The Spuyten Duyvil Bridge on fire
Hilly Kristal, owner of CBGB's, c. 1990, right after he allowed a very eager TT to run a weekly reading series in the newly converted space next to 315 Bowery, known as CBGB's 313 Gallery
Eileen Myles, around the time, c. 1991-92, she ran for president of the United States
ABC NO RIO, early 80s
Northwest Native Shaman with Thunderbird headdress. Photographed presumably by Franz Boas, considered the progenitor of Cultural Anthropology
by Phong Bui
Title page of William Blake's
The Marriage of Heaven And Hell
The Art of Memory is a study of the history of applied knowledge, or, mnemonics
Modernity evolves from the creation of the multiplication
of one-time only crafted type.
The handmade aspect of past associations
is now "applied" differently.
Barrett Watten, Alan Davies, Richard Blevins, Susan Howe,
Ted Pearson, at St. Mark's Poetry Project
Photo credit: Laure Leber
was born uptown,
Season At Coole
M. G. Stephens
by R. B. Kitaj
TT, early 80s
Master Printmaker Joe Wilfer, early 80s, in the Canal Street Studio with Chuck Close. TT was hired by Joe to assist in making handmade paper multiples for Pace Editions
Marshall McLuhan understood that the explosivity from the Gutenberg re-trajectory of human cosmos was able to be read even by more orally centered societies than our own, albeit in a different way
The Live Art Workshop
under direction of
Kraine Theater early 90's
KGB Bar, Kraine Theater,
East 4th Street, NYC
TT and j/j,
"community of spirit"
near Columbia University, to the poet/ novelist M. G Stephens, in 1982. Inspired by the neighborhood just north of Manhattan that bears this quirky Dutch name, Stephens presented his poetry alongside others who were enspirited by the rich legacy of this place that resonates literary lore. Stephens studied with Paul Blackburn and Joel Oppenheimer at SUNY Cortland and, in the mid 60’s, was an early attendee of the recently formed St Mark’s Poetry Project.
The Story of Spuyten Duyvil the place is not just a myth, but the legacy of reciting and enfabling Manhattan, New York City, into the fabric of the Old World. Washington Irving as well as the Beats wove a similar archaism into their tapestries as they threaded whatever personal poetics they would later, on their own terms, stitch. Spuyten Duyvil. Spinning Devil. Devil’s Whirpool. Whirling dervish devil. From such an intersection of name, place, and Amer-Indian/Celtic/Anglic/Germanic or proto-historical significance, the truth of this place is set into further motion via poetry, another devilishly textured kind of whirling dervish.
T Thilleman, migrated to NYC from the Midwest (c. 1981), and later was living uptown, near Spuyten Duyvil, when he became acquainted with Stephens. He was introduced to SD and Stephens by Poetry New York editor Burt Kimmelman, who met TT at CBGB’s and who asked TT to join the editorial directive of PNY. (This new PNY was a direct descendant of the older PNY—Harvey Shapiro/Yale Poetry Review’s renowned journal responsible for publishing Charles Olson’s poetics-shaking essay “Projective Verse”).
When founding the pamphlet series for Poetry New York, Thilleman grew determined to further study the art of printmaking. Thilleman studied under and worked with master printmaker Joe Wilfer on the Chuck Close project, and took courses at the NY Center for Book Arts. Later, he crammed a small letterpress into his tiny Williamsburg apartment and began working away, by ink, blood and wonder.
Before editing PNY, Thilleman read at and attended various venues including St. Mark’s Poetry Project and ABC NO RIO; TT would later run a reading series at CBGB’s downtown. Thilleman recollects, among other anecdotes from that time, Eileen Myles, who was the first reader he signed on to the CBGB’s venue. As she saw her own career circling back full, Myles told TT: “This is strange, because one of the first places I ever read was at the pre-incarnation of Hilly Kristal’s club, before it had its name shortened to CBGB’s.”
Around this same time, Thilleman began engaging himself in the Live Art Workshops at the newly established Kraine Theater, and KGB Bar, on New York’s Lower East Side. KGB, and its reading series, would eventually become a central showcase for Spuyten Duyvil’s authors and new titles.
