When we weren't working in mud, when we weren't covered in it, we were holed up in big green Army tents, smelly like the back of the truck, to dry out, keep warm, cook a little stew for dinner, or make cheese sandwiches without leaving thumb prints, lie back and read. This was 1975, from November or December to April or May of '76, the Bicentennial year, Greyhound buses all over town. History everywhere, the tourist or antique hunter became its medium; in storefront windows sat old rockers, all shined up, beds and tables, date next to the price. But we escaped most of that for those four or five months we worked on the clear- cuts planting trees.
Bob Blair and I shared a tent big enough for our cots, boxes of supplies and books stuffed underneath, a small round airtight wood stove, and a couple of lamps. The rest of the crew slept in tents except for those who'd done it once before; they were in homemade campers mounted on their decrepit pickups. A lot of time seems to have been taken up sitting in woolen longjohns, learning more efficient ways to dry our clothes. A system of lines ranged out from the safest point near the stove, clothes pins bearing the weight of socks and underwear. We cooked over the wood stove our odd concoctions of carbohydrates and protein; once I nearly gagged Tim McNulty with some barely cooked grain. Just before first light the mice in our food supply would wake us, we'd stoke the stove, cook some sorry coffee, get back into damp rain gear, and carry charcoal-stained cheese sandwiches onto the clear-cut, hip bags filled with mudball treelings, Doug Fir, probably harvested by now for the toilet paper mills.
Sometime during those months, Bob and I came up with the idea of publishing a poetry magazine for the Pacific Northwest. Bob had just acquired a Chandler-Price platen press, which he'd installed in a second floor office of the Taylor Building in Port Townsend. In 1974 many such presses were appearing around town. I had helped set type with Bob, Rod Freeman, and Kevin Quigley when they published a collection of poetry and art in 1973 known as The Wale. Copies of this book, indeed rare now, seemed to be all over Port Townsend and Seattle for about five years. Four or five letterpress machines were located in the back of the Weir Building, kitty-corner from Seafirst Bank and just across the street from the Town Tavern. The Weir building was unheated, so we spent a great deal of time planning at the tavern. The building was being remodeled by Jim Weir, who expressed himself mainly with gestures and grunts. Jim was always framing in walls or stairs, dismantling his work and reframing a room from a totally different plan. Changing his mind didn't seem unusual, until we came to see the process of assembling and dismantling was chronic, and the building would never be finished.
One of the last flyers printed in that building was a statement written and handset by Grant Logg to protest a proposed Kaiser plant in Port Townsend. The day after Kaiser decided not to build, Jim's brother, a millionaire in Seattle, had us kicked out of the building, and some of those big Chandler-Price printing presses grew feet and walked out with us. Jim just kept framing, dismantling and reframing with new beams, the same vestibule staircase. He wouldn't even look at us. A few years later, a tunnel which originated in the basement of the Weir Building caved in one morning in the middle of Water Street halfway to Seafirst Bank, Jim blinking up into the dust.
Our magazine was going to be printed on one of those letterpress machines, and Bob and I were going to take a month or so of our own time surviving on unemployment checks to handset each page. We had enough material from many fine writers throughout the Northwest to print, for the Fourth of July, 1976, the first issue of Dalmo'ma. The title was a Pit River tribal place name I found in Jerry Gorsline's copy of Indians In Overalls by Jaime de Angulo. It mattered that the name for the publication should be about our own place and at that time we meant, almost exclusively, too narrowly, the Olympic Peninsula. The Pit River people lived in Northern California which was beyond the southern boundary of the region where we found ourselves. I had admired the intent of Kuksu, a magazine edited by Dale Pendell, Gary Snyder and Steve Sanfield. What we were doing took some of its influence from their publication, yet the name remained regional, but outside our own physical region, and paying homage to the native words and stories found in the book of a Spanish anthropologist who could never be more than an observer, despite his evident reliance on primitive ways. Immediately after the United States incinerated Hiroshima and Nagasaki, he tore a hole in the middle of his living room floor and roof, and heated the home with fire vented through that smoke hole.
