Foundlings Enters ‘Next Phase’ with Lytton Smith’s My Radar Data Knows Its Thing

Buffalo News Art Critic Colin Dabkowski Traces the Transformation of a Magazine into a Press

“Foundlings Press Enters New Phase”

From the outside, the past few days might have seemed like a startling explosion of growth for Foundlings Press. Last Wednesday we announced our formal publishing partnership with The Public, Western New York’s alternative weekly newspaper, and teased the cover of our first title under the “Public Books” imprint, Bruce Fisher’s Where The Streets Are Paved With Rust: Essays From America’s Broken Heartland, Vol. 1, to be officially released Friday 6 April at Community Beer Works’ new Jersey Street location. This Friday, 16 March, at Hotel Henry, we’re releasing our first poetry collection, Lytton Smith’s My Radar Data Knows Its Thing, winner of the 2017 Foundlings Artist Residency and Chapbook Contest, designed by guest book artist Stephen Fitzmaurice. Meanwhile, we’re nearing the end of our open submission period for an upcoming release celebrating the life and work of the poet Frank Stanford.

These projects may all have come to fruition within the same short time frame, but, as Buffalo News Art Critic Colin Dabkowski explains in today’s paper, all are the products of a long period of gestation, as Foundlings gradually transformed from a biannual print publication with a modest circulation into what it is today: an independent literary publishing house with a national audience and roster of writers.

“With this book launch, a planned second residency, and another book on the way,” Dabkowski writes, “the fledgling Foundlings is off to a good start.”

More About My Radar

Book Launch Reading and Reception

Hotel Henry

444 Forest Ave, Buffalo, NY 14213

100 Acres Restaurant and LBAC Gallery

6pm: Cocktails

7pm: Poetry (Noah Falck, Janet McNally, and Lytton Smith)

8pm: Book sales and signing (plus more cocktails)


Lytton Smith’s My Radar Data Knows Its Thing, winner of the 2017 Foundlings Press Artist Residency and Chapbook Contest, is a deeply sensitive, wide-ranging, and lyrical exploration of human connection, technology, proximity, the past in the present, and the natural environment.

“With each poem that begins with his namesake’s classic line, Lytton Smith’s chapbook tests the limits of language just as it tests the limits of human relationships,” the poet Anthony Caleshu writes.” Words hold us together even when we’re questioning their validity. Our linguistic (and so our human) scale has just gotten bigger and bolder.”

The book features illustrations and conceptual design from Philadelphia-based artist Stephen Fitzmaurice.

Lytton Smith is the author of two books of poetry from Nightboat Books and the translator of several books from the Icelandic. The novel Öræfi—the Wastelands, from the Icelandic of Ófeigur Sigurðsson, will be published by Deep Vellum in spring 2018. He is Assistant Professor of English and Creative Writing at SUNY Geneseo.


New Writing in 2018

My attention will soon have to turn to all of the exciting Foundlings publications and other projects popping up and popping off in this first half of 2018. I have had a few small publications of my own worth mentioning, though.

The most noteworthy, and the most fun to write, was an essay on Buffalo’s Silo City and some of the men and women who’ve shaped the place over the years. In “The Next Gyration” I profiled Rick Smith, Swannie Jim, members of ELAB and Torn Space, and Harry R. Wait, the engineer whose slipform technique first allowed the silos to rise. Find it in the latest issue of Traffic East.

Speaking of Torn Space, I got to review that company’s exceptional production of Caryl Churchill’s Far Away. Read it in Buffalo Theatre Guide.

On Valentine’s Day, a Twitter-project called The Napkin Letter featured a new poem of mine, “dry january.” (Expect more work in this vein.)


Foundlings Chapbook Contest and Artist Residency at Hotel Henry

English-language poets of all styles have an opportunity to win an artist’s residency at Hotel Henry in Buffalo, N.Y., where they will collaborate with a guest illustrator on a limited release chapbook of their poems, to be published through Foundlings Press, a Buffalo-based literary arts organization, in early 2018.

Foundlings Press welcomes submissions for its first annual chapbook competition. Submissions will close on October 1, and editors will announce the winner at the end of that month. The editorial staff will accept and review poetry of any style and subject matter. Poets must pay a $3 entry fee before submitting work; but all who submit will receive a complimentary digital download of Foundlings Magazine Vol. 3. All proceeds will directly fund the production and promotion of the winning chapbook. Interested parties can find further information on, or contact the editorial staff directly.

The winning poet will enjoy an artist’s residency at Hotel Henry, the boutique hotel, urban resort, and conference center in the Richardson Olmsted Complex, one of Buffalo’s landmarks and architectural treasures. There, from November 17-19, 2017, the poet will collaborate with guest illustrator and designer Stephen Fitzmaurice on a final manuscript of the chapbook, making full use of the center’s facilities and inspiring grounds. Foundlings Press will publish the chapbook in January 2018, with a launch party and reading back at Hotel Henry.


