Silkworms, Gobelín Tapestries, and Detroit

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Hank’s Silk Mill. Source: Mansfieldct-history.org

I’m forever finding connections between people, places, and things. This time it’s silkworms, Gobelín tapestries, and Detroit.

It all started with childhood visits to Greenfield Village, an outdoor American history museum in the Detroit, Michigan suburb of Dearborn. Daytrips with family, a weekend with my Girl Scout troop, my high school prom, and lantern-lit holiday nights. All fun. All memorable.

An early favorite attraction of mine was Hank’s Silk Mill, c. 1810 with its thousands of silk worms and cocoons. I became interested in silk in my childhood when my beloved Uncle Gede sent my mother yards of colorful silk while traveling in Asia. Mom said that silk was rare and special and must be stored in a safe place. I knew where that place was and sometimes without permission I removed the silk and wrapped myself in it, imagining I was a fairytale Silk Road princess.

How excited I was to discover Greenfield Village’s relocated silk mill built by Rodney and Horace Hanks. This last silk mill in the U.S., was moved to the pastoral Greenfield Village from Connecticut in 1931. The first power driven mill in this country, it was converted from water to electricity.  Here, the Hanks brothers produced silk thread for sewing that they proudly called “the oldest and best brand of silk on the continent.” 

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Hank’s Silk Mill, Greenfield Village.

The mill I remember looked like a wooden garage with hand-blown glass windows and a grove of mulberry trees standing behind it. It had its own resident expert who shared stories about the historical significance of the mill and did demonstrations showing how silk thread is extracted from silkworm cocoons.

Of course, the expert explained how the process all starts with the silk moth that lays hundreds of pinhead-sized eggs put in cold storage for months until mulberry trees start to bud. After incubation the eggs hatch and the baby silkworms grow quickly living off of a diet of hand-picked mulberry leaves until they become very fat. Someone said that “when you walk by the mill you can hear the sounds of heavy paper being crinkled as thousands of silkworms eat their weight in mulberry leaves.”

When it is time to build their cocoons, the silkworms produce a jelly-like material which hardens after coming in contact with air. For three or four days they spin a cocoon around themselves until they look like puffy, white balls. After eight or nine days in a warm, dry place the cocoons are ready to be unwound. I was always amazed to hear they are steamed or baked to kill the worms and then placed in hot water to loosen the tightly woven filaments. The filaments are unwound onto a spool and twisted together to make one silk thread. Finally, the thread is woven into cloth or used for embroidery.

At the Hanks Silk Mill I could actually see the silk making process at work!  They even had cocoons for sale so I could take one home with me!

When Charles Novacek, my late, Czechoslovakian-born husband and I visited Greenfield Village for the first time together in the late 1990s I suggested we visit the silk mill. To my surprise he had his own “silk” story to share which he eventually wrote about in his memoir Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, Ten21 Press, 2012. There he talks about his family’s move to the village of Hrachovo in Slovakia when he was seven years old as described in this excerpt: 

“Hrachovo had about 400 inhabitants – mostly small farmers and a few tradesmen.  The only significant institution was the Gobelín tapestry school that rivaled the Gobelín works in Paris. . .”

Charles continued, “In the park of the Gobelín school many mulberry trees grew.  We picked the fruit from the trees and collected the leaves to feed our silkworms.  An entrepreneur from the city organized and recruited children throughout the country, where mulberry trees grew, to earn money by producing silk cocoons.  He gave us a starter tray (about four square feet) of worms, trained us how to maintain them, and enlarge them into several trays. I needed many mulberry leaves to feed my silkworms.  When the worms matured, they attached themselves to branches I placed in the trays and began to form cocoons.  This process lasted a few days.  I had to pay attention and ask my father in time to place all the cocoons on a pan to bake them in the oven.  I was not allowed to do that. The worms inside the cocoons had to be killed to stop reproducing themselves into silk moths, which would have eaten through the cocoon, cutting the continuous silk fiber and making it useless. The same man who brought us the starter trays came to the Gobelín school to collect the cocoons from us and paid us for them.  I produced about a pound of cocoons and additional worms to continue the production.  I received about 20.00 Crowns (before WWII in Czechoslovakia $ 1.00 was equivalent to about 5.00 Crowns.)    

