Reports from the Bibliographic Bunker
Jed Birmingham on William S. Burroughs Collecting
In the summer of 1963, poet Paul Blackburn wrote an essay in Kulchur 10 entitled “The Grinding Down,” which mapped the contemporary landscape of the Mimeo Revolution and lamented for those beloved days of yore when Robert Creeley’s editorial vision surveyed the literary fringe from the lofty heights of Black Mountain Review (which itself rose from the broad shoulders and bushy brow of the 6 foot 7 inch Charles Olson). As Graham Rae would say, I am chuckling here. Let’s be honest, this is a dubious nostalgia. Black Mountain Review only folded six years earlier, a mere blip in terms of literary history. Although the beginnings of the Mimeo Revolution can be traced back to Waldport during World War II, things really only heated up when Black Mountain Review went down in flames in late 1957, along with the Howl Trial, the San Francisco Scene of Evergreen Review, and the publication of On the Road. The Mimeo Revolution that Blackburn pronounced dead was really just in its infancy, and it was kind of presumptuous to give Black Mountain Review some type of elder statesman status like Broom, Blast or transition. But it speaks to the legend of Black Mountain Review, which was an instant classic, as well as the awe and envy Robert Creeley inspired in 1963. As much as Ginsberg, Creeley was the Man. He had a book of poems published by Scribners, not merely City Lights.
Of course, Paul Blackburn’s legacy rests heavily on his association with Black Mountain College. He is remembered today, if at all, as a Black Mountain poet. In my opinion, his poems stand on their own outside of the Black Mountain label, and I may even be selling Blackburn short, as his translations probably have more of an audience than I am giving them credit for. But let’s be honest, he is a Black Mountain poet in Donald Allen’s anthology and he remains one today. So in “The Grinding Down,” Blackburn simultaneously writes a puff piece about his friends and toots his own horn.
Was the mimeo landscape as bleak and barren as Blackburn portrayed it? Let’s just say his survey was selective. For example, he rightly ties the first wave of the Mimeo Revolution to the San Francisco Renaissance but he then totally ignores San Francisco thereafter. This is especially true of the vibrant mimeo scene that developed around Jack Spicer (for example, J, M, The Rivoli Review, The Capitalist Bloodsucker, and Change), which is strange since Blackburn singles out Spicer as a poet who should have been included in Black Mountain Review #7. No Semina, which I guess is to be expected, but its omission further demonstrates the blindspot regarding California. No mention of Plymell’s Now. No Nomad, even though this LA-based mag featured New York in its last issue. Things were also a little more global during the period Blackburn covers: New Departures (England), Two Cities (Paris), Rhinozeros (Germany), Sidewalk (Scotland), Olympia Review (Paris) are a few that come to mind. Blackburn ends his piece, “Hell, we’ll all live.” Not a ringing endorsement by any means.
The timing of Blackburn’s overview deserves some consideration. The summer of 1963 was the twilight of Camelot; the Kennedy assassination was just a season away. It has been argued that the Sixties had yet to begin by that innocent summer. An Annus Mirabilis, an idyllic summer of love before the more media-hyped (and malignant) Summer of Love. Larkin writes, “Sexual intercourse began / In nineteen sixty-three / (which was rather late for me) / Between the end of the Chatterley ban / And the Beatles’ first LP.” “So life was never better than in nineteen sixty-three.” In mere months, everything was about to change. Blackburn captures the calm before the storm. In “Nov. 23, 1963: Alone”, composed at 1303 Gough Street (a counterculture Camelot in its own right), the day after the Kennedy assassination, Allen Ginsberg captures this pivotal moment, and he specifically mentions the publications of the Mimeo Revolution as representative of this time before the fall: “with Now, with Fuck You, with Wild Dog Burning Bush Poetry Evergreen C Thieves Journal Soft Machine Genesis Renaissance Contact Kill Roy Etc.” By 1964, the Mimeo Revolution and the Sixties kicked into high gear: radical politics, sex, drugs, and rock and roll merged with experimental art and literature. Now, Fuck You and C transformed into different magazines from the summer of 1963 into 1964. By focusing on Fuck You, Blackburn has his finger on the future, but there is no way Blackburn could quite grasp it. Unlike Nostradamus, Blackburn did not foresee the Kennedy assassination.
