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The Collages of Helen Adam

Friday, May 18th, 2018

“I have always believed in interpenetrating universes.”

The Collages of Helen Adam, edited by UB special collections librarian, Alison Fraser, brings together the largest selection of visual work to date by Scottish-American poet and visual artist Helen Adam (1909-1993). The book includes 40 stand-alone collages from the San Francisco period, a reconstruction of Adam’s photograph-collages displayed at the San Francisco-based Buzz Gallery in 1964, the final state of the ballad-collage “In Harpy Land”, and selections from two collage gift books made for the poet Robert Duncan and the publisher Robert Hershon.

Fraser contributed an introductory essay to the book, which also features essays by Lewis Ellingham, Samuel Delany and Robert Hershon, as well as an introduction to the collection by James Maynard, curator of the University Libraries’ Poetry Collection, and an afterword by Kristin Prevallet, editor of A Helen Adam Reader (2007). Taken together, the selection demonstrates both the breadth and commonalities of Adam’s visual and written work, opening up new possibilities for the study and appreciation of Helen Adam.

“As both a researcher and librarian, I have come to realize that the strength and value of the Poetry Collection is not only in its materials, but also in its people,” says Fraser. “Without the forward vision of former curator Robert Bertholf, who sought Adam’s work for inclusion in the Poetry Collection, this project would not have been possible.”

Co-published by Further Other Book Works and Cuneiform Press in 2017, The Collages of Helen Adam has had celebratory launches at the Kael-Jess Murals House in Berkeley, California, and the Tibor de Nagy Gallery in New York City. It has also been featured by the Poetry Foundation and the Poetry Society of America and reviewed by Mary Ann Caws in The Brooklyn Rail.