Some Context for Contexts





How ‘bout a bit of context for Contexts of Poetry

Given that Creeley talks about materiality and process in his Vancouver lecture, a little attention should be given to when and how it was published.  Specifically as Audit 5 Vol. 1 (1968), edited by Butterick and Glover.  Other probably know the details more than I do but Audit was started in Buffalo in 1960 by Ralph Maud.  I believe it was the official vehicle of the Buffalo English Department.  Creeley arrived in Buffalo to teach in 1966.  By 1968 Butterick and Glover had taken over Audit’s editorial duties.  The publication of Contexts of Poetry by Audit was very timely.  Pieces came out that year and in that publication, even more than Words, Creeley puts into action the concepts that are gestating in Contexts.  The Postscript to the Audit edition of Contexts could have served as a foreword to Pieces

As for Creeley speaking through the official publication of the Buffalo English Department.  I have mixed feelings about that.  I have a vision of the Vancouver Conference as somehow  anti-university and anti-academic but that may not be accurate.  In this possibly imaginary scenario, Warren Tallman went rogue and established an academic La Costa Nostra in British Columbia.  Again this may not be true.  The publication of Creeley’s lecture in an official institutional organ like Audit diminishes its freshness and vitality in my opinion, sort of like pressing a tree leaf between the pages of a book.  What was a poet chewing the fat in the frontier amongst active poets becomes a lecture for a creative writing class attended by MFA students.  The oppositional, informal and outsider nature of Contexts becomes institutional.  

Much of this is based on what I think Audit is as a publication.  It strikes me as Buffalo’s version of Poetry.  It is the literary establishment at SUNY Buffalo.  As opposed to Fubbalo for example, which was published out of the student bookshop like an issue of Fuck You at Peace Eye or Corinth Books out of 8th Street.  Publication of Contexts in Fubbalo would be like Fuck You Press’ reporting on Vancouver in Berge’s The Vancouver Report.  Similarly Niagara Frontier Review would be in opposition to Audit as an alternative magazine independently financed by a student, Harvey Brown (like Frontier Press).  Thus Niagara Frontier Review continues a Mimeo Revolution tradition, like Big Table or New Departures, of the disgruntled and disillusioned student rebelling against the university.  Fubbalo and Niagara Frontier Review are therefore products of the Mimeo Revolution.  Audit is not.  Audit is an literary mag like Kenyon Review or Chicago ReviewAudit is academic and closely tied to bureaucratic structures.  For example, the Audit Contexts of Poetry was funded in part by the CCLM.  Like Fubbalo and Niagara Frontier Review, I view de Loach’s Intrepid as an alternative voice within the institution of SUNY Buffalo.  That said, de Loach took the government cheese as well I think.  Buffalo was heavily involved in the bureaucracy of the little mag at the time.  COSMEP held its annual conference in Buffalo in 1971. 

The prevalence of bureaucracy dooms the idea of a Black Mountain II project at SUNY Buffalo.  The sequel was more traditionally academic and establishment than the original incarnation (likewise with the reprint of Contexts).  Like the Vancouver Conference, Black Mountain College was intellectual but not academic.  The academy means bureaucracy.  Little at Black Mountain College was official or standardized.  It was informal bordering on completely disorganized.  Particularly in the mid-1950s.  In this atmosphere of total chaos (freedom??)  monuments of a high intellectual order like the Black Mountain Review developed.  A different atmosphere at SUNY Buffalo.  Tons of sponsored committees and clubs.  An official curriculum for everything, even the alternative curriculum.  State recognition and support.  Involvement in national organizations.  You simply cannot have a Black Mountain II at a state institution.  Something will be missing.  Or something will be added, i.e. an official, regulated bureaucratic structure.  The struggles at Buffalo with loyalty oaths (like Corso) are one by-product of this.  The persistent belief that Creeley was not a “true” professor and thus his classes were not proper study for a graduate student was another.  Black Mountain Review vs Audit (or Black Mountain Review II) also captures what I mean.  The Review remains one of the Ur-publications of the Mimeo Revolution.  Audit and Black Mountain Review II are scholastic.

