Special Collections and Archives
John Gill Modern Poetry Collection
John J. Gill (1924-1995) was a poet and small-press publisher who for nearly four decades was a leading spirit in advancing alternative and small press publishing. His avant-garde literary review New American and Canadian Poetry, dating from the 1960's, was the only small press journal cross-fertilizing the poetries of the two cultures and garnered praise as one of the ten best poetry magazines in the United States.
In 1997 through efforts by Dr. Carola Kaplan from the English and Foreign Languages Department, his widow Elaine Goldman Gill donated to the Cal Poly Pomona University Library over 2600 titles of world poetry, with particularly fine holdings in twentieth-century American poetry. The titles, which had been collected by her husband, now comprise the John Gill Modern Poetry Collection. A subsequent donation from Elaine Gill increased the collection to close to 5600 volumes. Many emanate from small regional presses and contain autographs and inscriptions by their writers. Although some of the books have been added to the library's circulating collection, the rarest and most distinctive titles are kept together as the Gill Collection and are housed within the Special Collections room.
From 1956 to 1965, John Gill was an assistant professor of English literature at Ithaca College in Ithaca, New York. He authored such books as: Young Man's Letter (1967), Gill's Blues (1969), Country Pleasures (1975), and From the Diary of Peter Doyle and Other Poems (1982). He also edited (with Elaine Gill) The Tongue-in-Cheek Proverb Book (1982).
John Gill started the press called New Books in 1966 in Trumansburg, New York, and initially specialized in publishing poetry. In 1969 he changed the name to The Crossing Press. His press published such landmarks as The Male Muse (1973), the first collection of gay poetry in the United States, Come to Power (1974), the first collection of Native American poetry in the United States, and Words From the House of the Dead (1974), a prison anthology smuggled out of Soledad prison. Throughout the years The Crossing Press launched poets with superbly designed and edited books.
In 1986 The Crossing Press moved to northern California. It ceased publishing poetry and began to focus on spiritual/alternative health books, as well as informational books offering readers tools for personal change. Elaine Goldman Gill continued to run the company until it was sold in 2002 to Ten Speed Press/Celestial Arts.