|Aspen no. 3, item 11|
|The Plastic Exploding Inevitable|
The terror and desperation of "Chelsea Girls" is a Holy Terror, by Jonas Mekas
Slum Goddess, from the East Village Other
Allen Ginsberg on political action, from the East Village Other
Hustling For Army Health Razor Blades & Bomb Drop Yuk Yuk by Gerard Malanga
Bobby, and Barbie and Ken in the Cat's Pink Mouth, by Patricia Oberhaus, from the Berkeley Barb
EVO Freakout by John Wilcock
What Is Joint Art, from the LA Free Press
Ron Tavel on The Silver Scum
Once when Kenneth Anger was 18 years old, his parents went away for the weekend leaving him in charge of the family house. He immediately summoned all the friends he could think of, got hold of a wardrobe of sailor outfits, and shot a film, "Fireworks," an opus that remains to date his most straightforward and sincere. With daring zooms and electrifying worm's-eye-views that shutter down like the collapsing folds of a fan, he exposed with unabashed innocence the nightmare limitations of a youth who craves the sadistic assault of an entire navy in place of the paranoiacally lost union with humanity. The ultimate in wishful hoping is achieved at the movie's climax, when a sailor's fly opens out into a gigantic Christmas tree that pierces the hero through and through.
"Fireworks" set a tone and a standard that were to throw a long shadow across the upcoming generation of independent American filmmakers. Its photographic innovations and uncensored subject matter are the pride and joy of these artists, while its visionary shortcomings would seem to be symbolic of the fractured lives led by most of these movie people. Anger grew up in California, surrounded by the myth of Hollywood, (which he would later take to task in his hook, "Hollywood Babylon," an incredibly paranoid interpretation of our indigenous mythology), and nearly all the Underground directors evince the prodigious influence of the West Coast fantasy-world.
Anger's films became popular on the university circuit, which brought him meager financial returns, but it was not until the release of "Scorpio Rising," his most commercial and least artistic work, that he was ironically awarded a $10,000 grant and placed in a securer as well as more artistically accepted position. Furthermore, "Scorpio Rising," a 45-minute film replete with the sensational distrust of human beings seen through the bored, non-fluid eye of a repetitively right-angle camera movement, became the box-office draw of the Underground world and rescued not only Anger but several cinematheque houses across the country.
CONTINUED: Silver Scum
Allen Ginsberg, would you be interested in running for political office?
Yes. Except that I'm too busy writing poetry. I almost wish I'd run against Farbstein.
How, in a political society, can the politically uncommitted change the structure for the better?
First of all like Krishnamurti said this week a psychic revolution is taking placeor it should take placewhich would then realign, rearrange human relahonships presumably, as he said, to imageless contact.
So I go and sit and listen to Krishnamurti. Same time I went down to Varick St. an the 27th, voting day, to get a judge, fine, and imagepaper so I could vote against the Vietnam war. In the East Village if all 2,500 people at the Leary assemblage that night hod voted we would have got a peace candidate, maybe full of images, but anyway the word peace instead of the word war implanted in newspaper consciousness. In this locality if every junkie, faggot, teahead, spade, beatnik, LSD-soul, utopian/meths freak fug groupie, Bhaktivedanta devotee, Incorruptible Indifferent seeker and lazy bastard would literally register their persons at the Board of Elections on Varick St. we could inaugurate a community that might lead the wayin America: we could have one representative in Congress and a bunch of our own agents at City Hall and Albany.
Suze Rotolo, age 22: "If a man can learn to develop all his inherent and latent powers there is nothing that he will not be able to apprehend. For the knowledge of everything is in man in the same way it is in God. Only a heavy veil of darkness hides it from view and prevents his seeing these things and understanding them.
"Arthur Rimbaud said that, and that's all I want to say. Because if you look at it close enough it answers the three questions: How come the Lower East Side? Men in general? What I do?
"I live on the Lower East Side because I like the new. I want my man to have a toothpick in his ear and a purple boot on his right foot. I do artist and earn money when I do."
HUSTLING FOR ARMY HEALTH RAZOR BLADES & BOMB DROP YUK YUK
By GERARD MALANGA, poet-laureat, whip-dancer
What's happening in modern poetry?
Let's first of all be very clear however as to the kinds of poetry being discussed. My point of departure in this essay is going to be page one of the Grove Press "Anthology of American Poetry, 1945-60." There are, I suppose, some decent poets in all those other Robert Pack etc. anthologies, but no one in his right mind could possibly mistake even the best of them for a "modern" poet. In fact, one may even question the nationality of such poets (as for example Richard Wilbur, Robert Lowell, etc). So, so much for them. The Grove Press anthology, despite all the crap it contained, and despite certain hideous omissions, served wonderfully to clear the air of all the noisy emptiness in it, and at the same time threw up into the air a goodly portion of all the modern and American poetry that was being written. (Alas, the editor somehow found reason not to include Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Louis Zukofsky and Edwin Denby, all of whose poetry is vital to any understanding of the terms "modern" and "American" in relation to poetry. Which is not even to mention the fact that Edwin Denby, the least known of those four, probably is one of the two or three greatest living American poets.) Here is a sampling of his work, concerned with interiors and exteriors, the weather, and the urban environment:
Certain arbitrary divisions into groups were made in that Grove Press anthology, for purposes of simplification, i.e. to "locate" the various poets in "schools" etc, if there were any, which there were. This wasn't a bad idea, really, though naturally it made for certain misleading connections which would have to be straightened out later in order to properly chart the various streams of development for anyone interested. It is possible now, in 1966, to take a close look at that Grove anthology and its various divisions in light of the passing of six years, and thus to see not only what has been happening since 1960, but also to get a better, more accurate picture of what was happening before then.
