Cruising down the information superhighway late at night, you might get the impression that Doug Palmer, aka Facino, was the original street poet. This is not even true for San Francisco, where Bob Kaufman roamed the area around North Beach a full five years earlier. Hell, Joe Gould played out his Seagull Routine in Greenwich Village in the 1930s. In fact, Palmer has a sense of belatedness that gives him a Maynard G. Krebs feel. I would be tempted to dismiss him altogether as a beatnik in the derogatory sense but for the fact that he took to the Berkeley streets during the Free Speech Movement and the nationwide riots the next year. Palmer performed in the streets a full four years before students worldwide tore up the cobblestones in 1968. To make matters more interesting, with the prodding of Gary Snyder, Palmer attempted to bridge the gap between poets and workers by getting involved in San Francisco labor around Wobbly Hall. Granted, Palmer with his bowl haircut and Hippie mannerisms seems downright cute and he definitely lacks the outlaw element of a Kaufman, but his street poetry could still ruffle a few feathers of the Mother Hens.
Mimeo handbills are the epitome of street literature so I was a cool thing when I opened my copy of Synapse #3 and saw a handbill documenting Palmer’s arrest for begging during his street poetry routine. Again Big Bridge proves to be a great source. See here. Palmer writes,
On Saturday night of my first week writing street poems in San Francisco, I was arrested. The charge was begging. This was mid-January, 1965. Dave Hazelton, editor of the magazine SYNAPSE, was with me, also writing street poems, using the name CINZANO. Subsequently, through our mutual friend, Mark Morris, who was involved with Committee for Non-Violent Action (CNVA), a reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle interviewed me, photos were taken, and a couple days later, the story of the arrest made the front page, with accompanying photo.
Mark mimeographed the Chronicle article, along with some of the street poems I had written before my arrest – I kept copies of all those first poems. Dave’s wife Jeanne Lee (Hazelton) was appearing at the Jazz Workshop. Dave encouraged all his poet friends to go hear Jeanne sing, so that among the audience were Gary Snyder and Lew Welch.
The handbill above must be the Morris mimeo. The Chronicle article tells the basic story and Palmer’s memoir provides some background, but for me the handbill really captures the spirit of this act of street theater. Like the poems, Palmer distributed the handbill on the street to fellow poets like Lew Welch and Gary Snyder and general passersby. Palmer wore a placard announcing himself as a street poet, but this handbill describing his arrest stated to all interested parties that he meant business. Like the participants of the Free Speech Movement, Facino demonstrated that he would put his shoulder to the wheel in order to make his voice heard and his presence felt.