The choice of the name Dalmo'ma was to imagine a place such as one in the Pit River songs. It wasn't clear from d'Angulo whether "dalmo'ma" was an idealized and imaginary landscape, or not. We were looking for roots we knew we never had, but that someone had, and places we loved still contained. Gary Snyder showed up in Port Townsend at a benefit reading for one of the early issues and elucidated the etymology of the word, "dalmo'ma," an enlightening linguistic experience for which I wish I'd had the presence of mind to bring a tape recorder or take notes. I remember very little, other than the distinction between a glottal stop and a glottal click. And being forced to admit I knew nothing about the rather odd and apparently meaningless word I'd selected for the title of our magazine, except that I liked what I thought it sounded like in my Euro-tongue's appetite for blithe colonization.
But the press name, "Empty Bowl," which fit the Buddhist inclinations of the poets who were interested, was Bob Blair's choice. We set type in that sunny room in the Taylor Building for a few weeks, and printed stacks of several sheets of the little book before I thought to ask the name of the press. Bob or I usually asked a question by way of introducing a topic we needed to discuss, and so with this. I assumed naming the press for its first publication would be a process, like the one I had gone through to find the word, "dalmo'ma." Bob was setting the chase into the press to begin our next run. He smoked Drum in those days when we had money, rolling each smoke meticulously so that the end product could have been mistaken for the machined sticks of committed Lucky's smokers. Bob was steady and careful in all that he did, and painfully aware of the lack of these qualities in others. Tolerant of my untidiness, however, he told me about one of our treeplanter friends who, after typesetting any of his own projects, always left a pile of small lead type and copper spacers on the workbench, "like a mouse," Bob said, "always a pile of crumbs," and made the most unpleasant face.
So now when I thought to introduce the question of the Press name, he stopped locking the chase into the press, removed the cigarette with its half inch of ash from the corner of his mouth with one hand, and, still stooping over the work, turned his face from the press up to me, and said, exhaling a cloud of smoke, "Empty Bowl." His look fixing me for a moment more, he put the cigarette back in its place and turned his attention to the press again.
Although by the second issue, in 1978, Bob was no longer interested in continuing with the project, he put up no resistance when I adopted the Empty Bowl name, as if in a spirit of shared ownership. He said once that he'd tried writing poetry and found it easy and didn't want to do it anymore. Two of his poems are in Dalmo'ma 1. He had introduced me to the dark and magical writing of Jorge Luis Borges, and Marcel Duchamp's construction, "Bride Stripped Bare By Her Bachelors, Even." But years later, when Bob had an Airstream and traveled as a career reforester, he told me that I had "appropriated" the Empty Bowl name and logo when I published Dalmo'ma 2. He said so without acrimony, but his choice of words stunned me. My memory, of what I'd told myself was a transition from the dual editorship toward a collective, diverged widely from his; yet despite my surprise that he'd seen it so, I could recall no conversation where the name ceased to be his property.
The words "biome" and "bioregion" were not invented by Al Gore. The first time I heard them was when I met Jerry Gorsline and Linn House, now known as Freeman. The out-of-work treeplanters were hanging out in the Town Tavern and Jerry and Linn walked in, decidedly Californian, and wanted to discuss a scroll they were carrying entitled "Amble Towards Continent Congress" by Peter Berg.
Put out by Planet Drum, this rather formal document presented us, some for the first time, with the idea of a continent divided only by recognizable natural boundaries. One region begins and another ends where geology and dominant species change dramatically. Trees and flowers, insects, birds and climate. That places could be structured as natural rather than political systems seemed a more appropriate form of anarchy than measures then being suggested in cities.
