Mythbusters and the Mimeo Revolution

Old rare book catalogs are useful for more than driving yourself crazy looking at prices from days of yore.  For example, they can tell you little bibliographic details about a publication or suggest the truth about what is truly rare.  Take the C Press Sonnets by Ted Berrigan and Ed Sanders Fuck You, a magazine of the arts

183.  BERRIGAN, Ted.  The Sonnets.  Cover by Joe Brainard.  N.Y.:  “C”, 1964.  One of 300 copies, this copy is unnumbered.  Early cut-up technology and a cornerstone of the modern movement.  Stapled wrappers.  $30.00

Manufactured and/or readymade bricks (lines) placed in a wall (poem) through the chicks (holes) of which light (joy) occasionally shines.  – T.C.
There is a lot of interesting stuff going on in this short entry.  The most arresting is the price.  A similar copy of The Sonnets is now easily a thousand dollar book.  That is a compound annual growth rate of 11.21%.  Now I do not know much of anything about investing, except for the fact that I have been pretty adamant that collecting rare books is not a good one.  Well, I talked to my brother who does this accounting shit for a living and he assures me that five to ten percent is solid.  Hey, I am willing to be convinced.

In any case, Berrigan’s reputation is still solid 30-odd years later as The Sonnets is still a foundational text.  I was happy to see Richard Aaron acknowledge Burroughs’s influence on Berrigan and Tom Clark’s blurb referencing Duchamp provides a little joy.  I love to see Burroughs and Duchamp linked up.

Of far more interest to me than the above, is the fact that Aaron was selling an unnumbered copy.  In all my years of collecting I have seen far, far more unnumbered copies than numbered.  In fact I am having trouble right now recalling that last numbered copy I saw.  Probably in the James Jaffe catalog on the Tulsa School.  Every bookseller throws around the fact that there are 300 numbered copies but is that really true.  I was talking to Brian Cassidy about this and he has rarely seen a numbered copy.  It is interesting that this was the case over 30 years ago.  Were 300 copies actually numbered?  How many unnumbered were run off?  Should the unnumbered copies be considered a second printing?  Or did Berrigan just print copies whenever he needed to make the rent? 

Speaking of speaking with Brian Cassidy.  We were hashing out which issue of Fuck You, a magazine of the arts is the rarest.  One we came up with might surprise you.  Here is Richard Aaron’s entry:

1582.  (SANDERS, Ed.).  Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts.  N.Y.:  Fuck You Press, 1962-1965.  Offered here are Issues 1, 3-4, No. 5, Vol. 2-Vol.4 & Vol. 6-Vol.9.  Thus lacking three issues.  This set with the very scarce Warhol Couch cover to Vol. 9 (sic; it is Vol. 8).  The ultimate of what underground little press publishing was all about.  An AM Here Absolute Must!  Stapled wraps. (10 issues of 13)  $325

Along with its Lower East Side companion mag, Ted Berrigan’s “C”, Ed Sanders’ “Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts” is the primary document of the Sixties mimeograph explosion.  It contains peace, love, myth, yuks, porn, art, and much interesting literature, adding up to a “total assault on the culture.”  Contributors include Burroughs, Ginsberg, Berrigan, Corso, Auden, McClure, Jones, Huncke, Olson, Wieners, Whalen, Creeley, etc., etc. – T.C.
It is considered fact that the Madmotherfucker Issue with the Warhol cover is rare, or more accurately that the Warhol cover is rare.  Almost impossible to find actually attached to the magazine with the original staples.  In addition the early issues, particularly Issue 1 and 2 are considered tough; I know collectors who have struggled with Issue No. 5 Vol. 9.  It is also received wisdom that the middle issues, namely No. 5, Vol. 1-6, are the easiest to locate.  Yet talking to Brian suggests different.  For whatever reason No. 5, Vol. 5 is a real bitch to get.  This Am Here entry would seem to confirm Brian’s experience.  Weird. 

Such is the value of old rare book catalogs, they can simultaneously confirm and deny longstanding book collecting myths.


Coop on Buk from Am Here Book Catalog Five

I wrote about the Am Here Books Catalog Five over at RealityStudio and as promised here are some entries from the catalog that I thought were interesting.  Here is Dennis Cooper on Charles Bukowski:

275.  BUKOWSKI, CHARLES.  It Catches My Heart In Its Hands.   New Orleans:  Loujon, 1963.  This is a most unusual copy with a fine signed and dated inscription by the author facing the colophon page.  An important and handsomely produced work.  Very fine copy.                                                                 $125

The original, extremely rare edition of what just might be Bukowski’s best book of poems is a careful and exotic production on its own terms, and the poems therein, many unavailable elsewhere, are as valid as he’ll ever get them. – D.C.
276.  BUKOWSKI, CHARLES.  Crucifix In A Deathhand.   Etchings by Noel Rockmore.  N.Y.:  Loujon/Lyle Stuart, 1965.  This copy lacks the wrap-around band.  Signed and dated by the poet facing the colophon page.  Wrappers.

This is the place to start.  A generally smart selection from a slew of his early books.  He was never this sharp and perceptive again. – D.C.
280.  BUKOWSKI, CHARLES.  Mockingbird Wish Me Luck.  L.A.:  Black Sparrow, 1972.  Wrappers.  One of 2500 copies.

One of the better collections from Bukowski’s self-conscious period.  As self-parody, it is unusually acute.  As poetry, it fares best with the young-at-brain and the overtly drunk.  The top of his slide. – D.C.

Paul Taylor: A Floating Bear Conversation

From Floating Bear 17:

Paul Taylor – A History

What has happened?

Once there was Dance Associates, they performed at the Master Institute.  Paul Taylor was a Dance Associate, so was James Waring.

