Some Recommendations

I am a big fan of Jan Herman, particularly as an editor and publisher.  You may know him for his work on the little mag San Francisco Earthquake and the Nova Broadcast series.  For my money these two projects are some of the most interesting of the late 1960s/early 1970s.  Herman put the Fluxus idea of the democratic multiple into practice with spectacular results.  He also worked as a right hand man for Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Dick Higgins at City Lights and Something Else Press.  Herman's is a remarkable story that I have had the pleasure of getting to know first hand for years.  Click Here.  Granary Books has just issued a memoir by Jan that I highly recommend.  Click Here.  Order a copy; it is a fascinating story.

Which brings me to David Abel's Passages Bookshop in Portland Oregon.  Abel shares a space with Mimeo Mimeo favorites Division Leap.  There may be no more exciting and innovative space relating to book dealing happening in the country right now.  And things are going to happen in this space.  Think Kaprow.  The potential of their combined forces is mind blowing.  Division Leap and Passages are taking things to the next level.  Division Leap worked with curator Libby Werbel on an exhibit dealing with ephemera for the Portland Museum of Art.  Click Here.  Passages just issued its first catalog, which is fantastic.  Click Here.  

On a personal note and to tie things back to Jan, the catalog had a copy of Ferdinand Kriwet's Publit published by Nova Broadcast in 1971.  Kriwet provides a critical reading of concrete poetry, which could serve as an introduction into much of the work offered by Passages for sale.  The first collectible I ever bought was the Nova Broadcast The Dead Star and the last Broadcast I needed to complete my set was Publit.  I have been trying to lock down a copy for years.  Again I highly recommend Passages Bookshop.  They have the hard to find and extraordinary.


A Clean, Boring Well Lighted Place

I highly recommend little magazine collectors getting their hands on contemporary accounts of the landscape.  Secret Location is wonderful, but so are the various roundtables and newspaper accounts of the time that attempted to come to turns with the Mimeo Revolution as it was happening.

Take Works:  A Quarterly of Writing, which in 1969 included a small press section in its Spring issue.  The presses represented included:  Open Skull, Something Else, Unicorn Press, Black Sparrow, Ox Head, Angel Hair, New Rivers, TwoWindows.  A mix of Mimeo Revolution as defined by Secret Location and the more traditional small press, but not the fine press.

Works is in the small press camp.  By and large the editors look down on mimeo as beneath them while at the same time viewing the fine press as too lofty and removed from the general reader.  That is the small press in a nutshell.   In the middle and wallowing in mediocrity.

Here is Alan Brilliant of Unicorn Press in full wallow:

Another development is lack of taste:  thousands of poets and the mimeograph revolution has resulted in a deluge of words, ugly to read and see, literally an onslaught of verbiage.  Little magazines, especially the mimeos, have become the television sets of poetry readers.  Meanwhile, limited editions, swank designs, elegant printing, signed and numbered colophons have replaced the poem itself.  Between the Scylla of dilettantism and the Charybdis of muck, the small press publisher must sail his fragile craft.  The future looks black of the unpretentious.

Stuck in the middle with you.  I would rather stick wax in my ears than be subjected to Brilliant's elevator music.  Pure torture that is for the dogs.  But Brilliant is right without knowing it.  Mimeo is without a doubt a cool medium.  In addition it introduces some much needed noise into the system.  I am all for feedback.  What is yours?


The Beginning of the End for the "Perfectly Poor" Mag City

It has become an accepted fact in the history of the Mimeo Revolution that the election of Ronald Reagan marked the end of the era.  One of the big factors was the sudden decline in governmental funding of the arts.  In some respects, the publishers created this problem themselves.  Jerome Rothenberg writes in Secret Location:  “Increasingly too there had developed a dependence on support from institutional & governmental sources – the National Endowment for the Arts, say, as the major case in point.  The result was to impose both a gloss of professionalism on the alternative publications & to make obsolete the rough & ready book works of the previous two decades.  But the greatest danger of patronage was that the denial of that patronage, once threatened, became an issue that would override all others.”

