Monday, May 31, 2010
by Erik La Prade
Soon after we moved into the building and the first floor was operational, Andreas Brown began to decorate the place with photographs and Gorey prints. He wanted to create an aesthetic as he would say. So, the familiar faces of famous or once famous and now unread writers were hung on the walls of the new Gotham Book Mart. On the first floor, by the pillar next to the cash register, above Michelle’s desk was a large, high school photograph of John Updike and below him was a large photograph of Gertrude Stein by Carl Van Vechten. The photographs would go up as they were found, taken out of the boxes and chosen to be displayed in a prominent place.
The large poster-sized photographs have been hung on the wall above the stairway. As customers ascended to the second floor, they would find themselves standing next to a wall of large, wooden framed images. But in order to see them properly, they would have to step away from the wall about ten feet, and then they could get a clear view of who was hanging there.
The largest photo is the famous group shot taken in the back room of the old Gotham Book store in November 9, 1948. It was a party for Dame Edith and Sir Osbert Sitwell. The story according to Ms. Steloff’s version is “one day during the summer of 1948, Charles (Henri Ford), came in and announced that Edith Sitwell and her brother Osbert were coming to America for a series of readings. In the same breath he asked, “Why don’t you have a tea for her?”
“Oh,” I said, “she would have far more important engagements than coming here for tea.”
But Charles insisted. “She’d love it, and why don’t you invite her?” So, Ms. Steloff sent her a letter and the rest is history. Amusingly, Life magazine sent a photographer and “picked the people who were to be in its photographs, and some of those who were left out.” The ones left out were William Carlos Williams, William Saroyan and Alfred Kreymborg. I’ve also heard the story that John Berryman wasn’t speaking to Randall Jarrell at the time and ended up going to a bar instead of getting into the picture. Why isn’t Ms. Steloff in this photograph? Is it because she didn’t write poetry and didn’t feel she belonged in the picture? It was her bookstore. She should have been included in this group picture.
Andreas Brown liked to tell the story of how Ford tried to get Gore Vidal thrown out of the photograph by claiming Vidal wasn’t a poet. But Brown defends Vidal and says he had written poetry when he was about nineteen years old. I’ve never read any of Vidal poetry if it has ever been published but by the time this photograph was taken, Vidal would have written three published novels, and this achievement alone, by someone younger than Ford would have been enough to make Ford extremely envious.
In fact, I once showed a copy of this photograph to Ford and asked him about it. He immediately related the story of how he tried to get Vidal thrown out of the shot by saying to him, “You can’t be a poet, you have beautiful legs!”
Apparently, Vidal was insulted by this remark and wanted to punch Ford, but whether he did or not, I’ve never been able to find out. Obliviously, Ford’s comment didn’t work since Vidal is in the shot. But Ford’s comment to Vidal has a curious origin. It was originally said to Djuna Barnes by Gertrude Stein. In Phillip Herring biography of Barnes, the incident occurred in the early 1930s. Herring relates how when Barnes was visiting Stein, during the course of the visit, Stein said to her, “You can’t be a writer, you have beautiful legs.” Insulted, Barnes left and went home to her apartment she shared with Ford at the time and she related what Stein had said to her. Since Ford had the memory of elephant, it’s the kind of comment he would have cherished and used again and again. Certainly, the kind of thing he would have said to Vidal in an attempt to piss him off. So, here’s a footnote of how gossip becomes literary history; from Stein to Barnes to Ford to Vidal in the Gotham Book Mart in New York.
Customers enjoyed looking at and commenting upon this photograph. Generally, they would stand in front of it and try to identify who the writers were. Of course, I’d stand nearby, watching them. Sometimes I’d tell them how only one writer was still alive and if they could guess who it was, they’d get a free drink.
Surprisingly, some people would guess it was Vidal, while at other times they would pick Delmore Schwartz. Originally, when we moved into the new building, there were two writers in the photograph who were still living: Richard Eberhart and Vidal. But Eberhart died about a year after we moved in, so that leaves Vidal as the lone survivor.
