Black Mountain poets

Navigating distance in locality

An interview with Tom Patterson, featuring photographs by Jonathan Williams

Photo of Tom Patterson taken by Jonathan Williams in 1980 at the Ocmulgee National Monument. Courtesy of Tom Patterson.

Note: I initially reached out to Tom Patterson in June 2019 with a research inquiry related to poets practicing in the American South during the late 1970s and ’80s. Although he’s now known primarily as a writer on contemporary art and an independent curator, Tom has served in multiple roles with small poetry presses over the years, perhaps most notably as the executive director of the Jargon Society from 1984–87, where he led Jargon’s Southern Visionary Folk Art Preservation Project.

The Fales Library Angel Hair archive

Angel Hair 1 Cover

It feels both hugely restorative and humbling, in our age of digital media, to visit an archive and hold a fifty year-old literary magazine, carefully made and preserved, yet still fleetingly physical, in your hand. Anne Waldman, co-editor (with Lewish Warsh) of the small magazine Angel Hair, describes the significance of that experience in this quote from her introductory essay to the 2002 Angel Hair feature in Jacket: “...so-called ephemera, lovingly and painstakingly produced, have tremendous power. They signify meticulous human attention and intelligence, like the outline of a hand in a Cro-Magnon cave.” This “tremendous power” can be applied specifically to Angel Hair, which published the work of Ted Berrigan, Denise Levertov, Joe Brainard, Michael Brownstein, and Warsh and Waldman themselves, among others, early in their lives as poets.

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