Mr. Taylor danced The Least Flycatcher and Three Epitaphs and others.  Then Dance Associates disintegrated.  Mr. Taylor gave a concert with two beautiful dances, one to a tape of “at the tone, the time will be –“ and another of rain.  Then other concerts in which nothing happened.  And now this latest one.

Mr. Taylor made dances because he loved making them – he loved to dance them.

Love is ultimately beautiful.
Love is interesting.
Love is exciting
It was lovely to watch Paul Taylor.
Paul Taylor is not exciting.
Paul Taylor is not interesting.
Paul Taylor is not ultimately beautiful.
It is hard to watch Paul Taylor working at his job.
A job is not interesting or beautiful or exciting.

Fred Herko

From Floating Bear #19

Dear Floating Bear,

Fred Herko’s review of Paul Taylor says:  “Love is ultimately beautiful.  Love is interesting.  Love is exciting . . . Mr. Taylor is not exciting.  Mr. Taylor is not interesting.  Mr Taylor is not ultimately beautiful.”  Herko is judging Taylor by an idea.  This idea – the idea of love and art and The Unsoiled Life – is shit.  If Taylor fails by that, he’s doing fine.  Herko had better watch his language.

Edwin Denby

From Floating Bear #30

Dear Fl. Bear,

May I point out to Mr. Denby that it’s impossible to judge anything except by means of ideas.  He has misunderstood Mr. Herko’s idea – which, it seems to me, was that art is not interesting unless it is motivated by love – to give, and to share experience.

James Waring

Dear Leroy and Diana

Regarding the Paul Taylor History

I think it’s terrible that your magazine should support this kind of thing.  I get upset every time I think of Mr. Herko cowardly hiding behind the soft-headed love dialectics – Stupidity, cowardice or viciousness – there is no excuse for that article.

Alex Katz


LeRoi Jones on James Waring and Dance Company

James Waring and Dance Company
(Wed & Thurs, 24&25 January 1962 The Henry Street Playhouse)

The concert consisted of four dances, and each dance seemingly of groups of solos.  That is, Waring seems to work out individual movement, as a fact of meat or space, and then to use them together as a dance.  Waring’s dances are for individuals, and having the individuals performing them together forces a surprising unity, i.e., imaginary bonds, of performance.  It is rather like going to a party where everyone has decided to be interesting for a change.

The dances were:   Phrases (1955), a painfully somber exercise.  The Satie piano music does not violate the strict blackness of the dance, even tho it is essentially lighthearted.  This dance was, I think, the most group-like of the program.  The first movements of Valda Setterfield and David Gordon, in a series of highly stylized, yet completely banal threadings and re-threadings across the central eye of the audience, was finally so beautifully grotesque as to remind one once and for all that dancing is performed with arms and legs and elbows; starts and stops.  The dance reduced most movement to essential bone with flesh, but as objects to be canonized.

Dithyramb (1961) moved into Mr. Waring’s more recent work, and the group choreographed feeling of Phrases was almost completely absent.  The individual solos or separations balanced admirably, even though the dance was sprinkled with single virtuoso precis (even stunts).  Fred Herko is a particularly adept stuntman, and a willing virtuoso.  William Davis had a grace that was a happy addition to choreography that is essentially hard and edgy.

Two More Moon Dances (1961) was a hilarious piece.  Remy Charlip’s costumes were wonderfully absurd, especially Mr. Waring’s, which looked as if it had been borrowed from the Wizard of Oz.  Valda Setterfield and David Gordon (and Mr. Gordon’s painted mustache) nearly walked away with the whole dance, except that Mr. Waring seemed to be everywhere at once, and Yvonne Rainer his persistent accomplice.  This dace was the most “theatrical”, and for this reason lost a great deal of the “pure dance” quality that most of Mr. Waring’s other pieces have.  But even the theatricality of this dance was much more sophisticated than the neo-graham school of television soap operas which seems somehow to have gotten rid of any Grahamisms, and Moon Dances has no more relation to Miss Graham and her followers than A Cool Million is related to Amerika.

Dromenon  (1961), the last dance, was perhaps the most pretentious of the program, but it also was responsible for some unbelievably beautiful dancing by Fred Herko, Yvonne Rainer, and Mr. Waring himself.  Toby Armous seem to possess the most lyric quality of any of the performers.  She handles her body like an idea, almost effortlessly.  Richard Maxfield’s music was quite impressive in this last dance, a piece done with tapes along with live musicians.  It was much more than some of the other strictly taped, music concrete sounding pieces, or the willful affectation of George Brecht’s breath-like chatter behind Dithyramb.  However, the whole story was Mr. Waring’s choreography and performance, as well as the brilliant performances of his company.  It is a shame that we cannot watch Mr. Waring and Co. perform (or the companies of Merce Cunningham or Aileen Passloff or Paul Taylor) more often.  Once or twice a year is certainly not enough.  Why is it that people like Alwin Nikolais and his original dixieland jazzband are always around, and really estimate performers like Mr. Waring and Mr. Cunningham are not able to appear more often?  (A good question, Sam.

LeRoi Jones
from Floating Bear #19


Before Grenier Made His Major Statement

John Wieners guest edited Floating Bear #33.  Like many of the guest edited issues after Leroi Jones left, it is pretty haphazard and chaotic stuff, but I love these issues.  You never know what is going to turn up.  Issue 33 features an early poem by Robert Grenier around the time his first collection, Dusk Road Games, was published out of Cambridge.

A Race

Picking strawberries,
in the sun,
on opposite sides of a row,
she says, “I’ll race you!”

the bitch, and we did, picked
berries & runners & leaves & straw
laughs mad dashed in our baskets
whirled about hair, and there

was an immense, red, “Mine!”
I cried, my fingers upon it,
her hand upon mine, “No.”r

Sap.  Her soft, black hair.
She won:  the wondrous berry
raised and placed in her mouth.