After studying the group photograph, customers would then peruse the other large pictures showing scenes from famous GBM book signings. Strangely, these other photographs included Ms. Steloff standing with the writer, whether it’s Cocteau, 1948, or Anais Nin, 1968, or Dylan Thomas, 1952. In another version of the Thomas photograph, there is a glass of beer on the table and sitting next to Thomas is John Malcolm Brinnin. In the large poster photograph, Brinnin has been cropped out.
When business was slow, I would sometimes study the group photograph. I found it curious that Elizabeth Bishop has one glove on (her left hand) and one glove off, (her right hand), whereas, Marianne Moore is holding both of her gloves in her lap. Bishop looks away from the camera as does Marya Zaturenska, who sits on the opposite side of the room. What are they looking at? A book or a customer, or were they wishing it was over? Of course, Ford is smiling, happy as a pig in shit because he’s the center of attention, sitting at the feet of the Sitwells, whose poetry he didn’t much care for then. Who reads them now?
"MEDITATIONS ON A PHOTOGRAPH" is an excerpt from Erik La Prade's forthcoming memoir on working at Andreas Brown's Gotham Book Mart, published here by permission of the author.
BREAKING THROUGH, released earlier this year in March from MidMarch Arts Press, is engrossing history of Richard (Dick) Bellamy's Green Gallery conducted through interviews by La Prade with Alfred Leslie, Mark di Suvero, Philip Wofford, Mimi Gross, Claes Oldenburg, Tadaaki Kuwayama, Rakuko Naito, Pat Passlof, Richard Smith, Sally Hazelet Drummond, Lucas Samaras, Wolf Kahn, Emily Mason, Hanford Yang, James Rosenquist, Frank Stella, Charlotte Bellamy, Jeannie Blake, Sam Green, Virginia Dwan, Paula Cooper, Robert Morris and Richard Bellamy. It includes an introductory essay, limited illustrations, and a chronology of exhibitions at the Green Gallery.
FDC: How did you get started conducting these interviews?
ELP: I just liked writing about certain artists. The editor of a magazine said I could have a page in their magazine and write about anything. I wanted to. So, I did.
FDC: How did you get to meet the players?
ELP: I originally met Richard Bellamy because I went to interview him regarding an artist he showed in The Green Gallery in 1963. I was planning to write about Larry Poons at the time, 1998, so I met Bellamy in January 1998. Strangely, Bellamy died in March 1998.
FDC: Over what period did you conduct the interviews?
ELP: I conducted these interviews over a three-year period. Most of them were done by telephone. I only met about 8 artists in person.
FDC: Who was the most intriguing of all the people you interviewed for the book? Were there any suprises?
ELP: They were all intriguing. Emily Mason surprised me by being so candid about how hard or impossible it was for women to get shown during this period. Not only that, but since women artists wanted a career and money was tight, they generally opted to not have children or just had abortions. Many women artists were locked into a position that they found very frustrating.
Bellamy was elusive. He generally didn’t want to be in the spotlight at all. I suspect, if I had wanted to interview him personally, he would not have done so.
FDC: BREAKING THROUGH just came out this year, at the beginning of 2010, 45 years after The Green Gallery closed. Is it still relevant 45 years later?
ELP: The Green Gallery set a standard for exhibiting unknown artists who created new works. The example of the gallery is still relevant because it offers a model of a gallery focused on new and unknown artists; it’s just a matter of finding them.
FDC: How has the New York City gallery scene changed in 45 years? What is the current relationship between the artists and gallery owners. You mention in your introduction about Castelli introducing 50% commission on sales and the growing gallery expenses, also $ side of galleries and the competition between them for artists.
ELP: The emphasis seems to be more and more on money and names and creating a buzz. I can’t say what the current relationships between artists and gallery dealers are since it is so varied.
FDC: Is there a place for co-op galleries? Are there any "art saints" today?
ELP: Co-op galleries are good introductions to the commercial art world as Alfred Leslie talks about in his interview. I don’t know if there are any “art saints” around today.
FDC: What your next project? Is there anything special you are working on now that you would like to tell us about?
ELP: I am currently editing a memoir on working in Gotham Book Mart. Plus, a collection of poems.
Richard Bellamy and The Green Gallery, 1960-196523
Interviews by Erik La Prade
Soft Cover - Perfect Bound - 215pp.
