Poet, Publisher, Editor

SHORT BIO: BRETT RUTHERFORD is a Pennsylvania-born neo-Romantic author whose work encompasses poetry, drama, fiction, and journalism. He has published 18 volumes of poetry, two novels, and over 600 magazine articles, monographs and studies. During a long career based in New York City, he was a journalist working with trade journals and not-for-profit organizations in the printing and publishig industries. His life-long mission, however, has been as a poet, and as a publisher of poetry. He founded The Poet's Press in New York City, and has published 300 books to date, with work from almost 400 authors. A special focus of his publishing has been to collect and preserve the work of lesser-known poets of New York's "last Bohemia" of the 1960s-1970s. He lived in Providence, Rhode Island for many years, where he started a late-in-life academic career, working in online learning and teaching some classes at the University of Rhode Island. He retired in 2016 and returned to his native Pittsburgh, where he composes music, explores his new city, and continues to operate The Poet's Press.

THE LONGER VERSION

For those need to know more about a sometimes confusing chronology, with many relocations and changes, the following detailed chronology explains more about how Rutherford came to be in Edinboro, New York, Brooklyn, Providence, Boston, San Francisco, and Weehawken, NJ, before winding up 40 miles from where he started.

Born years and years ago in Scottdale, Pennsylvania, Brett Rutherford started writing his own science fiction comic books at the age of six, his own horror stage plays at the age of ten, poems at thirteen, and fiction at fifteen. The landscape of the mountainous area, with its abandoned coal mines, smoking coke ovens, and sinister locals, colors his writings about his childhood years, which he survived thanks to science fiction novels, Classic Comics, Shakespeare, Shelley, Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, a small-town library, and a handful of good teachers. The ruins of his maternal grandmother's house, outside Scottdale, Pennsylvania, are shown below.

Butler house

His father's family was actually quite prosperous until the Great Depression. The Rutherfords emigrated to Scottdale, the mill town which was the headquarters of the Frick coke-making empire, and were involved in a number of businesses, including two banks, a steam engine factory, a soap factory, and possibly coal mines. His grandfather and an uncle operated a newspaper distributing business, a news-stand, and a boookstore and stationer's. His grandfather, Thomas Rutherford, was Burgess of Scottdale. His mother's family, descending from German-speaking Alsatian immigrants, lived in a tar-paper covered house in nearby Bullskin Township, in conditions of perpetual poverty.

Rutherford attended school at Edinboro State University (then Edinboro State College), in Northwestern PA, interrupted by a sojourn in the Haight Ashbury district of San Francisco, where he wound up reading his poetry in coffee houses and seeing his first magazine publication as a psychdelic centerfold in The Haight-Ashbury Free Press. During his sojourn in San Francisco he worked on that short-lived publication and became its editor.

He returned to school in Pennsylvania once again and spent two years engaged in working toward his degree in English, composing piano music, and running his own underground college newspaper, The Edinboro Prometheus. The Prometheus was one of only a handful of independent student newspapers during those years of tumultuous politics and antiwar fervor. There, he also produced a hand-made book of his poems based on the San Francisco experience, Songs of the I and Thou. He also did college radio work, and was a prize-winning student journalist for the school's above-ground newspaper, The Spectator.

He then left school and headed for New York City, where he was soon reading his poems in coffee houses and working for a living. Within a few months, he found work as a temporary typist at American Institute of Chemical Engineers on East 47th Street. In short order, he was offered the job of public relations director for that organization, which involved him in PR work, writing publications catalogs, editing executive speeches, and serving on committees for that non-profit. By 1971, he had acquired enough print buying experience to feel a desire to own a printing business. With a friend from Pennsylvania, he founded The Poet's Press that year. The aim of the press was to be a viable commercial printer, and to use the assets of the printing enterprise to publish poetry books for deserving authors. The Poet's Press also served Manhattan's gay community in the post-Stonewall years, doing printing for a number of gay activist groups and social organizations. Although the commercial venture went bust in the recession of 1973, The Poet's Press was well-launched as a small press and continued, publishing about a book a month at its busiest.

Along with poet Barbara A. Holland, Rutherford established Poets Fortnightly, a newsletter and poetry calendar, New York's first organized poetry calendar listing. He began publishing some of Greenwich Village's most intriguing new and "neglected" older poets, including Emilie Glen, Barbara A. Holland, Ree Dragonette, Donald Lev, Richard Davidson, D.H. Melhem, and Shirley Powell. He read at practically all the poetry venues in New York City, directed a staged reading of Richard Davidson's Song of Walt Whitman at Westbeth with a cast of poets and Equity actors, and read at the inaugural meeting of The [American] Shelley Society.