Robert Grenier
Cambridge 1962


Sorrentino on Signal Magazine

Gilbert Sorrentino was one of the foremost critics of the Mimeo Revolution, who knew what he was talking about because he was immersed in it.  He edited Neon and was on the Kulchur board.  His critical work in Kulchur, Yugen, Floating Bear and elsewhere was widely read amongst the inner circle and much discussed in bars and cold-water flats.  Here he is writing about Signal magazine in the pages of Floating Bear.  If you want the benefits of hindsight, here is Stephanie Anderson writing on some overlooked mags of the New York scene from the mid-60s, including Signal.

Signal:  A New Magazine
I don’t know why I was asked to review one issue (the first) of a new magazine, but maybe it’s because there are so few magazines around nowadays; a new one that is also regular (one hopes) is something of an event.  O.K.  This is a promising enterprise, with some of the old “standby” names on the contents page, plus some new names.  The material varies in value and interest, but there is a kind of vitality in the issue which presages good things . . . there is a “direction,” as it is said, which is another thing hard to find, not only now, but anytime, in a magazine, viz., there is such a thing as editing, an ability far removed from a collecting of “good” pieces, the collection then being printed and distributed.  Signal has a feel to it, a kind of unity of intention(s).

To take the prose first.  Fee Dawson has a strong and well-done piece from what I understand is a long work, Thread.  It’s the best thing of Fee’s I’ve seen in a long time, everyone knows that his prose is unique in our time, his rapture in his own command of language is here controlled so that we don’t get the “felicitous phrase” because, well, it’s there, why not use it.  I like the dryness here, a thin bitter dryness.  David Kleinbard’s prose loses me, it’s from a novel, but I don’t know who’s who, or what’s going on.  He writes well, meticulous, somewhat affected, if I remember right, the early Sansom stories that appeared in Partisan Review about ’48 or ’49 had this texture, and weave.  I honestly  don’t see how a “novel” written in this manner could hold me though, too much dessert.  Bob Basara, well, he’s in Bill Burroughs’ bag, I can’t make it.  Jimmy Waring writes like all amateurs write, dancers, actors, painters, you name it.  His heart is in the right place, but what the hell?  He says things like “tragedy has no sense of humor.”  O.K.  I’ll buy that.  Sort of like Jacques Plante facing Koufax.  Frank O’Hara’s spoof is  lovely one, he’s got the officialese down beautifully.  Mike Rumaker’s poem has to be included in with the prose, it’s a nice little piece, but it ain’t a poem.

What about the poems?  Some very strong stuff here.  LeRoi Jones has two handsome poems, one is extremely interesting, Three Modes of History and Culture, the structure of the first section uses a terse second  “line” which slows the movement of the poem and gives the third line (of each stanza) a rushing, headlong movement, slams it into the first line of the next stanza, then the process repeats itself.  Jones is becoming a truly excellent poet, the other poem too, is fine.  Joel Oppenheimer has to old poems in here, I saw them in MS about five years ago, they’re what you know you’ll get from him, he’s a pro.  I like Diane Di Prima’s Moth because I like how she handles a short line, and I don’t feel any great attraction toward her long-lined poems, they get heavy, and self-consciously somber.  This one is clean, terse and exact in its vocabulary.  Frank O’Hara’s got one of his “walking around” poems, like very witty gossip, fine by me, that’s what Frank does.  Frank Lima prints two incredibly strong poems, a very, very interesting young guy, the best of the “newer” voices around.  Bill Merwin and John Wieners have two good poems, John particularly, his special gentle tone.  I don’t know what’s happened to Dave Meltzer, I really thought he was going to come on but I haven’t seen one thing by him that isn’t just so-so, in three years.  Must be California air.  I’ve read the other poems with varying degrees of attention, some of them threw me, they’re poems, some of them, I just couldn’t make it past the fifth or sixth line, but they’re not really bad, they’re all saying something that I don’t care about, I guess, or they not saying anything, tho Clive Matson has one good line, “even the roaches here don’t eat what I leave them/theyre so feeble” (two lines), then I lose him.  But I try them again, they are somewhere else, and not only haven’t I been there, but they make where they’ve been a mystery.  Levy and Irwin present poems which look like the things that a college literary review with a hip editor would print, like, the hell with the Phi Delta Xi!  Last Year At Marienbad in words, ho-hum.  Hart Crane’s poem is interesting because it’s history, the lines and measure are awkward as hell, but the vocabulary, imagery, and syntax prefigure the mature Crane, in fact, his (at sixteen!) sense of image and metaphor are mature already; it remained for him to say something he knew, deeply, and not invented, and to pick up on that might line of Marlowe’s.  But the presentation of the poem is an excellent service.

All in all, as I said, a strong first issue.  The one thing I really don’t like is the shortness of the prose pieces.  It’s not good for a long piece to get chopped up this way, particularly in a quarterly, but, till somebody comes along who’s willing to lose a specific amount of money (say, 10 grand) on a weekly, Signal is, along with the few other indigent publications, cooking.



A Rave Review By Means of a Bad One

I have made no secret of my deep appreciation of the work being done by the Lost and Found Series at CUNY.  They are doing remarkable recovery projects over there and I recommend everybody buying everything they have put out.  Well, I just got their most recent newsletter and I was pleased to see that editor Michael Seth Stewart in conjunction with Lost and Found and City Lights has a book out on the selected journals by John Wieners.  Get a copy here.  Stewart also has some speaking engagements planned.  I eagerly look forward to reading this collection.  I was a huge fan of the job Stewart did on the selected letters of Wieners and Charles Olson a while back for the Lost and Found Series.  Simply wonderful and I had the pleasure of talking to Stewart briefly at the Burroughs Conference at CUNY in 2014, where I expressed my admiration.  I am very happy to see him getting wider exposure, not just for himself but also for Wieners.

