Author Archives: abel debritto

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. Continue reading

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The Literary Explosion of the 60s (III): Charles Bukowski

Critics have claimed that Bukowski was the most prolific author of the 60s. Bukowski wrote indefatigably over a period spanning fifty years, and he probably submitted his material to magazines of all sorts on a daily basis as well. It would be exceedingly difficult to determine the total number of poems, stories, essays, columns, introductions, or letters he penned. His staggering literary production has not been properly analyzed or classified as of yet. According to long-time editor John Martin, Black Sparrow Press and Ecco have published 2,643 poems to date, but since there are unintended duplicates in the posthumous collections, it is safe to assume that the actual figure is closer to 2,500. In any case, Martin claims that this amount is roughly half the total number of poems Bukowski actually wrote. Part of the other half appeared in the “littles,” and the remaining ones have not been published.

These estimates clearly indicate that Bukowski was, from the very onset of his career, an extremely prolific author by any standards. His industrious production during the 1950-70 period is reflected in the graph below. Similarly, the 447 Bukowski entries in Christopher Harter’s An Author Index to Little Magazines of the Mimeograph Revolution confirm his prolific nature. Even if Harter’s index does not encompass the totality of Bukowski’s mammoth output in the 60s, he turns out to be the most published author of the period, clearly surpassing the literary efforts of other small press legends, such as Judson Crews, William Burroughs, or Lyn Lifshin. It is as if Bukowski had foreseen the value of the “publish or perish” culture before it became an unavoidable reality.

The following graph, based on all the Bukowski bibliographies published to date and on several hundred periodicals that I have personally reviewed in over a dozen American libraries, displays the total number of litle magazines published as well as the total number of magazine issues featuring Bukowski’s work from 1950 to 1970. As in the graphs shown in the previous installments, the little magazines and Trace, the upward pattern becomes evident in the late 50s.

 

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

The Literary Explosion of the 60s (IV): Bukowski

The Literary Explosion of the 60s (II): Trace

James Boyer May put out a most valuable periodical directory in his Trace magazine, which basically indexed most of the little magazines published in America and in England on a yearly basis. Trace’s directory was an excellent resource for maverick authors such as Judson Crews or Charles Bukowski, who once claimed that “Trace has long impressed me as the only gathering ground for those of us camping outside the oligarchy of university wall.” Furthermore, Trace was instrumental in promoting the “littles.” Trace not only listed and publicized new little magazines at a time when they received little attention, but it also constituted a public forum where editors discussed their own magazines and encouraged readers to submit their work. Many editors believed that Trace’s contribution to the growth of the little magazines and its subsequent “revolution” in the 60s was invaluable, and they also considered that its public forum was pivotal in acquainting editors with one another to then create a series of literary networks that distributed alternative literature efficiently.

The graph below displays the total number of periodicals listed in Trace’s directory from 1952 to 1970. There were 190 magazines in the 1953 directory, and 665 in the 1970 one (Brownson 387). According to a different source, the 1952 directory had 152 magazines, and the 1956 one, 247; by 1963, there were 747 little magazines and small presses, and then they really took off and proliferated in greater numbers (May 383; Fulton 48), which would eventually led to the 665 “littles” listed in the 1970 directory -small presses were not included in that figure. The outpouring of little magazines during the 60s is evident. If it is taken into account that most “littles” were short-lived, the total number of magazines compiled in the 1970 directory is simply astounding as the great majority were probably new ventures.

References

Brownson, Charles W. “Access to Little Magazines.” RQ 22.4 (Summer 1983): 375-87.

Fulton, Len. “An Odyssey.” Green Isle in the Sea. An Informal History of the Alternative Press, 1960-85. Ed. Diane and Curt Johnson, eds. Highland Park, IL: December Press, 1986. 43-53.

May, James Boyer. “On Trace.” The Little Magazine in America: A Modern Documentary History. Ed. Elliott Anderson and Mary Kinzie. Yonkers, N.Y.: The Pushcart Press, 1978. 376-87.

Note: I strongly recommend visiting the James Boyer May/Amsberry Poetry Collection, University Archives & Special Collections, Pollak Library, CSU, Fullerton. The correspondence between May and the little magazine editors is a treasure trove of literary and bibliographical information for anyone interested in Trace and the literary upheaval of the 60s.

Next: The Literary Explosion of the 60s (III): Charles Bukowski

The Literary Explosion of the 60s (I): The little magazines

During the 40s and the 50s, the American literary scene was the realm of the highbrow quarterlies. The most prestigious journals–Kenyon Review, Sewanee Review or Southern Review, all of them subsidized by universities–were heavily influenced by The New Critics, and it could be said that their primary function was criticism. During the late 40s, the “Berkeley Renaissance” group was influenced by medieval and Renaissance cultures.  In the early 50s, many editors of little magazines still followed a Modernist model , and they would constantly quote T.S. Eliot or Ezra Pound to express their views concerning publishing. The Partisan Review, the Hudson Review, and Poetry were obvious examples of magazines still entrenched in the tradition, while emerging “littles” such as Circle, The Ark, Goad, Inferno, Origin, and Golden Goose were trying to break loose from those Modernist reins. Continue reading