Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Cleveland Manifesto of Poetry, The Asphodel Bookshop and the Future of Bookstores

The Cleveland Manifesto of Poetry

The Cleveland Manifesto of Poetry was published from Jim Lowell's Asphodel Bookshop in 1964, a year after the bookstore opened at 465 The Arcade. It prints statements by Russell Atkins, d. a. levy, Russell Salamon, Adelaide Simon, Jau Billera, and Kent Taylor. The statements still seem relevant today, especially those of Atkins and levy, whose manifesto begins "To write surface poems with the appearance of artificial flowers in order to communicate with persons by forcing them to resort to instinctive methods of understanding." It is a beautiful and surprising characterization of the concrete tendencies in levy's poetry and bookmaking. 

Lowell and the bookstore are credited at the top of the manifesto, but in reverse, so the attribution is best read in a mirror. This was perhaps one of the first contrary moves the store made, but certainly not the last. The Asphodel Bookshop went its own way, most famously during its 1966 censorship battle with the police. In doing so it sheltered and developed the local poetry scene to such an extent that it is impossible to imagine the Mimeograph Revolution in Cleveland without it. 

This wasn't a new role for a bookstore. There is a rich and well-documented history of bookstores helping to develop literary scenes, including censorship issues. But this wasn't Paris or San Francisco. What seems truly remarkable about the Asphodel is what it accomplished in relative geographical and cultural isolation. In this regard it reminds me of another bookshop I've been researching, Judson Crews' Motive Bookshop in Waco, Texas, which sheltered a number of little magazines of the Mimeograph Revolution in the years leading up to World War II. 

The isolation of these small, curatorial pioneer shops gave them increased importance to their local scene. They filled a role similar to the one played by local record stores in the seventies and eighties. In fact, Ohio record stores such as the Drome in Cleveland and Garbage in Kent played a crucial role to the Cleveland Punk and Ohio zine scenes, and it would be fascinating to find out if Asphodel was, even in some small way, an inspiration for those stores. For the past few years I've been researching shops like these for an exhibit that we'd like to have some day about the important role of such venues. These small, curated spaces of the past also point out a possible path for bookstores in the future. We live in an economic era in which large, general bookstores have become very difficult to operate successfully, but I think that there will be space in the future for small, curated spaces that will once again play an important role in supporting local art scenes. 

In the case of the Asphodel, this curatorial aspect was also extended through the mail in the form of the mimeographed Asphodel catalogs, which often also printed work by poets, and are as important as any other little magazine of the Mimeograph Revolution. I never got to see the Asphodel Bookshop, but I keep a stack of the old catalogs handy and reread them often. They remind me of the power that a good book catalog can have. I was turned onto literature and bookselling when I was lucky enough to be handed a stack of bookselling catalogs by a neighbor when I was a teenager. 

levy, d. a. & Russell Atkins, Russell Salamon, Adelaide Simon, Jau Billera, Kent Taylor. The Cleveland Manifesto of Poetry (Principles Behind the Writings of 6 Cleveland Poets). [Cleveland]: [Asphodel Bookshop], 1964. First edition. 8 1/2 x 11" sheet, mimeographed in green from typescript at both recto and verso. Two holograph corrections in blue ink, presumably as issued. Fine. SOLD. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

MS. A Literary Workshop

Wright, Talbot & Stephen Matthews, eds.  MS. A Literary Workshop. Los Angeles: Ms. A Literary Workshop, 1940-44. 8vo. First two issues each two folded, unbound sheets mimeographed from typescript on rectos only; subsequent issues mimeographed from typescript and drawing on both recto and verso, and saddle-stapled in printed card wraps. Final four issues offset printed. Some moderate dampstaining to no. 5, else all issues very good with expected toning.

After a long search, I was able to track down what I believe to be all issues published of this early west coast little magazine of the Mimeograph Revolution, published "on behalf of the new writers of Southern California". Editorship is not explicitly named in any issue; the correspondence address for the first two issues was Talbot Wright, and changed to Stephen Matthews for subsequent issues. MS. belongs to that strain of the Mimeograph Revolution which developed out of the anti-war sentiment of the Second World War (such as Untide and Compass). MS. published the work of renegade poets who worked well away from established literary centers, using the technology of Mimeograph to overcome their geographical isolation, in common with such magazines as Judson Crews’ Motive, and the first version of Kenneth Beaudoin’s Iconograph – MS. shared writers with both of those publications, and also Crescendo, Matrix, etc. This strand of the Mimeograph Revolution that happened in the forties away from the established literary centers deserves its own book length study, as most of these magazine are criminally overlooked.

