Ed Sanders: Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts (1962-1965)


“Fuck You” Opening Party is tomorrow (Thursday, February 16th) from 6pm-9pm. Exhibition closes Thursday, March 8th. Boo-Hooray is open every day from 11am-6pm.

There’s a gallery space down on Canal St. in NYC called Boo-Hooray; it’s a splendid place dedicated to 20th/21st century counterculture ephemera, photography, and book arts. Tomorrow evening (Thursday, Feb 16th) is the opening night for their most recent exhibition: a comprehensive collection of publications from Ed Sanders’ legendary Fuck You Press, including a complete run of Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts.

Ed Sanders‘ an unofficial patron saint of the 20th century underground who has often been referred to as “the bridge between the Beat and Hippie Generations”.  More specifically, he’s a poet, singer, activist, author, and publisher. Any way you cut ‘n’ paste it, this man broke the mold and the mimeograph!

Boo-Hooray’s exhibition of fabulous Fuck You-ness will commemorate the publication of Sanders’ characteristically feisty, funny memoir, Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (Da Capo Press).

Sanders shares a bit of history about his publication:

“In February of 1962 I was sitting in Stanley’s Bar at 12th and B with some friends from the Catholic Worker. We’d just seen Jonas Mekas’s movie Guns of the Trees, and I announced I was going to publish a poetry journal called Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts. There was a certain tone of skepticism among my rather inebriated friends, but the next day I began typing stencils, and had an issue out within a week. I bought a small mimeograph machine, and installed it in my pad on East 11th, hand-cranking and collating 500 copies, which I gave away free wherever I wandered. (…)

Fuck You was part of what they called the Mimeograph Revolution, and my vision was to reach out to the “Best Minds” of my generation with a message of Gandhian pacifism, great sharing, social change, the expansion of personal freedom (including the legalization of marijuana), and the then-stirring messages of sexual liberation.

I published Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts from 1962 through 1965, for a total of thirteen issues. In addition, I formed a mimeograph press which issued a flood of broadsides and manifestoes during those years, including Burroughs’s Roosevelt After Inauguration, Carol Bergé’s Vancouver Report, Auden’s Platonic Blow, The Marijuana Review, and a bootleg collection of the final Cantos of Ezra Pound.

Other contributors to Fuck You included Allen Ginsberg, Andy Warhol, Julian Beck, Ray Bremser, Lenore Kandel, Charles Olson, Tuli Kupferberg, Joel Oppenheimer, Peter Orlovsky, Philip Whalen, Herbert Huncke, Frank O’Hara, Leroi Jones, Diane DiPrima, Gary Snyder, Robert Kelly, Judith Malina, Carl Solomon, Gregory Corso, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Michael McClure, Ted Berrigan, Joe Brainard, Gilbert Sorrentino, and countless others.

It was a ‘zine “dedicated to free expression, defying taboo subjects, celebrating sexual liberation and the use of psychedelics years before the Summer of Love. Sanders and his collaborators bridged the Beats of the Fifties and the counterculture of the late Sixties, and helped define many of the differences between the two—the latter building on the breakthroughs initiated by the former.”

The Fuck You opening party is happening Thursday, February 16th – 6pm-9pm. Sanders will be reading from/signing copies of his book. Exhibition closes Thursday, March 8th. Boo-Hooray is open every day from 11am-6pm.

New Yorkers! Don’t miss this! (And by all means, report back in comments.)

(Hat tip to William Gibson.)

“My work is about leaving the door open to the imagination.” -Dorothea Tanning (1910 – 2012)


Sleeping Nude (1954) by Dorothea Tanning. Oil on canvas.

And she did. Countless others have walked through that door behind Dorothea Tanning– fellow iconoclasts and creative powerhouses (many women, but surely, many not) who might never have pursued their work otherwise.

