Saturday, October 30, 2021

SMALL PRESS HISTORY 11: Dave Oliphant and Prickly Pear Press 1973-1999

Dave Oliphant was born in Fort Worth, Texas. He earned his BA from Lamar University, his MA from the University of Texas at Austin, and his PhD from Northern Illinois University. He is the author of numerous collections of poetry including Maria’s Poems (1987), which won an Austin Book Award; Memories of Texas Towns & Cities (2000); Backtracking (2004); KD a Jazz Biography (2012), a book entirely in rhyming quatrains; The Pilgrimage: Selected Poems, 1962-2012 (2013); The Cowtown Circle (2014); and Maria's Book (2016).

Oliphant has translated Chilean poets such as Enrique Lihn, Oliver Welden, and Nicanor Parra. His work as a translator includes Lihn’s Figures of Speech (1999; revised and expanded 2016); Love Hound (2006), his version of Welden's Perro de amor, which won the 2007 New York Book Festival poetry award; and Parra's Discursos de sobremesa, as After-Dinner Declarations (2011), which won the Texas Institute of Letters' Soeurette Diehl Fraser Translation Book Award.

He has edited three anthologies of Texas poets, including a bilingual English-Spanish anthology, Washing the Cow's Skull / Lavando la calavera de vaca(1981). His critical writings have been collected in two volumes: On a High Horse (1983) and Generations of Texas Poets (2015). Oliphant is also author of three studies of jazz: Texan Jazz (1996); The Early Swing Era, 1930 to 1941(2002); and Jazz Mavericks of the Lone Star State (2007).

Oliphant worked at the University of Texas at Austin in various roles for 30 years until his retirement in 2006.

Be:  Did your press/authors win any awards for the books you published?

DO:  My own book, Maria's Poems, won the Austin Book Award in 1987. Washing the Cow's Skull anthology won a Border Regional Library Association award in 1981. Charles Behlen won a Dobie Paisano award but that was not for a specific book. William Barney had won two Texas Institute of Letters awards for poetry in the 1950s, before Prickly Pear published his Selected Poems, The Killdeer Crying. That book did win a book design award from Texas Books in Review in 1977. I got grants from the Texas Commission for the Arts for quite a few of the books, as well as for the tape recordings. The last book was Roundup: An Anthology of Texas Poets From 1973 to 1998 (1999). 

Be:  Any interesting stories about the press?

DO:  In 1973 when I published The New Breed, I collated the pages of the 200-page anthology in the basement of our rented duplex in Malta, Illinois, and I finished the collation and moved the 200 copies of the unbound book to the ground floor. The next night a tornado hit the town and knocked out the power. In the morning we discovered that the basement was flooded because the sump pump could not come on and keep out the ground water. Had I not finished the collation and moved the books to the ground floor, the anthology would not have survived and I was too poor as a grad student to have started over. The anthology represented a new generation of Texas poets and had the effect of introducing the poets to one another and to a beginning readership for native and longtime resident Texas poets. 

Be: How did you choose your authors?

DO: My aim all along was to support the state's new poets, but in the two subsequent anthologies I included the older generation of Barney, Vassar Miller, William Burford, et al. I was interested also in finding the new ethnic voices, like Ray Gonzalez of El Paso, Rebecca Gonzales, Harriette Mullen, and Naomi Shihab Nye. I tended to publish poets' first books, but also did a second book of Joseph Colin Murphey and a mini-anthology of three poets whose work I had already published in book form: Behlen, Murphey, and Sandra Lynn. I was particularly proud of the bilingual anthology, which was purchased by the U.S. State Department and distributed in the libraries in Latin America. Recently I heard from two poets in Chile who at the time had obtained copies of the book through the U.S. Embassy.

Be: How do you feel about the state of publishing today?

DO:   I read stuff online that has cost the writers no real effort whatsoever. They have not paid their dues by reading widely and deeply in works that challenge their minds and hearts. Their writing is totally egocentric. I am proud of the poets published by Prickly Pear because their work had first appeared in reputable magazines and had impressed and moved me over time. For me and others it continues to please and reward with each rereading.

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

GAS Featured Poet: Ace Boggess


Ace Boggess is author of six books of poetry, most recently Escape Envy (Brick Road Poetry Press, 2021). His poems have appeared in Michigan Quarterly Review, Harvard Review, Notre Dame Review, North Dakota Quarterly, and other journals. An ex-con, he lives in Charleston, West Virginia, where he writes and tries to stay out of trouble.

