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Lucy In the Sky With Darrell: Actualism Part 1 PDF E-mail
Lucy In the Sky With Darrell
Part 1

The Story of Actualism

In Iowa City

Actualism in the Seventies

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~ 1. The Writers Workshop

In 1969, I was accepted into the Iowa Writers Workshop. Although I’d been writing poetry since I was six years old, I felt as if I was finally and irrevocably an official poet. In two or three years, I would have a diploma to hang on my wall. The Scarecrow couldn’t’ve done better in Oz.

I took a greyhound bus to Iowa City. After a lazy 8-hour ride, I wound up at the downtown depot. One of the people who worked there asked me why I was coming to town.

“I’m in the Poetry Workshop,” I said. “How about you?”

“I’m in the Fiction Workshop. I’m busy right now. How about getting together after I get off work. Let’s meet at the Mill Restaurant on Burlington.”

At 9:00 we were sitting at the Mill, drinking beer, and talking about our writing. His name was Joe Ribar. He offered to rent a room to me in his 2nd floor apartment at 214 E. Court Street.

It was a small room, but it was a perfect writer’s lair. Joe and I shared the living room, the kitchen, and the bathroom, which made it a very big living space.

At the first meeting of the Poetry Workshop, each of the four teachers--Marvin Bell, Kathy Frasier, Anselm Hollo, and Jack Marshall--took turns introducing themselves and reading one of their poems. I had no previous experience with them, no knowledge of their writing.

After the reading, the students were asked to write the names of three of the teachers in order of preference that they would like to take their first poetry-writing class with. I wrote my three: Anselm, Jack , and Kathy Frasier. With that information, someone in the workshop would decide whose class each student would be in. The next day I found out that I’d be in Marvin’s class.

I was surprised at the decision. Why would I be put in the class taught by the teacher I hadn’t put in my list of choices? It might’ve been because of the manuscript, Fiddling with a Clock, that I’d submitted with my application to the workshop.

The poems in that collection were somewhat dark. They expressed how I felt about family and society at that time. For instance “My father’s head is in a jar” was about my dad’s alcohol problem, and “The Executioner’s Song” was about capital punishment.

I went to the secretary and asked her if I could change from Marvin’s class to Anselm’s. She said I could if both Marvin and Anselm agreed to the change. She gave me a paper to have them sign.

Before the first class meeting, I asked Marvin for permission to switch. He agreed, but he said he didn’t think it was a good idea. Later that day I asked Anselm, and he agreed, too.

The decision makers may have thought I’d benefit most from studying under Marvin. My switch to Anselm changed my relationship with Marvin. We didn’t get along well after that. (However, many years later Marvin and I became very good friends.)

They key tool for classroom discussions was the worksheet, a ditto-copied handout containing student poetry. Each student would read his or her poem, and the rest of the class would comment on it. The comments could become rather severe at times.

In Donald Justice’s class, one student wrote particularly gruesome, violent, negative poetry. To arouse his wrath, I wrote a poem that was purposely and exaggeratedly sweet, and turned it in.

When the next worksheet came out, that student had a poem on it in which he wrote about the joy of throwing a baby down on the ground, and watching the blood pour out of its head as if its skull were a broken bowl. It was an extreme example of “shock and awe” poetry.

The next poem on the worksheet was my pollyanna piece. It began “A little leaf lands on my head / I pick it off with my hand / Hi, it says, my name is Willie Leaf. / O, golden Willie Leaf…”

As soon as I finished reading it, the baby-thrower commented in a whining voice: “That poem’s a buncha shit.”

And my reply: “Your poem’s a bloody buncha shit.”

We were simply criticizing each other’s work. Brutal? Yes. However, he and I despised each other anyway, so we didn’t take each other’s comments seriously any more than we’d take a lecture on morality from a meter maid writing a ticket.

One of the greatest things the Poetry Workshop did was sponsor poetry readings by well-known poets from out of town. Workshop parties almost always followed at a teacher’s house. The parties were packed with people who’d gone to the reading.

A classic moment occurred after one of those readings:

The Actualists heard that the Workshop planned a party after a poetry reading at Shambaugh Auditorium. The location was kept secret from us. Although we weren’t invited, we found out where it was being held.

When the reading ended, the workshoppers, we learned later, went to a bar first. Not knowing about the bar stop, we headed to the party address. Going into the kitchen, we saw several tasty snacks spread out on the table. We also found various drinkables.

Since we were early, we decided to start eating without waiting for the workshoppers. One of us brought up the possibility that we were at a “decoy party” intended to keep us busy with the food there while the workshoppers went to a larger, fancier party elsewhere. So, like ants at a picnic, we ate and drank to our heart’s content.

Sitting on the front porch after feasting royally, we noticed cars pulling up in front of the house and parking. The owner of the house got out of his car and carried two bagfuls of snack food up the steps.

He seemed surprised to see 8 men and 1 woman lounging on his porch.. As he passed by, he said sarcastically, “Are you guys all homosexuals?”

George replied, “No, man, our wives are out working to support us.”

When the guy walked inside, he discovered his kitchen had been plundered, and he yelled “What happened to all the food?”

We realized then that it wasn’t a decoy party. It was the real party, and we had just consumed everything in sight. As more people arrived, we made a quick exit down the steps. Later, at the Court Street house, Steve Toth and I asked everyone for a recount of our party raid to memorialize in a list poem.


All their scotch

“ “ vodka

“ “ pistachios

“ “ peanuts

“ “ walnuts

“ “ chippos

“ “ bar-b-q chips

“ “ beer nuts

“ “ orange juice

“ “ gin

“ “ sherry

“ “ soda pop

“ “ beer

“ “ ice cubes

“ “ potato chip dip

“ “ taco corn chips

“ “ filberts

and a banana.


~ 2. A New Poetry Movement

In the early 1970s, many literary people, events, and ideas converged in Iowa City. Some of these people were Workshoppers, some weren’t. They got to know each other. As the months went on, they created something totally new, something outside the Workshop.

The Writers Workshop, the first of its kind in the world, was well-established, well-endowed, and well-known. Students who completed the two-year program received degrees from The University of Iowa.The problem was that the Workshop and the town were, for the most part, separate entities. The Workshop had lots of creative people, but they felt little need to share ideas with other groups.

In the late 1960s, this rule of exclusion started cracking. Poets like Anselm Hollo and Ted Berrigan were hired to shake up the Workshop World a bit. The “workshop poem” was fading into the shadows. Other forces for freedom of poetry were cropping up.

The Iowa Arts Council, sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts, arranged for creative writers of all types to visit schools throughout Iowa in order to teach in the WITS program (Writers in the Schools) and the PITS program (Poets in the Schools).

But the real miracle, totally unexpected, happened in Iowa City. Fourteen poets who were in town for various reasons got to know each other and enjoyed reading and writing poetry together. They were literary rebels who charmed the town and angered the Writers Workshop.

At first they had no group name. They weren’t “Bill’s Poetry Saloon” or “The Evangelists of Free Verse.” A few months later, as their group grew, and as the Workshop began to notice and disapprove, and as--well, for now let’s say they had a name--The Actualists--but keep in mind that the story behind it will soon be told a few pages from now.

Some of the Actualists were in the Workshop, some weren’t. These poets were writing because they loved to write, they had to write, they twisted language to suit their own experiences. They lost interest in what the Workshop was doing--except when the Workshop brought an out-of-town poet to read his or her work.

Actualism was unique. It didn’t have any general rules. It was a multi-faceted diamond, each facet a poet who identified with the other poets in the movement. Each poet had his or her own ideas about what Actualism’s purpose. An Actualist was a rebel with the many causes of poetry.

The main cause seems to have been the desire to write poetry in a community of people who were friends, and this sounds contrary to the Workshop’s approach. To become an Actualist, you just said, “I’m an Actualist.” You didn’t have to live in Iowa City. You didn’t have to pay tuition. You didn’t even have to exist. Visitors were welcome with open arms and poetic feet. Actualism was laid back. Actualism was high energy. Actualism was literary freedom.

You didn’t have to write according to any aesthetic rules other than your own. You could change your style any time. You could imitate other writers’ styles. The Actualists wouldn’t throw you out or give you a bad grade. As a Workshopper, I was good at getting bad grades. I’m the only student who ever received a C in a Workshop class.

Actualism introduced several elements of writing to a small town with a big Writers Workshop. In fact the Workshop recently boasted that it was harder to join than the Harvard Medical School. However, it should be noted that there are many more people trying to get into Harvard and not making it.

Actualism had an open-door policy, which made it easier to join than the Writers Workshop and cheaper than a Hamburg Inn Paper Plate Special (75¢). Just go to 214 E. Court Street, 2nd floor, turn the knob on the door to the living, and you’re in.

~ 3. Defining Actualism

When Actualism was young, the poets were excited about the idea of having a poetry movement. We were a group of friends who wrote poetry. We didn’t restrict people because they didn’t follow a specific set of rules. That would’ve taken away our freedom to write.

Instead of rules, we shared outlooks on certain things. The following list of 10 are my thoughts on what various members of the group considered important--the glue that bound our words together.

1. Actualism brought poetry out of the closet. Instead of classroom meetings, the Actualists held reading series, conventions, marathons, parties, etc., and engaged the town in expanding its idea of poetry.

2. Actualism, because of its challenge to the Writers Workshop, gained creative literary power that had never existed in Iowa City before. Just as there is strength in numbers, there is strength in letters.

3. The Actualists published a wild range of literary magazines to get the word out. Toothpaste, Gum, Search for Tomorrow, Suction, The Spirit That Moves Us, and other magazines provided a stage for the words to actualize.

4. Most of the mags were printed using a mimeograph machine, a device that allowed anyone to become a hands-on editor. The mimeograph revolution, which began in the beat era, brought poetry publishing to the people.

5. In Gum 8, John Sjoberg wrote, “We aren’t students anymore.” The master-apprentice view of literature cherished by the Writers Workshop was not a part of our show. Or, rather, the Actualists were masters and apprentices to each other.

6. Influenced by the New York Poets, the Actualists often wrote about everyday objects and events, turning them around in the ferris wheel of inspiration.

7. Actualist poetry had a good time. It chuckled or guffawed at the antics of humanity. It mocked the gravity of the Writers Workshop. It made poetry and party into synonyms of each other. Actualist poetry rocked. And rolled. However, it could be serious at difficult times.

8. Actualists took their movement and their poetry seriously. They felt they were discovering new ways of using languge. They were. And that gave them more energy.

9. Actualists got into the community of Iowa City. There was no elitism, no ivy towered workshop. Epstein’s Book Store opened its doors to all writers, Workshoppers or Actualists. Darrell Gray, the great promoter of Actualism, worked at Epstein’s. He always encouraged owners Glen and Harry to sponsor events in their store.

10. Collaboration poems brought the Actualists closer together and expanded the number of people who considered themselves Actualists. They got to know each other’s imaginations.

~ 4. Literary Magazines, Little Mags

After the first semester in the Workshop, I decided to start my own mag in Iowa City. I had enough poet friends. I wanted to do something active, something that wasn’t Workshop driven. One afternoon in the fall of 1970, I was walking along the Iowa River with Micky Motyko, a non-workshop friend.

“I’m planning on starting a poetry magazine, Micky. It will measure ¼ the size of a sheet of typing paper. It will be a real little magazine. The only thing I need now is a name for it.”

We passed a few ideas back and forth.

“How about Quick?” he said. “You’re going to put it out quickly.”

“That’s a pretty good title,” I said. “But didn’t Quick used to be the name of a girlie magazine. It’s also the last name of a girl in the workshop.”

We continued batting names back and forth. I didn’t care for any of the titles. Then, when we reached the Art Building, I saw a crumpled gum wrapper in the grass. A lightbulb went on over my head. “Gum!” I said.

Mickey laughed and said, “Gum! That’s it, man. Gum!”

The next day I asked the workshop secretary if I could put a sign up asking for submissions, and she said, “Sure, there’s room on the bulletin board.” I put up a poster. Soon after that, the sign was gone. The secretary was told to remove it because it wasn’t related to the Workshop.

“Not related to the Poetry Workshop?” I said. “This is the Poetry Workshop, isn’t it? They should encourage some real life poetry, they should be happy that a student wants to start a new mag.”

It just surprised me that Jack Leggett wouldn’t want the Workshop to have anything to do with little magazines. His son J.B. Leggett and I were friends. Anyway, I knew enough poets that I could easily gather a full issue.

Over the next few days I asked poets in and out of the workshop for short poems to put in my small little mag. When I had enough, I went down to the Student Union and bought some mimeo stencils. I took them home with me and typed up the first issue, GUM No. ½. I was almost ready to run it off.

My roommate at 214 E. Court was Chuck Miller, who allied himself with the beat poets. He had a poem in Gum--the longest poem. I asked him to help me with the final stages of the issue--printing it on the mimeo machine, cutting the pages into four parts, collating, and stapling.

He and I went to the Union. While Chuck was cutting it, I noticed that he wasn’t getting the pages to be quite the same size. The resulting magazine had a scruffy look to it. I liked the fact that it didn’t look professional. It looked totally unprofessional. That made it truly professional.

Late afternoon. We took the finished copies--about 100 of them--and went to Donut Wagon. While we were sitting there sipping coffee and looking at Gum, a 30-ish guy at the table next to us, well-dressed in a sport coat and tie, said, “What’s that?”

Chuck passed him a copy. I said, “My new poetry magazine.”

He started looking through it, and then he said, “You’re asking 25 cents for this.” His intonation of the word “this” indicated that he thought a quarter was too much. Chuck didn’t like his attitude.

“No, man,” he said. “It’s 50 cents.”

“50 cents?” the guy said.

“No, it’s a dollar.”

“What? That’s ridiculous.”

“No, five dollars!” Chuck grew louder with each word. The guy flipped the copy back to our table and hurried out of the coffee house.

A few days later, I put a bunch of Gums in a paper bag and went downtown to ask the bookstores to sell copies. On Washington St., a guy riding a bicycle pulled up to me. He had bushy brown hair. He looked very hippyish. He was carrying a cloth sack with the strap slung over his shoulder.

“Hi,” he said in a just-smoked-some-grass voice. “My name is Allan Kornblum. Would you like to buy a copy of my poetry magazine, Toothpaste?”

“No,” I said. I pulled out a copy of Gum. “But would you like to trade a copy for my poetry magazine, Gum?”

After exchanging copies, Allan said, “Why don’t we get together at Donut Wagon tomorrow? Another guy just put out a poetry magazine. I’ll call him and see if he can come, too. We should talk about the poetry scene here.”

The next day, I met Allan at the coffee house. We sat at a table and talked about our mags for a few minutes. Then the other guy, George Mattingly, arrived with his magazine, Search for Tomorrow. His was rather spiffy compared to mine, but he appreciated Gum’s ragamuffin look anyway.

When this visit ended, we exchanged addresses and phone numbers. I invited them to come to the Court Street house anytime. Soon we were gathering there often, and other poets joined us. Allan suggested that we write collaboration poems. The idea was inspired by the New York poets. Allan had just arrived from New York.


The Rise and Fall of Little Magazines

Roger Pinckney

The Daily Iowan

Fri., April 16, 1971

In this article, Roger Pinckney, a workshop teacher, stoked the coals of conflict brewing between workshop and non-workshop writers. Note that all of the five magazines that he discussed were on very friendly terms in spite of Pinckney’s criticism

The Iowa Review

Because the “Review is the official publication of a well-known academic organization, it has the prestige to attract big-name writers and critics. And because it has over seven hundred subscribers (at six dollars a year), it is able to produce attractively laid-out issues of at least a hundred and twenty pages each.

