Shearsman Books celebrated its 30th anniversary this past Saturday evening at the Bowery Poetry Club. Thirteen Shearsman poets read from their collections: Joseph Bradshaw, Richard Deming, Shira Dentz, George Economou, Anne Gorrick, Michael Heller, Nancy Kuhl, Jill Magi, Maryrose Larkin, Deborah Meadows, Elena Rivera, Mercedes Roffé, and Mark Weiss.
Shearsman is one of the UK’s most significant poetry publishers, and is noted both in the U.S. and abroad for its large numbers of first-book and experimental American authors of exceptional quality. Producing some 60 books a year, with many titles by American poets and translations in English that give voice to poets writing in Spanish, German, French, Galician, Norwegian, Turkish and more, Shearsman is committed to creating a global audience. This event exemplified the diversity and high quality of recent American titles in the publisher’s catalog.
Shira Dentz introduced the event, and gave homage to Tony Frazer, the editor at Shearsman, as did several other readers. She said that he was not only a consistently refreshing delight of an editor, but also uncommonly unwavering when it comes to his aesthetic vision, or politics.
Explaining the origin of the press’s name, Shira read the first part of Wallace Stevens’ poem, “The Man with the Blue Guitar.”
The man bent over his guitar,
A shearsman of sorts. The day was green.
They said, “You have a blue guitar,
You do not play things as they are.”
The man replied, “Things as they are
Are changed upon the blue guitar.”
And they said then, “But play, you must,
A tune beyond us, yet ourselves,
A tune upon the blue guitar
Of things exactly as they are.”
Stevens’s poem expresses the originality that I heard in each reader’s work and that sums up Shearsman’s sensibility. Some highlights that stood out for me were George Economou’s Greek comedy and tragedy, Shira Dentz’s idiosyncratic and supple poems, Jill Magi’s fresh and witty seriousness, Deborah Meadow’s socio-political engagement, collaborative performances by Joseph Bradshaw et al, Anne Gorrick and echoing partner, Richard Deming’s bold and passionate lyrics, Maryrose Larkin’s lyric metaphysics, Nancy Kuhl’s syntactical play, Michael Heller’s prophetic intensity, Mark Weiss’s harkening of a Ginsbergian bardic tradition, Elena Rivera’s sinuous presence, and Mercedes Roffé’s surreal poems based on Remedios Varo’s surreal paintings. Speaking of painting, each voice was a vibrant color of its own, and this evening was a feast of colors.