How about a little game of remediation in an effort to bolster our understanding of Blackburn’s essay? What if we consider the Mimeo Revolution through the lens of cinema? The period from Waldport to Black Mountain Review 7 comprises the silent era. After all, these are the publications of the Silent Decade. Think where City Lights Books got its name. In the eyes of Blackburn and others, Black Mountain Review was the era’s Modern Times, simultaneously highspot and swansong. Interestingly, Zukofsky wrote an essay on Chaplin’s classic for Kulchur #4 (1961). The essays of Zukofsky and Blackburn are both exercises in media nostalgia. Like Modern Times, Black Mountain Review is an anachronism that draws on the grammar and techniques of Modernism. There are glimpses of the future, such as the final issue of Black Mountain Review, but the Review‘s editorial force and focus derive from the Modernist littles. The birth (Blast) of the mimeo nation came from Pound (through Olson).
With Howl, the San Francisco Renaissance, and On the Road, the Mimeo Revolution gained its own distinct voice for the first time. Yugen, Floating Bear, and Big Table, therefore, are the classic Talkies. These mags are Jazz Singers above all. With the assassination of Kennedy, the Mimeo Revolution lost its innocence and matured. From 1964 to the early 1970s, the Mimeo Revolution experienced its Golden Age. DIY studios, like Fuck You Press, Kulchur Foundation and C Press, envisioned a self-sustaining and independent media. By the early 1970s, the Mimeo Revolution caught up to the film industry in terms of development. Increasing bureaucracy and government funding paralleled the growing corporate nature of cinema. Producing a little mag became just as much about acquiring financing as producing inspiring content. Many mags of this era operated in the hope that their contributors would be picked up by the corporate publishers. A form of the blockbuster. Yet there were still Easy Riders and Raging Bulls who focused less on the literary, and more on lifestyle, music and culture, as represented by queer, feminist and punk zines. I am already stretching the comparison here so I will stop, but I think it is interesting to think of Blackburn’s essay as documenting what would be the Mimeo Revolutions late talkie era and representing a powerful nostalgia for the silent era.
Now for the Burroughs angle: All the international mags I mention above feature William Burroughs and so do most of the mags that Blackburn speaks of: Evergreen, Chicago Review, Big Table, Yugen, Floating Bear, Kulchur, Locus Solus, Fuck You, Journal for the Protection of All Beings. In many instances, Burroughs looms large. Burroughs was Big Table‘s reason for being and he made Chicago Review briefly relevant. The most notorious issue of Floating Bear involves Burroughs. Burroughs was a Fuck You Press, Yugen, Evergreen and Kulchur staple. Burroughs is on the Mount Rushmore of the Mimeo Revolution, along with Bukowski and Berrigan. We can sit down at a corner bar, start a tab, and discuss who the fourth member would be. I might go with Olson, but not Creeley, Ginsberg or Corso, all of whom Blackburn mentions as prime movers. Blackburn ignores Burroughs because Blackburn privileges poetry. Another blindspot. Again maybe we should not fault him for lacking foresight. Yet throughout the sixties, the little mags demonstrate that Burroughs was one of the most innovative poets of the era.
