Monday, June 10, 2024

Kenneth Patchen | The Famous Boating Party

Kenneth Patchen
The Famous Boating Party
New York City. USA: New Directions, 1954
66 pp., 23 x 16 cm., hardcover
Edition of 2000

The author’s 20th book, and his sixth with famed New Directions as publisher. The title features thirty-five prose poems, including the nine-part poem "Childhood of the Hero" and the twelve-part "Wanderers of the Pale Wood”. 

The Famous Boating Party was also released with a cover painted by Patchen, in a signed and numbered edition of 50 (see below). 

I picked up the title at Bottom Feeder Books, which opened less than two years ago in Point Breeze, Pittsburgh. Based on the name, I was expecting something akin to the chaos of Amy’s Books in Amherst (where the shelves are hidden by stacks of books and retrieving a particular title is like playing Jenga, and not sending a stack tumbling is a rare success). But the store is meticulously presented like an art gallery, with books in the front and a small exhibition area in the rear. 

Owned and operated by painter Ryan McLennan, Bottom Feeder Books arranges the titles alphabetically by author/artist, dispensing with section headings. The titles are mostly avant-garde art and literature, along with some art theory, poetry, philosophy, etc. Artists I recall in the collection include Joseph Beuys, Kiki Smith, Brion Gysin, Jonas Mekas, Paul McCarthy, Christopher Wool, Tom Sachs, Emmett Williams, Bernd and Hilla Becher, Louise Nevelson, and Nam June Paik. 

The store stocks a series of New Directions books (who published this Patchen title) with covers designed by Andy Warhol. Other publishers well-represented in the collection include Grove Press and Primary Information. 

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