such a venture and how was it received? What kind of work did/do you publish?

 JMB: Luna Bisonte Prods began in 1974. LAFT in 1975, and ran until 2005. Both began as art/literary projects to publish great stuff that was “unpublishable”.  They both were avant-garde/surrealist/dada/flux-is/international/multilingual. Luna Bisonte Prods still is. Latest book is IS KNOT; other recent ones are HAVING BEEN NAMED, and OJIJETE.  See them at Luna Bisonte Prods  Future books are in the works, including several by other authors such as Jim Leftwich, Luc Fierens, David Baptiste Chirot, and Olchar E. Lindsann.

BE: How are Vispo and asemic works important to the world of art? Do you prefer them to other art forms? If so, why do you think that is? Which is more important to these art forms, humor or beauty, both or neither? 

JMB: Not sure what "world of art" might mean here, but I think they are important in that they show artistic/aesthetic creation has no real genre borders, in spite of what most people think.  Vispo (I think of asemics as a form of vispo) is between visual art and literature, claimed by neither, and so "falls between the cracks" in most critical and/or academic studies.  I like many kinds of art; music, photography, painting, conceptual, Fluxus or Dada, and of course literature.  I work in many different genres.  The best art has humor, horror, beauty, ugliness, love, hate, and much else, all simultaneously.  It attempts to be a mirror to the universe, or a talisman of it.

BE: How have you managed to keep publishing all these years? Have you been able to receive grants to help out? Did being a professor with a Ph.D. help gain critical acclaim for your publications and art form?

JMB: By having a professional career that paid for it. I did receive a few very small grants from the Ohio Arts Council in the early days of LAFT, and one larger one for my own writing in 1998. What critical acclaim? Not sure there is any, though a number of writers in my circle have written very well about my work, for which I am deeply grateful. But that, like my work itself, is invisible to the larger literary and art worlds. 

BE: Do you still perform?

JMB: I still perform, though perhaps less often than a few years ago.  With age I gotta slow down a bit, and travel, especially international travel, can be exhausting.  The pandemic hasn't helped either.  For several years I performed annually at Fluxfest (different city every year), and The Marginal Arts Festival in Roanoke, VA.  For several years, my wife C. Mehrl Bennet and I performed in places like Mexico City, Montevideo, Paris, Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, etc. 

BE: Do you have any particular reflections on today’s Vispo scene? Any advice/suggestions for young Vispo artist/writers? 

JMB: Vispo has become very widely practiced today in USA, Europe, Latin America, Asia, and elsewhere. There is wonderful work being done everywhere, but also a lot of stuff that seems merely decorative (not so interesting). There have long been parallels between visual poetry and commercial design, and the two cultures often borrow from each other. My advice to young writers and artists is to only do what you feel you HAVE to do, and to ignore the impulse to please others. Also: do not expect to make any money off your work. If you expect that, go get a job in accounting.

John is the featured interview at the top GAS 8 video show.  

John M. Bennett's work, publications, and papers are collected in several major institutions, including Washington University (St. Louis), SUNY Buffalo, The Ohio State University, The Museum of Modern Art, and other major libraries. His PhD (UCLA 1970) is in Latin American Literature.  Visit John M. Bennett's website for more info.

Thursday, August 26, 2021

Interview with Ernel Grant, Founder of POETZ REALM Performance Showcase

BE: I first saw you performing in a video on the Beat Poetry Festival site and it was great!  How long have you been performing your work?  Did you perform when you were young (acting, singing, etc.?)  Do you find performing more satisfying than words on the page or both important for different reasons?  

EG: I have been performing for about 21 years now and got into it because I wanted to express my feelings to a young lady and writing was the last means to get through to her. I acted in a couple of plays in high school and enjoyed that but didn’t get into doing poetry until later on in life. I was heavy into dancing and performed with my younger sister at various events. I believe the performing arts is very satisfying but I do enjoy reading a good book as well. Using the imagination can bring a person to unreal worlds.

BE:  You seem to have a very active performance group, Poetz Realm.  I’ve seen some of the performances there and many of them are knock-outs. There are also singers. Is it an open mic for all kinds of talent?  Did you begin it for a need for community?  Where can non-local residents find your broadcasts?