CONTINUED: Bomb Drop Yuk Yuk
Bobby, and Barbie and Ken in the Cat's Pink Mouth
(Artist PATRICIA OBERHAUS describes the "Bobby Dylan Scene" below. We could not reproduce her delicate and fragile calligraphy, but we tried to preserve her style and flavor.)
We enter the cat's pink mouth, find our seat. For as far as the eye can see the cat's mouth is full of hundreds of Barbie and Ken dolls, all perfect, having a perfect time, teeth clean capped, hair painted and sprayed -- no organs to worry them, smooth nipple free breasts, peg pants with not a trace of a bulge.
All out to see Bobby Dylan die! The lights dim, the cat's mouth is dark, people begin to squirm, hope he won't come out, it would be so much safer to go home and watch "banana".....
Bob Dylan comes out, hundreds of clean pink hands clap just..... perfectly. He is so small and pale, he sings alone hardly moving, for them, for me, for him, and for no one..... Barbie & Ken are trying! to enjoy - destroy - understand, hate, and get their money's worth.
When the cat's mouth lit up again every Barbie & Ken got up and went out to have a Kotex filter lip wintergreen flavored, cancerless, cigarette, I tried to swim upstream to talk my way out of my sentence -- And using what little tack I have received permission to go from fail to chance.
The man next to me after talking to his fox-faced wife thru the first two songs--dozes -- and rubs his wrinkled forehead with his dry hands. The five identical high school girls behind me are making chipmunk sounds cracking up... One is so hysterical she goes out to regain her poise... When she returns (also in the middle of a song) she hits me in the back of the head with her 25 lb purse-- Kee-rist! She: "Oh, shut up" (bright girl) I turn and quietly tell her of her hopeless head workings!... I win, all is quiet.
We are all part of the same flesh, I am told, how is it we are not able to sit quietly in the cat's mouth and hear a pale boy die without quarreling? Do you have to like it! Must death be like "Forest Lawn," all lime Jello and plaster Jesus? Don't look now Baby! Jesus and God just can't make it they were detained--they both died, very quietly just the way you like it--in perfect taste.
After trying to pull my nonexistent rank on an army of sexless girls in hereditary basic black, and failing, made the trip upstream again got a pitpass (this had me wondering if I had to go home to get my whites too).
Bob came out--with a very neat wayout crew--organ (the only one I saw that was working) piano (simply grand) two guitar sidemen very fine musicians and quite like bookends--and a gas of a drummer, who plays like a huge huge teddy bear. Every note was there, and you knew it had been done so many times that it was perfect. The people in the pit sent out waves of life--we are here we are alive.
It was over. "Barbie & Ken" chatting brightly left with no police escort. "Barbie" oh next week we must see the "Rolling Stones" "Ken" replies oh I want to see the kingstone trio--Dad sez they are great he saw them in "Lost Vaguest" Sigh!
The next night, with lots of help from my pit crew we sail unchallenged down the isle. Past the picket fence of usherettes in more black crepe--
The audience was a gass! -- Everyone really turned out and on to Bobby Dylan -- a nutty bunch, everyone alive and real. painters writers, goofs - hippys singers swayers, swingers! what a beautiful crew! And all decked out in their best! Tall leather boots--vests of soft suede, velvet skirts shirts, one loving living soul--who know not to clap when another soul is telling of the life on desolation row.
Wilcock on Underground Establishment
Like so many other over-used words, "Underground" means too many different things to different people. If it is still used by people who are Underground themselves (by any definition) this is mainly because no other word conveys so simply a whole class of people and their activities.
In its simplest sense the Underground is the loosely organized collective of artists, writers creative people whose work, while appreciated by each other is not yet acceptable by the Establishment. Sometimes even after such recognition the aura of the Underground hangs around a former heroBob Dylan is the bestknown example. Allen Ginsberg, still an anarchist despite what are virtually "diplomatic" credentials, is another.
It is no accident that so many current Underground heroes are poets: Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Ed Sanders, Tuli Kupferberg, Gerard Malanga, Michael McClure. The poets, sensitively attuned to the fastchanging nuances of our society, are the first to put into words what so many others feel. Their language is a kind of code and usually it screams for revolution in unequivical terms that would get . them all hustled off to jail were it written in the prosaic prose that John Q. Public is used to.
The poets cry for change and, if they are good poets, they articulate society's needs, especially the needs of the young people who resent the traditions and rules laid down by their elders. They may be older, the young people say, but if they are wiser why have they left us to inherit a world so full of death and disaster?
Avoid "Selling Out"
For any creative person with integrity the constant struggle is to avoid "selling out." The pressure to make a living, to temper one's art to what is saleable is tremendous at any level, especially so for somebody who is young and does not see the concomitant pitfalls.
Of course an artist wants acceptance. Of course he is only too happy to stop grubbing around for recognition in tiny group shows on the lower East Side where his friends drink the cheap punch at opening parties and offer him only good wishes. Naturally his life becomes easier if he is adopted by a glossy gallery on upper Madison Avenue and given not only supercalifragialistic shows but also serious reviews in the art pages and sometimes interviews on television and commissions to design department store boutiques.
But in return he does have to produce. It is no longer enough to create when the muse strikes. A gallery owner (the French equivalent, marchand is so much more applicable ) is a hardheaded businessman who has to pay the rent regularly on a piece of expensive property and, artistic temperament aside, the artist must produceenough for an annual show, at any rate. How much of current art is "forced art" and how much grows naturally? And is there a difference? These are dilemmas that the genuinely creative mind tries to avoid as long as possible even if it necessitates remaining in the Underground rather than grabbing the first commercial offer that comes along.
