Exhibition Postcard

About the exhibition

Oregon-born writer, artist and editor George Hitchcock (1914–2010) was on the cutting-edge of the small-press revolution, and in 1964 launched an incredible 20-year run of an inexpensively produced and electrifying literary journal called kayak.

Hitchcock -- who proclaimed himself editorial "dictator" -- accomplished what all magazine editors set out to achieve: He created a devoted readership that trusted his judgment and delighted in the arrival of his magazine. Along with poetry, he invited "ribald articles" about poetry and made room for a free-wheeling correspondence section. Most noticeable were the unlikely illustrations that accompanied the poems in each issue -- from 19th-century engravings of sewers to surreal collages.

Picture of George Hitchcock

Within a few years of its founding, kayak became one of the most desirable journals of its time for poets, including many who would later become poet laureate of the United States -- Charles Simic, Mark Strand, Richard Wilbur and the present laureate, W.S. Merwin; many Northwest poets were also published in kayak, including Raymond Carver, William Everson, Richard Hugo, Carolyn Kizer, Robert McDowell, Gary Snyder, Vern Rutsala, Kim Stafford and Clemens Starck.

The John Wilson Special Collections of Multnomah County Library owns a complete 64-issue run of kayak magazine and all of the poetry chapbooks published by Hitchcock under the Kayak Press imprint. This major exhibition is the first to show all these works, along with ephemera, artworks, and other Hitchcock and kayak-related materials on loan from private collectors.

Himes & Duniway Society member Jim Carmin organized the kayak exhibit in the Collins Gallery of the Multnomah County Library. The exhibit curated by Carmin was a survey of George Hitchcock and the iconic poetry magazine kayak.

New York Times Obituary of George Hitchcock