Charles’ story fascinated me especially when I remembered that I was seven when I first visited Hanks Silk Mill – the same age as Charles in his story. Once when we traveled to Slovakia Charles showed me the building where he remembered the Gobelín school to be. He also told me that four years after moving to Hrachovo when the Nazis occupied part of Czechoslovakia in 1938, his family was forced to move to the region of his father’s birth to the town of Namest nad Oslavou. The town had (and still has) a renaissance castle with 24 Gobelín tapestries dating back to the 16th through the 19th centuries. I have toured the castle and seen the Gobelíns with and without Charles – most recently in 2015.

When I was in Paris in 2012 I remember riding by the Manufacture des Gobelíns tapestry factory at 42 avenue des Gobelíns, near the Les Gobelíns métro station in the 13th arrondissement. It is best known as a royal factory supplying the court of Louis XIV and later monarchs; it is now run by the French Ministry of Culture. It is open for guided tours, but was unable to visit.  

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Tapestry, The Whitney.

I made another Gobelín discovery here in Midtown Detroit. Not far from me is the David Whitney mansion built in 1890, now The Whitney restaurant. I’ve read that lumber baron David Whitney, Jr., the richest man in Detroit at the time of his death in 1900, had a secret vault in his residence to store the family’s most valuable treasures. To hide them, he commissioned panels by Parisian artists at the Gobelín Tapestry Works.

When I visited The Whitney for brunch in December I briefly examined some of the tapestries on the walls. I’m not sure whether these were the original or are reproductions. My future research will be to verify the origin of these tapestries and to do more research on the Gobelín School in Slovakia back in the 1930s.

Blank Book Campaign Restores War-torn Library

bilalcover1The book pictured above arrived at my home in Detroit around Christmastime this year. Below is the story behind its being sent to me.  

Wartime adversely affected my late husband Charles’ dream of going to art school and becoming an artist when Adolf Hitler closed all art schools in Czechoslovakia during World War II.

Last year I read about Wafaa Bilal, another young man who dreamed of becoming an artist nearly 50 years later in his homeland of Iraq. He was deterred in Iraq because of his family’s opposition to Saddam Hussein. Bilal studied geography instead and continued to create political art. His work was confiscated by the police and he was arrested as a dissident for his work critical of Hussein. Bilal refused to participate in the invasion of Kuwait and organized opposition groups. He eventually fled the country in 1991 and lived in a Saudi Arabian refugee camp teaching art to children.

Wafaa Bilal came to the United States in 1992 and studied art at the University of New Mexico (BFA 1999) and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned an MFA in 2003. His brother was killed by a U.S. missile strike at a checkpoint in 2004 which intensified his denunciation of the Iraqi War.

Last January 2016 through Ontario’s Art Gallery of Windsor (across the river from Detroit) I found out about a Kickstarter campaign for a project Wafaa Bilal called 168:01. Through the project he highlighted and acknowledged the destruction of the cultural history of Iraq while enacting a process to rebuild it and move forward. The project appealed to me because of my interest in art and opposition to the Iraqi War. But the greatest appeal was because I’m a librarian and know the importance of books for learning.

168:01 consisted of a simple installation of blank white books gesturing to the loss of the entire library at the University of Baghdad, College of Fine Arts where 70,000+ books were destroyed during the U.S. led invasion of Iraq in 2003. These white books functioned as a way to rebuild the library through a system of grassroots support. The artist made white books which were to be exchanged for the gift of a lost book or a donation to the 168:01 Kickstarter campaign. As a result the project would replace over 1,000 lost books to the University of Baghdad.

The title of the project and the blank white book installation also alluded to the 13th century Mongol siege of Baghdad. At the time Baghdad was home to the largest library in the world, the Bayt al-Hikma, or House of Wisdom. The siege resulted in the destruction of the House of Wisdom. Wafaa noted, “According to legend, the library was thrown into the Tigris River to create a bridge of books for the Mongolian army to cross. The pages bled blue ink into the river for seven days, after which the books were drained of knowledge. 168:01 takes its title from this story of loss, representing the first second after 168 hours (or seven days), which signals the beginning of rebirth and process of moving forward to rebuild.”