There have been an increasing number of these lately. The mass communications media has (belatedly) realized the extent of the current revolution in the arts. All the traditional forms have been and are being changed. In music, pioneers such as the late Edgar Varese and time-space experimenters such as John Cage have taught us that the mechanical sounds of this electronic age, and even silence, possess musical content. Currently such "farout" jazz exponents as Albert Ayler, Ornette Coleman, Sun Ra, are mystifying the traditional jazz buffs with their cacophonous sounds although, once again, it is mainly the unfamiliarity that bothers traditionalists whose Western ears tag Oriental music with the same farout indictment.
What came to be termed as Pop Art and at first regarded as a fad has reshaped the very essence of what the man in the street regards as art so that he is now almost literally shockproof. The boundaries of what is accepted as "art" have become so wide that it is difficult to see how they could ever become constricted again. Just as the commercial artists and the draughtsman have moved to take their places alongside painters, so (as Time magazine pointed out) in sculpture the draughtsmen and the construction workers have begun to display their waresin the same galleries. And now, with kinetic and neon sculpture, the engineers and electricians are moving in as well.
Writing has always had its wordwizards who were less interested in the semantic or grammatical content than in the mood that a patchwork of words could evoke. In our times, James Joyce was the forerunner of this movement but present-day examples are William Burroughs who in some of his works cuts and pastes fragments together as the mood takes him, and the French author who packaged the loose pages of his novel in a box with instructions to shuffle before reading. What was he sayingthat his story is a series of chance incidents to be understood at random rather as life itself? Lately, some widely disparate writers, in different parts of the world, have shown a tendency to write in a kind of code, a telegraphese or symbolic shorthand that incorporates internationally known scientific terms, symbols, abbreviations. It is a mid-century esperanto that seems entirely appropriate for an increasingly international society.
In theatre, always the most backward of the arts where innovation is concerned, there have been more and more attempts to break out of the frame imposed by physical limitations. A dramatic performance must take place somewhere and for reasons of efficiency, economy andunfortunatelythe performers' own dignity, it has found itself confined, by and large, to a theatre. Formality and dignity are the enemies of art, of creativity, and most artists (but regrettably few actors) know this. A captive audience, scrubbed and polished and shown where to sit, is watching something creative and not participating in it. In a sense it is no more involved than if it is a crowd watching a baseball game or a heavyweight fight. It is engaged to a minor degree but its vicarious identification with what is going on is a shabby substitute for the truly transcendental experience enjoyed with complete artistic involvement such as might happen during a symphony concert or the all-to-rare theatrical performance.
A Pigeon Hole
The theatre of the absurd, a minor breakthrough, was followed closely by improvisational theatre in which attempts were made to truly involve the minds of the audience and not merely their eyes and superficial emotions. But always the gap remainedthe physical separation between the watchers and the watchedthe stage raised above and separated from the audience. So along came the Happening, surely one of the most misunderstood terms in the whole realm of the arts. "Happening" has become a pigeonholing generic term for something that cannot be pigeon-holed, and it makes about as much sense for somebody to say they've seen a Happening and don't like Happenings as it would be for somebody to say they've read a book and don't like books. Whose Happening have they seen? And what was that particular artist trying to say? And can it be put into words anyway?
An artist, a writer, some creative person has a visionsomething he wants to say or some mood he wants to express. So he hires a hall, or a studio, or a gallery or maybe even sets something up in his apartment and invites his friends to come along and see (i.e. take part, be there). If it's Robert Whitman he might have beautiful girls wandering around changing the color of their dresses like the leaves announcing a change of seasons; if it's German artist Wolf Vostell he might have everybody scrimmaging In a swimming pool squirting each other with brightly colored paints, if it's French artist Jean-Jaeques Lebel there will certainly be nudes, and some bitter comments about the politi eel establishment; if it's Al Hansen there will be a thousand different ingredients in keeping with Hansen's opinion about "the complete absence of anything interesting in more conventional forms of theatre."
Ambiguous as the term is, "Happening" is used because it is a convenient label, but it should always be understood to mean everything rather than something. By its very nature a Happening is something unpredictable, rather than something that can be described. In San Diego, a group of Happenings people ran onto the beach at dawn with pots and brushes and began to paint the waves, in San Francisco, members of the "audience" were picked up in a truck and driven around town past prearranged points where "things" took place.
Because of the loose form of Happenings they have attracted participants from all the arts and have acted as an experimental area for painters, sculptors, theatrical types, writers, musicians, lighting technicians, and filmmakers. The film-makers are the new elite of the Underground and many painters ( Robert Breer, Carmen D'avino, Al Leslie) have successfully combined both techniques. One of the things that seems to be happening in cinema is that for the first time film is being treated not merely as a medium to tell a coherent story (i.e photographed theatre) but now stands tall as a medium in its own right with film itself and not merely its content viewed aesthetically, with its mood more important than its message. In a sense the collage, a centuries-old art form, has come to cinema with such pioneers as Norman Rubington in Paris, Bruce Conners on the West Coast, and Stan Vanderbeek in New York mixing up every kind of visual artifact to produce something that could only have been born in the mid-20th century.
All these people are folk heroes of the Underground and they will remain so for as long as the mass media persist in judging their work (if they bother to review it at all) by the static standards of another generation. It is easy to understand, of course, why a man who has made a living out of telling his readers what art is, or what good music is, cannot adjust to some new definitions. But it is equally clear that as long as there are artists, they will always force the critics to make new definitions. Indeed, the first requisite for a good artist is that he be able to make people see things differently if not with his eyes then at least with an expanded vision of their own.
