Stories from "The Flats"
By Tom Kryss


Alan's concept of a broadside series availing itself of the work of a constellation of authors took off in the winter - spring of 2008 when I was putting together an anthology of poems reprinted from the catalogs of the Asphodel Book Shop. My work was proceeding at such a discouragingly glacial pace he had offered to run off the remaining pages of the book for me in Vancouver and send them back to Ohio for collation and the finishing touches, an offer I'd have been crazy not to accept. All considerations of my mental state aside, for the moment, this was far from the first instance of Alan offering to assist in the production of books being published by myself and by others.

After publication of the Asphodel anthology, a hybrid of production in cities 2,000 miles apart, it was brought to my attention by Alan that I had left out an early poem by Charles Olson. Rather than to loosely insert copies of the poem in the completed anthology, Alan offered to print it up as a separate broadside, to be issued as a companion piece, if I would design the cover and envelope. Not all of the issues in the developing broadside series were joint productions, but many of them followed this manner of reciprocal thoughtfulness and action. Boxes of cardstock with the poem printed on each individual piece would arrive in the mail and I would rubberstamp them, often tinting them with sets of watercolors he had purchased and forwarded in boxes of their own, and pack them up and send them back to Vancouver. Invariably, the clerks at the post office, increasingly curious, asked, "Anything breakable or flammable inside?"

To what lengths did he intend to carry this series? It's interesting to note that the spreadsheets he printed up and distributed as advertising were themselves works in progress. Although each of the published broadsides was serially numbered, blank spaces often appeared next to those numbers that didn't yet have a corresponding release to offer for sale. The last spreadsheet I have, representing some 40 broadsides, shows numbers 33, 35, 36, 37 and 38 un-taken, unrealized. Memory of earlier versions of these spreadsheets indicates that he would fill in the blanks in seemingly haphazard fashion, making up the agenda as he went along and surely in accordance with the unpredictable frequencies of material that came to his hand, all in a relatively brief period of months.

Alan called this series of broadsides Stories from "The Flats," an inescapable reference to his roots in Cleveland where the river front lies in disarray, neglect, and perpetual transitional redefinition. The first areas of settlement in Cleveland were in the lowlands immediately adjacent to the river. Early residents, soon finding the area inhospitable with humid summers that brought airborne illness and harsh winters with strong winds and snowfall off Lake Erie, migrated up the bluffs into elevated outlying areas. During the better part of Alan's years in Cleveland, the primary residents of The Flats were the transients of the now-razed Bridge Central Hotel, heroic wildflowers, seagulls, and the river front still retains the stark and astonishing remnants of its former lives, which were a workingman's life and the life of a man sleeping under a bridge and the life of a sunflower.

Return to Index for Alan Horvath Memorial
Return to Light and Dust Anthology