I'm up at the Poetry Center Library today, trying valiantly to catalog (instead of just settle in and read) a really exciting new pile of books. Every book in this pile is special, but taken together, they're extraordinary: I have in front of me a comprehensive run of everything publishd by Angel Hair Books in the late 1960s and 1970s. The press, founded by Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh when each was just 20 years old, was an enormously influential publisher of second-generation New York School poets, including Ted Berrigan, Alice Notley, Bernadette Mayer, Joe Brainard, and many, many others. This fall, the Poetry Center was extraordinarily fortunate to be able to acquire this complete run of Angel Hair publications from Granary Books in New York City. In a sad coincidence, we acquired this collection just a few days before we learned of Lewis Warsh's passing on November 15, 2020.
The energy, movement, curiosity and playful experimentation of the New York School is so tangible in these books. Each pamphlet, chapbook, and book in the Angel Hair Collection has an individual voice and visual style (Warsh and Waldman collaborated frequently with visual artists and photographers on their book designs). Many are slender and whimsical, with simple line drawings on the covers and stapled bindings, while the Angel Hair journal is defiantly oversized for a literary journal (Waldman dryly recalls how she and Warsh "weathered complaints from bookstores about the magazine being 'oversized' but made no compromise"). As I sit with this collection (what unbelievable riches on my desk!), I also sense its sheer urgency. This is work that Waldman and Warsh felt compelled to publish, and they produced an extraordinary amount of work in a short time--6 journal issues and 63 books and broadsides between 1966 and 1978. In the process, they gave us vital early work from poets who would go on to become giants in the contemporary literary landscape.
I am so excited to be able to share these works with our reading public when the library opens again: it is an incredible privilege to house this collection at the Poetry Center. I am delighted to preserve this collection for the researchers and readers of the future here at the University of Arizona.
But first, I have some cataloging to do.