Tuesday, June 14, 2011

The Mimeo Revolution

Another day, another squib I originally put online back in '01....I'm sure much better things on the topic have been published elsewhere, but here's my effort, for better or for worse....

Doug Blazek

The other day I was poking around Olin Library and there in the oversized P's were two bound volumes, each containing four issues of Doug Blazek's pioneering mimeo magazine Ole. That startled me. These are valuable tomes. 1964 onward. A complete set.

A mimeo is what today we would call a 'zine, usually made the same way: saddle-stapled 8.5 by 11 paper. A little booklet selling from 50 cents to a dollar. In the early 60's they became a phenomenon as the spread of previously unavailable technology made the production of mimeos cheaper and easier. They provided a national and international forum for poets not likely to garner much weight in the mainstream. Most of these mimeos were painstaking labors of love, but they were still crude. Ole, for example, bears the stamp of the typewriter.

The poems are often good. Blazek's biggest prize, of course, was Bukowski. He is the big success story of the mimeo revolution and he was real tight with Ole for a while.

Blazek was a strong poet of his own and a tireless essayist. His line: DEDICATED TO THE CAUSE OF MAKING POETRY DANGEROUS was emblazoned somewhere in every issue, which are full of bravado. Wm. Wantling, Al Purdy and Harold Norse were published in its' pages.

Perhaps more revealing is the list of bookstores that carried Ole. Asphodel Bookshop in Cleveland, City Lights, Peace Eye and Gotham Book Mart in NYC, Earth Books & Gallery in Santa Monica. Lesser known bookstores in Lawrence, KS, Detroit, Ft. Lauderdale, New Zealand and London also carried it. A virtual who's who of the 50-60's poetry axis.

At Issue 5 Ole became larger in format. This issue was a Harold Norse special. It's full of Norse's poetry and tributes, as one might expect. Bukowski writes an appreciative introduction: "Hal can write. umm." Issue 7 is a "Godzilla" review issue. Bukowski again makes a noteworthy appearance in the form of a review of Ginsberg's Empty Mirror. It's full of left-handed compliments but surprisingly appreciative. Despite the "asshole" image of Bukowski, he gives a fair review, dealing with the poetry and citing both weak and strong lines. All in all, it's honest. Ginsberg is disparaged, but within the context of being an undisputed trailblazer.

In a separate but related quest for information on poet Alfred Starr Hamilton, I came across another mimeo called New: American & Canadian Poetry. Blazek has an essay in No. 15: "Poetry is not for the slouch." Robert Bly is the next essayist. Lyn Lifshin is ubiquitous in these pages. Though poets from the northeast predominate here, there are contributors from all over the country: Florida, Wisconsin....

The mimeos were a vibrant thing, a community. The Do it Yourself ethos run amok. It was part of the warp and woof of the beatnik and the hippie and the punk, for whatever those terms are worth: the everyman and woman of the counterculture could become a publisher overnight. If the quality was often uneven, it's because so many people were doing it. It's interesting to see that d.a. levy has been reprinted recently. Mike Golden's intro to the BUDDHIST 3RD CLASS JUNKMAIL ORACLE gives a vibrant if lurid picture of the mimeo scene of the late 60's. Academic papers have appeared recently on the "dangerous" poetry of levy, Bukowski and Blazek.

It's hard not to get dazzled by the big guns, but the real joy of these mimeos are the relative unknowns and the one-hit wonders. Names you won't run into at the local chain store. The mimeos were as instant as it got in the 60's. And they haven't really gone away, they've just gone online. The populist outpouring of our own generation. And plenty of 'zines still litter the floors of the local record store. Save these things, even if they are bad. They are waiting to become artifacts, perfect little windows into the past.


the shoes will hold together
another month
& the chair won't fall apart
as I put on some Jug Band music.
the walls flex shyly as a bus
snorts up the hill like a green animal.

a girl is walking
dressed in candy wrappers that
have been peeked into.
her breasts move like puppies.

a beach of dust covers the furniture
& the window's mucus saddens
the sky's gray lumber. no
sun crudely burns holes in the sky
nor any hothouse joy,
just a comedy with no laughter,
just the promise of a
raggy soliloquy of beer &
a continuation of the continuation.

Doug Blazek. New, 13. Sept. 1970.

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