Tom Bridwell (Salt-works Press)

Tom Bridwell interview still
Tom Bridwell interview still

Last week, I came across Muck & Peat and Outcrop, a 1974 volume of poetry by Tom Bridwell. The book was being promoted by Rabelais Books (another regional treasure formerly located in Portland, but now in nearby Biddeford, Maine) and immediately caught my interest.

Bridwell, not to be confused (as I initially did) with the late 90s ska trumpeter, Tim Bridwell, founded and ran Salt-Works Press sometime in the late 60s or early 70s. This regional letterpress publisher produced a variety of chapbooks, pamphlets, broadsheets, and other material with what seems to be a hybrid, localist-avant-garde aesthetic. Be still, my heart! From Rabelais’ product description for Muck & Peat and Outcrop, I found this winsome poem, “Advances.”

Tom Bridwell, "Advances" (1974)
Tom Bridwell, “Advances” (1974)

The bibliographic information I’ve found for various Salt-Works publications locate the press in several different places: central Cape Cod, Martha’s Vineyard, Vermont, central/western Massachusetts. I have yet to find a detailed summary of the press’s history or Bridwell’s activities. However, I discovered just this morning that, at some point, Bridwell relocated to a ridge of forest near Portsmouth, Ohio, a small town on the Ohio River and near the southern tip of the state that I think I once visited on a homeschool field trip. Obviously, I’m now even more intruiged/obsessed. 

According to the extensive blog he kept while living in Ohio, Ridge Postings, which contains more than 2500 posts, Bridwell passed away in 2018. I hope to do some more research into and writing about Bridwell and Salt-Works Press in the future. In the meantime, take a look at this YouTube video of ambiguous provenance, in which he describes making paper from marsh grass.

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