Her independence, her intelligence, and her centenarian resolve to lead an extraordinary life no matter what, should be as central to her legacy as her art and writings. Tanning died in her sleep last night at the age of 101…

“…and pieces of history die with her. Artist, poet, wife of Max Ernst from 1946 until he died in 1976, and (along with Frida Kahlo, Leonora Carrington, Kay Sage, Lee Miller, Maya Deren, Remedios Varo, and Leonor Fini) one of a group of great women Surrealists, she was at the center of a movement that was a vicious mill for women. Among the surrealists, females — while ‘allowed’ to be artists — were often also relegated to the sidelines of neglected or beset mistresses, muses, and madwomen.” ~Jerry Saltz (for New York Magazine)


Birthday (1942) by Dorothea Tanning. Oil on canvas.

Her advice to younger generations: ”Keep your eye on your inner world and keep away from ads, idiots and movie stars.”

“Dead Poet Borne by Centaur” by Gustave Moreau


“Dead Poet Borne by Centaur” (1890) by Gustave Moreau

The French Symbolists were hella weird and wonderful. (Andre Breton was obsessed with Moreau in particular, and considered him to be a kind of grandaddy to Surrealism.)

On the Occasion of Walter Benjamin’s 119th Birthday

The treasure-dispensing giant in the green forest or the fairy who grants one wish
- they appear to each of us at least once in a lifetime. But only
Sunday’s children remember the wish they made, and so it is
only a few who recognize its fulfillment in their lives. – Walter Benjamin


Benjamin Birthday Cake! Photoshop by Nadya.

There is a Yiddish expression offered on someone’s birthday which is affectionate and contains a subtle blessing: “Bis hundert und zwanzig.” In other words, people are wished a life that extends to their 120th year. So what should we do if someone dear (if not near) somehow turns 120? What are they wished then and each year thereafter? I offer these questions as a point of entry for considering Walter Benjamin, a writer whose life ended in suicide as he contemplated his chances of eluding the Nazi Gestapo some seventy-three years before this question may have become material for those around him.  Today marks the 119th anniversary of Benjamin’s birth – the last time someone could have addressed him with the wish of living to 120.

Walter Benjamin was a literary critic, philosopher, memoirist, and collector during Germany’s ill-fated Weimar Republic. Among his adventures were sojourns from Berlin to Moscow to witness the building of history and to Marseilles to smoke hashish and to Riga to have his love rejected. His last seven years were spent in exile while his works were banned and burned in his native land. Under other conditions, Benjamin’s Francophile desires would have found their easy appeasement in Paris, but the Third Reich cast an increasingly tall shadow and he became, tragically, a prisoner in the country of his dreams. In his forty-eight year life, Benjamin ran with Bertolt Brecht, Rainer Maria Rilke, Asja Lacis, Theodor and Gretel Adorno, Siegfried Kracauer, Ernst Bloch, Hannah Arendt, Georges Bataille, Leo Strauss, Max Brod and Gershom Scholem. And in many ways, Benjamin’s thought is a playful and poetic montage of the ideas of his associates – a “constellation” of Romanticism, Idealism, Marxism, Surrealism, and Jewish mysticism that is more than its unlikely parts: “Satan is a dialectician, and a kind of spurious success…betrays him, just as does the spirit of gravity.”


Einbahnstrasse by Sasha Stone (1928)

Benjamin brought to this heady mix his fascination, at once childish and insightful, for art and artifacts as relics containing clues to history. The scion of an antiquities dealer, Benjamin discerned an impending revolutionary–cum-spiritual cataclysm by contemplating and indexing paintings, books, and the most banal debris of economic life he could find, regarding them as might wily Detective Columbo if he was prodigiously stoned. As Bloch wrote of Benjamin’s book One Way Street, “when the current cabaret passes through a surrealist philosophy, what emerges into the light of day from the debris of meanings…is a kaleidoscope of a different sort.” The spooky thing is that Benjamin’s apocalyptic vision of lawmaking described in 1921 as “bloody power for its own sake” came to pass in many ways a little more than a decade later.

