In Divers Press We Trust


[Prospectus of The Divers Press].  Divers Press, 1953.  “Printing is cheap in Mallorca.”  Contains blurbs by Creeley for Proensa by Paul Blackburn, Mayan Letters by Charles Olson, From the Sustaining Air by Larry Eigner, and The Kind of Act Of by Creeley.  folded to make [6] p. : ill. ; 14.8 cm

“Printing is cheap in Mallorca.”  It is a given that Divers Press was made possible by favorable economies.  So much so that Alastair Johnston opens his interview with Creeley by questioning this as a primary motivation for the formation of the Press.  “[P]artly that,” answered Creeley.  For it was not just the cheap printing cost, but the low cost of living, and of course, literary ambition.  Faas on Banalbufar, Mallorca:  “Altogether, a very lovely place.  And the prices!  two pesetas or a nickel for a shot of cognac; twenty-five pesetas, about fifty cents, to have the car fixed, which took the mechanic close to a full day.  In France, the same job would have cost $6 to $8, in the U.S. more like $10.  Madeleina, a strong, staunch lady who they hired to help Ann with the household, work for two pesetas an hour.  Any job involving labour, Bob reported to Cid, was dirt cheap, pathetically so.”  Divers Press flourished because of this pathetic situation involving labor and materials.  An interesting paradox for a largely left-leaning, pro-labor community.

Proensa, the first Divers Press title, cost between $300 and $400 dollars.  As Creeley observed to Johnston, “The same book today [1988] would cost $1500.  So then we really go into it.”  Cheap printing did not just make Divers Press possible, it made the impossible worth trying.  Thus Creeley could get The Gold Diggers just perfect.  “So the thing – they were terrific with us, being a small shop.  I remember trying to reproduce the drawings for the cover of The Gold Diggers, which has the drawing of Laubies’.  There’s a red background, the red kept bleeding through, but they overprinted it at least twice.  They went through these incredible efforts and they charged us virtually nothing.  Extremely sweet.”  Terrific and sweet, but pathetically so, perhaps. 

But even in a world of sweet labor and nickel shots of cognac, one must have the money to pay for it, and what made Diver Press possible was not just cheap printing, but as Creeley states to Johnston the “little money thanks to Ann’s trust fund.”  Seemingly it was not much, $185 a month according to Faas, but such funds gave a poet concerned with breath much needed breathing room, and Divers Press flourished in this cramped space.  Jane Lougee, a trust fund kid from Maine, comes to mind.  She inspired and bankrolled the Merlin Group operating in Paris contemporaneously with Diver Press.  Ironically the Merlin Group offered to publish The Gold Diggers, but Creeley misinterpreted their offer as mere kindness and published it himself.

The woman behind the man is a stock figure in the Mimeo Revolution.  Yet maybe the image of women standing by their men is the wrong image.  “On their backs” in all the connotations of that phrase may be more appropriate.  And thus the pathetic labor and the oft-depicted pathetic Ann Creeley have much more in common than may first appear.  Divers Press would have been impossible without them.

JB

Divers Press: Founded in Translation




Proensa. By Paul Blackburn. Divers Press, Palma de Mallorca, 1953. Bodoni type. 51 pages.

Proensa, Paul Blackburn’s translations of the Provencal poets, was the first publication realized by Robert and Ann Creeley’s The Divers Press. Earlier in 1953, Creeley abandoned Roebuck Press, a publishing venture with fellow Mallorca expat, Martin Seymour Smith, due to a disagreement in just what writers that Press should give voice to. Smith wanted to publish his mother, which Roebuck in fact did. Creeley wanted to publish his friends. Creeley: “I was just determined to publish Americans of my own interests. I was far more idealistic than Martin.” Poets such as Blackburn spoke in a language that Creeley could understand and enjoy. Creeley felt Blackburn’s work was the ideal choice for Divers Press’s first statement to the world.

It is somewhat fitting that the first Divers Press book is one of translations. Proensa as an object was an attempt on Creeley’s part to translate a foreign language. Creeley the poet sought to become Creeley the publisher and designer. At the time, Creeley was unsure of his ability to articulate his vision of book design. In fact, Creeley in a later interview wondered if he and Ann even had one. Creeley: “We did the design. That was what was so terrific about these printers, they were so articulate in translating our -- neither one of us were really artists, so we would mock up or improvise what we wanted it to look like.” Like all translators, Alcover and his printers possessed the special ability to listen to the material as well as to the Creeleys. Creeley: “Their patience and ability to stay with us through our own sort of inchoate attempts to resolve design work were terrific. And they had such a physically clear sense of what a page could look like and so -- their sense of spacing was so graceful -- they could do any kind of text and give it that very comfortable feel of words progressing. Just delicious.” They took Creeley’s fumbling and translated it into a strong, coherent sense of design. Just as Creeley himself took such disarticulation and fashioned it into his singular voice as expressed in his poetry of the period.