By the mid 90s, M.G. Stephens decided to move to England, and left the care of his brainchild, Spuyten Duyvil, in Thilleman’s hands. Thilleman later incorporated SD, and began building a title list which would eventually include Robert Creeley, Martha King, as well as other Black Mntn affiliated writers. This identity, along with Thilleman’s preference for creative writing that does not include the official hierarchal ideal embedded in text, overlapped with Thilleman’s own poetics. TT welcomed work from all walks and wonders, no matter how museum-ready or out-of-orbit it appeared to be.
Xir/storically speaking, Black Mntn and the Beats are only two examples of cultural heterogeneity that stood on their own without either cultural /commercial or academic assimilation. Of course this isn’t the case now—now we readily accept these “others” to the canonized table—and that is the signal reason small press publishing (even in the ripe age of the internet) still stands alone as a portal for simultaneous self-discovery and cultural/anthropological re-imaginings.
Small press publishing, among a multitude of other things, has the potential to NOT see itself as solely commercial activity. Every small press has the potential to be expansive—to newness, otherly resonance, even transcendence.
If you sing you may distract the assassin’s energies
just long enough to move the century forward a few
~ Anne Waldman, Iovis
Yet the heritage of small press publishing continually grapples with the demands the so-called “market” makes of it, seeking to turn it into a palatable plate of chow. And the “market” emerges anywhere one suddenly decides the trends to be—however egocentric or superficial.
Survival cannot be bundled up with the way smaller publishing houses or micro-making enterprises produce and create, but always it is dependent upon the creative force behind the press. To look at the mechanics of publishing in any other way justifies mass produced matter. Logic and market savvy know-how have nothing to do with determining or envisioning for the world an imaginative “product” which may reshape and realign our times.
By exile is meant the need to make & act art outside
anyone else’s agenda or dogma. Market economy model
is oblique & obsolete. This is another example of the ego’s
self-destructive game. Create your own country: to make
~ Anne Waldman, Iovis
The great misquoting of such small enterprise occurs when it thinks it emulates a non-mainstream aspect, or dismisses its non-belonging as content and politics for those who do or don’t “get it.” Like corsets, these reductive and restrictive assessments never see the content in any full, round and emancipated context.
Only through a very manhandled historical frame do any of the particulars within the content come to light. The content is not a product of being “in” or of being “out.” The content struggles and endures to be seen and heard, regardless of the forum presenting it.
Even the most well intentioned press enthusiasts often miss the point of an endeavor like SD—they want to believe it is either a part of an evolving scene, OR, it is not at all involved with any scene, and just floats out into the world as a pure product of some ethereally disembodied imagination.
But SD lives and breathes in this natural world with primal traction, and is also a part of other realms, where spirit mists linger.
Counter-poetics. Subliminal. Guard well the language
flame, the tribe’s demand for land, now dream-land,
and how its glyphs are carved in the depths of a cave,
on the bark of an extant tree, incised in stone, on tortoise
shell, on vellum-skin of a beast, encoded in brain systemic,
in the memory of this or any costly machine. Keep plugging
away at salvation-poetry, lock-in before the power is exhausted.
~ Anne Waldman, Iovis
There is real effort and struggle to get each of SD’s titles produced. Revenue for poetics is scarce, and each small publisher practically needs to embody the Durga in order to perform all necessary tasks to birth a book in the world. This does not mean smaller publishing houses are in any way inferior.
The intention and discernment injected into a series of books that might be enjoyed by many—someday—are a potent means of using one’s life force. Creative struggle is empowering, even more than following the herd, because this struggle tests assumptions vividly, face-to-face, and thus tests our culture at large, even through the needle eye of a tiny I thread.
We can see then, how sense-bound is the thinking of
people who believe that nature has come into being on
its own—that is, how exclusively they trust their physical
senses and the shadows these cast on spiritual matters.
They are thinking from the eye and not from their understanding.
Thinking from the eye closes the understanding, but thinking
from the understanding opens the eye.
