It is fitting that the first issue of San Francisco Earthquake was published in the fall of 1967 as it is a product of the hangover after the Summer of Love. That Summer was largely a media fabrication and the Earthquake through its five issues is a Burroughsian attack on Time-Life media and a potent example of Fluxus and Situationist detournment. But let’s be honest, even the mainstream media reported that the flower in the hair of wannabe hippies had wilted by 1967. For example, Joan Didion’s articles on Lifestyles in the Golden Land had been appearing in the Saturday Evening Post as early as 1965.
Gail Dusenbery and Jacob Herman’s Earthquake captures that shift from Summer to Fall. Dusenbery was a Berkeley veteran with ties to the street poetry scene that developed around Facino, Synapse and company that I have written about before. That street poetry scene, which was anthologized in Poems Read in the Spirit of Peace and Gladness in 1966 and had its moment in the sun at the Berkeley Poetry Conference of July 1965, is a less mainstream-mediated Summer of Love. Facino (Doug Palmer) appears in Earthquake. Weather-beaten veterans of the San Francisco scene would even go further back in order to capture the spirit of an authentic Summer of Love: the summer of 1963 before JFK was assassinated and things got truly dark. Charles Plymell printed the first issue of San Francisco Earthquake and his Now magazine of 1963 documents this earlier and much less ballyhooed Summer of Love.
If the San Francisco Earthquake looks back to a time when the Summer of Love was not merely hype, it also looks forward to the unnatural disasters of 1968, when it looked like the shithouse was going to burn to the ground. “Behold the Prince of Darkness Comes!” Roel van Duyn’s Intro to Provo forecasts which way the wind would blow during the long, hot summer of 1968 and predicts the politics of rage practiced by the Weather Underground. As such San Francisco Earthquake is more than just a pivotal literary magazine that is increasingly getting its due in institutional circles, but one that documents a seismic shift in American history.