My Time at CUP: Dean Smith

Dean Smith

DIRECTOR, CORNELL UNIVERSITY PRESS

COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY PRESS, 1987–1988

  • ASSISTANT COPYWRITER, 1987
  • JUNIOR COPYWRITER, FEBRUARY 1988
  • SENIOR COPYWRITER, JUNE 1988

> I worked as a copywriter while working on an MFA in poetry at Columbia. It was my first full-time position, and it also greatly helped defray my tuition costs. It kept me in the offices well after closing time assembling subject catalogs and jacket copy. I loved every minute of my small corner of the publishing world. I learned a work ethic there. I also published a poem about the pea soup at Tom’s Diner. Editor Kate Wittenberg served as one of my mentors. She taught me the importance of university presses with the authors on her list. After September 11, I saw Rashid Khalidi being interviewed and remembered his books. The Press also published Arthur Danto, Edward Said, Naguib Mahfouz, Julia Kristeva, and Gilles Deleuze during that time.

I’ll never forget the sounds of the Press. We worked on the second floor of McBain dorm. Every day a staccato barrage of pounding typewriter keys assaulted the senses at varying speeds, and the ringing clunks of near simultaneous returns. It was the sound of late-eighties industriousness. The Mitzvah Tank occasionally blasted Klezmer sounds on Broadway. I can still hear voice of manuscript editor Leslie Bialler as he held court about the Knicks or the Yankees, and he would become more emphatic as you drew closer, inviting you into the conversation.

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