Sunday, January 07, 2007

Bob Arnold and Longhouse: 35 Years of Poetry in Print

When Bob Arnold reached Vermont in 1971 as part of a negotiated deal with the U.S. government (remember the draft? remember what it took to earn Conscientious Objector status? remember what would come next once you became a C.O.?), he found a mimeograph machine at the church where he settled to work. And each time that he discovered poetry that he liked, he found ways to get it into print: via mimeo, typing, photocopying, and evenutally through letterpress efforts of friends (at least for wrappers; Bob wanted to keep the final prices easy on the wallet in order to see the poetry race out to readers) and this year, for instance, in a neat, conventional perfect-bound book.

The authors who became regulars for Bob's press, Longhouse, mostly wrote lyric and narrative poetry. They ranged from the frankly wild, like Irving Stettner, to a straong selection of the distaff side of the Beats (Janine Pommy Vega, Anne Waldman, Joanne Kyger), to Vermont's storytelling poets like Hayden Carruth and David Budbill. Bob has published a lot of work by Ted Enslin, a Maine poet who merits far more attention than he's had so far. And perhaps most memorably, Longhouse is the home of Cid Corman's poetry: printing, publishing, supporting, and inextricably woven into the fabric of Cid's life, whether in the U.S. or in Kyoto. As a direct extension of this resonance, Bob also vigorously promoted the work of Lorine Niedecker, a modest Wisconsin poet whose death in 1970 cost us all dearly. Niedecker's spare, incisive writing meshed well with Corman's urge to spend fewer and fewer words, with targeted energy. Bob thus nurtured the printed careers of both of them.

Bob announced this past week that the Longhouse Bibliography from 1971-2006 is now online, complete with his very personal annotations (brief but poignant) and color images of many of the covers. He invites viewers to:

Begin with the Longhouse Bibliography Part One 1971 - 1989

And continue with Longhouse Bibliography Part Two 1990 - 2006

I note here that Bob's wife Sue is inevitably part of his efforts; she joined him in 1974 and the two form an intimate Vermont partnership, with weather, wood, press, and poem. To celebrate their 35 years, in addition to savoring the bibliography, you'll probably want to pick up some of the small-press-run work that they mention, before it's gone. I do. The web home is

And here's a taste of Bob's own poetry, from his 1990 collection WHERE RIVERS MEET (Mad River Press):


Just before supper
I watched a storm draw in
Taking light
The trees toss
No matter
I have finished carrying
Elm from the edge of the woods
Bucked, split then stacked
I am done
Well used
Come snow

Oh yes, I mentioned a perfect-bound volume issued in 2006: That's Bob's new SUNSWUMTHRU A BUILDING, a prose sequence of tender meditations on tools, building, and fathering. Although issued through Longhouse, the book bears the Origin Press imprint, which Cid Corman originated and Bob is carrying onward, with help from Charles Sandy. But that's another story and I'll save it for another day.

1 comment:

Beth Kanell said...

A clarification from Bob Arnold on the publishing credits for SUNSWUMTHRU A BUILDING: Sunswumthru A Building is published by Origin Press. Cid Corman solicited this book from me and unfortunately passed away before he could read all the results. He was after this book. Chuck Sandy picked up the mantle in his fellowship with Cid and carried the role on as a publisher for the book. Longhouse remains the distributor, as with all Origin Press titles. Cid published an earlier trilogy of my work from Origin:This Romance: On Stone, a builder's notebook; By Heart, pages from a lost Vermont; This Romance.