The FCA award happened to come at a crucial time for me, when my finances were virtually nonexistent, so the funds permitted me to cover some basic expenses, which in turn allowed me to work on my poetry without anxiety.
- Tony Towle, December 10, 2015
Poet, writer, and editor, Tony Towle began writing poetry in 1960 and later became associated with the New York School of Poetry. His early influences included works in The New American Poetry 1945-1960, especially the work of Kenneth Koch, Frank O'Hara, John Ashbery, and James Schuyler. Towle was also influenced and inspired by a seventeen-year position at fine art print publisher Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE). There, he was able to observe and befriend such notable artists as Jasper Johns, Robert Rauscheberg, Barnett Newman, James Rosenquist, and Jim Dine.
With the support of his 2015 Grants to Artists award, Towle was able to complete six new poems and begin numerous others. Prior to his FCA grant, Towle had released over fifteen books of poetry and prose including After Dinner We Take a Drive into the Night (1968), Autobiography and Other Poems (1977), Works on Paper (1978), Some Musical Episodes (1991), History of the Invitation (2001), and Winter Journey (2008). Towle's work Memoir 1960-1963 (2001), is available on Faux Press, and his work North (1970) won the Frank O'Hara Award in the same year. Towle's poems and writings have accompanied the artwork of Lee Bontecou and Jean Holabird, and he is the author of exhibition catalogue essays for exhibitions by ULAE and artists such as Jim Dine and Jasper Johns.
From 1986 to 2013, Towle was a freelance writer and editor at the Network for Teaching Entrepreneurship, an organization whose mission is to bring small-business startup skills to low-income youth. Towle was the co-author of eleven editions of the organization's curriculum textbook and editor of its newspaper. During various years between 1969 and 2006, Towle conducted poetry workshops under the auspices of the Poetry Project at St. Mark's Church where he also edited the Project's Newsletter from 1988 to 1990. From 1979 to 1989 he wrote reviews for Art in America and Arts, and served as copyeditor of Arts from 1988 to 1992.
Prior to receiving his 2015 Grants to Artists award, Towle received a fellowship from the New York State Council on the Arts CAPS Fellowship (1973-1974), the National Endowment for the Arts Creative Writing Fellowship in Poetry (1980), and the Ingram Merrill Foundation (1982).
Towle attended Georgetown University, New York University, Columbia University, and the New School.
I don't have a programmatic way of working, and more often than not a poem will cohere from material gathered over time, rather than be finished at one sitting. My general goal is the transformation of reality in the way that a particular poem seems to require, though I would never be able to describe exactly what that was. Many of my poems have an ambiguous relationship to autobiography—the “I" is not always me (even though it might seem to be)—and to quotidian reality. I will take advantage of “real life" incidents, but feel no obligation to stick to “journalistic" facts in a poem's mise-en-scène. Surrealism has always had an influence on me. It is one of the underpinnings of the mysterious sublime that I aspire to.
- December 2014