It could be argued that Proensa is something of a mistranslation of the classic Divers Press design. The Bodoni type seems a different language (French/Italian) than the standard Futura and Mercedes (Spanish) of the later Divers Press titles. In addition, the text-heavy cover design sorely lacks the illustrator’s touch, which defined the Press’ look. Yet Bodoni is the appropriate typeface for Blackburn’s English translations of the French troubadours. Giambattista Bodoni, the Italian typographer and printer from Parma, infused the designs of Englishman John Baskerville with French designers, such as Pierre Simon Fournier and Firmin Didot. The Bodoni typeface, therefore, enacts and embodies Blackburn’s act of translation. Creeley’s dictum that form is never more than an extension of content comes to mind. Reviewing the Divers Press backlist, nowhere is this more apparent than with Proensa. One wonders if the Divers Press format conflicts with Creeley’s concept of poetic form. For example, does Blackburn’s The Dissolving Fabric extend from the content or out of the development of a house design? Is Proensa or The Dissolving Fabric more true to the material as an object? Or are such questions merely mistranslations of Creeley’s often misunderstood and misapplied statement to Olson.

Translations take time and practice. Strangers, like Alcover and his printers and the Creeleys, born of different countries, speaking different languages, do not understand each other immediately. There is a period of getting acquainted, capturing each other’s rhythms, cadences, expressions, and gestures. Proensa may fail to ring true to the later Divers Press, but it is far from a sour note. It is a solid first effort from a fledgling press and a feeling-out-in-process that suggests the later Divers Press feel.

JB

Mimeo Mimeo 9 and Then Possibly 10



Mimeo Mimeo #9 is out and making the rounds:
  
Susan Vanderborg on Fiona Templeton’s Cells of Release
Estee Schwartz on the convergence of artist and small press books
Sophie Seita interviewing Ken Edwards and Robert Hampson of Alembic
Ariel Evans on Floating Bear and Semina


The issue was designed along the Lines of a classic mimeo (but really not as it turns out, Cafe Wha??), but performed with desktop publishing software and photocopiers.  Faux-retro.  Part parody, part performance art.  As an object it serves as an introduction into our somewhat amorphous vision for Mimeo Mimeo 10.  Initially sketched on a beer coaster at the Longbranch in Austin during the South by Southwest festival, Mimeo Mimeo 10 looks something like this:  

Naturally, the original beer coaster (Lone Star) has been preserved in the extensive and meticulously maintained Mimeo Mimeo archives in case any library,  institution, or individual collector is interested.  If you have any essays or algorithms to make this vision come into focus, send them our way by August 1st.

JB/KS


Stein's Lines Lines' Stein


Like Saroyan's poems of the period, the Lines publications get maximum effect out of what appears to be the minimum.  Nowhere more so than in Gertrude Stein.  Maybe my favorite Lines publication.  The book as an object captures Stein and Saroyan but also makes me think of one of the most misunderstood lines of New American Poetics:  Form is never more than an extension of content.  I am probably misapplying it here, but fuck it, the Lines' Stein is what Olson and Creeley's first law means to me if we extend form to format.

JB  

Nobody Get Out of Here Alive



everybody 
should just do
everything.  no such
artificial distinctions
between "work"
and "recreation"   week &
                        week end

JB

Let's Get All Leigh Keno on your Ass


One of the best things about Antiques Roadshow is when Leigh Keno comes face to face with a Chippendale chest.  He motorboats, indeed.  Pure furniture porn.  And then Keno had to fuck it up and demonstrate that he is a ho like all the other appraising dorks and sign off on his own XXX parody by coming out with a line of inspired furniture that fits right in with your [insert style here] McMansion in some god awful subdivision with HOA fees out the ass.

Some day soon I am going to get a hold of a couple reams of 1960s paper and run a Planned Obsolescence Press chapbook through a printer on it.  And it will look just like the Lines Press Aram Saroyan.  Now I am not going to be some crazy person and argue that condition does not matter to a book collector.  That's bullshit, and Brian Cassidy and Jeff Maser will start contacting me to buy all their hurting copies of shit with detached staples, torn pages and dampstains.  But I will say that like a beautiful piece of 18th Century furniture, a great piece of mimeo has a patina, a sense of age, a distressed look.  These marks of the passing of time look good; they appeal to me.  Look at that Aram Saroyan up there.  He has aged well, like George Clooney.

Should the foxing, age-toning and rusted staples of mimeo be considered something of a positive as in antique furniture?  Let me state right out, that I do not feel this way about any corporate published hardcover.  My copy of the Grove Naked Lunch damn well better be pristine.  Just off the press.  But with mimeo, there is something about its ephemeral nature, about its poor inking and paper quality that makes a pristine, mint copy somehow unnatural.  The distress makes them authentic.  Let's jump down that rabbit hole sometime.  Why do collectors of rare books detest the signs of age that mark there book as authentic and not a Keno-styled ripoff?  There is something here related to MILFs and cougars I am sure.  Many collectors are just displaying trophies. Particularly collectors of Modern Firsts.  Something that looks good in the library, like Victoria Silvstedt looks good by the pool.  That said, I cannot stand detached staples.  It is an eyesore, but to replace them would be like giving the publication a case of trout pout.  You cannot have a clean, shiny staple on a vintage mimeo.  Again like with furniture, you cannot stain or polish too much.  Keep that wear and age; do not overdo the plastic surgery.