The Iowa State Liquor Store

On the other hand, the “Liquor Store” staff has had its hands full getting out two round-backed, stapled-together issues each year. Starting with the 1971 winter issue, the “Liquor Store” changed to a format similar to the “Review’s.”

Search for Tomorrow

The statement of editorial policy in the second issue of “Search for Tomorrow” typifies the free-wheeling style of the smaller magazines that are published more or less regularly in Iowa City: “‘Search for Tomorrow” is a magazine of the mind. The editor will print anything he likes. Blundering, academic poets, forget it.” These magazines, essentially oriented toward poetry and somewhat influenced by the drug culture, come and go with the student turnover… Although the first issue, published by The Blue Wind Press, looks more like Xeroxing than printing, issue number two is printed on blue, coral, orange, white, and hot pink pages… If the poetry doesn’t impress you, the pictures will.


Some of the poems in past issues of “Toothpaste”--most notably those by Anselm Hollo, Jack Marshall and Allen Appel--are quite good, but many of them are so subjective one wonders if they mean anything to anybody except the poet himself. The artwork is good, though not exceptional, and the majority of the prose causes wonder as to not only why it was published, but why it was written in the first place.


“Gum” is unattractive and unimaginative in appearance and contains much nonsense. The editor, however, has published work by Anselm Hollo, Sam Hamod and Chuck Miller. As can be expected, their poems are excellent. Single issues of “Gum” are twenty-five cents each and you can get a minimum of three good poems for a quarter. You’d better jump at the chance, even if they are mimeographed and are only the size of small notecards.

The article concludes:

Anyone who reads “Search for Tomorrow,” “Toothpaste,” and “Gum” cannot help but wonder why their poet-editors cannot co-operate and produce one attractively laid-out, well-filled magazine. Each publication has its strong points and each editor has something to offer the others. But to be fair to their individual efforts, it should be remembered that two years ago, “The Iowa State Liquor Store” was forty-eight pages of cheap paper and “The Iowa Review” didn’t even exist.


When I saw the article, I went to the Mill restaurant to get a drink and read it carefully. I was disappointed that the DI writer gave my mag, Gum, last place in the magazine race. Harry Duncan, the head of the Typography Department, waved , me over to the bar. I didn’t know he knew me. A kind-hearted fellow, he gave me his feelings about the mag and Gum especially.

“I read the article,” he said. “ Don’t take it seriously. The article’s bullshit. I love what you did with hour first issue of Gum. It stands out--page size--mimeo production--small poems. It looks great, too. Very creative. Let me get you a drink.”

We talked for an hour or so. In that amount of time, Harry got me to go from thinking Gum was a flop to thinking it was as avant-garde as a magazine could be. And I decided to continue putting it out.


Although Pinckney’s article discussed five magazines, I decided to make a list of all the mags I knew about that had been published within the previous year. I was surprised to find a total of sixteen! I took the list into the Daily Iowan, and it appeared a few days later.


Little Magazine List Grows


Toothpaste Allen KIornblum

Mandala Tim Hildebrand

The Lamp in the Spine Pat Hampl

Search for Tomorrow George Mattingly

This Barrett Watten

Gum Dave Morice

The Iowa State Liquor Store Bill Allen

The Iowa Review Merle Brown

Sebastian Quill James Mitchell

Identity Cards Sam Hamod

Cronopios Jim Stephens

Micromegas Frederic Will

Nickel and Dime Quarterly Lew Hyde

Suction Darrell Gray

Kamadhenu G.S. Sharat Chandra

Typewriter Lloyd Quibble


In the following year, six more little mags had their debut issues. The first five were associated with the Actualists.

The Spirit that Moves Us Morty Sklar

The Actual Now and Then Cinda Kornblum

PF Flyer Steve and Sheila Toth

Matchbook Joyce Holland

Candy P.J. Casteel

L Curtis Faville


The local newspapers began to notice that poetry was happening outside the official confines of the Writers Workshop, headquartered in the English-Philosophy Building (EPG). The Workshoppers were old news, but the Actualists were as new as tomorrow’s newspaper. In contrast to the article by Pinckney, “The Rise and Fall of the Little Magazines,” Diane Drtina’s article that follows shows the enthusiasm of the people in the Actualist Movment. What’s more, it shows Drtina’s excitement about doing her article. Actualism was contagous, appealing, and fun.


Little magazines

By Diane Drtina

Assistant Features Editor

The Daily Iowan

Homegrown poetry. Underground.

Emerging. Exploding. Alive!

Gum. Toothpaste. Search For

Tomorrow. Suction. Matchbook. Little

magazines. Local magazines. Becoming


“Poetry is a part of life, like eating.”

Dave Morice, editor of Gum said, smiling.

...the sad songs are over

the other one begins

--Donald Justice, in Gum no. 8

He became excited. “Poetry isn’t just

poems. It’s life. Yoiu’ve got to live it.

Shaded Darrell Gray, editor of Suction,

lit a pencil-thin Sherman. “It’s com-

municating with others.”

The little magazines.

“The magazines started about the

same time, independently, because of the

need for an outlet for poetry all over the

world. and because of people’s growing

need for something besides jello and TV

for dessert.”

A wave of news lifts a fork

& there you cling. Super hits

across the dial make history

impossible: the napkin folds my second

thoughts. That’s how I feel

when I wish you were here, but time

is worlds apart...coherence


But whatever it was,

the world rises up to the window

& strands us

with cars & wires that make us


--Steve Toth & George Mattingly in

Toothpaste no. 6

About half the poems are Iowa City born.

“We welcome submissions from anyone.

and publish the best we receivel We get

poems, stories and drawings from all over

the worlde,” said Darrell.

The magazines are sent to bookstores,

libraries, subscribers, poets, and other


Words flew by my.

“We get mail (it’s great to get mail!)

from Canada, England, Germany, New

Zealand, Argentina, Alabama....”

“I’ve sold more copies of \Suction in Lon-

don than anywhere else.”

“Gum and Toothpaste have been

reviewed in the NOLA (New Orleans),

Louisiana) Express, Toothpaste, Suction

and Search For Tomorrow have been

reviewed in Library Journal, Suction,

and Search for Tomorrow have been

reviewed in Library Journal, The

Psychedelic Review, Second Aeon

(Cardiff Wales), and in Aber Nichts


“Toothpaste, Search for Tomorrow and

Gum have been read over the air in

various places including Seattle. New

York, and Berkeley,”


Dave put his feet up on a chair. “The lit-

tle magazines are as much a literary form

as a novel, movie, or short story. I began

Gum with issue no. ½. Number 8 is the

latest issue, the ninth. Each is a sub of the

others. On each lower right-hand corner of

the back cover is a comma. When I publish

the last issue, there will be a period instead

of the comma.”











--Joyce Holland, in Gum no. 7

Darrell leaned forward. “Suction is an

atmorphere. I concern myself with getting

the very best poetry for each issue. The

important, original works.”

The title page of Search For Tomorrow

says: “Search For Tomorrow is a

magazine of the mind, all it contains is

contained by. The editor will print

whatever strikes him.” Which includes

drawings, cartoons, poems stories, essays

and photo-collages.

Asked to explain his “aesthetics,” editor

George Mattingly said: “What people

don’t realize is that whatever you like is

‘asethetic.’ Once I heard of a course called

‘Problems in Modern Poetry.” That’s

ridiculous! Universities engage in intense

searches for the meanings of words like

‘art’ which are meaningless. Reality has a

lot of disguises, but nothing is really more

less “real’ than anything else. What

things connect depend on where you


Iowa City poets (aside from the Univer-

sity, at least) are part of a movement

called ACTUALISM. A way to define the

writer’s relationsihp with his “material.”

(or What We Think--Do!)

Darrell and Dave explained.

“What we know of Truth may be broken

down--and is, with every breath. Which is

not to say our Locus is relative, “in

process.” By embracing Actuality we are

no longer subject to the terms of our alien,

post-actual selves.”

“That’s right,” added Geroge. ‘The

world, the body, even the brain, are all; a

kind of motel for the mind.


I presume that you have all had contact

with an old bum.

Feed him.

Smell him.

--David Hilton, in Suction 2

“Time and Space we take top be

modalities--vehicles for the rediscovery of

actual limitsl. There are also imagniary

limits, biut theswe we leave to pyschology,

psychiatry, and psychophysical theory.

Avoid putting the cart before the horse,

mainly by questioning the utility of the

cart itself. Beyond this, we prefer to keep

both feet firmly on the ground.”

The next best thing to being here

Is not being there

--Ray DiPalma, in Search For

Search for Tomorrow

“When an Actualist speaks of “the

ground,” he means not the Heideggerian

“ground of being,” but that pregnant and

various substance capable of growing

beets & radishes as well as providing a

resting place for meteors into the

ground, but to simply let them pass

through our minds until we can say

‘Hello!’ to something real.


--ira steingroot, in Matchbook

“Actualism is the animation of the

exterior object. Its relation to the con-

tinuum is its definition.”


I don’t want to say that my soul

will reach yours. There’s not enough


in the language. We are together.

The Rockies and the Andes manage

to get messasges too one another.

--David Hilton, in Suction 2

My question is, what is Actualism?

“Actualism is in the air!”

Suction will have the manifesto in its

next issue.” (NOTE: the original version

of the manifesto was first published in

Gum 9 as a foldout with a chapbook

by Darrell attached to the foldout.)


Over at the Idea Collection Agency,

Rotwang went up to the desk and typed

out his idea: “Why not establish a

Collection Agency for Anti-Ideas

The clerk scanned Rotwang’s card with

a professional eye and remarked,

“if you’re so smart, why aren’t you


Rotwang grinned, as the man had given

him a perfect example of an anti-idea.

“Thanks, but not thanks,” said Rotwang,

as he sauntered out the door. “You bet

your life!” shouted the clerk at the

disappearing Rotwang.

--Tim Hildebrand. Search for Tomorrow no. 3

Active Image

But there’s no money in poetry. “That’s

what’s great about it. You don’t have to

prostitute your work, or be a hack,

because there’s no money for it anyway.”

There is the “Writers Workshop.” It

doesn’t affect them. “What’s the Workshop

got to do with contemporary poetry?”

asked Dave Morice.

“We stay in Iowa City because the

poetry scene is very much alive.”

A series of readings, new books being

published by Blue Wind Press, Toothpaste

Press, The Happy Press, a radio show

called “Highway Music” over WSUI in the

near future.

And little mags.

It’s hard to

get the clap from

a poem.

--Darrell Gray, Search for Tomorrow


There’s Dave Morice’s Gum. Darrell

Gray’s Suction, Allan Kornblum’s Tooth-

paste, and Joyce Holland’s Match-


Magazines continuing in different areas

[because their editors moved] are Robert

Caldwell’s Typewriter, and Barry Wat-

ten’s This.

~ 5. The Court Street House

Actualism began--when? Pinpointing a single day, a single month, even a single year, is difficult. The Actualists didn’t record their history. However, the newspapers did. Much of the information below appeared in newspaper articles that I saved from time’s bottomless wastebasket.

The very beginning of Actualism wasn’t noted in the press. It was the result of a convergence of writers, some in the Workshop, some ex-Workshoppers, and some non-Workshoppers.

The Writers Workshop played a major role in the Actualist movement. The Workshop attracted writers to Iowa City. Many of them stayed in town after matriculating from the English-Philosophy Building. On the fourth floor of the EPB, Jack Leggett headed the entire department, which was divided neatly in two--the Poetry Workshop and the Fiction Workshop.

During my first year in the Workshop, the poems had a wide range of form and content. There were imagistic poems, confessional poems, concrete poems, protest poems, and more. The teachers had different views of poetry, and this made the program nice and eclectic.

In my second year, several teachers became ex-teachers. Anselm Hollo no longer taught his poetry workshop. But he didn’t leave Iowa City right away, and he had plenty of poet friends who weren’t in the workshop.

I became familiar with the vast array of poetry magazines that were being published around the country. The extensive collection of little mags in the University of Iowa Library intrigued me. Such variety showed that poetry was very alive in the early 1970s.

In St. Louis, I wasn’t aware of the mimeo mags that were available. Before moving to Iowa City, I co-edited with Bryan Lorelle a ditto-printed mag called “The No. II Son.” This copy process as difficult to operate without getting blue ink all over yourself, and the results were sometimes impossible to read. We distributed it to friends and placed it in bookstores.

When I came to Iowa City, I found out that poets around the country were cranking out magazines right and left, and the results were often handsomely funky with solid black ink, not splotchy light blue, faint blue, or non-blue lines begging the reader to just open his eyes. The Workshop used that kind of printing--ditto printing--for their worksheets.

At Court Street, I lived in a single small room. Across the hall, two guys from Alabama, both undergrads in psychology, dealt grass, hash, and coke to help pay their tuition. We ignored each other as much as possible. When the semester drew to an end, they moved out. I suggested to Allan and his girlfriend Cinda Wormley that they move in, and they did. Now the second floor was truly a poet’s gathering place. Downstairs the husband and wife who owned the house gracefully put up with a lot of our parties and poems.

Soon the upstairs had an open door policy, and many people, mostly poets, came over for planned or unplanned gatherings. Allan and I had collation parties whenever we put out new issues of our magazines. We would lay the pages on the floor and get the issue collated. Friends were invited to help, with promises of drink and other entertainment. One of the most amazing visitors was a guy named Darrell Gray.

He visited the Court Street house often. He wrote collaborations at the drop of a hat. He seemed eternally stoned, gazing into the distance, puffing on his pipe, chuckling about someone’s remark, and then he would grab a sheet of paper, roll it into the typewriter, take a puff with one hand, brush his long, brown hair out of his eyes with the other, and then he’d type the beginning of a poem.

There are many ways to write a collab. The most direct and simple way is for each person to write one or more lines and then let another person take over at the typewriter and continue the writing. The lines merge into a single poem. The writers don’t indicate who wrote which lines.

Another way is for each person to write one or more lines of a separate section, and then put a number, an asterisk, or another symbol to show the individual writing. The lines form separate, discrete sections of a poem. The writers sometimes indicated who wrote which section.

The first time I wrote a collab with Darrell, we used the second way--separate sections with asterisks between them. One of the sections I wrote consisted of a single line:

A cigarette is a glass of milk.

A year earlier, I was visiting friends and family in St. Louis. Allen and Jeff Willis and I went to Parkmoor Restaurant to have a late dinner. I was smoking a cigarette and drinking a glass of milk. I noticed that the two highly unrelated objects had several things in common. Both were white and somewhat cylindrical. Both were held in the hand. Both were something people needed--milk because it was healthy, cigarettes because they were addictive. I wrote a one-line poem on my napkin:

A cigarette is like a glass of milk.

When Darrell and I wrote our first collab, I put the line in, but I forgot to include the word “like.” The simile became a metaphor. The accidental rewrite was much better than the first draft. Darrell sat down at the typewriter, read the line, and responded very favorably.

On my 24th birthday, Darrell gave me a poem he written titled “Art is a Fruit.” His fascination with the cigarette / milk poem shows another side of his epistemological view of things.

The windows and rosettes of the cathedral of Chartres

Are not more beautiful

Than a cigarette that has become

A glass of milk.

Dazzled by the milk, its unpoetic whiteness,

Its purity apart from reason

Or a cigarette, one may enter a new year

Alerted, aloof, and precise.

One may enter the year as at a poetry reading

Where, while arriving late, no ill-feelings come

From the audience. –Or one may simply

Sink into it, pen in hand, –a poem

And a glass of beer.

A glass of beer is not a glass of milk….

Darrell told Allan Kornblum about the poem, and Allan printed it as a beautiful one-line broadside on his printing press. I signed each of the 90 copies with a different penmanship and gave my share out to friends.

