THE THIRD MIND BOOKS NOVEMBER SPECIAL is “McC-Rarities/Mik-Rarities Pt. II,” featuring twenty-five collection-defining rarities from the archives of Ken Mikolowski, founder of Detroit’s legendary “Alternative Press,” and Jim McCrary; poet, educator, and part of William S. Burroughs’ inner circle in Lawrence, Kansas during the last years of his life. We added to the mix some of our favorite BEAT BROADSIDES; a few ornate exemplars (from well & lesser-known Beats) to showcase the exacting craft of broadside printing. Among the authors and artists represented are JOE BRAINARD, WILLIAM S. BURROUGHS, IRA COHEN, GEORGE CONDO, ROBERT CREELEY, DIANE DI PRIMA, LAWRENCE FERLINGHETTI, JACK HIRSCHMAN, HERBERT HUNCKE, LEROI JONES, LENORE KANDEL, CLIVE MATSON, MICHAEL McCLURE, JOHN MONTGOMERY, FRANK O’HARA, JOHN SINCLAIR, JACK SMITH, GARY SNYDER, JACK SPICER, LEW WELCH & YEVGENY YEVTUSHENKO! All these enticing selections will be 10% off for the month of November only!
What a smattering of items offered this month! It’s nice to be getting back into the world of curation, with the success of the 2017 European Beat Studies Network Conference behind us and focus returning to uploading more items to the site. We’ve got other things going on right now: such as editing the video of our colleague Tony Hoffman’s acclaimed presentation on St. Mark’s Poetry Project in the Bowery (also delivered at EBSN ’17), uploading another video we took at Literati Bookstore (here in Ann Arbor) of a Clayton Eshleman/Keith Taylor reading that focused on Eshleman’s Aime Cesaire translation, and more. We’re also currently editing the manuscript of what will officially launch the Third Mind Books publishing arm; a book-length work that expands upon the content delivered in our founder, Arthur S. Nusbaum’s 2017 presentation, “The Thomas Rain Crowe Collection: Beat Mentors and Their Progeny.” So much to do, and seemingly so little time. But curation, uploading, and the sale of these items to enthusiasts and collectors is our bread-&-butter here at Third Mind Books, and the exacting scholarship we bring to each description demands that we learn about the author, the item, and how that item relates to what that author has accomplished or sought to accomplish historically and contextually.
Let’s start with the Mikolowski items. Ken & Ann Mikolowski founded the Alternative Press in Detroit, MI in 1969–with a little help from Ken’s friend since 1963, Robert Creeley, nad the man who stayed with him in 1968 to help raise money for John Sinclair’s defense fund, Allen Ginsberg. Ken, a poet, and Ann, an artist, obtained the letterpress that was formerly used by the Artists’ Workshop in Detroit and began printing broadsides, postcards, bookmarks and more.
Then, there are always items that–until I’ve ran across them for curation or when looking for historical resources–I just didn’t know existed. Like Joe Brainard’s “Selected Writings 1962-1971,” from the Kulchur Foundation. This is exactly the period of Brainard’s work I’d want to start with if I was going to begin a comprehensive study of his work, his “literary aims and sensibility”–although if you know about Brainard, you’ll know he kind of laughed at such literary-critical appraisals of art. But along with being a writer praised by Allen Ginsberg and Ed Sanders among many other veritable voices, Brainard was a sui generis artist and collagist. It is not uncommon for his works to command 5-figure prices in the modern art market. Detailed by Ron Padgett in his exceptional memoir “Joe” dedicated to Brainard, they both left their native Tulsa, Oklahoma for the Big Apple in the early 1960s, and by 1964 had broken into a group of poets and artists that included John Ashbery, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Koch, Anne Waldman, James Schuyler and many, many more in the mycelial New York scene. His collaborations with his contemporaries encompassed book covers and illustrations, along with paintings and collages with text from his now internationally-celebrated friends. Anne Waldman once interviewed Brainard about his work, interrogating him about whether there was an intellectual spine to his efforts. Brainard responded: “I don’t ever have an idea. The material does it all. You have a figure and a flower and you add a cityscape and it makes the story. You have control if you want to take it but that’s something I never wanted to do much.” He is also quoted as to saying: “Most artists are very straight, straight in their seriousness and in what they’re trying to do. I think I’m a lot more sensual, a lot more ga-ga than that.” I think that’s why Ken & Ann Mikolowski loved collaborating with Brainard so much, loved to enlist him in any A.P. projects they could. That viewpoint is in many ways analogous to what I’ve heard Ken jokingly talk about as the exaggerated seriousness of the “artist”; how lofty intellectual concerns of course had their place and inarguable importance in the arts, but that they shouldn’t be singled out at the expense of “…the genius of the American common place” (or “commonplace”!) to quote Tom Clark on Robert Creeley. That, “bringing the muse into the kitchen,” to quote Whitman, or “…writing about what’s close to the nose,” to quote William Carlos Williams, had the potential to be every bit as powerful, every bit as revelatory as subject matter more often ascribed to “serious artists,” or at least the caricature of them that developed in the post-Pound battleground of cutthroat American poetry.
Then we have Jim McCrary; poet, educator, and member of WSB’s inner circle during the last years of his life. I decided to include in this newsletter some old photos of McCrary and WSB: one where William is sitting next to his old friend Paul Bowles, and another showing McCrary engaged in rapt conversation over joints and vodka-&-cokes. McCrary’s collection of WSB-related rarities is mind-boggling, and WSB’s unfailing generosity meant that between items given to him for free and a plethora of personally-signed editions, McCrary amassed an impressive cache that amounts to an incredible collection. We obtained these items from McCrary personally, and are first in the line of provenance. Included in the special are a few Art Catalogs from WSB Exhibitions (one of which was devoted to his collaborations with acclaimed artist George Condo, who first met Brion Gysin in Paris in the 1970s) and have become increasingly collectible. One of my personal favorites from the McCrary archive is WSB’s collaborative book with Keith Haring, in which some truly exemplary prose-poetic fragments are placed alongside Haring’s inimitable illustrations.
As I’m always relaying to anyone who’ll listen, I wouldn’t have been able to enrich my understanding of these incredibly important artists and thinkers were it not for the multifarious publications which chronicle their lives and work. We pride ourselves on being able to offer items which can do this for their prospective buyers as these selfsame books have done for Arthur & I–passing along the torch and garnering greater understanding at each step of “…the secret of fascination.”
Such is the fruit of our inquiry as scholars in the Beat-&-Beyond literary community, an dbe sure to check out this month’s OFF-BEAT & LATE BEAT SALE, featuring 25 items at 10% off for the month of November only!
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