Big Sky began in 1971 during a perceptible lull in adventurous poetry publishing. The previous year I had moved to Bolinas, California, from New York where my parting shot had been a single-issue compendium of art and literature called Best & Company. When I arrived, the literary community in Bolinas numbered fewer than a dozen people, mainly poets like Joanne Kyger who had been associated with the Spicer and Duncan circles in San Francisco, plus a couple of prior interlopers from New York, Tom Clark and Lewis Warsh. By 1971, our neighbors included David and Tina Meltzer, Lewis and Phoebe MacAdams, Robert Creeley and Bobbie Louise Hawkins, and, briefly, Philip Whalen. Joe Brainard’s Bolinas Journal was the first Big Sky book, soon followed by The Cargo Cult by John Thorpe.
Big Sky 3 (1972), “The Clark Coolidge Issue.” Cover by Celia Elizabeth Coolidge.
The name was suggested by Tom Veitch who lived around the lagoon, in Stinson Beach, and who reminded me of the line from a Kinks song, “Big Sky looks down on all the people.” For the magazine, my original concept was a comic-book format, which was impractical for small print runs, so I held to something like comic-book size and worked with friends who had enough offset-printing skills to crank out the pages on an old multilith on overnight binges in assorted redwood sheds. My original editorial stance was to accept whatever arrived from those invited to contribute. After two chaotic issues, I put this policy to rest, devoting the next number solely to Clark Coolidge. With Big Sky 4—bearing its great wraparound Philip Guston cover and especially powerful contributions by Creeley, Ron Padgett, and Bernadette Mayer—I hit my stride as an editor. Six years later, having published twelve issues of the magazine and more than twenty books, I decided I’d done the job.
— Bill Berkson, San Francisco, California, September 1997
Joanne Kyger, All This Every Day (1975). Cover photograph of the author by Frances Pelizzi.
Big Sky books include
Anderson, David. The Spade in the Sensorium. 1974. Cover by Philip Guston.
Berkson, Bill. Enigma Variations. 1975. Cover and drawings by Philip Guston.
Berkson, Bill. Terrace Fence. 1971.
Berkson, Bill, and Larry Fagin. Two Serious Poems & One Other. 1971.
Berkson, Bill, and Joe LeSueur. Homage to Frank O’Hara. 1988. 3rd revised edition.
Brainard, Joe. Bolinas Journal. 1971.
Brodey, Jim. Blues of the Egyptian Kings. 1975. Cover by Greg Irons.
Carey, Steve. Gentle Subsidy. 1975.
Coolidge, Clark. Moroccan Variations. 1971. Broadside. Printed at the Cranium Press.
Coolidge, Clark. Polaroid. 1975. Published with Adventures in Poetry.
Fagin, Larry. Seven Poems. 1976.
Gallup, Dick. Above the Tree Line. 1976.
Greenwald, Ted. The Life. 1974. Cover by Richard Nonas.
Gustafson, Jim. Tales of Virtue and Transformation. 1974. Cover by Greg Irons.
Kyger, Joanne. All This Every Day. 1975. Cover photograph of the author by Frances Pelizzi.
MacAdams, Lewis. I Have Been Tested and Found Not Insane. 1974.
Mayer, Bernadette. Studying Hunger. 1975. Cover portrait of the author by Ed Bowes. Published with Adventures in Poetry.
Nodey, Alice. Phoebe Light. 1973. Cover by Alex Katz.
Padgett, Ron. Crazy Compositions. 1974. Cover by George Schneeman.
Thorpe, John. The Cargo Cult. 1972.
Veitch, Tom. Death College and Other Poems. 1976. Cover by the author.
Waldman, Anne. Spin Off. 1972.
Watten, Barrett. Opera—Works. 1975.