EG:  Poetz Realm is a place I created to bring different artists together in love and support. I started PR after I moved to Bridgeport, CT from Hartford, CT where I was very active in the artistic scene with a group called The Bulanians. We were a group of artists who came together to make a poetry CD but it evolved into much more. We traveled the country hitting different stages and ultimately started an open mic. WE wanted to provide a safe haven for artists who were searching for a home. The venue was inclusive of dancers, emcees, poets, singers, visual artists, comedians and musicians. There are videos available on Youtube on the PoetzREalm and ThePoetzRealm channels, Facebook under Ernel Grant, Poetz Realm & Poetz Realm Florida pages. I also have an Instagram and Twitter page called Poetz Realm.

BE:  What are some of the most exciting accomplishments/rewards you’ve had since beginning your writing/performances and Poetz Realm?

EG: One of my most rewarding accomplishment was starting Poetz Next-Gen Youth Writing Workshop. This program was very rewarding because it touched a lot of children’s lives. The program assisted with developing the confidence a lot of the kids needed for public speaking. We provided nourishment for the participants often times knowing that meal would be substantial for some of the attendees. I am also proud to hear how PR has helped to change and shape people’s lives. It’s always a pleasure to look back and see the growth of some of these individuals.

BE:  Are children invited to perform at Poetz Realm as well?

EG: Currently the Florida location is operating in a restaurant so there is no age limit but I do like to keep their attendance to a minimum due to some of the subject matter and adult language. The Connecticut location is for 18 and over but we won’t turn people away with children.

BE:  What are your hopes and dreams for yourself as a poet and for Poetz Realm?

My dream as an artist is to continue getting better as I hone my craft. I don’t perform as much as I used to mainly because I now love to sit on the side lines and listen to other talented artists. I would like to see and help them shine. I would like to see Poetz Realm franchised and a household name in the artistic community and beyond. I am looking forward to having my own building so I can do more for the talent in the area. I’m currently forming a corporation with other gifted individuals so that we can bring more to this area. Stay tuned.

Ernel Grant

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

New Poems from A.D. Winans


A. D. Winans is a native San Francisco poet and writer. In 1958 he returned home from Panama and became part of the North Beach Beat era. He is the author of over sixty books of poetry and prose, including North Beach Poems, North Beach Revisited, San Francisco Poems, and The Holy Grail: The Charles Bukowski Second Coming Revolution. He edited and published Second Coming Press for 17 years, during which time he produced the 1980 Poets and Music Festival, honoring the poet Josephine Miles and Blues legend John Lee Hooker. Colin Wilson, Studs Terkel, James Purdy, Peter Coyote, Jack Hirschman, Jack Micheline, and Charles Bukowski have praised his work. His poetry and prose has been published in over 2,000 literary magazines and anthologies, including The American Poetry Review, City Lights Journal, Poetry Australia, the New York Quarterly, Beat Scene, Beatitude, Rattle, and The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry. In 2002 a song poem of his was performed at Tully Hall, NYC. In 2006 he was awarded a PEN Josephine Miles award for excellence in literature. In 2009 PEN Oakland presented him with a Lifetime Achievement Award. In 2015 he received a Kathy Acker Award in poetry and publishing. In 2010 Bottle of Smoke Press (BOS Press) published a book of his Selected Poems.


