by Susan Visakowitz
Barbara Henning, former editor of the poetry/art journal Long News: In the Short Century (1990-1995), had only published one book by way of her Long News Books imprint, and that was back in 1995, shortly before the journal closed up shop. (It was Lewis Warsh’s Avenue of Escape.)
Of course, by then, Henning’s Long News was well known among the New York literati, having featured work from a veritable who’s who including Diane di Prima, David Rattray, Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman, Paul Buck, Tom Clark, Clark Coolidge, Joyce Mansour, Aram Saroyan, Carolee Schneemann, Bernadette Mayer, Maureen Owen, and the aforementioned Warsh.
So, it really goes to show how much she adores Cliff Fyman that Henning resurrected Long News Books more than 20 years after its last curtain call to publish his latest work, Taxi Night, a collection of poems about Fyman’s recent stint driving a yellow cab in New York City.
“Cliff started driving a cab in 2012,” explains Henning. “He was living across from Tompkins Square Park, and I was on 7th Street. He used to come over and we would chat and talk. He started telling me about these conversations he was having in the cab and then he started reading them at readings.
“I read them several times,” she continues, “and encouraged him to make them into a book. And Cliff did finish his manuscript, and he tinkered with it for several years.” After a while, and with Covid and all, Henning started worrying that the book might never get published, so she dusted off Long News Books.
“The press had a non-profit status, but it had been sitting idle for so long that it had lost its 501c3 status,” explains Henning, “so I had to re-register the name. But once I paid to have the press back on the books, everything else was easy. It’s less difficult than it was back in the ‘90s because now you can just publish with Amazon or IngramSpark and print the books on demand.”
Also helpful was that Fyman happens to draw and paint, so he did the book’s striking cover art. He also added a wonderful afterword that explains how and why these stories became important to him.
“It’s really an interesting work,” says Henning. “It’s like a play, like a poetry play. And it’s like you are riding along with Cliff in the cab. He included his own poems about things that happened to him as a driver, alongside transcriptions of the conversations he overheard. It’s like an experimental novella.”
That experimental bent is something Henning has been drawn to since the early days, when Long News: In the Short Century was focused on bringing together conceptual art, philosophy, and “off-center poetry,” while trying to “work against—and outside of—the power structures that exist in the world,” as Henning describes it.
With help from art editors like Sally Young and Miranda Maher, as well as contributing editors like Tyrone Williams, Chris Tysh, and Paul Buck, Henning says there was a “multitude of influences” that made Long News what it was. “We were highly attuned to making commentaries on what was going on and addressing social issues. But it wasn’t political in the sense of, ‘I’m against this or that.’ It was about a way of looking at things.”
While Henning doesn’t expect Long News Books to publish again now that Fyman’s book is out, her vision, passion, and dedication to bringing work to the world, work that she believes in, remains as strong as ever.
“There’s not really much of a market for poetry,” she acknowledges. “But there’s a community. And when you get excited about the work you really like and that you know matters, you do something about it. That’s really what it’s all about.”
BARBARA HENNING is the author of four novels, seven collections of poetry, four chapbooks, and a series of photo-poem pamphlets. Lewis Warsh published her first book of poems with United Artists, Smoking in the Twilight Bar. Subsequent poetry collections include: Digigram (United Artists Books), A Day Like Today (Negative Capability), A Swift Passage (Quale Press), Cities and Memory (Chax Press), My Autobiography (United Artists), Detective Sentences (Spuyten Duyvil), and Love Makes Thinking Dark (United Artists). Her novels include Just Like That (Spuyten Duyvil), Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects, and Black Lace. Between 2003 and 2014, she published limited editions of a series of artist pamphlets (16), combining photography and poetry. Her current project is a hybrid novelized biography on her mother’s life and times, “Ferne: a Detroit Story.”
SUSAN VISAKOWITZ is a poet and painter who loves to tell the stories of fellow creative types. She got her start reporting on music for various small blogs and eventually publications like Billboard magazine. Currently she is focused on a new series of art projects under the name Exiting In. Instagram: @exiting_in