John Bennett

John Bennett

was born in Brooklyn, New York in 1938. He is the founder of Vagabond Press and the former editor of the small press magazine Vagabond. The magazine was started in 1966 and he published Charles Bukowski, Tom Kryss, d.a. levy, Anne Menebroker, William Wantling and many other poets, new or established. He also edited Ragged Lion, A Tribute to Jack Micheline as well as the Henry Miller tribute Black Messiah, both published by Vagabond Press. John Bennett has 39 published books to his credit – novels, short story collections, journalism, poetry and shards, a form of prose poem Bennett has made his own. He now lives in Ellensburg, Washington, where he writes, publishes and sends his shards out on a regular basis to a highly-appreciative and wide-spread email list.

Some feedback on John Bennett’s Writing

It takes great love to take venom and turn it into perfume, to take the “bitter” of life and make it art. The Shards come from the eternal laboratory of affinity–and well done, John Bennett. Good work, and all your other kinds of good work, poems, novels, publishing. Thank you for all that good work. I am saying this now, in case you get evicted from the body. I want you to know that you are appreciated. I am sure many others say the same thing. You are self-evidently a good person and great writer. Well done so far. I know this kind of purpose does not end. — Russell Salamon

John, “Fool’s Gold” is brilliant, as are many of your short jabs. You’re an Old Testament prophet with twenty-first century staying power. “Crazy Girls” sizzles, is just as brilliant, and genuinely scary, like late-Goya monsters. You’re writing beyond the reasonably possible. It’s the truest corpus of writing I’ve every read in my 74 years. Your novel sits here unfinished, a lot to say about it eventually. Time is trying to run me down. I’m running in my own late rush. — D.E. Steward

John Bennett, a legendary West Coast writer whose “shards” are something like Will Rogers cum H. L. Mencken for the twenty-first century. — D.E. Steward

One of my favorite writers ever. He might be just a _touch_ too edgy to be invited on Oprah, but higher quality literature, you will not find. I’m on the e-mail list to receive his “shards,” and they keep me thinking every day. I also had the pleasure of hearing him read when he was in town last winter, and he completely stole the show from Jack Hirschman (with all due respect to SF’s reigning poet). Please check him out. Well worth the effort. — Lytton Bell

Bennett is the real thing. His voice is honest and smart and a little wild. I highly recommend him. — Tom Robbins

It is Bennett’s consummate skill, combined with his unique social position, in which he looks up from society’s absolute bottom, but in a way that can see all the way through to the penthouse with total clarity, that allows me to dub him the first amalgam of the American outsider and the French étranger. — Jim Feast, Evergreen Review

It’s some of the best stuff I’ve read in a long, long time, and I’ve been reading forever. — Al Martinez, L.A. TIMES

I knew there had to be a human way to write about these subjects. I think you’ve hit upon it. (Night of the Great Butcher) —  Saul Bellow, Nobel Prize winner

Bennett is a remarkable writer, ferocious in his intent and startlingly poetic in much of his execution. — SAN FRANCISCO REVIEW OF BOOKS

You’ve fought a harder, cleaner fight than anybody that I know. — Charles Bukowski

Bennett has written movingly of pain, of dreams that slowly suffocate, and of realities that strike you like a cane. —  (Bodo) WASHINGTON FREE PRESS, Seattle, WA

I thought TRIPPING IN AMERICA was one of the best heightened documentaries I’ve read in post-guru America. — Charles Plymell, poet CHERRY VALLEY EDITIONS

You are on the crest of the wave that is our national zeitgeist. — Wendell Smith, HARPER’S MAGAZINE

…you have reached a peak that to me seems almost impossible to sustain, but somehow you are doing it. It’s really incredible. — Carl Weissner, German translator of Charles Bukowski, Nelson Algren, etc.

Despite praise from Bukowski, Saul Bellow and Tom Robbins, three highly distinctive American idols, a broad audience has yet to discover Bennett. Tire Grabbers could break the barricades. — David Milholland, CLINTON STREET QTRLY, Portland, OR

Bennett’s books are tremendously readable… a kind of moral stamina alongside the capacity for sheer survival. — Gretchen Johnsen, GARGOYLE MAGAZINE, Washington, D.C.