An artist is a leader, however small his following, and the very substance of art is revolution and a questioning and sometimes overturning of the values of the society which nurtures it. So-called "antisocial" behavior is often the most constructive of all social behavior because it is an affirmation of the individual's right to exist individually in a collective structure.
The intellectual's obligation to society approximates that of the artist: to present to it a vision of something that can be rather than what is, assuming of course, that the "can be" is based always on a mutual respect for each other's freedom. Morality has very little to do with people's sex lives and the conditions in which they live, despite what the averagely smug bourgeois citizen might think about "beatniks." True morality implies a tolerance for other attitudes and modes of life, not necessarily an endorsement of them. The major immorality is in insisting (by coercion blackmail, or law) that others live and think as you do.
The rebel, therefore, fills an important function in that he helps to keep society mobile, challenges or upsets the status quo ("the only constant is change") and always by his example promulgates the notion that there are alternatives.
It is my belief that nothing is holy; nothing is above challenge and examination, and that the most firmly entrenched ideas, institutions, and individuals are most in need of it. That is what the Underground is all about, and that is why, whatever its label, there will always be an Underground.
WHAT IS "JOINT ART"
Joint art, is an idea put forth by the Bodega Bay Company, dedicated to the public dissemination of psychedelic art.
The drawing was not done to any particular plan or idea, but the artists would simply trade drawings every half hour or so.
Psychedelic art, then, is a continuous record of a sort of non-verbal stream of consciousness.
SILVER SCUM, cont'd
Ron Rice, who is credited with having brought "The New America Cinema" to New York from California, was in many ways one of the purest practitioners of film art in our times. What would seem at first to be creative handicaps were, paradoxically, some of the strongest factors working in his favor: poor reasoning, lack of education, literary and logical ignorance, and absence of narrational continuity. For Rice introduced in "The Flower Thief" an emotional continuity that followed convincingly from graphic cut to cut; and which produced in the audience a satisfactory and whole experience quite apart from the linear logistics to which western spectators are normally predisposed. He used as hero the winsome Taylor Mead (a 16mm. star) and trailed him through a series of bewildering and disabilitating societal adventures which leave Mead bewildered but charmingly undisabled.
A second film, "Senseless," is just that, but also a great lesson in editing and juxtaposition founded in and justified by the purely visual. Rice's movies inspired a wealth of disciples and helped establish the Filmmaker's Co-op in New York an organization which ever since has per med as a distributing house and showcase palace for new creators. But his films never brought him enough returns to live on or even to purchase footage with, and he was a person singularly unsuited to the rigors of the contemporary struggle. It was not enough to give him food, one had constantly to remind him that he must eat to survive.
He dreamt ceaselessly of Mexico as a modern paradise, but his descriptive images of the country were fraught with escapism and fatality. In December 1964, pneumonia found little resistance in his starved frame, and on Christmas Day, at the age of 27, Ron Rice was buried just outside of Acapulco, the playground of the stars.
Gregory J. Markopoulos, whose films often seem as European as his name, has in fact more than once expressed annoyance at being classed with the Underground He works under the great influence of Cocteau, except that his use of Greek mythology is even more recondite than the master's, and his obscurity is willful, indulgent, and extreme. 20th Century Fox has noted that Markopoulos' technique with color is the most advanced in the country, and the independent film world has hailed the velocity of his intercutting in the interests of subliminal communication as the most expert on record. This high respect for his technical dexterity has recently earned him a Chicago university position (and just in time as financial troubles were threatening to abbreviate his creative output), but the inaccessibility of his themes has made him only moderately popular with audiences.
In "Du Sang de La Volupte et de la Mort" as well as in the famed "Twice a Man," the male offspring of a dominating mother seem to fluctuate between the appeal of strange middle-aged women and sensual same-sex friends. The thematic conclusions are never certain unless they lie in the unidentified (Greek sculpture and architecture repeatedly and rapidly diffused throughout the works.
Most recently, he abandoned his backward eye on Europe and produced a lengthy compilation of three-minute portraits ingeniously varied, ceaselessly absorbing, and eminently succecessful in projecting the many personalities they study.
Stan Brakhage lives with his small family in the isolation of the western mountains. He has produced an epical opus calleds "The Art of Vision" which the critics found to be the last word in putting the mind at the mercy of the eye. Somc found it to be a mindless eye but all agree that even as Gertrude Stein is necessary to literature so Brakhage is necessary to film. These artists do that which must be done, and it can be done only once (i.e., to use words without meaning and eye without mind.) One thing is certain,it requires a strong pair of eyes to witness the whole of "The Art of Vision" and even Brakhage has suggested that one rise and excuse himself now and then during the screening. And all too often the spectator is most attracted by what he can finally be recognize rather than the majority abstractions, and this would seem to he an impor tent criticism of sorts. Nevertheless, the works of Brakhage are overwhelmingly prodigious and awe-inspiring, and his successful hermitage and dedication is a standard to which many of the more decadent might look for health and rejuvenation.
From out of nondescript Ohio come two of the Underground's most sensational and typic al pace-setters, Jack Smith and Bill Vehr. Smith is the creator of "Flaming Creatures," far and away the best known title in Underground movies though the title is hefter known than the film since it is banned in almost every state of the union. At the time when its publicity was at its peak, it behooved the Filmmaker's Co-op to have appealed the case, at least in Nev. York;, for that film with a license coulkd have supported the entire move for several years. But the powers that be at the Co-op saw fit to do otherwise and Smith, once the darling of these powers proved to have an errateic temperament that soon cast him into disfavor and caused the vested interest to turn to more manageable minions.
