Literary San Francisco redux

San Franscisco street car

We were greeted by yet another glorious bright, sunny day.  San Francisco looked spectacular. So what did we do? We ventured forth and – went inside.  Despite the beautiful day,  the draw of City Lights Bookstore 

proved too much. We had to go in.  The iconic shop was established in 1953 by poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti; two years later he started publishing books. Both the store and the publishing house gained notoriety after the obscenity trial that Lawrence faced for publishing Allen Ginsberg’s landmark collection Howl and Other Poems (City Lights, 1956). Today in the store you’ll find an eclectic mix of world literature, some Chapbooks, a wall dedicated to the City Lights imprint (including the 50th Anniversary edition of Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems), and a curated selection of book entitled Pedagogies of Resistance. Here’s the list. Plus, there’s a special room upstairs

just for poetry.

Though a tad early for a drink, I did at least skid through the Vesuvio Cafe

next door, where Kerouac, Ginsberg and some of the other Beats used to hang out. Vesuvio, in case you were wondering, is open every day of the year. And, if that sign isn’t titillating enough, across the road there’s a strip club

(yes, there’s Continue reading “Literary San Francisco redux”

San Francisco and The Arion Press here we come

The Arion Press was founded in San Francisco in 1974 by Andrew Hoyem growing out of a partnership he had with Robert Grabhorn using the Grabhorn Press‘s famed collection of metal type. Arion has published more than 100 fine press books, many of which are illustrated with prints by prominent artists.

Each year the press publishes three or four “exquisite” books in editions of 400 copies or less. Titles over the years have included Moby Dick, a lectern edition of the Bible, and James Joyce’s Ulysses. Other books include treatments of the poetry of Wallace Stevens, W.B. Yeats, Seamus Heaney and Emily Dickinson, novels by Samuel Beckett, H.G. Wells, Graham Greene, Virginia Woolf. and plays by Tom Stoppard, David Mamet, Edward Albee and Arthur Miller. These books are highly collectible.

Hoyem was born in 1935. He is an accomplished printer, a published poet, and an exhibited artist. His Arion Press, named after the Greek poet known in myth for having been kidnapped by pirates and miraculous rescued by dolphins, has been called America’s “leading publisher of fine-press books.” The concepts for all Arion publications originate with Hoyem, who chooses literary texts, commissions new work from writers and artists he admires, and designs the books, including their bindings and typography.

Many rank Hoyem’s edition of Moby Dick among the greatest American fine-press books ever published. His most ambitious project, the Folio Bible, took several years to complete. This is likely to be the last Bible ever to be printed from metal type.

In 1989 Arion acquired Mackenzie & Harris, “the oldest and largest remaining type foundry in the United States, established with equipment displayed at the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in 1915.” In 2000 Hoyem founded the nonprofit Grabhorn Institute to “help preserve and continue the operation of one of the last integrated facilities for type-founding, letterpress printing, and bookbinding, developing it as a living museum and educational and cultural center, open to the public, with a gallery and tours as well as an apprenticeship program.”

I’ll be in San Francisco next month. I plan to visit the Arion Press, where I’ll enjoy the privilege of interviewing Mr. Hoyem for The Biblio File podcast. I’m pumped. Stay tuned!