Live for the moment

the past is a ghost riding an empty train

sing like a hammer sings to a nail

tread softly thru the night where dreams

lay like land mines

ready to explode on the tattooed dawn

run barefoot with children in the park

listen to the sound of their breath

drown in the innocence of their eyes

ignore your enemies 

false prophets drowning in quicksand

wrap your head in a song bag

lock your ego in the clothes closet

wear the eyes of an owl

write words soft as chalk

not like academic careful poets

in love with the business of poetry

wed to the immaculate chain of money

strip the flesh to the marrow

be a one-person quire

light up the sky like a million fireflies

kiss the face of the stars


I was looking at my scrapbook the other night while

listening to an old Dylan record

and there I was in my youth traveling from

California to Arizona and places further North

heading in so many directions

it was like being lost in the trick mirrors of the Fun House

at Play Land at the beach

and there were the young women then young girls

with free-flowing spirits

who gave their minds and bodies

at the slightest invitation

and nights too laying alone in bed in tangled sleep

feeling like a deer caught in barbed wire

or sitting hunched-over cold and disheveled

at the downtown Greyhound Bus Station

fighting off the eyes of leering men

who preferred boys to girls

now eighty-five and counting

I realize I was there and back so fast

like a train running out of track

returning home carrying my life in a knapsack

the days the months the years hung out to dry

like your mother's washing on a frail clothesline


the true poet knows

words are second to action

weaker than blood spilled

on the battleground 

of human rights and dignity

the true poet carries

the blood of the people in his veins

he does not speak in a rambling dialect

but in short sentences

he does not require a dictionary

to be understood

the true poet is steeped 

in ancient tradition

he does not play politics

he is politics

the true poet is a tree with

far-reaching branches

he is the crust

on a loaf of bread

he is the dream within

a dream

he is the mother giving

a newborn baby

the milk of life

he is the thunder in a storm

his words a bolt of lightning

that lights up the sky

he does not beg applause

or make love to the microphone

he carries humility 

like a mother holds her baby

in a warm embrace

he lives on the edge

his eyes are his tongue

his tongue his strength

he is a gardener planting seeds

in mind gardens

he is the first ray of sun 

that breaks through the morning fog

his words walk the streets

run a marathon sleep with him

make love to him

the true poet does not die

but lives on through eternity

waits like cosmic dust

to be reborn again



Sunday, August 22, 2021

GAS Featured Poet: Daniel J. Flore III

Daniel J. Flore III's poems have appeared in many publications. He is the author of 4 poetry books from GenZ Publishing. They are Lapping Water, Humbled Wise Men Christmas Haikus, Home and other places I’ve yet to see, and Pink Marigold Rays.

Cigarette butts in the hospital parking lot

cigarette butts

in the hospital parking lot

how many of them were smoked furiously

with prayers

the way I just smoked

begging God


and in terror, all squished out now

in the cement 

with the others

Butt Dial

the alert for your text came in
like a fart in the wind

it read

j ssd ndcndn

I knew you
still didn’t want to talk to me
but maybe

you were at least
thinking about it

Friday, August 20, 2021

Small Press History 6: A.D. Winans:/ SECOND COMING Magazine and Press/1972-1989

A.D. Winans and Diane di Prima

BE: What was the impetus to start Second Coming?
I was hanging out with poets like Kell Robertson who published Desperado Magazine, Ben Hiatt who published Grande Rhone Press, and Paul Foreman of Hyperion Press.  I helped Kell and Paul collate issues of their magazine and in the process gravitated toward the world of small press publishing.

A.D. with Jack Micheline

BE: Jack Micheline wrote in a foreword for A Bastard Child With No Place To Go: “A. D. Winans is a man in search of his soul. His compassion and love for his native city San Francisco shows in his poems. A. D. takes us on a journey of lost souls in the cruelty of a large city. He writes of the people he loves: poets, musicians, and the ordinary souls who have moved him. He knows the wars, the lost hookers, the crazies, the victims, and the ones gone mad. The system and the tragedy of America.” Jack Micheline seems like a kind, compassionate soul. Would you tell us a favorite story about him?
A.D.: Jack possessed the heart and soul of what being Beat is all about.  He unabashedly spoke the truth and in the process made many enemies.  He was a great oral poet who was loved by the downtrodden and the down and out. We immediately hit it off as we both had the same political viewpoints and empathy for the poor.  I have many tales I could tell but here is one of my favorites.  We were drinking in North Beach and as nightfall set in, he said, "Let's go to Chinatown.  They are having an AA meeting tonight." I asked him why would I want to go to an AA meeting and he said "Because it's a great place to score with women."  When we arrived there was a large table with coffee and sugar cookies and rows of pull-out chairs.  We took front row seats and as is the custom at AA meetings the night kicked off with people getting up and introducing themselves by saying  "Hi, my name is  (X) and I'm an alcoholic."  When it came my turn I stood up and said "My name is A.D. Winans and I don't know if I am an alcoholic or not."  Then Jack stood up and said, "My name is Jack Micheline. I'm a poet and if you people were serious you'd be out bombing distilleries instead of napalming women and children."  It was at the height of the Vietnam War and his remarks were met with stone silence.  Needless to say, the only thing we scored that evening was sugar cookies. It was the first and last AA meeting I have attended.

BE: You published Bukowski quite a bit. What did you like most about his writing?
A.D.: I liked his easy down to earth use of the English Language and the subject matter of what he wrote about.  It was easy for me to identify with him.  William Carlos Williams who was an early influence on me said "Write as you speak."  I took this to heart and evidently Bukowski did as well.