Of course, Burroughs appeared in the monumental last issue of Black Mountain Review. In Blackburn’s eyes, such an appearance blessed a writer. Regarding Burroughs, I have to admit he is right. In my opinion, this is an example of where Burroughs got more out of the association than the magazine. (See my piece on Black Mountain Review.) Blackburn writes, “Denise Levertov’s two poems sit demurely and passionately as usual between Bull Lee (Burroughs’) Naked Lunch excerpt (tempered I admit by Harry Callahan’s beautiful photos) to the north, and Gary Snyder’s very careful murder to the south.” In direct proximity, Michael McClure and Callahan frame the Burroughs piece. Blackburn touches on something very interesting here, and very Burroughsian. McClure’s pastoral vision leads into Burroughs’ yage hallucination followed by Callahan’s “subtlety” of perception. In “Harry Callahan: A Note,” Creeley writes, “What the eye is given to see, as image, in any sense, is a curious occasion.” Creeley allows these three distinct “curious occasions” to play off each other. The magazine and newspaper fascinated Burroughs for precisely these types of “extraordinary juxtapositions,” to quote Burroughs from the Paris Review interview (1965). Burroughs specialized in such collisions and coincidences, particularly in his cut-up work. Burroughs again: “Somebody is reading a newspaper, and his eye follows the column in the proper Aristotelian manner, one idea and sentence at a time. But subliminally he is reading the columns on either side and is aware of the person sitting next to him. That’s a cut up.” It is no coincidence that Burroughs was so prolific in magazines and underground newspapers as they paralleled and enhanced the nature of his work. Burroughs says as much in his interviews, which again appeared in the alternative press. Such publications were the ideal outlet for Burroughs’s work of the sixties as opposed to the traditional book format of the Grove cut-up trilogy.
Blackburn’s essay provides contemporary color commentary (although shaded in favor of Black Mountain) of early days of the Mimeo Revolution in which Burroughs starred as actor, director and producer, as well as providing insight into the venue in which Naked Lunch was first performed before a general audience.
The Grinding Down by Paul Blackburn
It takes a man to drive the truck
The shadows close in behind him.
And the seasons follow.
— PB (1954)
ORIGIN and the BLACK MOUNTAIN REVIEW: what other solid ground was there in the last decade? The sporadic attempts to replace them have faltered, failed, or aborted one way or another, the smaller ones usually from lack of cash, the larger from some weakness at the center. MEASURE folded after two issues space a year and-a-half apart, and after four years I have heard talk of a third issue. Wieners, a good but uneven poet himself, just never could raise money. EVERGREEN, a serious try with Donald Allen directing the traffic and the adequate backing of a publishing house, developed editorial disagreements, floundered after Allen quit, and is shoring up somewhat under Fred Jordan and Dick Seaver: you find one or two interesting things each issue. Paul Carroll’s BIG TABLE out of Irving Rosenthal’s CHICAGO REVIEW, Ginsberg, Corso, Burroughs, et Cie., was beginning to develop enough that you could feel the editorial wobble when it went down after five issues and a year and-a-half of trying to beat the big cat reviews at their own game, with a big circulation, pages of paid advertisement, but unable to beat the system and so pay the printer. This happened in spite of the first issue being banned by the US Post Office and BT winning the case, thanks to the ACLU. YUGEN struggled through 1958-1959 (3 issues in ’58 and 2 in ’59) because LeRoi Jones had his own offset press in the back room: it has issued a copy a year since then, numbers 6, 7, and 8 appearing in 1960, 1961 and 1962, money again. Through #5 perhaps, YUGEN’s contents were almost always uneven, the center a coterie affair which is not always productive, and Jones’ range of acceptance too wide and loose to give other than marshy ground. The best of that wide range seemed to be reached in #6; #7 was critical; and the current issue #8, is a very solid editing job with many fewer writers, the weakest contribution being Ed Marshall’s (Point: editors do not spring fullblown but grow and change, as any other animal does, as the organisms they create, the little review or little magazine, do.) Given YUGEN’s weakness in the early issues. (“Publish each healer that in city lives”), that rangy looseness was also its best strength, and believe me we were grateful it was around those two years when there was damned little else. The present