Walter Benjamin lived in a milieu of such vastly assimilated German-Jewish life that he had little formal understanding of Jewish culture, Yiddish, Hebrew, or even the Jewish religion.  He did, however, harbor an abiding interest in Jewish mysticism and mused furtively over those bits of religion and culture he encountered.  And he certainly seemed to have found spiritual sanction for his already-existing fetishization of objects in the Kabbalist’s meditations on words, names, and numbers.  According to this mystical orientation, influenced by neo-Platonism, reality has multiple dimensions – like a faceted diamond – only a few of which are directly accessible to us. We may approach them only indirectly, as they appear to us as abstract notions like numbers, letters, names, and sentiments. In such times as Benjamin playfully, and perhaps also earnestly, speculated on the mystical significance of language and numbers, he may have come to consider 119 alongside its constitutive outside, the number 120, the last year we can legitimately hope for someone else.  If so, it is entirely likely that Benjamin, a thinker who invited the mystical, would have been intrigued by the delimiting function of 120 and may have further speculated on 121 as a possible portal to other dimensions.  Operating, then, as a detective, Benjamin may have investigated the year 120 as a future crime scene – a time-place where this phrase will be eternally transcended. Looking outward, 119 years of life may have been considered the furthermost edge of his generation, a remote vantage from which to contemplate the eternity of space, like a balcony atop “Saturn’s ring.” Upon returning from such reveries, Benjamin would hopefully have finally mentioned that the actual root of this folk expression comes from the biblical datum that Moses lived to be 120. This, then, could have been followed by an analogy that is possibly both specious and interesting, like noting that Moses and Benjamin never completed their exodus from brutality.

The wish that one live beyond the culturally sanctioned, and quite generous, lifespan of 120 is redolent of the posthumous reception of Benjamin’s work throughout the humanities. The fervent interest in his work throughout the humanities since the 1980s is so unlikely as to seem almost a form of Messianic fulfillment on an individual scale. After all, his life was unfulfilled in most respects. He was a failed academic, a divorcee whose affair was an awkward mess, a minor radio personality whose voice was never recorded, and a writer whose masterworks were unfinished or forever lost in history. Years later, his work even achieved “fame” on its own terms when, in 1969, his most significant essay was mistranslated as “Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” by Harry Zohn. For Benjamin, a work has achieved “fame” when it its translation transmits information not contained in the original. Two generations of scholars and art critics referenced his most significant essay through a misleading title, when now, as if language shifted its tectonic plates under our feet, the essay is emphatically translated as “Art in the Age of its Technological Reproducibility.”  In the digital age, articles like this one are re-posted with attention to errata, such as mistaking today for his 121st anniversary, whereas it is only his 119th.  If only Zohn had used WordPress his translation would have been unfinished and arguably better for it.  Perhaps as the author of that essay – however titled – Benjamin would have come to consider fame in the age of American Idol in terms of having a finger puppet refrigerator magnet in one’s visgage. “All that is holy is profaned,” sayeth Marx. What does familiarity breed? So much for the “aura” of the author, eh?

In his essay on “The Metaphysics of Youth” Benjamin contemplates one’s diary as a temporal domain, an inner life expressed in writing which begins in medias res, with life already in motion, and which can never be concluded by an author whose death occludes continued authorship. The project is never finished and the life, as written in the diary, exists in its own sort of time, like the life the mind, an eternal moment delimited by birth and death, and unable to experience either. Benjamin’s life is thus suspended within the pages of his books, essays, memoirs, and personal effects – as in his Paris address book shown below. Something of his life may sometimes seem to flash in our minds as we read him, just as Benjamin once suggested that art and artifacts can communicate something of their creation in flashes. In this sense, Benjamin’s work has escaped the bounds of the moment in which it was written, although it has yet to allow its readers to tear the fabric of time and usher in the Messianic moment of utter destructiveness in which history is fulfilled and completed.

Of course, I cannot literally wish Walter Benjamin 120 years of existence because I have no known way of communicating it to him. I can, however, wish it for him in spirit, and I do. Whether this wish, now communicated in language, effectively gives him happiness, is beyond the scope of this essay to determine, but my wish that it do so has some affinity with Benjamin’s own work. In his essay, “On Language as Such and on the Language of Man,” Benjamin posits language as constitutive of thought and life as we know it – not merely a conduit for them – as, in his example, a divine speech act once set the universe in motion with illumination: “Let there be light.” Likewise, Benjamin may have noted that the wish that someone live to 120 implies a blessing, as in the Yiddish expression: “From your mouth to God’s ear.” As this is the last time I may properly wish Walter a 120th year,  I am ever-more concerned that it take the form of a blessing where numbers and sentiments are tangible – on the other side of language.