I wrote about Mag City in this context awhile back and I come to Mag City again as I have been reading the magazine in the last couple of weeks.  Take issue 12 published in 1981.  Allen Ginsberg’s “Capitol Air” captures the fact that, as Masters wrote in 1995, “we were weathering a decade of Republican leadership that was contemptuous of free expression, individual peculiarities, social justice, and fun.”  The magazine also comments on end of an era in governmental assistance.  In David Herz’s short story “Remedial”, the main character works in a bureaucratic setting screening “the perfectly poor” for government assistance.  Such people were part of the Mag City circle:  “Most of the poets worked part-time jobs or worked a few months and took off a few months.  We wanted to be ready for the poem.  We lived for poetry and were grateful to have discovered there were others out there whose priorities were complementary.”  Mag City materialized out of various NYC institutions, like The Poetry Project, that sustained starving poets like Master, Lenhart and Scholnick.  But I suspect Mag City relied heavily on institutional funding.  The magazine was made possible by a grant from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, itself funded by the NEA.  I have always felt Mag City was one of those mags that felt the denial of patronage acutely.  It limped along after the inauguration of Reagan in January 1981 but it seems to me that the poets and editors sunderstood that its days were numbered.  Or as Bernadette Mayer writes in “Dentist Fiction”, “I saw [the dentist] every day, because he knew and I knew that in two weeks the Medicaid Program for people my age was ending.”  


Big Sky 2 Just For You

Big Sky 2 con besos.


Serious Fun

Berkson, Fagin, and Brainard.  That is some serious company.  I want to party with these guys as they know how to have a good time.  Early Big Sky from 1971, with only 200 copies.  And if Kyle will get in on the fun, this chapbook might be on Cuneiform Press in the near future.  Be on the look out there for other Big Sky publications.  At the very least, Big Sky #2 will be up posted soon.

This winter has been seriously depressing and reading Big Sky was a form of literary Prozac.  It is always a pleasure to read a well-edited little magazine.  I have read quite a few magazines over the years and Big Sky and its accompanying press is a serious contender to be ranked among the greats.

Try to enjoy the rest of your weekend.  I hear the commute back from Bolinas can be a bitch.


Life of the Party

Ted Greenwald is one of Kyle's favorite poets.  Kyle is one of my favorite people and someone whose taste I respect a great deal.  So when I scan a table of contents and come across Ted Greenwald's name, it is like we are already acquainted.  Friends of friends at a crowded party.  The introductions have been made and there is a little bit of back story.  I tend to gravitate to his poems and spend a little extra time with them.  I am never disappointed.  Greenwald's poems speak to me and I always enjoy the conversation.


Crash Landing in Bolinas

Another early Big Sky publication.  1000 copies from 1972.  It makes sense that a Bolinas press would issue something from John Thorpe early on.  In a sense, he is Bolinas.  From The Cargo Cult:  "I address Bolinas as if it were a condition to be occupied."  As Kevin Opstedal states, he is Bolinas' Olson.  I love this cover.  So many poets crash landed in Bolinas.  Am I wrong to see the cover of Joanne Kyger's All This Every Day and Thorpe's The Cargo Cult as the Ying and the Yang of Bolinas in the early 1970s?

It is interesting that the only affordable copies of Thorpe's book are in Canada, the UK and Australia.  The appreciation for his work appears to have no borders.


The George Lois of Big Sky??

When I think of (and enjoy) Big Sky, it is not Philip Guston and Clark Coolidge that I return to  It is Greg Irons and Tom Veitch.  GI/TV until the day I die.  Before there was Issue 4 of Big Sky there was Issue 1.  And "The Creature from the Bolinas Lagoon" is a stone classic.  It serves as a reminder that I have to check out all their collaborations.  The cover of Jim Gustafson's Tales of Virtue and Transformation is the greatest cover in the history of Berkson's press.  Big Sky's Sgt. Pepper.  Or is it Yellow Submarine?

Irons died at 37, hit by a bus in Bangkok in 1984.


The Devouring Gaze and Looking for Oneself

In comparison to the 1960s, the Mimeo Revolution of the 1970s placed women front and center. More women poets, editors, printers and publishers out on their own.  A collection like Cornith/Totem's Four Young Lady Poets isolated women poets together, while separating them from the larger anthologies, think Allen's New American Poets, which likewise featured four women poets.  I made a list of standalone true mimeos showcasing a woman poet from the 1960s or mimeo presses operated by women.  It is a short list.  Bernadette Mayer was on that list with Ceremony Latin, which was self-published in 1964.

