Collecting Rare Books and First Editions - Mother on Father's Day
By Jed Birmingham
Louis Zukofsky's After I's is a brother from another Mother in an interesting sense. Mag fans might be aware of the New York School influenced Mother published at various point out of Northfield MN (where the James-Younger Gang got shot to pieces while attempting to robb the First National Bank on September 7, 1876), Galesburg, IL, New York City, and Buffalo. Secret Location includes Mother (NY) in its checklist appendix as well as a brief paragraph on the magazine in the introduction. The appendix also lists Mother Press and its three publications: Bingo by Dick Gallup, Poems by John Giorno and the Zukofsky. Slight problem though as there are two Mother Presses. Mother (NY) printed the Gallup and the Giorno, as you might expect given its New York focus. After I's was published by Boxwood Press and Mother Press out of Pittsburgh, PA. Mother (PA) was also a magazine, which ran for twelve issues, under the editorship of Ron Caplan.
Mother (PA) gets no love from the Secret Location. If you want to, you can take this erasure of Mother (PA) as indicative of the Secret Location's general glossing over of the mimeo scene outside of NYC and SF. This view is definitely valid and even more so given the mistake regarding the Zukofsky. It should be kept in mind that Secret Location was intended as volume one of a series of books archiving the Mimeo Revolution. Sadly and, again if you want to be nasty, not surprisingly, those subsequent volumes have yet to appear.
Yet this mistake is useful as it highlights that many times there is more to a mimeo magazine than just the magazine. Several mimeo mag editors made the jump establishing a press imprint in order to print chapbooks. Fuck You did it as did C, or TISH or Kulchur for that matter. Floating Bear did not. And neither did Beatitude or Measure for that matter. (By the way Matter did.). It is interesting to consider who made the jump, what they published, and how often. With this in mind, Mother (NY) printing After I's would seem rather out of place. Gallup and Giorno make perfect sense, but the Zukofsky does not quite fit the Mother (NY) mold.
There have been several large collections of Mimeo Revolution magazines coming up for sale in the last few months or so, but for the most part they are being sold as collections of little mags. In my opinion this is selling the magazines of the Mimeo Revolution short. If you are going to study or understand Mother (PA), you have to take into consideration not just the twelve issues of the magazine but also After I's. The decision on Caplan's part to make this jump and the story of how he did it, in terms of design, financing, and production, is a major part of the Mother (PA) story. As derek beulieu demonstrated in Mimeo Mimeo, such considerations are crucial to understanding the history of TISH. To get the full gist of TISH, you have to get a hold of all the issues of TISH (45 in all), the TISHbooks (as well as addressing the failed projects), and Motion, a prose version of TISH. The same holds true for any of the other little mags out there that experienced the hubris of establishing a press. By the same token, you cannot really get a grasp on Floating Bear until you address the fact that it was issued only as a magazine, despite its long and ambitious run. Yet Diane DiPrima issued chapbooks under a separate press: Poets Press. As did Leroi Jones with Totem Press. What is the rationale behind the establishment of a separate imprint? What the need to keep the name of Floating Bear pure?
The history of the little magazine extends beyond the format of the magazine and a "complete" little magazine archive should make an effort to include the publications of little mag presses.
Posted on MIMEO MIMEO Artists’ Books, Typography & the Mimeo Revolution. Presented here by permission of the author.
Mimeo Mimeo, edited by Jed Birmingham and Kyle Schlesinger, is a forum for critical and cultural perspectives on artists' books, typography and the mimeograph revolution. The periodical, and the blog related to it, feature essays, interviews, artifacts, and reflections on the graphic, material and textual conditions of contemporary poetry and language arts.