‘Power to the people’s mimeo machines!’ or the Politicization of Small Press Aesthetics

“Having engaged in small press practices of various kinds for more than half a life, from making the Ugly Duckling zine to co-founding the editorial collective of Ugly Duckling Presse, which was incorporated as a nonprofit in New York and began publishing books in the early years of the twenty-first century, I am beginning an attempt to make sense of what I’ve seen along the way. I am glad for this opportunity offered by the editors of Harriet, to attempt to publicly think through some of the pressures—cultural, political, pragmatic, and financial—which I perceive affecting small press activity in the US since the end of the twentieth-century, a period which saw the rise to dominance of MFA programs and the inclusion of small presses in the annual national AWP conference, a period we might consider in context of the culmination of gentrification in American cities, a diminishment of state funding for the arts, the hegemony of neo-liberal politics, and the defeat and deflation of popular movements against the consolidation of wealth and ecological impoverishment. … Small press has historically defined itself foremost by its autonomy, by being editor-run, anti-institutional, and anti-commercial. It marked the story of its autonomy by an aesthetic of ‘authenticity’ created through a variety of means: the use of cheap or obsolete technologies, experimental or anti-aesthetic design, unremunerated labor, and alternative systems of distribution. During the 1960s small press movement (or ‘mimeo revolution’) and long after, poet-publishers took into their own hands the production not only of the books (and chapbooks and little magazines) that legitimized new writers outside the academy and aesthetics unacknowledged by commercial publishing, but of the community of its readership and evaluation as well. …”
Poetry Foundation
The Mimeo Revolution
Women of the Mimeo Revolution: Diane DiPrima & Anne Waldman
A Poetics of the Press – ed. Kyle Schlesinger

Plastic Saxophone in an Egyptian Tomb by d.a. levy, 1966.

About 1960s: Days of Rage

Bill Davis - 1960s: Days of Rage
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