Bioregionalism is better explained in the first and second issues of Dalmo'ma. In the first issue, Jerry Gorsline's and Linn House's "Excerpts from Future Primitive," and in the second the "Prologue to Ohode R.A.R.E II Proposal" lay out the plan by which bioregionalism accounts for man's place in the habitat watershed management. These two pieces of writing constitute the largest portion of prose in the first two issues. They were both scientific as well as poetic solutions to the ancient question, "What is to be done?" The "Prologue" became a centerpiece for the second issue, as did, on the visual level, a set of elegant and symbolic ink drawings by Gué Pilon. Although the essay was attributed to the collective editorship of Ohode, a group of people on the Olympic Peninsula working "in the realm of watershed politics," the author was Tom Jay, noted naturalist and sculptor. It seemed to me that for an issue of a magazine or an anthology to successfully evolve a theme, there must be this conception on the part of the editor that a centerpiece would state the key principles about which all other entries could revolve.
The centerpiece of Dalmo'ma 1 was Mike O'Connor's "Song of Ishi, a poem cycle derived from Ishi: in Two Worlds by Theodora Kroeber." The poems include some in Chinook jargon, which, as every Washington State History student learns, is the language created specifically for trade among whites and natives of the Pacific Northwest. Throughout the book, Puget Sound Salishan calendar terms set the poems and translations in specific seasonal turns. There were Aztec and Sioux translations within the few pages of this issue, and in both the first and second issues the poetry and stories of such, now notable, writers as Tim McNulty, William Stafford, Kim Stafford, Bill Ransom, Sam Hamill, Barry Lopez, Jim Dodge, John Haines and Jim Heynen.
Both issues quickly sold out at $2.00 each and Empty Bowl's loose knit group of editors and friends fell back into meetings, reading and discussion. The press was occasionally busy. Two issues of a pamphlet series, Firecrackers, went out, and a few small postcard size poems. Firecrackers 2 was produced by D.J.Hamilton and consisted of his translation from the Spanish text of a poem by the Palestinian, Mahmud Darweesh. It included a rough map of the strife-torn Middle East, about which most of us entrenched regionalists knew utterly nothing. Firecrackers 1, which I edited, consisted of three poems by Tim McNulty, Tom Jay and Doug Dobyns. The subtitle, "Poems Against Trident", marked the first occasion of Empty Bowl's aggressive stance toward the Navy's proposed submarine base only a few miles from where we lived. This was not what we've come to call a NIMBY issue, however, since the frightening power of the Trident weapons system had global reach and presented a target which would wipe out such subtargets as Seattle, Portland, Vancouver, British Columbia, and all life between.
The pamphlet was reviewed in The Pacific Northwest Review of Books. The reviewer noted the special paper, like brown bag. It may be the "prime directive" of regionalism that artists work with local materials. Like prehistoric regionalists in Jim Dodge's Lascaux ("Magic and Beauty" Dalmo'ma 2), we found that Empty Bowl could, as if magically, attract what was needed from the community. A roll of brown paper from the Port Townsend mill, which employed most of the town and fouled the air with pulp fumes, appeared in our office one day. We could work it on the letterpress, only if it was cut. The three foot roll became an insurmountable problem for days until my old mentor, Grant Logg, came up to the office with his chainsaw, divided it into three neat rolls, and left. On a small green paper cutter from the local thrift store, I unrolled the brown bag paper and sliced nearly precise sheets into two stacks flattened with the OED My time on this project, which, incidentally, bore artwork by Tree Swenson on its cover, was paid for with fifty dollars by Tom Jay, who said it was "mad money" I should have, rather than be an unpaid volunteer in the anti-Trident movement.