One friend, Jim Bateman, took it to the daycare center where he worked, and he taped it to the refrigerator. The next morning I ran into him, and he said, “I taped your poem up, but somebody crossed off the last three words and rewrote it, and they drew swastikas on it. Here it is.”

A cigarette is a machine of death.

A few months later, on April 17, 1972, according to Darrell, Actualism was born in the heart of the heartland, Iowa City. I remember quite clearly the afternoon in which the movement began. It wasn’t so much a beginning as an awakening to the realization that something was happening.

~ 6. The Secret Origin of Actualism

One afternoon at the Court Street apartment Darrell Gray, Anselm Hollo, Allan Kornblum, George Mattingly, and I were talking about the Poetry Workshop. Anselm said that we should start a counter-workshop workshop--a writing program of our own. However, such ventures took a lot of capital, and we had very little money to spend on challenging the world famous Writers Workshop.

Then Anselm brought up a most intriguing idea.

“You know, I think you guys have a poetry movement going on. The energy is there. All you need is a name for it.”

In addition to the four of us who were present, the “guys” he was referring to included John Sjoberg, Morty Sklar, Chuck Miller, Steve Toth, SheilaToth, and several others.

Darrell puffed on his pipe, gazed into the distance, and said, “Yeah, that’s a good idea.”

George, playing the devil’s advocate, groaned. “Poetry movement? Next thing you know we’ll be issuing membership cards.

Darrell smiled like the Cheshire Cat, nodded, and said, “Ah, that’s a good idea, too.”

The next day, Darrell and I went over to Audrey Teeter’s. Audrey, who had come from the East Coast with Morty Sklar, hung around with the writers of our group. She liked being a part of it. She’d bought a house in Coralville, and she knew Darrell and I could always use a little extra money. She’d hired us to paint her trellises white.

Darrell seemed preoccupied as we sloshed the paint on the wood. When we ran out of paint, he went into the back part of her garage to get a new bucket. When he returned, he hurried up to me and said, “I’ve got the name for our poetry movement. ACTUALISM.”

And Actualism it was.

~ 7. Actualists American Poetry Circuit

By George Mattingly

Summer, 1972: George Mattingly published a booklet titled Actualist American Poetry Circuit Readings for 1973-1974. The booklet included biographical information, bibliographies, sample poems, and photographs of 13 Actualists: Darrell Gray, Sheila Heldenbrand, Anselm Hollo, Steve Toth, George Mattingly, Joyce Holland, John Sjoberg, Josephine Clare, Tim Hildebrand, Morty Sklar, Allan Kornblum, Chuck Miller, Dave Morice.

George began the booklet with a statement that, although it didn’t mention the Writers Workshop, certainly implied a contrast between the workshop and the Actualists:

“The poets available to you through the Actualist American Poetry Circuit in 1973-4 are in the forefront of a movement which is making exciting and important use of the major wakening in the past decade to the fact that poetry is not to be locked in vaults for some select few, and that, as Pound said, ‘Gloom and solemnity are entirely out of place in even the most rigorous student of an art originally intended to make glad the heart of man.’

“These poets bring with them an energy which makes their presence exciting in a personal and yet open way, because their involvement is in the world, not simply in their work, or in themselves. They communicate directly through the vast, specific intersection of all our lives, which is the world.”

~ 8. The Actualist Manifesto

By Darrell Gray

In December 1972, Darrell and I went to his apartment to write some collabs. He sat down at his typewriter and began--and he continued beyond the first few lines. With great enthusiasm, he said, “I’m writing the Actualist Manifesto.” As he tapped the keys, I took a sheet of paper and drew a picture of him typing it.

After several minutes of intense work, he pulled the paper out, and handed it to me. I read it and said, “This is great. Can I include it in the next issue of Gum?”

“Sure,” he said. I felt like a cub reporter scooping the other newspapers. This unique piece of writing defined our movement and didn’t define it. The manifesto challenged the reader to meditate on its words and to interpret its kaleidoscopic statements. I have read it many times over the years, and I still find twists and turns of meaning that I hadn’t noticed before. I published it as a foldout in Gum 9.

Some think it was a manifesto, others think it was a parody of a manifesto, and still others think it was a puzzle based on a parody of the manifesto. Some just read it and live with it, and that is where it really is, in their minds, taking root like a fleur du mal, a good fleur du mal, because all fleur du mals are ultimately good. It was an impossibly wonderful piece of literature, brought to you by the genius of Darrell Gray:

ACTUALISM – A Manifesto

Actuality is never frustrated because it is complete.

The purpose of “intention” is to complicate matter.

A material paraphrase is a complication.

Or as Guillevic says, “The problem is to do to things

what light does to them.”

Typing through sunglass is, of course, an alternative.

There is no room for alternative illusions. There is

barely room for the table and bed.

The World has changed its mind. Ice cream is on sale.

Concentration is a problem for those obsessed with

process. For those obsessed with stasis, the oppo-

site of concentration sets in, and there is a seem-

ing dispersal throughout all the sensory reigions.

Where is the missing balance?

Actualism is to Chemistry what Fatalism was to the

Middle Ages.

Actualism poses the question, “Of the seven openings

in the human body, why are five of them located

above the neck?”

Thoughts are concrete things.

Things are characterized more by their conditions

than their conditions are characterized by them.

“The useless is not horrible until it is bandaged

with truth.”

Why belabor the impossible?


A chapbook titled Apocastasis by Darrell was stapled to the bottom of the foldout.

Someone once said that when a poetry movement gets a name, it is beginning to end. Ironically, Darrell’s manifesto appeared in the final issue of Gum, but Actualism was only beginning to affect the literary scene.

Allan Kornblum and I spent many nights and quarters playing pinball at the Mill Restaurant. We showed each other our latest poems while taking turns flipping the flippers on the “Crescendo” machine.

After Darrell wrote “The Actualist Manifesto,” Allan wrote “The Pinball Manifesto.”


Every poem should be like

A game of pinball.

Lights should flash,

Bells should ring,

Numbers should spin

And in the back of the readers’ minds

They should always be hoping

For that free game.

Allan Kornblum


Steve LaVoie and Monica Vescia visit Iowa City in the waning days of Actualism in the heartland. But Darrell’s move to Berkeley ignited a new firestorm of Actualism with is Black Bart Newsletter. For a last Hurrah!, Steve and Monic wrote another manifesto:


White sound points the way toward

the lost syllables of history’s silence.

Thus we throb, the snow blinding spring

throughout, affecting my thinking ever since.

After the thought comes the afterthought.

Birds want theories; cages form around

the jungle; the stores close.

Chances are, you have the hair you deserve.

History is just another hair, but

the earth wears a wig.

Baldness appeals to the lonely: those who can

scarecely afford combs.

Depreived of the advantage of birth, they

sought refuge in aerosol.

They settled for computers, when poems

are programmed liketelevision and

words are processed like hair.

Oblique anagrams become our alphabet, cartoon

letters, box-scores and menus make

text obsolete.

What a nice cool night!

The legs of a pheasant create your shirt


Night is morning. You will not escape

the obscure.

Steven LaVoie, Monique Vescia

March 22, 1984, very early morning

Iowa City, Iowa


Active Image

I wrote and published a parody of poetry movements titled “Cutism.” The only fragment of the lost Cutist Manifesto is “Cute, Cuter, Cutist.”


~ 9. The Actualist Anthology

Edited by Morty Sklar & Darrell Gray

The Actualist Anthology brought the movement to one of its legendary heights: It showed, in one volume, a huge variety of poems and poets who called themselves the Actualists. Morty Sklar, publisher of The Spirit That Moves Us Press, which published the Actualist Anthology, has kindly given permission to reprint the introductory essay to the book and a selection of poems from the book. Here is Morty and Darrell’s collaborative introduction.


Our original desire was to publish in one volume, the poets herein.

Calling this volume THE ACTUALIST ANTHOLOGY came mainly out of a need for a title. “Fourteen Iowa City Poets” wouldn’t have been accurate in a strict sense: we come from, among other places, New York City, Newton (Iowa), Hungary, Chicago, Finland, San Francisco, Saint Louis and even Iowa City!

(From “What Actually Is Actualism”, an article by Morty in Zahir No. 9/Summer ’77:) “What we have in common – 1) A basically open, generous and positive approach to our art. Maybe “{positive” has connotations of Dale Carnegie or Norman Vincent Peal, so let’s say “affirmative”. So that even when bad times are central to a work, something inspiring/moving can occur…2) Each Actualist is conmscerned with connecting with the reader on some level.

(From Darrell’s new ESSAYS & DISSOLUTIONS from Abraxas Press:) “To be Actual is not to possess Actuality--it is to be possessed by it… I want to emphasize that Actualism is not an aesthetic “movement” in the usual sense of the word. It owes nothing to literary history that I could not find elsewhere, least of all aesthetic theory or literary criticism. Actualism begins when the Automorph in man’s being decides to wake him up.”

As with any anthology, there will be interest in why certain people are included and others not. Within the purview of this book we have sought to represent the work of those poets most seminal to the Actualist Movement, which began (in spirit, if not name) around 1970 in Iowa City, Iowa. Half of us remain in Iowa City, while others have moved to other parts of the country.

The word “Actualism” may strike the reader as just another ism, but in historical terms it is much more than that. It is a community, not always with similar interests, but always a community. The poet’s sense of his/her writing becomes a part of that community.

Something we want to say before you do: Only two women are represented in this volume, and no Blacks, among other “categories” of people. That’s because the anthology didn’t seek out the poets in it--they were there.

Concerning the order in which the poets appear: In partial explanation, the book is conceived organicallly, with the poets thought of in proximity to one another--which in some cases puts one next to another much like him/her, or much unlike. Or both. To cite an oddball example of the “organics” of this process, Dave Morice is last simply because his last poem seems a good last poem also for the anthology. Concerning the amount of pages per poet, we refer the reader to our two basic guidelines: 1) The best work (as we see it) we could find, combined with 2) The widest range.

What isn’t in this volume, which we wanted to include but couldnot, due to our 144-page limit: 1) A special section for collaborative poems (of which there are hundreds & hundreds, written at parties, visits or wherever the spirit moved as many as four people to write a two-line poem, or as few as two to write a chapbook of 14 sonnets), 2) Photos of Actualist events, where not only poetry and fiction was read, but original plays and music performed, films shown, paintings displayed, and so on, 3) Representation of people who did much of the artwork for the Iowa City magazines Search For Tomorrow; Gum; Suction; Dental Floss; P.F. Flyer; Me Too; Candy; Matchbook; Toothpaste; The Spirit That Moves Us: Pat Dooley, Tim Hildebrand, Mary Ferris, David Sessions, Jane Miller, others--including some of the people in this anthology, 4) Reproductions of some of the magazine covers, and posters announcing readings and other events.

Whatever’s left to say will best wait for Darrell’s History of the Actualist Movement in the Arts – or something like that. Meanwhile, we all hope you’ll enjoy this offeringk, and that somehow the spirit of the work will convey all that we want it to – and maybe even more!

Actually yours,

Morty Sklar & Darrell Gray

Iowa City & Berkeley, Summer 1977

A Selection of Poems from the Actualist Anthology

In the Actualist Anthology, each of the fourteen contributors had a section that included their photo, biographical info, list of magazines appeared in, and list of books published, and several poems. In this selection, I have picked out one poem by each poet.


Allan Kornblum

When resentments seem to have

A reason

The fights begin.

On television the man doesn’t

Know what to say to a man he loves,k

His brother, and tells the nurse

“You’re in love with him

You’ll know what to say

When he wakes up”

Then he wakes up and runs out

So fast (to attend urgent unfinished business)

That no one gets a chance to…to get things straight.

A lot of hearts are pounding in the universe

And a conscious effort is made to

Make them relax

The way trumpets are part of

A conscious effort

To make us feel heroic.

Is this a mask or a clue

12 o’clock high

Now ending with a forced joke.

Outside steady lightning gives the clouds

A form I can hold in my eye…Ha

An angry sky, an angry heart

I feel as if I am a part of history…

I evade my life. “When and how will nature

Take revenge on the human race?”…

Is that evasion

Or perspective

Floating mote of dust adrift etcetera.

When my friends piss me off,

I hear the Williams line, “What shall I say

For talk I must…”

But using words for an incident

Suddenly appears to be an assumption of

A responsibility to denude illusions

nd just whose illusions are they?

Maybe mine.

O once again I long for my salad bushes

When will they bear fruit?

Perhaps in this country home

Photosynthesis will clear the air enough

For me to eat

Again with my friends

In peace


Chuck Miller

when I began this funny journey

it was the pumping thuds

the heartbeat of prose

that i loved

the clear sonorous hoofbeats of meaning

the people there

laughing and weeping all over you

until you had them in your arms

and you fell down together

on the tavern floor

amidst the sawdust and sneering knees

the kicks and the bottles

now i am thirty

and i am beginning

to really love poems

i eat them for breakfast

i fuck them in my lonely bed

like lacey icing on cakes i eat them

like an Irish stew of the Mutter Sprached world

venison of strangeness

they are my walking stick

my overcoat

the poets are so good

because they don’t say much

they are always saying less and less

leaving things out

turning into ghosts

they are endlessly beautifully

gibbering in my ear

but i don’t eat dead poems

and more than this i prefer taking drugs

and even more than that i prefer love

but i think it will be an old typsy poet

in a great shabby overcoat, yellow decaying

manuscripts trailing from his autumn pockets,

who will

some spectral midnight

come stumbling

after me

and laying his palsied hand

upon my trembling arm,

say, ever so softly

poetry is a vast muttering

of what you always knew it would be about


Anselm Hollo

2 gods

2/3 cup hidden psychic reality

2 teasp. real world

3/4 cup sleep

2 cups sifted all-purpose iridescence

2 teasp. good stuff

1/2 teasp. pomp & pleasure

beat gods hidden psychic reality

real world and sleep together

sift together iridescence good stuff

pomp & pleasure

add to real world mixture

drop by teaspoon

2 inches apart on cookie sheet

press cookies flat

with bottom of glass dipped in sleep

bake at 4 F 8 to 10 minutes

2 dozen cookies good stuff

Active Image


(for Allan)

Cinda Kornblum

Morty calls from a halfway house

either he’s got car trouble

or a new girl. Our friends are so

predictable and we are too.

You have tried to draw a picture

of society’s pliers –

I have tried to write a poem about Mason jars

We had to try it to know it wouldn’t work

How else would we be here together now listening

to the rain while the garden outside (hopefully) grows.


Morty Sklar

Oh Goofy,

tapdancing in the kitchen

in the moonlight

of streetlight

Oh dripping faucet

song of environmental unconcern

beauty of waste

we sing

Oh Coney Island

thrill of dying

25 cents by the ocean

laughing entrance to Fear

a dozen clams on the halfshell

Oh salt air, hot sauce

Oh my

Daffy Duck saltwater taffy

3 shots for a quarter

Oh sweet rag doll reward

Midnight in Flatbush

Oh closing of the eternally open steeplechase

trashy windy blacktops of the sauerkraut mustard

cotton candy night

Oh Light

Oh subway home

Oh home

Star Travellers of Brooklyn

Moonlight on the oil slick

Oh Mark Twain

of the green condom river,

Ellis Island ghosts


Oh say

can you see


John Batki

Herbert, the corner philatelist, tells me

that sales are up. The snow quietly

lies in the air.

Molly, the downstairs pragmatist, is out

with her dog for a walk. Her plump

dark thighs are bare.

What should we do? The wind does not answer,

the streets stretch their arms, the snow

does not care.

Let’s have some music! The dog turns around,

shakes his head, and says, “Melodies

are rare.”