Bilal’s exhibition at Ontario’s Art Gallery of Windsor, opened January 29, 2016 and featured a 72 foot bookshelf holding 1,000 blank white books. The white books were gradually replaced with the art textbooks purchased after funds were raised through a Kickstarter campaign. The first 200 people who donated received a white book signed by Bilal. At the end, all the real books were shipped to the College of Fine Arts in Baghdad.

I’m honored to have received my white signed book pictured above and to have helped to restore the collection of the College of Fine Arts Library in Bagdad. I’d love to visit there some day.

Happy New Year!

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Pictured above is Charles (Karel) Novacek on wooden skis made by his father Antonin Novacek. Slovakia, 1932.

Honoring Czech Resistance Leader – Josef Robotka

josefplaquecolorToday I honor my late husband Charles Novacek’s uncle Josef Robotka and am posting an unedited paper Charles wrote about him. The paper was eventually incorporated in Charles’ memoir, Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, Ten21 Press, 2012.

Sixty-four years ago on November 12, 1952, at 5:40 a.m., Josef Robotká was executed at Pankrac Prison in Prague, Czecho-Slovakia. He was 46 years old. Josef was a leader in the Czech Resistance during World War II and the Cold War. He was arrested in 1949, stripped of his civil rights, made to forfeit all of his property and imprisoned for nearly three years before his execution. Josef was hanged by the Communist Party for the alleged crimes of espionage and treason through his leadership in Rada Tri and other organizations fighting for freedom from oppression. I regret that I could never meet Josef, but am thankful to have the good fortune to meet his widow Helena. She was also a brave resistance fighter and loving mentor for Charles. The above plaque is posted in Josef’s hometown of Velka Bites, Czech Republic and honors him for his service to his country.

THE LAST TIME I SAW UNCLE JOE

by Charles Novacek

I received a message to meet Uncle at the open vegetable market – zelný trh.  He wanted to see me.  His instructions to me were to meet him at the pharmacy at one o’clock.  A few bcjosefcroppeddays before our government had sent him to Russia as the military attaché representing the new Czechoslovakia.  I wondered what had happened.  I had just finished my first year of law school, including all associated exams, and felt like celebrating, but this meeting clouded with secrecy made me apprehensive.  For some time I knew Uncle was organizing new resistance against the Communists.  That was the reason he had sent me to Zanzibar.  It had taken me almost three weeks to make that trip.  I hadn’t realized he would be involved in the resistance so soon.

I knew that one o’clock was precisely the moment he would be passing by the pharmacy at the corner.  From a distance at exactly one I watched him to see a sign, known just by us, telling me I should approach him.  He kept on walking between two buildings around the corner into an alley, crossing his thumb with his forefinger, a sign for me to meet him at the crosswalk out of sight of the market.  This meant he was being watched from the market place!  I crossed around the old buildings, and when I was out of view of the open plaza I ran to the end of the walk where he had entered through a large wooden gate into a decrepit, dirt covered drive.  By then I was at his side and went with him into a garden surrounded by an old stonewall.  There we sat.  After a short pause he told me what had just happened and what needed to be done.

Uncle Joe always treated me as an adult, even when I was 12.  Since the last time I talked to him his face had aged and I read fear in it.  At that moment I felt like I had in Slovakia 10 years before when the Germans took over our country.  Uncle was very serious, and I could detect uncommon emotion in his eyes – he was on the verge of tears.  He looked like my father back in 1938 when he told me that he was wrong about my never having to go fight in a war again.

Uncle Joe started to say that he had been sent to Moscow as a military envoy but had never arrived there.  He was arrested in Lvow and sent back to Czechoslovakia in chains where he found himself under a new officer directed by an NKVD agent from the Soviet Union.  There he had been demoted, stripped of all his rights as an officer of the General Staff, and released into civilian status.  He knew they were following him expecting he would lead them to others in the resistance.  He had to see me, he said, to arrange for my way out.  I must go to Prague and join Professor Kominek – he already was waiting for me.  I would have to arrange with friends, family, and acquaintances to say that I was in Slovakia or elsewhere in the country if they are questioned.  If the secret service, like the two that were trailing him then would see me talking to him, I would be followed and eventually arrested.  Uncle said this would probably be the last time we would see each other.  He wanted me to work for Kominek as I had worked for him.  The necessary paperwork at the Masaryk University in Brno was arranged to provide me with a student status at the Charles University in Prague with a student job at the Ministry of Interior.  I should stay with Kominek as long as I could.  Should I lose my cover, I must leave this country, change my name, change my nationality, and establish a new life somewhere else, forgetting all about the old world!

