It’s a poem, and it’s not mine. In the original version, “The Platonic Blow, by Miss Oral,” or “A Day for a Lay,” or “The Gobble Poem,” or “The blowjob poem,” there’s more verses written by W. H. Auden around 1948. The author didn’t want to publish it but didn’t want to destroy it either, and everybody knows how this sort of story usually ends: The writer asks for his editor to destroy all manuscripts, the editor says yes, of course, you have my word, but he doesn’t do it, and a few years later he or someone else finds one of the papers, a poem or a novel or a supermarket bill, and decides to publish it. So that’s what happened: Ed Sanders, the poet and activist, snatched that poem from W. H. Auden notebook and published it in the February 1965 issue of Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts.
That was the “Mad Motherfucker Issue.” The magazine was celebrating its third anniversary, and the issue was dedicated to “all those who have been depressed, butchered or hung up by all these family unit nazis, fascists, war-freaks, department of License creeps, fuzz,” etc. It included a cover by Andy Warhol, with a sex scene from his Couch movie; an announcement on the formation of The Fugs, Sanders and Tuli Kupferberg’s band (Tuli also published in the magazine); poems by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, LeRoi Jones, Gerard Malanga, Ted Berrigan and Gregory Corso. Allen Ginsberg contributed an untitled poem dated from December 19, 1962 and an article about a dream he had with Peter (probably Peter Orlovsky, Ginsberg’s partner and fellow poet) and Norman Mailer. Orlovsky submitted three pages of drawings from his notebooks; there’s one of Charles Chaplin on a screen in a Damascus movie house.
“I’ll print anything”, wrote Fuck You founder Sanders, who was also then owner of the legendary Peace Eye Bookstore in New York. Send whatever you want, poems, “banned manuscripts,” “your plans for the pacifist holocaust,” and we will publish everything — that was pretty much the idea. From 1962 to 1965, Fuck You was edited, published and printed at a “secret location” on the Lower East Side of New York. All copies (roughly 500) were printed on a mimeograph machine, making the magazine one of the most important of the so-called “mimeo revolution” during the 1960s and ‘70s, when there was a proliferation of independent magazines thanks to the mimeograph, which allowed people to print quick and cheap. Suddenly, it was like everyone could be a publisher.
This is how Fuck You started: Sanders was sitting in a bar with some friends from Catholic Worker. They had just seen Jonas Mekas’s movie Guns of the Trees, and Sanders announced he was going to publish a poetry journal called Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts. His friends showed some skepticism, but the next day he began typing stencils. The first issue was out in a week. He bought a small mimeograph machine and started printing copies, which he gave out for free. But he sent them away too, to Allen Ginsberg (who was in India) and Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro and Picasso and Beckett. The name of the magazine was catchy, Sanders earned some respect as a publisher, and quickly he began receiving manuscripts from his heroes.
You could argue that Fuck You connected two different generations: the Beats of the ‘50s and the counterculture of the late ‘60s. In A Secret Location on the Lower East Side by Steven Clay and Rodney Phillips, Sanders says that he was trying to bring to the “Best Minds” of his generation a message of Gandhian pacifism, great sharing, social change, the expansion of personal freedom (including the legalization of marijuana) and the thrilling ideas of sexual liberation.
Thirteen issues of Fuck You were published, most of them by a fairly fixed staff, that included Sanders, Nelson Barr, Al Fowler, Taylor Mead, John C. Harriman, C.V.J Anderson (the editor of Crawdaddy!, the first U.S. magazine of rock music criticism), Charles Olson and John Wieners. Not-so-regulars included Harry Fainlight, Diane di Prima, Frank O’Hara and Jean Morton, among others. The last issue was published in 1965. There’s no further information about the end, it just stopped suddenly.
Helena Bento lives in Lisbon, Portugal, where she works as a researcher at the Centre for Lusophone and European Literatures and Cultures, University of Lisbon. She is the editor-in-chief of Orgia Literária, a literary blog, and she contributes regularly to Enfermaria 6. She’s also currently working on a project related to the Portuguese press in the 18th and 19th centuries.
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