BE: Were you and Bukowski good friends? How did you meet? Could you share a favorite story about Bukowski that few people know?
A.D.: I considered him a good "distant" friend.  We only saw each other four times in person but corresponded for l7 years.  During this period we exchanged 83 letters that are housed at my Second Coming archives at Brown University. There are many stories I could share.  One incident that stands out to me was my second meeting with him at a reading he was giving at the War Memorial Building in San Francisco.
I met up with him at a bar about a block away from the reading.  After some conversation, he mentioned he had the keys to Ferlinghetti's van and had a pint of vodka stored under the back seat and suggested it was cheaper than drinking at the bar.  We made our way to the van with Bukowski (Hank) taking the back seat and me in the front.  He immediately went for the vodka and drank nearly half the bottle in a few quick gulps.  I asked him for a sip and was surprised when he turned me down. He told me he needed every drop to see him through readings.  He said if it wasn't for the money he would not give them.  He said, if I recall right, "I'm like a beggar singing for his supper."
About ten minutes before the reading he finished the last of the vodka, tossing the bottle on the van floor.  "It's time to pay the piper," he said but we didn't get a few feet away before he turned and barfed on the side of Ferlinghetti's van.  He steadied himself and looked perfectly sober as we walked into the Memorial Building, not without notice by the packed audience.  He, of course, gave his usual dynamite reading and left to loud applause, and much hooting and hollering.
We made our way back to the bar and resumed our earlier drinking. At some point in time, Ferlinghetti came storming into the bar.  I watched him angrily approach our table and thought maybe he had discovered Hank had puked on his van.  However, when I looked up I saw he was clutching a poetry magazine in his hands that had a poem I had written for him.

    Lawrence Ferlinghetti and A.D. Winans / Photo by Scott Harrison

After exchanging greetings with Hank, Ferlinghetti lit into me, complaining about my poem (written in response to his poem, "Where is North Beach I can't find it"). His beef with the poem was his contention that it was not true.  I believed then and now that it was a fair and factual poem. I was not prepared for his attack and was uneasy over the attention he was drawing from the curious bar patrons.
I felt sure Hank would remain neutral or perhaps side with Ferlinghetti given the fact City Lights had recently published a book of his.  He had far more to gain by siding with Ferlinghetti than me. I'll always remember the way Hank looked up at Ferlinghetti with a sly smile and said, "Lawrence, that's one of the best poems I've ever read."  Ferlinghetti stood there with a stunned expression before storming out of the bar.
I knew my poem was an honest poem, a good poem, a poem that would be published and republished in several literary magazines but I also knew it was not a great poem and certainly not the best poem Hank had ever read.
Hank left for the airport shortly afterward leaving me with a deep respect for him.

BE: Is it true that Bob Kaufman helped you get over your fear of reading in public? How did that happen? In what other ways did Kaufman have a lasting effect on you?
A.D.: My early fear of reading in public goes back to my childhood days all the way through college when I never once got up in class and read.  It was Wayne Miller who headed the old Coffee House readings who helped me with my fear. The Coffee Gallery audience could be brutal.  I remember one poet who was booed off the stage.  I had been drinking quite heavily to work up the courage when my turn to read was approaching. Wayne came over to where I was sitting and told me I didn't have to read but I shook him off and proceeded to give a reading that ended with rousing applause. Afterward Wayne told me "you will never again have to worry about reading." And he was right.

A.D. Winans & Bob Kaufman at Cafe Trieste in 1976. Photo © Richard Morris, 1976

Kaufman had a lasting effect on me, not only because of his work but because of his persona and dedication to poetry.  He never sought fame and never kept copies of his poems.  If not for his wife, Eileen, very little of his work would have survived.  He was a true genius.  He is the only poet I know who spontaneously changed a poem while reading on stage as he did the evening of the Night of Street Poetry reading featuring Kaufman, Micheline, and I.
Bob  loved jazz and wrote some of the best jazz poems of the Beat era and read on stage with local jazz musicians.  He and Micheline defined the word Beat. The so-called Major Beats got all the attention but Bob and Jack were their equals. I am very proud of being in the documentary film on his life that premiered at the San Francisco International Film Festival.
BE: From “I have never worn the label of a poet well. It’s not a word I’m comfortable with. It carries a connotation that somehow the poet walks on a higher ground than the average individual. Too many of today’s poets are more concerned with publication credits than the human condition they write about.” Is this why you have no Table of Contents or Bio notes in Second Coming Anthology: Ten Years in Retrospect, to invite folks to read the poems, not just look up their own work or friends then put it down? But if one has to search around, one just might read some good work, in spite of one’s vanity? ( I remember that we exchanged a few letters in the mid-80s. You were neither a flirt nor a braggart, but down to earth and straightforward.)

