To James Taylor, books are pressing businessDolphin-Moon...

SUNDAY SNAPSHOTS

July 25, 1993|By Linell Smith

To James Taylor, books are pressing business

Dolphin-Moon Press, one of the region's best-known literary presses, is celebrating its 20th birthday this weekend at Artscape. The anniversary is a rare event in a field where the average life expectancy is about 2 1/2 years. James Taylor, co-founder and president of the press, is also pleased to announce the arrival of "Stations in a Dream," a collection of poems by East Baltimore native Michael Weaver, and "Laughing Ladies," the first book of poetry by Towson State University professor Diane Scharper.

By day, Mr. Taylor is a state bureaucrat. He supervises the auditing of unemployment insurance offices in Maryland, making sure they comply with state and federal standards. After hours, he runs Dolphin-Moon Press from his Hamilton home, teaches writing part-time at Dundalk Community College and writes: At the moment, he's writing a non-fiction account of circus side shows.

Over the years, Dolphin-Moon Press has backed roughly 50 literary arts projects including records, tapes, post cards and comics as well as books. It has published works by poets Josephine Jacobson, Judson Jerome and W. B. Snodgrass as well as less-known writers.

"The major publishing houses are about big bucks and market share rather than the quality of the object and of the writing itself," Mr. Taylor says. "Small presses give access to work that's made for the beauty and joy of doing it. There's nothing wrong with making a buck, but it's not the only reason to write."

On this gray day, water taxi captain Ed Collic has much to contend with: a gloomy forecast, an engine that's acting up and two frantic passengers who have gotten on the wrong boat.

No matter. He sits behind the wheel of this 40-foot pontoon wearing the easy smile of a waterman. He jiggles the engine key until the motor complies, then makes a speedy detour to unload errant tourists.

During any given summer day, Mr. Collic makes a dozen such trips from Fells Point to the Inner Harbor. His guests get more than a 1 1/2 -mile ride, though. They get entertained, educated and charmed by a 60-year-old man who considers the water his heaven and home.

He counts among his greatest accomplishments becoming the first African American licensed to drive the city fireboats. During his 26 years with the fire department, he was promoted to lieutenant pilot before retiring five years ago.

Now his life moves at a more leisurely pace. His toughest challenge these days is fielding questions by tourists -- Does the boat go to Annapolis? (No.) Can they drive the water taxi? (No, although he does let them sit in his chair when the boat has stopped.) Are there fish in the harbor? (Yes.)

On days off, he retreats to his houseboat, the Lady Ethel, named after his wife of 40 years.

"On the weekends, I don't like for my wife to plan anything that isn't on the water," he says. "Sometimes we have to go to a wedding or something. I'll go, but my heart is definitely not in it."

Mary Corey

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