The Literary Explosion of the 60s (IV): The Mimeograph Revolution Leaders

The mimeograph revolution is generally considered the peak of the literary upheaval of the 60s. The mimeos were exceedingly easy to produce. Since operating a mimeograph did not require previous experience, flyers or broadsides could be completed in an hour, and a chapbook could take a day at the very most. This sense of immediacy delighted those authors with a perennial hunger for exposure, such as Charles Bukowski or Judson Crews. Moreover, mimeos were extremely inexpensive. Ed Sanders, editor of Fuck You, one of the most representative magazines of the “mimeo revolution,” claimed that the cost of a mimeo could be as little as ten dollars.  According to Douglas Blazek, editor of Olé, it could be anywhere between 75 and 125 dollars.

These two features, alongside the well-connected network of editors who efficiently distributed their own periodicals, with d. a. levy as the main figure of the movement, contributed to the proliferation of the mimeos. The Marrahwannah Quarterly, Olé, Runcible Spoon, Kauri, Intrepid, Magazine, Poetry Newsletter, Grande Ronde Review, Litmus, Blitz, Salted Feathers, Wild Dog, Aspects, Floating Bear, Poetry Review and Fuck You: A Magazine for the Arts are usually listed as the key titles of the period. All of them, save the four last “mimeos,” featured Bukowski in their pages. It is evident, then, that the “mimeo” editors appreciated Bukowski’s work, and their magazines helped turn him into a popular figure in the alternative literary scene and the most published author of the 60s.

The following graph, based on Christopher Harter’s An Author Index to Little Magazines of the Mimeograph Revolution, displays the total number of appearances of the most widely published authors in the 60s. Obviously, Harter’s study does not encompass all mimeos ever published, so the figures below are not representative of the actual output or the actual number of periodical appearances of the authors in the graph. For instance, Bukowski was in over a hundred underground newspaper issues in 1967-70, and that is not reflected in the graph. Similarly, Bukowski totals 239 appearances and Larry Eigner –whom Bukowski called “the greatest living poet” in a 1963 interview- 237, but in 1971-80 Bukowski had 214 appearances and Eigner 39. Likewise, Lyn Lifshin has 72 appearances only in the graph and 357 in 1971-80. Douglas Blazek’s appearances, over 200 in the graph, drop to 22 in 1971-80. Judson Crews, including his many pseudonyms -Trumbull Drachler, Cerise Farallon or Mason Jordan Mason- does not reach the 200 appearances because he was not especially popular in the mimeo scene, but his work appeared in hundreds of littles and journals not included in the graph. Williams Burroughs’ work was extensively printed in alternative publications in the 60s, but not so much in the periodicals selected by Harter. In any case, the data displayed in the graph should indicate -in terms of publications- who were the true leaders of the mimeograph revolution.

Next: The Literary Explosion of the 60s (V): Summing up

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