In celebration of this new collection of previously unpublished material, I would like to present Stewart with Wieners' crushing review of John Rechy's City of Night from Floating Bear 27.  I recommend Stewart's collection of Wieners and Olson letters has strongly as Wieners condemns Rechy.  I only present Wieners' review because I have the hope that it, like the journals and letters that Stewart has recovered, has not been presented before the reading public for quite some time.  I am sure Stewart is aware of this review, the level of his research is astounding, but it is the best I can do.  Congrats and I look forward to reading the journals.

THE REPORTERS  a review by John Wieners

Dear City Of Night:  I know you too well.  I think your men’s rooms stink.  I was arrested in one.  Which is more than you can say.  I think that if you were arrested, you would have written a different book.

I don’t think that is your language at all, in City of Night.  I think the City of Night is very articulate, or not articulate at all, whichever way you want to look at it.

And a man who reads Colette should look at it a different way, than say, a journeying longshoreman.  I admit I haven’t read you all yet, but that is because you are hard to do.  There is no difference in you, whether you happen to be in New York or San Francisco, the place doesn’t seem to affect any difference in your articulateness.  The city is a loose, sprawling place.  It doesn’t seem to bunch you up so you can communicate anything to anyone else except desparateness, or articulate frenzy.  The place doesn’t change, only the people do.  And do you know, after a while, that they are all going to act the same way.  But to get back to language.  How can anyone straight read your book?

If only from a morbid curiousity.  For it’s morally corrupting.  I don’t mean in a moral sense, but in the sense that your senses are impaired by coming into contact with that sort of artificial, hysterical neon-lit cheap glamour, that has no mystery to it, only the drabness of daylight at dawn.  Like the dawn, it has no impulse to it at all.  It just drifts in, and makes one impatient.  To be out, spreading his own light.  And I didn’t like your boo, because I just wanted to go to bed, and pretend your world didn’t exist, and that I would not have bad dreams because of it.

And I didn’t.  That is how real your book is.  It didn’t even affect the unconscious.  Of course, it does affect the real conscious.  I can see Harvard seniors running off to Times Square after they finish reading it.  Or myself even; I never see a boot but I think of the man who turned around and rolled his tongue along yours.  But who cares.  It is not a work of the imagination, despite the carefully worded descriptions, and carefully built up artificially recorded conversations.

It is a world of false holocaust.  The desert and the wind are within you.  And the dead dog.  They die in Dr. Faustus, too, but she, a real master of the flux and fall of reality, its true glamour, and light, knows there is no real tragedy in that.  Tragedy is dead, along with us, if we perpetuate that valley of shadows amongst us.  Oh, somebody, please turn off the lights.  There is no true City of the Night with them on.  There is no truth of darkness.  The snake does appear but we wouldn’t know, with this all-seeing One with his all-seeing eye about us.  Go blind first, Mr. City of Night, and then tell us of the darkness.

We know you have been dragged along the streets, and rousted, and hustled, and shook down, and blown but have you ever opened the windows to let the night come in.  And you were nowhere to be found, and record it for us.

That is the way we want it.  Some boy might say:  “It’s the story of my life.”  But it’s the story of all our lives, and nobody cares but ourselves.  I admit it’s better than the newspapers, and a record of the times, but of the true rhythm and destruction of life, our truth as we live it, maybe in an instant apart from other, is there any of that?

Is there any true contemplation or revelation in it?  Or merely just a record that is pretty scratched and lightly worn.  One does not feel changed, by your art or life, Mr. City of Night.  One does not feel disgusted or shocked.  One does not seem any part of it.  It is a becoming and a going apart.  It is what we do with our daytimes and nights.  It does not touch the depths, much as McClure’s Meat Science Essays do not reveal any truth about heroin, or cocaine, or peyote, other than what he finds.  What else can we hope for?  from them.  Only that they touch a spot we have all encountered.  Not just a surface reporting.  A reportage of the depths.  A dimension that is limited to one.  Not a moon-shot. Nor a hot shot.  Not death.

I don’t want it.  I only know The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Diana Cooper tells me more about morphine and addiction than William Burroughs.  But there you go again.  Clawing at your masters.  Let them be.  Let women speak.  They know.  They speak so seldom about such matters.  But they know.  That is why they get shot, and never appear in your City of Night, except as shadowy creatures, like Gene De Lancey, and all she does is provoke tears in you.  Dear City of Night, come home, sleep with them, find what joy it is.  Just to sleep, not to touch.  Let us touch hands.  Let us pass the book back and forth.  We only want to know.  What is there is know but the unknown.  The known is here before us.  We don’t need that, except as it appears in the beauty out of your eye.  It doesn’t have to be reported.  It can be catched in a word, an image, not in well-developed phrases, and well-thought of words alone.  Let madness come.  It doesn’t teach anything.  It merely says, beware, the men are around.  Near you the depths.  Disaster and disease await.  Avoid them, at all cost.  You have to surrender yourself to attain self.

That flows through the universe, activating the stars.


Well, we all have been through the City of Night, we all have used peyote; and had nightmares and delusions; there isn’t even any madness anymore, because the attendants are always around, and see to it that no one goes mad.  They also give us bills for it.  And pills.  So hallucinogen world I don’t want.  It’s been Hallucinogen?  all along.  Even in childhood.  What greater hallucinogen is there than that.

So City of Night, you don’t terrify, you don’t inform, you don’t affect us, you just mystify, bring back unpleasant contaminated memories, that doesn’t cleanse, purify, cost us, anything at all.

All we do is boring, all we can do is expect someone will come along to terrify us, bore us, become us, betray us, be anything to us.  But be close, be the thing the way it is, or isn’t, but be something, don’t be dull, flat, one-dimensional landscape, that even doesn’t occupy yourself, except that it holds out an easy way to attain something that you think will fill us or you with despair, nausea, moral learning, disgust, hallucination, evoke memories, of our past, show us the thing the way it is, the way you see it, when all it does, is bore us, and send shivers along our skin, our ears fill up with bloat and bilge; it’s no wonder Cain’s Book is on a houseboat-barge although it does have some interesting things to say on firelight, Fay, the scene, and the orchid-bulb in the dropper.  We float among them.  We don’t need to be told.  It is done for us, anyway.  You don’t mean a thing for you ain’t got the thing by its tail, swung as we are, above our own heads, by that mysterious force which is so evident in some or all of us, but so missing in yours or them.  For I classify you together:  the reporters.


