Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Erik Kiviat, William Wantling and the Ecosystem of the Mimeo Revolution
By Jed Birmingham
Head First is the first in a series of six publications issued by Erik Kiviat. I often see Head described as a periodical, but I view it as a mimeo chapbook series. Each issue featured one author and an illustrator, which in some cases were one and the same. Head First featured the poetry of Wantling and the drawings of Ben Tibbs; Head Second the poetry of Judson Crews and the drawings of da levy; Head Third the poems and illustrations of Kiviat; Head Fourth the poems and illustrations of Madeline Landau; Head Fifth the poems and illustrations of Nancy Ellison; and Head Sixth the poems of Lisa Galt and the drawings of Michael McClanathan.
For about two years, Kiviat churned out a flood of mimeo publications: Yowl and Blue Beat (with George Montgomery), Cold Mountain Review (with Richard Schmidt) and Museum of Memnon. The Head series flowed out of Staatsburg, New York, which is near Bard College, where Kiviat was an undergraduate.
An example of bare bones mimeo, Head First struck me as presenting Wantling in his natural habitat; for Wantling, like Blazek and Bukowski, is the epitome of a Mimeo Revolution poet. Yet strangely, none of Kiviat’s mags are featured in Secret Location. Neither is Blazek’s Ole nor Bukowski’s Laugh Literary. See a pattern here? It is high time to build on and tear down the foundations of Clay and Phillips’ classic text. Documenting Midwest and blue collar mimeo would be a good start. A couple of posts down the line will complicate Wantling’s image as a mimeo outlaw a little bit, but the Mimeo Revolution is all about myth and perception, so I think it is safe to say here that Wantling is most commonly viewed as an outlaw poet, who made his home in the land of the Gestetner.
Kiviat knows all about natural habitats. After graduating from Bard, he received his MA from SUNY New Paltz and his Ph.D at Union Institute with an expertise in Environmental and Urban Studies specializing in field biology and ecology. He went on to found Hudsonia Ltd., a non-profit which seeks to preserve and protect the ecology of the Hudson Valley. If you go on to OCLC and search his name, you will see listed more scholarly publications, like Vertebrate Use of Muskrat Lodges and Burrows or maybe Mills and Minnows: A Walk Down the Saw Kill, than you will reference to Head or Blue Beat.
Kiviat would know better than anybody that the Mimeo Revolution was a literary ecosystem sustained by independent bookstores, the postal system, cheap and available technology and a population of ambitious and frustrated writers. I would bet that Kiviat’s foray into mimeo publication fed right into his interest in urban studies. In order to preserve and present a fuller history of the Mimeo Revolution, the publications of Kiviat will have to be placed into the conversation. Yowl, Blue Beat, and Head are the Muskrat Lodges and Burrows of mimeo, i.e., mimeo in the wild. These publications are not of the art gallery or artist’s studio, which seem to be getting all the scholarly attention lately. Yes, Kiviat’s publications are humble structures, but they might be a truer representation of what the natural habitat of the Mimeo Revolution actually was than the institutionalized C or Fuck You. This is of course open for debate, but it seems true that within the pages of Head First, Wantling’s work seems right at home.
Posted on Mimeo Mimeo. Artists‘ Books, Typography, and the Mimeo Revolution. Presented here by permission of the author. Picture: Mimeo Mimeo.