“How Will We Know When It’s Over?”


                               [question asked by Pat Eskins]  



When circling buzzards cease to swarm

          above empty dining halls & bars

along the gray city’s gray, blank streets;


when masks fall without animosity 

          into the art of a next historic movement

recorded on cell phones instead of canvas;


when passersby on the sidewalk no longer wince 

          at muted rumbles of a dry cough

(could it be so?);


when music returns, & bands slapping

          their funky sounds from instruments,

a live mic before an audience; 


when there is dancing—slow-dancing,

          feverish, frantic, feet-burning-

the-dancefloor dancing, wild & pagan; 


when scientists have finished their rite

          of communion

converting the masses to a safe religion;


when men & men & women & women whisper

          across the recently silent sheets

that love is the great contagion—


we will say Ah ha! as though we found time

          frozen underground & cloned it

from cells of its still-sweet marrow,


loosed its replica, saying Resume, life! Resume, 

          customer service! Resume, companionship!

pretending all is well as if all is well.

“Who Will We Be When We Take Off Our Masks?”


                               [question asked by Karen Van Kirk]  



Alive, a word that comes to mind,

but what about the secret face

laughing, sardonic, for months?

No one observed our expressed derision,

except as eyes tell stories—

some loud as if in neon,

others mutterings of a mountain saint. 

There we were with our judgments,

mocking through a veil like brides

plotting arsenic for their husbands’ wine.


Can we return to the rictus of a smile,

the straight lips of no revelations?

We must retrain our muscles

lest we resemble monsters,

the world so full of monsters

as to be a monster dormitory.

Alive means brutal self-

fulfillment. Our smiles always were

the lie we told to others for their ease.


Sunday, October 24, 2021

SMALL PRESS HISTORY 10: Chuck Taylor and Slough Press, 1973-Present

Chuck Taylor, PhD, won the Austin Book Award for his work, What Do You Want, Blood? He worked as a poet--in-residence for the City of Salt Lake, in the poets-in-the schools program, and was a part-owner of Paperback Plus in Austin, operated Slough Press since 1973, and taught creative writing at Texas A&M/College Station, serving as its coordinator. He has published novels, books of poetry, story collections and memoirs. His two most recent books are a memoir called I tried to Be Free, and Being Beat, a book of poems, both from Hercules Press in Albuquerque, New Mexico. You can see some of his artwork here.

Be: There was a strong Chicano movement going on around the time you started the press and you seemed to concentrate on publishing Chicano and ethic literature.  Did you start the press to specifically promote the under-represented?

CT: Yes I wanted to publish the marginalized, but in Texas but I found it hard to do.  I didn't have a car, was raising kids, and was broke much of the time I had the press.  Thank the muses later for grants from the Texas Arts Commission and from the Austin Book Award. Those institutions made it possible for me to publish books but what they liked was more middle ground. The Chicano movement, its first phase, was beginning to fade by 1975, in terms of media coverage. I read a lot of the writers and taught them in my classes at Angelo State from 1969-73. 

Be: Slough started out as a magazine but after two issues you went to books only.  What was the deciding factor to do only books?

CT:  Magazines have a short shelf life. They are time based. Books have a much longer shelf life.  Yet it takes just as much work to do a magazine as a book. 

Be: Makes sense. Plus you can sometimes get grants for books?

CT:  Yes, it is much harder to get grants for magazines.  I don't think the Texas Arts Commission is giving out money for books anymore. The Austin Book Award is gone. I tried for an NEA once. When I didn't get it the writers were pissed at me, even though I told them publishing depends on a grant.

 Be:  I gather the press name continues because of others but I was wondering when you stopped being part of it. Also, does the press actively look for people to publish?  Is Chris Carmona actively in charge now?

CT:  Chris assures me he will be doing books soon. The last book I put out was in 2015. I am 78 now and plan to focus my remaining years on my own work.

Be: What were some of the accomplishments of the press that you’re most proud of?

CT: Pat Littledog’s Afoot in a Field of Men won the Austin Book Award in 1981. Later it was picked up by Atlantic Monthly and received a review in Time Magazine. Slough Press republished it in 2015. Pat got her MA in creative writing from UTEP, received an NEA Fellowship and was a Dobie-Paisano fellow.