Composed mainly of people fresh from what we saw as victory in the pullout from Vietnam, the activists in the movement may, for a short time at the beginning, have harbored the belief that protests, pamphlets, books, lectures, and news articles could in fact bring about a halt to the production and proliferation of the Trident Nuclear Submarine System, or even the production and shipment of weapons grade material, which brought on massive protests against the so-called White Train. The three or four white-haired men and women standing in front of Skagit County Court House today or King County Courthouse and other prominent locations across the country are a more emphatic pronouncement against the continuing military build-up. The obligation to provide witness to warmongers and governments is the lasting purpose of a political movement. Empty Bowl began the first Dalmo'ma Anthology by collecting significant documents of the Northwest Anti-Trident movement and publishing them.
The book includes a statement by Jim Douglass, spokesperson for the Movement, as well as the "Defendants' Trial Brief On International Law," which declared the Trident illegal on grounds it is a first strike weapon. Jerry Gorsline published an interview with a young Buddhist monk who, along with a small group of craftsmen monks from Japan, was building a Temple on Ground Zero. On a day when our treeplanting crew helped with some of the construction, we met Archbishop Hunthausen, who attended almost all protests against Trident, called it the "New Auschwitz," and withheld his taxes. When they had completed the Temple, built on property adjoining the Bangor Naval Base, Trident's Home Port, it was burnt to the ground by unknown arsonists. Archbishop Hunthausen attended the protest of Trident at Oak Bay at the mouth of Hood Canal, also known as Twana Fjord. I wrote a description of that day when protesters got in boats to meet Trident on its maiden voyage to Bangor. Jim Douglass used the term, "satyagraha," in his essay on Peace in this anthology; he translates the Hindu as "truth-force," which seems to have accurately depicted the modesty and respect with which private citizens confronted this inhumanly aggressive machine.
To the Anti-Trident section, the anthology linked Central American poetry and essays, and the work of writers about the environment, feminism and Northwest Poetry specifically. Sharon Doubiago's wilting depiction of male writers in the "Bearshit in the Trail School of Poetry" indicted many of the poets who had been models and who had set out in the direction we wanted our publications to head. Although her essay seemed to take its initial outrage from an announcement in the second issue of Dalmo'ma calling for submissions on the theme, "Balling The Great Mother," she wrote persuasively about the lack of representation by women writers in a movement that took much of its imagery from a feminine or maternal the root of "matrix" as Tom Jay had informed us in the Ohode "Prologue" (Dalmo'ma 2) view of earth. The "Bearshit" School was a title suggested by Kenneth Rexroth for those poets who, like Gary Snyder and the editors and contributors of Kuksu, took wilderness as their subject.
While producing the first issue of Dalmo'ma, I attended, at one of Centrum's first summer writing programs, a workshop led by Kenneth Rexroth. He had a great deal to say about publishing during that week, as well as writing and the influences a beginning writer could best profit from. But the statement I really remember applied to me at the time because Dalmo'ma was conceived of as the first issue of a quarterly. Rexroth said, without any sarcasm, that editors who start poetry magazines, do so to publish their own poetry. At the time, I had to admit this was true, although both Bob Blair and I were committed to the work of those authors we'd invited. That was 1976. By 1982, our Anthology's commitment was to the issues themselves, and to attempting to present thoughtful arguments, compelling images and serious alternatives.
One reviewer chastised us for trying to represent too many controversies. In hindsight her criticism is justified, yet at the time, we found it ludicrous how could we not combine all these themes? Each depends on another, we said. It became our consensus as a group of editors meeting in one another's living rooms, that we could not criticize the government without looking at the governed. We examined aggression in all the forms that seemed pertinent. Yet we wanted our anthology to express hope, both through our writing and through visual art. For that we selected from among the elegant photographs of Steve R. Johnson, and reproduced a triptych of paintings in black and white by the late Northwest artist, Nelson Capouilliez. The struggles and compromises of a collective editorship of eleven people forced us to balance one another's interests with what we saw as the central theme, a life at peace, or as the current bumpersticker was saying, "Live Without Trident." Our belief in place, in the value of individuals and communities standing up, beyond their attendance at forums about increased taxes, governed our efforts to publish this collection.