A.D.: I generally did not include a table of contents except for the anthologies because I have always believed that poems should speak for themselves.  A lot of readers go to a table of contents to find particular poets they like and never read the other poets in the book.  I am sure this played a role in my decision not to include a table of contents in this particular anthology.
And yes, I remember we had exchanges of letters back then.  No, I was never what you call a flirt. There were small press publishers I knew who used their so-called power to lure a woman into their bed. One who I won't name tried to score with a woman friend of mine and boasted of other women he had made love to.  He was a tax accountant and only went into small press publishing to get laid.  A poet I published in the S.C. California Poets Anthology came up to me after a reading I gave in Sacramento, and said, "Thanks.  My poem in your anthology got me laid." I find that reprehensible.    And no, I don't brag about any accomplishments I may have made in the literary world.  Straight forward is the only way I know. It has gotten me enemies as well as admirers.  As I said in my Gale Research Autobiography piece.  The only thing a poet has is his or her integrity.  You sell that and you have sold your soul to the devil.  I am always amazed at how many poets have sold out for so little.
BE: I’m intrigued by your photo with Robert Kennedy. Did this meeting relate to your poetry in some way?

A.D. with Robert Kennedy

A.D.: No, it did not.  I was working as a civilian for the Navy and knew this Navy Officer who had worked as an aide for John Kennedy.  He asked me if I would like to meet RFK and set up a meeting at his Senate office.  We had a general conversation that lasted several minutes and as it was winding down I asked him if I could take his photo and he responded by saying "Why don't you sit down and have one taken with me."  An interesting sidelight to this, if if you look closely at the photo you will see me looking dead serious and might mistake me for a politician.  As we were both looking into the camera, it flashed into my mind that this would look cool on my mantle and impress any woman I might bring to my apartment.  As if he read my mind, he turned toward me, slapped me on the knee, and we both broke out into laughter.  A moment I will never forget.

BE: These days everyone and their brother has books because they can be printed instantly and on-demand one at a time. In the old days, we had to print 1000 books or at least several hundred to keep the price of each copy low enough, then we were stuck with a lot of books to distribute, trade, or give away. How do you think this will affect literature in the long run or will it?
A.D.: Yes, I was part of that.  I published print runs of 500 copies and like you and everyone else had no real distribution to speak of.  I had maybe at any one time fifty library and personal subscriptions. I would put copies into doctor and dentists' offices, leave them in public places, send them into prisons, and hand them out at readings, and still had copies in my basement.  Distribution is the curse of small press literature.  Today it makes economic sense to print on demand.
BE: Any advice to new poets/publishers or further musings on the state of poetry today?
A.D.: To poets, I would just say be yourself.  Don't be afraid to take risks.  I am too out of the loop to give advice to publishers except don't delude yourself into thinking you will make money.  If you break even you will have been wildly successful.
A.D. reading, 1977

Books published by Second Coming Press

  • Aguila, Pancho. Dark smoke (1977)
  • Andersdatter, Karla Margaret. I don't know whether to laugh or cry, 'cause I lost the map to where I was going: poems (1978)
  • Bennett, John. Crime of the Century (1987)
  • Castaño, Wilfredo Q. Small stones cast upon the tender earth (1981)
  • Fericano, Paul. Loading The Revolver With Real Bullets (1977)
  • Fowler, Gene. Felon's Journal (Poems) (1975)
  • Fowler, Gene. Return of the Shaman (1981)
  • Hiatt, Ben L. Data For a Windy Day (Broadside) (1977)
  • Menebroker, Ann. Three Drums For the Lady (1972)
  • Micheline, Jack. Last House in America (1974)
  • Micheline, Jack. Skinny Dynamite (1980)
  • Nimnicht, Noma. In the museum naked (1978)
  • Richmond, Steve.  Wild Seed (1977)
  • Reith, Kimi. Poems for my mother and the women I have loved (1978)
  • Savitt, Lynne. Lust in 28 flavors: poems (1979)
  • Schneider, Roy. Suburban Graffiti (1977)
  • Tsongas, George. Love letters (1975)
  • Wantling, William. 7 on Style (1975)
  • Whitebird, Joanie. Birthmark (1977)
  • Whitebird, Joanie. 24 (1978)
  • Winans, A.D. North Beach Poems (1977)
  • Winans, A.D. Tales of Crazy John: or, Beating Brautigan at His Own Game (1975)