I got a grant to publish Marion Winik's Boy Crazy, her first fiction title. Her second book, a memoir called Telling, is the book that brought her fame.  (Marion Winik is a journalist and author, best known for her work on NPR's All Things Considered.)

A few others we published: Sheryl St. Germaine, from Lousiana, Ken Fontenot also from Louisiana, Octavio Quintaanilla (who was San Antonio poet laureate), Jerry Craven. Fred Asnes and Dan Durham and of course Ricardo Sanchez have passed away. About 50 books total.

Be:  Do you have any stories to relay about Ricardo Sanchez?  He was brought to my house when I was working on the El Paso Literary Festival, early 90s.  Not long after that I heard he had stomach cancer. (The poet Maya Angelou described his work: “Ricardo Sanchez is like any great poet. He’s at once a preacher, a teacher, a priest, a rabbi. He’s a guru, he’s a master...”)

Ricardo Sanchez

CT:  Ricardo and I hung out a lot.  By accident, he was in El Paso when I was in El Paso, and then he was in Salt Lake City when I was in Salt Lake, and then he was in Austin when I was in Austin. When he was really down and out Ricardo and his family lived in the basement of our bookstore, Paperbacks Plus. Later, he opened with our main supporter Paperbacks Y Mas in San Antonio. I also published Jose Montalvo, who sadly died of cancer. One writer I published killed himself.  Ricardo and I got to know each other's families.  I hung with him some in bars.  The first time I met him was at an artistic bar in downtown El Paso called Tire Biters.  He came in to read with maybe eight Brown Berets with him.  Since Slough Press is now mostly located in the valley it has published more Latinx texts, thanks to Chris Carmona.

Be: Any comments on the state of publishing today?  

CT:  For independent presses focusing on the literary, it has never been easy. Thanks to POD, better looking books that may include photographs can be done well and inexpensively. Thanks to POD, one does not have to pay state, local, and federal taxes on unsold inventory because there isn't any. Slough Press is the oldest operating small press in Texas. Writers you publish often become friends. Publishing brings unexpected gifts to treasure a lifetime. I'll never forget when a check came from B. Dalton Books (now gone) that allowed me to pay my overdue rent. We had great celebratory parties, one in Kern Place in El Paso for collating, another on N. Oregon at Hal Marcus' gallery-home to sell copies.

Sunday, October 17, 2021

GAS Featured Poet: Joseph Howard Tyson III

Joseph Howard Tyson III graduated from LaSalle University with a B.A. in Philosophy, took graduate courses in English at Pennsylvania State University, then served in the U. S. Marine Corps.  He lives in a Philadelphia suburb, and works for the insurance industry.  Besides historical non-fiction articles published in Schuylkill Valley Journal, New England Genealogical & Historical Society, Southern Cross Review, and other publications, he has written eight books:  Penn’s Luminous City (2005,) Madame Blavatsky Revisited (2006,) Hitler’s Mentor:  Dietrich Eckart (2008,) The Surreal Reich (2010,) World War II Leaders (2011,) Fifty-Seven Years of Russian Madness (2015,) Notable Reprobates (2019,) and Astrology:  Its Worldview and Implications (2021.)  

Jug Wine Aficionado

I’m a votary of Bacchus:

Somewhere between a connoisseur and wino,

Vaguely familiar with wine snobs’ 

Panegyrics to rare vintages:

Glorious attacks on the tongue,

Followed by delicious middles and finishes,

Hints of currants, apples, kiwis, pears,

Licorice, coffee, tobacco,

Peppers, almonds, kumquats…

(Somehow never grapes!)

From newspaper columns 

I’ve half-learned rituals

Of swirling vino in proper glasses,

Sniffing, sipping, slurping, chewing, gargling,

Yet still have an uncultivated sensibility--

Favoring cheap varietals

Like Chablis, Zinfandel, Moscato,

And those extracted from wild Indian grapes—

Niagara, Concord, Catawba…

Does that make me a wine slob?

After forty years of random bibbing,

Eight buck bottles of Chianti

Still taste like nectar,

While dry French Cabernets

Costing thirty dollars per liter

Pucker my mouth,

Go down plebeian palate

Like balsamic vinegar

Mixed with mouthwash.