MidMarch Arts Press
Release Date: March 2010
Now available at Ursus Books on Madison Avenue, Spoonbill & Sugartown Bookseller in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn, and St. Marks Bookstore in the East Village, or online from Specific Object (http://www.specificobject.com/objects/info.cfm?inventory_id=14676).
Sunday, May 16, 2010
by Ben Mazer
"Ben Mazer is lyric poetry's true hero and has not compromised one iota, as his amazing works attest with their singular purity, beauty and heartbreak."
"Like fragments of old photographs happened on in a drawer, Ben Mazer's poems tap enigmatic bits of the past that suddenly come to life again. To read him is to follow him along a dreamlike corridor where everything is beautiful and nothing is as it seems."
"Ben Mazer is one of the few poets of his generation to understand that only mastery of craft will bring you to the natural breath, and that to sing memorably in verse, with the body, on the line, is the only way to sound the depths of the passing moment."
"I am a great admirer of Ben Mazer's poetry."About the author
Ben Mazer's poems appear frequently in international periodicals, including Fulcrum, Harvard Review, Salt, Verse, Jacket, Boston Review, Agenda, and The Wolf. His previous full-length collection is White Cities (Barbara Matteau Editions, 1995), and he is also the author of January 2008 (Dark Sky Books, 2010), which is published simultaneously with this volume. His chapbooks include Johanna Poems (Cy Gist Press, 2007) and The Foundations of Poetry Mathematics (Cannibal Books, 2008). He is the editor of Selected Poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman (Harvard University Press, 2010), Everything Preserved: Poems 1955-2005 by Landis Everson (Graywolf Press, 2006), and a forthcoming edition of the poetry and prose of John Crowe Ransom.
by Ben Mazer
“A surge of poems in the aftermath of a friend’s sudden death, recalling Emily Dickinson’s ‘After great sadness a formal feeling comes.’ And indeed the formality here is in the nature of a deliverance. Not so easy: the echoes rage and multiply, rhymes (better/ water/ patter) knock about and sometimes screech, big-time history pales or looks cheap compared to simpler intimacies — and sometimes a moon-like ‘she’ appears to cast much-needed receptivity every which way. The poems are all necessity, ‘a frozen crystal spectrum magnified,’ a procession.”
— Bill Berkson, author of Portrait and Dream
“Ben Mazer’s January 2008 reads like pages ripped from an ingenious madman’s most personal journal, like love letters never sent — in other words like unbridled passion penned in the flame of a moment and not meant for any eyes but the writer’s own. Here intense confessional lines seduce us into a universe of surreal grotesque, where satin monkeys keep company alongside Frankenstein and movie stars from the golden age of cinema appear nonchalantly alongside Dante’s Beatrice in Mazer’s testament to love, loss, and most importantly, to poetry.”
— Katy Henriksen, publisher of Cannibal Books
Fly By Night Press, 2009
~About the Author~
Valery Oisteanu is a writer and artist with international flavor. Born in Russia (1943) and educated in Romania. He adopted Dada and Surrealism as a philosophy of art and life. Immigrating to New York City in 1972, he has been writing in English for the past 37 years. He is the author of 11 books of poetry, a book of short fiction and a book of essays: The AVANT-GODS. A new collection of poetry Perks in Purgatory from Fly by Night Press was recently leased at the end of 2009. For the past 10 years he has been a columnist at New York Arts Magazine and art critic for, Brooklyn Rail and http://www.artnet.com/ . He is also a contributing editor at http://www.artscape/ and contributing writer for French, Spanish & Romanian art and literary magazines (La Page Blanche, Art.es, Viata Romaneasca, Observatorul Cultural, Contemporanul, Romania Literara, etc.) As a performer Valery Oisteanu is well known to downtown NYC audiences. He is always well received in theaters and clubs specializing in poetry and music where he presents original Zen Dada multi-media show in his unmistakable style of “Jazzoetry.”
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Welcome, friends, to Gulper Eel, the Internet’s new refuge for offbeat journalism, fiction, poetry and art. Read the Manifesto; gorge upon our features, our fiction, our poetry, our Mezzotints; join the conversation by leaving your thoughts... And then submit (your work, if not your soul.)