All this sounded ominous, and I was petrified.  He then hugged me, (first time he ever did that), said how much he respected and loved me, and warned me to be on the lookout for a short – about 5’ 5” tall – Far eastern cross-eyed men with short, rounded noses, well-built, strong, with remarkable fists.  There were many men like this here already, he said.  They were agents of NKVD, (KGB) and I had better be afraid of them, because they were the best.  He would, he said, go back to the Green Market so the two men who were trailing him could pick up his track again.  I could watch from the other side of the square so I could learn to identify them.

This was the last time I saw Uncle.  It was very emotional.  I just asked why the Soviets did this to him?  After all we had fought the Germans like they had, why?  He explained that the Communists wanted him to declare publicly that our underground resistance was Communist motivated and that we all were Communists.  He wouldn’t agree to make such a public statement.  All who were in R-5 (the name of the resistance group) during the war would suffer the same fate; therefore, he wanted me to leave as soon as possible.  I left the garden through the back to reenter the square from the other end so I could see the men who trailed Uncle.  As he had said, I couldn’t miss them.  They stood out in the crowd.

I liquidated my belongings and packed a small bag.  Then I went to the post office with many post cards addressed to my sister, my friend Jiři, the clarinetist and another friend in the Symphony Orchestra of Brno where I had played the violin.  I dated these cards progressively with my handwriting and mailed them to Etelka asking her to put the cards in the mailbox with corresponding dates so they would arrive in Brno as if sent by me from Slovakia.  This would make it appear as if I was in Slovakia and would give me time to avoid the state police while in Bohemia.  From the post office I went to our contact at Masaryk University who already had prepared papers with my new cover name.  I was to be Karel Zpívák, of Husovice, Brno, a student of Masaryk University, finishing my first year of history, with which I would enter Charles University, History department, and live in Mala Strana, Prague.

In those days there wasn’t fingerprinting for identification purposes, and I was safe for the time being as I entered my one room apartment on the second floor in Malá Strana.  Professor Kominek had arranged the rent with an elderly widow.  The room was simply furnished with enough space for my books, notes and extensive maps of Prague, which I studied very carefully.  I had two exits from here in case of an emergency.  One was the window, which faced the maze of passages between old buildings, intricate rooftops and side streets.  The other exit from a small corridor led to a narrow medieval street overcrowded by street vendors and parked vehicles.  It took me several days to get acquainted with this labyrinth.  From my apartment, the network of the political organizations and offices were just 20 minutes away.

Professor Kominek assigned me to the Ministry of Interior to collect data about the movement of agents, plans for arresting citizens, and learning how the Communist party would overpower the government.  I had my hands full, because all this required the careful approach of a young student of history who was pretending to learn how to be useful to the Socialist regime.  I had a good chance to succeed by approaching my job in this way.  There were employees who liked to speak about their work and often good information came my way.  I was a good listener and soon, mainly the young generation of various departments in the Ministry, appointed to execute tasks for the senior staff, became my best informers, not even knowing it.  Eager to advance on the social ladder many of them talked about their duties with their friends and often secret information leaked out.  They liked to show off their assignments and I was happy to admire them for being in such an important position.

Prague, during my first days carried me into medieval architectural treasures as if carefully assembled just for me and as I always imagined them.  That would have been enough to sustain me with its magic and beauty, but it wasn’t why I was here.  I was caught by insensitive times numb to the beauty and magic that Charles IV planted in the city many centuries ago to illuminate nations with the splendor of the arts and sciences.

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World War II Silk Escape Maps – Ingenious and Colorful

silkmap2crWhile doing research for BORDER CROSSINGS: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, I read that during World War II, the United States and Great Britain manufactured silk and cloth maps. The maps were issued to RAF paratroopers, Special Forces, and members of the Nazi resistance in case they were shot down or trapped behind enemy lines and needed to escape.