About Stephen Fitzmaurice:

Born in Buffalo and residing in Philadelphia, Stephen Fitzmaurice’s skills include illustration, graphic and industrial design, video and photography, and downhill skateboarding. Fitzmaurice graduated from The University of the Arts and has freelanced for Valkyrie Truck Company, Emgee Events, Community Boards and Bikes, and many other events and manufacturing companies. He now works as a graphic designer for Fuji Bikes.


About Hotel Henry:

Hotel Henry Urban Resort Conference Center is an innovative 88 room full-service hotel and conference center with modern purpose, designed to fuse with the architectural legacy of the National Historic Landmark Richardson Olmsted Campus. Throughout the building, Hotel Henry’s uncommon spaces invite guests to explore, gather and tuck away in the unique character of Richardson’s masterpiece. Interior and exterior spaces invite guests to find their own corner and make their own experience. This is the distinct Hotel Henry experience.

Hotel Henry’s Urban Resort Neighborhood offers a cosmopolitan Buffalo adventure that begins within steps of the hotel grounds. Situated amongst 42 acres within the city of Buffalo’s cultural corridor, the Urban Resort Conference Center is surrounded by parks, lake, museums, and connected to the fun and curious Elmwood Village. The Urban Resort Neighborhood is a borderless destination.

Henry Hobson Richardson, who is one of “The Recognized Trinity of American Architecture,” constructed this Richardson Romanesque-style campus of buildings more than 140 years ago. America’s landscape architect Frederick Law Olmsted, who designed Central Park in New York City, as well as Buffalo’s beautiful park system, designed the grounds and gardens throughout the campus alongside architect and landscape designer Calvert Vaux.

Hotel Henry is the first phase and 1/3 of the redevelopment of the Richardson Olmsted Campus. Alongside and intertwined with the urban resort hotel and conference center will be the Buffalo Architecture Center. Future phases of renovation and landscape improvements are continuing and will be directed by the Hotel Henry’s neighbor, the Richardson Center Corporation.


About Foundlings Press:

Officially launched in May 2016 with the release of its first semiannual magazine, Foundlings Press has gone on to publish three magazine volumes containing poetry from emerging and established artists, including Don Berger, Jason Irwin, Noah Falck, Justin Karcher, Lytton Smith, George Guida, Gerry LaFemina, and George Wallace. The Press has established a reputation for carefully crafted publications that play with language and imagery, including “found” text and images, provoking their materials into radical dialogues. The Press has welcomed visiting poets to Buffalo, helped to bring Buffalo poets to towns and college campuses throughout Western New York, and orchestrated other events, including 2016’s “Whistle Stop” tour of political poetry, with appearances in Rochester, Fredonia, Syracuse, and Toronto on the nights of the televised American presidential election debates. The inaugural chapbook competition and residency marks Foundlings’ transition from a magazine into a press, scheduled to release several other books in 2018.

25 Years of Art and Not-Art in Scotland: A Trip to Modern One and Modern Two

Art, at its best, is a kind of uncontrolled yet disciplined Yelp, made by one of us who, because of the brain he was born with and the experiences he has had and the training he has received, is able to emit a Yelp that contains all of the joys, miseries, and contradictions of life as it is actually lived.  That Yelp, which is not a logical sound, does good for all of us.
-George Saunders, “The United States of Huck”

Done with my final papers, done with the last draft of my novel, done with funding applications and travel plans – done with, it seemed, life, at least until I was to touch the tarmac at the Buffalo Niagara Airport – I sat propped up in my bed Saturday night, swilling the last of a £10 bottle of juniper, and letting Henry Adams lull me into an uneasy sleep with his musings on American life at the close of the nineteenth century.  There was nothing profound in the realization that I had to brave the cold, throw myself back out into the city and squeeze what I could from it in my last five days here – or else grow quietly mad (and fat) in my flat.  One Edinburgh “attraction” stood out on my list of yet-to-dos: the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art.

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Post-Fascist Aesthetics at Dortmund’s Museum Ostwall

Visiting two wonderful widows in an apartment in Scharnhorst, a northeast district of Dortmund, Steve and I mentioned to the hostess – Oma, eighty-five and able to make a man reach unwilling for a fourth helping with the smallest flick of her index finger – that we’d been to the Museum Ostwall in the U-Building at the west end of downtown Dortmund.  Oma scoffed.

There was once a work in a contemporary gallery, Oma told us (she didn’t say where, or whose work) that consisted of a blank canvas with a subtle grease-spot just slightly off-center.  One night a cleaning lady, unable to identify the stained canvas as art, washed out the stain and replaced it on the wall.  The woman was fired – although I had to wonder how long the museum staff took to notice that anything had changed.

