On June 23, 2022, CLMP held the annual Firecracker Awards Ceremony to celebrate the finalists, announce the winners, and honor the recipient of the 2022 Lord Nose Award, Bradford Morrow, Editor of Conjunctions magazine. The Lord Nose Award is given to a publisher or editor in recognition of a lifetime of work in literary publishing to honor and celebrate the memory of Jonathan Williams, founder and publisher of the now legendary literary press, The Jargon Society. The Lord Nose Award was established in 2017 by David Wilk, with support from Jeffery Beam, Stanley Finch, and Tom Meyer. David Wilk presented Morrow with the award during the ceremony, and the following transcript includes David Wilk’s citation, followed by Bradford Morrow’s remarks.
Good evening. I am pleased to be here tonight presenting the sixth annual Lord Nose Award to commemorate and honor the work of poet, publisher, photographer and literary raconteur, my friend, Jonathan Williams. This award is given under the auspices of CLMP to celebrate and recognize the achievement and value of a lifetime commitment to literary publishing.
Jonathan founded and operated the iconic and highly eccentric literary press, the Jargon Society. He was a publisher with a poet’s sensibility, a piercing cultural observer whose wit was legendary. Jonathan was inspired to identify and promote the truly individual and often neglected or ignored included poets, photographers, and outsider artists whose work he championed for more than a half century of fiercely independent publishing.
Founded in 1951 while Jonathan was a student at Black Mountain College, Jargon published 85 books along with 30 broadsides and ephemera, expressing his singular vision of creative work that needed to be nurtured and brought forth into the world, despite the challenges of time, money, and distribution he encountered. Jonathan’s commitment to making beautiful, iconic and unusual books never wavered.
The Jargon list is an active representation of many of the most important creative figures and movements of the late twentieth century. Jargon books represent Jonathan’s lifelong dedication to words and images, to discovery, beauty, and the joyfully social act of making public the work he believed in.
I would like to thank Jeffery Beam and Stanley Finch for their early contributions to this award, as well as Tom Meyer, Jonathan’s life partner, and also CLMP for giving this project a home.
It is now my honor and privilege to give the 2022 Lord Nose award to Conjunctions magazine, its founder and editor, Brad Morrow.
Much like Jonathan Williams, Brad is the author of many books as well as being a dedicated literary editor who is responsible for an extraordinary body of publishing. Conjunctions has been issued biannually since it was founded in 1981. During more than forty years, Brad has brought forth an extraordinary range of writers across genres, including fiction, poetry, criticism, drama, art and interviews. There is a clear throughline between Jonathan and Brad too—the poet and activist Kenneth Rexroth, whom Jonathan published, much later mentored Brad and served as inspiration for the founding of the magazine. We celebrate Jargon for being the early publisher of many who are well known today, just as Brad has done with so many writers now recognized among our finest, whose work was first or nearly first published and recognized in Conjunctions. Across the many years and issues, it’s an extraordinary collection of talent and vision, a treasure house of writing and ideas that represents many of the best writers of our era.
Literary presses and magazines are mostly ephemeral. Their output takes form and substance that is transformative, but all too often transitory. Thousands of literary magazines have come and gone during the last half century. Some have excelled briefly, but only a few have sustained excellence across decades. Those that do work from a deep commitment expressing the ongoing love and attention of their founders and successors, assisted by the contributions of many others enlisted by them along the way, creating a space that deeply connects and inspires generations of writers and readers. These singular projects are truly precious, deserving special attention and recognition from our community—because we know how difficult and challenging it is to create a sustained and sustainable effort over a long period of time. The dedication and will required to remain vital and meaningful for so long must be acknowledged, especially that crucial element that Brad Morrow shares with Jonathan and every successful literary publisher—the hard chore of fundraising, the too-often unrecognized infrastructural commitment required of any press or magazine that thrives over time.
Conjunctions #1 was a festschrift to James Laughlin of New Directions, who inspired Brad and was also friend and mentor to Jonathan and Jargon Society. In the years since, Brad has produced a dizzying array of fine issues, now up to #78. Long may it continue. The truest dedication to making art through struggle is all too rare.
Conjunctions exemplifies the tradition of independent publishing that Jonathan Williams embodied. I am certain that he would have been pleased to join us today to honor Brad Morrow for his lifetime of publishing. Lord Nose!
Thank you, David, and thanks to Mary Gannon at CLMP, and to everyone else behind this wonderful award. I’m particularly honored because it celebrates the legacy of Jonathan Williams, whom I was privileged to count as a friend and fellow writer/editor. Jonathan was a magical, unforgettable presence who worked tirelessly to help define the literature of his time. So thank you, Lord Nose, wherever you are, hanging out, I hope, with your beloved Mina Loy and Lorine Niedecker, with Olson, Bunting, Creeley and a heaven’s worth of others.
How many literary journals are founded, survive for a few issues or a few years, then, sadly, fold? Having started one from scratch myself, with zero experience and little idea how it was done, I know firsthand how hard they are to envision and build and nurture and grow. But anybody who starts a journal, even if it’s short-lived, and manages to get out even a handful of issues that introduce writers to readers, has my profound respect. Literary journals, lit mags, zines—be they mimeoed and stapled, or perfect-bound volumes, or online, or in whatever format—are the vital, irreplaceable proving grounds of our larger literary culture. I’ve always thought of Conjunctions as a multi-volume work in progress, a kind of word symphony, a lively space where creative readers and innovative writers can engage.
And nothing makes me happier than to discover new poets or fiction writers and watch them take flight, find their voices, their confidence, their readers, and even go on to win prizes from Pushcarts to Pulitzers. Through luck and stubbornness, I’ve managed to navigate forty continuous years of publishing some 2000 authors, and every day I consider it a gift.
When it looked like Conjunctions was abruptly going to fold a few months ago and the literary community rose up in our defense, I was moved not only by your support but by your insistence that journals like Conjunctions matter. I’m grateful that our publisher decided to stand by us in the end, especially when too many institutions have dropped their support of such programs. But I hope the larger takeaway from this incident will be that it encourages others who are committed to similar labors of love. As I wrote at the time—if tweeting is writing—there’s nothing small about small presses, nothing little about little magazines. I believe this now more than ever, especially at a moment when our fractured culture badly needs the written arts to examine, enrich, and inspire us. Launch a journal, intern at a indie press, become a reader, a subscriber—participate in any way you can. A community is nothing without the people who work to sustain it. Every person who’s helped produce Conjunctions shares a part of this award, and I thank them all.
As for me, I grew up in a house fairly devoid of books. My parents weren’t literary in the least. I’ve made up for that childhood deficiency by doing nearly everything with a book that I could think of. Call it pathological; call it a compulsion. But I’ve worked in a library, been a bookseller, a bookbinder, translator, critic, and a professor of literature. I’ve written bibliographies, volumes of poetry, a short story collection, a children’s book. I’ve edited anthologies, contributed to others, written introductions, forewords, afterwords, scores of Editor’s Notes and . . . more than my fair share of blurbs! I’ve also written nine novels—with another in the works, because there’s always one in the works. And since my late 20s I’ve edited Conjunctions, which has been a sustaining and inspiring adventure, a lifetime education, a never-ending revelation.
Lord knows, I literally couldn’t live without literature. My lifetime of work in the field has mostly been one of friendships and collegiality and even, now and then, pure joy. And while a lifetime achievement award can be a retrospective honor, a backward gaze, I’m looking forward to pressing ahead into the future, encouraged and invigorated. Thank you again for this honor.