Perhaps the most familiar of all the literary small presses, Black Sparrow began life with the money John Martin got from selling (for $50,000) his collection of modern literature, which he had purchased over a period of fifteen years (primarily through trading the collection of more classical books he had inherited from his father). The first six publications of the press were broadsides (five of them by Charles Bukowski, who was published by the press until its closure in 2002). The first book was Ron Loewinsohn’s L’Autre.
Kenneth Koch, When the Sun Tries to Go On (1969). Cover by Larry Rivers.
In an essay included in Brad Morrow and Seamus Cooney’s Bibliography of the Publications of the Black Sparrow Press (1981), poet Robert Kelly assesses the press that printed so much of his own work: “How much of these past two decades is represented in the Black Sparrow checklist? How much of it is still in print? What are the high points? Antin’s Meditations, Palmer’s first book, Dorn’s first Gunslinger, The Collected Spicer, Blackburn’s Journals, Grossinger’s Solar Journal, these stand out for me. The dynamic plurality of our poetry, so aptly and widely reflected by Black Sparrow (publisher of those uncousins Bukowski and Ashbery, Wakoski and Creeley), may go under any day—control freaks are afoot in the land…. What has been truest of our time is the variety of means, the variety of textures, the variety of texts leading all the Sacred Ways. These may retract. The liberty of the spirit, always polemic but never doctrinaire, lives a life ever in jeopardy—as it must. The press takes risks, surely; but the biggest risk is the sheer accumulation of alternatives it has struggled to keep before the audience. There are Black Sparrow poets—but they are not a stable, not a uniform cadre of uniform product, often they share no other contact but that press.”
Jess [Collins], Christian Morgenstern’s Gallowsongs (1970). Illustrations and versions by Jess.
Black Sparrow books include
Antin, David. Code of Flag Behavior. 1968.
Dawson, Fielding. Krazy Kat, The Unveiling and Other Stories. 1969. Cover collage by the author.
Dorn, Edward. Gunslinger. Book I. 1968.
Dorn, Edward. Gunslinger. Book II. 1969.
Duncan, Robert. Epilogos. 1967.
Duncan, Robert. Tribunals, Passages 31—35. 1970.
Enslin, Theodore. The Median Flow: Poems 1943–1973. 1975.
Eshleman, Clayton. Indiana. 1969. Cover by Robert Indiana.
Grossinger, Richard. Solar Journal (Oecological Sections). 1970.
Kelly, Robert. Finding the Measure. 1968. Linoleum cut by the printer Graham Mackintosh.
Koch, Kenneth. When the Sun Tries to Go On. 1969. Cover by Larry Rivers.
Kyger, Joanne. Places to Go. 1970. Illustrations by Jack Boyce.
Loewinsohn, Ron. L’Autre. 1967.
Loewinsohn, Ron. Lying Together, Turning the Head & Shifting the Weight, The Produce District & Other Places, Moving: A Spring Poem. 1967.
Mac Low, Jackson. 22 Light Poems. 1968.
Malanga, Gerard. The Last Benedetta Poems. 1969. Cover photograph by the author.
McClure, Michael. Little Odes & The Raptors. 1969.
Meltzer, David. Luna. 1970. Cover by Wallace Berman.
Meltzer, David. Round the Poem Box: Rustic & Domestic Home Movies for Stan & Jane Brakhage. 1969. Cover by David Meltzer.
Meltzer, David. Six. 1976. Drawings by the author.
Morgenstern, Christian. Gallowsongs. 1970. Translated by Jess Collins.
Palmer, Michael. Blake’s Newton. 1972.
Palmer, Michael. The Circular Gates. 1974.
Reznikoff, Charles. By the Well of the Living & Seeing: New & Selected Poems 1918–1973. 1974. Edited, and with an introduction, by Seamus Cooney.
Wakoski, Diane. The Magellanic Clouds. 1970.
Yau, John. Radiant Silhouette: New and Selected Work 1974–1988. 1989.
For further information on Black Sparrow Press, including a bibliography of its publications, the reader is referred to: Bradford Morrow and Seamus Cooney, A Bibliography of the Black Sparrow Press, 1966–1978 (Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow, 1981).