Maybe the struggle to combine a variety of themes and juxtapose an array of seemingly ill fitting images also fosters the ongoing disagreement about the question, "What is a Northwest Poet?" One has to be a regional, but not necessarily, provincial writer to ask such a question without also getting on the phone to ask someone in New York "What is a New York Poet?" Or a San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago Poet. But, of course, "What is a Regional Poet?" settles nothing about the Northwest or any other locations. In other parts of the country, I imagine people from around here are called Seattle Poets by way of identifying an address or an influence suggested by movie settings, coffee companies, mountains & rivers, logging. Remembering that a great deal of software originated here could suggest a Seattle Poet writes exclusively for cyber readerships. In which case, does the reflection of a poet's sensory observations need to have any definable influence? It seems that a writer who has not been somewhat formed by a specific place can't really be called "regional," and that his or her references to place are backdrop and props.
Yet, because Empty Bowl was so profoundly committed to Our Place, were we deceived into thinking that the Northwest native, Gary Snyder, was a Northwest Poet? Was he a Californian Poet because he lived there, and wrote so much about his community's having claimed that place? Was Robinson Jeffers, for that matter, a Californian Poet? Lawrence Ferlinghetti a San Francisco Poet? And Rexroth? Was Robert Frost a New England Poet? The answer is of course always "Yes," in the same way that Shakespeare was an Englishman. Yet, he is "The Bard", and they are "Poets." One could argue that gaining a national, or even global audience should be the goal of poets. Hence, the epithet "Northwest Poet," should be a pejorative, a belittling of someone's reputation who may have refused merely by lack of inclination to publish with the big multinationals. But it seems a Northwest Poet, with or without a National or Multinational Corporation's readership, besides living here, must write something that interests people from the Northwest, that somehow characterizes them and this quite unusual combination of climate conditions in which we live.
I remember declarations, when we finished the first Dalmo'ma Anthology, that we were not a "literary" magazine. ( We still thought of ourselves as a publication that would produce an issue more than once a year, but soon gave that up, and referred to subsequent volumes as the Dalmo'ma series of anthologies.) I'm sure we meant by that to be more useful than strictly literary, yet prejudiced in favor of the broadest interpretations I think the Dalmo'ma anthologies remain as literary text to represent the pastoral tradition. Just as Stephen Duck, who protested the advent of the Industrial Revolution with proletariat poetry that predates Marxism, and John Clare from the same era, who with maddening ferocity describes down to the nose hairs every badger in sight, just as they and centuries of local poets offered an identification with a kind of grove, or a sacred place, so did Empty Bowl. Just as Robert Frost and Virgil meditated on how the human condition thrives in the vegetative bucolic, and as Gary Snyder depicted the ghost logger visiting the demolished grove, Empty Bowl did too. The Northwest Poet, for us, could not have lived in an imaginary landscape.
There were eight issues of Dalmo'ma, and each identifies itself in a particular way. The first issue, the letterpress one which Bob and I funded, was very small and emphasized these lines from Jaime D'Angulo's Indians In Overalls:
At Dalmo'ma near the spring
I dig for wild turnips
At Dalmo'ma in the evening
I turn up rotten ones.
This quotation appears in five of the eight issues. In the second issue the following description appears on the title page: "A magazine of literature and public responsibility." The issue ended with the sentence, "This magazine may not appear very often, or regularly." It was funded by donations as well as a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission. The Dalmo'ma Anthology, which we considered numbers three and four of our series, appeared in 1982 and was subtitled, "a magazine of literature and responsibility." No one remembers where the funding came from for this particular book. Unfortunately the sponsor was never credited and no record was kept. It wasn't until the following year that Empty Bowl became a nonprofit organization, and I was officially hired as editor-publisher-trainee. An out of work treeplanter rehabilitating from an injured back, I was eligible for retraining funded by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries for six months. Although our organization had to agree to hire me at the end of that period, we knew the chances were slim that Empty Bowl could afford an employee. It seems now to have been a shady deal, but even the treeplanters who disapproved of filing the claim for the back injury, thought their own support of the press was a significant community obligation.
