Vincent Katz

Vincent Katz is a poet, translator and editor. He lives in New York, where he publishes Vanitas magazine and Libellum books.

What is (or has been) your favorite editing project and why?

I was asked to organize an exhibition about Black Mountain College and thought, I’d like to learn more about that fabled place! Many hard months later, we had brought together works by many artists, writers, dancers, and musicians, and there was a catalogue along with it. I consider the catalogue an essential part of an exhibition. Both get curated and edited; they are parallel but distinct entities. As editor of the catalogue, I chose the authors: Martin Brody on music at Black Mountain, Kevin Power on The Black Mountain Review, Robert Creeley on Charles Olson, and I contributed an overview on the school and its artists. Brody’s essay did not need much editing, maybe a word here and there. Power had provocative ideas, but he turned in something like a rough draft; after much work, it turned out to be a very useful document, including synopses of each of the Review’s seven issues. Editing Robert Creeley was the most exciting event of my professional life. Here was someone who was (and remains) a towering giant in the world of letters, a man who had moved mountains, redefined verse, and was clearly connected to every interesting writer on the planet. He was also, as he insisted, as he was to many, a friend. I asked him to write about meeting Olson after years of corresponding with him, and he turned in an amazing piece. I can still recall reading it for the first time and getting chills. There were two things I queried in the final paragraph. One was an anecdote he told of Olson’s interviewing a man for a position at the college; Olson asked Creeley to come along. As the man spoke, Olson began wrapping his shawl slowly around his head so that only his eyes, nose and mouth were visible. To Creeley, this seemed an example of Olson’s ability to transform someone’s character into physical form. It was the perceived weakness, or conventionality, or unacknowledged fragmentedness he mimed. After they left, Creeley wrote, “Not for us, Olson said, or words to that effect, just another art hustler, cheap mind. I realized he had been ‘reading’ the sad person, as it were, miming his state, his defensiveness, his confusion.” And then came this sentence: “Nothing hostile — unless the very fact of such an ability to perceive another is in itself contesting. As it was, Olson had no consciousness of either his act or its effect.” To me, it seemed Olson’s read of this man, already in the vulnerable position of being interviewed, might have been derogatory. I questioned Creeley’s assessments that Olson was a) not hostile and b) not aware of his act or its effect. Creeley stuck to his guns; no change was made. The second query involved the essay’s penultimate sentence: “Whether artist or teacher, or both, it matters that one read the world, one’s life, like a book, Olson said — a Tantrist.” The word “Tantrist,” dropped in there like that, was tantalizing I felt, open to many interpretations. What did he really want to say about Olson with that term? Didn’t he want to add a phrase of explanation? Again, the answer was negative. So, you see, it is often the conversations behind the changes, not the changes themselves, that make editing so exciting.


It’s so hot even the newspaper

jumps in the pool

The is sky is protective


People find things

they want to do

Train signals after-

noon array

Square (2)

A lot of the music I like

Faces in light Flatiron

Cigarette tourist map

City become a district

Must continue as walk

Hybrid Electric Bus stop

The Home Depot Arches

High face archaic friend

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