Locus Solus

“The history and contents of the magazine Locus Solus provide insight into the type of progressive poetry circles and ideas Burroughs started tapping into with his small scale, textual cut-up works of the early 1960s. A testament to refined taste, Locus Solus was impeccably edited by John Ashbery (Issue 3/4), Kenneth Koch (Issue 2), and James Schuyler (Issue 1 and 5). Harry Matthews published the magazine in France. One issue was done in Switzerland. Matthews was the only American member of an intriguing group of writers: OULIPO. OULIPO was a largely French writing society that specialized in complex word games and the surreal. Ashbery, Koch and Schuyler, along with the charismatic and talented Frank O’Hara, formed the core of the First Generation New York School. The New York School, like the Beat Generation (the Beats also had a four-person core — Burroughs, Kerouac, Ginsberg, and Corso), went through two or three generations beyond the initial core group. Locus Solus took its name from Raymond Roussel’s classic, which betrays the editors’ affinity for the avant garde, the European, and the highly intellectual. The Collaboration issue (Locus Solus II) opens with a quote by Roussel and is then followed by a quote from Lautréamont (both untranslated). The table of contents to the magazine features classic Chinese and Japanese poets, Shakespeare, Aeschylus, John Donne, André Breton, Dwight Eisenhower, Sir John Suckling: in short a wide selection of the history of Western and Eastern culture. The poets were intensely interested in modern art and music. Influenced and inspired by Abstract Expressionists like Willem De Kooning, Jackson Pollock, and Franz Kline, the New York School poets lived and worked with Second Generation New York painters, like Grace Hartigan, Mike Goldberg, and Jane Franchlier. The magazine’s squat, plain appearance mimics the style of French publications from Gallimard. The Special Collaboration issue features a few Burroughs cut-ups of Rimbaud with Gregory Corso from Minutes to Go. The Exterminator also published in 1960 offered further examples of the textual cut-up. The New York poets all experimented with cut-up techniques (as well as other surrealist techniques of automatic writing and composition) in the early 1960s. Many of these creations are in the pages of Locus Solus. First and foremost, the magazine served as a vehicle for the New York School poets to express and to spread their artistic aesthetic. …”

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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