magazine, KULCHUR, was formed by the hard core of the YUGEN crowd (so much so that, for the first couple issues, one might have suspected that all the critical prose was written by the same person) in mid-1960, overlapping with BIG TABLE #5 and YUGEN #6. It was BT’s last issue, as it turned out, and another issue of YUGEN was not to come out for nearly a year. One of KULCHUR’s virtues is that it comes out regularly; it seemed to widen its scope considerably after the third issue, after which issue it also decided to exclude poetry and concentrate on prose (Zukofsky’s three Catullus translations with prefatory notes in #5 are illustrative of method, and Koch’s CANTO is satire). MAGIK by Landers out of Boston seems twice to have disappeared as if by, and has yet to bring out its first number. Robert Kelly’s and George Economou’s TROBAR and Jerome Rothenberg’s FLOATING WORLD seem to be working over a totally different ground on the still shaky premise of “deep image,” actually making a place somewhere between the outer fringe of the academic and the inner sector of the so-called beat, no bad place to dig. LOCUS SOLUS, printed in Mallorca (shades of Mossén Alcover), resembles the BLACK MOUNTAIN REVIEW physically, and looks like it might have been designed as a regular outlet for the Museum-of-Modern-Art-Edge-of-the-Big-Money newyorkschool; is well-edited, competently written, neat, etc. Margaret Randall’s and Sergio Mondragón’s THE PLUMED HORN out of Mexico City and Howard Schulman’s PA’LANTE out of New York are bilingual and are basically doing an intra-american communications job. The second and third issues of PLUMED HORN, by the way, were infinitely better than the first, and the level of translation English to Spanish is exceptionally high. A new quarterly, BLUE GRASS, edited by Hank Chapin from Dobbs Ferry and the University of Kentucky at Lexington, has entered with a very decent first issue, heavy on the prose perhaps, bases itself editorially on Olson’s Projective Verse, and threatens to turn into a publishing venture by devoting whole issues to the work of a single writer. TISH, a newsletter from the University of British Columbia at Vancouver, is difficult to judge from the single copy I’ve seen. THE FLOATING BEAR, a poetry newsletter edited by Diane di Prima and LeRoi Jones (22 issues since last year) has all the unevenness of the Yugen coterie, but also that magazine’s virtue of being open ground where anything could rise.
That is the scene, and no really solid place to set one’s foot. Well, one. ORIGIN started up again last year, looking for new writers only, and those few worthies who have not found adequate outlet elsewhere over the past five years. This second series (there have been nine issues so far) is also planned to run for five years or 20 issues, and is given away free to whoever writes and expresses interest in reading same, a very sneaky way of keeping circulation down, but a very sound idea. Cid Corman is still the tough editor, stubborn, persistent, high-handed, querulous, and apparently tireless, or he could not have made ORIGIN survive on a shoestring and his own thin pocket for 20 issues in the first half of the decade. The new issuance already has backing for the full run: Corman was lucky enough to sell Robert Creeley’s and I think Charles Olson’s correspondence to a university library in the Midwest. The magazine is published from Kyoto, Japan, where the editor lives quietly and teaches a little.
In 1950, Creeley, then still in New Hampshire, wrote me in Wisconsin where I was finishing up school that he was starting a magazine, and was there anything I could send him. We had already been in touch through EP’s good services — Pound in St Elizabeth’s was a very valuable clearing house for putting the young in touch with one another. Having gathered material for the first issue, the backing collapsed. Creeley had recently met Corman who had a poetry program on a Boston radio station. Letters had been exchanged, Creeley was asked to read, etc. It turned out Corman could find the backing, took over most of the material Creeley had collected, maybe added some of his own, and ORIGIN brought out its first issue in the Spring of 1951. Of the people unknown or little-known then, ORIGIN over the next five years provided a regular outlet for Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, Robert Duncan, Irving Layton, Ted Enslin, Larry Eigner, Joel Oppenheimer, Paul Carroll and myself, among others. The concentration was upon poetry, though there were stories, letters, and once in a while informal essays by various hands. There were occasional reviews over the five years, but no policy of regular coverage. The poems themselves were the news, more often than not.
