Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Steps by ruth weiss

I saw this copy flittering on ebay. Wait, I thought, I know ruth weiss. This must be an early book (it was her first - published in 1958). I bought the book and wrote to ruth weiss. Once the book arrived, I looked it over and wrote the seller to see where HE got it. The seller is in San Francisco where ruth lived for a number of years. He informed me that the copy came from the basement/garage of a local SF poet and political activist. Most of the material which the seller acquired had not seen the light of day in 40 years and that the seller was surprised by the response on Ebay to this store of stuff.

The result of my letter to ruth was a phone call today. ruth told me that there were only 50 copies made of her first book and that the address listed on the back of the book, 1116 Ellis St., San Francisco was adjoining attic apartments that ruth and her first husband, Mel Weitsman, shared. She also told me, since I had asked, about the production of this first book. It was typed out using two typewriters. Mimeographed at a different location. The blue tape binding was stolen - shhhhhhh! - from a local stationary shop.

Very rare chapbook by a 82-year old survivor, a poet who continues to make her voice heard.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

- now that

Once I sorted out the numerous conflicts within the 2 printings/editions, I decided to follow a tact that I had stumbled on earlier - which is to contact the seller and get whatever backstory there may be. Here's what I learned about the copy of Texas Liveoak that sparked my interest; the seller wrote, "I got this item at the friends of the Abilene Public Library book sale here in Abilene, Texas. The Library often hosts Texas authors for readings and book signings. I assume that this may have come from one of those or as a donation from a patron. It is always a huge sale."

The second printing was printed in Mexico and sold in Austin, Texas at Foreman's Brazos Bookshop. In 1979, Foreman opened the Brazos Bookshop which carried mostly small press publications. In Austin, he continued his involvement in the small press community, staging poetry readings, organizing workshops, and speaking about his work as a writer and small press publisher.

After publishing nearly 100 books and journals, Foreman closed the Brazos Book Shop, and Thorp Springs Press ceased operations during the early 1990s. So - it seems that the second printing had to have been made AFTER 1979.

According to an article I had read, Foreman's greatest success as a publisher was in bringing out Len Fulton's 1974 novel, The Grassman: a novel. Interestingly, there is a poem in Texas Liveoak dedicated to Fulton entitled "The Grassman". Small wonder then that Foreman would sign a copy of his collection for Len Fulton.

The association copy came from a seller in California which is where Len Fulton still lives.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

now this -

As much as I had given this blog early on is as little as I have given to it since. At the heart of it is a self exploration, a blog as diary as developing essay as book idea as......

for myself and whomever might wander in - in the months since I gave this more attention I took my somewhat limited attention to a parallel blog dealing with chapbooks. In that blog I began to examine the book as object but also to explore the history of the author and publisher, and illustrator, and the copy itself as far as I could. That began with a chapbook I still haven't written about published by a shadowy organization called Vigilance Society. The more I learned, the less I knew.

I began to think about the publishers, and additionally, about the copy of the book that I held in my hand. If a book is published in a run of 1500 copies in 1970, for example, where did the individual copy go - what was the journey of that copy? Who originally bought it or received it?

This all led to my own response to a book of poetry by a fellow named Paul Foreman who founded Thorp Springs Press in Berkeley, CA back in 1971. The book was entitled Texas Liveoak. The copy I first found online was a "second printing" of the book. It was inscribed and signed to a couple in Texas where Paul had returned in 1978. I started to research the book and its author and quickly discovered that the University of Texas held the papers of Foreman and Thorp Springs Press in their permanent collection. In the notes on the webpage for the collection on the University of Texas library website, I learned that Foreman had published Len Fulton who went on to become a publisher of some note himself for Dustbooks and his International Directory of Small Presses, etc.

While learning more about Foreman and his press, I looked on Amazon to see how many other copies of Texas Liveoak might be in circulation and saw that someone was selling a collectible copy inscribed and signed to "a small press publisher". I wrote the seller and asked whom that person might be, and he wrote back that it was Len Fulton. I promptly bought this copy of the book. I now had an association copy of the book and more importantly, I had a first edition of the book. The difference between the first and second printings of the book were remarkable. So much so that I believe the second should have been assigned the wording second edition.

The cover images were completely different.

The second "printing" was printed in Mexico. The publishers address was different. The title page was different. The cover image was different. It was a different BOOK, why was it being called "second printing"? Because the poems had not changed? But they changed things inside the book - I was confused. The FIRST edition was published in the US, had a Berkeley, CA address, had a different cover image and an additional image on the back cover. It also had a dedication page, had differently colored cover stock - I mean, how different can one book get?

Thursday, August 5, 2010


it's been entirely too

the trouble with multiple faces is dressing them each day

more books that I could throw a brick at

clutter my wife doesn't love me for