Hall to McNair: July 3, 1979


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3 July 1979

Wes McNair
Box 43
N. Sutton, NH 03260

Dear Wes,

Thank you for that good letter. If I have been a help, I am
delighted. And I don’t mean to be false
[Written in margin: ly modest]
about it: I have been a help!
But I am delighted to have been, and want to continue to be.

I like that cartoon. But I don’t think that your situation
is quite so desperate!

I think your saturation-bombing approach is excellent. And I
would indeed submit to all of these places. Including the Walt Whitman.
The University of Illinois is getting its books around. Princeton
does a very good job. Carnegie-Mellon makes very attractive books,
and mails them to people. I don’t think it would be a bad deal.
Heaven knows, Houghton Mifflin would be the best deal. And I will
mention things to Jon Galassi. But that means little. They will get
at least a thousand manuscripts.

So will most of the places. Which always makes it a lottery.

I have been doing some more thinking about small presses, not
with you in mind, but just in general. That phrase covers so many
different things. I would not publish with Ithaca House. I’m not sure,
really, that I would publish with New Rivers – but more likely. I would
publish with Sheep Meadow. Or with Alice James… First of all, I
would publish with Greywolf. Do you know of that? They publish Tess
Gallagher, and do lovely books. “They” is a young man named Scott Walker,
whom I met at the NBA thing about small presses, where Jane read her
poems. A terrific, energetic young man – who makes his living by
publishing poetry! Obviously, the secret ingredient in such a “living”
is, as Pound would put it, low overhead. But he does, doing everything
himself – editing, designing, overseeing the printing, distributions,
sales, wrapping packages…

I liked him enormously, his vigor and intelligence. He does not
think of himself as some sort of bush league. He just wrote me a letter,
saying – freshly, cockily – that if established poets really liked small
presses, how come they never made small presses their major publishers?

I think I was being solicited, but I am not certain.

I told him that I was very fond of Fran McCullough, and would stay
with her out of loyalty – something which I think will shock him; I think
that will sound to him like being loyal to General Motors. But he is not
prepared to be some sort of farm system. He wants to be the continuing
publisher of terrific poets who never leave his stable. Tess Gallagher
has had opportunities to go elsewhere, but she will stay with him.
[Written in margin: So far, anyway.]

Distribution for small presses is getting better and better. It is
probably not quite so good as big presses, but in many ways it is less
frustrating. The thing about a small press, when it is expertly run like


this one, and a few others, is that the author benefits from the
absolute, total, undivided attention and commitment of the publisher.
I cannot say that for Harper & Row! Fran McCullough cares, but she
does not handle marketing, distribution, remaindering, advertising,
promotion, and wrapping packages, the way Scott Walker does.

All I am doing – with you, and I will do the same thing with
a few other people – is to recommend re-thinking the notion of
the big publishers and the little ones.

Best as ever,