Apocryphal or not, the story hit home.  Steve and I had experienced our own “grease stain moment” the day prior, in the museum Ostwall, on the 6th floor of the Dortmund U-Building.  We stood in front of a room full of forks.  Forks and spoons.  These were strewn liberally between three barbed wire fences about six-and-a-half feet tall.  To our right were two suitcases, which (yes, I picked them up) felt empty.

“So …” said Steve, “Do we … What?”

“I think we’re supposed to walk across,” I said.  “Like it’s one of those interactive things.”

“Oh, fun,” said Steve.

But neither of us moved.


We had doubts.  We’d not seen anyone else walk across.  And we didn’t see any point in walking across, because there wasn’t anything at the other end – just an unsavoury gray couch.   In the adjacent hallway hung a picture of an asexual Soviet-type figure carrying one of the suitcases and walking across the spoons.  It could have been an example to follow – but something in that black-and-white androgynous grimace didn’t feel like an invitation.

Still undecided we circled around to the opposite end of the fork-and-spoon affair, in the room with the couch.  There Steve spotted a tiny message on the wall.  With a grasp of the German language limited to “essen” (food) and “gut” (good), among other unpublishables, we had no idea what the message said – but it was in italics, and ended in an exclamation mark, so our rough translation looked something like “don’t put your imperialist soles on my silverware!”

So we let the utensils lie.  Feeling some faint obligation toward anarchy in my American blood, I nudged one with my toe before we left.

Unfortunately, this experience – disappointment, a bit of resentment, a dash of disgust – could sum up the hour or two we spent at the Museum Ostwall.

The fare was pedestrian at best – canvases with crude scrawls of “Alles ist kunst” (everything is art) or a piece of paper declaring with Nietzschean certainty that “Form is void.  Void is Form.”

All very good and well in some blowhard pamphlet published by an artist-cum-critic – but this sort of thing underwhelms on a canvas. My problem wasn’t that I disagreed, but that I was bored.  And so we walked past potato sacks left on the floor, globes of LED lights that I swore I’d already seen in late-January Christmas Tree Shop end-of-season sale, a square red canvas next to a square blue canvas (that I swore I’d seen … everywhere), a video of a Freya Hattenberger performing lackluster fellatio on a plastic-wrapped microphone, and we understood it all.  Understanding the “statements” wasn’t our difficulty; but we gave appreciation (forget awe) the old college try, and came up short.

By coincidence, a day or two before our museum visit one of the most liberal people I know sent me an article titled “Liberals Are Killing Art.”  The article doesn’t criticize artists so much as their gatekeepers – the gallerists and the critics – and even the defenders of art.  Those who defend art as a means to some social or political end, the author, Jed Perl, writes, cheapen art and rob it of its transcendent power.  He quotes Paul Goodman:

“…’the plastic arts, drawing and painting and sculpture, cannot become minor arts for they demonstrate perception, how people can see and are to see; and so a people’s music is its kind of feelings.'”

Places like the Museum Ostwall enshrine a mode of perception that I’d liken to a hall of mirrors facing the artist, a tenor of feeling that can only be called shallow and tepid.  This is the gallery of an atrophied culture, and atrophied kunst.

At our most downhearted, Steve and I walked into a room full of Picassos, Beckmanns, Mackes.  And we were awed.



I think the salient difference between people like Picasso and people like, say, Freya Hattenberger, is that the former presents a vision of reality, some mode of perception, feeling sublimated or transformed or expunged.  The latter falls into a broad school that expresses mere ideas.  “Anyone can have an idea,” the Museum Ostwall’s website says, as the tagline of its permanent collection.  This is true enough.  But art has never been made up of mere “ideas.”

As you’ve probably noticed, I took several pictures in the Museum Ostwall (you can see many in my Dortmund Flickr gallery).  Twice, though, the museum guides skittered out of their holes and crevices to chastise me.  In my defense, I had no idea that I was being told not to take pictures the first time.  The second time, in the museum’s sole room devoted to aesthetic expression, the guide caught me again, snapping a picture of a painting by August Macke.  I was offended, too offended to argue that no argument could sway a reasonable being from taking (non-flash) photos in a gallery – but not too offended to chuckle quietly at the fact that, in a museum so democratized into baseness, some fascist impulses persisted.

So we left.  Before we took the elevator down, however, we stopped at a viewing room that we had spotted while inside the gallery.  It faced east, out into downtown Dortmund, under the best and clearest midday sky we’d seen since  arriving here.  There were beanbag chairs near the window; the room was painted entirely red.  We sat there in silence for several minutes, ignoring, as best we could, the high pitched hushing and wailing playing from speakers high on the wall behind.  Here we were, fronting life, high and beautiful and shining and serene – and some schwanz was trying to strongarm this vision, this life, into half-mast “art”: a grease-stain on the world.

So be it.  We ignored the art and we looked out the window.  I still have my snapshot of the Picasso canvasses, and all the fascists and the democrats in the world can’t take that away.

If I could change one thing, I would have walked across those spoons.