Tiber Press and the New York School

Tiber Press' landmark 1960 four volume box set brings together the emerging and established greats of both the New York School of poetry and Abstract Expressionism. The collaboration between poets John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara and John Schuyler (debuting his first published collection) and artists Joan Mitchell, Grace Hartigan, Michael Goldberg and Alfred Leslie, produced one of the finest American art books of the century. For Mitchell and Goldberg, it was their first foray into printmaking; each poet chose the artist they wanted to illustrate their works, to great effect. Leslie's lumbering, tipsy monuments play nicely next to Koch's side-eye nonchalance. O'Hara, who was close friends with Goldberg and regarded as "a poet among painters", perfectly matches the frenetic intellectual energy of Goldberg's work in the first line of Odes:

"There is the sense of neurotic coherence."

Alfred Leslie, for Kenneth Koch's Permanently
Michael Goldberg, for Frank O'Hara's Odes

Ashbery could just as likely be describing Mitchell's dense, lyrical and elusive imagery when he defends his strict non-adherence to the traditional, saying: "my poetry is disjunct, but then so is life." The poem "A Last World" lies restless and heavy on the page next to Mitchell's furious, black and blue bruised prints.

The sky is a giant rocking horse / And of the other things death is a new office building filled with modern furniture, / A wise thing, but one which has no purpose for us. / Everything is being blown away; / A little horse trots up with a letter in its mouth, which is read with / eagerness / As we gallop into the flame.

Joan Mitchell, for John Ashbery's The Poems
On a Tar Roof by Grace Hartigan, for James Schuyler's Salute

Schuyler and Hartigan are the most tender of the pairings; they both devotedly attend to the matter at hand. A specificity of time, place and feeling characterize both of their work. Hartigan was the only one to name the prints in the box set and titles like Canal to the Sky and On a Tar Roof complement Schuyler's "Salute":

Past is past, and if one
remembers what one meant
to do and never did, is
not to have thought to do
enough? Like that gathering
of one each I
planned, to gather one
of each kind of clover,
daisy, paintbrush that
grew in that field
the cabin stood in and
study them one afternoon
before they wilted. Past
is past. I salute
that various field.

Top row: Grace Hartigan, Alfred Leslie, Joan Mitchell.
Bottom row: Kenneth Koch and Alfred Leslie, Michael Goldberg and Frank O'Hara and James Schuyler and Grace Hartigan. Photographs taken at Tiber Press. Image: Walter Silver.