World War II British escape maps were the creation of Christopher Clayton Hutton, an M19 British Army officer who was the genius behind many James Bond style inventions which are still in use today. MI9 was established in December 1939. Among its functions were to facilitate escapes and the return of escapees and evaders to England.

Hutton persuaded Bartholomew’s a famous map making company to waive their copyright on maps for the war effort. He had the maps printed onto pure silk (on both sides) because it was an ideal material for an escape map. Silk was quiet and didn’t rustle. It was lightweight and thin. Pectin was added to the dyes so they wouldn’t run when wet. The maps could be used to filter water or make a sling and they could be folded up very small and easily concealed inside a cigarette pack or heel of a shoe. They could be sewn inside the lining of a uniform or other clothing.

Escape maps were also made of rayon, nylon, and a tissue made with mulberry leaves — all very durable

Many of the escape maps were smuggled into German POW camps by way of Monopoly game boards, chess sets, and packs of cards. The Germans did not allow relief groups to send games to the captured Allies, so Waddington, the makers of monopoly in Britain, printed the maps on silk and inserted them in an indention made in the game board. The indention was then covered by the paper of the playing surface.

The maps were also useful after the war ended as there was a shortage of fabric and rationing of it continued. People turned to using surplus escape maps to make clothing – blouses, dresses, shirts, skirts, etc.

Several hundred thousand silk maps were produced during World War II. It is  estimated that of the nearly 35,000 Allied troops who escaped from behind enemy lines, more than half used a silk map. Many of these maps have survived and are now quite collectible.

Among my most prized possessions are two colorful silk escape maps, my favorite being Map 43 E-F which includes the countries of Germany (includes Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia), Italy, Poland, Italy, Switzerland, Croatia, and Slovakia.

Hoffer Celebrated, Novacek Remembered

erichoffercigar400Today is the birthday of Eric Hoffer (1898 – 1983), working-class philosopher, migratory worker, and longshoreman. He became a social writer, grounded in the practical experience of the common worker, and was the author of ten books. Hoffer was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom in February 1983. His first book, The True Believer (1951), was widely recognized as a classic, receiving critical acclaim from both scholars and laymen.

In 2013 The Eric Hoffer Book Award Committee announced Charles Novacek’s Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance was winner of the 2013 Eric Hoffer Award of Honorable Mention in the category of Memoir. Border Crossings was also named a Finalist for three other 2013 Eric Hoffer Awards:The Montaigne Medal for most thought-provoking book, The da Vinci Eye for best cover art, and The Eric Hoffer Grand Prize Award.

The Eric Hoffer Book Award was established internationally in 2001 to honor Hoffer’s memory. “The Award honors freethinking writers and independent books of exceptional merit. Many other top literary prizes will not even consider independent books, but “the Hoffer award continues to be a platform for and the champion of the independent voice.”

The judging committee commented: Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, Charles Novacek, 1021 Press – In this well-articulated memoir, Charles Novacek pays tribute to the heroes of his past. “My country comes first,” is the lesson young Charles learns from his father. Courageous and inquisitive, our hero comes to age through the horrors of World War II, spends his tumultuous youth fighting Communism, and finds peace in a land away from home. Like many before him, coming to America becomes an act of self- preservation, not an abandonment of the homeland. Part memoir and part history lesson, this book captures a time long gone, with moments of normalcy and love in the midst of suffering and struggle. The passage of years fails to erase the author’s memory of remarkable events, which he recounts in captivating detail. This book makes an important contribution to the literature of World War II and communism in Eastern Europe. Kudos to Sandra Novacek, the author’s “last love,” for entrusting this remarkable personal account to the printer.”

Picnic in Czechoslovakia

novacekfamfriendspicnicrevcrSelf-confined to my air-conditioned condo in the city this morning, I look at old photographs and write, determined to escape the heat.

One photograph set in the Tatra Mountains of Czechoslovakia in 1931, soothes me. It captures a happy moment of my late husband Charles Novacek and his family picnicking in a scenic place, surrounded by their friends and nature.

It looks like everyone has enjoyed a delicious meal and are now relaxed, focusing on each other and the beautiful day – probably wishing it would never end.

