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Alternative Press Collection

Identifier: 100

Scope and Contents note

Materials are located in three 5" archival boxes. The first box contains Anniversary Information (file 1), Announcements (files 2-3 and some in Box 3, file 10), Books (file 4), Calendars (file 5), and Miscellaneous items (file 6). The rest of the files in Box 1 are mailing packages that include poetry and mailings (files 7-13). Box 2 contains some materials from the early years of the Alternative Press when the Mikolowskis distributed their printed works for free (files 1-3). The rest of the box (files 4-12) are all subscription mailings. The subscription mailings continue into Box 3 (files 1-9). Files 10 and 11 in Box 3 contain extra ephemera, announcements, and subscription forms. The last folder (folder 12) contains contents of the last issue of the Alternative Press, entitled "The Final Issue Finally."


  • Majority of material found within Bulk, 1969-1992
  • 1969-2006

Language of Materials

All materials in the Alternative Press collection are in English.

Biographical/Historical note

Detroit natives Ken and Ann Mikolowski were married in 1961 and by the late 1960's were part of the creative community centered in the Cass Corridor in and around Wayne State University. Ken was a poet and Ann was an artist. They became colloborators and decided to purchase the letterpress of the Detroit Artists Workshop so that they could print art and poetry in the basement of their home. Initially, they printed broadsides that featured their friends' art and poetry. In 1971, when funding the press printings became difficult, the Mikolowskis started sending out mailings on a subscription basis. They were sent out seasonally and each mailing envelope included a variety of printed materials such as bumper stickers, broadsides, bookmarks and poetry postcards, and sometimes original art and unpublished poetry. By this time word had spread about the quality of the work coming out of the Alternative Press, and their circle of friends had spread across the nation. The press published the poetry of noted poets Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Ted Berrigan, and Anne Waldman among others. In one of their postcard series, a number of Detroit artists were asked to each use 500 original postcards as canvasses. Creating original one-of-a-kind postcards, which were then distributed as part of the mailing subscription series, was something that helped artists to branch off into new directions. Poets were also asked to create 500 one-of-a-kind postcards. The poet Alice Notley used this opportunity to grieve the death of her poet-husband, Ted Berrigan, in 1984. One poet took seven years to complete his set of 500 postcards. The Alternative Press has been associated with the avant-garde Fluxus and Mail Art movements including Ray Johnson's "New York Correspondence School." Ken and Ann lived and worked in Detroit until 1974 when they moved to a small town in Michigan's thumb, Grindstone City, where they lived and continued to publish for many years. They eventually relocated to Ann Arbor. The work of the Alternative Press holds importance to Michigan because it includes the work of many Michigan writers and artists. The Alternative Press helped define the Detroit art community and held it together by publishing the work of Detroit artists and fostering collaboration between Detroit artists and writers. A twentieth anniversary exhibition at the Detroit Institute of Arts acknowledged the importance of the press to the culture of Detroit, and a thirtieth year retrospective at the University of Michigan marked the acquisition of the Alternative Press Archives by the Special Collections Library there.

Note: This biographical/historical note was adapted from the University of Michigan's Special Collections finding aid, entitled "The Alternative Press Records" which was processed in 2001 by Donna L. Hodge.


1.25 Linear Feet (three 5" archival boxes)


The Alternative Press Collection at Wayne State University is not the full set of records of the Alternative Press. The complete archive is located at the University of Michigan in the Special Collections Library at the Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library. The Wayne State University archive consists of highlights of the collection, including artwork and poetry published as postcards, broadsides, foldouts, calendars, annoucements, ephmera, and subscription forms. The collection also includes examples of original art and unpublished poetry. Most of the collection consists of subscription mailings with these types of materials throughout. In addition, the Alternative Press also published a number of books of poetry and copies of these are included in the collection.

Physical Location

All materials for the Alternative Press Collection are located in Purdy/Kresge Library's closed collections. To gain access to this collection, an appointment and/or consultation with a Special Collections Librarian is required.
Alternative Press Collection 100
Finding aid prepared by Ken Mikolowski, Eva Gronowska, Camille Chidsey.
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for undetermined script
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Wayne State University Library System Special Collections Repository


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