Renegade Glue
By John Jacob


When I was in high school my brother went off to Boston to college, and when he came back at Christmas, he brought with him a little batch of small magazines, all saddle-stitched (though I didn't know what that was at the time), shorter than 50 pages usually, and full of imagistic poetry by writers I had not heard of. That would soon change.

He also brought with him a number of little books, some smaller even than 5x8, featuring for the most part unknown poets. But I fell in love with those small books, learned they were called chapbooks, and somehow found my way to Len Fulton's International Directory of Little Magazines & Small Presses, back in the days when it too was saddle-stitched, a far cry from the industry it has become for Len and Dustbooks.

When he introduced The Band at Bob Dylan' s 30th Anniversary Celebration concert, Eric Clapton said that when he heard Music from Big Pink, it changed American music; it "changed my life." That is exactly what I thought about chapbooks and little magazines, and I still feel that way.

I wrote my first review for Fulton's Small Press Review when I was eighteen. One of my happiest days in high school was when I learned from D.r. Wagner that he was using one of my poems in his little 8-16 page magazine, Runcible Spoon. By that point, I knew the names of many of the most impressive writers around: Kent Taylor, T.L. Kryss, Ben L. Hiatt, Doug Blazek, Carlos Eeyes, d.a.levy, rjs, Charlie Potts (laffin' water), Kell Robertson, nila northSun, Karl Young, Joe Bruchac, and many others, some still writing and publishing, some disappeared in a blast of fog like d.a.levy describes in his great poem "The Bells of the Cherokee Ponies."

I learned about COSMEP, and its rock, Richard Morris, the man with a PhD in chemistry, and eventually came to write to and learn about David Wilk, of Truck Distribution, and later Chair of the Literature Program of the National Endowment for the Arts. I served on panels for the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines (CCLM), and even was an NEA panelist in Atlanta one year. I remember giving out lots of money to Calyx and other small magazines. I was not a fellowship judge; we gave money to small presses and magazines.

It was the mid-70's by then, and many things had happened in literary America, things that meant a lot to me. I became pen-pals with Jim Lowell in Ohio, buying everything he had to sell by Taylor, Kryss, Wagner, Charles Olson, and others. I became a regular contributor to Margins, edited by Tom Montag, featuring essays and reviews by Young, John Shannon, Michael Rosenblum, Michael Tarachow, and many others. I remember writing a review titled "What I See in the Poetry of Eileen Shukofsky," a review of a book that hadn't been written yet. I felt that I had truly arrived.

The Cleveland poets always impressed me. I bought an early copy of the huge levy anthology, ucanhavyrfuckinciti bak, bound with electrician's tape, which still favors an important place on my book shelf. California writers Hiatt and Wagner impressed me a lot, and Wagner remains my favorite poet next to Olson in the pantheon of great American poets, but the poets from Ohio were imagistic masters of the short lyric poem. I never was too excited by the collages levy did, and of course by then he had killed himself, harassed by the Cleveland police, but if Wagner liked his work, so would I.

Spun off from these poets were Bob Head and Darlene Fife, and their great serious tabloid magazine NOLA Express. Tendrils were sprouting in all directions, and I took on college teaching, using the little books by the poets I came to call "the Clevelanders." Little was I to know that another poet and publisher would use that name for collections from his own press.

Sometime in the 70's, some of those poets began to disappear or simply were harder to find. Jim Lowell remained stalwart in sending me his catalogues, and I would order every time one came to my house. I became aware of what Karl Young was doing with his Light and Dust Books and website, and I had always enjoyed Ingrid Swanberg's magazine, Abraxas. As I sit and write this, I am surrounded by broadsides, sealed and unsealed envelopes with the art of d.a. levy on the fronts and possibly the interiors, books by Kirpan Press, and a huge listing of titles available from Kirpan, in Vancouver.

What had happened? Small press activist and editor and poet Alan Horvath and his wife, Kathy ("Employee # 2") had taken over much of the publishing of the Black Rabbit Press writers from Cleveland, and he had joined with Swanberg to publish everything extant by levy. Ingrid published her own definitive book about levy and his sphere of influence, but the new player was clearly to be Alan, who picked up on the poetry of levy, Taylor, Kryss, rjs, and added other poets to that group, most notably Grace Butcher. After I bought his book of hers, the spiral-bound Horses in the Snow, I was so impressed that I wrote to Grace and was able to buy all of her other books that were still in print.