Active Image


Darrell Gray

grasshoppers, wheelchairs, rosebuds!

all those variably cloudy images

bundled up & fung at the reader as if

communication depended on an alien plug, a verbal

fire-sale, syntax slashed to the bone

& what’s more we haven’t the slightest

buried symbol or submerged meaning

to hold on to – total mayhem – “with this kind

of aesthetic how does he tie

his shoelaces is what I want to know”

not to mention all those dim & unemphasized

figments that flash across the page

all those parking lots preposterous similies

“the stars like tiny lawnchairs in the sky”

where did the soul go

to drag these fugitive embers from its fire

and wsa there a first firek, a fire fashioined

after no other, a fire of the final mind

from which we emerge like schoolboys in a dream

to bone white rivers & the fear of owls…

Say something deep, like the fear of rivers, something

pure & lean we can teach our kids

the lyric is a flexible form, I know:

birds, beasts and animals

in season sing their blunt reciprocal praises.

Mimeo machines murmur. Though that might be a

variable measure, all variance decrees

a cosmic tedium – “dialectic” we call it: nude idiomn

of the thing reborn. The gentle researcher

tiltsto the modular pinkness of the snow –

an erudite boy, addicted to spiral notebooks,

yoga, and the oblique “come-on” of dark girls

….These old eyes grow older with each word,

& Ambiguity, like a pregnant queen, rules

the landscape where I sit. Ripe berries hang in tangles

over Samuel Johnson’s grave – “like ornaments of indecision”,

you might say….And yet, there is an occasional

brilliant twist. I quote one poem, BAFFLING TURNS, inm toto:

Asleep at 60 mph. No doubt the poet here has in mind

howmuch eludes him. Or, as Allen Tate succinctly said:

“For where Time rears its muted head and all appals

We know not where we stand nor where we fall.”


Jim Mulac

The entertainers are friendly

& there are more old songs now.

“The new ones don’t have words yet”,

they tell us, “but the tunes

are fromall over the place.” Yes,

these two girls are crazy, & they can

sit with us, & later we can leave,

go to another place, visit with Scott Wright

about jobs we’ve quit, about D.H. Lawrence

getting Scot to write again.

We switch

from coffee back to beer.

The lights come on.

We go home, where the drawing still looks good.

Sunday morning, Cinda’s parents call & offer

an electric broom. Spring cleaning is beginning

in February, & the abstract works that were jokes

to begin with seem more & more naturally

part of the way things get straightened out.


David Hilton

When the old bitch barks at the bottom of my iron backstairs

a music brims the dark flowing back home

and I’m helpless thinking She’s come!...

then the noise drains and leaves

a lapping at my kitchen window…

tiny tongues laving a stiff lover!...

sometimes I even look,

she is never there.

I am trying to say that in the silence

of this city I dread

that dog’s bark…

among the rotting garbage cans

that dumb old girl tethered on a ten-foot rope

walking in rain to howl her gray dreams…

what loneliness crazier than hers?

Drunken growls and whimpers rise

from her owners downstairs.


I confessed a year ago, “I’ve nothing for your birthday.”

“Just write a poem for me,” she said.

And I did

and (better than America!) it was

fleshed with pride and wonder

that we did love each other…

oh the laughter

in that poem awoke

my terror

that is its mate…

things have ways of evening out.

And this poem I’m willing now

is but the second part

graceless as a grieving hound

to that poem, that paean, that mock

I was so dumb to think

would need no further work.


Sheila Heldenbrand (Toth)

The barn was on fire.

The guards were no longer neededk,

nor boots, nor cap for his head.

But people yelling out of cars

made him self-conscious nyway.

A Volkswagen topped by a red light drove by.

Red sparks like hairs on edge flew out.

First his bones appeared

then blood, nerves, finally skin, features

and a tattoo of a roase.

He buit a house for himself,

a weird woman, and birds.

Why did you come back? they asked him.

For love, for love.


John Sjoberg

why did george washington

try to kill himself?

it was morning and so george

had a cup of coffee. this

wasn’t unusual. the ritual

of drinking a carefully poured

cup of coffee was

the beginning

of the day. he had red sox

on. this was a rarity for

revolutionary times. (red

dye for sox was not invented

until 1833)

george’s cat

was playing in the bed-

room. martha had gone

for the deay. she’d been

leaving the house rather

early these last few days.

she usually left with jerry

the indian cook for the

washington family.

(jerry was a bright young

brave, since he’d had an

education back in the early

days when he worked for the

measurement research corporation.)

the beginning

of the day. george looked out

of the house at the river and

all the maples that had

grown on this, his famous

plantation. george was re-

calling all the red-orange

maple leaves he’d picked

yesterday. it had been sun-

set then. their pet

peacocks had been strutting

all over the closely cropped lawn.

george felt good remembering

the peacocks. they always

reminded him of how terribly


the washington

name would become. “ancestors

and descendents.” said george

to himself in his

dove white kitchen.


Steve Toth

i am the turquoise mechanic’s son

sitting in the drive eating doughnuts.

beautiful cars – light as quick silver

my car has an agate gear shift knob

my car has a roof of broccoli

its tires strong as root beer

its interior a flour bag

blowing away in the wind

its headlights of mahogany

its dash made of water

it holds the road with loving tread

its steering wheel encompassing small talk of crickets

and with it i hang a louie

before me joyful

after me joyful

above me joyful

below me joyful

all around me joyful

we are going for a joy ride

sound of joy when the engine turns over


Dave Morice

I didn’t know you died

till a week or so later

when Allan Kornblum told me

that he played your poetry record

at an open reading

at the Sanctuary, an Iowa City bar.

I made the posters

for that event, but I couldn’t go

because I had bronchitis

and took antibiotics and codeine.

I heard you read in person

seven years ago at St. Louis U.’s gym.

That was the first poetry reading

I ever went to, and I was

deeply impressedk, especially when

the microphone buzzed

and blew a fuse. You pushed it

away and angrily shouted,

DAMN THING! and everyone

thought that was funny,

but you were really pissed.

At this time I still don’t know

how you died, or exactly when.

I’m sorry it happened

to you as well as Ezra

Pound, who died a few months ago,

and Pablo Neruda, who passed

away a few days before you.

I always pictured Pound

as a deposed monarch, Neruda

as a surrealistic king,

and you as a real, live poet.

~ 10. The Myth of Demystification


Reviews by G.P. Skratz

The San Francisco Review of Books,

Dec., 1977

Essays & Dissolutions by Darrell Gray

(Abraxas Press, 2322 Rugby Row,

Madison, WI 53705. 1977. $3.00).

Darrell Gray’s Essays & Dissolutions

is an astonishing kink in the history of

the Donnergeisaufsatz (loosely translated

as ‘the crazed genius essay’) in that it is

impeccably well-crafted. One thing ya got

to dig about Darrell is his ability to

perform linguistic magic with the fast

inevitability of a good burgher, late for

work, brushing his teeth.

Among other delights, this book pre-

serves the theoretical discovery of Act-

ualism. Even today, much American

surrealism reads like stodgy transla-

tions from the French. The Actualism

movement officially published the map

of the junction of European surrealism

and the American Whitman-Williams-

Codrescu barbic ‘this is where I’m at’


‘Or as Guillevic says: “The problem is

to do to things what light does to


‘Typing through sunglasses is, of

course, an alternative.’

‘There is no room for alternate illu-

sions. There is barely room for the table

and bed.’ (from The Actualist Manifesto, p. 63)


The Actualist Anthology, ed. by Morty

Sklar & Darrell Gray. (The Spirit That

Moves Us Press, PO Box 1585, Iowa

City, IA 52240. 1977. $3.50)

Central to Actualism is the astonish-

ment of demystification. ‘O, Outer

Space,’ said Darrell Gray one day, ‘you

brush my teeth for me, comb my hair…”

In his ‘An Old Southern Critic Takes A

Look At My Poems,’ we find:

‘& what’s more we haven’t the slightest

buried symbol or submerged meaning

to hold on to--total mayhem--‘with

this kind

of aesthetic how does he tie

his shoelaces is what I want to know’

(p. 76).

and in ‘Ode To Jibberish,’ he says:

‘Baudelaire was right.

Proust was right.

Cezanne was right.

Bullfrogs at home in their pools

salute us, lethargically croaking the


nature affords them.

And dogs in alleys rub their backs

for relief

on great compositions.

Their howls of aesthetic appreciation

piss us off in the night’ (p. 84).


Unlike the Troubadours, who strug-

gled for Heaven, to live in the sky,

Actualists invite the sky to live in their

bathrooms. An Actualist poem, then, is

what Dante would have written if

Beatrice had lifted her skirt and shoved

his head up her vagina toreveal an

eternity of orgasms surrounded by a

dazzling blue light. (In fact, Bill

Knott’s Nights of Naomi--Barn Dream

Press, 1971--is precisely an Actualist

La Vita Nuova.] and so one encounters

the supremacy of the Act, the Actual. A

natural extension of this aesthetic is

‘process art’ via the Act of language it-

self. Or, as Anselm Hollo puts it:

‘most of the time we sit down

to write “sitting down” down’

(p. 43).

Hence the linguistic Actualism of Joyce

Holland and Dave Morice.

I’m baffled by the exclusion of Joyce

Holland from this anthology. When she

was a publisher, she created contextual

spaces--such as the Alphabet Anthol-

ogy--in which the most boring of poets

could become a brilliant Actualist

simply by writing a single letter on a

card and sending it to her. Her publi-

cations were, themselves, art--far

more than the sum of their parts. Her

poems, of course, were just as good.

The Actualist Anthology does, how-

ever include Dave Morice, who is per-

haps the greatest performance poet in

the world. Darrell Gray claims that

Actualism was born on the moment

that Dave Morice wrote the one-line

poem: ‘A cigarette is a glass of milk.’ He

is Dr. Alphabet: the demystifier as

myth. To me, his most astounding feat

was his first Actualist poetry marathon

in which he wrote 1,001 poems (or

1,002--the historians of Actualism

differ on that poiknt) in 12 hours. In

public. Of course, they’re minimalist--

but fans of minimalism will not be dis-

appointed by these works. Here are two

of them now:

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When the French say


they mean

“How long it’s been

since we’ve met.’ (p. 142)


a thing of beauty

crashed to the floor (p. 143).

So in Actualism, one finds a move-

ment capable of sustaining works rang-

ing from ‘language’ works to ‘heart’

works loike Sheila Heldenbrand’s Actual

dream transcription, ‘There Is A Little


There is a little house.

Inside is an old woman.

Someone says:

The good eye projects,

the evil eye attracts light.

She has a good eye.


The Marriage of Insult & Injury by

Andrei Codrescu. (The Cymric Press,

Box 474, Planetarium Sta., NY, NY

10024. 1977. $2.50).

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The single most important idenfity-

ing characteristic of 20th century art is:

the passage from myth to demystifica-

tion to myth to… (etc.) For example:

Marcel Duchamp draws a mustache on

the Mona Lisa to demystify it. That act

becomes myth. Critics demystify

it by pointing out that all Duchamp has

done is to create a new myth. Then that

criticism becomes myth. And so forth.

Enter Andrei Codrescu, the poetic

master of this process. A myth per line,

demystifying the previous lines. The

monument as sand castle. Reading his

work, one finds oneself frantically]

pacing between two poles. Back and

forth riding on a ferris-wheel or a

roller-coaster. For example, here’s a

poem called: “The Yes Log.”

‘Say Yes to all and be condensed in fact:

Poems are sermonettes for all the


tremors in the land.

The brain turns towarde its great


like a revolving door holding

a giant red ant


It rains with gusto.

What are we doing here with the recipe

for father?

Take two parts sand and one part


Mix with parsley, fry and scatter.

And then say Yes to the precisely

knotted whip

which lashes

down your succession and up

your ancestry,

so that in touching

each past or future face it can

change you from shit to gold?

O stamp of hell o electricity!’ (p. 16)

‘If a fleeting impression is the whole

performance, the fact of something

nameless enters the body of the fierce

yolk, endlessly urging the egg to scram-\

ble itself’ (from ‘The Differences,’

p. 20).

Unlike Blake, however, Andrei doesn’t

move toward a Grand Scheme. We’re

just ridin’ that old ferris wheel, hon-

ey--which, since the failure (or at least]

the perceived failure) of Pound’s Can-

tos makes clear, is all we can possibly

expect from 20th century mythic


Or as Andrei says:

“The trees may be scary

but hidden among them

is your house’ (p. 20)

~ 11. Urban Renewal

Writing the history of Actualism is more complex than playing three pinball machines with both hands tied behind your back. Many things were happening simultaneously, and the muse’s flippers knocked the ball around Iowa City and beyond.

Some questions are more important than others. When did we decide we had a movement? When did Darrell come up with the name “Actualism,” and what did the term mean? Was the movement a serious attempt to redefine poetry, or was it a hoax? Or was it a combination of many things, including the question, “Is it necessary to answer these questions?”

When we were swept up in the wind of Actualism, we had fun. That was perhaps the most important thing that kept the movement alive and brought more excitement than the Writers Workshop could ever dream of. We didn’t consider what happened on March 10, 1973, or any other day. It was timeless, at least for a time.

Now, years later, I would like to know more precisely what happened in those salad days? Fortunately, I saved many of the news articles that discuss or mention Actualism and its events. One event in particular, the destruction of the old Iowa City, affected our movement.

Iowa City’s politicians at that time, interested in finding a way to fill the public coffers as well as their own pockets, turned their attention to Urban Renewal. The city hired an architectural firm to review the old buildings in the downtown and nearby area and decide on how to improve everything.

After finishing their study, the firm said that the town was a beautiful place as is: If the city spent money on improving the conditions of the buildings already there, Iowa City would be a showcase of classical Victorian architecture.

However, making improvements on the old buildings wouldn’t involve a whole lot of money, so the city council abandoned that idea. Instead, they hired a firm from Chicago and told the firm what the previous company had said, noting that those suggestions weren’t accepted.

The new firm did their study and said that the buildings should be torn down and replaced. That was what the city wanted to hear. The queen of Urban Renewal, Frieda Hieronymous, and other people stood to make a purseful of under-the-table money by tearing the town apart.

The Court Street house was slated for demolition. Allen, Cinda, and I had to move out. We were given a surprisingly large amount of money to relocate, but we would’ve preferred keeping the original place intact.

A much bigger change for all of the writers, Actualists or Workshoppers-- was the relocation of Epstein’s Book Store.

~ 12. Epstein’s Book Store

The bookstore had to move a block west from a brick building on Dubuque St. to a cheap temporary module on Clinton St. Other places, including the Deadwood bar, had to similarly move into neighboring modules. When the time came, the city said, the bookstore would move out of its module and into a brand new downtown shopping center called “Old Capitol Mall.”


Epstein’s offers everything but a degree

Literary landmark to move

By William Patrick

Staff Writer

The Daily Iowan

Tue., Feb. 20, 1973 Harry Epstein, the older

brother by a year, said they

Epstein’s is moving again, have never had the store in one

this time to a modular unit in spot long enough to really sink

the middle of the street. Iowa down roots. “You have to be in a

City’s fastest rising literary lan- place two years at least.”

dmark is also its most por- The store first opened in May,

table--four locations in three 1970 with $200 and about 200

years. used books belonging to the

To cultural historians, bronze brothers and friends. Before

markers in mind, this might that, Glen had spent five years

someday create a problem. managing the Paper Place, a

Today the problem belongs to bookstore that burned down

Glen and Harry Epstein, three years ago.

owners of the store. “When it burned,” Glen said,

The present store on Dubuque “there was no store except Iowa

Street has the cluttered Book, so Harry had this bright

mustiness required for comfor- idea and we went into

table browsing. The entrance is business.”

covered with posters and

announcements, the floor is old Originally from Los Angeles,

and wooden, and behind the both brothers went through

antique cash register a stereo U.C.L.A. and came to Iowa for

plays constantly. the Writers Workshop. They

You won’t see Joyce there, stayed on, they said, because of

but then where can you see him the town.

these days. On the other hand, “There are a lot of writers

Dan Wakefield, Bill Fox, that come here, you know,

Donald Justice, Marvin Bell, People tell them about the town,

Seymour Krim, and Anselm not the Workshop,” Glen said.