I would really like to have a conversation with mimeo dorks about this issue, because when I received my copies of Lines Press publications I must say I was pleased with how they looked blemishes and all.  Am I crazy here?  They were simple, beautiful objects, like pieces of Shaker furniture.  In both, the signs of age in the wood (paper) were a major part of their allure.

JB

Not So Mellow Yellow



Kick out the jams on those motherfucking parking meters!!!!!!!!!!!

JB

A Mimeo Classic That Isn't




If the publications of Lines Press have a distinctive look, works/aram saroyan is a perfect example.  Simple, classic mimeo, right.  Wrong.  None of the publications of Lines Press were run off a mimeograph machine although they certainly look as if they were.  Many people, including myself, have described them as mimeograph publications, but they were all offset.  Some of them were even professionally typed.

Offset makes perfect sense.  The process of printing a Lines publication is like a Donald Judd sculpture that Judd conceived and designed but contracted out the actual construction elsewhere.  Talk all you want about Ed Ruscha and the many Flux books from the 1960s, but the classic Lines Press titles I think hold an interesting conversation with those more talked about and noisy publications.  Judd's work from 1966 will provide the foundation for speaking of works/aram saroyan alongside Twenty-Six Gasoline Stations or Every Building on Sunset Strip.

Before I got a copy of works/aram saroyan, I assumed they were 8 X 11 like Lines magazine or Perreault's Camouflage.  works/aram saroyan is actually smaller, though not a pocket book by any means.  Make no mistake there is a tremendous sense of space despite the minimal nature of Saroyan's works and it smaller dimensions.  works/aram saroyan is by no means ephemeral.  It is solid and dense.  Like a piece of stainless steel.  Mimeograph is the wrong technology here; offset is the proper (and I would suspect deliberate and calculated) choice.

works/aram saroyan is quite simply a beautiful book.  In fact a minimalist artists book.

JB      

Weather Report: Which Way The Wind Blows - Grass Profit Review #3



In March of 1968, things were getting hot.

JB

John Ashbery on John Perreault's Camouflage


Here is another Lines Press publication from 1966.  John Ashbery wrote the introduction.  Not sure if this introduction is reprinted anywhere.  If not, it is now.

INTRODUCTION

The first person singular occurs throughout these poems, like a key signature in music, but the poems are not meant as autobiography and in fact tell us nothing about the poet.  The “I” is really a kind of familiar-sounding threshold that brings us immediately into contact with the unfamiliar world one step away – “the” world.  The poet is this world.  He has “camouflaged himself to look like everything, if camouflage is the art of calling attention to things by trying to make them invisible.  The poems are simultaneously big, important and world-ordering; and small, odd and private.  They cover everything, elbow the reader out of themselves, and camouflage him into the memory of his intentions when he began to read the poem.

JB

It Is Only Worth The Paper It Is Printed On



If you see a copy of Grass Profit Review on white paper, beware!  Not surprisingly, this ephemeral handbills were bootlegged and photocopied.  Generally they were printed on colored paper.  There seem to be copies of Issue One on yellow paper as well.  If anybody out there has variant colors, please chime in.

Issue One:  Two-sided on orange paper
Issue Two:  Two-sided on green paper
Issue Three:  Two-sided on salmon paper
Issue Four:  Two-sided on yellow paper
Issue Five:  Two-sided on blue-green paper
Issue Six:  Two-sided on pink paper
Issue Seven:  One-sided on white paper
Issue Eight:  Two-sided on white paper
 Issue Nine:  Two-sided on green paper
Issue Ten:  Two-sided on yellow paper

JB

Grass Profit Review No. 1



Back in those days of yore when I actually posted shit, I did a little series on the mimeo from the streets of Berkeley in the days around the 1965 Poetry Conference.  Poems Read in the Spirit of Peace and Gladness (1966) was an anthology as tombstone, which immortalized the summers of the mid-1960s before the Summer of Love of 1967.  By 1968, peace and gladness was far from the minds of the Berkeley street poets.  Grass Profit Review marks the shift from the Summer of Love to the Days of Rage.  The Review was put out by a group of poets spearheaded by Richard Krech.  There are some bits and pieces on Grass Profit Review on Big Bridge and other places that I will dig around in the coming weeks.

Here is Issue 1 re-published on the net almost 46 years after it passed from hand to hand in Berkeley.  This might deserve a bit of thought; we'll see what I can muster.  Be on the look out for all ten issues.

JB

The Posting Has Been Minimal


Yeah, I know.  It has been a while.  I have been putting the finishing touches on Planned Obsolescence Press #4, which is ready to go to press.  So let's ease back into the Mimeo Mimeo blog, with a little bit of minimalism.  But again nothing too taxing.  Richard Kolmar's Games is one of the more elaborate publications of Aram Saroyan's Lines Press.  Not just Larry Zox's cover art, but Kolmar's poems as well.  This book does not contain a poem, like eyeye, for example.