Thilleman’s undertaking in the mid aughts, to establish SD among larger distribution and publishing outlets, met with a variety of problems. None of the problems, however, had anything to do with penetrating the inner core of literary culture. Rather, there was a wall surrounding the center of mainstream artistic thought, delineated by an incredibly monied or capitalized field, which excluded experimental voices.
Authenticity, persistence, active listening and a tracing of centuries old patterns of printing was the only way forward.
Go within and scale the depths of your being from which
your very life springs forth. At its source you will find the
The mysterious virtue of publishing rests hidden in its history—traceable to Gutenberg and severed from the evolution of industrialized printing and the growth of trade and cultural goods. Running through the veins of POD, digital, hand-bound/ offset printing—is a palimpsest of moving letters—The vernacular in Bible translation was given its head-rush by movable type, enlightening all the various renditions that Marshall McLuhan gave birth to—the first reproduction of living word moves still in the real efforts and sheer penury of literary production today. As do those palimpsest threads of Sappho’s lyre washed up in sand on a broken vase.
SD continues to adapt to the times it inhabits, a form of dwelling insistence, in order to ensure that authors past, present, and future, find fecund ground to continue their reaching and growing.
I have labour'd hard indeed, & have been borne on angel's wings.
~ William Blake
You have stepped out of painting and entered
~ Thich Nhat Hanh
To this end, it was vital that TT, embodying the press, find a company of writers who would share his awareness of scale in spirit-time and culture. Toward the later end of the aughts, Thilleman formed a glorious friendship with Rich Blevins centered around their communal appreciation for the art of the serial long poem, the truest form of lifelong love.
Around this time too, TT began corresponding with the poet j/j hastain. TT and j/j’s kindred karmic communion steamed up from the hot messy organic matter of birthing a book together. They continued to collaborate on many projects, pondering and seeking. While writing together, they heard angels quiver. He changed his writing name to the initial T to echo the community of spirit he had found in J. The sense of a poetick community meant little before this psycho-spiritual merge.
The words of the great mystic poet Rumi suddenly made sense to TT, more than any other cultural assumption:
There is a community of the spirit.
Join it. And close both eyes.
To see with the other eye.
Spuyten Duyvil is a living, breathing work of art and love that has spanned the greater portion of Thilleman’s lifetime. As such, SD has at times received penetration from Thilleman’s friends and lovers, and has been a part of somber partings as well as peaceful separations. SD, like any cultural matter that matters, has even been the victim of cyber bullying and evil spirited darts.
The magic is, that just like in any divinely led human life, SD remains resilient and buoyant, and keeps on regenerating, reinventing itself in vivid new ways, no matter what is occurring in the outersphere.
The inner heart of SD pulses, beating steady and strong, as long as there are capable, curious humans breathing into its lungs.
I rest not from my great task!
To open the Eternal Worlds, to open the immortal Eyes
Of Man inwards into the Worlds of Thought, into Eternity
Ever expanding in the Bosom of God, the Human Imagination.
~ William Blake, Jerusalem
You may forget but
Let me tell you this
Someone in some future time
Will think of us
The task for years has been SD’s survival, but beyond that, an assembly of a variety of voices, unafraid to be counted among the inheritors of vernacular substance, a realism based in discovery (not auto repeat), compels SD’s introspection and its need to give life as well as to grow out of that
La Vita Nuova, that we are “making” writing out of the
world, out of the imagination, in a new speech, “a sweet
new” (rude) tongue.
~ Anne Waldman, Iovis
Joel Oppenheimer and Francine du Plessix Gray at Black Mountain College, 1951
TT on jj hastain at
"many gendered mothers"
Poetry New York
A Journal of Poetry & Translation 6
(Winter 1993/Spring 1994)
Cover art and drawings by Tod Thilleman
: Here linked :
From A Secret Location
On The Lower East Side Anthology
Emanuel Swedenborg with his book Apocalypse Explained
The Four Zoas
Anne Waldman, photo by Gloria Graham taken during the video taping of Add-Verse, 2003
Darwin's notebook with the first re-alignment of the living tree in the form of genus and species inter-relativity