Could that mean flawed perceptions:

Savoring cheap plonk,

But spurning prized elixirs?

And does such faulty judgment

Leak into other spheres of life,

Signifying bad taste 

In clothing, music, women, art, and cars? 

Monday, October 11, 2021

GAS Featured Poet: Ari Whipple

Ari Whipple (pronoun they) is a 36 year old writer from Muskegon, Michigan that has traveled all over the country from Grand Canyon to Death Valley to Seattle and back. Mostly, they spend their time watching the waves and writing poetry. They have a book of poetry out, Full of Now, and a novel, David Lynch is After Me.

Extraordinary Town

“Don’t cry,” she said. “Come out with me.”

So I resigned myself because I had nothing better to do

and I trudged around a

store with a bunch of midwestern

people looking to buy

bulk coconut oil and cakes

and ground beef and big screen TVs

and all some such other nonsense

and I felt a little better

and we drove down

through the heights and

I listened to my mom talk about

factories long gone and

old Mexican night clubs failed and

family members that were dead and

old habits and traditions of time long gone and

I felt even better

And then by the time I remembered my bad mood

We were at the lake and

We started seeing deer coming out in

groups of four and six getting ready to mate, apparently, shy

of cars and looking shiny from summer

What a day, I thought, what a day


“The confessional vulnerability in Ari Whipple’s first full-length collection of poems, Full of Now, leads readers on a journey of self-realization in a mindscape where reality may not always be what it seems. Full of Now weaves a powerful narrative from the perspective of an individual accepting their bipolar disorder. The poems ebb and flow between states of mania and depressive lows, reflecting the shifting nature of self-acceptance, diagnosis, and treatment often associated with the condition. The persona, through poetic storytelling, paints mental health battles metaphorically as manifestations of enraged ghosts, cacophonies of jangling bones, and nostalgic tales of a “world beyond” told by Mercury. Whipple’s collection acts as a painter’s dynamic canvas as the persona discovers their role in reality, reveling in being alive despite “the demand to keep moving these tiny souls inside us.” – Donny Winter, author of Carbon Footprint

“Donny Winter and I do a podcast together every week called Restitching the Tapestry that aims to educate, inform, and heal the social and political bonds created in our society. We talk about everything from creativity and expressions of that to social justice issues in their various forms to current events. We have all of season two plotted out. And we're beginning to plot out the beginning of season three here in a bit. I have a lot of fun bantering with Donny. I wouldn't do it for sixty episodes if we didn't enjoy ourselves.” 

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

SMALL PRESS HISTORY 9: Cheryl A. Townsend/Impetus/Implosion Press 1984-2004

BE:  Best I can recall, circa 1984, I received a chapbook from Planet Detroit with a sexy pic of you on the cover.  (Not too long after Planet Detroit did one of me.)  That was was my introduction to you and your poetry.  Seems like Impetus mag started around the same time as Gypsy and we exchanged mags on a regular basis.  When did you start publishing  and what was the “impetus” to do it?  How long did the mag and Implosion Press operate?


CAT: I started September of 1984 with a desire to give voice to those of us not appreciated in the academic presses, ..those like myself, who had an ax to grind on inequities. I liked what I was reading in so many micro-publications that I wanted to add to that voice with my own soapbox. I invited those that I enjoyed/admired and asked the zines I was trading with to start sending poets over that would fit my mission. It came into play so fast and easy that I was soon adding issues, broadsides and chapbooks. I started publishing a chapbook or broadside to go with each issue. Then I had to do special issues (Erotic-ah, Female only, Male only, Shorts In The Winter, The Impugn) We had a nice 20 year run and threw in a Best of Impetus anthology of the first 10 years. I started to slow down on the publishing when I opened my bookstore, but I did have a newsletter with an exquisite corpse added in. I was still working 35 hours at my paying job and 40-50 hours at the bookstore. It was a lot, but loved damn near every minute of it. 



BE:  What were some of the highlights of your mag/press days?  Who were some of the people you published, names we might recognize?  Roughly about how many issues of Impetus and how many chapbooks did you publish?


CAT: Nothing beats being told "You were the first person to ever publish me!" One such instance was when I went to hear Sherman Alexie talk at nearby Oberlin college and after he was done, he allowed people to come up to the stage for book signings. I handed him a couple Impetus that he was in and he looked at me, smiled wide, then stood up and announced to the audience "This is the first person to ever publish me!" 

