Item #274 Grave Sirs: John Newlove’s Poems [from the cover]. John NEWLOVE.
Grave Sirs: John Newlove’s Poems [from the cover]
Grave Sirs: John Newlove’s Poems [from the cover]

Grave Sirs: John Newlove’s Poems [from the cover]

Vancouver: The Private Press of Robert Reid & Takao Tanabe, 1962 [ in Roman numerals]. First state of John Newlove’s first book of poetry.
Narrow quarto, 29.9 x 16 cm. Pasted into charcoal paper wraps. The title was printed letterpress with 120pt Futura wood type in pale blue and green to the upper cover. A riff on the title was printed in a uniform style to the lower cover: ‘sirs: | john | newlove’s | grave | poems’. Unpaginated [pp. 36, including printed self-ends]. Frankly, a poor, weathered copy: the covers are worn and nicked along the extremities; there is a tear of roughly 2.5 cm along the fore-edge of the upper cover; fading, soiling, and staining to both covers; darkened page edges, especially along the top edge. The damage may have been caused by smoke or water, but likely both. This copy would be too poor to offer, if not for the inscription from Newlove to Jamie Reid: ‘Jamie Reid | John Newlove | 5 Oct /62’. The text was set in Monotype News Gothic at the Vancouver typesetting firm Shivock-Parkes, with Franklin Gothic used for display. The titles of poems are, for the most part, printed in red, with the verses appearing in black. In a few cases, the rule was reversed for effect and emphasis: “… John’s poems were today, man. It did not fit the kind of traditional typographic style in which I had done previous books— which provided an exciting opportunity to experiment typographically. … A second colour was used throughout for effect. These were great poems, man, and needed whatever visual emphasis we could give them to grab the reader’s attention.” Rather than using a traditional layout with half-title and title-page, Reid stretches the title and Newlove’s name across four pages, starting on the recto of the front free endpaper. The linocut frontispiece was printed in black, along with ‘NEWLOVE’ in red, to the verso of the second leaf. The frontispiece depicts Newlove looking poetic and pensive (with just a tinge of pathos) in a duffle coat. From an edition of 300 copies printed by Robert Reid and Ib Kristensen. The number of copies assembled in the first state is unknown. A later state was issued, presumably by the Vancouver bookseller and jeremiah Bill Hoffer, in an offset printed wrapper: “a box of copies sewn but without covers moved with my things to Montreal a few years later. In the early seventies, I met a young Bill Hoffer, on his way to Vancouver where he intended to open a bookshop. I gave him the box of Newloves as stock for the shop, and forgot about them. I now see that there are copies with covers printed offset, a facsimile of our letterpress cover. I assume Bill had these printed up to put on the copies I gave him” (Robert Reid, quoted in Reid’s Leaves, 27).

The recipient of this inscribed copy, Jamie Reid, was co-founder of the poetry journal TISH. TISH was established in Vancouver in 1961 by a coterie of students at UBC, including George Bowering, Frank Davey, David Dawson, and Fred Wah. Reid was also a political activist and-card-carrying member of the Communist Party of Canada (Marxist-Leninist). A nice association. Item #274

John Newlove was a penniless, homeless poet who arrived in Vancouver from God knows where. Roy Kiyooka, a painter who taught at the art school with me and had poetic ambitions of his own, realized John’s genius & put him up. One day in 1961 he mentioned John to me as someone who should be published, and that I should meet him. We got together and I read some of his poetry. It was terrific. The man had something to say. I spoke to Tak Tanabe about him, and suggested we might go together & do a book of his poems.” — Robert Reid (quoted in Reid’s Leaves, 27).

Price: $200.00

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