Studying Hunger was a joint publication between Adventures in Poetry and Big Sky.  Yet another book from 1975.  Busy year in Bolinas.  Seems like Berkson spent most of his money at the printers and not the supermarket.


Spun by Hand

200 copies from 1972.  An early Big Sky publication that looks like a spin-off from the iconic 8.5 X 11, side-stapled Angel Hair offerings.  Reproduced from Waldman's manuscript.  In the pages of Big Sky magazine, there are quite a few holograph poems sprinkled throughout, including a Waldman poem or two.  That is one of the things I love about the magazine.  There is not a set page layout or template.  It is possible to read a typescript poem followed by a holograph poem followed by a comic.  You never know the look of the next page thus making Big Sky a page turner.  The same holds for the Big Sky publications.  There is diversity in form and format.  Unlike Fuck You Press publications for example which generally look the same.


The Norman Rockwell of Big Sky

David Anderson's The Spade in the Sensorium is almost a complete blank for me.  I do not recognize the author or his work, but I immediately know this book is a Big Sky publication. Thanks to Secret Location, Philip Guston has become house artist of Big Sky.  Particularly his cover for Issue four.  In that same style and feel, the cover of The Spade in the Sensorium is one of my favorites from Big Sky, but not at the top of the list.  That honor goes to another artist intimately associated with magazine and the press.  Look for this incredible cover in an upcoming post.


Book of Questions

300 copies from 1976.  Fourteen page, seven poems in much smaller print run than typical of Big Sky publications.  I find the idea of this publication very appealing.  Fagin contributed several poems to various issues of Big Sky.  These seven poems could have been presented the same way, but Berkson and Fagin were compelled to put in the extra time and effort for a separate publication.  I wonder why the decision was made, why these poems, why the smaller print run, why this presentation?  A lot of questions that could be easily cleared up by asking Berkson or Fagin.  Or I could get a hold of Seven Poems and ponder those questions for myself.


Have Cash and You Can Carey

Kyle remembers this book as being very difficult to locate or very expensive.  Memory like the cover of Carey's Gentle Subsidy fades.  Kyle's recollection might have been true at some point but at the moment it is neither, with two prominent booksellers having a copy at $30.  750 copies from 1975.  A very productive year for Berkson's press.  I wonder if all those publications were subsidized.


Coolidge Jazz

People I know and respect swear by Clark Coolidge.  I just cannot wrap my head around it and he makes my head hurt when I try.  I get a little feeling of dread every time I come across his name in a magazine TOC.  I do not like to think very deeply or concentrate very hard; Coolidge forces you to do both.  A deadly combination.

That said, I love the idea of Coolidge.  Or I should say, my facile idea of Coolidge, which as a late John Coltrane to Kerouac's Charlie Parker.  With jazz, I find myself gravitating towards Coltrane, but with poetry I will read some of Jack's Blues before I dig into Coolidge blowing.  There is something there about how I listen vs. how I read or maybe further proof on how I do not really listen when I read.

A joint publication by Big Sky and Larry Fagin's Adventures in Poetry from 1975.  1000 copies. There are several available but Dworkin at Eclipse has loaded Polaroid as well:  here.

I like the cover of this book because it makes me think of childhood.  Not mine exactly but other man's, who I may have outgrown (I hope not!), which I read as I was myself leaving childhood and enjoyed very much.


Not A Lot of Notley Currently On The Market

750 copies, cover by Alex Katz.  By and large, if you want a Big Sky book you can get your hands on one.  The print runs are pretty big.  Even 750 copies is a rather large run when you figure that friends and family bought this shit or those who really gave a shit.  These people are going to keep and take care of their copies.  Big Sky books are not NYT bestseller paperbacks; they were not read once and thrown away.  For whatever reason, Notley's Phoebe Light is not that common.  Maybe it is not the type of book that gets deaccessioned from personal libraries.  Maybe those who bought a copy mean to hold on to it.  Maybe it is a personal favorite.  Maybe it is a book to be dipped into from time to time.  Until death do we part.  I would not know.  Maybe I should find out.


