Curbstone Press -- A Literary Press for our Times

Curbstone Press has been doing it for 30 years – creating this country’s most progressive, far-sighted, passionate, and vital literature. With the motto, “Poetry, like bread, is for everyone” (taken from one of Roque Dalton’s most well-known poems), Curbstone has published luminaries of the engaged word like Martin Espada, Marnie Mueller, Claribel Alegria, Nguyen Ba Chung, Roberto Sosa, Agness Bushell, Lorraine Lopez, and many others – including an impressive roster of Latino writers from the United States and Latin America.

Of my ten published works, five were done by Curbstone Press (including three poetry books, a children’s book, and a memoir). That’s why this weekend I was around the Willimantic, Connecticut area for the 30th Anniversary of the press, with events at Real Art Ways in Hartford, CT; Eastern Connecticut State University; the University of Connecticut at Storrs; and the Willimantic public schools, and other venues.

Highlighting the celebration was a fiesta at ECSU on Sunday that included a reading of some 25 Curbstone writers (who with great restraint, out of respect more than anything else, more or less stayed within the two-minute reading limit per poet – almost unheard of in poetry readings). Curbstone founders – and the heart and soul of the press – are Alexander “Sandy” Taylor and his long-time partner, Judith Doyle. Sandy told the group that Judy knows everything there is to know about publishing, and he knows the rest.

Together they’ve sustained a strikingly revolutionary press in a time when progressive institutions, bookstores, and organizations seem to be pushed to the wayside (in Los Angeles. we recently lost one of the most important socially-vital bookstores with the closing of the Midnight Special).

Special honors that day went to Breyten Breytenbach, one of South Africa’s most important authors; Sam Hamill, well-known poet, translator, and editor – and the spark behind the International Poets against the War movement; Lucy Anne Hurston, niece of Zora Neale Hurston, who recently published an impressive study of her aunt’s life and work; and Robert Meeropol, son of Ethel and Julius Rosenberg, and head of the Rosenberg Fund for Children.

I had the pleasure of having dinner with Sam Hamill Saturday evening. He is presently working on a November 5 global action of Poets against the War during President Bush’s visit to Argentina to meet with heads of state of most countries in the Americas. I told him Tia Chucha’s Café Cultural would love to do a reading that day as part of this international mobilization. Mr. Hamill is one of this county’s most important voices for poetry as a sane, peaceful and just response to the present world’s dangers and uncertainties. He is someone who has sacrificed much to keep poetry at the heart of what matters in this country.

The next three days, I’ll be doing talks, readings, and writing workshops at Windham High School – which I have done before, since at least 1991 when Curbstone Press published my poetry collection, The Concrete River.

This month, Curbstone, along with Rattle Magazine, produced my latest book, My Nature is Hunger: New & Selected Poems, 1989-2004. With meaning and purpose, big ideas and poetic vision, blood and song, Sandy and Judy have battled book by book, event by event, to bring great literature to the world.

I’m deeply honored to be part of Sandy’s and Judy’s great endeavor – to be a life-time Curbstonista.

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