Kent Taylor's Night Physics and Kryss's Spring Into Winter sit beside me, along with Grace's book, and a levy broadside envelope titled "What Are You Doing?" and an opened envelope of a broadside poem by Tm Kryss, "Tree Challenged." These all were published by Kirpan Press, and to have them at my side makes my using a computer a possibility, because all of those earlier poets and publishers were using ditto machines, mimeo machines, cheap photo-offset.

I didn't know it at the time, but Alan Horvath started Fuck If I Know Press back in the 70s, along with Falling Down Press, and Mostly Broken Scabs Press. The Kirpan Press catalogue sitting next to me has more than 150 titles available. Alan's poetry is included in several books, but most of the titles are levy's and other poets' poetry and correspondence. Alan single-handedly (with his employee #2) kept the Lowell correspondence in print, and work by d.a.levy that has gone missing has been published through the hard work of Alan.

I have a letter that I cherish from Alan that says, among other things, "Kent Taylor mentioned that 'John Jacob reviewed one of his books in the mid-70s. Is this you (or someone like you)?" I love the way he ends that sentence. Kathy Horvath sent me an obituary for Alan, and he was close in age to me, and his high school life was very similar, maybe time after that, though Alan was an inspector for a natural gas pipeline company and I was mostly a college teacher, though I did other things and continue to.

When Alan died, the very day, I was being operated on for a bleeding ulcer. My hemoglobin count had dropped below 3.0, which meant I was clinically dead. My surgeon drained the spurting blood from my belly, clamped the vessels, and basically saved my life. Alan didn't have my luck. I have had some time to ruminate about why Alan died and I didn't? In the age-old speculation of who is worth what, Alan's grasp of poetry was a least as great as mine, and his books and other artwork spread out into the world, as well it should. What have I done to match that? I suppose there is no answer.

I promised Ingrid that I would talk about the envelopes that were silk-screened and whose contents were so wonderful. I must admit that I consider these to be works of art so precious that I cannot bear to open some of the envelopes; it would be like taking a screwdriver to my Haitian Christ on the cross metal art that sits next to my bookcase with small press titles.

Before he passed away, but only maybe a month from that day, Alan sent me a batch of advertisements for his titles, with four-color artwork. I use them for stationery, to try to get others to inhabit the world that became Kirpan Press.

Alan Horvath was a Renaissance Man. There is no doubt about that. Others may "review" his poetry and the poetry of the writers he published, and a marvelous grouping of books of artwork, collages, "scissorscapes," pages that appeared over the years in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Alan published a number of poems sent by levy to friends on postcards: "What Are You Doing?" a 1964 poem, and "Black Horse: Telepathy Is A Little Fish," a card broadside written to D.r. Wagner on a postcard postmarked November 14, 1968, ten days before levy's death.

Alan not only has kept alive the fact and the spirit of d.a.levy's life, but the inner workings of so many other artists and poets. He was married to Employee # 2 for 24 years.

Levy's life and work will be showcased by others as time passes, but who will pluck out of the air the little, iconic, imagistic, wonderful poems by unknown poets? Kirpan co-published some titles with Black Rabbit Press, but the loss of Alan will be the loss overall of the poetry world, no matter who these days will feel blessed to receive a copy of one of 80 books published by a man who took the measure of the value of art and poetry?

An Additional Note:

It is of value to know what Alan did with his projects. I asked Kathy to give me some idea of what his editorial process was. He was very interested in the process of editing, choosing a book with a good title, or suggesting another possible title, and thinking of the order of the contents, and of course the type of cover and the possible uses of artwork, and the process of choosing the method of combination of the pages: he tended to use the "comb" or "spiral" binding process, and was very specific about how to put each book together.

Alan and Kathy worked together, handing one another the pages and the cover and fitting the staples in or the comb process. I was reminded of the days when I had used a ditto machine, and then a mimeo, and even one letterpress project I published. There is a lot of time involved, and Alan always printed interesting numbers of copies, 80 copies being very common to him, but with other numbers possible.

The point was it was a labor of love, not a production plant. It amazes me that he was able to publish the numbers of books he was able; multiplying 80 copies by 150 titles shows that he was a man of means and interest in the final product. Bear in mind that he was an editor and publisher from the 70's until 2010. Many do not last that long. When you hold a Kirpan Press title in your hand, a lot went into it.


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