The Proof Is Always With the Taste in Language Poetry

Barrett Watten typed up several issues of Big Sky for the printers where he worked.  I find that interesting.  Watten attended the Iowa Workshop and self-printed his first book on a letterpress.  I would guess he studied with or at least knew Kim Merker.  Again I find this really interesting.  The fact that Watten is a major Language poet and one of its leading theoreticians, well, not so much.  In fact what I like about Big Sky is that it captures 1970s SF without being a Language vehicle.  For example, I find the Clark Coolidge stuff to be tough sledding.  In the immortal words of Ken Beatrice, I do not like Language poetry, I do not read Language poetry, but please read Barrett Watten I hear he is delicious.  For those interested you can get a copy of Opera - Works for the price of a large order of curly fries and a Jamocha shake at Barry Streeter's Arby's.  Have at it.


Enigma Variations

If Big Sky remains a mystery to majority of readers, to those in the know, the work of Philip Guston serves as one of the press's signature features.  The mingling of text and image is an important part of Big Sky magazine with Guston at the forefront.  So it is no surprise that Guston would collaborate with Berkson by providing illustrations for Enigma Variations in 1975, in a run of 1000 copies.  In an interesting side note, Between the Covers has a copy of the chapbook signed by Berkson to artist Jane Freilicher and her husband Joe Hazan.  A pretty cool association for just over seven bills.


The Company You Keep

1500 copies published 1976.  Tom Veitch first flickered on my radar screen because William Burroughs cut-up Veitch's Literary Days in an issue of C.  Burroughs left quite an impression on Veitch and as a result, Veitch left an impression on me.  He was kind enough to give me an interview.  I was very happy with it.   At one point, Veitch was working on a memoir about his interactions with Burroughs.  I haven't heard a word about that in years.  I have posted items related to Veitch and Burroughs a few times since the interview:  here , here and here.  Beat collectors might be familiar with Death College because of the Ginsberg afterword.  You get the sense that the works of Veitch get picked up because he has good-looking friends.  I do not think that is fair to Veitch.  Reading Veitch appearances in little mags I find that he really moves a magazine along.  I am always happy to see his name in the table of contents.  I have a complete run of Tom Veitch Magazine that I bought in the heat of my passion for Veitch about five years ago.  My lust never translated into ripping through his pages but that is going to change.


Schneeman's Cover Composition: Lazy or Crazy?

Not sure how I feel about these literary compositions since I have not read them,  Although reading through Big Sky magazine Padgett surely knows how to bring the crazy.  In fact, I find that when I encounter Padgett in a little magazine I know I am in for a good time.  Yet I do know that I am not crazy about the composition of the cover, which is far from, well, crazy.  It is generic, a C Press staple.  George Schneeman does the honors for the Big Sky title.  I am sure the cover composition is deliberately not crazy as Schneeman copies Brainard.  Maybe Padgett mimics other writing styles in Crazy Compositions, maybe he lifts lines from other writers.  If so then I really like the cover.  No doubt it helps if you read what you are writing about.  I may do just that as one of the 750 copies of this 22-page chapbook, published in 1974 can be mine for $25.  Not too crazy.  The lettered copies signed by Schneeman and Padgett are a sane hundred.


You Only Regret What You Do Not Buy

Kyle has written about Bolinas Journal before and he ends his piece eagerly awaiting the Library of America collected Brainard, which includes this first offering by Berkson's Big Sky Press.  For my money, I would rather read the original.  But I have to put my money where my mouth is, which I have yet to do.  The latest BeatBooks catalog had a copy for sale.  It is still there sitting by the dock of the bay wasting time (at a very good price by the way).  I guess I do not want to read it as badly as I thought.  Maybe the time is not right.  But the look of thing definitely is.  I love this design particularly the fact that the cover is hand-drawn by Brainard.  While reading through Big Sky magazine, it was always wonderful coming across something by Brainard.  Pure pleasure.  I am sure Bolinas Journal is no different.  No doubt my failure to buy this BeatBooks copy will go down in the regrets column of the ledger.