Hollo have been known to “There’s a group here. George

frequent the place. Mattingly, Darrell Gray, Al

These writers, along with Kornblum, guys that have

many less well known, have nothing to do with the

participated in the poetry and Workshop.

fiction readings that have taken “They put together a couple

place at Epstein’s every Thur- of magazines like Toothpaste

sday night for the last two years. and Gum. They call themselves

Glen Epstein, a poet in his the Actualist Poets, which is

own right who has published in kind of a put on. You know. The

the right places (The Atlantic, name, I mean.

The New Yorker) said it was “But in town you meet people,

common to have over 100 people like at our store. You read your

crowded into the store to hear a stuff here and talk about it, and

poet read. you don’t pay tuition. We keep

“With the move coming up up with the people, even loan some

we’ve had to postpone the money to writers now and then.

readings,” he said, “but we’re The only thing you can get at the

going to try to keep the Workshop that you can’t get

atmosphere the same, keep it here is a degree.”

going in the new place.”


The Epstein brothers, Glen and Harry, thought that the module would ruin their business; however, it had the opposite effect. Because of its location and its funky look, the bookstore became the real center of literature in Iowa City. Glen and Harry stocked literary magazines and introduced the town to West Coast underground comix such as Zap and Big Ass Comics by R.Crumb. Epstein’s Book Store welcomed straights as well as hippies. The sign in the front door said:

No shoes

No shirt

No shit!

Come on in.

They sponsored readings by Workshop poets, Actualists, and anyone else who wanted to read. They featured other literary events, too.


One late afternoon in March of 1973, I took a stack of blank sheets of paper left over from the 8th issue of Gum. I placed 3 sheets in the living room typewriter at Court Street and typed 3 short poems. I pulled them out, put 3 more sheets in, and typed 3 more short poems. I decided to see if I could write a poem on each of the 40 sheets.

Al Buck dropped by. Al was studying to be a letterpress printer. He liked the Actualists; thus, he was an Actualist by default.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“Writing 40 poems. I’m about half-way through. Here.”

I handed the finished poems to Al.

“You know, Al, writing these poems is fun, and it doesn’t take all that long. I wonder if I could write a thousand poems at one sitting.”

“Why would you do that?” said Al, ever the skeptic about my projects.

“I wouldn’t do that,” I said. “I’d get tired of it after awhile. But wait a minute. If I wrote them in public at Epstein’s Book Store, I’d keep at it. People could give me words and ideas to use in the poems.”

The next day I went to the bookstore. Harry Epstein was seated at his desk. which was built on a raised platform. Its height made it seem like a throne. Nearby Darrell was shelving books.

Darrell had been organizing the first Actualist Convention. It was scheduled to take place two weeks later on March 10th. I didn’t want to write the 1000 poems at the convention. I had other things to do there. Nor did I want to do write them before the convention. I thought it might confuse the issue. Instead, I thought about doing it on March 17th.

“Harry, I had an idea last night for a poetry event. I’d like to write a thousand poems in public at the bookstore. Would you be interested in hosting it?”

“Sure,” he said. “In fact, we’re having our grand opening next week on March 3rd. We’re getting some bluegrass musicians to play on the porch. You could write on that table over there.”

“A poetry marathon!” Darrell said. “That would be perfect--a great way to advertise the Actualist Convention.”

That was the ideal way to connect the marathon with the convention. On the scheduled day, Joyce Holland (aka P.J. Casteel) and I went to the bookstore with paper and typerwriter. We set up the typewriter next to a fishbowl. Darrell had taped a sign to the front of the table.


Poetry Event in Progress

Dave Morice will write 1000 poems

in 6 hours--from 10 AM to 4 PM

* * * * * *

Poems to be bound in book form and

presented to 25 highest bidders at ACTUALIST

CONVENTION, March 10th. . Proceeds to Support


Although the sign said I would do the marathon in 6 hours, it wound up taking 12 hours, from 10 AM to 10 PM. I wrote 1002 poems instead of 1000. There were no bidders for the poems bound in book form, and there was no Vietnamese Children Relief Fund. Darrell said we could find a fund and donate the money, if we got any money. I was glad that the poems didn’t sell. I kept them, and I still have them.

I brought 1002 sheets of many different kinds and colors of paper, provided by Allan Kornblum. Joyce numbered the blank sheets and I began writing the poems three at a time.

After I wrote each trio, I put them in a fishbowl next to my Royal typewriter, which had a wide carriage. As I typed, people came by, asked questions, and made requests for words and topics that they wanted me to use, and I used whatever they wanted. The resulting poems ranged in length from one word to fourteen lines.

To my surprise, three newspapers did stories about the event, and two television stations did trailers to follow the 10:00 news. Glen Epstein had contacted the media.

One station began its trailer by noting that March 3rd marked the centennial anniversary of the invention of the first practical typewriter in 1873 by Christopher Sholes. That was purely a coincidence.


A wedding, a poetry marathon…

Grand Epsteins opening

10:15 a.m. Saturday: Four or five people browse quietly through Epstein’s Book Store and listen to some cool jazz coming from a stereo behind the counter. The mood is oddly subdued considering this is the Grand Opening of Epstein’s in its new location; but it’s still early.

Against the wall, seated behind an old wooden desk, David Morice is typing furiously. Dave has a warm smile, bright active eyes, and a singular mission: He wants to write a thousand poems in six hours.

On his right side, a red-headed girl numbers the multi-colored 3 by 5 cards on which Dave writes his poems. He puts three or four cards in the typewriter at once, types, and then places each card in an empty goldfish bowl as he fishes it. In between poems, he puffs on a cigarette. I ask if we can see some of his work.

Sure, but some are better than others.” I dip my hand into the goldfish bowl and extract a random sample. A few of the letters have been typed over.


The long way

to avoid


Active Image

I tell Dave to keep at it and that I’ll check up on him later. On my way out, an old man stops me and holds up a book. The Manufacturing of Madness.

“Don’t think they have to manufacture it, to you?” he asks, smiling.

“Nope.” I agree and walk out.

2 p.m. Saturday: On the store’s temporary porch, a musical group called the “Bluegrass Union” is making its way through a rendition of “The Wabash Cannonball.” Inside, the mood is substantially more animated, and maybe fifteen people are standing around watching Dave write poems. There are now two assistants on his right, the red-head and a brunet who is fielding questions. Save is still smoking. He seems oblivious to “The Wabash Cannonball” which filter in from outside.

A nine or ten year old girl walks up to the goldfish bowl, pulls out one of Dave’s poems, and reads it aloud.

“Gone fishin’ back later

signed: the fish”

“Gawd, that’s stupid,” she says, throwing the card down contemptuously and walking away.

The red-head watches her go. “Generation Gap!” Dave just smiles and continues to type.

A large ashtray, about three feet high, is now filled with multi-colored cards. I overhear the brunette telling someone that the poems will be bound in a book and sold to the highest bidder, with the proceeds going to the Vietnamese Children’s Relief Fund. So far there are only a few bids in, and Dave urges people to make a commitment. I ask how many poems he’s written.

“Oh, about three hudred and fifty.”

“You’ll never make it by four.”

“Probably not.”

“They won’t crucify you or anything for not succeeding?”

“Naw. I’ll probably still be here at 9 o’clock, stop by,” and he goes back to work.

The “Bluegrass Union” have given up, and now someone is playing “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Dave needs another pack of cigarettes.

4 p.m. Saturday: A group of five actors begins enacting a play, the script for which is a set of poems by Garcia Lorca adapted by Arnold Weinstein for the stage. Weinstein is among the players and at the end of the production announces that what we have just seen was a rehearsal; the finished version is to appear in MacBride next Friday.

After another set by the Bluegrass Union, Harry Epstein officiates at the wedding of Gary Banks and Debby Davis. After the ceremony the bride participates in the traditional bridal dance with Harry, Glen Epstein, and Herschel Schmedick. Later the couple circulates through the modular unit and departs for Donnely’s and then their honeymoon at the Rainbow Lotus Leather Company in Des Moines.

The crowd begins to disperse, but the Hard Rock Kid is still holding court in the back office of the book store, declining to tell stories about how he was picked up hitchhiking by a homosexual the last time he was in Iowa City. He does admit to being the king of the hobos, having run away from home in Trenton, New Jersey, at the age of 16.


Poet’s World Record Bid:

1,000 Poems in 10 Hours

By Larry Eckholdt poems will be displayed to

(Register Staff Writer) the public.

Des Moines Register “Actualism is an art move-

Sun., Mar. 4, 1973 ment that originated in Iowa

City last year, explained Dar-

rell Gray, another Iowa City

IOWA CITY, IA -- Dave Mo- poet.

rice, and Iowa City poet, wrote “Actualism” is art that hap-

1,000 poems Saturday in the pens. It is an attempt revita- middle of a downtown book- lize art in a public way -- get-

store with a horde of people ting people involved,” Gray ex-

watching him. plained.

Morice was going after the The iodea is to get art out of

world’s record for the most the museum and artists out of

poems written in one sitting.

Morice was sitting on a pillow Typifies Movement

at the time.

Morice typified the “actual-

10-Hour Ordeal ism” movement Saturday be-

cause the poems he hammered

Since there has been no pre- out on his electric typewriter

vious world’s record listed in

the Guinness Book of World

Records on poetry written in

one sitting, Morice is sure that

the 10 hours it took to write the

1,000 poems will stand.

It was part of a fund-raising

effort for the Vietnamese Chil-

dren’s Relief Fund. And it was

held in coinjunction with the

grand opening of Epstein’s

Book Store in Iowa City’s “tem-

porary relocation mall” -- a

two-block stretch of 18 modular

buildings--for local businesses

displaced by urban renewal.

But mostly, the marathon

publicized next Saturday’s

“Actualism Covention” here

at which Morice’s 1,000

poems will be displayed to

the public.

“Actualism is an art move-

ment that originated in Iowa

City last year, explained Dar-

rell, another Iowa City

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Glen Epstein said to me, “Why don’t you do another marathon? Pick a day. Pick a long day. Make it difficult.”

And I thought about it. A long day. The summer solstice! The longest day of the year. A single poem measuring one hundred feet.

“Perfect,” said Glen. “People will be ready for a down-home event with poetry, music, dancing. Let’s do it!”

Glen was struck by the interest that the media had in the first marathon, so he continued acting as media manager and contacted the tvs, radios and newspapers. On June 21, 1973, I wrote the second poetry marathon.

Active Image

Going out into a new direction

Poet celebrates longest day

Onlookers responded with and in summer. There’s nothing like it

admiration, astonishment and in San Diego.” His two daughters,

bewilderment as Dave Morice, Prudence and Margot, didn’t seem too

26, 221 ½ E. Washington St., excited about the event. The college

continued his outpouring of free instructor said that his daughters had

verse in what he hopes will be been around poetry and literature all

one for the books--“The Guiness their lives.

Book of World Recordes.” Ellen Dailey, A3, 222 ½ E.

specifically. Washington St. felt that Morice’s

Writing in the Actualist tradition style was “a liberaton. When I write

(spur of the moment creating and poetry, I don’t like to plan it out.

doing so in public, not in lofty I like a sense of freedom.”

seclusion), Morice chose yesterday “I think it’s great! It’ll sure be neat

for his sunup to sundown endeavor when it’s a 100 foot long,” was the

since it was the longest day of the reaction of a high school student,

year and the first day of summer. Greg Nelson, 16, 309 Windsor Dr.

Throughout the day, passersby of Other reactions were typified by

all ages observed the poet’s station Jeff Veal, A3, 205 Myrtle Ave., who

on the Sara-Hart Terrace near considered the possibility that he

Epstein’s Book Store. Media (Morice) was half interested in

representatives recorded the poet making a name for himself and also

in action. Behind a typewriter interested in trying something new,

and paper galore, he commented to going out into a new direction.”

a TV reporter, “If all this (material) Greg Schmidt, G, 531 S. Van

seems to come out of the clear blue, Buren St., was all for Morice’s task

it does!” and the manner in which he was

Morice typed his thoughts on undertaking it. “It gives you a chance

a one foot by 100 feet sized sheet of to see a poet at work, out in public. In

typing paper as ideas and external this way, he’s like artisan displaying

stimuli struck him, incorporating his wares for all to see.

current events and “audience” At 8:01 a.m. yesterday, the time of

participation in the work. the summer solstice, Morice wrote his

Reaction to Morice covered a longest line of the poem, covering the

wide spectrum: width of the page: “all the time we

“I think it’s great,” stated Liz count on minutes to carry us, point by

Voss, G, 530 N. Clinton St. point,through the area we call ‘planet’

“When he gets tired, he’s going and back to the new home behind the

to get an interesting combination of sun of our bodies.”

words. I think his method is a valid The halfway point of this stream of

way of writing. In the midst of it all’, consciousness-styled effort came at

there’s going to be some really good 1:54 with the one-word line, “river,”

things.” in addition to tired fingers but

Two adolescents wandered unflagging determination on Morice’s

nearby. One said to this friend, part. “I’ve reached a point where I

“There’s that guy who’s typing!” feel like I’m repeating, although I’m

The reply: “Let’s see that nut.” not. You have to force yourself to

An instructor at San Diego State keep on going. When you’re getting

College, Jerry Bumpus, 36, traveling tired, that just makes you recharge

through the area with his family, yourself.

thought it was a fine idea. A former The winning entry of submitted

student in creative writing at the title suggestions will be posted at

University of Iowa commented, “It Epstein’s. The monster poem will be

should provoke interest in poetry on display at the Main Library.

Bob Jones

Feature Writer

The Daily Iowan

Fri., Jun. 22, 1973


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Actualist poet to write mile long poem today

Science may fail but poetry

to succeed


A Special to the Daily Iowan

Tues., Jan. 15, 1974

A recent article in the Press-Citizen had headlines of: Scientists Still Love Kohoutek--Viewers at UI: Comet Not Much, But Worthwhile.

Viewers will have something worthwhile to look at today, if they pass by Epstein’s Bookstore around noon. Dave Morice will then begin his third and last of the poetry marathons, this one in celebration of Kohoutek’s passing closest to Earth. The work will be handwritten on a single sheet of paper measuring 16 inches by a mile. It will become the world’s longest poem.

“I got the idea to write something in honor of Kohoutek last spring, when I first heard about the comet.” Later, during the second marathon, when he wrote a 100 foot poem to honor the year’s longest day, Glenn Epstein approached him with the idea to go to London, sit at Trafalgar Sq., and write the world’s longest poem.

The idea to go on to a third marathon, this one in honr of Kohoutek, didn’t crystallize until November, when Morice finished conceptualizing the poem’s form. As the first marathon dealt with depth--1002 poems to celebrate the opening of Epstein’s on the Mall, and the second marathon concerned itself with length--100 feet long, the Kohoutek poem, the last of the marathons covering a ten month time period, would deal with width.

“An epic haiku, a variation on the Japenese three-line verse form, with the middle line a mile long, running the width of the paper.”

Poetry has long been regarded as one of the higher art forms, but Dave Morice has done much to bring it down to street level. That is not to degrade his work or the marathons. “Poetry should be living; more in touch with life.” So Morice, long a resident of Iowa City, once a member of the poetry workshop, and since his departure from UI, a central figure in the Iowa City poetry scene which has become to be known as the Actualist Movement, has devised a way to bring poetry to people. The marathons.

