Shy of the Squirrel's Foot

A Peripheral History of the Jargon Society as Told through Its Missing Books

By Andy Martrich

Shy of the Squirrel's Foot

Approx. 200 pp., 6.125 x 9.25, 12 halftones

  • Paperback ISBN: 978-1-4696-8251-8
    Published: November 2024
  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-1-4696-8250-1
    Published: November 2024

Paperback Available November 2024, but pre-order your copy today!

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The Jargon Society, a boundary-pushing publisher of poetry and experimental writing, was founded by Jonathan Williams (1929–2008) in 1951. Jargon quickly gained a reputation as the home of the poetic and literary avant-garde. Their bibliography includes noted midcentury poets like Charles Olson and Lorine Niedecker. Williams himself looms large in this story as the publisher at Jargon until his death, making this book as much about his life and work as the press he founded, which today operates through the Black Mountain College Museum in Asheville, North Carolina.

Andy Martrich has authored this story in a manner befitting Jargon's ethos of literary experimentation by focusing on the books the Society cataloged but never published. While it's not uncommon for a small press to plan for books that don’t make it to publication, Martrich argues that Jargon's incessant financial difficulties, coupled with Williams's impressive network, makes its trail of unfinished projects unique and an ideal way to chronicle the press itself. Using archival research, interviews with volunteers at Jargon, and more, Martrich gives readers not only an intimate look into a Southern press and publisher, but also an important history of modern and experimental literature in twentieth-century America. Also included in one place for the first time is Jargon's annotated bibliography, detailing every book the press published. Also includes an epilogue by Anne Midgette and an afterword by Nicole Raziya Fong.

About the Author

Andy Martrich is a poet, publisher, and archivist.
For more information about Andy Martrich, visit the Author Page.


"Martrich has produced a radical demonstration of the impossibility of a complete archive that illuminates the unrealized projects of one of the greatest American publishers of the twentieth century."—Kyle Schlesinger, poet, professor, and proprietor of Cuneiform Press

"This book makes a bold and counterintuitive argument for understanding how the failure to publish certain works allows us to understand the project of a press. Shy of the Squirrel's Foot lingers with the specificities and nuances of outlier projects that work to revise canonical narratives of American poetry. All of this is in addition to offering a phenomenal demonstration of the bibliographic arts."—Daniel Scott Snelson, University of California, Los Angeles

"Martrich's deeply researched investigation into Jonathan Williams's influential and very personal Jargon Society touches on biography, hauntology, Black Mountain College, and other avant-garde communities via unfulfilled 'lost' projects, presenting a singular contribution to Williams, Jargon, and publishing studies."—Jeffery Beam, coeditor of Jonathan Williams: The Lord of Orchards