MadHat Press

Born in Oklahoma City, Joe Safdie moved with his family to Los Angeles in the early 1960s, attending public high school and UCLA there. His real education, however, began when he transferred to the University of California at Santa Cruz in 1973: he took a class in Ezra Pound’s Cantos taught by Norman O. Brown, and afterwards life was never quite the same. His first chapbook, Wake Up the Panthers, was published, with the assistance of George Hitchcock’s Kayak Press, while still an undergraduate in 1974. On his first trip to Europe in 1975, he attended a performance of Oedipus at Colonus in Athens and was puzzled when the audience gave a five-minute standing ovation for a speech two-thirds of the way through the play: the next day he found they were applauding the idea that Athens had always been merciful. At the time, there were many petitions circulating in the streets for the recently deposed generals to be put to death: life and art, he realized, had an actual relationship in some parts of the world. While a graduate student at UC–Boulder, he was fortunate to study with the great American poet Edward Dorn, whose memory he honors in several essays here. Before and after that he lived in Venice Beach, participating in and leading the public poetry workshop at Beyond Baroque. He moved to San Francisco in 1980, editing the literary magazine Zephyr, and then to Bolinas, CA in 1983, where he met many fine poets and writers, including Sara Schrom, who would become his wife. He published two chapbooks in Bolinas: Saturn Return (Smithereens Press, 1983) and Spring Training (Zephyr Press, 1985), as well as editing the literary magazine Peninsula. In the early 1990s he lived in Czechoslovakia, teaching English as a foreign language at the law faculty of Palacky University in Olomouc and George Soros’ Central Europe University in Prague. Returning to Seattle, he continued teaching English, publishing the chapbook September Song from Oasis Press in 2000. His last 14 years as a professor were spent in San Diego, where he published the chapbook Mary Shelley’s Surfboard from Blue Press (2006), Scholarship from BlazeVox (2014) and Coastal Zone from Spuyten Duyvil (2016). Since retiring, he’s published The Oregon Trail (2021) and The Secular Divine (2022), both from Spuyten Duyvil; after this volume, a book of selected poems on Greek mythology called Greek to Me is scheduled to come out next year with Chax Press. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife and his cat, where he studies the language of trees.

Poetry and Heresy is now available from MadHat Press.
poetry and heresy cover


MadHat Press is a leading publisher of unique and vital contemporary poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and criticism.

MadHat Press seeks to foster the work of writers and poets: explosive, lyrical, passionate, deeply wrought voices that stretch the boundaries of language, narrative and image, vital and enduring literary voices that sing on the page as well as in the mind.

Contact Us
phone: (617) 821-1915

Mailing Address:
PO Box 422
Cheshire MA 01225