Kim Roberts

Preface to the Some Of Us Press Issue

Volume 17:1, Winter 2016
Some Of Us Press Issue

Preface by Kim Roberts

Lee Lally and Terence Winch at a Mass Transit reading in the early 1970s. Photo by Jesse Winch.

Lee Lally and Terence Winch at a Mass Transit reading in the early 1970s. Photo by Jesse Winch.

At first, I thought of this special issue merely as documenting the history of one small press located in Washington, DC. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that the issues raised were much larger than that.

Some Of Us Press is emblematic of, and one of the best representations of, the Small Press Movement of the 1970s as a whole. The idea was radical: that the mainstream publishing industry was too conservative, and that writers whose voices would never be accepted by the big houses could bypass them entirely, and simply publish one another. The best of the small presses were experimental, flexible, and varied in their publications. SOUP, for example, published poets who were writing new work that was deeply personal, or pushed free verse to new places. Poems in the series were often political, anti-war, feminist, or openly gay. Some of the writers were immigrants or the children of immigrants, and writing about redefinitions of what it meant to be American. All are filled with an exuberant sense of possibility.

All SOUP writers were asked to give up royalties on their books so the total made in sales could go toward publishing the next author in the series. This cooperative arrangement was also a new idea, and gave the poets a greater sense of commitment to the goals of the press.

Ed Cox, 1972. Photo by John Gossage.

Ed Cox, 1972. Photo by John Gossage.

For most of these writers, their SOUP books were their first publications, launching them on careers as writers, teachers, and publishers. That many of these writers are now retiring from eminent careers made the timing for this issue seem all the more important.

What amazed me, reading through the books, is how consistently high the quality is: the poems continue to deserve a readership. Eighteen authors were published by SOUP. I have reprinted poems from thirteen SOUP books.

Thanks are due to several people for making this issue possible. I first conceived of this special issue in talks with stevenallenmay; I thank him for his encouragement. For permission to reprint poems by Ed Cox, and for sheer expansiveness of spirit, I thank Ed’s sister, Laura Lunsford. For permission to reprint poems by Tim Dlugos, I thank his partner, Christopher Wiss. Jesse Winch and Terence Winch were of particular help in providing period photos.

Most importantly, I am grateful to the surviving press founders, Michael Lally, Terence Winch, and Ed Zahniser, for the model they have provided to all of the small press publishers who came in their wake, and their ongoing support and enthusiasm.

Photo of Ed Zahniser, from the back of his Some Of Us Press book, The Ultimate Double Play, by Reynold Auckenthaler.

Ed Zahniser, from the back of his Some Of Us Press book, The Ultimate Double Play. Photo by Reynold Auckenthaler.

 

Note: See also an article originally published in the Washington Post, “SOUPing Up the Washington Poetry Scene” by William Niederkorn, June 27, 1973 that was re-published in The Literary Organizations Issue, Volume 11:2, Spring 2010. Also of interest: Ed Zahniser wrote “Into Our Own Hands: A Report from Some Of Us Press” that was published in February 1974 in Margins. A reprint of that article can be found online at DC Poetry.

 

SOUP reviews flyer

Kim Roberts is the author of A Literary Guide to Washington, DC: Walking in the Footsteps of American Writers from Francis Scott Key to Zora Neale Hurston (University of Virginia Press, 2018), and five books of poems, most recently The Scientific Method (WordTech Editions, 2017). She is co-editor and founder of Beltway Poetry Quarterly. In 2010, in conjunction with the journal's tenth anniversary, she released two books: a print anthology Full Moon on K Street: Poems About Washington, DC (Plan B Press), and a nonfiction chapbook, Lip Smack: A History of Spoken Word Poetry in DC (Beltway Editions). Roberts is the recipient of grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, Humanities DC, and the DC Commission on the Arts, and has been a writer-in-residence at 18 artist colonies. Poems of hers have been featured in the Wick Poetry Center’s Traveling Stanzas Project, on the Academy of American Poets’ Poem-a-Day Project, and on podcasts sponsored by the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Arts. She was interviewed by Margaret Corum about the history of the journal in 2017. Her website: http://www.kimroberts.org. To read more by this author: Kim Roberts on Walt Whitman: Memorial Issue Kim Roberts on Bethel Literary Society: Literary Organizations Issue Kim Roberts on "Langston Hughes in Washington, DC: Conflict and Class": Langston Hughes Tribute Issue