United Artists: The Aging of a Star

United Artists, edited by Bernadette Mayer and Lewis Warsh, ran for eighteen issues beginning in 1977. That is quite a lifespan for a mimeo mag. United Artists came in at the tail end of the Mimeo Revolution, but it was far from a last gasp. There was life in the poor, old, tired horse yet.

Looking at a complete run of United Artists got me thinking about the lifespan of a mimeo mag. By and large, mimeos are shooting stars, the literary equivalent of Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, or Janis Joplin. The tragic number being 3 or 4 issues, and not 27. Mimeos die young and leave a good looking corpse.

United Artist, like Floating Bear, C: A Journal of Poetry, or Fuck You, a magazine of the arts, is an exception. To reach double digit issues is an accomplishment. Real Age. Dog Years. Mimeo Time.

United Artists came into the world with a fresh face; any lines came not from the stress of gathering material, but from the joy of getting into print. There is an innocence to the early covers of United Artists.  It could be easily read. Its cover page was a table of contents.

United Artists dressed the same, put on the same face, for fifteen issues. Yet there were signs of complacency. The issues were getting larger; the table of contents was getting longer. Issues twelve and Issues fifteen bulge and threaten to burst the staples. In my mind, a larger issue is not necessarily a sign of health. Hardening arteries, straining for breath, overweight. Success leads to excess. Gone is the lean, toned body of youth. Black Mountain Review Issue 6 and 7 were the largest issues, but they are the corpse of Black Mountain College. Bigger than life; too big to survive; like Maximus, like Olson himself.

United Artist issues sixteen to eighteen had illustrated covers. This is not the blush of life on a baby’s cheeks, like in Open Space One, or a teenager experimenting with lip gloss, like C Magazine. This is rouge to disguise the pallor of death. The magazine was aging. Some cosmetic surgery was needed to beautify the wrinkled face, the sagging jowls. Floating Bear underwent a similar procedure to no avail. Mimeos are ephemeral, born to die, but not before raging against the dying of the light, and only then collapsing in exhaustion.

Entombed in libraries, these corpses await to be opened, dissected, and re-aminated. Or resting in bookstores, garages or basements, they are rescued, brought home, and ravished.  Mimeos: A Frankenstein’s Monster or a Sleeping Beauty. To be resurrected with each reading.


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