Lines Press does not have to say all that much to earn my love and respect, it had me at Lines, the mimeo mag.  But the book publications of Lines are much appreciated as well.  I love it when a mimeo mag publisher makes the jump and starts publishing books.  In the mid-1960s, Saroyan was quite busy.  He published six issue of Lines and the following Lines Press titles:

Lapstrake - Ted Greenwald (1965)
Noh - Ted Berrigan, Ron Padgett (1965) (Broadside)
Games - Richard Kolmar (1966)
Flag Flutter & U.S. Electric - Clark Coolidge (1966)
Works:  24 Poems (1966)
Camouflage - John Perreault (1966)
Clark Coolidge (1967)
Aram Saroyan (1967)
Gertrude Stein (1967)

There was also an Poster Poems Series silkscreened by Brice Marden of five Saroyan poems:  Eyeye. - Paul Klee.-You you. - Lighght.- Eatc.  These were done in an edition of 48.  The Hay and the Lilly list this Poster Poem Series as Lines publications.  I am not so sure.

Poster Series or no, Lines Press was far from minimalist in term of output from 1965 to 1967.  I highly recommend all the publications by Saroyan's Lines Press.

JB

Creeley on Contact


In the first issue of Black Mountain Review, Robert Creeley surveyed the Canadian poetry scene and in doing so, he opened by discussing Contact, Raymond Souster’s pivotal mimeo, which served as a bridge from the Modernist mags before World War II and the mimeo explosion after the San Francisco Renaissance.  Here is Creeley on Contact:

Contact (An International Magazine of Poetry) 4-8, edited by Raymond Souster, $1 a year; Cerberus, by Louis Dudek, Irving Layton, Raymond Souster, $1; Twenty-four Poems, by Louis Dudek, $1; The Black Huntsmen, by Irving Layton, $1; Love The Conqueror Worm, by Irving Layton, $1; Canadian Poems, 1850-1952, $1.50 – Contact Press, Toronto, 1953.

A round-up of Canadian poetry, AD 1954, would probably bring in little but the above.  The American reader is, or may well be, familiar enough with the work of A.M. Klein, P.K. Page and perhaps one or two others – but I think that Irving Layton, for one example, may well have escaped him, despite the fact that he is a better poet than either of the two noted.  Why is this so, like they say, is of course simple enough to guess.  Local conditions, and a prevailing provincialism, have kept the Canadians wedged between England on the one hand, and the US on the other, and it takes a somewhat trusting soul to stick his nose out.

Contact Press, however, has broken out of this usual dilemma by way of both books and a magazine, and if a reader wants to see where the actual conditions for a healthy literature can be found, he may well look here.  For example, Contact (the magazine) is nothing very much to look at, nor does it have many of those great names well-calculated to keep the reader buying.  But it is, in spite of itself, international – insofar as its tone is open, its critical stance almost sufficient, and because it prints in each issue four or five good poems, demonstrably good poems, by men writing all the way from Freiburg to Mexico City.  Not to mention Montreal.

That, in itself, is something – and with the canons of good taste, and good business, so well-set in the States, one can do worse than subscribe to such a magazine – of only for the fine sense of air, and openness, it does have.

To maintain such a thing is not of course simple, either for the men writing, or the editors thereof.  It is a considerable scramble to get together enough material and enough money for a decent issue of any magazine, of any length, coming out four times a year.  And the Canadians, in spite of ingenuousness and an almost sticky good-will toward Literature, are by no means apt to run out and buy something by people who are not quite acceptable.  Raymond Souster, in Cerberus, is eloquent enough:

Turning the crank of a mimeograph
In a basement cellar to produce the typical
“Little magazine” perhaps fifty will read
Twenty remember (and with luck) five will learn from.

The delights of the literary salon etc., are by no means what these men know:

Engaged through the week at Usura,
Loaning the rich the poor man’s money,
And kidding yourself it does not leave
The marks of its uselessness upon you.


So that to say something, anything, in protest, has been of necessity their payment.

Robert Creeley

JB

The Mastermind of the Mimeo Revolution


It is tough to overestimate just how important a figure Jones/Baraka was in the early Mimeo Revolution network.  He was the connection in New York City.  This advertisement from Kulchur #3 is a great snapshot of the alternative press scene of the early 1960s.  Jargon, Totem, Auerhahn cooking up the illicit product and the Phoenix Bookshop pushing it to the word addicts.  At the time, the alternative press was truly a criminal enterprise (around this time Floating Bear faced legal action) and in many respects Jones/Baraka was its mastermind as this ad makes clear.  Listed as "The Mind", Jones/Baraka clearly calls all the shots and orders the hits on the literary establishment.  Most of these contracts were carried out in the pages of Kulchur and other little mags.

JB

Fles on the Wall


Compared to Jones/Baraka and Ginsberg, John Fles is something of a marginal figure.  Yet in that 1959/1960 period (when this photo was taken), Fles could play the bongos with the Beat elite and do quite nicely thank you.  Fles was on the editorial board at the Chicago Review when things got filthy on the Midway.  He edited a one-shot called The Trembling Lamb during the first boom of the Mimeo Revolution alongside mags like Yugen and Big Table.  Along with Jones/Baraka, Fles was one of the contributing editors to Kulchur.  In short, Fles does not deserve to be cropped out of any recounting of that monumental year of 1959, when Beat went mainstream.  Yet Fred Kaplan does not mention Fles in his history of the year that changed everything and I would suspect that Fles has managed to slip the minds of most, including those in the know about the Beats and the Mimeo Revolution.

