Online Exhibitions

Literary Publishing in Tucson Since 1960

The years since the Poetry Center’s founding in 1960 have been an important time in Tucson’s literary publishing history. Tucson literary publishers are diverse, but common threads include an emphasis on innovative writing and Southwestern poets, including American Indian and Chicano/Latino voices, and strong roots in the fine press and/or DIY traditions.

A survey of contemporary press work in Tucson reveals many Poetry Center connections. Some of the publishers featured here are alumni or faculty of the University of Arizona’s Creative Writing Program. Some of them fueled their interest in design and publishing as staff, volunteers, or library patrons here at the Poetry Center. Many of them were a part of the Poetry Center’s Tucson Lit Press Fest on Saturday, March 26, 2011. All of them are friends and admired partners in our shared endeavor to make Tucson a thriving center for literary culture.

This exhibit, curated by Wendy Burk, was originally presented in the Jeremy Ingalls Gallery of the University of Arizona Poetry Center from February 28 to April 9, 2011.

Try Ironwood
Try Ironwood: An Editor Remembers by Michael Cuddihy

Michael Cuddihy. Try Ironwood: An Editor Remembers (review copy). Boston: Rowan Tree Press, 1990.

When Michael Cuddihy founded the literary magazine Ironwood with his spouse Mary in 1972, one of his first acts was to solicit work from some of the poets he had befriended as a library patron at the University of Arizona Poetry Center, including Charles Simic, Diane Wakoski, and John Haines. Inspired by cutting-edge journals like Kayak and Origin, Ironwood became one of the nation’s premiere literary magazines up until it ceased publishing in 1988. Try Ironwood is Michael Cuddihy’s delightful firsthand account of the history of Ironwood and the many leading poets who trusted him first with their work.

Ironwood
Ironwood no. 1, 1972
Ironwood 9.2 (no. 18, 1981)

Ironwood no. 1 (1972) and 9.2 (no. 18, 1981).

Ironwood’s list of contributors is a who’s-who of U.S. poets of the 1970s and 1980s. Ai appeared in the first issue—one year before publishing her first book, Cruelty, and the same year that she gave a reading for the Poetry Center—as did Wendell Berry, W. S. Merwin, and C. K. Williams. In 1981, Ironwood was the journal that introduced U.S. readers to a then–little-known Polish Nobel Prize winner: Czesław Miłosz.

Separate Creatures by Steve Orlen (Ironwood Press)
Separate Creatures by Steve Orlen

Steve Orlen. Separate Creatures. Ironwood Press, 1976.

Ironwood Press, an offshoot of the journal, published chapbooks--including one in 1976 by a young University of Arizona professor known to all of us as Steve, but here credited as “Steven” Orlen.

Michael Cuddihy, LaVerne Harrell Clark, and Lois Shelton in 1972
Michael Cuddihy in 1972
Michael Cuddihy, LaVerne Harrell Clark, and Lois Shelton in 1972

Michael Cuddihy, March 1972

LaVerne Harrell Clark, Michael Cuddihy, and Lois Shelton, March 1972

Photos by LaVerne Harrell Clark

University of Arizona Press: Sun Tracks
Maso Bwikam: Yaqui Deer Songs by Larry Evers and Felipe S. Molina
Mud Woman: Poems from the Clay by Nora Naranjo-Morse

Larry Evers and Felipe S. Molina. Maso Bwikam: Yaqui Deer Songs. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1987.

Nora Naranjo-Morse. Mud Woman: Poems from the Clay. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1992.

The University of Arizona Press, founded in 1959, publishes two literary series that are essential homes for Chicano/Latino and American Indian/Alaska Native poets and their readers. The series Sun Tracks began in 1971 as an American Indian literary magazine sponsored by the University of Arizona’s American Indian Studies and English Departments. In 1981, UA Press assumed responsibility for the series, which had begun publishing books. Currently under the direction of Series Editor and University of Arizona Regents’ Professor Ofelia Zepeda, Sun Tracks has published first books by such acclaimed poets as Simon J. Ortiz and, more recently, Sherwin Bitsui, as well as collections by poets from Luci Tapahonso to Joy Harjo. Many Sun Tracks poets have long-standing relationships with the Poetry Center and are featured on voca, our online audio video library (http://voca.arizona.edu).

A Radiant Curve by Luci Tapahonso (University of Arizona Press: Sun Tracks)
A Radiant Curve by Luci Tapahonso
Luci Tapahonso in 1999

Luci Tapahonso. A Radiant Curve. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2008.

Luci Tapahonso, 1999

Photo by Christine Krikliwy

Simon Ortiz (University of Arizona Press: Sun Tracks)
Photograph of Simon Ortiz by LaVerne Harrell Clark

Simon Ortiz, 1976

Photo by LaVerne Harrell Clark

University of Arizona Press: Camino del Sol
The Buried Sea: New and Selected Poems by Rane Arroyo
The Devil's Workshop by Demetria Martínez

Rane Arroyo. The Buried Sea: New and Selected Poems. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2008.

Demetria Martínez. The Devil’s Workshop. Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2002.

The University of Arizona Press's Camino del Sol series recently celebrated fifteen years as a visionary publisher of Chicano/Latino authors. Poet, prose writer, and editor Ray González proposed the series to UA Press and served as its first editor. Represented in the series are luminary Chicana/o poets such as Juan Felipe Herrera, Pat Mora, and Demetria Martínez, as well as those who trace their roots to other parts of Latin America and the Caribbean, such as Rane Arroyo and Maurice Kilwein Guevara. Many Camino del Sol poets have long-standing relationships with the Poetry Center and are featured on voca, our online audio video library (http://voca.arizona.edu).

SUN/gemini Press
The Parallel Voyages by Paul Blackburn
Easy Victory by Peter Wild

Paul Blackburn. The Parallel Voyages. Trade and limited editions. Tucson: SUN/gemini Press, 1987.

Peter Wild. Easy Victory. Tucson: SUN/gemini Press, 1994.

SUN/gemini Press was founded in the 1980s by Clint Colby, also a co-founder of the Tucson Poetry Festival. SUN/gemini’s early offerings are characterized by a beautiful double presentation: a limited-edition, often illustrated letterpress book published alongside a trade paperback of the same text. Later SUN/gemini offerings included chapbooks under the Sun Lizard imprint and trade editions. Charles Alexander of Chax Press, also featured in this exhibit, notes that the quality of design, materials, and binding in SUN/gemini’s limited and trade editions was exceptionally high and has served to inspire other publishers.

Clint Colby’s professional background as an archivist with the University of Arizona Library Special Collections gave him ties to notable presses, such as Black Sparrow, and poets, such as Clayton Eshleman, Diane Wakoski, and Paul Blackburn. Publishing these authors was an important motivation for SUN/gemini’s founding. Also important was publishing Tucson poets, including Becky Byrkit, Richard Shelton, Peter Wild, and Agha Shahid Ali.

Hohokam by Richard Shelton (SUN/gemini Press)
Hohokam by Richard Shelton
Photograph of Richard Shelton by LaVerne Harrell Clark

Richard Shelton. Hohokam. Trade and limited editions. Tucson: SUN/gemini Press, 1986.

Richard Shelton, 1970

Photo by LaVerne Harrell Clark

Arizona Board of Regents