Digging For Roots: Dalmo'ma 5 alluded to the de Angulo quote in its title, but did not use it in the frontispiece. Edited by Christina Pacosz and Susan Oliver in l984, the book contained "Works by Women of The North Olympic Peninsula." This issue was also funded by private, uncredited donations from members of a much wider community than the subtitle indicates, who supported Empty Bowl and particularly the community of women represented. In 1986 we published two issues both funded by a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission's dwindling arts fund. They were Working The Woods Working The Sea, Dalmo'ma VI An Anthology of Northwest Writings, edited by Finn Wilcox and Jerry Gorsline, and In Our Hearts & Minds, The Northwest & Central America: Dalmo'ma 7, An Anthology of Northwest Writing, which I edited.
Working The Woods is one of the few books, perhaps the only such book, to portray the lives and experiences of treeplanters. It also examines the neglect of watershed management and how the status of the Pacific Northwest as a resource colony for timber and fish has lead to the losses of various species and to accidents, results of corporate decisions or the impact of the Trident Nuclear Submarine System in our waters. Its attitude toward the environment is captured best in two essays at the end of the book, "Twana Fjord" by Jerry Gorsline and "Salmon Of The Heart" by Tom Jay. In Our Hearts & Minds is a collection of writing by Central Americans and Northwesterners who had something to say about the struggles at the time in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala and Honduras. It was an effort to expand our own sense of community, to demonstrate what the Sister City movement of that era was accomplishing, and to establish a relationship with environmental issues beyond our own bioregion. With these three books our group of editors was able to focus on the major themes the reviewer of The Dalmo'ma Anthology had faulted us for treating like buckshot.
The last issue in the series was published in 1992 and called Shadows of Our Ancestors, Readings In the History of Klallam-White Relations, Dalmo'ma VIII. Edited and with commentaries by Jerry Gorsline, it is monumental in the scope of Empty Bowl's vision. The collection addresses eloquently and precisely the themes fundamental to our publications: regional, environmental, native and historic values override the general, vague, inexact blunders of political and academic systems. The book's copyright page makes this final declaration of our identity: "Empty Bowl is a small, non-profit press dedicated to publishing books and periodicals that reflect the visions and concerns of Pacific Rim communities, biological and cultural features of distinct regions, and the interdependence of all life along the Pacific Rim. The Dalmo'ma Anthology is an ongoing publication program interpreting Pacific Rim culture, history and ecology." Emphasis on the Pacific Rim was meant to include the writings by and about Central American authors and civilizations which had appeared in the first Dalmo'ma (1976) and again in the seventh, In Our Hearts & Minds (1986), as well as the books our colleagues, Bill Porter (known as Red Pine) and Mike O'Connor in Taiwan were sending. The Rainshadow (1983), our first book published in Taiwan and bound in the traditional Chinese fashion included poems about China with those set near the eastern slope of the Olympics. Red Pine sent us the beautiful and exotic copies of his books: P'u Ming's Oxherding Pictures & Verses (1983), From Temple Walls The Collected Poems of Big Shield and Pickup (1984), The Mountain Poems of Stonehouse (1986), and finally the first English translation of The Zen Teaching Of Bodhidharma (1987), the Buddhist patriarch, all translated into modern English, and bearing our logo, the half circle of the bowl.
Apart from the Dalmo'ma series, we'd begun to publish individual collections of poetry. Funding was always up to the author for these books. Although all such publications can be tarred as Vanity or Subsidy books, we were not inviting authors to submit based on their bank accounts, or their benefactors', but because their work was significant to many of us in the editorial committee, because the work struck us as powerful interpretations of our human involvement with this region.
