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Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - The Irritable Tribe of Poets

Only three issues of Theo were published, but it still took me a couple of years to track down a complete set. I'd been fascinated by the magazine ever since I first ran across a copy of number 2, which has a rather unique design; the covers are stapled off center, so that the fore edge is layered; the front wrap ends before the first leaf, so that the name of each contributor is visible, and the rear wrap extends past the text block.

Published on 22 Feb. 2018

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By Adam Davis


Only three issues of Theo were published, but it still took me a couple of years to track down a complete set. I'd been fascinated by the magazine ever since I first ran across a copy of number 2, which has a rather unique design; the covers are stapled off center, so that the fore edge is layered; the front wrap ends before the first leaf, so that the name of each contributor is visible, and the rear wrap extends past the text block.

The editors had a sly sense of humor. The foreward to no. 1 notes that the name of the magazine "derived not from theology, but from Theo van Gogh, the tolerant brother of the insane artist." After the demise of Theo, co-editor Murphy went on to edit a magazine called "Vincent: The Mad Brother of Theo."

By the second issue the tagline evolved into "An honest collection from the irritable tribe of poets" (a nod to Horace). The description is an apt one. Much of the work in Theo shares something of a common rough-and-tumble aesthetic, and there seems to be a definite focus on poets working away from the more urbane coastal scenes, including the Cleveland Scene. There is also work by a significant number of female poets. Number 1 includes a contribution from the African American artist Hart Leroi Bibbs.

Other contributors include George Bowering, Kirby Congdon, Judson Crews, John Keys, Gloria Tropp, Jack Micheline, Erik Kiviat, Irene Schramm, Gerard Malanga, Duane Lock, Serge Gabronsky, George Dowden, William Wantling, Walter Lowenfals, Carol Berge, Paul Blackburn, Larry Eigner, Lynne Banker, Fred Bannon, Bob Blossoms, C. C. Chamberlain, Matteo Degennaro, Carl Ginsburg, Barbara Holland, Allan Katzman, Andrew Keiser, K.K., Amon Liner, Jim Mosley, Wayne Oaks, S. A. Osterlund, D. M. Pettinella, Ottone Riccio, Rai Saunders, Sid Shapiro, Susan Sherman, John Tagliabue, Tracy Thompson, L. S. Torgoff, Stephen Tropp, and Alex Weiner.

Issue no. 1 is an association copy, inscribed by George Montgomery to Joan Jonas. Montgomery was a contributor to all three issues of the magazine, and the afterword to no. 1 thanks him for making the publication possible.

Murphy, Frank & Jonas Kover, editors. Theo Nos. 1-3 [All Published].


New York: Theo Publications, 1963-65. First edition. 8vo. Mimeographed; saddle-stapled wraps. Association copy, with issue no. 1 inscribed by George Montgomery in the year following publication, with a Chinese character drawing. Some soiling, especially to no. 2, and some minor insect damage to the cover of no. 1, still a very good set.

(Posted on Spineless & Stapled, presented here by permission of the author.)

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