During 1951, Creeley was already on the move — to France first — living near Aix-en-Provence for about a year, then moving with his family to a small mountainside town in Mallorca. Finding printing inexpensive in Palma, he began Divers Press in 1953, starting his list with my Proensa, Larry Eigner’s first book From the Sustaining Air, and his own second, The Kind of Act of (his first small collection of poems Le Fou had been printed by Golden Goose the year before). Sometime during 1953, the projection of BMR must have come up in the correspondence between Olson and Creeley. Creeley had been offered a teaching job at Black Mountain which he at first refused, but then agreed to come for the spring session of 1954. I know he had seen the first issue of BMR through the press before he sailed from Cadiz in January.
Starting, naturally enough, with roughly the same group of writers as ORIGIN, and running the same number of pages (64 in each of the first four issues during 1954), BLACK MOUNTAIN REVIEW was clearly a very different magazine from the first. With a page about an inch wider and more relaxed for that, two colors on the cover (Katue Kitasono’s design with triangles was used for the first year, different colors each issue) making it both gay and pathetic, for God knows Mossén dug up some ghastly inks to use — only the Fall issue in blue and grey looked decently healthy — eight black-and-white plates on slick paper every issue, and a greater variation of types within each issue, the feel of the magazine was more visual and more open. And it was a review. Still using a generous percentage of page space for poems, the proportions of BMR were, from the beginning, weighted on the side of prose, if only by the inclusion in the format of a regular Brief Reviews section, which in the thicker format (224 pages) starting with issue #5, Summer 1955, became the Books & Comment section. The review section plus whatever feature articles were in the body of the magazine were, believe me, the liveliest critical prose around. In the thin format of the first four numbers, reviewers were identified by initials only. The identity of these reviewers is as follows:
|C.O. Charles Olson|
J.L. Jacob Lititz
L.E. Larry Eigner
F.E. Frederick Eckman
C.C. Cid Corman
|G.T. Gael Turnbull|
M.F. Mitchell Goodman
M.S. Martin Seymour Smith
R.C. Robert Creeley
W.C. Robert Creeley
A.M. Robert Creeley
After the format changed, reviews and commentaries carried the author’s name, except that Jacob Lititz was a nom de plume for Robert Leed. Creeley also used pseudonyms for some of his poems: the Thomas White piece in #1, and Mauritius Estaban’s Broken Back Blues in #3. By the time the Black Mountain connections (as it turned out) started showing up in #3, I was convinced that Tom Field was another of Creeley’s pseudonyms, but it seems it was rather a heavy influence from his teaching at Black Mountain. I was still somewhat startled during the spring last year, standing catching up on my reading in the City Lights in San Francisco, to have the young man standing next to me doing the same thing, introduced as Tom Field. The night he shipped out for New Zealand I gave a reading in his apartment on Columbus Ave. So my reality-correction is a little stronger. But that was a strange scene, shaking the firm hand of a man I had, until that moment, believed to be a friend’s invention.
Among the articles, commentary and review, which kept the fire crackling were such sap-filled, well-split logs as Olson’s Against Wisdom as Such, a public continuation of a private discussion with Duncan on the nature of poetry, and what should (or not) go into it (in #1); Seymour-Smith’s slashing assessment of Roethke and Dylan Thomas (sufficiently stern that Rexroth resigned as contributing editor over them); Corman on the Yeats-Sturge Moore correspondence (#1) and his very final roasting of Karl Shapiro (#3); Olson’s roasting of Corman’s translation of Theocritus’ 7th Idyll (#4), and his wonderful and excited article on Captain John Smith, using a book on Smith by a Bradford Smith as a runway — o, to hell with this. Olson appears so often, I could be more useful by making a descriptive index of his appearences, rather than continue with this haphazard listing. Let someone go back to these pieces with an eye to putting together a collection of essays. (I understand that Grove is doing that right now.)