Pity really, because many times those hanging at the edge of the crowd get the best view.  In light of the passing of Amiri Baraka, there will be much talk of Yugen as a pivotal little magazine.  Without a doubt, Baraka was one of the best little magazine editors of his time, if not for all time.  Fles himself says as much.  Yet even a mag as mighty as Yugen was not perfect.  Maybe this is an example of an eyewitness having better vision than the historian or, in the present moment, the eulogist.  Here is Fles reviewing Yugen 1-7, as that magazine was in the process of dying, within the pages of the recently conceived Kulchur:

Yugen 1-7; (The Flower of the Miraculous)
            The Devil’s cleverest wile is to convince us that he does not exist.”  Baudelaire

First Yugen published 1958.  No. 4 was the best.  The turning of the tide – or just before the surf breaks.  (I was in town then, and remember.)  Six full as a ripe wave, when I’d ride them in, at Laguna.  With No. 7 we reach a plateau.  Smooth water as far as you can see.

I go home with the book on Friday, read it through, except the Marshall poem, and go to sleep considerably depressed.

I see him bent against the wind; we’re crossing Seventh Avenue “in a few years I’ll have to put down poets using Creeley’s voice.”  Or Marc’s admission, “… all seemed to me, on rereading, to’ve been written by the same person” (there were four or five concerned, including Mr. Jones).

What has developed tonally, is a rhetoric.  Clever, often cute, elisions and abbrevations of language.  Deliberately coy and devious handling of a subject.  Coming in, as it were, through the back door; Lester Young, but not one, many.  “You can spend so long cleaning the goddamn gun etc, you miss any shot at all.”

And they’re on top, kicking someone littler.  Tired remnants of the thirties and everyone, anyone in his right mind knows it.  Certainly the readers of Yugen.

The sad part is, there energy’s there, waiting, to be used.  Humor’s always a clue to what you do with it.
“Ah but the thought to write nursery rhymes/is prelude to stark poetry.”

II.  That thought when certain things become predictable.  Creeley’s rehash.  Read Yugen Share This Poetic Reality.  (Bessie Smith dies.)  Artaud’s funnier than Olson.  “Louder and funnier!!”  Who’s the Dalai Lama?  The former dean of Black Mountain College?  The beauties of the Maximus Poems, however, before me.
The other notes continue the Black Mountain tradition (“yii!”).  The gaze, yes, is reverent.

I’m straying from the point?  Yugen is a magazine of poetry.  Has it, too, uniformity of tone?  Was the register the same?  “A hand raised against the blossom is implicitly directed also, toward the root?”  Was that whined?  Shouldn’t the hand be raised at all?

Jones is a great editor (one of the two or three in the country).  His range and catholicism of taste; a continuum roughly from Olson to Corso.  In each issue, also, a “discovery”; Meltzer, Bremser, Barbara Moraff “appeared mysteriously out of Paterson,” Rochelle Owens.

At the end Creeley opened his doors to Ginsberg, Kerouac, Corso.  From that fusion to Evergreen Review No. 2.  And so on – The New American Poetry 1945-1960.  A NEW DAY COMING Yugen editor says.
            “How deep is thy love for making me jump
                for I am a true Quaker and how can you quake
                 at the meeting house whey you have reduced
                     all to the elements and can only use song to
                     make rationale mind confused – is that why
                     you want my songs because you hear
                     something announced that something is
                     around the corner – a footing – conspiracy
                       going on.” 
But stiffness of swing bands a “professional” publication.  The new academy’s buildings are shinier, that’s all.
A tradition becomes inept when – oh!
            OH SHIT HELL FUCK THAT WE ARE BLOCKED
                        in striving by what we hate
                surrounding us.  And do not break it in our strike
                                     at it.  The part of us
                      so trained to live in filth and never stir.”
III.  It doesn’t matter, it doesn’t matter.  Another generation drifts into town . . . What’s left for them?  Allen?  much shuffling of feet, attitude ambivalent, as it should be (the poet of our time).  Burroughs remains firm.  Jack not yet born.  Gregory, yes.

McClure.  “I am close to Lawrence and Melville and find how much I despise Williams and Pound . . . If Olson’s is poetry of the intellect and physiology, I want a writing of the Emotions, intellect and physiology.  The direct emotional statement from the body (from organs and from energy of movements) . . .  I do not see with my senses but with forms and preconceptions thru custom.  I will kick in the walls and make a destruction of those things.”  Who’s he speaking to?

All seven issues in front of me.  Talk about evolution, yes.  It’s only that, an early childhood experience, I’m abnormally sensitive to death by suffocation.

Additional Questions
1.     1.  Why do I give Personism:  A Manifesto a special prize for “(This is getting good, isn’t it?)”
2.      2. “be done with these walking products of crime” is “stark poetry?”  vice versa?  Who is Gregory Corso?
“I want to be as though new-born, knowing nothing, absolutely nothing about Europe.”  Klee
3.     3.  What about the problem of provincial (parochial) American poetry?
4.      4. What does Broom mean?  Secession?  transition?  YUGEN?