We were a cooperative with a collective editorship, if such terms of a relationship aren't mutually exclusive. Coop presses are, in fact, the staple of a strong regional literature. Without it the literature from any given area will be left up to the press that attracts the most grant support. Grant support is dependent upon past performance, and for small press publishers this means bigger and more beautiful books by more celebrated authors. Celebrated poets often become such by winning contests. The Empty Bowl editors made a decision, which may have been a factor in its eventual demise, to run no contests. Even a regional contest can limit and stymie the body of work and the current of influence collaboration fosters. Collaborations should be regional, that is, the collaborators should know one another, have more in common than an exchange of writing, like bodily fluids, for money. Funding for the production is the biggest burden for a small press publisher, and when the writer enters into this swamp, it may be because a publisher with integrity has found a manuscript that deserves to be published and invited the writer to help.
More and more, as funding from Government and Foundations are channeled toward the largest and most competitive of the small presses, and as "reader fees" for contests increase disproportionately to the price of books, by evolving into "application fees", poets who feel their work is important enough are actively pursuing funding, sometimes ponying up the cost themselves. One gives up the long-awaited approval of some venerable editor, perhaps because the manuscript itself has become so compelling both to the author and to many readers. The misfortune of such a development is the diminishing role of an editor in subsidy presses. Compared, for instance, to those graduate students or hired guns who pre-read contest submissions, one's friends may seem less objective. Yet a response by someone who can be impartial, and who is genuinely moved by one's poetry, can be as rewarding as an acceptance into a world of academic look-alikes. Because we are so unsure of ourselves, perhaps, as writers in a competitive culture, it helps to approach one's own work with an astonishing authority. Who, after all, was Dante's editor? Whitman's? Rilke's? Yeats'? Certainly Pound's reading of Yeats' later poems had an influence, as he did on Eliot, and many other poets of the day. Who edited Pound? A biography I read in my early studies of poetry, remarked that fifty percent of The Cantos were sheer "caprology". I had to look it up: "Shit."
Jody Aliesan's book Desire (1985) and my own, The Straits (1983), were continuations of Empty Bowl's opposition to militarist experimentation; they were anti-Trident and firmly opposed to a nuclear civilization. Judith Roche's Ghosts (1985), Susan Goldwitz's Dreams Of The Hand (1985), Mary Lou Sanelli's Lineage (1985), Bill Ransom's The Single Man Looks At Winter (1983), and Tim McNulty's Tundra Songs (1982), connected us with Alaska, or portrayed the Northwest as wilderness at peace, a civilization of humans who fail easily, and have the victory of recognizing that. This is an especially significant theme of Jim Bodeen's Whole Houses Shaking (1993), a series of poems addressing the cancer treatment and death of his father, the bonds of his family, the stories and histories we're forever running up against, forever avoiding.
Yet other books, Here Among The Sacrificed (1984) by Finn Wilcox and Psyche Drives The Coast (1990) by Sharon Doubiago, Untold Stories (1990) by Bill Slaughter, and The Basin (1988) by Mike O'Connor expanded for us the boundaries of our region, taught us something of what it was like to be an outsider, even an outcast. Finn Wilcox's book is a collection of haunting poems and captivating stories about his travels on freight trains, accompanied by the startling and beautiful photos of Steve R. Johnson. American hobos, Finn had said, existed in a separate place which is its own bioregion.
