for Marie Ponsot
All praise the midweek market,
the first-of-the-season sexy zucchinis
gazing up from their crowded
All praise the cherries, their tight
red bellies, the sweet, slender stems
and the pit, ah the pit, to be nursed
in the mouth, cajoled to give up
its last sweet hold, praise
all. All praise.
Years ago, I was talking with John Gill, editor of a good
small press with the maddeningly generic name of New/Books, about another small
publisher and John frowned. “Tell me how
many first collections they’ve published,” he said. Few or none was the answer. New/Books had published my own first
collection Swans Loving Bears Burning The
Melting Deer a couple of years before, one of many firsts they took a
That conversation has stayed with me over the years as the first time someone had said to me in so many words that having the courage to publish new authors was a responsibility for a literary press. Over the years, Hanging Loose has tried to have at least one first book on every list, including those by Kimiko Hahn, D. Nurkse, Sherman Alexie, Joanna Fuhrman, Michael Cirelli, Maggie Nelson, Mark Statman, Jeni Olin, and many others.
Along the way, we developed an odd little specialty: First books of poetry by older writers who had published lots of other stuff but never poetry. Jack Agűeros had written for Sesame Street and off-Broadway, done translations, and headed El Barrio Museum. Elizabeth Swados had written novels, textbooks, children’s books, operas and Broadway musicals. Hettie Jones had been a busy editor and had written many children’s books and the celebrated Beat Generation memoir How I Became Hettie Jones. Curious coincidence: Each of these authors was 58 years old when that first collection appeared.
had known Hettie for years and was fond of her, so when she’d say to me “Some day I’ve got to send poems to Hanging Loose,” my smile may have been a bit forced, since I didn’t know Hettie wrote poems, much less poems we’d want to publish, and it’s a situation that can strain friendships. Every editor will recognize this nervous state. Luckily, we had a happy ending, which isn’t always the case. We liked Hettie’s poems -- her humor, her economy of language, her fury at injustice. Her first collection, Drive, followed soon after. It got fine reviews and won the Poetry Society of America’s Norma Farber First Book Award. Two other volumes have followed. Praise shows Hettie at her straightforward best, full of love for the bounty of nature, her
-- Robert Hershon