A statement from the Actualist Manifesto, compiled by Darrell Gray and published in Morice’s GUM magazine: “Actuality is never frustrated because it is always complete.”

To complete this poem, Dave Morice will write in multi color, using magic markers. He will be wearing his Kohoutek Comet Shirt, made Sunday night in honor of the event. Spectators will feed the poet, who creates out of the moment, from the situation.

Oh, and also, Dave Morice will be assisted by Joyce Holland, well known concrete poet, whose works have been read at Chicago and Syracuse. Joyce will be transcribing the poem on an adding machine to create a “portable mile.” Joyce in the near future will be the subject of a biography, “The True Joyce Holland Story.” But for today, she will be at Epstein’s helping Dave Morice complete that mile.


Writes Mile-Long Poem

To Fizzle of Kohoutek

By Larry Eckholt

Register Staff Writer

Des Moines Register

Wed., Jan 16, 1971

IOWA CITY, IA -- Over- When it was all over, Morice

coming last minute technical said his latest (and last) mar-

obstacles, poet David Morice athon poem “was much less

finished his epic, mile-long strenuous to write” than his

poem in honor of the dis- first two -- 1,000 short poems in

appointing Comet Kohoutek 12 hours and a sunrise-to-sunset

at 8:40 p.m. Tuesday. 100-foot long poem, both written

The poem was written on a on typewriters.

5,500-foot-long sheet of paper Mark Cohen, who had been

that originally was a compact rolling the paper for more than

160-pound roll. By the time the eight hours, collapsed in the

poem was completred, the paper heap of paper, winced at Mo-

engulfed a corner of Epstein’s rice’s words and said he was

Book Store after efforts to keep “tired but exalted” that the

it rolled neatly together were poem was done.

largely futile. Glen Epstein, owner of the

Morice patiently write his bookstore where the marathon

ode to a fizzling comet while took place, said the frayed,

assistants tried to shore up jumbled up manuscript will re-

the used paper with saw main on display at the store for

horses, concrete blocks and a couple of days for public

wooden dowels. When the view. It’ll take that long to de-

dowels snapped in two be- cide what to do with it, he said.

cause of the weight of the

poem, Morice’s assistants de-

cided to forget about re-roll-

ing the poem.


Wrapping Epstein’s in a Poem

Following this trilogy--1000 poems, 100-foot poem, 1-mile long poem, I wanted to write something special for the bookstore.

On Mayday, 1974, I wrote a poem wrapping Epstein’s Book Store. The poem was inspired by the artist Christo, who wrapped buildings and other structures.

The words went all around in different directions on the walls and roof of the bookstore. Bluegrass music went all around, too. As I wrote it, Joyce Holland copied it.

Joyce saw two Writers Workshop people looking at the poem. She got closer to them to hear what they were saying, and she told me that one of them said, “This is okay, but it isn’t poetry.”

When I was covering the third wall with words, a car drove up from the direction of the EPB with 5 or 6 college-age people in it. They shouted in unison, “Phony Baloney!”

I wrote on the bookstore, “Phone the baloney!”

At another point, I wrote in large letters “This is the Urban Renewal Cover-up.” The Daily Iowan published a photo of it the next day.


David Morice

Does His Thing

Andrea Herman

Iowa City Press-Citizen

Thurs., May 2, 1974


Dave Morice was doing it


This time he was creating

poetry across a big, fat paper-

draped modular unit on

Clinton Street. He calls it his


Dressed in an abstract letter

tee-shirt, blue jeans, sneakers,

his only property a few cans

of spray paint – he hopped

around outside Epstein’s Book

Store being charmingly prolific

without being the least

communicative. Obviously

Morice is a man to whom

images are more real than


Hundreds came to watch.

People and dogs and

buggies clogged the street.

Some folk sat atop window-

ledges. Others sprawled over

railings. On steps. Across

benches. Alongside curbs. A

few sat on other modular roof-

tops. And one guy hung from a


They came to watch Morice.

And why not?

Active Image

The Grassfire blue-grassers

played. And Morice…a guy with

tons of show-biz flourish, sprayed

huge words across the building.

With each new effort he’d reflect.

On the music. At the crowd. Into

the buildings. And then he’d smile

a big smile at the sky.

His bon mots, written impromptu,

had nothing to do with gut issues

like inflation and race and Watergate.

They were deliberately arty, cannily

simple, shamelessly melodramatic.

They were odd little multi-colored

rondos oke

White sky with (written in

blue paint)…

CLOUDS. (orange) …

All people (blue) …

read walls, especially


between (blue) …

the (pink)

windows. (blue)

Or this one stretched out in red


The bank’s door is


to sounds like money

in the registers.

Or another ditty in big, bold-faced




The crowd passionately watched.

This was no ordinary talent.

Morice’s rise to eminence can

be briefly told.

Only a few years ago, he was as

obscure as any of his fellow-struggling

poets, who thinly populate this city. He

graduated with an MFA from Iowa in

1972. He wrote a few short stories, a

novel, a children’s book, some poems

for lofty reviews. But then, at the age

of 26, he learned by himself the

intricate feat of writing poetry and

performing simultaneously.

His reputation spread.

He wrote a mile-long poem

commemorating Epstein’s opening.

It fills 26 scrolls and is presently stored

in four different homes.

Next came a 100-foot poem.

Then a 1,000 mini-poem marathon.

The result?

Some TV impresario hearing an

account of the pop-poet and always on

the lookout for unusual talent, flew

Morice and a chum to California for a

guest appearance on the “Tomorrow”

show. There Morice attempted a first.

A poem on his chum. His chum’s dressi,

that is.

Technically that’s what it’s all about.

Morice loves texture. Writing on

buildings and stones and boards and people.

Even piano legs, if they’re around. And he

likes doing it in various media. Paints and

sprays and crayons. He does it to music and

in costume.

Poetry is so much more than words. He

feels this.

His stuff employs raw material. Sounds

and sights. Objects. mineral, vegetable, or

animal… including humans, of course. Or

artifacts like buildings of every kind.

Churches, bridges, etc.

Poetry that’s verbal song or story.


Visual art.

And NOISE. Lot’s of it. Morice befriends

them all.

His events bring out other pens, cameras,

and tap;es. It’s contagious among the

spectators, his writings. Druggists and

secretaries, businessmen and teachers, kids

and those-not-kids who never get mixed up

in this sort of thing.

It’s Iowa City alive on May Day.

Just like it always is when the Epstein

boys and Morice and the spray paint and all

the tee-shirts and dogs and buggies and

blue-grassers hang-in…for awhile.


Epstein’s patrons lament closing


Staff Writer

The Daily Iowan

Tue., Mar. 8, 1977

It’s hard to imagine the estimated that the store

corner of Washington and sponsored 300 readings in-

Clinton streets without volving nearly 1,000 “famous,

Epstein’s Books there to infamous, and not so famous”

provide a gathering place for writers. Memorable events

Iowa City’s writers and include the 24-hour marathon

bibliophiles. reading last autumn and a mile-

However, the bookshop which long poem composed by Dave

once offered poetry readings Morice at the store.

and a casual library at- “I’ll miss it,” Morice said of

mosphere--as well as mounds Epstein’s. “They have been

of paperbacks stuffed, crammed responsible for a lot of good

and piled into its tiny energy in poetry.” In

quarters--will soon exist only remembrance of the store,

in the folklore of Iowa City. Morice created on on-the-spot.

To many people, the over-the-phone eulogy.

bookstore operated by the

Epstein brothers was much All the books in Iowa City

more than a retail outlet for are bound to share

books and magazines. It was ink tears of Epsteins leaving.

an integral part of the bohemian

ambiance found in Iowa City. Iowa City writers will

Jack Leggett, director of the probably miss Epstein’s the

UI Writers Workshop, called most, because it will be they

Epsteins “the social center of Who are figuratively left out in

the Left Bank atmosphere the urban renewal cluttered

here,” and “a commercial with no place to gather.

outpost of the Workshop itself.” The majority of the writers

The Writers Workshop has contacted agreed that the city’s

been closely connected with the other bookstores could provide

store, and it was the Workshop am adequate selection of

that originally lured Glen literature, but the relaxed

Epstein to Iowa City from Los congenial atmosphere would

Angeles in the mid-‘60s. At that not be replaced.

time, IowaCity writers Novelist Vance Bourjaily said

congregated at two downtown he would mourn the closing of

commercial establishments-- Epstein’s, and poet Marvin Bell

Kenny’s, a bar on Clinton called its demise a real loss.

Street (a painting of which Oscar Brownstein, head of the

hangs in the Mill restaurant) Playwrights’ Workshop, termed

and the Paper Place bookstore. the closing “unfortunate,” and

The function of these literary poet Donald Justice lamented,

meeting places--besides the “I’ll miss it. I’ll regret it is

pursuit of profits--was to give gone…I’ll miss Glen and

writers and other artists an Harry.”

opportunity to mingle and One store that has been touted

discuss their creative works. by some as the descendant of

both Epstein’s and the Paper

As the ‘60s melted into the Place is Alandoni’s bookshop on

70s, Donnelly’s became the S. Dubuque Street. Jim Mulac,

writers’ bar and a new who recently purchased the

bookstore--opened by two shop, said, “I don’t think

former Paper Place employees, Alandoni’s will replace

Glen and Harry Epstein-- Epstein’s. Alandoni’s is

which burned in 1970. developing a mood of its own.

Similar to Epstein’s, Alan-

For a new decade of young doni’s has been the site of

writers and book lovers, regular poetry readings. Mulac

Epstein’s was the place to pore said a shortage of space

over the stacks of books and prohibits him from selling new

meet people who shared the books, and he will continue to

same passion for literature. sell only used books and

Allan Kornblum, a local poet records. However, he does plan

said, “Epstein’s certainly was a to add a large assortment of

focus for the energy and small literary press magazines

cultural variety of literary and books to his stock.

ideas that took place in Iowa Alandoni’s has become a

City.” literary gathering place,

Glen Epstein described his especially for poets, but it lacks

store as, “a cultural place the central;iozed downtown

frequented by writers,” location Epstein’s bookstore

although, “the writers never enjoyed. Mulac said Iowa City

paid for our bookstore. They needs another bookstore to offer

paid the least.” Epstein said the new books in a casual at-

Whole Earth Epilogue men- mosphere.

tioned that the bookstore had A literary bookstore in

one of the best selections of downtown Iowa City is still a

poetry in the United States, but possibility. Epstein said there is

noted that few of the poetry a slim chance that he may keep

volumes were ever purchased. the store open even after

Throughout the seven years of departing for Laguna Beach,

the store’s existence, Epstein Calif. He added that the store is

said sex books, science fiction for sale and the new owner

and how-to-do-it manuals made could maintain it as a relaxed

most of the money and enabled place to buy books.

him to sustain the unprofitable But Epstein said he is

literature section. doubtful that Iowa City could

The frequent poetry and support a new literary

fiction readings that were held bookstore. He explained that

at the shop were an important the literary atmosphere of the

service for the literary com- city has declined since 1970,

munity, as as much as when he opened the store, and

anything else made Epstein’s the economic climate in Iowa

popular among writers. Epstein City discourages small

business. “I don’t think there

will ever be anything like

Epstein’s here again,” he said.

Others, however, are more

optimistic. Bell, who teaches in

the Poetry Workshop, said he

dreams of a combination coffee

shop, cheesecake shop,

sidewalk café and literary

bookstore where writers and

everyone else could bask in a

lively intellectual atmosphere.

Bell added, “I’d be there every


~13. Actualist Conventions

None of the cofounders of Actualism were in the Workshop anymore, but two or three workshop students were fans of the movement. One of them told us just before the first convention that a workshop teacher asked the students, “Are any of you going to the Asshole’s Convention this weekend?”

We loved hearing that kind of thing. Actualism was affecting the politics of Iowa City’s literary community. The Actualists had a common enemy, and that of course united us even more strongly.

For the first Actualist Convention, I put a poster on the door to the auditorium at Wesley House, the site of the convention. The poster offered a…

















Cinda Kornblum won the door. She wasn’t allowed to take it home, but, as Allan said, “Everyone knows it’s her door.”

The first convention was such a success that Darrell organized a Second Actualist Convention, which took place on November 3, 1973.


Actualists gather here as

second convention nears

The Daily Iowan

Feature Staff

The Second Actualist Convention

will be held Saturday, November 3,

at the Wesley House Auditorium,

120 N. Dubuque St.

This event, running from 12:30 am

to 1:00 pm, will include a potpourri

of poetry readings, experimental films,

music, happenings, paintings, sculptures,

environmental pieces and drama--all

being a continuous conglomeration of

aesthetic stimulus.

The varied program will also have

displays by a number of artists. Most

of the people involved in the day-long

presentation live in the Iowa City area

and have been active in this artistic

movement known as Actualism.

According to Darrell Gray, movement

spokesperson, Actualism concerns

“Pleasure. Excitement. Diversity. We

want the whole gestalt. Not that we’re a

school or anything, but the movement

began as a bunch of artists and poets

with somewhat similar intentions coming

together and the result was a tremendous


“Poets began writing plays, musicians

began writing poetry, concrete poets

turned on to the idea of ‘happenings’

and environmental continuums. I guess

one of the things Actualism is about is

the idea of art as an action--a process

most real when it achieves some sort of

state of celebration. Actualism takes art

off its pedestal in order to look clearly

at the pedestal itself.”

Some of the local magazines which

publish Actualist works are “Search

for Tomorrow,” “Gum,” “Toothpaste,”

“Suction,” “Candy,” “Matchbook,”

“Typewriter,” and “PF Flyer.”

The Actualist idea of creating “on the

spot” was best exemplified in recent

months in Iowa City by Dave Morice

who continuously dashed off a thousand

poems during one public spurt and, in a

summer dawn-to-dusk outing, hammered

away at a single mammoth poem.

Actualists don’t believe poetry and

other forms of art should be enjoyed only

by a select few. For this reason, the public

is invited and no admission will be charged.

There will be free food and refreshments

available on the spot.

Active Image

Actualists’ schedule of events

1:00 Tom Baker--sliders

1:30 Brad Harvey--reading

1:45 Pat O’Donnell--reading

2:00 James Naiden (out-of-town poet--reading out-of-town)

2:15 David and Maria Gitin--“The Careens,” musical number

2:30 John Sjoberg--reading

3:00 Steve Toth--reading

3:15 Mike Evans--video tapes

3:45 George Swoboda--reading

4:00 P.J. Casteel and Joyce Holland--reading

4:15 Sheila Heldenbrand--reading

4:30 Bill Casteel--animated films

5:00 Audrey Teeter--reading

5:15 Morty Sklar, master of ceremonies--reading

5:30 Jim Mulac--reading, piano playing

5:45 Cinda Wormley--reading

6:00 Diane Peterson--film

6:30 Amadeo Achemski--reading

6:45 Chuck Miller--reading

7:00 Diane Auerbach--reading

7:15 Lyn Ferguson--film

4:45 Darrell Gray--reading

8:00 Dave Morice--reading

8:15 Maynard Hendricks--films

8:30 “The Umbrella that Predicted the Future,” a play by Dave Morice. World premier. With: Jim Mulac, P.J. Casteel, Pat O’Donnell. Directed by Allan Kornblum.

9:30-10:30 “Just Friends,” a band


The meaning of “Actualism” opened up to include the other arts. Unfortunately no one documented the conventions very well. Here are a few things of the many things that occurred:

To prepare for the first convention, Allan Kornblum and Steve Toth started setting folding chairs around the room. After they had arranged a few, Allan looked at Steve and shrugged and tossed a chair on the stage. Steve tossed a chair in response. They threw all the chairs onstage, where they remained for the entire convention.