This essay is dedicated to Lionel Ziprin, z”l.

Carla Kihlstedt’s Necessary Monsters (Feed the Beasties!)


Another beautiful day, another amazing Kickstarter project by a beloved curator of the Sleepytime Gorilla Museum.

Musician, composer, artist and storyteller Carla Kihlstedt‘s Necessary Monsters is a staged song cycle after Jorge Luis Borges’ Book of Imaginary Beings. Carla wrote it with poet Rafael Osés for seven musicians and an actress. The narrative “follows a young writer as she tries in vain to corral the imaginary beings that parade out of her mind in the course of a sleepless night. In this journey, she encounters many beasts – some meddlesome, some winsome, some loathsome – and discovers that she is indeed the sum of their parts.”

Previous stagings of this work have provided stunning, intimate portraits of Carla and her colleagues’ creative processes– their intelligence, their playfulness, their sweetness. Since that time, the piece “has gone through a kind of distillation process, the way a good friendship does, that only happens with time. In this next chapter, we’ve recast, retooled, and redirected. The cast, the crew and the design team include some of my very favorite musicians and artists, all of whom have brought incredible ideas and energy to the piece. It is finally becoming the beast it was meant to be. We’re performing it in San Francisco at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts on July 29th and 30th of this year. ”

As of this minute, hundreds of people have contributed approximately $23K toward Carla’s Kickstarter campaign. She just sent out an email saying “We’re right at the edge and the pressure’s on. We’ve got three days to raise another $2,043. So, If you’ve been waiting in the wings for these last giddy moments… NOW is your time!”

“IT”: A Poem Confronting Trans-Hate

This is poet Kavindu “Kavi” Ade from Philly performing a spoken-word piece called “IT” at the Brave New Voices 2010.

The poem deals with gender identity and anti-trans hate (trigger warning!), and watching Ade perform is an intense, emotional experience.

Amazing line: “they wanna paint you the color of smashed hymens.” Holy shit.

[via DarkSKIN]

Melancholy Maaret’s Memo on Melancholia


PAPER BUTTERFLY by secretsaunasirens

“…scientists say melancholics are better lovers” /” ..happy people are forgetful suckers”/ “…Roget created his thesaurus to combat the funk”

Melancholy Maaret,  enigmatic contemporary visual & performance artist, and founder of Secret Sauna Sirens – a pseudonymous, experimental collaborative of multi-disciplinary artists – has some interesting insight into the subject of sadness.  In her poem “Paper Butterflies”, she solemnly urges us inward, in lilting, bird-like tones and delicately rolling Finnish accent,  to examine our melancholia and embrace these hermetic, suffocating feelings.


image via secretsaunasirens

Stop trying to be happy, she warbles.  After all, “…mental acuity flourishes in despair” and”…blue betties make fewer tactical errors”.  “I’m not making this shit up,” she insists.  Well…is she?  Perhaps not.  In Scientific American’s 2009 article regarding a study of depression’s evolutionary roots, it is suggested that depression is not a disorder at all, but a mental adaptation with some useful  cognitive benefits.

Depressed people often think intensely about their problems. These thoughts are called ruminations; they are persistent and depressed people have difficulty thinking about anything else. Numerous studies have also shown that this thinking style is often highly analytical. They dwell on a complex problem, breaking it down into smaller components, which are considered one at a time.

This analytical style of thought, of course, can be very productive. Each component is not as difficult, so the problem becomes more tractable. Indeed, when you are faced with a difficult problem, such as a math problem, feeling depressed is often a useful response that may help you analyze and solve it. For instance, in some of our research, we have found evidence that people who get more depressed while they are working on complex problems in an intelligence test tend to score higher on the test.

Thank you, Melancholy Maaret, for validating us saddies. Viva melancholia!  Ditch the Wellbutrin.  Stay sad and homely, indeed.

