Small Press Poetry Collection

Ref: Special Collection
Title: Small Press Poetry Collection

Scope: A developing collection of small press poetry publications
Dates: c. 1960-
Extent: over 1600 vols

SPP Jess SPP Phone

SPP Ballad

Administrative/biographical history:

Poetry, avant-garde and experimental literature tends to develop via the imagination and exuberance of small presses and ephemeral journals, rather than by consolidation in mainstream publications. Print runs and sales are often comparable, with very few exceptions. The small press tradition that currently exists inherits a long tradition. In modernism think of the Hogarth Press, run by Virginia and Leonard Woolf, first UK publishers of T.S. Eliot’s Waste Land, or the first publication of James Joyce’s Ulysses by Shakespeare and Company. We might, however, conceive of a longer and diverse history, to incorporate samizdat publications of the Soviet Union, the early modern pamphlet (or cheap press/chap book) culture, and the informal networks of manuscript circulation in the Renaissance court. Small Press culture incorporates the publication of broadsides, chapbooks, ephemera, pamphlets, tracts, manuscripts, self-publishing and samizdat. As well as allowing control over print and distribution, small press poetry can encourage experimentation in verse-forms as well as publishing methods and materials. It often makes use of cheap techniques of printing, or even belated technology (mimeograph, letterpress). It is intimately tied to traditions of political dissent and popular movements. Since 1945 we might pay heed to the legendary Jargon Society (founded by Jonathan Williams), Matrix Press (Tom Raworth), United Artists (Bernadette Mayer and Lewis Warsh), Ferry Press (Andrew Crozier), Barque Press (Keston Sutherland and Andrea Brady), Adventures in Poetry (Larry Fagin and Christopher Mattison), O Books (Leslie Scalapino), Burning Deck (Rosmarie Waldrop, Keith Waldrop), CHAX Press (Charles Alexander), Granary (Steve Clay), West House (Geraldine Monk, Alan Halsey), Tuumba Press (Lyn Hejinian), Totem Press (Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka, Hettie Cohen), Street Editions (Wendy Mulford). The diversity of the UK scene can be witnessed by the Lollipop list of little press publications, originally created by Bill Griffiths and currently looked after by Peter Manson.

Highlights of the Small Press Poetry Collection include John James, Schlegel eats a bagel (Cambridge: Equipage, 1996); Francis Crot, Hax (Scarborough, Me: Punch Press 2011); Tom Raworth, Nicht wahr, Rosie? (Berkeley, Ca: Poltroon Press 1979); Alan Halsey, Dante's barber shop: (de vulgari eloquentia) (Nether Edge, Sheffield: West House Books 2001); Barry MacSweeney, Horses in boiling blood: a collaboration, a celebration. (Cambridge: Equipage c2004); Allen Ginsberg, T.V. baby poem. San Francisco: Beach Books, c1968); Roy Fisher, City. (Worcester: Migrant Press May 1961); J.H. Prynne, Word order (Kenilworth: Prest Roots Press c1989).

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  • Related collections: Small Press Poetry Broadside Collection; Circle Press Collection; Private Presses Collection; Tetrad Press Collection; Barque, Crater, Face, Gargoyle, and West House Presses; Zephyrus Image Collection; ; Seripress Collection; Weed/Flower Press Collection
  • Source: By donation and purchase from various sources
  • System of arrangement: Numerical
  • Subjects: Poetry, Cheap Print, Chap Books, Experimental poetry, Innovative poetry, Avant-garde poetry
  • Conditions of access: Available to all researchers, by appointment
  • Restrictions: No restrictions
  • Copyright: According to document
  • Finding aids: Listed and catalogued