…A relative unknown as far as the general reading public is concerned, he has nonetheless managed to acquire a devoted cult-following among those who recognise a good thing when they see it. Bennett is to my mind the real McCoy, a courageous writer unafraid of the unalloyed truth regarding The American Dream, one, moreover, who finds a uniquely pithy way of putting it, so that no word is ever wasted…. — Richard Livermore, review of One Round Robin, CHANTICLEER MAGAZINE, Edinburgh, Scotland

…the writing is edgy, fast-paced, and thoroughly engaging, as with everything that Bennett has written in the past. Tire Grabbers is certainly a high-water mark in Bennett’s long career, a postmodern parable to rattle the cage of the terminally disenchanted. —  Mark Terrill, SMALL PRESS REVIEW, Paradise, CA

Tire Grabbers is a work of epic dimensions, with its own mythic (cosmological) structure, its struggle between good and evil, its heroes and villains, all of whom engage you as complex characters in their own right…. —  Richard Livermore, CHANTICLEER MAGAZINE ` Edinburgh, Scotland.

I haven’t read prose more in touch with the inner man than yours. —  Phil Flott, Omaha, NB

The thing that continually fascinates me about your writing is the trueness of it: not just a ‘write what you know’ kind of trueness, but a permanently immediate truth, something you could put in a time capsule and it would still be just fine in a thousand years. —  Liz Druitt, Anderson, TX

Bennett’s vital book (The Night of the Great Butcher) is a great redefinition of the short story. —  SMALL PRESS REVIEW, Paradise, CA

Upon my first reading I could not help but see parallels to Philip K. Dick….the great J.R.R. Tolkien….and Robert Anton Wilson…But there is much more to Bennett’s vision than the obvious comparisons to the above authors…This is a book that must be read, studied and enjoyed. This is speculative fiction at its best. —  (Tire Grabbers) —  B.L. Kennedy, RATTLESNAKE REVIEW, Sacramento, CA

John Bennett never fucks around and has sensitive, frank, disturbing things to say… he fills in the chinks in poetry-culture where the mice and owls live. —  EXQUISITE CORPSE Magazine

The two pieces (in Betrayal’s Like That) that really stood out were “Three Dog Night” and “Ballad of a Shard Writer”. Your prose is better than 90% of what’s being written today… —  Stellasue Lee, editor, RATTLE Magazine

Bennett, as always, crams his fist through the mold and creates a readable and damn edgy prowl through the crap-world of betrayal and collapse. (Betrayal’s Like That) — FIRST CLASS Magazine, Milwaukee, WI

I read the catharsis of betrayal today. I sank further into the hole of loss. I ached like an infected cyst. I remembered every black hole I ever swam in… (Betrayal’s Like That) — Lynne Savitt, poet, Wantagh, NY

Betrayal’s Like That is killer. I’m so impressed with this book that if you order it and you don’t agree with me, I’ll send you whatever you feel you overpaid. —  Joe Grant, Radio talk-show host “Lit Happens”, WORT-FM, Madison, WI

Rodeo Town…a collection of small-town profiles….a moral book without being a didactic book, accomplished through sheer honesty and a clear love of people. —  SMALL PRESS REVIEW, Paradise, California

The First Gala Affair and The Defrocking of Albert Dream are two of the best stories I have ever read. —  Robert Matte, editor, YELLOW BRICK ROAD

I wanted to let you know how incredibly powerful and moving CRIME OF THE CENTURY is…I hope that it stays in print forever. —  Robert Peters, critic, Huntington Beach, CA

CRIME OF THE CENTURY is a first-rate piece of writing. I couldn’t stay cool reading this and doubt that anybody could. It doesn’t howl; it’s good reporting, and metaphors out of left field that chill… —  Gene Fowler, poet, Berkeley, CA

TRIPPING is a work of art. Art. It’s great. I say it this way after cooling down. Some. Kerouac has nothing over Bennett. Nothing. —  Greg Oldham, Portland, OR

John Bennett– a great writer of no category–as if the soul and brain and heart and balls of jack kerouac, maurice blanchot, paul valery and elsa lasker-schiller were reincarnated as one. But even that constellation won’t describe the ineffable rise of the authority of his moral center, lifting like a central valley tule fog burning off into some golden angel of sun rushing across/toward the indescribable clownface of history. — Edward Mycue, poet, San Francisco

I liked the two chapbooks you sent me, especially yours! (Anarchistic Murmurs From a High Mountain Valley.) I’m an old anarchist from Union Square, New York, before the First World War! Still one–unaffliliated. —  Henry Miller

"Where I lived, wrote and published Vagabond books while living in New Orleans on the lip of the French Quarter back in the mid-Sixties -- the place was broken down into apartments, ours was upstairs, left-hand side." -- John Bennett

