Friday, January 12, 2007

Subtext Collective

At the invitation of guest curator Curtis Bonney, Maxine Chernoff and I recently returned from a trip to Seattle to read in the Subtext series at the Richard Hugo House. The hall was full and we enjoyed both the reading and the visit with Curtis, his wife Sonnet, who teaches at UW, and their daughter Ava. Seattle has always been known as a book town, so we checked out Elliott Bay Bookstore, where they have lots of good poetry in English translation--I found three different selected poems of Akhmatova and bought the edition translated by Judith Hemschemeyer--but a surprising, almost programmatic lack of works by those of the innovative camp. All I could find was a single volume each by Jean Day and Susan Howe. Unfortunately, we didn't make it to Seattle's only all-poetry bookstore, Open Books, because it was closed at the time. But we did meet the owners, John Marshall and Christine Deaver, on the night of the reading. The store apparently doesn't trade online, but the link is

The Subtext Collective first came together in 1994-1995 due to the efforts of Nico Vassilakis, co-editor of Sub Rosa Press, and Ezra Mark, editor of Vortext Press. Its advisory board now also includes Jeanne Heuving, Bryant Mason, Robert Mittenthal, C.E. Putnam, and in the summer months, Joseph Donahue.

Had the pleasure of meeting John and Roberta Olson for the first time, after much experience of reading and publishing John's work in New American Writing. Also ran into Doug Nufer, who said he was once mistaken for me on a Nufer/Hoover soundalike basis. Three poets including Lindsay Hill drove all the way from Portland to attend the reading: four hours on a cold, wet day. It was nice to meet Lindsay after having published a sizeable portion of his book-length work Contango. Good conversation with Jeanne Heuving and Bryant Mason, who stayed late at the party. Jeanne is working on a study relating to love and beloved form in Pound, H.D., Duncan, and others. Bryant is employed by Microsoft, located on the other side of Lake Washington, a worker in code both day and night. And aren't we all. . .

When reading in Seattle, it's also possible to investigate the Spare Room series in Portland, run by a collective consisting of David Abel, Maryrose Larkin, Mark Owens, Chris Piuma, and Lindsay Hill.

Sarah Mangold, who edits Bird Dog and studied with Myung Mi Kim at SFSU, gave us a copy of its latest issue, the 8th: work by Elizabeth Treadwell, Joshua Beckman, Curtis Bonney, Tomaz Salamun, Kevin Magee, Jennifer Karmin, Sheila Murphy & Michelle Greenblatt, Chad Sweeney, Roberta Olson, and others, as well as a series of color collages by Chad Horn and Nico's long work on grid, "The Text Develops and Loses Time in the Reading of It." The cover of this issue reminds me of some early issues of OINK! except that Bird Dog is more professionally printed and designed. To save money in the early 70s, we used blank ink on colored paper and printed the issues ourselves on an A.B. Dick table-top offset press. Nobody in the apartment below ours ever complained. The major lesson we learned as printers was never to print in high humidity (unless you have air-conditioning and of course we didn't). Our double issue OINK! 9/10 had a photo of a tattooed man's man that I got from a tattoo parlor on Belmont Avenue, when only one parlor existed on the entire North Side. Placed all three prime colors in the ink tray, which blended to create a few more in the printing process. Our process was "stank" and therefore, it seems now, something like the real thing. Had to scratch my head when, out photographing gravestones, I discovered A. B. Dick's gravesite in a little cemetery along Sheridan Road, between Chicago and Evanston.