I would love to be there – the location, the company, the food. I wonder what they had to eat and drink.

Perhaps, rezeň, a breaded pork steak/schnitzel. Or baked smoked pork (pečené údené bravčové mäso) with horseradish sauce. Or stuffed cabbage (holubki) and homemade sausage (kolbasi), potato dumplings with sauerkraut (Halušky), cucumber and vinegar salad (Uhorkovy Salat), and rye bread with caraway.

Beer (pivo). Wine (vino). Mineral water (minerálka), or sheep milk (urda). For dessert maybe kolache or a cherry cerešňová or blueberry (čučoriedka) bubble cake (bublanina).

The image inspires sweet thoughts of joyful conviviality.

After death, something new. . .

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“Why should I be frightened of dying? I did not know what death truly was; no one did. Who had made dying a bad word? Yes, it was universally considered awful—unwanted, painful, feared—because when it happened it stopped us from moving and being, and we interpreted that as if something had ended. But what if it were actually a beautiful experience? What if, with death, something actually began instead?”

–Charles Novacek (1928-2007), Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance

Photo: Bahia de Plata, Isla de Margarita, Venezuela

“For the land of the free and the home of the brave. . .”

johns_flag_moma“Before I reached the border that day, I made it clear to myself that this would be for keeps. For me, it meant changing loyalty from Czechoslovakia to the United States, having America as my new Motherland. If she needed me, I would die to defend her. I felt that way when I entered in 1956 and today, as escalating anxiety and conflict threaten her freedom, I still feel ready to defend her.

It was not easy to make a covenant of that magnitude, but I knew then that I would never reclaim the country of my birth. The tragic past I would set behind me forever, and would write about it only to benefit the young; perhaps they could learn from it and avoid another war.”

–Charles Novacek (1928-2007) from Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance, Ten21 Press, 2012.

Jasper Johns (1930-    ) “Flag,” encaustic, oil and collage on fabric mounted on plywood,1954-55, Modern Museum of Art

The colors of the American flag are symbolic: red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and Innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice. 

Ten21 Press and Border Crossings at Bohemian Book Fair

bohemianbookfair2Interested in hot books by cool publishers? Check out the BOHEMIAN BOOK FAIR on Friday, June 3 at 7:00 p.m. and Saturday, June 4, from 11:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at Czech Center New York, in the Bohemian National Hall, 321 E 73rd Street, (Between 1st and 2nd Aves). Readings by seven authors will start the evening on June 3 with book sales and signing following.

Admission is free and Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance published by Ten 21 Press will be there. I will be one of the readers, reading an excerpt from Border Crossings!

The event is presented by The Prague Summer Program for Writers and co-sponsored by New York-based independent publisher Three Rooms Press and Czech Center New York, under the auspices of the Consul General of the Czech Republic Martin Dvořák. It is part of a 2-day symposium of bohemian literature, which includes panel discussions, lectures, readings and master classes with world-renowned writers.

Participating publishers in the Bohemian Book Fair 2016 include ACC Distribution, Armchair Shotgun, Belladonna Series, Bottle of Smoke Press, Brooklyn Arts Press, Golden Alley Press, Great Weather for Media, McPherson & Co., Polity Books, Public Affairs Books, Skyhorse Publishing, Ten 21 Press, Three Rooms Press, and Ugly Duckling Presse. Publishers will have recent titles in poetry, fiction, dada, memoir, biography, essays, flash fiction, and more.

Throughout the course of the book fair, there will be panel discussions, readings, and master classes, by recognized authors including Guggenhiem and Macarthur fellow Patricia Hampl, award-winning poet Gerald Stern, Guggenheim fellow Alison Hawthorne Deming, Paterson Poetry Prize-winning poet Stanley Plumly, novelist Robert Eversz; award-winning poet and nonfiction author Beth Ann Fennelly; award-winning memoirist Randy Fertel; internationally-renowned poet Richard Jackson; award-winning poet Anne Marie Macari; poet, journalist, and University of Iowa International Writing Program director Christopher Merrill; and poet, essayist and Prague Summer Program founder Richard Katrovas.

For further information on the Master Classes, including reservations, please visit our ticket page at http://psp-in-nyc.eventbee.com

All events will be held at Czech Center New York, 321 E. 73rd Street, New York, NY.