More:

 

A Whimsical, Alarming Resonance: Sandra Kasturi

In Sandra Kasturi’s first full length poetry collection, The Animal Bridegroom, one finds all manner of fantastical creatures –shapeshifters, changelings goddesses, and monsters– juxtaposed with the quotidian and the mundane.  Myth intersects with reality, resulting in outlandish dream worlds, unexpected bedtime stories, and everyday affairs elevated to the exotic and the surreal.

In his introduction to the collection, Neil Gaiman writes:

“…People forget the joy of story as they grow older.  They forget the joy of poetry, of finding the perfect word, of turning a phrase, like a potter turning a pot on a wheel, and they believe mistakenly that poetry is not pleasure, but work , or worse, something good for you but unpleasant tasting, like cod-liver oil.

Sandra Kasturi has not forgotten any of these things.”

Sandra has three poetry chapbooks published, as well as the well-received SF poetry anthology, The Stars As Seen from this Particular Angle of Night, which she edited. Her poetry has appeared in various magazines and anthologies, and her cultural essay, “Divine Secrets of the Yaga Sisterhood” appeared in the anthology Girls Who Bite Back: Witches, Slayers, Mutants and Freaks. Sandra is a founding member of the Algonquin Square Table poetry workshop and runs her own imprint, Kelp Queen Press.  She has also received several Toronto Arts Council grants, and a Bram Stoker Award for her editorial work at ChiZine: Treatments of Light and Shade in Words.  As an evolution of  ChiZine, ChiZine Publications (CZP) “emerged on the Canadian publishing” scene in 2009. To quote from their philosophy:

“CZP doesn’t want what’s hot now or stuff that’s so weird it’s entirely out in la-la-land—we want the next step forward. Horror that isn’t just gross or going for a cheap scare, but fundamentally disturbing, instilling a sense of true dread. Fantasy that doesn’t need elves or spells or wizards to create a world far removed or different than ours. Just a slight skewing of our world, handled properly, is far more effective at creating that otherworldly sense for which we strive.”

Sandra generously gave of her time  to talk with us about the slightly skewed otherworld she inhabits; very see below the cut for our recent Q&A.

How to Make Love to a Trans Person

A breathtaking poem by Gabe Moses:

How to Make Love to a Trans Person

Forget the images you’ve learned to attach
To words like cock and clit,
Chest and breasts.
Break those words open
Like a paramedic cracking ribs
To pump blood through a failing heart.
Push your hands inside.
Get them messy.
Scratch new definitions on the bones.

Get rid of the old words altogether.
Make up new words.
Call it a click or a ditto.
Call it the sound he makes
When you brush your hand against it through his jeans,
When you can hear his heart knocking on the back of his teeth
And every cell in his body is breathing.
Make the arch of her back a language
Name the hollows of each of her vertebrae
When they catch pools of sweat
Like rainwater in a row of paper cups
Align your teeth with this alphabet of her spine
So every word is weighted with the salt of her.

When you peel layers of clothing from his skin
Do not act as though you are changing dressings on a trauma patient
Even though it’s highly likely that you are.
Do not ask if she’s “had the surgery.”
Do not tell him that the needlepoint bruises on his thighs look like they hurt
If you are being offered a body
That has already been laid upon an altar of surgical steel
A sacrifice to whatever gods govern bodies
That come with some assembly required
Whatever you do,
Do not say that the carefully sculpted landscape
Bordered by rocky ridges of scar tissue
Looks almost natural.

If she offers you breastbone
Aching to carve soft fruit from its branches
Though there may be more tissue in the lining of her bra
Than the flesh that rises to meet it, Let her ripen in your hands.
Imagine if she’d lost those swells to cancer,
Diabetes,
A car accident instead of an accident of genetics
Would you think of her as less a woman then?
Then think of her as no less one now.

If he offers you a thumb-sized sprout of muscle
Reaching toward you when you kiss him
Like it wants to go deep enough inside you
To scratch his name on the bottom of your heart
Hold it as if it can-
In your hand, in your mouth
Inside the nest of your pelvic bones.
Though his skin may hardly do more than brush yours,
You will feel him deeper than you think.

