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The Ed Sanders Archive

Including the Fugs, Peace Eye Bookstore, Fuck You/ A Magazine of the Arts, Allen Ginsberg, d.a. levy, Claude Pélieu, and John Sinclair

Ed Sanders backstage at the Fillmore East with his friend Janis Joplin, March 8, 1968.

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Introduction

The Ed Sanders Archive is a remarkable record of the legendary poet, writer, editor, publisher, activist, Fugs founder and icon of American counterculture. Beginning with his first poems written while he still lived in Missouri (1955), it encompasses all of Sanders’ expansive life and career. The archive is a unique resource that allows for the exploration into Sanders’ seminal contributions to the Mimeo Revolution and American poetry, as well as his legacy in the American underground and counterculture with his political activism and his music. The archive itself has long been spoken of by scholars as well as fans. Sanders organized the archive over a 10-year period. Due to its size it is housed in multiple buildings and locations at his and his wife Miriam’s home in Woodstock, NY, where they have lived since 1974.

[Unless otherwise noted all quotes are from Ed Sanders’ Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (De Capo Press, 2011). Along with Ed Sanders’ notes, Fug You served as the primary source for other information in the archive’s prospectus.]

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Ed Sanders Biography

Left: Ed Sanders “flashing a mudra” taught to him by Allen Ginsberg in 1964. Right: “Ed Sanders, a leader of New York’s Other Culture.” Life, February 17, 1967.

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Ed Sanders (b. 1939) is a legendary poet, writer, editor, publisher, activist, musician and icon of American counterculture, but he says that he would prefer to be identified simply as a bard, “a poet who takes public stances” (Brooke Horvath, “Edward Sanders on His Fiction: An Interview.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction, Spring 1999, vol. 19, no.1).

Left: A very young Ed Sanders. Right: Ed at an anti-war demonstration in 1972.

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After being the president of his high school class in Blue Springs, Missouri, Ed attended the University of Missouri. However, after a year he decided that he belonged in New York City and hitchhiked there to attend New York University. He majored in Greek (but studied Egyptian in his spare time) and met and married fellow student Miriam Kittell in 1961. Eventually, he became an essential part of the poetry and cultural activities in the city and forged life-long friendships with Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky, Ron Padgett, Ted Berrigan, Anne Waldman, and many others.

Sanders’ political activism is renowned. In 1961, he participated in an act of civil disobedience during the commissioning of the Ethan Allen Polaris nuclear submarine in Groton, Connecticut. He tried swimming out and mounting a peace vigil atop its missile hatches, and after refusing to pay a fine, he was jailed. While in jail he wrote Poem from Jail (published by City Lights in 1963) on scraps of paper that he found. Sanders was also an instrumental member of the Yippies and organizer of the Festival of Life at the 1968 Democratic Convention in Chicago.

In 1962, while hanging out at the Catholic Worker he typed out the stencils for the first issue of Fuck You/ A Magazine of the Arts. He bought a small Speed-o-Print Mimeograph machine and printed the magazine with the tagline of “Total Assault on the Culture” from a “secret location on the Lower East Side” (Ed’s New York City Lower East Side apartment). Daniel Kane said that Fuck You “was both microscopically local (talking about and publishing the works of the poetic community’s main characters) and macroscopically ambitious” (Daniel Kane, All Poets Welcome: The Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s. University of California Press, 2003). The magazine, in its thirteen issues, obliterated the line between high and low art and between the sublime and the vulgar. Its radical politics included calls for, among other things, the legalization of marijuana, sexual liberation (including queer sex), pacifism, and nuclear disarmament. It published the work of John Ashbery, Carol Bergé, William S. Burroughs, Diane di Prima, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, Taylor Mead, Lenore Kandel, Ray Bremser, John Wieners, Jackson Mac Low, Charles Olson, Joel Oppenheimer, Barbara Moraff, Michael McClure, and Herbert Huncke among many others.

Left: “Miriam & Ed Sanders shortly after their marriage in the fall of 1961.” Right: A more recent photo of Ed, taken by Miriam Sanders, in their Woodstock backyard.

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In 1964, Ed Sanders moved his mimeograph machine to an old kosher butcher shop at 383 East 10th Street (between Avenues B and C) and opened the Peace Eye Bookstore. Peace Eye quickly became a vital gathering spot for a Lower East Side community of writers, artists, musicians, poets, members of the alternative press, political activists, and outsiders. In January 1966, Peace Eye was the target of a police raid and Ed Sanders was arrested and charged with obscenity. With the help of the ACLU he was acquitted of all charges.

Around the same time, after watching Robert Creeley and Amiri Baraka (then LeRoi Jones) dancing to the jukebox at Dom, on St. Mark’s Place, Ed Sanders proclaimed to Tuli Kupferberg, “We’ll set poetry to music.” Tuli agreed and the two formed the Fugs. Robert Christgau, writing in the Village Voice, declared the band “Lower East Side’s first true underground band” (Robert Christgau, “Teach Yourself Fugging: The Lower East Side's First Underground Band Refuses to Burn Out.” Village Voice, Feb. 26, 2002). The band’s early albums (18 have been released to date) were with Folkways and ESP labels. The Fugs’ second album (released in March 1966) with liner notes by Allen Ginsberg appeared on the record charts at number 89. The band’s most active years were between 1965 and 1970, when they toured extensively, often appearing at anti-war activities and other political events. During that time they also had a run of over 700 performances at the Players Theatre in New York City.