John Fles

JB

From Yugen #6



Magazine as Seismograph


It is fitting that the first issue of San Francisco Earthquake was published in the fall of 1967 as it is a product of the hangover after the Summer of Love.  That Summer was largely a media fabrication and the Earthquake through its five issues is a Burroughsian attack on Time-Life media and a potent example of Fluxus and Situationist detournment.  But let’s be honest, even the mainstream media reported that the flower in the hair of wannabe hippies had wilted by 1967.  For example, Joan Didion’s articles on Lifestyles in the Golden Land had been appearing in the Saturday Evening Post as early as 1965. 

Gail Dusenbery and Jacob Herman’s Earthquake captures that shift from Summer to Fall.  Dusenbery was a Berkeley veteran with ties to the street poetry scene that developed around Facino, Synapse and company that I have written about before.  That street poetry scene, which was anthologized in Poems Read in the Spirit of Peace and Gladness in 1966 and had its moment in the sun at the Berkeley Poetry Conference of July 1965, is a less mainstream-mediated Summer of Love.  Facino (Doug Palmer) appears in Earthquake.  Weather-beaten veterans of the San Francisco scene would even go further back in order to capture the spirit of an authentic Summer of Love:  the summer of 1963 before JFK was assassinated and things got truly dark.  Charles Plymell printed the first issue of San Francisco Earthquake and his Now magazine of 1963 documents this earlier and much less ballyhooed Summer of Love.

If the San Francisco Earthquake looks back to a time when the Summer of Love was not merely hype, it also looks forward to the unnatural disasters of 1968, when it looked like the shithouse was going to burn to the ground.  “Behold the Prince of Darkness Comes!”  Roel van Duyn’s Intro to Provo forecasts which way the wind would blow during the long, hot summer of 1968 and predicts the politics of rage practiced by the Weather Underground.  As such San Francisco Earthquake is more than just a pivotal literary magazine that is increasingly getting its due in institutional circles, but one that documents a seismic shift in American history.

JB

Sinking Bear


HYPE!  I put it in CAPS because hype is real and alive in the Mimeo Revolution.  Is Fuck You really the shit once you actually fucking read it?  Is Semina as good as it was not advertised?  (THEY ARE!!!)  And because I am a P.T. Barnum as much as anybody:  Nutall’s My Own Mag cannot possibly be as great as I have hyped it.  Can it?  (IT IS!!!). 

For the small group of Mimeo Revolution obsessives, nothing is more hyped and spoken of in hushed tones than Sinking Bear.  And what a special form of hype.  What an appropriate form of hype!!  It is the hype of word of mouth, of rumor.  Of gossip.  Like a band that nobody has actually seen play live, Sinking Bear for decades had never been read cover to cover.  Nobody had even seen it.  The hype stems in part from reading Reva Wolf’s book on Warhol.  She actually read an issue or two of Sinking Bear and was one of the few to consider the mag seriously.  Except for maybe Diane Di Prima who wrote about Sinking Bear in her Recollections, which only added to the legend.

And then after years of whispers, Sinking Bears slowly came out of hibernation from cold water flats and garages.  I flipped though one with Alan Zipkin at the New York Book Fair.  Just one issue.  And just a glimpse.  But it was like seeing Bigfoot.  Shock and awe, and then doubt.  Do I actually believe what I have just seen?  And then more whispers at the New York Book Fair that a complete run had surfaced.  Could the hype be true?  Could Sinking Bear be the greatest mimeo mag of all time? 

Adam Davis of Division Leap, Johan Kugelberg and the crew at Boo-Hooray tracked down a run and reprinted it as part of an exhibition associated with co-editor among thousands, Ray Johnson.  Sinking Bear could now play live in front of a (small) crowd.  What would it sound like?  Shitty like the Velvets at Max’s or awesome like the Dead Boys at CBGB.  Both examples are apt and Sinking Bear sounds like a little of each at times.

My biggest takeaway from reading Sinking Bear is just how unrepentantly it is an inside job.  In some ways it is a sealed box:  a Warhol Circle time capsule.  Those archives are a box of chocolates, you never know what you are gonna get.  Trash or treasure.  Sinking Bear, like the time capsules, beg the question is trash treasure, treasure trash.  Play with this any way you want like an innaresting sex arrangement as Burroughs would say.  I would bet that every line and every image of Sinking Bear could bear up to the level of scrutiny Reva Wolf places on it in places.  I want Sinking Bear to be archived and catalogued like a Warhol time capsule.  Dated and described.  Dissected and destroyed.  It is only by splaying open the corpse of the Bear that it will ultimately let me inside.  Yet even without such explanations, Sinking Bear at points shimmers like a Linich light show flickering off a silver surface.  At others, it drones on like a nasally queen at a rent-a-freak party at the Sculls’.  Soaring and boring.  Sounds Warholish, no?  Kinda sounds like the Velvets at Max’s.

Warhol threatens to dominate Sinking Bear, just like Warhol dominates the entire art world and market.  Boo-Hooray and Division Leap attempt to place the spotlight on Ray Johnson.  (Here is where the Dead Boys come in.  Anything authentic and artistically autistic will eventually be reduced to advertising.)  I do not know much about Johnson or his work, so I do not know if they are solid and substantial enough to cast a shadow.  I cannot approach Sinking Bear through Johnson like I can Warhol and maybe that is a good thing, because for me it forces Sinking Bear on some level to stand alone on stage and perform.  Or maybe it forces Sinking Bear to sit under the glare of the institution (gallery, library, museum) and be interrogated. 

