Shortly after that initial exchange Ted became a regular visitor at our household; by "regular" I mean every night. We were living at 33 St. Mark's Place, between 2nd & 3rd Avenues, in a floorthru apartment 1 flight above the street, and Ted stopped by on his way home from other places, or simply as part of his nightly routine of going to Gem Spa for a milkshake and the Times.Soon other people started dropping by regularly and our lives as publishers and poets became intertwined with numerous new friendships. We had begun publishing Angel Hair Books at that time and one of our first publications was Ted's poem Many Happy Returns,a folded broadside on heavy card stock, beautifully printed by Andrew Hoyem in an edition of 200 copies.
We published Ted in every subsequent issue of Angel Hair, starting with the chapters from Clear the Range in issue #2. In issue #3, the poem "Bean Spasms," in issue #4 the sequence of prose poems "Great Stories of the Chair" (unpublished, to this date, in any of Ted's books), in issue #5 the two poems "Resolution" and "Things to do in New York (city)" as well as the collaboration with Ron Padgett, "Waterloo Sunset," and in issue #6 three poems: "For You," "Things to do in Anne's room" and "Poem to Phil Whalen." The World, the literary magazine of The Poetry Project, was appearing every two months or so, and I was co-editor with Anne on about six of the first dozen issues. Ted's work appears in every one, and in many of the subsequent issues as well.
I'm sure there were some odd moments in the course of all this activity when the repartee became a little brittle, but things were happening too fast for a word spoken with a hostile edge or a misunderstanding about money to take precedent over what we were doing, and each day brought a new sense of urgency that would manage to eclipse what a few hours earlier had seemed "totally" important. In retrospect, it doesn't seem strange at all that I'd known Ted well for only a year before I asked him -- May '67 -- to be best man at our wedding.
A decade later I was living in Lenox, Massachusetts and co-editing (with Bernadette Mayer) United ArtistsMagazine. Beginning with issue #2 Ted was a regular contributor. Often we would publish eight or ten poems of his in one issue, as well as odd works like his Basho translations and excerpts from his journals. We began publishing United Artists Books during this time, and Ted's Nothing For You,a full length collection of scattered poems, with covers by George Schneeman, was one of our first publications. Ted was in New York, I was in the Berkshires, so most of our communications took place through postcards and letters. A few years later we embarked on another project, Yo-Yo's With Money, a collaboration between Ted and Harris Schiff which consisted of the play-by-play of a Yankees-Redsox game which the poets had attended and which they taped in the upper deck of Yankee Stadium. Bernadette and I had bought a mimeograph machine a few years before and it was possible to produce a book like Yo-Yo's -- type stencils, run them off on the mimeo machine, collate around the kitchen table, staple, mail copies into the world -- in a matter of weeks.
In 1982, both of us living in New York City, Ted and I began talking about republishing The Sonnets.The Grove Press edition, from 1967, was long out-of-print. It was the work, despite years of publishing a great variety of other works, that most people identified with Ted, so it made sense to get it out in a new edition. Ted also had an idea of publishing an authoritative edition, including 6 sonnets not included in the ones published by "C" or Grove. Ted also suggested -- and I needed a bit of convincing -- that we publish a special hardcover edition, which he would sign, letter -- whatever -- with the thought that I would sell the copies and raise money for United Artists. I'd never published a hardcover edition of any of the books -- either Angel Hair or United Artists -- that I was involved with, but I was always interested in a way to "raise money" to keep the Press alive.
United Artists was supported, until the early 80's, by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts. Since the mid-nineteen-eighties I've funded the Press myself and sometimes the authors help out. Payment to authors consists of copies, usually 50 or more. There's no contract, no advance, no royalties. I do a big mailing, advertise (modestly), produce catalogs listing all the titles, and keep the book in print as long as there are copies. Ted and I never discussed money as it related to publishing, but over the years I gave him money ($5 or $10 usually) when he needed it, as did other friends -- without ever expecting repayment in the usual direct way. Still, when I was stuck in London, broke, in 1969, Ted bought me a plane ticket back to New York. He used his American Express card and I know he never paid for it ("catch me if you can") but it was his way of repaying a lot of small debts with one sweeping gesture.
The book came out in fall 1982, a few months after Ted's mother died. Louise Hamlin did beautiful front and back covers: there was the clock set forever at 5:15 -- there was the Pepsi can, and the open notebook. Ted was happy with it all. The hardcover edition arrived a few weeks later. I called Ted and asked him to sign the copies, and he asked me for $10. Was he saying that if I didn't give him the money he wouldn't sign the books? I'd given him $10 a few days earlier, and I'd give him $10 a few days later, for no reason, if he wanted it. In my pigheaded way I wanted him to sign the special edition as part of an agreement that had nothing to do with money. I'd underestimated it all: the fragility of the whole structure of friendship, especially when there was business involved, when struggling with health and mourning siphon the energy to transcend misunderstandings and not allow them to escalate, to be smarter than everyone else had been (look at the Surrealists and their squabbles), to shift gears -- as we'd done before -- and move on. I wish I could replay the moment and give Ted the money he asked for; whatever principles I thought I was acting on weren't important in light of what happened.
A few days passed. I called Ted, asking for the signed copies, and he put me off. Finally he came over and told me he had signed the edition, including a holograph poem, and sold the copies to Robert Wilson at the Phoenix Bookstore so he could get money for the next month's rent. He returned half the edition to me, unsigned. We ranted at each other for a few hours, Ted trying to justify what he'd done in light of some ledger of pluses and minuses relating to things I'd done in the past. It was disheartening, to say the least, and the next six months or so involved trying to find some way to explain, re-explain, go over, figure out via intermediaries, why what happened had happened. All of this was further confused by some problem involving a collaborative poem by Ted and Alice Notley which they accused Bernadette and I of "censoring" from The World,and which lead to further explanations -- defensively, offensively -- both to ourselves and to people who were their friends, our friends, should anyone take sides? In his memoir of Ted, Late Returns,Tom Clark describes how all this sounded from California: "I heard of his troubles with some long time friends in New York, petty matters that didn't sound worth the pain." Tom has it right, but at the moment it felt like the hells of pettiness were really closing in. Figuring out what had happened to us all sometimes seemed like the most important thing I could do with my time and it was a hard battle not to let total bitterness about everything take over.
In May 1983 Ted and I met by accident on the northeast corner of 10th & 2nd and we tried to talk through it, we seemed to be getting somewhere, there was warmth, it was hard not to feel warmth, yet my guard was up, there was too much that we could no longer do or say to each other that had to do with the past that it made everything we said now sound empty in comparison. I saw Ted a couple of more times, but I'm happy my last memory is an attempt to remind ourselves that we were human again, and set things straight.
-- Lewis Warsh, 1998
to contact and/or order books press here: Granary Books (firstname.lastname@example.org)