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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Veteran Publisher and Writer Lindy Hough Pursues Artistic Vision After More than 40 Years

Posted By on Tue, Apr 12, 2011 at 8:55 AM

Lindy Hough helped found Io magazine and North Atlantic Books, which she ran for 36 years.
  • Lindy Hough helped found Io magazine and North Atlantic Books, which she ran for 36 years.
100 Profiles: SF Weekly interviews 100 people in San Francisco arts and culture.

No. 91: Lindy Hough

Lindy Hough is a gentle but insistent and sometimes prickly soul, one who changes like the lighting on a cloudy day: sometimes sharp, sometimes confined to the silvery edges, and whether you're temporarily thankful for the sun or the clouds, something of the afternoon flecks true and consistent. Originally a dancer, Hough began identifying herself as a writer at Smith College in Massachusetts at a time before MFA programs existed to encourage this.

From Denver, Hough found a burgeoning scene of artists in the Pioneer Valley and, along with three friends, one of whom she would marry, founded the esoteric Io magazine in 1964 as, she says, "an upstart reaction against the staid confessional poetry and fiction published in the college magazines of the time."

Heavily influenced by and in part responsible for the New American Poetry movement led by Charles Olson and Robert Duncan, Io became something of a force in the counterculture of the 1960s and '70s. It published poetry within the context of other disciplines such as history, physics, Buddhism, and new American cinema. In 1974, several years before Hough and her husband, Richard Grossinger, moved to Berkeley, the two transformed Io into the publishing house North Atlantic Books.

Hough had taught writing and composition in Michigan, Maine, and Vermont, and she was to do so again in California. She received her master's in English at Goddard College in Vermont, and directed and taught in the Vermont Council on the Arts' Writers in the Schools Program. She wrote freelance dance and arts criticism to supplement a salary-free dedication to the publishing company. She also wrote poetry, essays, and short fiction, publishing the poetry books Changing Woman in 1971 and Psyche in '74.

Though North Atlantic Books began to receive funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, Hough and Grossinger realized they could not support a press whose only publications were literature and poetry.

"That coincided with us moving here and being delighted and sort of inspired by the bodywork, the homeopathy, the martial arts," Hough says.

So they broadened the company's scope. A look at its website today reveals categories of health and healing, mind/body/spirit, religion, martial arts, sports, parenting, and children's books. North Atlantic is in the process of reconnecting with its roots, though, with The Io Poetry Series, which features "poets who are very vibrant and [who were] working hard at the same time that we were, in our same tradition," Hough says. The series will include her Wild Horses, Wild Dreams: New and Selected Poems 1971-2010. In addition to the best of the two aforementioned books, Wild Horses, Wild Dreams will include works from The Sun in Cancer and Outlands and Inlands, both published in '78.

Hough's poetry is contemplative and often hinges on nuance of language and of personality. Robert Kelly has said "her work is sensuous and tough" and, as she says in the introduction to Wild Horses: "The books develop an artistic vision out of the daily struggle to find a viable persona."

After retiring in July after 36 years at the helm of North Atlantic Books, juggling work and family with her own creative life, it might be said that Lindy Hough has found a viable persona. She is excited to have the long-earned freedom to devote herself to a new daily struggle -- writing full time -- and to new artistic visions.

Read a full interview with Hough here.

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