I published 41 issues of Impetus, 50 chapbooks, dozen or so broadsides and the anthology. I also published a full-length book of fiction by Terry Persun and let a local author use Implosion Press as the source of his full-length book of poetry.



BE:  Seems like you had some theme issues, at least for chapbooks.  What were some of those?  Were some of them to raise money or awareness for causes?  If so, what were they?


CAT: I did 4 erotica issues, 6 female only and 3 male only issues. I did one impugn and one short story. I also did an issue on violence against women while volunteering at the local Rape Crisis Center, with 100% going to a local battered womens shelter. One Christmas at the bookstore, I had the local members of W.A.R.M. (the Women's Art Recognition Movement I started with KSU's Dr. Molly Merryman, head of Women's Studies) give me recipes/directions for something they enjoyed, whether cookies or a craft, that I published and again, donated all the money to a local shelter, (BTW, W.A.R.M. held fundraiser art exhibits that also donated proceeds to local shelters.) 


BE:  How did publishing impact your life?  I’m sure you made a lot of great friends and I heard you had a bookstore for awhile.

CAT: I've made so many long-lasting friendships through Impetus that I continue to be blessed by it. It showed me that the word is still a very mighty weapon to yield. The readings I was part of or hosted added in. (For a span there, I was hosting a poetry reading every Friday of the month at various locations, starting with Borders Books and Music, where I was blessed to host Rita Dove and Jack Micheline, amongst the many other talents.) 

Cheryl in her bookstore

Yes, the bookstore was the icing on the literary cake for me. I wanted a space that showcased small press publications and that's what I strived for. I had it just under 5 years before the city decided it wanted to be less grass-roots and demolished my block to put in franchise shit. It was the best time of my life. People stopping in, talking books, hosting readings and art openings. Bliss! One special moment was when I just arrived to open after working my morning job and saw someone walking towards me.. I immediately recognized him as Ed Sanders. He told me "I heard about your bookstore and wanted to check it out for myself." WOW! I also had Diane di Prima in for a visit while she was in town. Jack Micheline read there. Book signings were fun, but the readings always brought in the most people. Some of the bands that played there also did good, but nothing beat the readings. I did one offsite at a coffeehouse that brought them in from around the country. The ones at my bookstore did well, too. Kind of an East meets West at cat's. I had a backroom area that had a frig, stocked with beer and such, a table with chairs, a typewriter with paper (usually) and roaming space where the poets would gather to talk and get high. I've had them sleeping on the floor when too drunk/stoned to go elsewhere. 

One funny art opening I have to mention... we had a series of art nights, where several models would pose nude for a group of artists and photographers, and then we held an art opening of their favorite pieces. On one of the openings, two of the models stripped naked and went the rest of the night as such. 

The bookstore was in an alleyway that was fronted with a barbershop, then seamstress, cat's Books, then a hand carwash. Above the barbershop was an apartment housing a couple artists that later was rented by a local band. It was always entertaining.


BE:  Any musings or advice on poetry publishing today?  Do you still write and submit?

CAT: I'm happy to see some of the ones from our era still putting the issues out (Abbey, Slipstream, for instance) and some starting back up again. I'm so tempted to start the gears grinding again myself, but too involved in gardening to go there again. But still, when I go to a reading a hear an exceptional poem, I always think...Damn, I want to publish that!

Advice? Don't do it for the money. Don't do it for the names. Don't do it for your own vanity.

Do I still write? Not often enough. Several long-term poetry pals keep at me to do so and maybe I will, soon. I have sent out a few of what I have written and it's always a rush to see one's name in print somewhere, but I've gone a different route than the one that started me off. I'm just as pissed at the inequities, but think there is a gentler way to address them. I hope that's maturity and not laissez faire. I've found peace in my own backyard and like staying there. Hermitage has infused my soul and I seldom venture far.

I miss going to readings and will start attending once I feel safe enough to be in a crowd again. This pandemic has really made it too easy for me to become reclusive, so I have to force myself to attend things. I don't like idle chitchat and the political division has made that a potential Pandora's Box. Still, I miss it. I do have a monthly bookclub of women who meet here at my house and we even get around to discussing the book, tho usually not for long. Life is volatile enough, it doesn't need my angst.