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For U.S. 1 Poets, a Facelift

This article by Nicole Plett published in U.S. 1 Newspaper

on March 17, 1999. All rights reserved.

For obvious reasons, U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative has

always been a body to be reckoned with by U.S. 1 Newspaper. Just days

after the newspaper launched its first issue, in November, 1984, a

call came from one of the poets, alerting the paper to its choice

of name and its similarity to the poets’ publication, U.S. 1 Worksheets,

that dates back to October, 1973.

The newspaper’s founding editor, Richard K. Rein, was not concerned.

One was poetry, the other was non-fiction. One was copy paper size,

the other was a tabloid with glitzy photos. And the full title of

the poetry publication, U.S. 1 Worksheets, was a lot different from

U.S. 1 Newspaper, the "business and entertainment journal."

Even so, over the years, U.S. 1, the newspaper, has received a small

but steady flow of phone calls from newcomers seeking out the U.S.

1 Poets — including one last week from the eminent Geraldine R.

Dodge Foundation. We’ve made it our business to keep tabs on the group

and to cheerfully send inquiring poets and festival organizers to

the current spokesperson.

Now U.S. 1 Worksheets is celebrating 25 years of continuous, if not

exactly regular, publication with its latest issue that also launches

its own new upscale format. Gone is the inky, ’60s look of its humble

beginnings as a single folio sheet (folded twice to 8-1/2 x 11 inches).

U.S. 1 Worksheets, Volume 38/39, is a stapled book, of standard literary

magazine size, that boasts full-color cover art by Vida Chu. Designer

and poet Mary Szilagyi Durkee has created the new look to present

contributions by 48 poets from within and outside the region.

U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative celebrates the new issue with a reading

and publication party at Encore Books in Princeton Shopping Center

on Sunday, March 21, at 2 p.m. Among the contributors who will read

at the party are Alicia Ostriker, James Richardson, Lois Marie Harrod,

Frederick Tibbetts, Jean Hollander, and Betty Lies.

Founded by still-active members Alicia Ostriker and Rod Tulloss, U.S.

1 Poets’ Cooperative has met regularly since 1973. In addition to

the founders, its best-known members include Lynn Powell, David Keller,

Elizabeth Anne Socolow, Jean Hollander, Frederick Tibbetts, and Lois

Marie Harrod.

Although the majority of the Worksheets contributors are co-op members,

a listing in "Poet’s Market," the national directory of poetry

journals, has attracted submissions from across the country. Poetry

selections were made by poetry editors David Heinlein and Jean Hollander,

an editorship that rotates among members. The volume also includes

prose selected by editors Lois Marie Harrod and Sherie Fox Schmauder.

Winifred Hughes is the new managing editor of U.S. 1 Worksheets and

a co-op member since 1993. She says one of "neat" parts of

the job, was inheriting from retiring member Norma Vorhees Sheard

a complete run of the worksheets going back to 1973. "The first

issue is a broadsheet with an underground feel to it," says Hughes.

"It has a late ’60s look and feel to it. It also had illustrations

— a photograph of a diner, presumably on Route 1 — a feature

we’ve retained from the beginning."

"The title `Worksheets’ was meant to suggest process, and that’s

one of the things you can still see. Most of the poems by members

in the volumes have been to the meetings. We’ve seen these poems in

process, and we’ve seen them come through. They bear the impress of

the audience that’s there at the meeting."

The weekly Tuesday night meetings, held in members’ homes, are so

frequent that few members attend every one. The result is a spontaneous,

unpredictable mix of attendees at any given meeting. "Basically

you read, and the floor is thrown open to instant comments on what

you have read," Hughes explains. "It’s very diverse. We don’t

try to make one poet look like another. We don’t have one style, but

there’s a tremendous seriousness about it. We always try to be supportive,

but at the same time to push each poet to the highest standard that

he or she can aspire to."

Hughes says that, "if there’s an idea that’s common to our group,

it is probably to make a poem as dense and economical as possible.

A poem should achieve a state of density, if it can. As Jean Hollander

has been heard to say, `If a poem goes on to the next page, you had

better make sure that it’s worth turning the page over.’"

New members have always been welcomed at the co-op’s weekly meetings.

"We are evolving right now. We’re actively looking for new members

and younger members," says Hughes. She hopes that the new format

will also place "U.S. 1 Worksheets" in the hands of more readers.

"No bookstores wanted us before because of the strange tabloid

size," she says. From the original two-fold sheets, the Worksheets

evolved in the late ’80s to what Hughes calls a "modified tabloid"

format, an 8-1/2 by 11 inch stapled volume. "We haven’t spent

more on this than the old modified-tabloid books," she says. The

new volume is available at Micawber Books, the Princeton U-Store,

and at the publication party.

Hughes says that, like most "little magazines and very little

magazines," poets are not paid for their work, but each contributor

receives one contributor’s copy. Despite the new look, the co-op still

bears the hallmark of its early-’70s roots. "We’re a very impecunious

group. We have never charged dues, and we finance the `Worksheets’

issue by selling advance copies. When we have enough money we come


— Nicole Plett

U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative, Encore Books, Princeton

Shopping Center, 609-252-0608. Publication party for U.S. 1 Worksheets.

Sunday, March 21, 2 p.m. U.S. 1 Poets’ Cooperative, Box

127, Kingston 08528, 609-921-1489.

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