Running a series of poetry readings in his Sixth Avenue loft called "The Eighth Day," Rutherford helped found an informal circle of neo-romantic poets who were unlike the prevailing avant garde who centered around St. Mark's Church or the Upper East Side. These poets were fascinated with surrealist art, the supernatural, mythology, and often as not wrote longer, narrative poems. Two of these poets, Emilie Glen and Barbara Holland, had between them thousands of magazine publications of their work. In retrospect the Greenwich Village poetry scene of the 1970s may be seen as the last flowering of Literary Bohemia. In the following decades, it became economically impossible for writers to live and congregate in the Village or any other central "Bohemia." This was the end of an era, and The Poet's Press was a visible part of it. The readings these poets attended and hosted, held all over the city, were lively and often thrilling, and it was not unusual for two or even three poets to write and introduce new works in response to what another had written the previous week — or even the previous day. During this period, Brett Rutherford published his own early books: City Limits and The Pumpkined Heart, and edited the anthology May Eve: A Festival of Supernatural Poems.

To pay the bills and support his Muse, Rutherford found employment as an editor for National Association of Printers and Lithographers (NAPL), and within a few years he became communications director of that organization. Shortly after it moved to Teaneck, New Jersey, Rutherford made his own leap across the Hudson to the then-sequestered Weehawken, a small town perched on the Palisades directly opposite mid-town Manhattan. From there, he continued his literary and publishing ventures. Many new books came from the press; more new poets were found and fostered, and Rutherford accumulated a growing body of his own poems that he edited into thematic books, including Anniversarius: The Autumn Poems and Whippoorwill Road: The Supernatural Poems. He also co-authored a successful horror novel, Piper, with John Robertson, which was sold to Playboy Press as a hardcover, and then not published when that press shut down its hardcover operation. The book, in a thorough revision, finally appeared from Zebra Books and sold 35,000 copies.

When his place of employment was taken over by unpleasant management, Rutherford went freelance, and spent the 1980s editing and writing hundreds of articles, monographs, manuals and books about printing and graphic arts topics. He had a regular column in the weekly newspaper Printing News and edited four newsletters for Printing industries of America, and wrote technical, sales and marketing manuals and training materials for a number of non-profits. He also became a desktop publishing, computer and database consultant to publishers, helping several convert to computers and to train their personnel. His largest projects were three landmark market surveys and equipment censuses for the American gravure printing industry, the automation of a national database publishing concern, and editing and designing a college textbook on printing.

While he was doing this workaday work, accumulating more than 600 publication credits, he was applying the new techniques of desktop publishing and new media to The Poet's Press, producing books combining new technology with hand bookbinding, and publishing books on diskette and CD. In New York City, he co-founded, with Matthew Paris and Jane Madson-McCabe, The New York Writer's Cafe, an Internet cooperative that put hundreds of e-texts onto the Internet at a time when this idea was still quite leading-edge. The Poet's Press had its ups and downs during this period, at times almost vanishing, and then re-emerging when it seemed that some new technological breakthrough would make it possible to produce new books and help aspiring poets. He shared his novel production methods with a number of other small presses.

In 1985, the city of Providence, with its H.P. Lovecraft and Poe associations, beckoned Rutherford to pick up roots and try a new city. He liked the idea of moving with his writing and press to a college town, where he hoped to form a new circle of writers and artists interesting in working with him on the press. The move was also a great one for Rutherford's writing, and he soon produced The Lost Children, his second Zebra horror novel, his book Poems from Providence, and his biographical play about H.P. Lovecraft, Night Gaunts. The play was given two staged readings at The Providence Athenaeum.

Despite the charms of Providence, New York continued to be where the work was. Rutherford twice found himself returning to New York City to live — once to complete a major market study that required him to be on site, and once to take a position with a New York directory publisher as its Manager of Information Systems. During these returns he lived in Weehawken, and, briefly, in the atmospheric Vinegar Hill neighborhood near Brooklyn Heights and DUMBO, a neighborhood where Walt Whitman once lived and worked. The Poet's Press books published new books fitfully, and, despite all odds, the press passed the landmark of 150 books.

