Kyle Schlesinger

Book arts

April Fools'

Well, almost. It’s nine o’clock in the evening on April 2nd, and I just got home from the wild after-party celebrating the 37th anniversary of Poltroon Press, founded on April Fools’ Day 1975 by Frances Butler and Alastair Johnston. I would have stayed for breakfast but I knew that I was supposed to start writing a new column on book arts for Jacket 2. Guests included Lucia Berlin, Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger, Darrell Gray, Tom Clark, Luxorius, Jess, Larry Fagin, and many more. The colorful, and at times controversial, history of this press is essential reading for anyone interested in Bay Area poetry, book arts, and the relationship between the two. These are captured and actively illustrated in Trance & Recalcitrance: The Private Voice in the Public Realm and Pshaw!, produced to mark the twentieth and thirtieth anniversaries of the Press, respectively. In addition to publishing typographically-informed books of poetry by some of my favorite authors, Poltroon began producing artists’ books before anyone really knew what that genre could be or mean. But the thing that first drew me to the Press was the trilogy of bibliographies they wrote and produced about three of the most important presses in the Bay Area of the 50s, 60s and 70s: The Auerhahn Press, White Rabbit and Zephyrus Image.