“The 29 Cent Collection – Howard Zimmon exhibited numerous items he’d bought for 29¢ at Lenoch and Cilek Hardware. They were neatly arranged on a table.

“The Alphabet Chair” – I painted an old wooden chair with a white undercoat and then painted multicolored letters of different sizes in a scattered pattern all over the undercoat.

“The Aren’t Museum” – I displayed eight paint-by-number paintings that I’d bought at Goodwill.

“Marlboro Money” – I brought a paper bag full of more than 500 empty Marlboro packs that I’d saved over the previous couple of years. At the convention, I announced the Marlboro Money event, and I put a dollar bill in one pack and a five-dollar bill in another and then put both back in the bag. I swung the bag around and scattered the packs on the floor. Whoever found the money got to keep it. No one ever admitted to finding either bill.

“The Light Switch” – Joyce Holland performed an instantaneous play. She turned the light off in the auditorium and explained that it involved everyone in the room. Then she flicked the switch on and off as quickly as possible. The play was over. She turned the light back on.


~14. The Joyce Holland Hoax

The Drollinger ticket stub.


One summer night a long time

Ago I rode that Ferris wheel

With a boy who wrote poems!--


P.J. Casteel, 2002

Joyce Holland was an Actualist in every sense of the word. She wrote poems, she published a broadside that later became a play, she put out a magazine of oneword poems called Matchbook, for which the NEA gave her a $50 grant. She put out an anthology of oneletter poems called Alphabet Anthology. She guest edited the “actualist poetry” issue of Out of Sight magazine. She submitted her poems to many other little magazines, and twenty-nine or more accepted and published her work.. The X Press, her imprint, published “The Final E,” a selection of her poems that appeared in the each of the 29 mags. She gave 17 poetry readings. She appeared on the Tomorrow show.

But she did something that none of the other Actualists could possibly have done: She didn’t exist.

They knew wasn’t. But to keep her non-existence a secret, the Iowa City Actualists played along with her when anyone came out of town. Everyone called P.J. Casteel by her hoax name, Joyce Holland. Casteel met out-of-towners as Joyce Holland. I wrote her poems, edited her publications, and worked with her on explanding the hoax.

Several months before Actualism existed, Joyce took began her checkered career in 1970 as the star of a porno novel. Eric Oatman, a friend of mine in the Fiction Workshop, suggtested I write 45 pages of porn novel and submit it to Greenleaf Classics in New York. They paid a couple of thousand dollars for a novel at that time. I took Eric’s advice, wrote 45 pages of a novel titled “Up & Down” under the name Joyce Holland. I picked the last name by selecting Holland after the name of a little magazine editor. I picked the first by paging through the Iowa City phone book, pointing to women’s first names, saying them aloud with Holland as the last name. After about 8 tries, I said Joyce Holland. It sounded real, so I kept it. However, when Greenleaf nixed the novel, I put it in a manila folder and filed it.

One afternoon in 1970, I was getting restless about doing something really different. Al Buck came over. He seemed to pop up whenever I had a wild hair.

“What are you doing?” he asked when I showed him some poems and drawings that were unlike my usual work.

“I’m going to put out a magazine called Madam X. It will be a little mag publishing poems by people who don’t exist. I showed him a few pages of writing by people I’d made up.

“That’s a lot of work,” he said. He was right. Creating seven or eight poets would be tricky. I decided instead to create a poet who wrote different kinds of poetry influenced by Anthology of Concretism, published by Dick Higgins and the Something Else Press, my hoax poet would write experimental poems inspired by sound poems, visual poems, found poems, minimal poems, combinatorial poems, etc.--but no free verse or rhymed poems. For her name, I went to the porno file, and Joyce Holland’s career changed from porno to poet.

As a bonus, I could write poems in ways I’d never written before. I didn’t have to wonder “is this a good poem?” Now I’d think, “that’s a great Joyce Holland poem.”

I sent Joyce’s poems to magazines. People were caught off guard, I think at receiving these avant-garde poems out of the clear blue from a woman poet they’d never heard of before. Curiosity began to create a problem. When other poets said they were coming through town, they’d ask to meet Joyce. At that time, however, she didn’t have a body, so I told everyone she was out of town.

A few months passed. I moved to an old Vaudeville dressing room on the second floor of the Englert Theater. It was about the size of s large bathroms without an bathroom fixtures. I had to share the bathroom at the end of the hall with two other guys who were renting the dressing rooms. At the end of the hallway, there was a much larger apartment shared by two young women. Before too long, I got to know them. In fact, one of the women became my girlfriend.

She also became the physical embodiment of Joyce Holland. After we got to know each other, she knew more and more about the Joyce Holland Hoax. P.J. was an actress. She understood the problem of a poet not having a body, so one day she said, “Can I be Joyce Holland?”

At last Joyce was complete. And a better Joyce Holland there couldn’t be. P.J. Casteel because Joyce Holland. She once said that she was jealous of Joyce Holland, because Joyce was the mysterious poet. P.J. was just P.J., acting out the career of Joyce.

For her debut as a person with a body, Joyce gave a poetry reading at Wesley House in Iowa City. On Wednesday, Nov. 15, 1972, at 8:00 PM, she waited in the wings. I was with her. She was slightly nervous, but she had a sheaf of poems ready to perform. Joyce never read.

Darrell Gray introduced her to around 30 people. It was a charming, sweet, lovely, and brilliant introduction. It seemed as though Darrell was in love with Joyce Holland, who didn’t exist, and not with P.J. Casteel, who did. His introduction was total admiration:


by Darrell Gray

Valery once said that “language is a chemistry for which we have yet to discover the elements.” If this is true, Joyce Holland is, indeed, a “master chemist.”

Anyway you look at it, she is a total genius. In the beautiful bubbling flask of her mind light filled combinations occur, and it is out of these combinations that she composes her poems.

Perhaps “compose” is the wrong word: rather they seem to settle like wondrously natural crystals, tho they are capable of altering their structures at any point in space and time.

Andrei Codrescu has called Joyce an “essentialist,” to differentiate her from “concretism” on the one hand, and “minimalism” on the other. But Joyce would no doubt be the first to reject any such categorization. Her field of activity is words and letters, and the Alphabet--both “mysterious” and “concrete” simultaneously--is her set of tools for the exploration of Nature. Never before has the Alphabet been so rigorously and passionately absolved from the function of mere representation.

Only a few poets of the past come to mind. Shakespeare does not come to mind. Neither do Dante nor Milton. Sappho does not come to mind. Dickinson, while undoubtedly great, also does not come to mind.

Almost no contemporary poet comes to mind. The question we might ask ourselves, then, is: Why don’t other poets come to mind? If I could answer that question, I might be tempted to write a long and “scholarly” paper entitled: LITERATURE AS A SERIES OF ABSENT MINDS IN RELATION TO JOYCE HOLLAND. However, since I am not a scholar, I prefer to simply read or listen to the poems of Joyce Holland, which is what we are going to do, right now.

Darrell Gray



Diane Dtrina, The Daily Iowan’s associate feature editor, captures the spirit of the moving moment in her article that appeared the next day.


Joyce Holland reads in between the syllables

A poetry happening


Associate Feature Editor

The Daily Iowan

Fri., Nov. 17. 1972

“In the beautiful and bubbling A break.

flask of her mind light filled “I began writing poetry three

combinations occur, and it is years ago,” Joyce says. At that

out of these combinations that time I was reading Clark

she composes her poems. Coolidge, aram saroyan, ira

Perhaps “compose” is the steingroot. From that I started

wrong word: rather they seem to write.”

to settle like wondrously natural Dave Morice, her closest

crystals, though they are friend, sits beside Joyce. “Dave

capable of altering their own and I share ideas,” she says.

structures at any point in time

or space.” Darrell Gray) EEK & MEEK

The lights dim. Cigarettes 1

glow. Twenty-six people watch, What’s wrong

wait for Joyce Holland, editor of with me, Doctor?

Matchbook, to begin reading

her poetry. 2

Joyce walks in, rsut colored You’re a

flares that match her shagged schizophrenic!

hair. She sits in fron of her sig- What does

that mean?

nature, nine feet long, stark 3

black letters against white, That means I

moves the alphabeted piano charge you double!

bench closer, adjusts the music

stand. Joyce Holland. Isolated let-

I’d like to start off my ters and isolatede words as an

reading with some poetry.” experiences in themselves.

She begins to read. “You could call my poems

three-dimensional onomoto

Opus 1 Opus 8 poeia,” she says.

1 8 Instant poetry. “There’s a lot

of writing and little editing. I

She reads from a series, many just pick out of what’s written.”

of her poems are series. She reads from Dictionary, a

work in prgress. “Fancy

Opus 9 and Opus 12 dress: a dress chosen to suit

21 one’s fancy.

More laughter.

Her voice is low, melodious. She has read her poetery at St.

“Oops! Oooooooops! Ooops! Louis University, at Atlantic

OOPS! She interprets. Iowa, and Iowa City’s Donut

A taperecorder turns slowly Wagon, where a videotape was

picking up from thje microphone made for a Multimedia Art

above Joyce. Show at the Syracuse Art


abc g lmno qrstiv x z

“Poetry has been moving

“I really love the alphaet toward the one word sound,”

and words to me aresimply the Joyce says. “It’s evolutionary

alphabet placed in different poetry, a circle; it comes back

positions,” she says. to its original point.”

Much laughter. Actualism. One step beyond.

Backstage at Wesley House. “Why belavor the impossible?”

The curtain is the backdrop; the (Darrell Gray)

backdrop is the curtain. Coffee “My poetry relates to

warms hands. Actualism in its most basic

way--in between the syllables.”

vard Joyce says.


vard thend


vard Joyce Holland.

Har Words that either are, or

vard seem, real.

Joyce Holland speaks for her-



The DI article received two letters in response to Diane’s enthusiastic desecription of the reading. P.J. Casteel’s performance was convincing. The writer of the letter on the left knew that P.J. was Joyce. However, the other letter writer responded with “interest and aggravation” to the poetry.

Active Image

Letters to the Daily Iowan Editor

Explication More on

needed Matchbook

To the Editor: To the Editor:

Tho we hav nvr met. Ive An English major at the

heard the legnd: suffring. University of Illinois at Chicago

despair. triumphnt comback: Circle and a poet (if I may take

how yo syllablized the the liberty of lagbeling myself as

eucharist. such). I read the article on

Some claim yu are the Anti-poet Joyce Holland (17 November)

(Dadaism and all tht). Nonsen- with interest and aggravation.

se! Anti-poetry implies satire. I was surprised to discover

and satire instruction. But thr is that what Holland considers

nothing instructive in yu. I say yu poetry is what I call warm-up

ar an authentic Non-poet: exercises--experiments--never

primitive as well as an end in itself.

post-lingual. Holland has the basic

Yu steer bckwrd out of the imagination and understanding of

morbid and showy, and forward words needed to be a successful

into the purly existential. Yu poet, but appears to be too

draw the future into and the influenced by aram saroyan.

past out of the present: tran- etc.. i.e.. no style of her own.

scend the nemesis: and reveal Her poetry is intriguing

the Ontic-in-Woman. The enough, but it so only to be so:

Giaconda is nonplussed in yu! Holland is just playing games

Btwn now and nxt Actualist with words and letters. She has

convention. I lok for folwng: been writing for three years. I

(A) fewr and briefr have been writing for seven: if a

non-readings (2) les and shortr chopped-up alphabetical series

non-articles. Let no institution is poetry, is emotion obsolete?:

exploit yu. but by diminution

continue to be all that yu cannot Alaine J. Roos

be and remain non-read. 9 Poplar Place

of all glad words of tongue and LaGrange, Illinois


the gladest are these: she might

have been

P.S. For explication consult:

History of Non-Poetry: From

Ur-Man to Holland. available in

matchstick edition

“Sonnie” O’Neil, g

Fiction Workshop

717 20th ave


On Valentine’s Day, the following ad appeared in the Daily Iowan newspaper.


JOYCE Holland. Praise to the

Maker for the day you were born.

love, p.j.


The Daily Iowan

Wed., Feb. 14, 1973

Dear Editor


Joyce Holland

c/o Al Buck

Box 304

Iowa City, IA

Twenty-nine magazines published one or more poems under her name. Many of them are based on a single, simple idea. One type of poem uses only made-up words, such as “Ubble Snop.”


Uv cabble toyoc fezt

yab sig fovulatic:

Neppcor-inco fendilism

ubble snop.

Active Image

Treep cov ubble, locastor,

urf seg urf sertap urf.

Neppcor-inco findilism

ubble snop.

Wex fendible whask

optera caffing, thatora!

Neppcor-inco fendilism

ubble snop!

Uv cabble ubble snop!

Treep cov ubble, locastor, ubble snop!

Wex fendible whask, ubble snop!

Neppcor-inco fendilism

neppcor-inco fendilism

neppcor-inco fendilism

ubble snop!

Another type takes a single word and stretches it out.






















Some are, like Joyce, invisible:


Some are “serial poems.” They can be expanded to create an endless array of similar poems. Anyone can write a poem in the “Opus” series.

Opus 6 Opus 10 Opus 9 and Opus 12

9 11 21

The “Opus” series refers to the Spectra Hoax of the early 20th century.

“In 1916, two brash, young men with ten quarts of Scotch and a touch of genius faked a new school of poetry and set the critical world on its ear. Former Poetry Laureate William J. Smith retells the fascinating, hilarious story of America’s most successful literary spoof with all its twists and turns.” (from The Spectra Hoax)

The two hoaxers, Witter Bynner (who wrote as Emanuel Morgan) and

Arthur Davison Ficke (who wrote as Anne Knish) perpetrated the hoax to show the literary world that modern poetry was a joke.

The hoax was brilliant, a shining moment in modern literature, tainted only by the intention driving them on, but had they not been horrified by twentieth century avant-garde writing, we wouldn’t have such marvelous work, such a fascinating fantasy.

Robert Frost loathed modernism. In a famous quote, he said that he would “… as soon write free verse as play tennis with the net down.” Bynner and Ficke had similar feelings about Imagism, Vorticism, and other early twentieth century movements and types of poetry that baffled them. So they wrote a kind of nonsense verse to make a movement called “Spectrism.”

Ironically, their Spectrist poems were more interesting than their serious work. Emanuel Morgan’s “Opus 6” begins with this stanza:

If I were only dafter

I might be making hymns

To the liquor of your laughter

And the lacquer of your limbs.

It’s a nonsense poem that ranks right up there with “Jabberwocky” by Louis Carroll and “The Owl and the Pussycat” by Edward Lear. Nonsense poetry is sometimes as tricky to write as “sense poetry” It explores language as much as the poetry of Frost, except that nonsense poems are crazy.

Nonsense by its very nature laughs at poetry. Great nonsense laughs because the writer has tapped into a gold mine of fun. By accident, Bynner and Ficke found something that they loved while trying to knock modern poetry off its rocker.

When I did the Joyce Holland hoax, I had no intention of mocking contemporary poetry. If anything, I wanted those who were skeptical about the new writing appearing around the country to look at Joyce Holland’s work and find something that was really different.

What surprised me most about the Joyce Holland hoax was that in general fellow poets liked, even loved, Joyce Holland. And she didn’t lead them on or let them know that she had a personality. They had to imagine what she was like. They filled in the blanks.

More than anything else, though, I wanted to see what would happen if I tried to create a hoax poet. The only thing missing was an actual person. For awhile Joyce existed only as a bunch of poems.

My girlfriend P.J. Casteel, an actress, asked if she could be Joyce Holland. I agreed to that, and soon she began giving readings. She acted in two ways. First, she performed her interpretation of Joyce Holland, and then she performed the poems that I wrote under that name.