Book Fair Featured Participating Publishers:

ACC Distribution

Armchair Shotgun

Belladonna Series The Belladonna* mission is to promote the work of women writers who are adventurous, experimental, politically involved, multi-form, multicultural, multi-gendered, impossible to define, delicious to talk about, unpredictable and dangerous with language.

Bottle of Smoke Press Bottle of Smoke Press was started in 2002 to publish new  and well-established avant-garde poets in short-run editions. In 2004 we started printing some titles letterpress and now offer our books in paperback, hardcover as well as deluxe editions. We use the finest materials and strive to make the books appearance match the excellent writing that we are honored to publish. We are located a little over an hour north of NYC in the hamlet of Wallkill, NY.

Brooklyn Arts Press Brooklyn Arts Press (BAP) is an independent house devoted to publishing new works by emerging artists. We believe we serve our community best by publishing great works of varying aesthetics side by side, subverting the notion that writers & artists exist in vacuums, apart from the culture in which they reside & outside the realm & understanding of other camps & aesthetics. We believe experimentation & innovation, arriving by way of given forms or new ones, make our culture greater through diversity of perspective, opinion, expression, & spirit.

Golden Alley Press Golden Alley Press is a small, independent publisher located in Emmaus, Pennsylvania. Our tagline, “Books you’ll want to read, written by people you’ll want to meet,” describes our mission to bring interesting new voices to light, particularly in the areas of memoir and theology.

Great Weather For Media great weather for MEDIA focuses on the unpredictable, the fearless, the bright, the dark, and the innovative. We are based in New York City and showcase both national and international writers. As well as publishing the highest quality poetry and prose, we organize numerous events locally and across the country.

McPherson & Co McPherson & Company is an independent, literary and arts press founded in 1974. We specialize in literary fiction (American as well as translations from Italian, Spanish, and French), contemporary culture (art theory, performance, film, philosophy), and occasional cross-genre projects. The press is based in New York’s Hudson Valley.

Polity Books   Polity is a leading international publisher in the social sciences and humanities and we publish some of the world’s best authors in these fields. Our aim is to combine the publication of original, cutting-edge work of the highest quality with a systematic programme of textbooks and coursebooks for students and scholars in further and higher education.

Public Affairs Books

Skyhorse Publishing Skyhorse Publishing is the publisher for Ivan Backer’s memoir My Train to Freedom: A Jewish Boy’s Journey from Nazi Europe to a Life of Activism.  As Backer recounts in his memoir, in May of 1939, as a ten-year-old Jewish boy, he fled Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia for the United Kingdom aboard one of the Kindertransport trains organized by Nicholas Winton.  Detailed in this true story is Backer’s dangerous escape, his boyhood in England, his perilous 1944 voyage to America.  Now he is an eighty-six-year-old who has been and remains a life-long activist for peace and justice.

Ten 21 Press Ten21 Press was founded by Sandra Novacek in 2011 to publish “important, creative works and authentic stories of high quality”. Ten21 Press’s debut book is Border Crossings: Coming of Age in the Czech Resistance. The memoir was published to fulfill Sandra’s promise to her late husband Charles Novacek who dreamed of publishing his firsthand account of survival as a youth amid the Nazi and Communist occupations of Czechoslovakia during WW II and the Cold War.

Three Rooms Press Three Rooms Press is a fierce New York-based independent publisher inspired by dada, punk and passion. Founded in 1993, it serves as a leading independent publisher of cut-the-edge creative, including fiction, memoir, poetry translations, drama and art.

Ugly Duckling Presse Ugly Duckling Presse is a nonprofit publisher for poetry, translation, experimental nonfiction, performance texts, and books by artists. UDP was transformed from a 1990s zine into a Brooklyn-based small press by a volunteer editorial collective that has published more than 200 titles to date. UDP favors emerging, international, and “forgotten” writers, and its books, chapbooks, artist’s books, broadsides, and periodicals often contain handmade elements, calling attention to the labor and history of bookmaking. UDP is committed to keeping its publications in circulation with our online archive of out-of-print chapbooks and our digital proofs program. http://www.uglyducklingpresse.org