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Terrill, MarkóRain Taxi
Terrill, Mark. "Review of Angel Hair Sleeps with a Boy in My Head: The Angel Hair Anthology." Rain Taxi 7.1. 35.

Poetry in America in the mid-60s was in an unprecedented state of upheaval and metamorphosis, having recently been challenged from several different quarters, including the Olson/ Creeley/ Black Mountain axis, the Spicer/ Duncan/ Blaser axis, the San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats, the New York School, as well as the still-nascent Language poets and "postmodernism" in general. Into this heady atmosphere of ferment and fervor was born Angel Hair, founded by Anne Waldman and Lewis Warsh, two young poets from the East Coast who originally met at the Berkeley Poetry Conference in 1965.

From the very outset, Angel Hair was determined to be radically different, both physically and aesthetically, with its large 9' x 12' pages, colored tissue end papers, and artwork supplied by Joe Brainard, George Schneeman, Jim Dine, Alex Katz and others for the magazine as well as the books. At its inception, Angel Hair was influenced by such other seminal publications as White Rabbit Books, Locus Solus, Art & Literature, The Floating Bear, and Ed Sanders' Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts, but rapidly took on an identity entirely its own. Published and produced largely by hand on a shoestring budget out of their flat on St. Mark's Place in New York, Angel Hair soon became an important mouthpiece for experimental and avant-garde writing, serving as a locus for a newly emerging poetics. The thrust of Angel Hair may have been nonacademic, but it was not anti-intellectual.

Between 1966 and 1978, in addition to the six issues of the magazine, Angel Hair as a press also published some 80 books in a simple, low-tech yet distinctive format. While the core aesthetic leaned heavily in the direction of the first and second generation New York School, the Angel Hair network stretched from the St. Mark's Poetry Project on the Lower East Side of Manhattan clear across the continent to Bolinas, California, straddling a broad spectrum of poetry and poetics.

This anthology includes generous samples of writing culled from all six issues of the magazine and 62 books, pamphlets, and broadsides, including work by John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, Jim Carroll, Tom Clark, Clark Coolidge, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Barbara Guest, Joanne Kyger, Bernadette Mayer, Frank O'Hara, Ron Padgett, Philip Whalen, John Wieners, and many others. The result is an amazing wealth of innovative and idiosyncratic writing that bubbles with energy, verve, urbanity, and risk (remember risk?) on every page.  While much avant-garde writing tends to eventually become subsumed by the mainstream culture it was trying to separate itself from, it's astonishing just how much of its initial edge this writing has retained, retroactively validating the editors' keen taste and timeless sense of aesthetics.

Some of the more titillating examples of the wide range of diversity and juxtaposition in this anthology include one-word poems by Aram Saroyan; all-over-the-page collaborations between Ron Padgett, Tom Clark, and others; the hilarious, sprawling Bean Spasms by Ted Berrigan; the deeply moving Verge, by James Schuyler, and the almost straightforward prose of Harris Schiff's I Should Run for Cover But I'm Right Here, a tragic-comic story of a wayward acid trip in the mountains of New Mexico. The underlying cohesion here is one of temperament and perspective, more than ant particular school or movement, coupled with a strong sense of community and purpose. As Anne Waldman says in her introduction:

In retrospect, Angel Hair seems a seed syllable that unlocked various energetic post-modern  and post-New American Poetry possibilities, giving a younger generation cognizance that you can take you work, literally, into your own hands. You don't have to wait to be discovered. And so-called ephemera, lovingly and painstakingly produced, have tremendous power. They signify meticulous human attention and intelligence, like the outline of a hand in a Cro-Magnon cave. Yet with the overwhelming availability of information—everything known, nothing concealed—that we have today through more and more complex technologies, I wonder if Lewis and I would go about our press now in quite the same manner. With the same naïve enthusiasm and optimism? I like to think so.

Aside from serving as an important archive for one of the more vibrant epochs in American letters, this anthology also helps point the way for future generations interested in alternative poetic strategies, making it a valuable sourcebook as well. Also included is a section of highly illuminating memoirs by several of the authors with many rare black & white photos, documenting the genesis of their work and their relationships with Waldman, Warsh, and others, as well as an annotated list of publications compiled by Steven Clay and Aaron Fischer that comprises a citation and photographs of the approximately 80 books, magazines, broadsides and catalogs issued by the press. Lengthy introductions by the editors help put Angel Hair into further historical perspective. This big slab of a book, with its 630 oversize pages, is destined to find a place in the upper echelon of groundbreaking and influential anthologies of post-war American poetry.





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