"Flaming Creatures" has been called "rhapsodic asexuality" and "a singularly joyless transvestite orgy." The sexes are indeed reduced to a neuter state and each individual as well as the collective mass is sentenced to an isolation and psychotic anguish whose very extreme produces an ecstasy founded on the Madison Avenue promise of paradise through the dictates of its Existenee-as-Consumption. More importantly, "Creatures" is one~ of the best examples of cinematography on record and, hopefully, when the authorities get over the problems presented to them by the confrontation with genitals, they shall be able to admit as much.
Bill Vehr frankly imitates Smith and he in turn is imitated by the youngest generation of filmmakers. Vehr's product is flamboyant and rich, erotic and photographically resourceful; but it suffers from fractionalism for each film seems to end midpoint in its motion. Vehr appears very much to want to make a movie, but beyond that it is difficult to estimate what he is about. The same could be leveled against a good deal of American Art, youthful, enthusiastic, energetic: but why it exists and where it is going and what are its aims and purposes is anybody's guess.
Both Smith and Vehr live hand to mouth in lower Manhattan, occasionally endowed by a patron, they really never have enough money to see their projects through. Smith in particular is a superlative still and fashion photographer: but too good is no good and it is a rare magazine that has the educated taste to reprint his material. His new film, "Normal Love," has been three years on the editing table while Vehr's latest opus, "Brothel," looks as if it may never be completed.
Andy Warhol Films Inc., with the famous painter at its helm, boasts an actual "factory" on East 47th St. out of which emanates nearly two films per month. An army of loosely organized artists, cameramen, writers, actors, business-heads, etc. is employed toward this end, mostly for the purpose of keeping from going insane. Although at the height of his fame as a painter Warhol has virtually ceased to function as one for the last three years and has devoted himself entirely to the creation of films, more films than any other individual has ever before independently produced.
Like everything else Warhol has done, his filming technique is so simple it astonishes, and becomes inevitably a great conversation piece. Most of the early works feature an unmoving camera: the camera is set up with no one behind it and almost no one in front of it to direct what will be recorded. "It sucks in reality," as the critics noted, but quite often out of focus and with blurred sound. "Sleep," "Eat," "Kiss," and "Haircut" are early efforts and their titles tell you nearly all you need to know: a man sleeps for eight hours, a man eats a mushroom for two hours, a man gets his haircut during the time ten could have. John Palmer contributed a film to the factory called "Empire," six hours of unmoving camera on the Empire State Building. To some, this is their first confrontation with undisturbed actuality, their first study of graphic simplicities; to others, this is the trying of their patience by a selfindulgent voyeur.
Warhol introduced sync-sound 16mm to the Underground, the sound being recorded directly onto the footage exactly 16 frames after the image. To date, he is still the only person in the movement financially able to produce these sound films. The initial effect was to treble the cinematheque audience and a recent report from the 41st Street Theatre claims Warhol as the only filmmaker to show a clear profit besides Kenneth Anger.
As Warhol's scenarist, I worked quite closely with him for seven or eight months after the purchase of the sound camera. We started with the clean, bare lines of the "Screen Test" films which featured little more than various actors subjected to rigorous inquisitions. The movie which starred Mario Montez was so successful that I reworked the scenario into a play and allowed it to be staged, again with surprising success, at the Play House of the Ridiculous.
Since the factory camera remained motionless, it was all but inevitable that the movies would soon develop into filmed proscenium plays. Keeping close to the "nothingness" that Warhol desired, we managed to bring about absurdist plays startlingly close to Pinter and Ionesco, but with a greater freedom than these practitioners could dare and with a subliminal dash that hurried matters up to date.
In other areas, the factory strove to achieve "living portraits," nonscripted efforts that would catch various persons as they went about their actual problems. This was a difficult matter since most subjects froze before the lens and soon abandoned to "acting," but success finally came in the born-to-be-oncelluloid personality of Edie Sedgwick. This star left the factory late in '65 and has never been adequately replaced. But the films in which she appears satisfactorily project the pointless vacuousness of a good deal of modern life.
Newcomers to independent movieland include the Kuchar Brothers, Michael Sullivan, and Jose Rodriguez-Soltero. The Kuchar Brothers are the most traditionally minded of Underground people and therefore often the most entertaining. Their specialty is homespun humor woven through a quite accessible plot. It may be noted that this return to tradition, carrying with it of course what was learned from the great experiments, is paralleled this year in several of the sister arts.
Michael Sullivan projects the difficulties of substantiating the love and sex union in this country. His heroes are sometimes so desperate that they devour the girl they finally get in the end.
Jose Rodriguez-Soltero, a follower of Vehr and the transvestite scene, ironically rose to fame not with a film but a stage happening in which he burnt the American flag. The daily newscasts flashed the excitement around the city and, though the theatre was finally closed on a fire violation, the sudden publicity brought about a renewed interest in Off-off Broadway.
So movies which for so long labored under the handicap of the influence of theatre have most recently given their parent art a shot in the arm.
And there you have a brief glance at the experiment and daring of America's newest creative expression, the independent and often "underground" celluloid library.
Ronald Tavel, underground scenarist for many Warhol movie scripts, is now writing for the Playhouse of the Ridiculous.
Bomb Drop Yuk Yuk, cont'd
Another important point I would like to clear up is the American poet's tendency, more so today than let's say the years during World War II and immediately thereafter, to be concerned more with technique, tricks, cadenzas, poetic devices, tone and style all which could go under the heading "craftsmanship" than with content and matter. Personally, I find this direction an unfair substitute for the more important things which poetry should be concerned with, but that's the way things are.