Anthologies published by Second Coming Press

  • Winans, A.D. (ed.). 19+?1: An Anthology of San Francisco Poetry (1978)
  • Winans, A.D. (ed.). California Bicentennial Poets Anthology (1976)
  • Winans, A.D. (ed.). Second Coming Anthology: Ten Years in Retrospect (1984)


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

Small Press History 5: Richard Peabody-Gargoyle/Paycock Press/1976-Present


Rita Dove and Richard Peabody

BE:  By the time I started Gypsy I believe Gargoyle was already well established.  When did you start publishing the magazine and what inspired you to do it?

RP:  First issue appeared in August 1976. I hitchhiked cross-country that bicentennial Spring/Summer and by chance landed in Madison,WI during the annual Mifflin Street Festival.  Went to a reading by Jon Tuschen and Warren Woessner. The first poets my age I’d ever heard. Back home I discovered one of the guys I vaguely knew in grad school had started a litmag called Window. He worked at Bialek’s, a bookshop a block away from the Brentanos in Friendship Heights where two of my friends (Russell Cox and Paul Pasquarella) worked. And the mag was born.

BE:  How did you land on the name Gargoyle?

RP:  We were going to call it Pan.  Rusty was on the verge of launching as a freelance photographer, so along with Paul, we went to the National Cathedral where there was a statue of Pan in front of an Herb Cottage. We tried everything to get a decent shot and nothing worked. While we messed around with screens and angles Rusty took pix of the gargoyles adorning the cathedral. 

When we saw the proof sheet the gargoyle pix stood out and  we chose one for the front cover and took the name. 

BE:  How were you able to afford such gorgeous, large, perfect bound mags before the POD days?  Were you able to get grants or was this all from your own wallet?  How large was your subscriber base?

RP: We can’t afford it but we just keep going.

We were never a nonprofit in an official sense, so no grants. We did win a few editorial awards from CCLM, the earlier version of CLMP. The looks on the faces of NEA staffers when I told them was amazing. I mean of course we’re nonprofit, every issue hemorrhages money. But being a nonprofit also means you are a charity (of sorts) according to the paperwork and you can’t sell your archive you have to gift it. After years in the rare book trade that was the only way I believed I’d ever break even. I did manage to sell the Gargoyle 1976-1991 archive (manuscripts and correspondence) to George Washington University’s Gelman Library.  But libraries can no longer afford to buy, transport, or even pay employees to catalog collections. And they don’t want email correspondence now unless they’re with very big names. 

After Lucinda died in 2017, her best friend Ann and I couldn’t find a buyer for Lucinda’s expansive collection (11,000 books) despite awesome first editions and signed copies. (A Virginia Woolf! Everything by Jeanette Winterson!) In the end we donated the collection to the University of West Virginia, though we still had to pay transport costs. And since Lucinda 

spent her last decade in central WV (she bought the town of Shirley online via Ebay for less than her home near Howard University’s asking price) they’ve claimed her as their own.

The only thing selling now are ultra-rare books or Association copies. You know, F. Scott signed to Hemingway, etc. That type of thing. Cool factoid. Hollywood actors--John Larroquette, Johnny Depp, Steve Martin, and Curtis Armstrong—are noted book collectors.

I don’t believe we ever had more than 100 subscribers and half those were libraries. Back before they changed.  By the time I resurrected the mag in 1997 with Lucinda Ebersole (after shutting it down in 1990) library subscriptions had pretty much dried up. I think maybe 10 have stood by us. In the end we’ve always depended on credit card roulette, art rates, and individual mail order sales.

Oh, and the kindness of strangers.

BE:  Tell us some of the micro press writers you introduced into the larger small press world?  Seems like I heard Ron Androla was one.

From the get-go we wanted to print work by DC area poets and writers, poets coming of age in the late 70s, and lost or forgotten names. One thing led to another in those pre-internet days. We began in the offset days just as mimeo and letterpress were fading. Before DIY mags took off. 