What do I see at the coroner’s?  Well, Sinking Bear seems very much alive to me.  The fact that it is so inside, so gossipy, so much of a scene, means I will never be able to get under its skin completely.  It pushes me away as I attempt to suffocate it with my embrace and pierce it with my gaze.  It defies taxidermy.  I will be learning about and from Sinking Bear for the rest of my life.  I have the feeling Sinking Bear will hold my interest until the day I die.  Like a mirror.  And I see the image (not influence so much since nobody read it, but then again, like with Floating Bear, all of these nobodies were somebody) of Sinking Bear everywhere:  Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets, punk rock flyers, Richard Prince appropriations, Warhol, flarf.  Just about anything related to cut and paste aesthetics.  And that is everything and everywhere.  Ultimately it is Sinking Bear’s merging of form and content that entrances me.  Mimeo mixed up with montage.  All those seemingly isolated quotations build on each other, are related to each other, and are just as much poetry as a Berrigan Sonnet or an Ashbery composition is.  Or just as much music as a DJ sample is.  Or just as much architecture as a Vegas pastiche is.  Or just as much art as a Ray Johnson collage is.  And with the art of Johnson Sinking Bear folds in on itself, reflects on itself.  Mazes and mirrors into infinity.

Thanks to Boo-Hooray and Division Leap.  Sinking Bear is real.  And, yes, it is spectacular.

JB

Boo Hooray Semina

On a recent trip to the Special Collection Library at Buffalo, I spent some time with Wallace Berman's legendary Semina.  I do not want to get all luddite and pontificate about the splendors of the material object but then again I do.  It is something special to handle Semina.  But Semina like unicorns and rainbows is tough to get a hold of.  So let me recommend Boo Hooray Gallery's reprint.  See here.  It just might be the next best thing.

I ordered the limited edition just about as soon as I heard about it and maybe a week later I got an email from Boo Hooray stating that the edition was not complete.  An item from Issue Eight was undocumented.  Now I am sure some people would be upset about this but I thought it was perfect.  Semina is one of the most documented and institutionalized magazines of the entire Mimeo Revolution.  It is one of the defining magazines of the entire movement, but even so it remains largely mysterious.  It still remains elusive and fugitive.  You cannot pin it down.  As it should be.  The Mimeo Revolution is the Wild West of the post-WWII literary scene.  Many of the writers who appeared within it have been accepted by the academy and documented in academic journals but for the most part their participation in the mimeo scene is largely unaccounted for.  The mimeo scene is uncharted territory.  The Boo Hooray mix-up with Semina proves this to be the case.

Order the Boo Hooray Semina.  The Semina Culture exhibition book has become a collectors item, selling for around $300.  The Portents Semina is far more than that.  Given that the Boo Hooray Semina has various inserts and now even some late additions, expect it to follow suit.

But Boo Hooray's Semina is not an investment.  Like all mimeo publications it is an experience.  Are you experienced?

JB

Reading as Wedding Announcement

 

Here is a poster announcing a poetry reading by Brother Antoninus at UC Davis on December 7, 1969. Seemingly not a big deal as Brother Antoninus read a bunch, but this would be the last reading ever given by Brother Antoninus.

Brother Antoninus began the reading by explaining the myth of Pluto and Persephone and then the prologue to "Tendril in the Mesh," his love poem to Susanna Rickson.  Brother Antoninus continued, "Thus far I have been I've been talking about Pluto and Persephone, but I can no longer do that.  I was writing about myself, and when this reading is over I am going to remove my habit and leave the Dominican order to marry."

Between sections of the poem, Brother Antoninus mediated on the poem and his decision to leave the Order.  He read the poem's rhymed epilogue:

Call to me Christ, sound in my twittering blood,
Nor suffer me to scamp what I should know
Of the being's unsubduable will to grow.
Do thou invest the passion in the flood
And keep inviolate what thou created good!

"He paused for a moment, then slowly drew his robes over his head, dropped them to the floor [revealing buckskins underneath], and walked out of the hall."   The reception to follow would be a wedding reception of sorts.  William Everson married Susanna Rickson the following weekend.

Thanks to Ted Dunn and Bartlett's biography of Everson.

JB

Leroi Jones on Wieners' Hotel Wentley Poems


The Hotel Wentley Poems by John Wieners (Auerhahn Press, $1.25)