Again let me stress these are all my personal impressions.  I would love for someone to tell me what’s what.  It would be an interesting project to analyze the little mag/Mimeo Revolution/academic journal nexus of the New American Poetry era through the lens of SUNY Buffalo.  Here is a rough list of some relevant publications:

Audit
Fubbalo
Niagara Frontier Review
Magazine of Further Studies
Conditions
Intrepid
Fathar
Athanor
Earth’s Daughters
Moody Street Irregulars
Black Mountain Review II
Credences


For example a dissertation entitled “State Sponsored Location from the Upper West Side:  Little Magazines in and around SUNY Buffalo (1960-1981)”.  God knows the Poetry Collection has the archives to support it.  I wonder what the archives would have to say?  What do you?

JB

Next to Nothing



The amount of printed matter that can be accessed digitally is rapidly increasing on a daily basis.  I feel this is a good thing as it makes rare and important material, like this edition of Paul Bowles Next to Nothing, available to interested readers.  That said, Ira Cohen’s Starstreams #5, printed in Kathmandu, Nepal in 1976, really needs to be experienced in hard copy.  For example, digital imaging does not capture the textures of the various papers, such as that of the handmade rice paper.  The scans also do not fully convey the element of the handmade coupled with that of the ephemeral.  I can think of few publications that exude a persistent thereness while at the same time drawing attention to an extreme fragility.  Like all publications made with love, Next to Nothing just wants to be held.  It demands a care and attention that its digital counterpart does not.

Bowles himself recognized Next to Nothing’s special nature.  Bowles considered it one of the finest realizations of his work.  From Ken Lopez:

In Carr's biography of Bowles [Paul Bowles: A Life], Carr recounts that, approximately two years after Jane Bowles' death, Ira Cohen solicited a long poem in the form of a dream from Paul Bowles; that Bowles countered with “one man's dream is another man's reality” and submitted Next to Nothing; that he considered this the most extraordinary-looking book of all his writings; and that, in 1994 (the year of this inscription), when Carr was staying at Bowles's house, Bowles read a discussion of Next to Nothing in the book Paul Bowles: Romantic Savage by Gena Dagel Caponi, and he voiced agreement with Caponi's assessment that: “Next to Nothing turns out to be the most eloquent and final expression of ideas that had obsessed Bowles for years...For a reader familiar with his life story, it holds great emotional power.”
By 1977, one year after publication, Bowles lamented that this publication of 500 copies had already reached $150 on the rare book market and was difficult to obtain.  As a result, Bowles authorized a collected of his poetry to be issued by John Martin’s Black Sparrow Press, which included “Next to Nothing”.  The poem also named the collection testifying to its importance for Bowles personally.

Interestingly, Next to Nothing also serves as a fine example of the Internet’s effect on the rare book market.  The Web helped recalibrate what was truly rare and desirable in the market.  In an era that made it easy to advertise availability, books which seemed impossible to find turned out to be rather common.  Next to Nothing falls into that category.  Therefore, Cohen’s edition is more readily available than ever.  And at the same price as nearly four decades ago.  There are four copies on Abebooks for $150 or lower.  It is worth your money in my opinion.  In the electronic bookselling, cash is king as collecting requires less and less time and effort.

JB

Imaginary Gardens with Real Toads in Them


Some may know Lionni through his design work for Fortune magazine, or for his children's books.  It has become increasingly difficult to know of perhaps his greatest achievement:  Parallel Botany.  Out of print, the book has become like that it describes, the extremely rare and rarely seen.  Copies have become expensive to acquire in nature.  One has to go to a library, the bibliographical greenhouse.

Maybe this book is more well-known than I give it credit.  Egotistically, I feel that if I just learned about it, nobody else has, but in this case I suspect that the fact that the book is out of print has severely limited its readers.  Which is a tragedy.  The book is as strange, fresh and relevant as when it came out in 1977.

The time is ripe for a reprint.

