One of New York’s literary landmarks was the Eighth Street Book Shop, which began in 1947 when brothers Ted and Eli Wilentz bought an old Womraths “bookstore” (really a lending library and card shop) and transformed it into a thriving center of literary activity. In addition to selling books, the Wilentzes began a small publishing concern in 1959. As Ted remembers: “Both of us were interested in publishing, so we jumped in. For a while we thought we might make Corinth into a full-fledged business, but that fantasy dwindled as time went on…. These new writers, then, began appearing sometime in the early fifties. They would come in the shop, often to leave their books….
Ted Joans, The Hipsters (1961). Text and collages by the author.
There were many now-important writers whom I had the pleasure of working with and getting to know. LeRoi Jones, for instance, who today prefers to be known as Imamu Amiri Baraka. I met Roi when Hettie Jones, his first wife, worked as my secretary for a time…. I still recall the time when Ginsberg came to me and asked if I would lend him some money to bring Philip Whalen and Mike McClure to New York City for a reading…. Jonathan Williams, at some point, used to pack books for us at the shop. We did four books with Jonathan, and published them under the Jargon/Corinth imprint.” A remarkable number of important writers of the period were published by Corinth, including, in cooperation with Jargon, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, and Louis Zukofsky. Corinth also copublished books with LeRoi Jones’s Totem Press, including Frank O’Hara’s Second Avenue (1960), Gary Snyder’s Myths and Texts (1960), Ginsberg’s Empty Mirror (1961), and Kerouac’s The Scripture of the Golden Eternity (1961). For a number of years the press was active in publishing the work of promising young African American poets, including Tom Weatherly, Al Young, Clarence Major, and Jay Wright. Some of the second-generation New York Schoolers were also published by the Wilentzes, including Anne Waldman and Ted Berrigan.
Ted Berrigan, Many Happy Returns (1969). Cover by Joe Brainard.
Jay Wright, The Homecoming Singer (1971).
Corinth books include
Berrigan, Ted. Many Happy Returns. 1969. Cover by Joe Brainard.
Di Prima, Diane. Dinners and Nightmares. 1961.
Ginsberg, Allen. Empty Mirror. 1970. Introduction by William Carlos Williams. Cover collage from photographs by Ann Charters and Elsa Dorfman. Revised edition.
Guest, Barbara. The Blue Stairs. 1968. Cover by Helen Frankenthaler.
Joans, Ted. The Hipsters. 1961.
Jones, LeRoi, ed. The Modems: An Anthology of New Writing in America. 1963. Introduction by LeRoi Jones.
Major, Clarence. Symptoms & Madness. 1971. Cover by Joan Wilentz.
Schjeldahl, Peter. White Country. 1968.
Waldman, Anne. Giant Night. 1970. Cover by Joe Brainard.
Warsh, Lewis. Dreaming as One: Poems. 1971. Cover by Joe Brainard.
Weatherly, Tom. Maumau American Cantos. 1970.
Wilentz, Eli, ed. The Beat Scene. 1960. Photographs by Fred McDarrah.
Wright, Jay. The Homecoming Singer. 1971.
For a more complete list of Corinth and Totem/Corinth books, the reader is referred to the list by Ted Wilentz and Bill Zavatsky, appended to their article “Behind the Writer, Ahead of the Reader: A Short History of Corinth Books,” which appeared in Tri-Quarterly 43 (1978) and is reprinted in Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie’s The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History (Yonkers, NY: Pushcart Press, 1978).