"I wish to put together an imaginary nation. It is my belief that no other nation is possible, or rather, I believe that authors who count take responsibility for a map which is addressed to travellers of the earth, the world, and the spirit. Each issue is composed as a map of this land and this glory, images of our cities and of our politics must join our poetry. I want a nation in which discourse is active and scholarship is understood as it should be, the mode of our understanding and the ground of our derivations."
Robin Blaser (June 3, 1967)
The little magazine as space, as map, as nation, as place. As Gwen Allen's book on the magazine as alternative space, this idea is being aggressively chewed over by the academic community. Despite all the attention lavished in Allen's book on this concept and the host of follow-ups no doubt already in progress, a magazine like Pacific Nation will probably fall through the cracks. The primary reason for this is location, location, location. Vancouver, and Canada in general, are just not desirable academic real estate. They are not New York, in fact they are in many respect an anti-Big Apple. For Blaser, Vancouver is an outpost, a land of exile from San Francisco, yet also a place of potential intellectual freedoms. You see this conflicted attitude of Vancouver as alternative space in TISH as well.
Like Allen's book, Secret Location possesses zip code bias as well. At least, Secret Location addresses the West Coast while still sadly neglecting the fly over zone. I was happy to see Pacific Nation featured in its pages, because it is a great magazine that deserves some attention. As does Blaser. If Dick Gallup is the forgotten figure of the Tulsa school, Blaser is the odd man out in the Berkeley Renaissance. Duncan, Rexroth, Spicer (and by association Olson) get all the press. I am not going to misrepresent myself. I am by no means immersed in Blaser, but have read his Open Space publications. I always make a promise to dig deeper, to get the collected, to read The Fire. The acquistion of Pacific Nation is one step to make good on that promise.
In my opinion, Blaser as editor is worth encountering as the quote above makes clear. Let's face it, it is going to be tough to experience Spicer as an editor. The first five issues of J Magazine just are not available and if they are they are several hundred dollars an issue. (In my opinion they are worth the effort and the expense.) Yet the neglected Pacific Nation is far cheaper at around $25 for issue two. Issue One is much more rare and is collectible as a pivotal Brautigan item (this issue published Trout Fishing in America for the first time), but a copy is currently available for $30 (albeit in less than collectible condition). So for around $50 you can get the complete run of a very interesting map of the mind of Robin Blaser. Issue One includes work by Blaser (The Image, The Fire), Spicer (A Poem to the Reader of the Poem), Charles Olson (A Comprehension), Antonin Artaud (On Nerval), Michael McClure (The Moon is Number 18), Harold Dull (Dream), George Stanley (You, On Strangers), Stan Persky (California Sociology), along with youngsters Karen Tallman, Colin Stuart, Rick Bryne and Gerry Gilbert. Not bad, and oh, the places you will go!