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FOREMAN, JOHN PAUL

FOREMAN, JOHN PAUL (1943–2012). Author and publisher Paul Foreman was born on March 15, 1943, in Thorp Spring, Texas. He was the son of Wilford Hall Foreman and Glenna (Crowson) Foreman. He grew up four miles away in Granbury, Texas, near the Brazos River, and was encouraged by a local teacher who allowed him access to her library. After attending Pepperdine College in California on a physics scholarship from 1961 to 1962, he served in the United States Navy from 1962 to 1964. Working from 1964 to 1968 as a police officer in Los Angeles, he led community service programs for underprivileged youth. In 1969 he graduated from the University of California in Berkeley with a degree in history, and in May of that year he assisted poet Josephine Miles with the publication of Berkeley Street Poems, in honor of the People’s Park protest.

In 1970 Foreman, his wife Foster Robertson, and poet Judy Hogan began Hyperion, A Poetry Journal, and in 1971 Foreman founded Thorp Springs Press (named for Thorp Spring but in the plural). The purpose of his press was primarily to support writers of the Southwest and to emphasize the publication of poetry. Using a Multilith 1250 offset press, Foreman hand printed most of the volumes and broadsides that he published during the period in Berkeley from 1971 to 1978. During those years, he served as a member and in 1978 as chairman of the board of COSMEP (Committee of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers). In 1974 he and James Cody established a publication entitled TAWTE: Texas Artists, Writers, and Thinkers in Exile, and with poet Joanie Whitebird of Houston, Foreman published Travois: An Anthology of Texas Poets (1976). In 1978 Foreman returned with his wife to Texas and settled in Austin. He continued with Thorp Springs Press but no longer printed by hand.

In Austin in 1979 Foreman opened his Brazos Book Shop and Bois d’Arc Gallery at 803 Red River Street, which became a gathering place for local writers and artists. In West of the American Dream (2001), Paul Christensen described Foreman and his bookstore, the latter “housed in an old field-stone building….The intellectuals showed up, the artists drifted in. Paul set himself up in a swivel chair in one corner, and the books were arranged on shelves across the white walls. A basement apartment was rented to a local artist. It was a homey place, with a wood stove hissing away, and Paul holding forth on any subject one cared to raise. He was a wise old sage at the age of forty, and looked the part….” During this period, Foreman worked with the Austin Arts Commission, was a founding member of the Austin Writers League and Texas Circuit, and helped preserve the home of writer J. Frank Dobie, which later became the administrative offices of the James Michener Center for Writers of the University of Texas at Austin. In 1982 Foreman lobbied for and saw the reestablishment of the poet laureateship of Texas. As a Democrat, he ran unsuccessfully in 2006 for U. S. Congress from the Tenth Texas District.

Through Thorp Springs Press, Foreman published many Texas writers, among them Chester Seltzer (under the pseudonym of Amado Muro), whose Collected Stories of 1979 was one of the press’s biggest commercial successes, along with California writer Len Fulton’s novel, The Grassman (1974), whose paperback rights Foreman sold to Penguin Books; Jack Walker, whose novel Boomer’s Gold of 1978 also did well for the press; James Hoggard (Trotter Ross, 1981); Thomas Zigal (Playland: A novel, 1981); and William Barney (A Little Kiss of the Nettle, poetry, 1982). Foreman also published presidential candidate Fred R. Harris’s The New Populism (1976), Letters From the Hill Country: the Correspondence between Rebekah and Lyndon Baines Johnson (1982), and the revised version of a 1930 novel by New Mexico writer Frank Waters, The Lizard Woman (1984), among more than 100 titles issued by his press. The archive of Thorp Springs Press is housed at the Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center at the University of Texas at Austin and includes correspondence with the many authors Foreman published and promoted.

As an author, Foreman published through his press four collections of his own poetry: Redwing Blackbird (1973, originally issued by Headstone Press in San Francisco but reprinted three times as a Thorp Springs book), Texas Live Oak (1977), The Unknown Law (1982, reprinted from handset edition originally published in the same year by Pikes Press of Austin), and Feather River (2003); Sugarland: A Novel of Texas Prisons (1978); and various other of his own writings, including his Wisdom of Heraclitus: Variations and Translations (2006). Foreman’s second novel, Quanah, the Serpent Eagle (1983), was published by Northland Press out of Flagstaff, Arizona. Foreman is mentioned as a poet in Don B. Graham’s Handbook of Texas entry on Texas literature, and the publisher, writer, and bookstore operator is remembered fondly by Austin literati. Paul Christensen has assessed Foreman’s career most fully and accurately, saying that he could “quote from a long life of bookworming, and he [carried] around an amazing almanac of book facts, author lives, the minutiae of publishing history in Texas and elsewhere.” One of Foreman’s finest single poems appears at the beginning of his collection, Feather River, a piece entitled “Prospecting.” In West of the American Dream, Christensen has echoed that poem in the title of his section “Paul Foreman: Poet and Prospector,” the latter a reference to Foreman’s interest in and wide knowledge of precious metals and mining, inspired by his brother Don, an old-time prospector. As Christensen observed, Foreman could not “walk a trail in the woods without perceiving in the glint of a stone something of the mysterious origins of that ground.” Paul Foreman died in Austin on December 21, 2012.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Austin American-Statesman, December 23, 2012. Paul Christensen, West of the American Dream: An Encounter with Texas (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 2001). Paul Foreman and Thorp Springs Press: An Inventory of Materials at the Harry Ransom Center (http://norman.hrc.utexas.edu/fasearch/findingAid.cfm?eadid=00038), accessed February 4, 2014.

Dave Oliphant

Citation

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Dave Oliphant, "FOREMAN, JOHN PAUL ," Handbook of Texas Online (http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/ffo73), accessed August 27, 2014. Uploaded on February 5, 2014. Modified on February 26, 2014. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.