Primarily a literary magazine, later issues also included some woodcuts and linocuts, including some beautiful linocuts in red by Connie Stengal in issue 8. 

Linocuts by Connie Stengal

Issue 10 includes some very early work by Jay Rivkin, predating her better known assemblage work (the biographical note here states that Rivkin “attended no art school, does pottery and greeting card art.")The magazine was notable for the inclusion of a higher than normal ratio of women contributors, and it also included contributions from a number of active and retired members of the armed forces.

The masthead of issue 9 notes that included the magazines Perspective, The Morgue, Newsletter, and Memo. At this point the war took a heavy toll on little magazines. In issue 8 the editor announced the beginning of his own service, and around this time changed the spelling of his name to “Steven Matthews” (unless editorship actually passed to another individual). Issue 9 bore a lament on the difficulties of publishing the magazine while in active service.

At least one further number was published, no. 10, in ’43 or ’44, which was perhaps the most politically involved issue. It includes the poem “Dig the Grave Deep”, by an anonymous Polish Guerilla, and a protest against the concentration camp internment of Japanese Americans by Harry Yanos, with three letters from Japanese Americans. No editors or correspondence name is listed for this issue. The contributor notes were written  by Jack Hughes. In the shop talk section, Alan Swallow lists the fellow little magazines that had ceased publication due to manpower and paper shortages; also, “Finding worthwhile material is troublesome with so many writers in the military.” We are aware of no further issues of the magazine; perhaps it fell prey to the same wartime stresses that caused so many fellow magazines to cease publication.

Authors published across the numbers include Stephen Guy, Oliver Sudden, Max Bowman, Gregory Ames, Leo W. Fielding, William Peterson, Mark Keats, Josephine Ain, J. Andrews, Ralph Lee, Leo Baefsky, Sidney Siegel, Harry Cimring, Leonard Lickerman, Gilbert Romaine, Robert Thorson, Mata Rae Friedman, Victor Tarrish, Cecile Kyle, Richard Lake, Ben Macin, Mark Keats, Steve Pratt, Catherine Ruth Smith, Joseph Crowley, H. N. Baker, Connie Stengal, Elizabeh Knapp, Mary Graham Lund, Oscar Collier, Rita Michaels, Veta Griggs, Sylvia Logan, Marion Lee, Manfred Carter, Raymond Kresensky, James Franklin Lewis, Jay Rivkin, Irving Meyers, Fritz Eichenberg, Judson Crews, Kenneth Beaudoin, Wendell Anderson (very early work, done while he lived in Oregon), Scott Greer, Charles Angoff, Alan Swallow, and Taro Suzuki (a member of the Nisei Writers Club). Hoffman et al. p. 354 (though they were only able to find two single issues to consult).
--> OCLC locates six holdings, most of which appear to be incomplete, and none which note an issue past no. 10. Decidedly uncommon. SOLD. 


Friday, June 1, 2012

Hard Times are Coming to Your Town: KDAY, Run-DMC and the Day of Peace in Los Angeles

Run-DMC didn't get a chance to perform at their Long Beach show with the Beastie Boys on the Raising Hell tour in 1986. Fights between rival gang members broke out into a full fledged riot before they hit the stage. Police took half an hour to respond, by which time one audience member had been killed and scores wounded. 

Following these events, Ed Kirby, the station manager for the pioneering radio station KDAY, and the members of Run-DMC came up with the idea for a day of peace, hosted by the radio station. On October 9, gangs were urged to lay aside their rivalries for the day. A symposium was held on KDAY with the members of Run-DMC to address gang and drug problems. 

The sheer volume of call-ins, estimated at 15,000 in the publication, overran the local switchboard. No serious violence was reported on the date. About two weeks later, the Bloods and the Crips signed a peace treaty.

The document is partially reproduced in this booklet, which appears to have been produced to commemorate the event and to advertise the radio station's programs and place within the local Hip Hip community. The event was held as model for other cities in their attempts to curb gang and drug violence, which perhaps explains how this copy ended up more than 2000 miles away in the wilds of Detroit, where I found it beneath a huge pile of yearbooks.

[KDAY]. KDAY: A Day of Peace. [Los Angeles]: KDAY, [1986]. 4to. Offset printed on rectos only; perfect bound in blind-stamped wraps. Wraps rather stained; lower right hand tip bumped, with resulting crease throughout; about very good. A tattered copy, but scarce and important. OCLC locates no holdings. SOLD. Inquire