To mark the occasion of the digital reissue of Big Allis, editors Neilson and Grim have written the following introductory notes alongside commissioned reflections on the magazine by designer Jean Foos and a few of the magazine’s many contributors.
The idea of bringing Big Allis to a new readership occurred to me one summer afternoon last year while combing the Jacket2 Reissues archive. I am grateful to Danny Snelson for deeming Big Allis worthwhile to “go big” and be added to the J2 bill. Danny and Amelia Bentley have been artful and meticulous with getting Big Allis safely stored in a user-friendly repository.
If you haven't attended the December-January Segue events these past two years, you have missed something. Josef Kaplan's introductions. Most weeks, as they unfold, you can observe something come over the room. Some weeks it's like a wave of something between shock and glee. Other weeks it's just lots of audience reaction, hysterical laughter, conversations erupting, the occasional person turning away in discomfort. These introductions have been described as uproarious, sweet, insulting, naive, hilarious, and courageous. Many seem to agree he's exploding the form.
Rumor has it Ugly Duckling is planning to make a chapbook of a select few.
When asked if anything seemed special about what's happening here, James Sherry, who has been steering Segue for over thirty years, says, "Josef breaks the tradition of laudatory introductions with confrontational framing such as saying that he doesn’t understand the poet’s work." Sherry points to Kaplan's Michael Gottlieb intro, describing it as, "psychological rhetoric layered on satiric imitation creating an uproarious surface" that "exposed Michael’s social critique as a personal complaint." But what's equally extraordinary is how funny and loving it all seemed when it was happening. Michael laughed harder than anyone. Steve Zultanski, Segue co-curator with Kaplan for two years, described it as, "confusing and borderline insulting, but in the sweetest way."
From 1980 to 1992, I worked extensively on most of the Roof and Segue Books produced during that period. I worked with the publisher James Sherry and the authors and the typesetters and cover artists. The work consisted of getting the manuscript from James and the authors, which was often very hard to procure, making sure it was proofed and edited and ready, then bringing it to Skeezo, the typesetters on 27th Street. They set the galleys on their machines. Then I’d come and pick up the Xeroxes of the galleys, proofread them, and then bring the galleys back for corrections with author’s corrections too. When the final galleys were ready. I would lay out the book by hand. I made an initial dummy for the book and then pasted up the final mechanical on boards with glue or wax. Often as in the case of Hannah Weiner’s and Bruce Andrews’ books, I would be moving around single words or letters or lines of type with an exacto knife to create shapes or odd spacing. The cover was also done by me, but with various artist’s works on them. Then the book would go to the printer and come back by US mail for blues. It was a lengthy and detailed process of production in those days without e-mail or computers to speed things along.