SUN—the magazine and the press (never “Sun Press” or “Sun Books” or “Sun magazine”)—emerged from the collapse of Sundial, a literary magazine started at Columbia University by undergraduate Lawrence Susskind in 1966. (The sundial at the center of 116th Street, which runs through the campus, offered its name as a hub of activity.)
Sundial, vol. 2, no. 1 (Winter 1968).
Sundial was funded by the Protestant Episcopal Office in Earl Hall, and featured dynamic graphic design and an eclectic approach that opened its pages not only to Columbia students but to anybody connected to the school. When the Rev. William Starr officiated at the marriage of two protestors occupying one of the university buildings in the spring of 1968, the Episcopal Diocese pulled the money for the magazine and other programs. I had come up through the ranks, from staff member to poetry editor to editor—but suddenly found myself without funds to bring out an issue.
Eventually I scraped up some money, changed the name of the magazine to SUN, and put out several more issues. After getting out numbers that each totaled 250 pages plus, I found myself perplexed when people asked me, “Hey, this is great! When’s the next issue coming out?” In 1972, while still doing the magazine, I began to think out loud about book publishing, bringing out Phillip Lopate’s collection of poems called The Eyes Don’t Always Want to Stay Open as a trial horse.
SUN, vol. 4, no. 1 (Spring 1974). Cover by Rudy Burckhardt.
My tastes ran to the New York School, but there was a lot to admire (and publish) all around. In 1975 I brought out four titles, including Lauds by Harvey Shapiro, my own Theories of Rain and Other Poems, and Trevor Winkfield’s translation of How I Wrote Certain of My Books by Raymond Roussel—and the press took wing. We did thirty-five books in all, sometimes in hardcover and with dust jackets—mostly books of poems, but here and there a novel, a book of nonfiction, and some translations: Max Jacob’s Dice Cup edited and translated by Michael Brownstein, Ron Padgett, John Ashbery, and Zack Rogow, and me; the aforementioned Roussel, in two editions; Jules Supervielle translated by George Bogin; Malcolm de Chazal translated by Irving Weiss; Francis Ponge translated by Serge Gavronsky; and Gorän Sonnevi translated by Robert Bly.
The SUN list included Phillip Lopate, Ron Padgett, Bill Knott, Marc Kaminsky, Greg Kuzma, Jaimy Gordon, Michael O’Brien, Marjorie Welish, Maureen Owen, Serge Gavronsky, Paul Auster, James Schuyler, Tony Towle, George Economou, Carolanne Ely, Robert Hershon, Barry Yourgrau, Andrei Codrescu, Peter Schjeldahl, Alan Feldman, and Paul Violi.
SUN, vol. 5, no. 1 (Winter 1983). Cover by Glen Baxter.
When in 1985 illness made it impossible for my wife Phyllis to continue working on SUN, I realized that I couldn’t support us on freelance poets-in-the-schools jobs. I found publishers for the several books that were in the works, began to empty the warehouse of backstock, returned manuscripts, and exhaled deeply as I closed up the shop. (I taught high school for the next twenty-four years.) The business side of publishing never thrilled me. Though the press and the magazine were generously supported by grants from the New York State Council on the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, when getting and spending and paperwork got me down I used to lament, “I started life as a poet and I’m ending it as an accountant.” Nevertheless I am very happy that I published so many wonderful books that I wanted to read.
— Bill Zavatsky, New York, March 2017
Complete checklist with all contributors available as a PDF.
Roy Rogers, 1966–74
A spinoff of Sundial, Roy Rogers was first produced as a giveaway stapled-and-mimeographed publication to accommodate the fact that a number of writers on the Sundial staff were writing so prolifically. Five issues of the “giveway” were done between late 1966 (?) and 1967.
After I took control of Sundial and restamped the magazine with the name of SUN, I produced two much larger issues of Roy Rogers, described below.
Roy Rogers  (1970). An “All Roy Rogers” issue, in which all material pertains to the cowboy hero. Mimeographed/stapled, 44 pp.
Roy Rogers  (Winter1974). A “One Line Poems” issue, in which all contributions are of that genre. Offset/stapled, with a wraparound four-color cover designed by Hannah Wilke, 117 pp.