Realize that bodies are only a fraction of who we are
They’re just oddly-shaped vessels for hearts
And honestly, they can barely contain us
We strain at their seams with every breath we take
We are all pulse and sweat,
Tissue and nerve ending
We are programmed to grope and fumble until we get it right.
Bodies have been learning each other forever.
It’s what bodies do.
They are grab bags of parts
And half the fun is figuring out
All the different ways we can fit them together;
All the different uses for hipbones and hands,
Tongues and teeth;
All the ways to car-crash our bodies beautiful.
But we could never forget how to use our hearts
Even if we tried.
That’s the important part.
Don’t worry about the bodies.
They’ve got this.

Gabe Moses is “a poet, author, performance artist, dogwalker, and accomplished floor-sock-glider who does most of his best writing in the bathtub. You can find his work in lots of cool places, but that kid singing James Brown on YouTube is not him.”

(Via Whittles, via Sarah Dopp, with thanks.)

The Marvelous, Multi-Talented Mister Marcellus Hall

If you like folksy, bluegrassy, skifflepunky, lyrically deft and tenderhearted wonderfulness, you need to give Marcellus Hall’s new solo record, The First Line, a listen. It’s out this week. This is Marce:

I first met the accomplished musician/writer/illustrator at the Mercury Lounge in NYC in 1998 after my shambolic, sloppy-drunk gig opening for The Gunga Din. Honestly? NOT the best night… until Marce found the dark corner I was hiding in, said “Hey, I like your style,” and asked me to play violin with his band. Something about the guy made me say yes without blinking. Maybe it was because he reminded me of Conan O’Brien’s younger, more soft-spoken brother: tall, thin, fair, somewhat ageless, he had that same quick and kindly wit. After saying yes, I realized I should probably ask him what sort of music he made.

“Well, I used to be in this band called Railroad Jerk.” Oh, yeah! I had some notion of Railroad Jerk. Weren’t they one of the first bands to sign to Matador? They were on that What’s Up, Matador? compilation with John Spencer Blues Explosion, Helium, Guided by Voices, Liz Phair, Yo La Tengo, etc…

“Yeah. That’s done,” he said. “Now I have a band called White Hassle.” White Hassle? “Yeah, um. It’s a pun. You know, White Castle.” Well, hey. Why not. I remember much of my decade in NYC as a sad, scrambling time, but all of those shows and records I did with Marce’s “junk folk pop ’80s rock electro-blues” outfit (in cahoots with drummer Dave Varenka and an assortment of other wonderful players) are among my fondest memories.

In more recent years, Marce has been crafting a new sound. It’s a bit softer, more contemplative than the huge, herky-jerky energy of his previous work, but those razor-edged lyrics, rich guitar chords, feverish harmonica solos and spot-on vocals are bright and sharp as ever.

Marce has always been a thoughtful guy, and while his songcraft might seem like straight-up, uncomplicated acoustic country fare on the surface, listen more closely and you’ll realize there’s a lot more going on with his lyrics and presentation than the usual, weary old “my dog died and the old lady left me” American folk tradition scalp-taking. Marce’s wry, self-aware humor is evident in references to emailing, texting, even the act of songwriting itself in the title track. From a recent review over at The Observer:

Hank Williams, Woody Guthrie, Dylan, and the Everly Brothers are obvious reference points—Americana fans will love this album—but Hall doesn’t really go in for nostalgia, and careful listeners will also hear echoes of the Modern Lovers, Einstürzende Neubauten, and New York’s No Wave bands. Like them, Hall lets the sounds of his city seep into the recordings; the tracks sound simultaneously organic and artificially distressed.

In addition to making great music and poetic lyrics, Marce does wonderful illustration work for The New Yorker, the Village Voice and others. You can learn more about that and other facets of his career at his personal website. Obviously, by now, you’re aware that I can’t say enough good things about this fella. If your curiosity is piqued and if you’re not already familiar with his work, I almost envy you: you’ve got 20+ years of fantastic Marcellus Hall music to get acquainted with. I heartily recommend starting with The First Line, and going from there.