Poetry News

California Small-Press Publisher Len Fulton Passes Away at 77

By Harriet Staff

We are sad to note the passing of a lovely person and key player in the small-press world, Len Fulton, the force behind Dustbooks Publishing and Small Press Review, who died of lung cancer last Sunday morning. Len, who was 77, also worked in California politics, acting as a Fifth District Supervisor in Chico. According to a longtime friend, he was "an artist, talented writer and playwright who had an interest in politics."

Remembrances abound in the Paradise Post. One of the most striking is from friend and writer Hugh Fox, who writes about Fulton in detail:

Like saying goodbye to Debussy or Hemingway or H.G. Wells. I...first met Fulton in Berkeley in 1968 when we founded COSMEP, a small press org. that had yearly conventions here, there and everywhere: St. Paul, Minnesota, New Orleans, New York, you name it. And everyone would be there, all the editors of small presses and lit mags. And poets and other writers. Always reading-shows, and I'd always read.

I got to know EVERYONE in the literary scene. And visited Fulton up in his place in Paradise, California, way in the middle of nowhere, or everywhere, if what you loved was California wilderness.

Tall dark-haired, a little moustache, always bright, on the ball, kind of Harvard professorish, but at the same time a kind of exploratory cowboy explorer always moving further into the essence of Nature itself. For years, two or three times a year I'd get a huge envelope filled with books and literary reviews to review for SMALL PRESS REVIEW, and he slowly turned me into a kind of central writer for the mag. Which I loved. Sadly COSMEP slowly disappeared over the years. Run by Richard Morris in San Francisco, it's a book in itself that would go through the slow decapitations of all our dreams and hopes. But Morris died from cancer and COSMEP kind of died with him. There's a huge file over in Special Collections at the Michigan State University library dealing with my connections with the death of COSMEP.

A couple of years back Fulton turned SPR into an on-line mag, which I wasn't crazy about. But he'd always send me a printed copy too, and I've got this huge file in my bookcases, years and years and years of copies with my reviews in them.

In the last few years he became increasingly solitary. Suffering from lung cancer, but not aware that was what was going on. When I recently told him that I'm dying from cancer, he wrote a beautiful letter back and mentioned he wasn't "quite up to it" either. But I don't think he was aware it was lung cancer.

He was/is a central figure in the development of literary culture in the U.S. He published an INTERNATIONAL DIRECTORY OF LITTLE MAGAZINES AND SMALL PRESSES which I always found of central importance in finding publishers for my books and articles. An odd name for a press -- Dustbooks. Always aware of the transience of life and everything surrounding him/us. Always Señor High Concentration, High Seriousness. I couldn't believe the size of the library in his Paradise ranchhouse. I asked him "Any of my stuff here?," and he walked over the showed me volume after volume after volume, almost everything I'd ever written, the whole library a veritable treasure house of literary treasures.

Originally Published: July 28th, 2011