                Wieners’ Hotel Wentley poems were good to see.  His poems are known more extensively in mss than in print, even tho they do occasionally appear in magazines.  Good to see that he had for once gotten past the point of destroying everything he wrote . . . and that what was saved was so powerful.  There are only 8 poems in the book, and they have the feel of one long poem.  In this sense, the book took me to Rilke.  The Elegies and The Sonnets.  It seemed these poems stirred a sense as they moved, and carried it with them.  Accreted meaning and energy.  Held longer under so much silliness in my own life.  Remained intact.  Each poem depends, it seems, on what we have read before, what we will come to after.  For this reason, the first reading is deceptive.  The accretion not final.  I read the book, put it down, forgot it, I thought.  And then phrases, entire lines, came back whole to me.  I juxtaposed lines from one poem into others.  They seemed to fit perfectly.  I went back to the book.  The second reading almost forced me to my knees.
I look for love.
My lips stand out
                                         dry and cracked with want
                                                                of it.
                From that awful, almost hopeless stance; a grizzly romanticism that makes you itch sometimes, he makes these beautiful poems.  Not only makes them, but shoves them, almost, into your flesh.  Wieners wants first for you to love him.  And which one of us (in our brand new J.C. Penney Cowboy suits) can dig that?  “What are you running here, a goddam lonely hearts club?”  But that is never the case.  A man who can say
Let us stay with what we know.
  That love is my strength, that
                                                            I am overpowered by it:
                                                                                        Desire
       that too
                                                                       is on the face:  gone stale
has you surrounded.  The poem, the object, is lovely, there is never any question of that.  Another sense in these poems is their feeling of external movement.  Movement outside the poem.  Or rather, the sense they make for us that we are watching the poet; disposing as he is at the moment of the poems’ emergence.  Perhaps because they were all written in such a short length of time, we get the feeling of reading a kind of chronicle.
      I sit in Lees.  At 11:40 PM with
Jimmy the pusher.  He teaches me
                                                                     Ju Ju.
                We are always where his is.  We will know him by his own life.  By what is happening to him as we watch.  And we are always watching him, Wieners, there is never any attempt to disguise himself (as Creeley will do so beautifully by abducting you into his own thoroughly rearranged club car, where you can recognize nothing, and have only Creeley as reference that it is still part of the known world).  Wieners’ “landscape” is one we know as our external own.  The references are blunt and precise.
My poems contain no
  wilde beestes, no
lady of the lake, music
             of the sphere, or organ chants.
   Only the score of a man’s
 struggle to stay with
 what is his own, what
                                                                                  lies within him to do
Another interesting facet of these poems is the excellence of Wieners’ use of contemporary american slang (musician & junkie talk).  Any kind of colloquial usage is “dangerous” in poetry, since if it is not done extremely well, it is most easily vanquished, or at least, made ridiculous.  And as Williams says, “if we are alert to the vagaries of language we at the same time are moralists awake to the significance of what the language implies; when we say “dig” instead of “understand” we should know that it is a moral risk we are taking when we use the word.”  Wieners seems to understand his.
. . . Melancholy carries
    a red sky and our dreams
        are blue boats
      no one can bust or
 blow out to sea.
       We ride them
  and Tingel-Tingel
   in the afternoon.
                                                                                                                                                Leroi Jones

JB

Kugelberg Answers in the Affirmative


The obsession with Sha Na Na continues.  Johan agrees this is proto-punk.

Listen to this 1972 version of At The Hop.  It is all about speed and don't tell me you can't hear the Ramones.

Here

JB

Question for Johan Kugelburg


"We've got just one thing to say to you fucking hippies, and that is that rock and roll is here to stay!"
                                                                                                                              
                                                                                                                                  Sha Na Na

Is Sha Na Na's performance at Woodstock proto punk rock?  Here

JB

William Wantling: Academic Poet


Quartet was the house band for Purdue University.  Lawrence Welk to be sure.  This particular issue features a puff piece review on an essay collection by William Jonanovich, which documents "the experiences, aspirations, and recommendations of a major American publisher."  Such genuflection to corporate publishing is exactly what separates the small or little magazine from the Mimeo Revolution.  The little mag views itself as a minor leagues to the major publishers.  The Mimeo Revolution writers took the ball and played amongst themselves.  What drives a writer to play organized ball?

William Wantling, a prized son of the Mimeo Revolution, felt compelled to play the game and stands alongside Jonanovich in this issue of Quartet with two poems, The Pain and The Visit.  Say it ain't so, Bill.  Is this the same as betting in baseball?  Do such appearances ban Wantling from the Mimeo Hall of Fame?  And what do we make of Wantling's academic career?  Bukowski seemed to think Wantling was cheating his talent.  By appearing in Quartet, Wantling is clearly hedging his bets.  Maybe Harcourt Brace would grace him with a hard cover collection.  Sure, that would pay the bills, but such books are bankrupt.  You are only as good as your word.  And those words are most valuable when they are DIY or free.  Down, Off and Out published by Blazek's Mimeo Press, now, that is money. 

JB

I     

This Jargon Stopper is a Show Stopper









I pretended that I was going to collect Jargon publications from 1951 to 1960 and then I ran up against the early Jargon titles.  Not only are they beautiful and expensive, they are incredibly rare.  Thankfully, the UB Poetry Collection has an incredible archive related to Jonathan Williams and Jargon Society.  Years ago Rich Owens mined this rich vein for an issue of Jacket dedicated to Williams.  Much more remains to be done.

Here is Jargon 5, Jonathan Williams' Four  Stoppages.  This particular copy is not only a Jargon stopper for its rarity (there were two hundred unnumbered copies), it is also a show stopper since in happens to be Robert Duncan and Jess's personal copy.

Four Stoppages is a single sheet that opens out accordion style into folio size pages .  I could not manage to capture the full effect in a legible photograph.  I also apparently cannot get the photo landscaped properly either.  Deal with it.  I totally did not expect to see it (although at UB I should have).  With something this rare, like Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster, photo documentation is going to be less than perfect.

JB