That 70s Show

Next up, Jim Brodey's Blues of the Egyptian Kings published in an edition of 1200 in 1975.  Catch Brodey reading on that 70s show on PennSound a few years after the Big Sky edition.  Great stuff.


All This All Weekend

Joanne Kyger All This Every Day (1975).  1500 copies with 26 signed and lettered.  This is her third collection of poems.  Here is Dale Smith on Kyger and the every day from Jacket2.


And We Are Off At A Gallup

Just out of bed.  No coffee.  No cheese danish.  No bacon sizzling.  That will have to wait.  First I have to serve all those Mimeo Mimeo fans out there clamoring for the promised Big Sky posts.  You have all probably been up for hours hitting refresh.  Sorry about that.  The dogs let me sleep in a bit.  I do not want my readers dying of starvation.  You still hungry?  Starving.  Why don't you feast on some Dick Gallup.

A 1976 Big Sky publication of 750 copies, of which 26 lettered copies are signed by Gallup.  The limited editions are in the $350 range, but for the price of two copies of A Gronking to Remember you can get the paperback edition of Gallup's Above the Treeline.  Now that is a blue plate special!!!  Berkson serves it up hot and cheap.  A little Gallup is a better way to start the morning than a Grand Slam breakfast at Denny's.  Check the menu and order up.



Before we leap into Big Sky, let's have a few encores from the Kings of Leon, a poetic jam band if there ever was one.


A Weekend in Bolinas

So what do you do when everything is going to shit in the big city?  You pack your bags, check your head and head to Bolinas.  I have been feeling a bit overwhelmed here in Charm City so for the past couple of weeks I have been reading Bill Berkson's Big Sky magazine before I go to sleep in an effort to transport myself into a better mental geography.

I have been thinking a lot lately about what the great magazines of the Mimeo Revolution happen to be and I have to say I really enjoyed the time I spent with Big Sky.  A fantastic magazine.  And just like C or Fuck You, Big Sky made the jump from magazine to press, publishing several books under the Big Sky imprint.

All the great mimeo publications capture a time and a place.  As the Big Bridge feature on Bolinas makes clear, Big Sky clearly fits the bill in that regard.

It just so happens that the Mimeo Mimeo archives are well stocked in Big Sky items.  So we are going to spend a weekend in Bolinas.  I have to admit that I haven't read any Big Sky titles but the magazines but that is not going to stop me from posting all or nearly all of the Big Sky catalog over the next two days.

Head over to the Cuneiform Press page and maybe we will post more than covers.  The World of Leon, Big Sky #7, is already up there.  I have to say it was pure pleasure entering the world of Leon on a cold winter day when the water pipes were freezing and the gas lines were leaking.  You just have to laugh sometimes.  And hanging out with Leon will help you do just that.


Mimeo Mimeo Has Not Forgotten You

And to prove it here is a complete run of John Perreault's Elephant, an unjustly overlooked mag from, what is for me, one of the sweet spots of the Mimeo Revolution:  the Lower East Side from 1964 to 1966.  Forget geography.  The golden age of mimeo is 1964 to 1966, be it the LES, SF, the UK, Germany, Detroit or Cleveland.

Elephant is a rare specimen that roamed wild in the Secret Location.  It has become a tough beast to track down.  The first issue is down and dirty mimeo in the spirit of the early issues of Blazek's Ole. The inking is gloriously atrocious with offsets on the back of nearly every page.  Elephant 2 approaches extinction.  I have seen only two copies over the years and both were worse for the wear. The cover is by Perreault and is a great one.  The format shifts to the standard 8.5 X 11 side staple job that Fuck You made iconic.  Like the first issue's inking, the second issue's stapling leaves a lot to be desired.  In the words of Chief Brody, you are going to need a bigger staple.  It is extremely fragile.  I believe the third issue is professionally printed and it is a step-up in terms of production values, durability, and integration of text and image.  Not that this is a positive development.  I much prefer issues 1 and 2.  Do not let issue 3's good looks fool you.  Some of the symptoms of a terminally ill mimeo mag are additional pages and a better design.

I plan on curling up with Elephant tonight and listening to what it has to say about the good old days. An Elephant never forgets even if it has been forgotten.