RIP Allan Kornblum, 1949-2014


On its website, Coffee House Press announced the passing of its founder Allan Kornblum early in the day on Sunday. Kornblum was 65 years old. Cinda, Kornblum’s wife, and his daughters Gwen and Annabel survive him.

Coffee House Press released the following message from its current publisher Chris Fischbach:

In 1972, Allan bought a letterpress for $35 at auction, put it in Anselm Hollo’s garage, and founded Toothpaste Press. By 1984, Toothpaste had relocated to Minnesota and become Coffee House Press. Today, we celebrate Allan’s  legacy: more than 400 books published, innumerable careers begun and nurtured, and every dog-eared page and underlined passage he brought to a reader.

Allan’s influence extended beyond the books he worked on—for forty-two years he championed new voices and new publishers and fought tirelessly to get them the attention they deserve. It was a lifetime of service not only to literature but also  to the field of publishing, of which he was a devoted scholar. Whether it was choosing just the right font, navigating the changing marketplace of bookselling, or understanding the historical pattern of the changes in printing technology, his wisdom and devotion were unmatched.

I worked for and with Allan for almost twenty years. He hired me first as a letterpress intern, guided me as an editor, and trained me to be a publisher. He was not only a mentor—he was a friend and a father figure, and I wouldn’t be who I am without him. I will miss him.

William Carlos Williams’s “The Descent” was a poem that meant a great deal to both of us. Cinda read it to Allan last night, and I’m remembering him in these lines today:

Memory is a kind
of accomplishment
a sort of renewal
an initiation, since the spaces it opens are new places
inhabited by hordes
heretofore unrealized
of new kinds—
since their movements
are toward new objectives
(even though formerly they were abandoned).

In remembering Kornblum, we point readers to this Poets & Writers interview from 2011. Condolences to the family as well as the Coffee House Press community.