No. 1, Spring 1954
On First Looking Out of La Cosa’s Eyes (#17 of the Maximus), pp. 3-7.
review: Captain John Smith, His Life & Legend, by Bradford Smith, pp. 54-57.
No. 2, Summer 1954
Mayan Heads, pp. 26-28: a note on the 8 photographs which follow
review: European Literature and the Latin Middle Ages, by Ernst Robert Curtius: a note against Beauty and the Bauble and the whole of European kulchur, as unit, pro-frontier, addressed to Rainer Gerhardt and the West, pp. 57-60
review: The New Empire, by Brooks Adams, Macmillian, 1902: metals and trade moving the expansion of any civ/n westward until — the East; starting with Mesopotamia and Egypt, then Crete, Bablyon, Troy, Athens, Carthage, Rome, the trading cities of Europe, England, the New World, the U.S.A. (vide: the recurrent crisis in UN over the admission of mainland China, or how close that comes), pp. 63-64
No. 3, Fall 1954
Notes on Language and Theatre, pp. 41-44
review: The Saga of Billy the Kid, by Walter Noble Burns: the frontier gunman and the question of form: why our heroes ain’t, pp. 61-63.
No. 4, Winter 1954
I, Mencius, Pupil of the Master . . . (poem) pp. 34-37
review: A Thanksgiving Ecolgue, by Cid Corman: a raking over Corman’s translation of Theocritus, pp. 50-53.
No. 5, Summer 1955
O’Ryan (2), (poem) p. 148f.
It Was, But it Ain’t: disquisition on two, then-new Penguin translations of Herodotus’ The Histories (Aubrey de Selincourt), and Thucydides’ The Peloponnesian War (Rex Warner), pp. 212-216.
No. 6, Spring 1956
The Cause, the cause (poem) pp. 158-162
A Foot Is To Kick With: on prosody? No, on word, on the last word then. What’s a poem? p. 211f.
No. 7, Autumn 1957
review: Homer and the Bible, by Cirus H. Gordon: Eastern Mediterranean literature, wanting more TEXT, pp. 219-225.
While I am at it, and for the same reasons, I should do the same thing for the editor’s appearances in his own magazine.
No. 1, Spring 1954
Song, Thomas White (poem) p. 18
René Laubiès: An Introduction: intro/to the 8 plates which follow, p. 23f
Alba, Thomas White (poem), p 47
review: Contact, Ray Souster’s mimeo mag; Cerberus, poems by Dudek, Layton, and Souster; Twenty-four Poems, Louis Dudek; The Black Huntsmen, Irving Layton; Love The Conqueror Worm, also Layton; and Canadian Poems, 1850-1952, edited by Layton and Dudek and printed by Souster, who by God runs the security personnel in a goddamn bank in Toronto. Does still; I met him a year ago summer for the first time (signed A.M.), pp. 51-54.
review: Fables and Other Little Tales, by Kenneth Patchen, p. 63f.
No. 2, Summer 1954
The Happy Man (poem), p. 25
A Character for Love: an article on Woman, using Dr. Williams’ volume The Desert Music as text and fulcrum, pp. 45-48
Review: Journey with Genius, by Witter Bynner: a reasonably concise putdown of that kind of literary bitchery (signed W.C.), p. 62f.
No. 3, Fall 1954
The Whip (poem), p. 23
A Dilemma: intro/to the 8 plates following, some photos taken by Ann Creeley (credited to Peter Mitchum) in Fontrousse-par-aix in 1952. The fifth photo, mostly of an old woman with gap teeth, shows also part of Creeley’s oldest son, David, some great hair flying up in the back, p. 22f
Wait For Me (poem), p. 38
Broken Back Blues (poem, signed Mauritius Estaban), p. 51
review: Celine’s Guignol’s Band, and John Hawkes’ The Goose on the Grave (signed A.M.), p. 58f
Comment: editor’s defense of Seymour-Smith’s reviews of Dylan Thomas and Theodore Roethke in the first issue, over which Rexroth resigned, p. 64.
