Jack Spicer listening to a baseball game on the radio at the beach at
Plum Island, Newbury, Massachusetts, ca. 1958. Photograph by Kent Bowker.
J. Nos. 1-8 (1959-1961). Nos. 6 and 7 (An Apparition of the Late
J) edited (and with cover art) by George Stanley from San Francisco
and New York City respectively. No. 8 (1961) edited by Harold Dull from
Rome. Covers by Russell FitzGerald (3), Fran Herndon (1, 2, 4, 5), George
Stanley (6, 7). BRG has: nos. 1-3, 5, 6.
the most beautiful of all the mimeo magazines, J had an eight-issue
run. The first five issues were edited from North Beach bars by Jack Spicer
with Fran Herndon as art editor. Spicer, who embodied the spirit of poetry
in the Bay area, collected pieces for his magazine from a box marked "J"
in The Place, a bar at 1546 Grant Avenue in San Francisco. A refugee from
Los Angeles with two degrees from Berkeley, he had been a student of Josephine
Miles there in the mid-1940s. They became close friends, and Spicer participated
in the Friday afternoon poetry readings in Wheeler Hall during the late
1940s as well as the readings organized with Rocke-feller money by Ruth
Witt-Diamant at the new Poetry Center at San Francisco State. Into the
cauldron of poetic politics surrounding Miles, Kenneth Rexroth, Robert
Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, and others, Spicer introduced his freest
of spirits, sometimes more Caliban than Ariel. Spicer lived for words (even
making his living as a research assistant on a lexicographical project
at Berkeley). He could be found most evenings in one of the North Beach
bars or coffeehouses leading the discussion on poetry, poetics, myth, linguistics,
and other mysteries. Like Blake and Yeats (with the help of Mrs. Yeats),
Spicer attempted to clear his mind and open himself to "dictation" from
other sources, which he devotedly pursued. Spicer also believed wholeheartedly
in the necessity of human beings' helping each other through communication,
which he confronted in the editorship of J, a little newsletter
of the poetic spirit. Donald Allen acted as J's distributor in New
York ("New York Contributions are not forbidden. But quotaed"), selling
copies for Spicer to the Wilentz brothers of the Eighth Street Book Shop.
In an early letter to Spicer, Allen eagerly wondered "what your editorial
policy may be. Seduction by print."
J 5 (1959). Cover by Fran Herndon.
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