In the unpublished “A Guide to Sources for a History of the New American Poetry,” Eloyde Tovey writes:
While he was stationed with the Army in Germany during the 1950s, David Haselwood conceived the idea of becoming a publisher. At the time he was corresponding with Michael McClure in San Francisco—who needed a publisher for his Hymns to St. Geryon. When Haselwood, a native of Wichita, Kansas, was released from the Army ca. 1958, he came to live in San Francisco’s North Beach and joined the Beats. He became familiar with all the poets and the new poetry being created at that time—some of it live, some in manuscript form—and saw that a small press would be a kind of surrogate wish fulfillment.
Charles Olson, Human Universe and Other Essays (1965), edited by Donald Allen. Photograph of the author by Kenneth Irby. Cover by Robert LaVigne.
He too had dreamed of becoming a poet. The first book under the Auerhahn Press imprint was John Wieners’s The Hotel Wentley Poems in 1958. An unfortunate experience with a commercial printing firm led Haselwood to decide to study the rudiments of printing and book design. Then, he figured, he could personally print all future titles bearing his imprint. The printers had expurgated Wieners’s text by removing certain “dirty” words and leaving the spaces blank. Haselwood’s first real printing job was Philip Lamantia’s Ekstasis (1959). He discovered what a difficult task printing really is, or what it means to “express” the poet’s intent. But he wanted it known that his was the first press on the West Coast seeking to print the works of younger poets—and in cooperation with them. Nothing was ever that simple…. David Haselwood first published the Beat writers: William S. Burroughs, Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, Philip Lamantia, and Michael McClure. He also published books by William Everson, Charles Olson, Jack Spicer, Ronald Johnson, and Andrew Hoyem. Some of Haselwood’s later titles were considered outrageously overpriced when they were first offered for sale at $10 each.
Prospectus for Charles Olson’s Human Universe and Other Essays (1965).
Auerhahn Press books include
Lamantia, Philip. Destroyed Works. 1962. Cover reproduction of a no-longer-extant collage by Bruce Conner.
Lamantia, Philip. Ekstasis. 1959. Cover design by Robert LaVigne.
Lamantia, Philip. Narcotica. 1959. Cover photographs by Wallace Berman.
McClure, Michael. Hymns to St. Geryon. 1959. Cover emblem by the author.
Olson, Charles. Human Universe and Other Essays. 1965. Edited by Donald Allen. Cover by Robert LaVigne. Photograph of the author by Kenneth Irby.
Spicer, Jack. The Heads of the Town up to the Aether. 1962. Lithographs by Fran Herndon.
Van Buskirk, Alden. Lami. 1965. Collected from his writings by David Rattray, with an introductory note by Allen Ginsberg.
Whalen, Philip. Memoirs of an Interglacial Age. 1960. Cover by Robert LaVigne.
Whalen, Philip. Self-portrait from Another Direction. 1959. Broadside.
Wieners, John. The Hotel Wentley Poems. 1958. Cover photograph by Jerry Burchard. Drawing by Robert LaVigne.
See Jed Birmingham’s “Auerhahn Press Archive” at Reality Studio.
For further information on Auerhahn Press, including a complete bibliography of its publications, the reader is referred to: Alastair M. Johnston, A Bibliography of the Auerhahn Press & Its Successor Dave Haselwood Books (Berkeley, CA: Poltroon Press, 1976).