Friday, January 1, 2021





50 Years

                                                               for Olga Cabral and Ann Perkoff

Here we are now 50 years old at Longhouse. Someone asked me

recently, "you must have been very young when you started?"

I was, but also draft age. I had been drafted into the Army in 1971, 

resisted that war, as I already had years before, but it becomes a whole 

other animal when they come for you. So my draft board put me

 in Vermont as a C.O., but I was coming anyway, being a kid 

raised in the neighboring Berkshire hills.

All it took was a mimeograph machine, as some of the finest small press

publications of the 1960s had already taught me but it would be many years

before I ever saw a copy, being a country boy. My roots were in the woods

and I would go (by correspondence) to many poets around the United States,

 who lived a similar discipline and almost all were friendly. Nothing's 100%.

The first press I had was called "One Night Books" (1971) and I handmade two

 anthologies from that imprint — both titled "Remember the Time in the Tent"

 and a sheaf of small booklets 

of my own work. A friend at the time even cut out a woodblock 

I still have with the press name on it.

Soon I was working from "Our Poets Workshop" because I was leading a once

a week poetry gathering at a local unaccredited college fitted smally

with misfits and marvels and each week I brought poets work

 in for everyone to read and the first poet was Cid Corman.

By 1974 Cid and I were in direct contact from Kyoto to Vermont

and that relationship would go strong until Cid's passing in 2004.

By 1974 I was moving "Our Poets Workshop" to simply "Workshop"

and rolling out issue after issue, all on mimeograph and everything

was sent away free. Robert Bly wrote me back to say, "Put a price on it, even a dollar."

Noel Young from Santa Barbara cried, "Staple the sheets!"

 Poets sent me their work, their postage stamps

and if they had any money, they were generous. How does one

keep things going at such an adventure stuck out in the woods

without a vehicle, without a driver's license, without private income?


I arrived to this location along a wood's river with a backpack on my back

and a minister friend who read Thomas Merton as I had, deeply, and he

told me he had just bought an old hunter's cabin ten miles out of town

in the woods — no heat, no running water, no plumbing at all, no nothing —

but it had a roof and 16 bunk beds and if I was willing to take on

renovating that cabin, and his own house on the land, plus his long roadside

of stone walls, I could have the place for free. I had never touched stone walls

in my life. I had worked all my teenage years as an apprentice carpenter 

for a long standing lumber family, but doing what you're told and knowing

what to do when you're not being told are two different worlds.

I began my carpentry tearing out all those sixteen bunk beds 

and the lumber would have to become

my firewood for the start of a long winter. In the spring I would begin rebuilding

stone walls and fifty years later I haven't stopped. I took to those walls and

many soon took to me and began to hire me to repair and build and

also lay up stone walls. When a farmer hires you to build his stone walls

you've sort of passed whatever test is out there. 

It's now 1976 and I'm changing

all the press name to "Longhouse." I'm working as a builder, I'm publishing poets

regularly in all handmade journals, booklets, postcards, broadsides, sheafs, 

and my first book of poems has been out two years. A lovely young

woman has also been with me those same two years after my first two 

years alone and living and working as a hermit. I'd seen her in passing

 after my long hikes or hitchhikes into town, but she's the one who

 bicycled out those ten miles to find me, to see me, to land me. 


Now there's a Longhouse to become something — love, very hard

work, writing, publishing, corresponding by mail (which was everything),

friendships, co-building workers, the river, the woods, and never stop at

least every week or every month, every season, right up to present time

publishing someone, and giving it away free.

The church where I worked as sexton had a mimeograph machine.

The law office where Susan worked had a photocopy machine.

Say no more.


Libraries pay. Collectors pay.

Readers on the search pay, and eventually (by then, 40 years) we would direct the

Longhouse into publishing full size books, establish a bookshop, and for the 

last ten years I have whittled down all my building and stone work away

from customers for pay, allowed the bookshop to work for us, and put

all my building trade into cottages and huts built on our property. At last

count there are nine. Ten may be enough. 

During the pandemic of 2020

more and more passers-by could be seen on our back road on bicycles, on-foot

slowing down in vehicle after vehicle and if they could catch us out there

at work they'd shout up, "I love your place" and we'd wave back, and some

would walk up and politely ask, "what is this (pointing to the forest buildings) all about? 

 Were they for rent? Was it a writer's colony? Was this an institution?" 

All logical questions. I guess it could be called a sort of institution:

 the Longhouse-been-here-a-long-time-and-ain't-going-away-institute. 

It doesn't cost a thing. Just a certain love.

[ BA ]

(it's an even longer story — a son was born, there are

granddaughters — but for another time)

Links to the Longhouse Bibliography

photograph above by bob arnold:

after all our woodsheds are filled to the brim

finding the very back door to the kitchen

fits in as an ideal woodshed all its own.

Close by, handy.

December 25, 2020