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Gulper Eel comes in Wakes. The line-up for Wake 1 "Benthos & Belles-Lettres" is listed below.
In the words of Eugene Jolas: “The plain reader be damned!”
See you around, I hope.
(Gulper Eel Features Editor)
Wake 1: Benthos & Belles-Lettres
Monday 17th May
Gulper Eel Manifesto
The Man Who Walked The Alleys by Colin Hoult
Horizon Beats by Matthew C Golding
Lions by Harriet Alida Lye
Beckett Vs. Clarkson by Kat Nugent
New fiction by Paul Kavanagh and Jeff Crouch
New poetry by Nuala Ní Chonchúir and Neil Ballard
Tuesday 18th May
New fiction by Hunter Qualye Thurssen
Wednesday 19th May
Walt Sent Me by Alex Hoskins
Thursday 20th May
New poetry by Jordan Reynolds
Friday 21st May
Teenage Pastoral # 1: Genesis by Adam Biles
Monday 24th May
James Ellroy and genre by Jean-François Caro
Tuesday 25th May
New fiction by S. Day Sclater
Wednesday 26th May
Cupcake (Part 1) by Anthony Prentis
New poetry by Harriet Alida Lye
Thursday 27th May
From the Border Agency, by Alexander Dickow
New fiction by N. God Savage
Friday 28th May
New fiction by Dulcie Few
New poetry by Andrew James Weatherhead
Monday 31st May
New film by Kate Theodore
New poetry by Howie Good
Tuesday 1st June
New fiction by Diane Payne
Wednesday 2nd June
Correspondence from Harriet Alida Lye
New poetry by Changming Yuan
Thursday 3rd June
New fiction by Craig Jordan-Baker
New poetry by Richard O’Brien
Friday 4th June
Dutch Auction Editorial by Adam Biles
Gulper Eel Wake #2 Preview
Monday, May 10, 2010
Poets Wear Prada is pleased to announce the release of Gene Auprey's first collection, DEAD RECKONING. Now available on Lulu.
Author Gene Auprey offers a new collection of poems; a meditation on nature, life and death, and the ever-present possibilities of hope, humor and love.
Poems by Gene Auprey
6" x 9" Saddle Stitched, 50 pp.
Release Date: May 2010
“At home somewhere between the pastoral and the familial, violence and tranquility (often showing how they are sometimes the same side of the same coin), Gene Auprey’s voice is one of restrained and steady power.”
— James Midgely, Editor Mimesis
“What strikes me about this poetry is its solid groundedness. The speech rhythms of Auprey’s native vernacular weave a fine colloquial music that seems a direct heightening of the spoken word; whether embodied in skillfully crafted free or metrical verse, his art evokes the real sound of people using language organically. Solid texture is achieved by the way Auprey's imagery so strongly evokes all of the five senses. You can see the world of these poems very sharply, but you can also hear it, touch it, smell it, and taste it as well. It has substance. I come out of reading these poems with a strong impression of actually having been in Auprey's physical reality, and of having shared important truths and insights there. More poetry like this, please!”
— Paul Stevens, Editor The Chimaera
“Gene Auprey’s poems transport the reader into worlds of immediacy — the primal world of rural culture and of nature, but also the contemporary world and its particular urgencies. Dead Reckoning is an engaging and rewarding work, rich in language that examines the human condition from a stable but varied set of vantages.”
— David Landrum, Editor Lucid Rhythms
About the Author:
Gene Auprey is Senior Editorial Adviser for Soundzine, an online international literary journal located at http://www.soundzine.net/. His poems have appeared in The Flea, Hawk & Whippoorwill, Lucid Rhythms, Other Poetry, Pisgah Review,and The Shit Creek Review, as well as many other places, both pixel and print.
Gene currently lives in Buxton, Maine. Widely traveled and a dedicated outdoors man, he enjoys the company of his grandchildren. He has worked across the United States in construction, designed and built many homes, managed diverse companies, and also served as an ordained minister. While his poetry has many influences, perhaps the strongest has been New England’s poet laureate, Robert Frost.