JB

The Joys of Reading Everything but the Poems in Padgett's Toujours l'amour






I read Toujours l’amour by Ron Padgett recently.  I thoroughly enjoyed the poems, but that is not why I feel compelled to return to the Mimeo Mimeo blog after a long hiatus.  As is often the case with me, my interest stems from the peripherals, from the margins, rather than from the main text itself.  Last things first.  I could not get over Padgett’s author photo taken by Jacob Burckhardt on the back cover.  Ron looks great!  Part pimp, part don, part disco.  It bears mentioning that this was definitely a look circa 1976.  Padgett as Martin Scorsese as the Passenger in The Taxi Driver.  Toujours l’amour to be sure.

And if we are talking about New York City in 1976, one must touch on graffiti, and my copy of Toujours l’amour has a touch of that as well.  In the presence of a bookplate.  For what are bookplates but a form of tagging.  Personally I hate bookplates.  Some people love them and even collect them.  In fact one of the most consistently praised book blogs is one dedicated to bookplates:  Confessions of a Bookplate Junkie.  I would suspect that Jon Lawson Buller’s bookplate would be collectible just as kitch or bad art has become increasingly collectible.  If Padgett with this beard is channeling Scorsese or a member of the hirsute Bronx Zoo (the Yankees that is), Buller calls to mind nobody less than the Hulkster with his defiant fading glory hairdo.  As for the cat, I like to think, with a nod to Baltimore ambulance chaser and media icon Barry Glazer that Buller is one of the urinated upon, because like the cat, Buller is clearly marking his territory with his bookplate.  His book indeed

JB

From the Beginning to the End of (Art) History: Photo Essay Inspired by Berger's "The Chauvet Cave"



"The drama of these first painted creatures is neither the side nor the front, but always behind, in the rock.  From where they came.  And we did, too . . . "



JB

Hey SFPL!!!!


Everybody knows our shit don't stink.  But seriously thanks for keeping the spirit alive.  Once it enters your library it can never leave.  But really the Revolution never officially checked out, it just could no longer pay the tab.  Thanks for paying yours.  MM#9 is in the mail.

JB

Grass Profit Review Signing Off



The final issue of Grass Profit Review is the most graphically complex of the run.  This is not that unusual.  A mimeo publication's last gasp is in some cases its most well-designed statement.  The lifespan of such publications is short.  The last issue is always looming.  Sometimes it is in fact the first.  Last words are not always off the cuff; they can be as planned as a Oscar acceptance speech.  Not Taps, but let's have a drum roll, please.

JB  

Grass Profit Review #9



If You Are Classy, You Ain't Mimeo



People wonder just what constitutes a Mimeo Revolution publication.  Like pornography, you know it when you see it.  I am not a purist; I do not think a mimeo mag has to be printed on a mimeograph or a similar business machine.  Professionally printed mags are a part of the Revolution, but if you are flipping through a mag and see a business reply card, that publication is not really a player in the Mimeo Revolution.  By statute, mimeo publications could not have first class mailing privileges.  They were not considered real magazines by the Post Office.  The govenment felt they had no business associating with the big boys, like Time, Life and Fortune, let along Poetry or Kenyon Review.  In my opinion, Evergreen Review and even Big Table have more in common with the print media Establishment than they do Fuck You or the professional mimeo mags like Yugen.

JB

Grass Profit Review Number 8



A hard rain gonna fall.  The sky just opened up here in Charm City.  Time for a weather report.

JB

Cockatrice Captured


Speaking of legendary rarities, here is one I was able to track down.  An Absolute & Glorious New Year by Marguerite Harris from Fuck You in 1965.  What is it about the Mimeo Revolution and impossible to find holiday items?  For example, the toughest Divers Press item is A Snarling Garland of X-mas Verses composed by Robert Creeley although not attributed.  I still need that one.  For those interested you can never Christmas shop for me too early.

JB

Summer in the City - 1968



There were ten issues of Grass Profit Review and eventually every issue will be on Mimeo Mimeo, except Issue seven.  A legendary rarity.  Apparently, that issue was printed during a riot in Berkeley in the summer of 1968 and in all the excitement did not get distributed very much.  From what I hear it is the only issue that is single sided, evidence that the issue was a rush job in an atmosphere of smoke and fire.

JB

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