In 1969, Sanders began his research into the Tate-LaBianca murders and Charles Manson. The research became The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion (1971). The book was the first authoritative telling of the Charles Manson saga. It is not only a classic of true-crime fiction, but also the “culmination and a watershed for Sanders, as Manson had shattered illusions about the natural goodness of the new youth and exposed the limitations of Yippie ‘Free’” (George F. Butterick, “Ed Sanders,” in The Beats: Literary Bohemians in Postwar America, ed. Ann Charters, 1983). The Family is “an amalgam of rhetorical and stylistic strategies —Sanders’ personal, hybrid record not only of the Manson saga but of his own mission as counterculture detective” (Thomas Myers, “Rerunning the Creepy-Crawl: Ed Sanders and Charles Manson.” The Review of Contemporary Fiction, vol.19, no. 1, Spr. 1999). It would also lead Sanders to his seminal and influential manifesto on “Investigative Poetry.” After more than 45 years, Sanders revisited the Tate-LaBianca murders in his recent Sharon Tate: A Life (De Capo Press, 2016).

Ed Sanders further developed his ideas about “Investigative Poetry” and presented them at Naropa Institute (now Naropa University) in 1975. They were published as a book by City Lights the following year. His books Chekhov (Black Sparrow, 1995), 1968: A History in Verse (Black Sparrow, 1997), The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg (Overlook, 2000), and America: A History in Verse (5 vols., Black Sparrow, 2000) all follow his “investigative poetry” practice.

In 1974, following the success of The Family, wishing “in part to escape the geeky, confusion rife, quasi-violent world of 1970s New York leftist factionalism,” the Sanders family moved to Woodstock. (Kevin Ring, “Thirsting for Peace: An Interview With Ed Sanders.” Beat Scene, no. 17, Autumn 1993). There, he has become a fixture of the Woodstock political and cultural scene where he and Miriam continue to flourish.

Sanders has had more than 20 books published, including 4 volumes of Tales of Beatnik Glory (Stone Hill, 1974, Citadel Underground, 1990, and Thunder’s Mouth, 2004); 1968: A History in Verse (Black Sparrow, 1997); The Poetry and Life of Allen Ginsberg (Overlook, 2000); The Family: The Story of Charles Manson’s Dune Buggy Attack Battalion (Dutton, 1971); and Chekhov (Black Sparrow, 1995). Other books include: Let’s Not Keep Fighting the Trojan War: New and Selected Poems 1986–2009 (Coffee House, 2009); his memoir of the 1960s, Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side (Da Capo, 2011); Sharon Tate: A Life (Da Capo, 2016); 5 volumes (projected to be 9) of America: A History in Verse (Black Sparrow, 2000, Godine 2004); and A Book of Glyphs (Granary Books, 2015). 

Ed Sanders has been awarded a Guggenheim fellowship in poetry, a National Endowment for the Arts fellowship in verse, an American Book Award for Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century: Selected Poems 1961–1985, and the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Literary Award, as well as other accolades for his writing. In 2015, Ammiel Alcalay and Kendra Sullivan curated the exhibition, “Seeking the Glyph: Edward Sanders” (Poets House, New York City) that featured Sanders’ glyphic work from 1962 to the present.

Writing about Sanders, Terrence Diggory said: “His genius for inventive bold satire and poetic craftsmanship and his ceaseless desire to integrate literature, performance, and history ensure his unique place among American authors of the past 40 years” (Terrence Diggory, Encyclopedia of the New York School Poets, 2nd ed. Facts on File, 2013). The cover of Life magazine hailed him as a leader of “The Other Culture” (Life, February 17, 1967).

 

Archive Summary

Two views of The Ed Sanders Archive contained in the “green-colored baby barn” on a beautiful summer day in Woodstock, New York in 2015.

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Over a ten-year period Ed Sanders organized his archive and created The Archive of Edward Sanders, a 219-page finding aid/inventory/narrative document. It not only details the archive’s contents, but also its location at Ed and Miriam Sanders’ Woodstock home: “1. a green-colored baby barn; 2. the ‘studio,’ a room located to the left of the front of a two-car garage. The studio has an entrance door facing the driveway; 3. the two-car garage, which is almost totally given over to archive storage; 4. a gray-colored baby barn; 5. the five-room house containing filing cabinets, shelves, and boxes containing archive items; and 6. the ‘duck barn,’ a small building across the creek.”

The archive contains approximately 354 boxes (primarily “bankers boxes”), 54 spring binders (exceeding 8,300 pages), 39 3-ring binders, 27 archival boxes, 10 photo boxes, 23 boxes of audio and video tapes, 7 filing cabinets, approx. 60 books, 21 shelf-feet of alphabetical and chronological files, 1 mimeograph machine, 11 electronic musical instruments (The Electronic Bard System), the Peace Eye Bookstore sign, and assorted other items.

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