Roy Rogers, vol. 1, no. 1 (May 1967). A giveaway.
SUN Books, 1972–85 (complete)
Auster, Paul. The Invention of Solitude. 1982. 174 pp.
Codrescu, Andrei. Selected Poems 1970–1980. 1983. 139 pp.
de Chazal, Malcolm. Sens-Plastique. 1979. Edited and translated from the French with an introduction by Irving Weiss. 163 pp.
Economou, George. Ameriki: Book One, and Selected Earlier Poems. 1977. 102 pp.
Ely, Carolanne. Love Wounds & Multiple Fractures. 1975. 36 pp.
Feldman, Alan. The Happy Genius. 1978. 75 pp.
Gavronsky, Serge. The German Friend. 1984. 164 pp.
Gordon, Jaimy. The Bend, The Lip, The Kid: Reallife Stories. 1978. 66 pp.
Heller, Michael. Knowledge. 1979. 88 pp.
Hershon, Robert. How to Ride on the Woodlawn Express. 1985. 59 pp.
Jacob, Max. The Dice Cup: Selected Prose Poems. 1979. Edited and with an introduction by Michael Brownstein, with translations from the French by the editor, John Ashbery, David Ball, Ron Padgett, Zack Rogow, and Bill Zavatsky. 122 pp.
Kaminsky, Marc. A Table with People. 1982. 117 pp.
Knott, Bill. Selected and Collected Poems. 1977. 121 pp.
Kuzma, Greg. Of China and of Greece. 1984. 108 pp.
Lopate, Phillip. The Daily Round: New Poems. 1976. 90 pp.
Lopate, Phillip. The Eyes Don’t Always Want to Stay Open. 1972. 61 pp.
Lopate, Phillip. The Eyes Don’t Always Want to Stay Open. 1976. 61 pp. Redesigned and reprinted from 1972 edition.
O’Brien, Michael. Blue Springs: Poems. 1976. 90 pp.
O’Brien, Michael. Conversations at the West End 1966–1974. 1979. 176 pp.
Owen, Maureen. Zombie Notes. 1985. 64 pp.
Padgett, Ron. Toujours l’amour: Poems. 1976. 104 pp.
Padgett, Ron. Triangles in the Afternoon. 1979. 46 pp.
Ponge, Francis. The Sun Placed in the Abyss and Other Texts. 1977. Translated from the French with an essay and interview with Ponge by Serge Gavronsky. 101 pp.
Roussel, Raymond. How I Wrote Certain of My Books. 1975. Translated from the French with notes and a bibliography by Trevor Winkfield. 42 pp.
Roussel, Raymond. How I Wrote Certain of My Books. 1977. Translated from the French with notes and a bibliography by Trevor Winkfield. Includes two essays on Roussel by John Ashbery and a translation of Canto III of Roussel’s poem “New Impressions of Africa” by Kenneth Koch. 71 pp.
Schjeldahl, Peter. Since 1964: New and Selected Poems. 1978. 116 pp.
Schuyler, James. Freely Espousing. 1979. 92 pp.
Shapiro, Harvey. Lauds: Poems. 1975. 49 pp.
Shapiro, Harvey. Lauds & Nightsounds. 1978. 97 pp.
Sonnevi, Göran. The Economy Spinning Faster and Faster: Poems. 1982. Chosen and translated from the Swedish with an introduction by Robert Bly. Includes Swedish texts. 45 pp.
Supervielle, Jules. Selected Poems and Reflections on the Art of Poetry. 1985. Translated from the French with a preface by George Bogin. Includes French texts of poems. 172 pp.
Towle, Tony. “Autobiography” and Other Poems. 1977. Copublished with Coach House South. 68 pp.
Violi, Paul. Harmatan. 1977. 65 pp.
Violi, Paul. Splurge. 1982. 81 pp.
Welish, Marjorie. Handwritten. 1979. 60 pp.
Yourgrau, Barry. A Man Jumps Out of an Airplane. 1984. 99 pp.
Zavatsky, Bill. Theories of Rain and Other Poems. 1975. 91 pp.