I’d grown up on Evergreen Review, Paris Review, and New American Review. That’s what I wanted to do on a much smaller scale. Though for a few years we mimicked other mags in terms of design and layout.  We began as a folded newsprint monthly paper, switched to a poetry chapbook size, then an 8 ½ by 10 size. But we’ve played around ever since. #15/16 riffed on the Brit mag Bananas, #24 was Antaeus, #32/33 was Paris Review

Plunging into the small press world back then was akin to plunging into the online lit world today. David Greisman’s Abbey (a Xeroxed mag out of Columbia, MD) connected me to the larger lit world. I can’t remember whether Larry Eigner sent Androla to us or vice versa. I can’t remember who published Ron first in DC—Greisman, John Elsberg’s Bogg, or Kevin Urick’s The Mill.  But it was via those guys that we all grew and reached out to folks. 

Bogg was based in England (though John lived in Arlington, VA).  And via John I published work by  Pete Brown, George Cairncross, Andy Darlington,  Tina Fulker, Paul House, Graham Sykes, and Dave Ward.  Greisman had published Elizabeth Tallent back when she was living in Santa Fe, and she was a highlight of our first fiction issue 12/13.  Eric Baizer’s MOTA (the Museum of Temporary Art magazine) brought in Michael Horovitz and Charles Plymell and even Allen Ginsberg. By then the group of us (Baizer, Elsberg, Urick, and me) had a radio show on WPFW and interviewed people coming through town. 

So, it grew organically. Every summer I took road trips around the US. New England one year, the South another, the Northwest, the Southwest. There were readings, bookshops, stops with folks like Rosmarie Waldrop and Tom Ahern in Providence, George Myers Jr. in Harrisburg, Steven Ford Brown in Birmingham, Ed Hogan in Carrboro, David Spicer in Memphis, Hugh Fox in East Lansing, Todd Grimson and Joel Weinstein in Portland, Shannon Ravenel in Carrboro, Susan Hankla in Chapel Hill, Will Inman and Laurel Speer in Arizona.  All of those trips inspired by bookseller Len Fulton’s American Odyssey.

Each of our visits generated anecdotes, poems, publications, sales, and making the lit experience tribal. 

Trips to Europe in 1979 and 1981 to meet Ken Timmerman, Fulker, Sneyd and Darlington, Jay and Fran Landesman, attend a poetry reading at Ronnie Scotts with the Horovitzes, where

we saw Roger McGough, Frances Horovitz, Fran Landesman, Margaret Drabble, and Heathcote Williams read. (Williams heckled Drabble throughout.)

BE:  What do you feel was Gargoyle’s biggest accomplishments and who were some of the well known writers you published?

I believe the fiction issues-- #12/13 and subsequent trilogy Fiction/82, Fiction/84 and Fiction/86—took the mag to a new level. #35 with the Bukowski feature, and interviews with Carl Weissner and Charles Johnson pretty much sold out. 

But since the return in 1997 everything is more professional. Our bestselling issue of all time is #51 and I believe that’s because of Patricia Storm’s dynamite cover art. Unfortunately, as indie life goes, our distributor Bernhard DeBoer folded, and we didn’t see a dime. 

We’ve been fortunate to publish work by--

Kathy Acker, Kim Addonizio, Elizabeth Alexander, Kwame Alexander, Sherman Alexie, Lucia Berlin, Nicole Blackman, T. Coraghessan Boyle, Ray Bradbury, Kate Braverman, Chandler Brossard, Pete Brown, Charles Bukowski, Alison Bundy, Mary Caponegro, Tom Carson, Nick Cave, Kelly Cherry, Maxine Clair, John Cooper Clarke, Susann Cokal, Wanda Coleman, Rita Dove, Rikki Ducornet, John Dufresne, Cornelius Eady, Russell Edson, Larry Eigner, Elaine Equi, Eurydice, Lauren Fairbanks, Ed Falco, Roy Fisher, Thaisa Frank, Abby Frucht, Molly Gaudry, Roxane Gay, Amy Gerstler, Salena Godden, Jaimy Gordon, James Grady, Elizabeth Hand, Lola Haskins, Allison Hedge-Coke, Richard Hell, Essex Hemphill, Michael Horovitz, Dave Housley, Herbert E. Huncke, Lida Husik, Ted Joans, Joolz, George Kalamaras, Wayne Karlin, Pagan Kennedy, Bill Knott, Tuli Kupferberg, Fran Landesman, Louise Wareham Leonard, Elise Levine, William Levy, Susan Lewis, M.L. Liebler,