To begin with, then, there is, and was, what was called "The Black Mountain School." The Black Mountain influence has been widespread, notably through the prominence and dominance of its quote leaders unquote, Charles Olson and Bob Creeley. For a while it seemed that every young poet in America was aching to be a Black Mountain poet, which meant writing in short lines with a kind of spastic rhythm whose formal means failed to conceal what was basically a tragic romantic approach. Alas for the school, the very poets that typified it, no names to be mentioned here, have faded away, except for Creeley, who was always much better than anyone else and who remains highly interesting, both for his past achievements and because one cannot help wonder what he will do now that he is midway in the journey of his life.
Robert Creeley is the master craftsman of the convincing metaphor, as in this poem:
Oh flame falling, as shaken, as the stories
Olson, of course, never was a Black Mountain poet, and he remains now what he was in the past, that is, Charles Olson. To a certain degree Olson is like the painter Hans Hofmann. He is a very good poet indeed, a great and inspiring person and teacher and, like Hofmann, Olson's inspiration generally sends one off in one's own direction rather than making one into an Olson imitator. Here are the opening stanzas of one of Olson's greatest poems, and the most memorable from his series entitled The Maximus Poems. The poem, entitled "Maximus, To Himself" is a monologue-dialogue, in the sense that Olson becomes the person addressing as well as the person being addressed:
I have had to learn the simplest things
The sea was not, finally my trade.
that we are all
late in a slow time
that we grow up many
and the single
is not easily known.
Of a whole host of San Francisco poets, and I forget just what school they were supposed to be, the comparable leaders, a la Creeley and Olson, were Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan. Jack Spicer, who died recently, is still an influence over quite a number of San Francisco poets, most of whom are, alas, boring. This short poem is from his fourth book, "Language":
A redwood forest is not invisible at night. The blackness covers it but it covers the blackness.
If they had turned Jeffers into a parking lot, death would have been eliminated and birth also. The lights shine 24 hours a day on a parking lot.
True conservation is the effort of the artist and the private man to keep things true. Trees and the cliffs in Big Sur breathe in the dark. Jeffers knew the pain of their breath and the pain was the death of a first-born baby breathing.
Death is not final. Only parking lots.
Robert Duncan too is a force in poetry, as a kind of older master, both through his own work and because of his immense| energies. His own poetry has remained much the same since 1960, and it is his older poetry that exerts influence (as it did over John Wieners, LeRoi Jones, and more recently Robert Kelly, for example).
Now there is a Love of which Dante does not speak unkindly
who lust after men and run
his beloved Master, Brunetto Latini, among them
like the hum of bees in the hot sun.
to look to one another
in the light of a new moon look.
seeking to thread a needle
Love has appointed there
Some other San Francisco poets, notably two, are terrifically active, alive, important to younger poets, and what-have-you. These two are Phil Whalen and Gary Snyder, both now living in Japan. Both have published lots of works since 1960, both have been featured prominently in all the new magazines that have sprung up since 1960, and both are mentioned plenty when the younger poets discuss not gurus but poetry and poets. Here are brief examples of their work:
Lay down these words
placed solid, by hands
In choice of place, set
in space and time:
Solidity of bark, leaf, or wall
riprap of things:
Cobble of milky way,
These poems, people,
lost ponies with
and rocky sure-foot trails.
The worlds like an endless
Game of Go.
ants and pebbles
In the thin loam, each rock a word
a creek-washed stone
with torment of fire and weight
Crystal and sediment linked hot
all change, in thoughts,
As well as things.
by Gary Snyder
TUESDAY, JULY 25,1961
hoist great blocks of language into place
A fabric of elegant proportion, exquisitely adorned
with garlands, columns, urns
one chaste Roman statue in a niche
Wherein the lives & feelings of a motley crew sparkle,
flare, shout, gasp & tinkle
Disperse into foreign cities ancient gaudy jeweled kingdom of the east...
the pinnace in the wooded bay
the final Journey to Cythera
by Philip Whalen
And finally, in San Francisco; there is Mike McClure, who has flipped out onto the beast track who is somehow a right-wing experimentalist, a very interesting person and poet, (a very beautiful person to look at) whom nobody imitates but everybody watches. Instead of commenting on his work, I'll quote the poet's own words from his introduction to the Ghost Tantras:
Here is a musculine-masculine example from The Beast Sound:
Just as a footnote to this group, it is interesting to note that the poet Philip Lamantia, (currently on one of his frequent long-term stays in Europe presently residing in Malaga, Spain) still exerts his magic influence over poets from Maine to Carmel, just a few here and there, despite the feet that he is rarely heard from. Here are the first and last stanzas from one of his most recent poems:
The Sun is Bleeding Over the Sky!
to burn down the dreads of dope
and dour old men's sickly sex
and sicker greeds!
The Beats, I am happy to say are flourishing. Allen Ginsberg is now the best-known poet in America. Further, he is ten times as good a poet as when he wrote "Howl" and God bless him as Charles Olson said at Berkeley last summer, "Allen, you are our leader." His India poems are wonderful. Here is an example of his most recent work, "Carmel Valley", written at Joan Baez' house at Big Sur:
Yellow grass on a hill
blue mountain ranges, blue sky,
bright reservoir & road below, tiny cars
The wing tree green sigh of the wind
rises and falls
Buddha, Christ, fissiparous
White sun rays piercing my eyeglasses
The grey bark animal arms,
fingers pointing, twigs trembling,
green thin plates bobbing
sprouted from knotted branches
No one will have to announce the New Age
No Special name, No Unique Way,
no Crier by Method or
Herald of the Snaky Unknown,
No Messiah necassary but the Country and ourselves
fifty years old
Allah this tree, Eternity this Space Age:
Teenagers walking thru Times Sq. neon & metal
look up at blue planets thru buildingtops,
Old men lay out on the grass afternoons,
old Walnut stands above them, ants
crawl on the page,
the mountain hide is covered with green skin
and invisible singing insects,
birds flap out, Man will relax
and sit on the hill remembering his tree friends.
