Mimeo and the Accursed Share

Here is a selection from a piece I wrote on da levy that I touched on briefly in my talk at Buffalo.  I hope this make that point more clear.

"da levy was a painter and illustrator as well as a poet. Russell Salamon points out this aspect of levy’s creative endeavor providing color images of the Cleveland Prints. levy created two sets of prints depicting a “used inked condom” in collages. Salamon points out “the free speech element” of these prints. I found these collages very compelling, and I did not know why until I read Karl Young’s essay: “At the Corner of Euclid Ave and Blvd St Germain: d.a. levy’s Parables of Local Necessity and Universal Decentralism.” Young recounts, “Jokes about the difficulties [of mimeo], such as that drawing on a mimeo stencil being comparable to writing with the claw of a hammer on a used condom, made up a sub genre of its own.” It was then that I saw the prints as a comment on the mimeo process. The prints also comment on free speech and communication in another way. In “Intro to the Cement Fuck,” levy writes, “as for obscenity… which is more obscene jacking off into a wastebasket becauz nobody wants to make love, or getting a bayonet in the guts.” In an interview with Andrew Curry of Dust, levy speaks of his work in relation to masturbation. levy was aware of the tie between excess, waste, and obscenity in a capitalist society. The mimeos of Cleveland bypassed normal distribution channels, ignored the mainstream publishing industry, and flooded the limited market with a baffling array of editions, limited editions, and reprints. The theories of Georges Bataille on potlatch and excess production come to mind. In a similar vein, levy states, “Why Concrete? What can be more obscene than refusing to communicate?” levy’s poetry with its failure to communicate its message clearly and simply is obscene. Again his poetry becomes and celebrates wasteful exercise like masturbating in a wastebasket or condom. levy was drawn to concrete poetry in part because of these intellectual, political and philosophical underpinnings. Many of the essays in d.a. levy and the mimeograph revolution make clear the capitalist critique that is implicit in not only his poetry and art, but also in his means of production and distribution."



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