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Against the Grain

Interviews with Maverick American Publishers

Robert Dana

Publication Year: 2009

Against the Grain is a collection of interviews with nine small press publishers, each one characterized by strength of resolve and a dedication to good books. Each press reflects, perhaps more directly than any large trade publisher could, the character of its founder; and each has earned its own place in the select group of important small presses in America.

This collection is the first of its kind to explore with the publishers themselves the historical, aesthetic, practical, and personal impulses behind literary publishing. The publishers included are Harry Duncan (the Cummington Press), Lawrence Ferlinghetti (City Lights), David Godine (David R. Godine), Daniel Halpern (the Ecco Press), Sam Hamill and Tree Swenson (Copper Canyon Press), James Laughlin (New Directions), John Martin (Black Sparrow), and Jonathan Williams (the Jargon Society). Their passion for books, their belief in their individual visions of what publishing is or could be, their inspired mulishness crackle on the page.

Published by: University of Iowa Press


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-x

In addition to my wife, Peg, for her unflagging support, and K. K. Merker, who launched the idea, thanks are due to Cornell College for half a dozen summers of faculty development grants, which supplied not only moral support but transcription, typing, typewriter ribbons, word-processing discs, gasoline, and plane tickets for interviewing trips; to my teaching colleagues...

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pp. xi-xix

"Rise like a rocket. Fall like a stick." Harry Duncan looked up at me from the composing stick in which he was arranging, one letter at a time, the words of a poem. I remember the frank look in his green eyes as he said this, the soft, aphoristic, absolutely certain, New England ring of his speech. It was probably the first, and the only, wisdom ever offered me...

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James Laughlin

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pp. 1-41

Dedicated to the work ofthe avant-garde, and with the help ofhis authors--mainly Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Kenneth Rexroth--New Directions built a broad list. It came to include many ofthe important writers ofthe twentieth century: Henry Miller, Nathanael West, Hermann Hesse, Dylan...

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Harry Duncan

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pp. 43-86

Harry Duncan founded the Cummington Press in 1939 at the Cummington School of the Arts in Massachusetts. Some ofits early authors were Allen Tate, R. P. Blackmur, Wallace Stevens, Richard Eberhart, William Carlos Williams, and Robert Lowell. By the mid-1950s, the Cummington Press was the most important small fine-book...

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Lawrence Ferlinghetti

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pp. 87-112

Lawrence Ferlinghetti, in a brief partnership with Peter Martin, founded City Lights bookstore and publishing company in San Francisco in 1953. The publication of Allen Ginsberg's Howl, and the trial of City Lights on obscenity charges, resulted in a landmark judicial ruling...

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John Martin

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pp. 113-150

Operating presently from his Santa Barbara house, garage, and what was formerly the pool house, Martin continues, stubbornly independent of commercial literary trends. Black Sparrow's list includes not only Bukowski, but Paul Bowles, Robert Creeley, Clayton Eshleman, John Fante, Paul Goodman, Robert Kelly, and Diane Wakoski....

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Daniel Halpern

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pp. 151-164

The Ecco Press has quickly distinguished itselfas one of America's premier small publishing houses, and its Neglected Books of the Twentieth Century series has kept in print important literary works which would otherwise be lost to interested readers....

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Tree Swenson and Sam Hamill

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pp. 165-185

Copper Canyon Press began as a collective in Denver, Colorado, in the fall of 1972. Two years later, it emerged as a partnership between poet Sam Hamill and book designer Tree Swenson and moved to its present location in a mothballed military barracks at Centrum, on the grounds ofold Fort Worden in Port Townsend, Washington....

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Jonathan Williams

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pp. 187-226

Jonathan Williams is part poet and graphic artist, part printer and publisher. He is also part yarn-spinner, a respecter ofthe "homemade," and among small publishers, a genuine American exotic. His press, the Jargon Society, has been an important presence on the margins of American letters for thirty-five years. In his own words...

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David Godine

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pp. 227-258

David R. Godine issued its first books in 1970, mostly handsome printings of classics like Whitman's Specimen Days and The Collected Songs of Thomas Campion, and museum books like The Sculpture of Rodin. Policy, however, quickly shifted Godine's emphasis to...

E-ISBN-13: 9781587298943
E-ISBN-10: 1587298945
Print-ISBN-13: 9781587298271
Print-ISBN-10: 1587298279

Page Count: 280
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: paper