Peter Orlovsky, Allen's magic double, despite the paucity of his actual writing output, is one of the most original rewarding and talented poets in America. He is a kind of terrifically virile American Max Jacob, religious vision and all, and may outlast us all in terms of Keatsian fame. Here is the opening of his most well-known poem, "Second Poem":
Morning again, nothing has to be done,
At least clean the room up, for sure like my farther I've done flick the ashes & buts over the bedside on the floor.
But first of all wipe my glasses and drink the water to clean the smelly mouth.
A nock on the door, a cat walks in, behind her the Zoo's baby elephant demanding pancakes I cant stand these hallucinations any more.
Time for another cigarette and then let the curtains rise, then I knowtice the dirt makes a road path to the garbage pan.
No icebox so a dried up grapefruit.
Is there any one saintly thing I can do to my room, paint it pink maybe or instal an elevator from the bed to the floor maybe take a bath in the bed?
What's the use of living if I cant make paradise in my own room-land?
For this drop of time upon my eyes
like the endurance of a red star on a cigarette
makes me feel life splits faster than scissors.
And the third king beatnik Gregory Corso, having gone thru the mills of marriage, addiction to junk, his usual charlatanry and considerably more assininity than usual, plus having published two books since the great Gasoline that were more boring than not (tho containing marvelous stuff too of course), recently published a genius book in an edition of 100 copies titled The Mutation of the Spirit that is almost better than anything he has ever done. I guess Gregory will never develop in an ordinary manner, but it is now obvious that sporadically he will astound everyone by producing authentic timeless works of great American genius as he was obviously meant to do. Here is the ending of one of his most/memorable shorter poems, "Uccello", the poet's commentary upon looking at one of Uccello's paintings and wishing to take part in the battle crusade depicted:
You'd think it impossible for any man to die
each combatant's mouth is a castle of song
like cries of gold
how l dream to join such battle!
lance never to die but to be endless
a golden prince of pictorial war
Jack Kerouac, still not known as a poet, and, despite what Allen says about Mexico City Blue it is something less than great poetry, somehow nevertheless IS a great poet. Here is "211th Chorus" from his Mexico City Blues:
The wheel of the quivering meat conception
Illuminating the sky of one Mind
Desolation Angels was as good as anything he has ever done and believe you me, folks, Jack Kerouac is THE great American Writer as of now. I have said it. Bang.
I must get finished with all these guys, as there are new poets to talk about, and truly they are what is happening in modern poetry, and that IS what we are talking about, we being me, but: here I am at the most important development among the older poets of modern American poetry. I mean The New York School.
Ooops. First a pause to say that Mr. J. Wieners, NYC and San Francisco and Boston, Mass. and Buffalo, continues to roll, sweet lyrical formal and tough-minded as ever (or, to coin a phrase, "feminine, marvelous and tough.") Here is John Wieners' most feminine, marvelous and tough poem to date:
Don't give nothing for nothing
He gave me nothing
Lidden children of the world.
Damned and cursed before all the world;
Now, back to NYC. In the Grove Press anthology Don Allen presented the New York poets, namely Kenneth Koch John Ashbery, James Schuyler and Frank 0'Hara. Not too much space was given to this group but time has shown that in fact it was this group that was and still is the most vibrant vital active force in modern American poetry today, both in terms of influence and in actual work produced. Frank O'Hara's Lunch Poems and Love Poems, John Ashbery's The Tennis Court Oath and Rivers and Mountains, Kenneth Koch's Thank You, and lately Jimmy Schuyler's May 24th Or So are the best books to have been published since 1960. John Ashbery is a holy wonder. Time has shown that it is he, and not Olson nor Allen nor Duncan who is THE POET. In my own opinion John Ashbery is the greatest poet alive today writing in English. As a brief example of his work, here's the opening stanza in his book "Rivers and Mountains":
These lacustrine cities grew out of loathing
The Yugen crowd has more or less disappeared, likewise with The Floating Bear crowd. Diane DiPrima still does this and that, with her husband, actor-model Alan Marlowe, printing books of poems and prose of her friends on the Poet's Press imprint, but it isn't really anything, and even her own tough guy lovableness as in Dinners and Nightmares has dribbled mostly away. Of the Yugen crowd, all that would seem to be left is LeRoi Jones (his picture is appearing everywhere these days! ) and since everybody thinks they know all about him (they don't) I won't say anymore, except that his System of Dante's Hell actually is what Frank O'Hara once said it was, i.e. the most exciting swinging valid and etc. experimental prose writing in America since Gertrude Stein. It is a great book. Here is a brief but poignant excerpt from the beginning of the section entitled "The Heretics":
The place, they told us, we'd have to go to "ball" was called by them Bottom. The Bottom; where the colored lived. There, in whatever word less energies your lives cd be taken up. Step buck: to the edge, soothed the wind drops. Fingers are cool Air sweeps. Trees one hundred feet down, smoothed over, the wind sways.
And they tell me there is one place/
for me to be. Where
comes down. &
you take up your sorrowful
with us all. To
The bottom lay like a man under a huge mountain.
To turn to somewhere else, Ed Dorn is still publishing, lots of people speak highly of him, but few imitate his boring unimaginative verse. His uncompromising moral stance is no doubt admirable, and so everybody admires it, and no one ever says outright that his works are boring, but they are; that's why they're great!!
