edited by such then-locals as William Cullen Bryant (who wrote the poems Thanatopsis and To a Waterfowl
among others). More than a century later, when then-Hoboken resident Ed Foster was creating a new poetry
journal, the name seemed appropriate: Talisman.
Talisman, which began as a poetry magazine in 1989 and expanded to book publishing in 1993, has garnered much
of the same respect of its namesake. Established to fight the trend that's nearly swallowed the book publishing
industry - the sales-driven buy-up of most independent presses - Talisman may not make a profit, but it does
bring an impressive cadre of poets to readers.
"We've been able to include a big range of major avant garde - and nobody wants to use that word anymore -
innovative, not mainstream . . . not people that HarperCollins of Random House would publish," said Foster, a
poet himself and clearly a self-editor. "In fact, these people would resist being published by them. That's Robert
And while Hoboken doesn't boast a U.S. Poet Laureate, Talisman's list includes several local writers of renown
among its international community of talent. In fact, Bloomfield Street must be something of a muse, attracting no
fewer than three notable poets now, and even Foster once lived there. Talisman has published books by
Bloomfield Streeters Timothy Liu, a professor at William Patterson University well known in the
Chinese-American and gay poetry scenes; and Murat Menet-Nejat, a widely and enthusiastically reviewed poet
who is currently editing an anthology of Turkish Poetry for Foster's press. And the other bard of Bloomfield
Street, Barry Seiler, is the editor of the American Book Review. Another notable poet published by Talisman is
Hoboken resident Joel Lewis, who lives on Washington Street.
So what does Talisman do that attracts those not in Robert Pinsky territory?
"With the large publishers, they can promote books very fast, engage in cooperative advertising with book store
chains and find - well, really create - an audience for the book," said Foster. "That's not how small presses have
Surviving without what the big guys have, mostly money, means that the Talisman community is in it for the
work, not the pay. Foster says no one gets paid in the publishing of books, and credits the community's survival
to dedicated people to and the "grand luck" of a good distributor. Talisman's books are sold around the world,
and its authors are also drawn from a global community. But while dedication and luck have meant survival, the
small press community isn't happy to have to function that way.
"It is depressing, how much work it takes to get anywhere," said Foster, "just to reach our small audience."
Though Foster, also a professor at Stevens Institute of Technology, isn't especially impressed with National
Poetry Month ( that's Robert Pinsky territory too), he does have an event planned this month. April 28 through
30, Stevens will host a poetry conference featuring Russian Poets, many flown in from their homeland for the
occasion. Then he'll dust off his passport and head to Russia for a similar conference in May, repeating a trip he
made for another conference several years ago.
"Poetry does still in Russia have a much greater visibility than here," said Foster, who noted that such things as
poetry conferences end up on the evening news.
"I found myself being interviewed by a battery of reporters," Foster recalled, of his last trip to Russia. "I thought I
must be having some kind of nightmare."