The Floating Bear Family

The cover of Floating Bear 30 features the inspired artwork of Diane di Prima;s six year old daughter Jeannie.  I love the idea of di Prima giving Jeannie a blank stencil and a stylus at the kitchen table at 35 Cooper Square.  This is the Mimeo Revolution equivalent of giving your kid a box of crayons as a pacifier.  What I like even more is that di Prima seemingly had Jeannie address the issues for mailing.  I wonder if that is really what is going on above or did di Prima fake Jeannie's handwriting?  The idea of Jeannie addressing 300-500 copies of Floating Bear sounds like a Mimeo Revolution sweatshop.  In either case, Issue 30 conjures up concepts of childlike innocence and perception which Revolution poets tried to capture as well as establishing an alternative domesticity, the underground as communal family in contrast to the traditional nuclear unit of the Fifties.  The American Theatre for Poets, headquartered out of di Prima's apartment, served as an alternative family as well.  This is not Ozzie and Harriet or the Cleavers.  Di Prima is no Donna Reed. Her memoir makes this clear.

Leroi Jones left the Floating Bear family after issue 25.  I find these later issues to be much more funky and fun.  Like a crazy gathering around the holidays.  Think the cover of Issue 28, with Santa on the toilet, which documented and poked fun at the whole underground.  Maybe it is all the crazy uncles di Prima let edit the magazine.  Issue 30 and its cover is a perfect example of what I find endearing about the post-Jones era.


Floating Bear: The Criticism

This summer I had a conversation with Mark Simon who played the role of Benway in the theater production of Naked Lunch.  I had no idea there was a theater performance of Burroughs' classic novel.  Shows you what I know.  The play was performed in the mid-1970s and in a few instances Burroughs took part.  Talking to Mark was fascinating stuff and the Naked Lunch stuff proved to be the least of it.  It was really interested in the underground theater, about which I knew precious little.  Thankfully he gave me a short reading list about Off-Off Broadway and queer theater.  I am reading Stephen J. Bottoms' Playing Underground:  A Critical History of the 1960s Off-Off Broadway Movement right now.  I am more than halfway through, so I think it is safe to recommend at this point.

A few posts ago I wrote about how underground film went hand in hand with the Mimeo Revolution.  The same can be said about Off-Off Broadway.  Of course all these scenes overlapped.  In the case of underground theater, the American Theatre for Poets and the Judson Poets Theatre make this clear.  As does a mimeo mag like Floating Bear.  I always think of Kulchur as the go-to place for criticism relating to the 60s underground but Bottoms' book reminds me that Floating Bear was first and foremost not a straightforward poetry mag but a community newsletter so naturally it reports on what was going on around it in the arts in all forms and formats.  And for Leroi Jones and Diane Di Prima one aspect of this is the Off-Off Broadway scene.  Di Prima's memoir Recollections of My Life as a Woman is a valuable primary source on underground theater in the 1960s.  Bottoms had me reaching for my copies of Floating Bear early on in his book when he quoted a theater review of Gertrude Stein's "What Happened" performed at the Judson.  I was surprised to see that Alan Marlowe, Di Prima's husband  through much of the 60s, wrote a review and I wanted to read it.  Turns out the review Bottoms quotes was actually by Michael Rumaker, not Marlowe.  Marlowe contributed little more than a blurb on the Judson twinbill, which is below.  Rumaker goes into more detail on the following page. Hopefully if I can get my act together, the full Rumaker review will follow along with other reports on the underground theater, dance and art scene from the pages of Floating Bear.  The Marlowe is just an appetizer.  You have to leave the audience wanting more.    

What Happened.  A Play in Five Acts by Gertrude Stein
Presented by the Judson Poets Theatre
Directed by Larry Kornfeld

“What Happened was what happened to Gertrude Stein’s lovely sonorous sentences with a charming piano score by Al Carmines.  There was singing sung by the cast of light, and dance movement and games by the Waring girls.  Everyone had a good time and produced a delightful theatre piece.
“Asphodel, In Hell’s Despite” by John Wieners which accompanied the Stein was a piece of John Wieners’ very special reality.  The production by Jerry Benjamin did little to benefit the piece, but Wieners’ words are always a delight to hear.

The Church is again fostering The Arts.  The Judson Dance Theatre which in its series of programs had introduced many new dance works and performers, the Judson Poets’ Theatre, a group sculpture and painting show in the Parrish House and gardens of beautiful St. Mark’s on the Bouerie, and its summer series of poetry readings and music concerts have brightened up the scene considerably.

                                                                                                                        Alan Marlowe

Secret Location on the Upper East Side

As much as I hate to admit it, Kulchur is one of the great magazines of the Mimeo Revolution.  The mag irks because it proves false my notion that good funding translates into a bad mag.  On the contrary, Kulchur is great precisely because it is well-funded.  It just looks money in terms of design (even if Lita Hornick did not get her money’s worth with the printers) and the contents are a wealth of information on the New York art scene in all its facets from film, art, literature, and theater.  Hornick got great reviews and chronicles from great writers because she paid for them.  In this case, she got her money’s worth.

