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Charles Plymell — Journals From Lysidia


It would be tough to accurately describe Charles Plymell’s importance to the Beat Generation, as well as to little magazines and small press publishing. He lived with Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady in San Francisco in the early 1960s. It’s not enough to say he admired and was influenced by the Beats — his best work stands right alongside that of his contemporaries: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, and Corso.

Plymell’s work has been published in numerous places, from well-known Beat journals to Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Books imprint. As an editor and publisher, he has, in turn, published many Beat figures, including those mentioned here, as well as many who aren’t: Herbert Huncke, Gerald Malanga, and Roxie Powell; Plymell publications are too many to name here; The Cold Spring Journal and NOW are the first two that popped into mind.

Charlie also printed R. Crumb’s first Zap.

In an interview with Jon Randall, Plymell says the best scene he ever experienced was “in the 50’s high on Oxy and/or Bennies wailin’ in the clubs around K.C., Wichita’s ‘Colored Town’ or Oklahoma City. Driving the old Route 66. As whites, we could go into clubs with musician friends and talk and visit with artists like Fats Domino, Wilson Pickett, or even Charlie Parker, if we were lucky. Everyone was accessible because they weren’t that famous and if you were cool and had a little booze or reef or bennies, you could really be happy. To put it in chronological order, this was before an old hipster by the name of Herbert Huncke hitch-hiked out of Chicago and happen to say, ‘Man, I’m beat’ to the Columbia student, Allen Ginsberg, so at that time, I knew nothing of The Beats.

The second big scene for me happened when I moved to Ashbury St. in S.F. in ’62 and met some of the old poetry people around the Auerhahn Press which was interesting but very tame, somewhat like the old bohemian scene around City Lights Books. Those were the old canons, the intellectual progeny of the literary 1920’s. They were not ready for what was about to happen. Rexroth saw it coming and used to comment on what was going on, when I would visit him at his flat off the Filmore. I was dancing in the Haight-Ashbury completely out of my head on LSD and weed — no ‘hippies’ yet. We called them ‘heads’. ‘Did you see how many heads there were on the streets tonight?’ we would say. This was before Ginsberg, Ferlinghetti, Rexroth or any of the old beats were aware of what was happening.

Cassady was running around. I met him in North Beach late ’62 or early ’63. McClure dropped by Glenn Todd and Justin Hein’s place to see what was going on with the LSD. Bruce Conner had come back from Mexico with a suitcase full of marbles. We had Sandoz LSD. It wasn’t called acid then and wasn’t like what you got afterwards. (Except for Owsley). We worked up a rock ‘n roll ritual dancing to Ray Charles and then joined hands and really stepped into another world.”

Plymell’s synaesthesia press chapbook, Journals From Lysidia, is an excerpt from the Waterrow Press publication Hand on The Doorknob — The Charles Plymell Reader; in fact, Jeff Weinberg played a major role in getting Journals From Lysidia published and out there, too.

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Roxie Powell — Wild Whispers


Robert Peters said of Roxie Powell’s first chapbook, Dreams of Straw, “anyone anxious for an original experience in poetry will love Dreams of Straw“. Non-workshop, non-Iowa, non-NY city-clever, non-anything. It’s rumored Allen Ginsberg carried one with him for years, and this is fact: Ginsberg paid for a second printing of the book.

Roxie has published only two additional books in the 35+ years since Dave Haselwood’s Auerhahn Press printed Dreams of Straw. the synaesthesia press is proud to publish the poet’s fourth title, Wild Whispers.

From Anselm Hollo’s forward: “these Wild Whispers range from the meditative mystery of the title poem to painterly evocations of place….childhood moments revisited on tortuous paths; bawdy, bucolic, but never obvious love poems.”

Charles Plymell, who penned an afterward, posed the question I’ve already answered here: “What great & feared iconoclastic critic and the real Poet Laureate of his time praised him in print?”

Wild Whispers was published in a limited edition of 125 copies; 99 are numbered and signed by the poet, 26 lettered copies are signed by Roxie, Anselm Hollo, and Charles Plymell. The lettered copies have three letterpress broadsides laid-in. 24 pages, folio, with dust jacket and covers letterpress printed and all copies hand sewn into wraps.

Roxie Powell is one of the best poets you’ve never heard of. We’ll even go as far as to argue that his first book, Dreams of Straw, is one of the most whimsical, quirkiest — and superb — little books of poetry published in the 1960’s.

I’m even taking Richard Brautigan into consideration.

Just don’t expect an argument from me.

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Jim Pritchard — “The Neighbors” and “The Man With The Buzzer in His Throat”


There’s lots to say — and as much to keep quiet — about Jim Pritchard.

His story, The Neighbors, ended up being published as the very first synaesthesia press chapbook. As a publisher, I was heavily influenced by the beat chapbooks from the mimeo era, and that was the initial idea for everything the press would put out. Of course, things change, and that policy went out the door when I went to press with the Chris Offutt book. But looking back at The Neighbors, and Pritchard’s other contribution to synaesthesia, The Man With the Buzzer In His Throat, well, I’ll stand by those two books any day.

The Man With The Buzzer in His Throat ended up being published in Vox. The artist Brian Marsland silkscreen the cover in his backyard on a warm spring day in Tempe, Arizona, in two variants: on cover had just the red ink featuring the man with the buzzer in his throat and the title of the story; most, however, had a yellow background.

Now, if we could only find Pritchard. Last time we heard of his whereabouts, he was living in a one-room flophouse in the Tenderloin District of San Francisco, driving a cab, and working on a novel. Then, he disappeared.

If you know how to contact him, please let me know — he owes me money.

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Henry Tokarski — To Sherri O’Brien From Morrell Park in Northeast Philadelphia

The synaesthesia press has listings in a few directories soliciting a poem for chapbook consideration. While I’m not big on this sort of thing, who knows if the next Charles Bukowski is sitting in a cheap room pounding out poems and looking for a place to send them? So I keep the listings current, just in case. And, just like everyone who publishes anything, I get more than I could ever print. To top it off, a lot of the work sent in just doesn’t do anything for me.

Enter Henry Tokarski. From the very first poem I read in his submission, I was hooked. I decided to publish the work before I got to the last poem in the batch.

We look to label everything we experience, from music to people, and while I’m not a big fan of this, I do it, too. So when people heard me talking about Henry’s work and asking me, “what’s it like?” my standard reply is Brautiganesque.

When the project started coming together, I asked Gerald Locklin to write an introduction to the book. Here’s part of what he had to say: Henry Tokarski has produced a sequence of youthful, credible love poems in a time not hospitable to such efforts. His method crystallizes lyric moments, probing and preserving them, and, unlike Proust, always in the fewest words possible, as with all minimalist art, spaces and silences are left for the participation of the reader, the merging of his emotional history with that of the writer. All in all, the pieces add up to a serious, tasteful, and psychologically sophisticated chronicling of a romantic passage, singular in tone and auguring a future of well chosen words.

There’s no way I could have described Henry’s work better.

The book is designed; the type is set.

Target publication date for To Sherri O’Brien From Morrell Park in Northeast Philadelphia is Spring, 2009.