Trish MacEnulty, Mary Mackey, Nick Mamatas, Aoife Mannix, Sally Wen Mao, Ben Marcus, Michael Martone,

Carole Maso, Heather McHugh, Rick Moody, Thylias Moss, Daniel Mueller, Laura Mullen, Eileen Myles, Antonya Nelson, Naomi Shihab Nye, Lance Olson, Toby Olson, Leslie Pietrzyk, Deborah Pintonelli, Charles Plymell, Dorothy Porter, Nani Power, Holly Prado, Minnie Bruce Pratt, Kate Pullinger, Joseph M. Queenan, Margaret Randall, Jeremy Reed, Kit Reed, Doug Rice, Lou Robinson, Miriam Sagan, Leslie Scalapino, Lynda Schor, Gregg Shapiro, Aurelie Sheehan, Lewis Shiner, Julia Slavin, Amber Sparks, Marilyn Stablein, Emma Straub, Terese Svodboda, Gladys Swan, Elizabeth Tallent, Eleanor Ross Taylor, Alexander Theroux,  Venus Thrash, An Tran, Lee Upton, Janine Pommy Vega, Rosmarie Waldrop, Afaa M. Weaver, Tim Wendel, ruth weiss, Paul West, Michael Wilding, Diane Williams, Lidia Yuknavitch, Mary Kay Zuravleff, and tons more. 

The growth of the mag was interesting. We went from local DC poets (new and old), to gathering poets and writers from our summer trips, to magazines and books we traded,

and people we met at festivals, to international, and both audience and contributors grew by accretion like a coral reef. Now you can do that online with a few clicks. My time teaching let me embrace my student’s work. 

Though in terms of Paycock Press, publishing 7 anthologies of fiction by DC area women writers might be the happiest I’ve been.  Overall 3,000pp by close to 300 local women. 

We published chapbooks early on but now have short story collections by Ramola D and Carmen Delzell due out by the end of 2021.

I also wanted to mention your feature on Carlo Parcelli. He’s a denizen of DC area used book shops like I am. We both worked in that biz for eons. We were actually in a class together in 1971 or so at the University of Maryland. He had a few books out by the time we actually met and Gretchen Johnsen and I interviewed him in Gargoyle 27 and later released a chapbook of his work entitled Fernparallelismus. He is an absolutely unique personality and voice.

BE:  Any musings about the state of publishing today?

RP: We all need an in-house IT.

I’m not a techie by any stretch of the imagination. I learned layout and design and became an expert hot waxer. When the first computer systems appeared they gave me one continuous line of print, that had to be cut and pasted. Almost impossible to imagine now, when you can take a file into a shop and have the OPUS print on demand machine spit a book out the other end. 

That said, I’m very happy that the indie world is embracing letter press once again. Though it saddens me that the reason the equipment is available is because other publishers are retiring ad selling it off. I miss the days when Coffeehouse was Toothpaste Press, when McPherson and Co. was Treacle Press.  Different world.

I rode Amtrak to Chicago for AWP in 2004. Lucinda and I (we co-owned Atticus Books & Music in DC from 1995-2000) both had Want Lists a mile long. Amazon appeared and books I’d been trying to find for a decade or more were a click away. That changed the entire business. I ate dinner on the train and wound up in a bizarre conversation with a bunch of 

suits, all of whom ran a business of some sort. Not my cuppa. I told them the impact that was coming and what it would do to the book biz and they asked me a ton of questions. Probably

venture capitalists all. But damn, who could have predicted that it would wipe out so many bookshops.

I used to say that the poetry world was divided into three layers—Slam/Spoken Word, Print, and online. Not a lot of crossover 20 years ago. Much more now. Been online Zooming for a year and a half. Never saw that one coming, either. 

My oldest daughter is studying for a business degree. She tells me it’s all about how you present now. Your Brand, Platforms, Targeting, Tik Tok videos, Tweets, getting likes on Good Reads, Amazon reviews.  I never signed on to be an actor or do commercials. I just want to write. Changes come more and more rapidly. Even blogs seem old fashioned now.

Relics like CDs. 

So, I’m a dinosaur. Unsure whether I’ll take the mag online only or bag it entirely. I have two complete print issues in the can for publication later this year. I have 3-4 Paycock Press books in various stages of publication.

Climate Change, COVID, and GOP idiocy, aren’t making this any easier. Part of me just wants to slide on out writing my own stuff. Happy Trails, ya know?