A SMALL PRESS OF THEIR OWN
Shortly aer they married, the couple bought an antique press and began printinghandcraed books o Beecher’s poetry. Barbara, who was an accomplished artist and alsotrained in graphic arts, produced calligraphy and block carvings; Beecher wrote, andmanaged the typesetting and printing. ogether, they were a team, and over the next sevenyears they printed and sold small-run, handcraed books o poetry. In a letter to his oldriend Dorothy Norman, Beecher explained the purchase o their frst press,Te story on the printing is this. I picked up a cast-o and relatively an-tique 10x15 platen press or $175 last December, bought a trade-schooltextbook or printing, second-hand equipment and the fnest types andinks and papers available, and set about being a printer. Te operationis installed in a room in our house. My wie cuts the decorative blocksand counsels me on layout and design, scans my proos with the eye o an avenging angel and detects the least blemish or misalignment. She,in short, supplies the conscience, I being just the brawn. I set the typeby hand, lock up the orms, and turn the wheel o the press by hand.Tough I have a motor attachment, I preer being a Gutenberg.
Initially, they considered expanding the operation, but quickly decided they had nodesire to become a commercial printer. Tey wanted only to print fne art works or them-selves and or others with similar sensibilities. Beecher wrote to Dorothy Norman,Our present thinking is along these lines: to bring out books as beauti-ul as we can make them, by hand methods, with perhaps a bigger pressthan we now have so that we can print our pages at a time instead o one or two but still no automatic gadgets. … I get a tremendous satisac-tion out o doing it, which indicates that it must be right and I wouldlike to think that a printing-writing combination is what I am sup-posed to do with the rest o my lie. I just don’t want to make any alseor premature moves. And I want to stick to beautiul stu, or at least asbeautiul as I can make it. I think so oen o Steiglitz and o his unail-ing sense o values, his penetration which exposed the hollowness o allcommercialism and ame. ‘America corrupts her best and puts them tono use.’ How not to be corrupted; how still to be used? It never gets any easier.
As Beecher recovered rom the deep depression he had descended into aer beingfred rom San Francisco State, he began to write poetry again. In 1956, he published andprinted
Land of the Free
, his frst published work o poetry since the early 1940s
Land of the Free
was a single, long work that he wrote when he was asked to deliver a speechabout the state o civil liberties in the nation.
Te couple named their publishing/print-ing venture Morning Star Press; in the all o 1956, they began producing a quarterly edited poetry journal called
Morning Star Quartos
Beecher was not the only poet with a printing press in the Bay area. In the mid-1950s,what would later be called the San Francisco Renaissance was under way with poet, trans-lator and political activist Kenneth Rexroth mapping out the way. San Francisco—and itsneighbors, Berkeley and Oakland—had long been an outpost or many who did not ftinto typical American molds. Te region’s unique culture brought Rexroth rom his native