Here Among The Sacrificed was published with a grant from the Washington State Arts Commission, although the grant covered only half the cost. While we were in the midst of publication, I returned to the East Coast to spend some time with my family. (At least three of our six editors, Northwest writers, came from New England.) I was living alone in a small cottage on Martha's Vineyard that belonged to a friend. A month earlier I confessed to her I wanted to write an article about Central American refugees, but couldn't sustain more than thirty minutes of uninterrupted time at my mother's house. My friend offered her empty cottage, if I would paint the rooms. In those few weeks I did a great deal of walking around Martha's Vineyard, painted a room each week, wrote for several hours a day an overly researched document about a piece of refugee legislation called "The Moakley Bill", and cut and paste with a chalky ruler the text for Here Among The Sacrificed every night on the kitchen table. Most book designers are much more rigid than was. I rented a light table from a nearby typesetting company and tried to keep my lines straight. Steve Johnson and I were on the phone every day discussing the placement of his photos, or the quality of printing. He also called the printer every morning to ensure the highest quality for his duotone reproductions.
The editors of The Dalmo'ma Anthology in 1982 were: Jerry Gorsline, Michael O'Connor, David Romtvedt, Tom Jay, Sharon Doubiago, Finn Wilcox, Tree Swensen, Tim McNulty, Michael Daley, Beverlee Joesten, and Steve R. Johnson. By 1984 the editors were Tim McNulty, Jerry Gorsline, Tom Jay, Finn Wilcox, Mike O'Connor, Pat Fitzgerald and Michael Daley. In the years that followed most us were to remain involved in less active ways, while others would replace them: Barbara Morgan, Beth Barron, Ru Kirk, and still others who I hope will forgive my bad memory. My own involvement with Empty Bowl Press changed in 1985 when I moved out of Port Townsend. I had already lost the urge to design and publish books, and I was forced to admit I didn't have the stamina needed to distribute work which deserved to be read.
Finn Wilcox, Pat Fitzgerald and Jerry Gorsline ran Empty Bowl for its fourteen years, disbanding the nonprofit and dispersing the unsold books in 1998. They were filling orders, although fewer and fewer, for years after the books were published. Despite our minimal advertisement, few reviews of our books, and increasing disillusionment over the tough work of distribution, orders for Empty Bowl books came steadily from book stores, distributors, collectors and readers of poetry and literature throughout the world. During those years they published many of the books I have already described: Working The Woods Working The Sea (1986), Shadows Of Our Ancestors (1992) and Psyche Drives The Coast (1990) by Sharon Doubiago. They facilitated the distribution of Empty Bowl books produced by associates of the press, such as Whole Houses Shaking (1993) by Jim Bodeen, The Family Letters of Maxwell Perkins (1995) and Untold Stories (1990) by William Slaughter. They arranged to place copies of many of these books into classrooms to be used as texts in college and high school courses. Besides which, they did the heroic work of keeping the press afloat, and maintaining nonprofit status. Migrating from Bob Blair's office to Nelson Capouilliez' vacant garage, to the backs of various pickup trucks, to once a closet behind a bakery, once to a spacious unheated office overlooking the downtown traffic of tourists and poets, and often to the kitchens and tables of our fluctuating membership for board meetings or mailings, to plan fundraisers of auctions and rock concerts, to design books and edit Empty Bowl was a "moveable feast" and the party wound up in Pat and Finn's living room. They stored the books for years in their house and their kids grew up with poets and readers coming and going to pick up or autograph copies. They filled orders continuously, ran meetings and kept the accounts of an organization that took its name to mean both replenishment and the gift that moves. They saw that the spontaneity of poetry needed to come to rest somewhere, and took on the steady methodical job of running Empty Bowl, permitting so many Northwest writers and artists a home. The function of the press was to keep a place for writers to publish works significant to the Northwest literary community. The more nebulous and loose that group became, the more apparent became Empty Bowl's purpose: to record a valuable era in the region's literary history and to represent the tradition of those who stand apart, who choose within the smaller market to act locally. From our home, and the materials at hand, we did what literature commands, we made a solid thing of words.
*Used by permission of THE TEMPLE / GU SI / EL TEMPLO: A Postnational
Quarterly of Spriitual Poetry, To Create and Maintain a State Where the State
Has No Jurisdiction. Summer 2000. Published by Tsunami Press, PO Box 100,
Walla Walla, WA 99362-0033.