In November, 1986, Alastair Johnston interviewed Robert Creeley about Divers Press while he drove the poet from Berkeley to San Rafael during a hurried visit to the Bay Area. The interview was recorded, and will appear in Johnston’s Hanging Quotes, forthcoming from Cuneiform Press in the autumn of 2011. Here’s an excerpt:
RC: Drive, you sonofabitch!
AMJ: You were receiving manuscripts in the mail, through correspondence with Duncan, Larry Eigner…
RC: I remember Douglas Woolf’s The Hypocritic Days came out of the blue: that was great. I thought it was terriﬁc. Also we’d been wanting to publish some prose. I published my volume The Gold Diggers after I’d stupidly mistaken Alex Trocchi’s — and the Merlin people’s — real interest in the book, and I thought they were just being nice to me so I refused their generous offer of publication and we published it ourselves.
René Laubiès was a friend we met through Pound. He was a translator and did covers. We improvised some from Kitasono. He was also a well-established painter who showed at Fachette’s in Paris along with the Americans Sam Francis and Lawrence Calcagno. It’s where I ﬁrst saw Pollock’s work. I went to Black Mountain and returned. I met John Altoon while in New York City, he was a friend of Julie Eastman who had come from El Paso. Arthur and John had known each other from L.A., I think. Arthur got this prize, some money, and heard from John about this good place to live. So Arthur and John both showed up. Liz & Arthur had just got married.
AMJ: What kind of editorial control did you exercise on the manuscripts, apart from editing Olson’s Mayan Letters?
RC: None, really.
AMJ: What about design?
RC: We did the design. That was what was so terriﬁc about these printers, they were so articulate in translating our… neither one of us were really artists, so we would mock up or improvise what we wanted it to look like.
AMJ: You managed to get a nice balance between the classical Spanish types for the text…
RC: I love that.
AMJ: …and then modern Bauhaus-style layout on the title page of Futura sans serif.
RC: You would know, for example, the absolute horror of the classical European printer when you mix fonts.
RC: That really got to them. Our heads were in Futura and the body in …
AMJ: Mercedes. A weird Spanish type.
RC: Well rounded, good natured.
RC: So the thing — they were terriﬁc with us, being a small shop. I remember trying to reproduce the drawing for the cover of The Gold Diggers, which has the drawing of Laubiès’. There’s a red background, the red kept bleeding through, but they overprinted at least twice. They went through these incredible efforts and they charged us virtually nothing. Extremely sweet. Their shop was down from the central plaza, going along the sea wall. There was a beautiful prospect. They used to keep the back door of the shop open to get this lovely breeze. Extremely good natured. They were extraordinarily patient.