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Prepared by Barbara Bass and Cara Gilgenbach, December 2004
4 record storage boxes, 4 cubic feet, 11th floor
Tom Kryss was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1948 and attended high school in Garfield Heights, where for a time he edited the school newspaper, established a literary magazine, and worked in the layout department of a local suburban weekly. In the summer of 1966, before his departure for the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University, he came into contact with the bookseller James Lowell and the poet d.a. levy; and began to entertain the idea of self-publishing works of poetry. On campus at Northwestern he collection material for an independent literary magazine, and left school to earn money to publish it. In Chicago and Bensenville, Illinois, he met the independent publisher Douglas Casement and the poet Douglas Blazek, and observed first hand the production of their poetry magazine, broadsides, and chapbooks, via letterpress and mimeograph. It was through Casement's Fenian Head Center Press that he learned the rudiments of making serigraphs and incorporating them into hand-assembled books.
In 1967 he left Chicago to assist the defense fund efforts of Lowell and levy in Cleveland, who were under indictment by local authorities for the selling and dissemination of alleged obscene poetry. A mimeograph and silkscreen materials were purchased, and a collection of testimonials in behalf of Lowell, gathering anti-censorship discourse from American authors such as Charles Olson, Hubert Selby Jr., Charles Bukowski, Mitchell Goodman, Denise Levertov, Dwight McDonald, James Laughlin, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Jonathan Williams, and others, was published, with proceeds ploughed into Lowell's defense fund. In 1968, with rjs, the lone non-posthumous collection of the work of the poet d.a. levy was published, gathering another crosscurrent of testimonial. By this time the indictments were being quietly dropped, and the proceeds of the levy anthology were earmarked for the levy Offense Fund.
As a conscientious objector at the start of the Vietnam War, Kryss worked at St. Mary's Hospital in San Francisco, and later in a corporate mailroom, to support the production of books relating to the censorship and oppression of poets in Cleveland, California, and New York. After his return to Cleveland and marriage in 1970, he continued to print and make poetry books outside, or at the edge, of the publishing mainstream; illustrating them with his serigraphs and those of his wife, Carolyn. Conceived as economical, low-tech illustrations for books, these hand-produced serigraphs were circulated as covers and inserts in other small-press publications of the time, in Cleveland and across the country.
Under his Ghost, Cold Mountain, and Black Rabbit Press imprints (1966-2004) he set his hand to producing editions of the poetry of such authors as Kent Taylor, Douglas Blazek, Howard McCord, Al Purdy, and D. R. Wagner. His collection of rabbit drawings, Krulik Kisiega, planned as an Ayizan Press publication by levy, was brought out by Cleveland author and publisher Steve Ferguson under the Ayizan Press imprint in 1970, two years after levy's death. His youngest daughter, Hilary, an artist and writer, remains the designated and occasionally perplexed illustrator to his own writing. A selection of his work, spanning the decades, was issued by Bottom Dog Press in 2006.
The Tom Kryss papers consist of correspondence and manuscript material from John Bennett, Douglas Blazek, Charles Bukowski, Lou Delpino, Morris Edelson, Peter Finch,Vince Gagnon, Bill Hagerman, Darrell Kerr, d.a. levy, James Russell Lowell, Howard McCord, Miriam Patchen, Robert J. Sigmund (rjs), Kent Taylor, David R. Wagner, Richard Wolter, and many others. In addition, the collection contains the archive of the Allegheny Star Route anthology edited by Kryss and a newspaper clipping file on the Cleveland poetry scene of the 1960's and 1970's.
The collection is arranged alphabetically by correspondent, then chronologically by date. Most of the correspondence dates from the late 1960's and early 1970's, but much is also undated. The newspaper clippings collection and other miscellaneous materials can be found at the end of the collection, filed after the correspondence.
Special Collections and Archives also holds an extensive collection of Kryss's published works, cataloged in KentLINK.