Nowhere is Hornick’s money more apparent than in a subscription form I found in Kulchur 19.  (Reminder:  Collectors and archivists should gather this shit up; it is important.)  First and foremost, Mimeo Revolution mags generally do not generate formal business documents of this nature.  Just compare the announcement for the first issue of Kulchur against Hornick’s subscription form in issue 19.  In my mind, mimeos did not require blank forms or letterhead.  They were too human and personal for that.  Mimeo publishers were not bureaucracies.  No subscription forms because they did not accept subscriptions or in the case of a mag like Floating Bear or Semina, they were not for sale at all.  Gift economies are not awash in gray paper.  Semina’s business correspondence is mail art.  I suspect that this is another of my personal myths about the Mimeo Revolution.

I just read Lisa Gitelman’s Paper Knowledge, which attempts to lay the groundwork for a media history of documents that analyzes and contextualizes business documents and job printing, such as the Kulchur subscription form.  I envision a book that takes The Kulchur Foundation, Fuck You Press, City Lights, Grove Press, Cornith/Totem Press, Floating Bear and Semina and examines them as counterculture businesses and economies.  I think studies of this type have been done with Hippie capitalism.  I wonder what a similar case study of the Mimeo Revolution would turn up.  If one wants to study the Mimeo Revolution as a business, the archives of The Kulchur Foundation would be an interesting place to start.  In fact there are substantial archives for all the entities listed above, with maybe the exception of Semina, but this lack is an important part of the Semina business model if you can call it that.

I found the most interesting part of the Kulchur subscription form to be the publisher’s address:  888 Park Avenue.  Compare this to 299 West 12th Street, which was constructed in 1929 to rival the residences of Central Park West, for the first issue of Kulchur.  Park Avenue was the location of Lita Hornick’s apartment and that residence is one of the most famous and exclusive in New York City.  It housed a Kennedy (Caroline) and kept out an IMAX CEO recently because his stock portfolio did not pass muster with the homeowner association.  In today’s market, apartments are selling for $13 million.  I doubt collation parties took place at 888 Park Avenue (like at, say Apartment 7C), but in the Mimeo Revolution the cocktail party was just as crucial for funding and survival.  The Secret Location on the Upper East Side, the home of sponsors, collectors, cultural tourists, and, as in the case of Hornick, publishers, is just as much the prime real estate of the Mimeo Revolution as the Lower East Side.  Nowadays it is all prime real estate for sure.  An apartment at 299 West 12th Street goes for over $4 million.  If 888 Park Avenue housed a Kennedy, 299 West 12th housed an Aniston (Jennifer).  The Kulchur subscription forms if opened for study could tell an interesting story about the business and the real estate of the alternative press and the counterculture.


Ron Padgett on Veitch's Literary Days

Literary Days:  Tom Veitch:  C Press: $1
I know of three American “novelists” whose work deserves if not more money and recognition then at least more praise:  Harry Mathews (The Conversions), Kenneth Koch (The Red Robins) and Tom Veitch (What’s, a Psychic Novel).  Selections from Mr. Veitch’s novel as well as other prose pieces by him have recently been published under the title Literary Days.  These short selections read like one continuous story.  They demonstrate, to me at least, that Mr. Veitch is an extremely talented and interesting writer, so interesting that William Burroughs, upon reading Literary Days, was prompted to scan, shift and intersect it.  Also, Mr. Veitch is young (23).
In person Mr. Veitch is immodest and shy, so much like one of his characters that few people believe in his existence.  Where is “he” in his “work?”  Ask that question but never try to answer it.  Mr. Veitch’s characters don’t seem very worried about their identities; in fact, there don’t seem to be any characters in his work, though there are many proper names, such as Nana-bana-dog, Tristan Tzara, Maw and Pa, Thom, as well as he, she, it and I.
Besides being “the best comic writer since” himself, Mr. Veitch manages to write sweetly.  Not honey and doves, because I don’t think he is interested in honey or doves, since they are after all jokes, and he does not tell jokes.  His comedy is sustained by moral force and probably also by the joy of knowing that the work he does is new, interesting and likely to inspire someone else.  I find no trace of black nausea in his work.
His favorite theme is “childhood”:
I offered him a cup of hot tea from my thermos, and he drank it with great thirst.
“What’s the matter kid?”  I said in his native tongue.
“Mirobbila ses tid fos vol jok roc yot gim boy boy!”  he screamed
I assented and gave him one.
“Fok,” he said.
His second favorite theme is food:
Between that time and my twenty-eighth year my literary activity was furious.  I attended every literary tea and dinner from August 28th, 1940 to July 17th, 1951, which amounted to over 4,399 teas and 9,821 dinners, at which I consumed a total of 10,732 gallons of tea, 8,440 assorted cakes and cookies, 9,821 steak dinners, 18,024 glasses of wine, 15,555 toothpicks, 24,778 sardine sandwiches, 62,001 cheese crackers, 88,201 pieces of string bean, 400,700 (approximate) spoonfuls of mashed potatoes, 14,290 alka-seltzers, and 1,904,799 assorted confections, desserts, tarts, pies, vegetables, soups, demi-tasses, cups of coffee, appetizers, sandwiches, crumbs, fruits, pills, whisky sours, fly specks, cantaloupes, ice creams, welsh rarebits, herringbones, chicken livers, goose gizzards, chocolate ants, kidney stones, pig knuckles, flying farts, garbage trays, billard balls, dunce caps, cutlasses, crabgrass, kangaroo tongues, belly-buttons, barber shears, window ledges, tenthooks, slippery eels, toadstools, tradewinds, telephones, salesman, climatizers, rapid transits, junk trucks, peters, pickles, pipes, peppers, etc., etc., etc., . . .
When I read Literary Days at night I wake up in the morning.

                                                                                                Ron Padgett

Ron Padgett on Berrigan's The Sonnets

The Sonnets:  Ted Berrigan:  C Press:  $1

My dream is to have a drink with the people who wrote these poems.  They mean “something.”  They mean to me what night letters from everyone I have ever known would mean to me.  Perhaps I weep too much.  Still, if you want your life to change, change your shirt the same way you must read from line to line, sonnet to sonnet, and line to sonnet, because many people, when reading these poems, all roar.