No. 4, Winter 1954
Old Song, Thomas White (poem), p. 17
A Note on Franz Kline: 8 reproductions follow, p. 23f
By God, Pomeroy, You Here!: a note on Francis Parkman’s works (in 12 volumes), p. 43-48
review: Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams: much of the discussion on Measure, pp. 53-58
review: Waiting for Godot, by Samuel Beckett: the play set against a story of Beckett’s, The End, in Merlin, pp. 61-63.
No. 5, Summer 1955
A Wicker Basket (poem), p. 191f
review: The Sphere and The Affable Hangman, both novels by Ramon Sender, both on death, pp. 216-224.
No. 6, Spring 1956
Goodbye (poem), p. 163
Air: ‘Cat Bird Singing . . . ‘ (poem), p. 164.
Philip Guston: A Note: intro/to the following plates, p. 170
On Love: a medieval essay using “sources of reference” ending with the poem, A Form of Women, pp. 217-223.
No. 7, Autumn 1957
Harry Callahan: A Note: intro/to Callahan’s photos which follow, the image, the eye, p. 149f.
Apart from his short story, A Likely Passage, in #4, Larry Eigner shows up as (surprising somehow?) a very good and careful reviewer, taking on Steinbeck’s East of Eden (in #1) and Kenneth Rexroth’s The Dragon and the Unicorn (#2). Robert Leed (signed Jacob Lititz) did yeoman service: a review of Saul Bellow’s The Adventures of Augie March (#2), and in #5 some notes on Paul Goodman, chiefly The Empire City series of novels, and a review of Freud’s Biography, volume 1 of the Ernest Jones’ book. Ronald Mason on Melville and Lysander Kemp on Eliot showed medium range in the first year; also Hellman on the Marquis de Sade.
In the larger format which came out once a year thereafter (1955-1956-1957) the range of critical prose widens, as does the general contents. The rings of contacts had spread far beyond Origin people, the Black Mountain contacts were taking over the center and widening into still other areas as the magazine picked up readers. Zukofsky came in on his own independent of anyone starting with the Aristotle section of A-12 in #5, some short poems in #6, and the Bottom: on Shakespeare, Part Two, appeared in two sections in numbers 6 and 7. He probably brought in Lorine Niedecker with four very fine poems in #6. Sherry Mangan (the same generation?) came in independently in #7 with a weird but not very satisfying science-fiction story; Dahlberg came in through Trocchi. The Black Mountain-Origin spread brought in Robert Duncan (poems in 4, 5, and 6; notes on the Romantic Spirit in #5, Notes in #6 are ruminations on the nature and recognition of Love; and in the Books and Comments section the first public attempt I had seen to “deal with” Olson’s poetics in the Maximus). Duncan brought in Jess Collins with his collages (if you like them — I do) and the Christian Morgenstern translations in #6.
