Sunday, September 12, 2010

Remembering Paul Mariah — Part Two.

If medals are ever awarded to small press publishers, a big fat one should go to Paul Mariah. Co-publisher of Manroot Press with Rich Tagett, Paul came to San Francisco after finishing a prison sentence in Illinois for—oh the horror of it— gay sex crimes (as we mentioned earlier), and of course he promptly set up a small press upon release in keeping with the revolutionary atmosphere of the times.

I met Paul soon after my own arrival here in 1967, and he was of instrumental value in introducing me to several local poets and artists whom I subsequently published, including Hunce Voelcker, Bill Barber, and also Rich Tagett.

For a couple years, his press and my own impoverished Hoddypoll Press—I thought later that it would have been much better named: Poverty Press—were I think the only ones in town (i.e., within the city limits of San Francisco), and we were certainly the only literary magazines publishing gay poetry, somewhat contemporaneously with Gay Sunshine in Berkeley. Paul wrote poems and slaved constantly over Manroot magazine, and our queer hearts burned with gay revolutionary ardor.

Small press publishing was a terrific hassle in those days. The next step up from mimeographing your stuff was to spend a hundred bucks on a photo offset job, which involved printing off a metal matrix onto sheets of 8.5x11 typewriting paper, then stapling everything together between sheets of cover stock—which you did at home on the living room carpet to save costs. Typesetting was completely unaffordable, so the remaining possibility was an IBM Selectric typewriter, which had these little type-balls facilitating the use of a couple different, but unkerned fonts.

Mistakes were frequent and took forever to remedy, effected through the use of Tipp-ex or the white erasing ribbon installed on the Selectric which never worked properly. It was often infuriating, and it required hours or even days to perform editing tasks that can now be done in a matter of minutes on a computer. The whole enterprise was generally speaking a huge mess—a true Mongolian clusterfuck if there ever was one—but expectations of an approaching gay revolution and our own self-image as underground heroes drove us onward.

Paul lived and worked in his corner apartment at Duboce and Walter, overlooking Duboce Park, whose grassy meadows were still full of dogshit until Harvey Milk famously put an end to it. Paul never ceased toiling behind his IBM Selectric, pausing only when visitors stopped by, and I remember the air in his living room filling blue with cigarette smoke. Out of collegial empathy I wrote the following poem for him, I guess it must be about 40 years ago now.


This poem adheres to the standards established by the California School of Perceptual Palpability.

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