The romance of these poems is overwhelming and of course it rains often in them outside the author’s room in his head.  In these sonnets the world in its mysteries is explained and at last extinct!

Santa Claus wrote this book as a technical journal and then walked out and looked for you.  You made it hard to write.  That’s probably why there this excitement to be all of night, and seeming wide night.  Perhaps this is our one chance to have a big drink of waterbugs.  Fortunately, Guillaume is dead.

Either these poems are feminine marvelous and tough or I am feminine marvelous and tough when I read them on the site of Benedict Arnold’s triumph, Ticonderoga.  It hurts.  Au revoir, scene!  I am forced to write “au revoir,” when I mean “my hands make love to my body when my arms are around you.”  But no rivers of annoyance undermine the arrangements, for they are present as a breakdown of Juan Gris.

The Sonnets is a dream as variously as possible.  It lives by its teeth, the most elegant present I could get.  The grace and clarity of these poems turn into writing in my skin.  Except at night, the only major statement of a blue shirt, such as “these sonnets are an homage to myself, Benjamin Franklin.”
When I first read these poems I had a birthday, got married and told a joke.  What else, imitations of Shakespeare?  Who can say no to it later?  Do I even understand the dark trance of these sonnets?  No, for they are present.  Trains go by and they are trains, alone in stillness, the code for the west.  Any syntactical error of goodbye honors gunfire by Max Jacob.  She had a great toe!  It hurts on the 15th day of November.  But then, a hurting toe is worth at least more or less one apple belly stride toward the sofa of wide melancholy. What these sonnets unclench shall increase from this, returning past the houses he has passed.

                                                                                                            Ron Padgett

Berrigan on the Making of The Lily of St. Mark's

Read United Artists 13 on the train today.  A strong issue I felt mainly because it features excerpts from several journals that I found fascinating:  Eileen Myles Journal 1960, Ron Padgett’s account of the making of Oo La La, Charlotte Carter’s Morocco Journal 1980, Ted Berrigan’s Selections from a Journal,  and Lewis Warsh’s On Reading.  Alice Notley's Waltzing Matilda utilizes the journal form as does Russell Banks' The Relation of My Imprisonment.  Berrigan’s journal chronicles his activities in late 1977 into 1978 and amongst all the comings and goings, people and places you can piece together a pretty cool accounting of the making of Steve Carey’s The Lily of St. Mark’s, published as a C Press title in 1978.  It shows just how quick a book could be issued from conception to printing with a mimeograph.  About a month exactly in this case.  Here are the excerpts from Berrigan’s Journal dealing with the publication of Carey’s book of poems.

Feb 17 1978: 

We made Steve go to the dentist.  He needs 3 teeth out.  I gave him $17.00 for dentist  & codeine & anti-biotics.  He feels pretty good, tho his teeth don’t.
I suggested he write a new long poem and put it in a book I will mimeo as a C Press book & he sd today he started one last night, about The Physically Strong Woman!
George said he’d happily do a cover for Steve.

Feb 20, 1978:

Steve brought over 8 more poems to go with the 14 I’ve typed on stencils and so his book will be 22 pp plus title, dedication and copyright page etc.  Maybe 200 copies.
Steve Facey, who said he’d get me the paper, confirmed today that he wd.  Now to get the title and a cover from George, who agreed to do it.
Typing up Steve’s poems is illuminating, his moves are so perfectly his and so impeccably accurate to precision of emotion as well as quality of.

Feb 25, 1978:

Finished typing & fixing Steve’s stencils.  The book – The Lily of St. Mark’s – is all ready to go – waiting for the cover and for Steve to decide on the order.

March 6, 1978:

Now it’s 11:05, we’re back from a delicious dinner at Katie’s.  Anselm & I are lying in my bed waiting to watch Allen Ginsberg on the Dick Cavett show.  Tonight earlier I typed up the stencil for Steve’s poem “Old Year,” which will be the final poem in the book.  Tomorrow Bob & I will run it off at the Church.

March 11, 1978:

Alice returns tomorrow and what have I done since she left?  Well, Tuesday I typed up four more poems that Steve brought over, and also paid Ron for the paper or maybe paid him Monday? and Tuesday night went to dinner with the kids at Steve and Toms w/ Kate Hammond there also.  Then I went with Bob Rosenthal to the Church & we ran off Steve’s book and chatted with Johnny Stanton.

March 15, 1978

Got Steve’s covers.  Made 3 copies of his book – will finish it tomorrow.  Worked on Peter’s mss.  11-2 – typed up 5 poems.

March 16, 1978:

Grandma sent 20 today.  Steve & I & Simon Pettet collated ½ of Steve’s book & now (8:30) Alice & Steve are over doing the rest at the Church.  We did not receive Alice’s check form Poet’s & Writers but Marion volunteered to loan us the fare, so we are all of (A & me & the kids) to Lenox, Mass. tomorrow to visit with Lewis & Bernadette.  Happily Tom comes by at 10 with pills.
Stupid ass Tom did not get pills but I love him anyway.


Some Recommendations

I am a big fan of Jan Herman, particularly as an editor and publisher.  You may know him for his work on the little mag San Francisco Earthquake and the Nova Broadcast series.  For my money these two projects are some of the most interesting of the late 1960s/early 1970s.  Herman put the Fluxus idea of the democratic multiple into practice with spectacular results.  He also worked as a right hand man for Lawrence Ferlinghetti and Dick Higgins at City Lights and Something Else Press.  Herman's is a remarkable story that I have had the pleasure of getting to know first hand for years.  Click Here.  Granary Books has just issued a memoir by Jan that I highly recommend.  Click Here.  Order a copy; it is a fascinating story.