“Where I lived, wrote and published Vagabond books while living in New Orleans on the lip of the French Quarter back in the mid-Sixties — the place was broken down into apartments, ours was upstairs, left-hand side.” — John Bennett



  • Iron Country Anthology, Copper Canyon Press, Port Townsend, WA, 1st prize fiction.
  • The William Wantling Award, Second Coming Press, San Francisco for: Crime of the Century.
  • The Darrell Bob Houston Award, Tom Robbins, committee chair for: “De-euphemizing the Sixties” in: The Clinton Street Quarterly, Portland, OR.
  • Finalist, Drue-Heinz Literary Prize, University of Pittsburgh Press.


  • The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, Thunder’s Mouth Press, NYC.
  • The Party Train, New Rivers Press, Minneapolis
  • Stiffest of the Corpse, Best of Exquisite Corpse, Baton Rouge, LA.
  • Green Isle in the Sea, Small Press Personality Profiles, December Press, Chicago.
  • Fiction/82, Paucock Press, D.C.
  • Editor’s Choice – Best of the Small Presses, The Spirit That Moves Us Press, Iowa City.
  • The Pushcart Prize, Pushcart Press, Wainscott, NY.
  • Poets West, Perivale Press, Van Nuys, CA.
  • The Living Underground, Whitston Pub. Co., NYC.

Published novels:

Published novellas/short story collections:

  • The Night of the Great Butcher (stories), December Press, Chicago
  • The Party to End All Parties (stories), Fault Press, Fairfax, CA
  • The New World Order (stories), The Smith Publishers, NYC
  • Flying to Cambodia (novella), The Smith Publishers
  • The Names We Go By (novella & stories), December Press
  • The Moth Eaters (stories), Angelflesh Press, Grand Rapids, MI
  • Karmic Four-Star Buckaroo (essays), Pudding House Press, Johnstown, OH

Published non-fiction:

  • Survival Song (journal), Vagabond Press, Munich/New Orleans/San Francisco
  • Crime of the Century (social commentary), Second Coming Press, San Francisco
  • The White Papers (essays, four volumes), Vagabond Press
  • Tripping in America (travel journal), Vagabond Press
  • Rodeo Town (newspaper columns), Vagabond Press

Prose Poems, Shards & Poetry:

  • Drive By, Lummox Press, Los Angeles
  • Cobras & Butterflies (prose poems), Mystery Island Press, Sacramento, CA
  • Firestorm (prose poems), Pudding House
  • One Round Robin (prose poems), Green Panda Press, Cleveland
  • The Theory of Creation (prose poems), Vagabond Press
  • War All the Time (prose poems), Vagabond Press
  • The Birth of Road Rage (prose poems), Vagabond Press
  • Cheyenne of the Mind (prose poems), D Press, Sebastapol, CA
  • The Stardust Machine (prose poems), Mt. Aukum Press, Mt. Aukum, CA
  • Fire in the Hole (prose poems), Argonne House, D.C.
  • Greatest Hits (poems), Pudding House
  • Betrayal’s Like That (poems), Vagabond Press
  • Domestic Violence (prose poems), FourSep Publications, Milwaukee, WI
  • Crazy Girl on the Bus (poems), Vagabond Press
  • Whiplash on the Couch (poems & stories), Duck Down Press, Fallon, NV
  • La-La Poems (poems), Ghost Dance Press, M.S.U., East Lansing, MI

John Bennett - Poems for all by Richard Hansen

John Bennett - Poems for all by Richard Hansen

John Bennett - Poems for all by Richard Hansen

5 Responses to John Bennett

  1. Rose Vitola

    Can’t possibly add anything to all the praise but perhaps to suggest you have a ‘like’ button below each quote for when we heartily agree with what someone has already said.

  2. hi john this is a really good site a good promo above all ..i feel i would like the Betrayal book ..not that i know anything about such issues still curious ..and bill me or betray me….Glenn

  3. John Bennett

    fish around on the site, Glenn, you’ll discover some photos of your illustrious self …

  4. Edward Mycue

    Fine writer, publisher, editor and also moralist dwelling in a nebulous nidinsky world.

  5. My sympathies to you on the loss of your friend, and mine, Peter Halfar. I received notice of his passing in today’s email. It was such a joy to know him. Though I only spent time with him in person once—years ago when my husband and I were in Munich—I loved sharing letters/books/stories and copies of his art with him and enjoyed discussing American film. I know you two were close. Again, my sympathies, John.

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