Maybe Ed Dorn is too specific in his naming of names and locations. There is no mystery, no magic, no questions to guess at. But I don't want to imply I've searched for instances to back up my point. Here are two brief stanzas from his poem, "Are They Dancing":
There is a sad carnival up the alley
Well, what is new, though maybe it isn't so new, is that what is happening is happening in New York City. Oh, there are swinging activities in Detroit, though John Sinclair, young hot-shot there, was recently busted for pot and got six months, somewhat cooling the scene, and Allen says there is activity in Wichita with Charles Plymell, and there's always a few new talents jaypopping thru San Francisco, despite the hate-wars always going on in that most provincial of big cities; but, I repeat, what's happening is happening in New York City. There the two newest and brightest of the new, heir apparent to the beats, Ed Sanders, and that presumptious young man Ted Berrigan, are publishing the two best poetry magazines in the world. Sanders is sole editor and publisher of the notorious and wonderful Fuck You, A Magazine of The Arts, and Berrigan the same sole mogul of the weird and frivolous "C", A Journal of Poetry. Between them they have all the territory covered. In fact, they do publish some of the same people, notably each other, much to everyone's surprise, plus Wieners, Ginsberg, Corso, O'Hara. But strictly speaking Ed Sanders' turf includes rights to Ginsberg, Wieners, Olson, Corso Orlovsky, McClure, etc., although Sanders' best poet is Ed Sanders himself, a young genius, whose Poem From Jail and Peace Eye are great books. "C" in truth is more swinging as far as the new discovery line goes, and with one or two exceptions all the best young poets appear there. Berrigan's book The Sonnets and Sanders' Peace Eye are the two most important new books. The following poems are from them.
You are asleep And the beautiful tears
by Ted Berrigan
Song of the Hustler
by Ed Sanders
In addition I would like to recommend the works of a few young poets of extreme talent ("in extremis"), i.e. Dan Cassidy, Ron Padgett, Ingrid Superstar, David Murray, Debbie Caen and Albert Rene Ricard (most of them working in the journal-diary form structure) who are grouped around the painter Andy Warhol and myself. Of them, you're bound to hear more later!
Dan Cassidy's Katz Lectures is an unpublished book manuscript I whose major concern is contemplation of a universal revolution which suggests possible good roads, and sympathetic insight into fears; and it reports flashes of hope lighting the way, even though they may not come for the next fifty years. One aspect of The Katz Lectures manuscript solution seems to be suggested in a poem whose title was suggested by a line by Allen Ginsberg.
NOW IS THE TIME FOR PROPHECY
A first reading of In Advance of The Broken Arm enforces immediate respect for Ron Padgett's imagination as a technician. He knows precisely what effects he wants, and he knows how to achieve them. Here is one example:
a talking song from the painter Miro
Always I walk in nature... alone
Ingrid Superstar (of "Underground movie fame"), as her friends call her, has written a trip book, a sort of diary. Her writing is bad, meaning in the "Camp" sense, it's good. What is bad in Ingrid's diary is good because what she does do bad she takes seriously. The great thing about Ingrid Superstar's writing is you know it could only come from her.
Here is a sampling, the opening stanzas of a personality study of her mentor, pop kid Andy Warhol:
Pop Art is very uptight, but imaginatively different and has its own original manner. Up-tight means to have so many different things of interest going at the same time to attract the audiences attention, in order to confuse them (maybe intentionally or unintentionally)
Andy is very congenial, always agreeing with everything, probably just to avoid a hassle.
Always chews gum, esp. when he's up there. His poor teeth. Never knows anything. Quote: "I don't know, soon, maybe." Usually indirect, as you can see.
Usually quiet, shy and observant at first, with a cute smile. (It's the quiet ones and the sweet sneaks that you have to look out for)
One further new magazine that must needs be mentioned is Aram Saroyan's Lines, now defunct, of which there were six issues. Aram Saroyan is a weird cat, publishes and writes Concretist poetry (plus real poetry), and is a thick-headed sort of fellow, but is a marvelous young poet who alas can't be avoided. Here are some examples from his Concrete poetry:
Then there's David Murray in his David Murray's Journal, a Swiftian dream journal accumulation of his travels, his sexual escapades and the people he has encountered in his life. The effect David Murray achieves is making Love an allembracing physical and psychological act in modern literature. Readers may find David Murray's journal offensive or perverse, but this is only felt on the surface because David's prosaic style is untrim, opaque, somewhat defecating but equally lyrical and colorful.
Now we come to a very significant diary by a heroine of our age, Debbie Caen. Debbie's diary is probably one of the most significant pieces of prose writing by a young person to come out of America since Huncke's Journal. What makes the diary important, are the insights and the revelation of an extraordinarily sensitive and lucid but also tormented amphetamine spirit, a spirit effected by the impulse of an isolation, but not over that edge that prevents us from hearing and reading what Debbie Caen has to say of the personal crises that surround her and her friends:
We live a life void of holidays and surrounded by our twins we crowd our heads with sound so loud, it fills our tender, pinkish brains as water fills a lost bottle.
Sometimes I wonder if I am the joke and she merely another prop, pushing me, downward. Until final blackness, my only path. No more. The one last chance, never again the opportunity to retreat.
I missed you by only two blocks.
The poems of Albert Rene Ricard have been justly praised by almost everyone n "the Underground". In his only unpublished slim book manuscript, we find a sophistication and technical structure almost unequaled among his contemporaries or his elder mentors, including John Wieners whom he looks toward as his guiding spirit. Albert Rene Ricard's themes are completely about one subject: love and hate.
Ricard is probably the most interesting of all the recent young American poets, if only because of his Underground personality reputation as catalyst and pretty boy which he has consistently maintained for years in Cambridge, Boston, Provincetown, Montreal, and New York.
"The Stones Have Begun Making Me Sick"
But it stopped a week ago
Original format: Eight page newsprint tabloid, 11-1/2 by 17 inches. Numerous photos are omitted here to reduce download time.