Which brings me to David Abel's Passages Bookshop in Portland Oregon.  Abel shares a space with Mimeo Mimeo favorites Division Leap.  There may be no more exciting and innovative space relating to book dealing happening in the country right now.  And things are going to happen in this space.  Think Kaprow.  The potential of their combined forces is mind blowing.  Division Leap and Passages are taking things to the next level.  Division Leap worked with curator Libby Werbel on an exhibit dealing with ephemera for the Portland Museum of Art.  Click Here.  Passages just issued its first catalog, which is fantastic.  Click Here.  

On a personal note and to tie things back to Jan, the catalog had a copy of Ferdinand Kriwet's Publit published by Nova Broadcast in 1971.  Kriwet provides a critical reading of concrete poetry, which could serve as an introduction into much of the work offered by Passages for sale.  The first collectible I ever bought was the Nova Broadcast The Dead Star and the last Broadcast I needed to complete my set was Publit.  I have been trying to lock down a copy for years.  Again I highly recommend Passages Bookshop.  They have the hard to find and extraordinary.


A Clean, Boring Well Lighted Place

I highly recommend little magazine collectors getting their hands on contemporary accounts of the landscape.  Secret Location is wonderful, but so are the various roundtables and newspaper accounts of the time that attempted to come to turns with the Mimeo Revolution as it was happening.

Take Works:  A Quarterly of Writing, which in 1969 included a small press section in its Spring issue.  The presses represented included:  Open Skull, Something Else, Unicorn Press, Black Sparrow, Ox Head, Angel Hair, New Rivers, TwoWindows.  A mix of Mimeo Revolution as defined by Secret Location and the more traditional small press, but not the fine press.

Works is in the small press camp.  By and large the editors look down on mimeo as beneath them while at the same time viewing the fine press as too lofty and removed from the general reader.  That is the small press in a nutshell.   In the middle and wallowing in mediocrity.

Here is Alan Brilliant of Unicorn Press in full wallow:

Another development is lack of taste:  thousands of poets and the mimeograph revolution has resulted in a deluge of words, ugly to read and see, literally an onslaught of verbiage.  Little magazines, especially the mimeos, have become the television sets of poetry readers.  Meanwhile, limited editions, swank designs, elegant printing, signed and numbered colophons have replaced the poem itself.  Between the Scylla of dilettantism and the Charybdis of muck, the small press publisher must sail his fragile craft.  The future looks black of the unpretentious.

Stuck in the middle with you.  I would rather stick wax in my ears than be subjected to Brilliant's elevator music.  Pure torture that is for the dogs.  But Brilliant is right without knowing it.  Mimeo is without a doubt a cool medium.  In addition it introduces some much needed noise into the system.  I am all for feedback.  What is yours?


The Beginning of the End for the "Perfectly Poor" Mag City

It has become an accepted fact in the history of the Mimeo Revolution that the election of Ronald Reagan marked the end of the era.  One of the big factors was the sudden decline in governmental funding of the arts.  In some respects, the publishers created this problem themselves.  Jerome Rothenberg writes in Secret Location:  “Increasingly too there had developed a dependence on support from institutional & governmental sources – the National Endowment for the Arts, say, as the major case in point.  The result was to impose both a gloss of professionalism on the alternative publications & to make obsolete the rough & ready book works of the previous two decades.  But the greatest danger of patronage was that the denial of that patronage, once threatened, became an issue that would override all others.”

I wrote about Mag City in this context awhile back and I come to Mag City again as I have been reading the magazine in the last couple of weeks.  Take issue 12 published in 1981.  Allen Ginsberg’s “Capitol Air” captures the fact that, as Masters wrote in 1995, “we were weathering a decade of Republican leadership that was contemptuous of free expression, individual peculiarities, social justice, and fun.”  The magazine also comments on end of an era in governmental assistance.  In David Herz’s short story “Remedial”, the main character works in a bureaucratic setting screening “the perfectly poor” for government assistance.  Such people were part of the Mag City circle:  “Most of the poets worked part-time jobs or worked a few months and took off a few months.  We wanted to be ready for the poem.  We lived for poetry and were grateful to have discovered there were others out there whose priorities were complementary.”  Mag City materialized out of various NYC institutions, like The Poetry Project, that sustained starving poets like Master, Lenhart and Scholnick.  But I suspect Mag City relied heavily on institutional funding.  The magazine was made possible by a grant from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines, itself funded by the NEA.  I have always felt Mag City was one of those mags that felt the denial of patronage acutely.  It limped along after the inauguration of Reagan in January 1981 but it seems to me that the poets and editors sunderstood that its days were numbered.  Or as Bernadette Mayer writes in “Dentist Fiction”, “I saw [the dentist] every day, because he knew and I knew that in two weeks the Medicaid Program for people my age was ending.”  


Big Sky 2 Just For You

Big Sky 2 con besos.


Serious Fun

Berkson, Fagin, and Brainard.  That is some serious company.  I want to party with these guys as they know how to have a good time.  Early Big Sky from 1971, with only 200 copies.  And if Kyle will get in on the fun, this chapbook might be on Cuneiform Press in the near future.  Be on the look out there for other Big Sky publications.  At the very least, Big Sky #2 will be up posted soon.

This winter has been seriously depressing and reading Big Sky was a form of literary Prozac.  It is always a pleasure to read a well-edited little magazine.  I have read quite a few magazines over the years and Big Sky and its accompanying press is a serious contender to be ranked among the greats.

Try to enjoy the rest of your weekend.  I hear the commute back from Bolinas can be a bitch.


Life of the Party

Ted Greenwald is one of Kyle's favorite poets.  Kyle is one of my favorite people and someone whose taste I respect a great deal.  So when I scan a table of contents and come across Ted Greenwald's name, it is like we are already acquainted.  Friends of friends at a crowded party.  The introductions have been made and there is a little bit of back story.  I tend to gravitate to his poems and spend a little extra time with them.  I am never disappointed.  Greenwald's poems speak to me and I always enjoy the conversation.