The late 1990s found Rutherford back in his beloved Providence, writing much new poetry, but watching with alarm as the printing industry, which had been the subject of his journalistic work, begin to shrink. Magazines shut down; others became ghosts of their former selves, and the nonprofit groups in the field no longer commissioned the kinds of large projects that he preferred doing. After several years of working for a market research firm doing elaborate surveys about the procurement plans of printing companies (a dreary topic indeed), and seeing little else on the landscape other than writing Chicken Little articles about the coming demise of print, Rutherford decided to commence a new life chapter.

How to combine a lifetime of experience in writing, publishing and printing? Back to school! The interrupted journey in academia was resumed in the Fall of 2003. Rutherford enrolled as a lowly undergraduate at University of Rhode Island. He graduated May 2005 with a degree in English and a minor in History. He started 2005 with a quadruple whammy: in the first week of the year, he published his newest poetry collection, The Gods As They Are, On Their Planets; a new, expanded edition of Whippoorwill Road: The Supernatural Poems; and an expanded edition of Night Gaunts: An Entertainment Based on the Life & Writings of H.P. Lovecraft. The fourth publication was an anthology from Invisible Books called Buried Alive: An Anthology of Underground Writing, which featured Rutherford's poetry. He was featured in an anthology of poems about space flight from University of Iowa Press, and a symphonic suite by composer William Alexander, inspired by three Rutherford poems, was performed by The Erie Philharmonic in April 2005; additional Rutherford-related works have been performed by that composer and orchestra orchestra since then.

In September 2005, he started graduate school at University of Rhode Island, and completed his master's work in December 2007. He worked for University of Rhode Island as Coordinator of Distance Learning, and was a part-time instructor in the URI Gender and Women's Studies Department. He created college courses on The Diva, Radical American Women, and Women in Science Fiction.

Retirement from URI in January 2016 launched a new chapter in life and publishing. Returning to his native haunts, Rutherford moved to the Squirrel Hill neighborhood of Pittsburgh, PA. The Poet's Press has published more than 50 new books and ebooks since then. With the addition of the Yogh & Thorn imprint, the press has also published some more scholarly, annotated editions.

The Yogh & Thorn editions to date include an annotated edition of World War I poet Charles Hamilton Sorley titled Death and the Downs; an annotated edition of World War I anti-war novel Despised and Rejected by A.T. Fitzroy; and an annotated edition of Matthew Gregory Lewis's landmark 1901 anthology of supernatural poetry, Tales of Wonder. Continuing the work of Lewis, Rutherford compiled two additional volumes,Tales of Terror: The Supernatural Poem Since 1800. Further volumes include the literary essays of Sarah Helen Whitman, and selected fiction by two Russian exiles, Mikhail Artsybashev and Leonid Andreyev.

Rutherford is now moving his press toward its "final phase," moving many backlist titles to The Internet Archive for free downloading, and publishing some new titles as free-download ebooks only. Within a few years, he plans to have all his own writing, and most of the output of the press, all in free-download archives. The age of the paper book is nearly over, and if poetry is to be found by posterity, it must be freely available in secure digital archives.


Although he regards his journalism and consulting career as well behind him, Rutherford has documented all his published work, much of it in journals now extinct, and for organizations that have merged or closed their doors. So just "for the record," the linked bibliographies below detail all this work. He plans to issue a small volume of such items of journalism that might have more lasting value. Most of it was useful at the time to the people who paid for it, but much is now of only marginal interest. Few will have any need to consult more than the first page with literary publication credits.

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Version 2.0 Updated October 10, 2020

History of the Press

Book Listings

Anthologies

Joel Allegretti

Leonid Andreyev

Mikhail Artsybashev

Jody Azzouni

Moira Bailis

Samuel Croxall

Richard Davidson

Claudia Dikinis

Arthur Erbe

Emilie Glen

Emily Greco

Annette Hayn

Heinrich Heine

Barbara A. Holland

Thomas D. Jones

Richard Lyman

D.H. Melhem

David Messineo

Th. Metzger

John Burnett Payne

Edgar Allan Poe

Ovid

Shirley Powell

Burt Rashbaum

Susanna Rich

Brett Rutherford

Boria Sax

Charles Sorley

Vincent Spina

Pieter Vanderbeck

Jack Veasey

Jacqueline de Weever

Don Washburn

Phillis Wheatley

Sarah Helen Whitman

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