Harry Smith began The Smith in 1964 as an ambitious and irreverent literary magazine based in New York City. Soon, Smith became recognized as a “mover and shaker” in the burgeoning small press scene of the 1960s and 1970s.
The Smith went on to establish itself as a pioneering small press book publisher, issuing over 70 titles in a period spanning five decades. Harry Smith’s magazine and press featured among others: James T. Farrell—author of the American classic Studs Lonigan, a writer whose literary reputation it did much to reinvigorate—Menke Katz, Stanley Nelson, H.L. Van Brunt, Sidney Bernard, Stephen Dwoskin, Gene Fowler,Dick Higgins, Jana Harris, Terry Kennedy, Richard Kostelanetz, Seymour Krim, Richard Nason, Alicia Ostriker, Donald Phelps, Ed Sanders, Karen Swenson, Leslie Whitten, Richard (Ward) Morris, and numerous others from everywhere across the literary spectrum, even including such mainstream figures as Erica Jong. Harry Smith was a founding editor along with Anaïs Nin, Buckminster Fuller, Hugh Fox, Ishmael Reed, Joyce Carol Oates, Len Fulton, et al. of the annual Pushcart Pushcart Prize for small press writing. The logo of the press was the silhouette of an anvil, considered to be the “symbol of all creation.” The press’s defiant motto was: “Anything goes as long as it’s good.”
Harry Smith’s Newsletter (On the State of the Culture) provided an in-depth, and not always friendly, look into the New York literary world—especially that of its book publishing industry. Smith hailed as “a new and remarkable phenomenon. He’s a literary muckraker” by such places as the Toronto Daily Star, the Newsletter’s reporting also documented America’s alternative media (e.g., small presses and little magazines) in close and lively detail.
Harry Smith was born in October 15,1936 in Queens, New York, New York and died November 23, 2012 in Cape Elizabeth, Maine after a long illness, and was the son of a banker. He married Marion Camilla Petschek (a psychologist) in 1959; they had three children. Marion died in 1995.
Smith was educated at Brown University receiving an A.B. in 1957. Between then and starting the press, he did graduate work and worked as a reporter, photographer, and editor for two central Massachusetts newspapers, the Southbridge Evening News and the Worcester Telegram. He later worked for a trade publication and edited a legal newspaper in New York City.
Harry Smith was a prolific poet who has published a number of books and whose poetry has appeared in: Bitterroot, Discourse, Dust, East Village Other, For Now, Ghost Dance, The Literary Review, Kansas Quarterly, Nostoc, Penumbra, Poet Lore, Small Press Review, Trace, University Review, UT Review, Wormwood Review, and The Unspeakable Visions of the Individual. In addition, his work has appeared widely under a number of pseudonyms.
Smith received the 1976 Lucille Medwick Memorial Award from PEN for “his poetry, his commitment to human values, and his achievements as an editor.”
Harry Smith resided in Maine with his second wife, Clare Melley Smith, a playwright. He died in Portland, Maine on November 23, 2012 of complications from treatment for lung cancer.