Then, with the sole prefatory note of Jonathan Williams‘ short piece on the San Francisco emergence (#6, Spring 1956), in which he cites City Lights and glosses Ferlinghetti’s first book and Rexroth’s Spanish translations, BMR 7, its final issue, appeared with a somewhat blinding table of contents to be fading light. The different lines of force converged, sweeping in the whole hip scene from both coasts, with some of the most curious leavening imaginable. Edward Dahlberg and Sir Herbert Read are followed by Sir Allen Ginsberg and Lord Kerouac AND Ed Marshall with his family troubles. Zukofsky’s Bottom is hedged by Jonathan Williams’ intro/to, and 8 photographs of Bunk, George Lewis, Baby Dodds, and One-Eyed Babe Philips on the one side, Philip Whalen, Joel Oppenheimer, and Michael McClure on the other. Denise Levertov’s two poems sit demurely and passionately as usual between Bull Lee (Burroughs’) Naked Lunch excerpt (tempered I admit by Harry Callahan’s beautiful photos) to the north, and Gary Snyder’s very careful murder to the south. Dr. Williams’ profiles of Marsden Hartley and Ford Madox Ford are followed by Hubert Selby, Judson Crews, and Edward Dorn. Back there somewhere among the leaven I forgot Hillel Frimet (I mentioned Sherry Mangan in an earlier context) and Alfred Kreymborg! The Books & Comment section is a little less surreal (impact not comment, juxtaposition, not linear extension): Borges, Argentina’s living classic, in a revolutionary essay on Judas as seen by a phoney but highly credible Nil Runeberg, is balanced off against Olson on Eastern Mediterranean philology; followed by Kerouac’s Essentials of Spontaneous Prose, Michael Rumaker’s review of Howl (the evenest criticism of that poem I’ve ever seen), and ending with Dr. Williams’ introduction to Allen Ginsberg’s early poems, Empty Mirror, published just this last fall by Totem/Cornith. The date that final number of BMR was available to U.S. public is Autumn 1957.
EVERGREEN REVIEW’s Vol. 1, No. 2 was summer of 1957. Given the time differential of having BMR printed in Mallorca and then reshipped, their editing periods must have overlapped. Each in its own fashion was a San Francisco issue. In other words EVERGREEN started where BMR left off. And although Grove has printed books by Duncan, McClure and Olson subsequently, and has contracted for Olson’s essays, Joel Oppenheimer’s two plays, and a book of Hubert Selby’s, the magazine has hardly become the open arena it might have, nor the coherent and public object created by the tastes and learning of a single intelligence. But at that point in time, there were still many good issues to come. The things missing from BMR 7, I mean missing, were, say, a piece of Brother Antoninus’, something of early Corso, and whatever good slab of Jack Spicer’s gentility — and gentleness — might have been available. Barney Rosset and Donald Allen had not parted company. YUGEN was not to begin publication until the following year, 1958.
I keep having this fantasy: it didn’t take, the Renaissance I mean, EVERGREEN’s sales drop below 15,000 and it becomes a house organ. Time Inc. never finds out about Ginsberg and Corso and they go on writing poems, being regularly published by City Lights and the BLACK MOUNTAIN REVIEW. Creeley never went to Guatemala (or now to British Columbia), being too busy editing 160-page editions of BMR for which someone had given him $2,000/year for costs, and he still teaches Latin in Albuquerque. Never mind.
But it would have been cheerful, wouldn’t it having Corman back? Seriously, it’s not as bad as I sometimes think it is. Maturation helps, in small doses and not everyone at once, as does young blood (an eye on BLUE GRASS and FUCK YOU/a magazine of the arts which, although very specialized already, might yet turn into something, vide issue 4). YUGEN keeps getting better, and using FLOATING BEAR as a flag, can be expected to improve still more with small injections of money. (Aside from that goddamn cover on the third issue) KULCHUR is moving closer and closer to the BMR standard. Using appearances in the BEAR, KULCHUR, and elsewhere, I am certain Sorrentino is turning into one of the best editors and critics around (using Oppenheimer twice in an issue is dangerous and it works). I honestly don’t know how much credit Marc Schleifer deserves. Maybe more than I give him. As much pleasure as the JOURNAL FOR THE PROTECTION OF ALL BEINGS was, no second issue has been announced. TROBAR is still around with room to grow in, though now hung up with its publishing ventures and no issue since this year winter. FLOATING WORLD is preparing its fifth issue (the second in the large format). ORIGIN has eleven issue to go, Corman will find his young. Hell, we’ll all live. There’s always THE NATION, isn’t there?