The Actualists called her “Joyce” whenever a visiting poet came to town. With P.J. Casteel being Joyce Holland, there was something more concrete to this concrete poet. They published her work, and they contributed to her publications. Most importantly, they kept the hoax alive.

Joyce gave seventeen readings across the country during her career. For her first Iowa City reading, Darrell Gray wrote a very Grayesque introduction. A few years later, it was published in The Final E, a selection of Joyce’s poems that appeared in 29 publications.


As Joyce, I was able to explore language that I couldn’t’ve explored without a mask. Poets are expected to act (write) in a fairly consistent way in their styles, techniques, forms, etc.

If you write free verse, everyone expects you to write it. If you decide to write concrete poetry, that’s fine, but your concrete poetry will probably be compared to your free verse, and only one of the two will be considered the real you. But if you don’t tell people that you, known for writing free verse, are now writing concrete poetry under an assumed name, you can get away with it. I wasn’t writing concrete poetry: Joyce Holland was.

The hoax became more and more complicated. Joyce put out a little magazine, a very little magazine, called Matchbook. Each issue contained 9 one-inch pages of oneword poems with a cover page, all stapled inside a matchbook. Each issue was lettered instead of numbered. Poets from around the country submitted hundreds of words, real or made-up.

Allen Ginsberg submitted the dictionary word “apocatastasis,” along with a reprimand to Joyce for using matches, which weren’t good for the environment.

Darrell Gray submitted “apocastasis,” a oneword poem parodying Ginsberg’s. He said the word meant “a static apocalypse.”

Extra-wide matchbooks depicting various national monuments, including the St. Louis Memorial Arch, housed the two issues side by side. Ginsberg’s appeared first in No. E on the left side, and Darrell’s appeared first in No.H on the right.

Someone from the West Coast, who’d received an issue of the mag, complained to the post office that it was a fire hazard. The post office contacted me about it.

Joyce received strange correspondence on occasion. James Mechem, editor of Out of Sight magazine, wrote: “I don’t want these poems, but keep your fucking panties on, Joyce. If you send me some more, I might use one.

In response, Joyce wrote her one and only obscene concrete poem, a word square, and sent it to him:

a b c

d e f

u c k

Mechem wrote Joyce, and asked her to describe herself. Here is the reply that P.J. Casteel and I cooked up and sent:

Dear James,

Height: A

Weight: B

Belt: C

Blouse: D

Bra: E

Coat: F

Dress: G

Gloves: H

Hat: I

Hosiery: J

Negligee: K

Nightie: L

Pajamas: M

Panties: N

Robe: O

Shoes: P

Shirt: Q

Shorts: R

Slacks: S

Slip: T

Skirt: U

Sweater: V

Swim Suit: W

Get the picture?*


Joyce Holland

(*The picture was a postcard with a close-up photo of a woman’s

breasts with a fly standing on one of them.)

This exchange of correspondence led to Mechem phoning Joyce (with her permission) and asking her about herself, scolding her for writing the poetry she wrote, assuring her she could do better, and suggesting that she guest edit an issue of his magazine. She accepted his offer and put together issue number 69, the “Actualist Issue.” The mag included individual poems and collaborations contributed by Steve Toth & Sheila Heldenbrand (Toth), ira steingroot, Morty Sklar, Allan Kornblum & Dave Morice, John Sjoberg, Cinda Wormley (Kornblum), and Jim Bateman.

As a follow up, Mechem asked Joyce to guest edit another issue. This time she published a selection of her own poems.



There is no way to know who was the first person outside of the Actualists to realize that Joyce Holland was a hoax. I’d heard that Ted Berrigan figured it out because of a clue I left in Gum--a poem from the alphabet series that leaves certain letters out. In this case, the poem was:

b fgh jkl n pq stuvwxyz

The missing letters are those in my name.


L magazine, by Curtis Faville, had a poem of mine in it. In the contributors’ notes, he said that I was Joyce Holland.


Quicksand Through the Hour Glass, my own book of poems (published by Allan Kornblum’s Toothpaste Press), idenfied me as the hoaxter. This, of course. was in 1980, and the hoax had concluded by then.


G.P. Skratz, a poet from Berkeley, was passing through town. He called me and asked if Joyce Holland and I could have dinner together at the Mill Restaurant. So she and I and Skratz met at the Mill. I’d corresponded with him, but this was the first time we met.

As soon as we sat in a booth, Skratz said, “Joyce, this is a real thrill. I’ve wanted to meet you for a long time.”

Joyce replied hesitantly, “I have something to tell you. There is no Joyce Holland. My real name is Pat Casteel. Dave wrote Joyce’s poems, and I performed them.”

Skratz’s mouth dropped so wide open you could fit an Actualist in there. With a bewildered look on his face, he spoke a rather philodophical line that that I’ve never forgetten:

“With those words,

you have changed

my whole concept

of the past.”

Pat apologized again, but Skratz was perfectly happy to have the hoax revealed to him in such a Twilight Zonesque way. We had a lot to talk about. We had a lot to laugh about, too.

~15. Dr. Alphabet’s Medicine Show

And Other Poetry Marathons

I envied P.J. Casteel. She could do performances of poems, she could hoax people, she could become Joyce Holland. I was stuck with me, but I couldn’t just come up with something unrelated to anything. That would be a poor solution.

Then Muscatine, Iowa, invited me to do a literary event for their upcoming Belle of the Bend Art Fair on the Mississippi River. The people running the event were familiar with the marathon poems I’d done at Epstein’s bookstore. They wanted me to do something in Muscatine. Since I’m from St. Louis, I grew up on the Mississippi.

For this writing, I wanted to do something that fit in with the Mississippi, something that referred to its history. In the 19th century, medicine shows were popular. The “doctor” gave performances and sold elixirs and potions and other cure-all medicines.

In a poetry class in the Workshop, I was doodling while the teacher was talking. On my paper, a topohat emerged. I drew little letters of the alphabet around the tophat. It looked very interesting. If I could make an Alphabet Hat, I could call myself Dr. Alphabet.

I spent one whole Jerry Lewis telethon creating the full outfit, which consisted of a white tophat, t-shirt, pants, tennis shoes, and cane--spangled randomly with letters of the alphabet in different sizes and colors.


Great River Day

By Staff Writer

Iowa City Press-Citizen

Thurs. Aug. 22, 1974

David Morice, Iowa City’s

“marathon poet,” Saturday will

participate in Great River Day at

Muscatine. Costumed as “Dr.

Alphabet,” Morice will write a

poem on adding machine tape to

be used to wrap Joyce Holland.

Morice will then dub her the

“Muscatine Mummy.” Ms.

Holland is shown in a gown on

which Morice penned a poem

for national television. The

University of Iowa graduate

assistant previously wrote a

mile-long poem, and another

covering the outside of Epstein’s

Book Store.


For once, both P.J. and I performed as partners with stage names--Joyce Holland and Dr. Alphabet. As I wrote the poem on adding machine tape, assistants helped cover her as she sat in a chair. When she was completely mummified, I took out a box filled with 150 amber glass bottles that had labels on them saying “Dr. Alphabet’s Medicine Show, Poetry Tonic.” Assistants set the bottles on a table and tore the adding machine tape into foot-long pieces. They put a piece into each bottle.

As people passed the table, my surrealist friend Stu Leviton handed them out to people as free gifts of the marathon. At one point, a gigantic, mean-looking brute came scowling down the sidewalk.

Stu, in a friendly voice, said, “Hi, sir, you like like you need some Poetry Tonic. Have a bottle. It’s free.”

The brute, as he shook his bowlingball sized fist at the end of his baseballbat sized arm at Stu, replied, “I’ll give you some Poetry Tonic.”



The Belle of the Bend Art Fair was the first of 63 marathon writings that I attended as Dr. Alphabet. I didn’t always wear the full outfit, but I did wear the Alphabet Hat, which has had its own adventures.

During a rainstorm in Philadelphia, the hat collected two inches of water inside. I poured the water out to see if the hat was damaged, but the only noticeable problem was a waterstain at the very top. I’d used rubber glue to protect the cardboard base. The hat was also sat on once and dented at the top. I had to bend it slightly to repair it. Part of the dent is still there.

The hat fits tightly around my head to prevent it from falling off. However, when I put the Hat on, I get a headache. But the activity of the marathon makes me forget the headache--even for 8 hours at a time.

14. The Tomorrow Show

After the first three poetry marathons at Epstein’s Book Store, I sent out letters to the media to see if I could generate any interest in Poetry Marathons. Most replies were standard rejection slips, but Tom Synder’s Tomorrow show sent this letter.




(213) 845-7000, 849-3911

January 11, 1974

Mr. Dave Morice

P.O. Box 585

Iowa City, Iowa 52240

Dear Dave:

I apologize for the long delay in answering your letter. The mind boggles at the idea of a mile-long poem. Maybe that explains our waiting so long to get back to you. Anyway, by now you will have or not have produced that epic. If the local papers covered the event, is there a picture we might see which will give us some idea of how massive your writing effort was? Question: Were we to commission you to write a poem during any given show of the TOMORROW tapings, roughly how extravagant a piece of paper might it be--inches, yards, furlongs, or miles?

Best regards,

John Frook

Program Coordinator



In response, I wanted to give “Tomorrow” a poetry marathon idea that would be totally different, one that would include Joyce Holland. I knew she would charm Tom Snyder and the audience.

After considering a number of possibilities, I sent John Frook the information he’d requested in his letter. I told him that I would write a poem on Joyce Holland’s dress. He called and asked for the details.


Morice Creates on ‘Tomorrow’

By Rick Zollo

Feature Writer

On Tom Synder’s “Tomorrow”

show (which follows Johnny

Carson’s “Tonight”), Iowa City

poets Dave Morice and Joyce

Holland will perform a serial

ballet--poetry as performance--

for the perusal of millions of

late night television watchers

Poetry on television may or may

not be a novel idea. But after

Morice committed his mile-long

tribute to Kohoutek, he was

contacted by the producers of

“Tomorrow” to write a marathon

poem on TV. “If we were to

commission you to write a poem

on the show, how long would the

paper have to be--inches, feet,

yards, furlongs, miles?”

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Morice has already written

three marathon poems, which, he

had stated, completed a cycle of

works “to bring attention to

poetry.” Any marathon on

“Tomorrow show would have to

be a departure in form, a new

beginning. Joyce Holland, who

worked with morice on the three

marathons, is a concrete poet who

gives dramatic reading to visual

pieces. So the marathon becomes

a serial ballet, an early morning

appetizer of break-fast concoction.

Joyce will recite her poems while

dressed in a white habit. Morice,

with his magic marker, will write

all over her.

Austere schools may mock

Morice and Holland and their

approach to poetry. One

gentleman was recently quoted as

saying that “I’m sorry, but poetry

rarely has anything to do with

being minimal or funny. Unless

what’s minimal or funny about it

is yourself. I guess Morice


Morice, who claims to be

“caught between Chuck Berry and

T.S. Eliot,” also claims “there are

three kinds of poetry in this

world--the good, the bad and the


Joyce Holland will be tentatively

reading her alphabet poem, her

banana poem, a couple of invisible

sonnets, plus a good old-fashioned

poetry cheer. And Morice will

mark her habit with his magic: he

will decorate her in poetry.

The Daily Iowan

Tues., Feb. 12, 1974


As Zollo said, not everyone liked Joyce’s and my approach to poetry. In the same issue of the Daily Iowan, John Bowie, T.V. Specialist commented on the marathon in his “Today on TV” column in the excerpt that follows. Note the use of capital letters.


Today on TV

By John Bowie

T.V. Specialist

12:00 TOMORROW. David

Morice and Joyce Holland, Iowa

City Personalities, are among

Tom Snyder’s guests tonight.

While she Reads, he will Poem

on her Body with a Felt-Tipped

Pen. Unfortunately, vaudeville

is dead--even when it’s called

A R T (read creative

plaything)--and making the

corpse twitch has never been my

idea of a good time. On 7.


The very next day a well-known British author Stephen Spender, who was in town courtesy of the Writers Workshop, got into the act in an interview in the Daily Iowan. Here is an excerpt.


British author Spender

relates politics and poetics

By Jim Fleming

Assistant Features Editor

[Interviewer] There’s a small brouhaha

brewing here over the virtues of minimal art,

spontaneous poetry and all that. What do

you think?

[Spender] Well, amateurs quite often bore

me… I can’t believe that there are no geniuses

around. If there is minimal art, there are

minimal things to say about it.

The Daily Iowan

Wed., Feb. 13, 1974


“Communication” was the topic of that particular episode Tomorrow. The first half was devoted to an expert in the field who spoke about something, but Joyce and I were too busy in the program’s green room planning our appearance to pay much attention.

The second half included Joyce and me and an albatross--that is, a man from Alaska who wanted to encourage people to send him coupons from a certain cookie company so his town could get a fire engine.

Snyder interviewed Joyce and me about what I was going to write. Then I told him that Joyce had a couple of poems that she’d like to read. The first went over very well, and the second, “Banana” was a total hit.

She followed that by leading the audience in a participation piece “The Poetry Cheer”.

“Imagine we’re in a football stadium, and in the middle of the field there’s a poem instead of a football. I’d like you to join me in the Poetry Cheer.”

Joyce Audience

Give me a P! P!

Give me an O! O!

Give me an E! E!

Give me a T! T!

Give me an R! R!

Give me a Y! Y!

What’s that spell? POETRY!

Louder! POETRY!

I can’t hear you! POETRY!

She was fantastic! The audience loved her! Snyder loved her!

Then I wrote the poem on Joyce’s dress, while Snyder talked incessantly to the man from Alaska in what must rank as the most boring telephone interview of all time.

In addition, as if the boredom factor wasn’t bad enough, the phone connection was terrible. Snyder couldn’t hear the guy very well because of the static.

After the show, we met my mother, who had flown to Burbank for the program. The three of us were crossing the parking lot, when Snyder came out the back door and yelled, with a smile on his face, “Hey, Joyce! Gimme a P!”

I thought that everything was fine, in spite of the albatross, but I was totally wrong.

The following night, still in Burbank, we turned the TV on in the hotel room in excited anticipation that the show would go on, but it didn’t.

After we returned to Iowa City, I called John Frook to find out what happened, and he said that technical difficulties caused the cancellation. He was confident it would be on in a month or so. He told me I could buy a videotape copy for $100.

The Des Moines Register did a follow-up article before we returned from our trip.


‘Technical Difficulties’ Hit

Iowa’s ‘Marathon Poet’

By Larry Eckholt

(Register Staff Writer)

IOWA CITY, IA.--The national

television debut of David Morice--

Iowa’s “marathon poet”--has been

postponed because of “technical

difficulties,” a spokeswoman for

the National Broadcasting Company

said Wednesday.

Morice, who had been scheduled

to appear on the Wednesday morning

“Tomorrow Show” with host Tom

Synder, was the victim of “some taping

problems,” the NBC officials said in a

telephone interview.

Instead of Morice writing a

“body poem” on the dress of poetess

Joyce Holland, as had been previously

announced, NBC aired an “intimate

look” at the behind-the-scenes people

who are responsible for glamorous

Hollywood parties such as a florist,

the chef, and the decorations-maker.

That something was wrong became

evident after an announcer during the

break between the conclusion of the

Tonight Show and “Tomorrow” stated

a poet would be one of the guests

appearing on Snyder’s show. Morice,

however, did not appear.

Morice and Ms. Holland flew to

Burgank, Calif., Sunday for the NBC


The network spokeswoman said that

the show with Morice probably will be

rescheducled “but not within the next

month.” Morice could not be reached

in California for comment on the


The 27-year-old poet, a University

of Iowa Writer’s Workshop graduate,

has gained fame here since writing his

trilogy of marathon poems: 1,000 short

poems written in 12 hours, a

100-foot-long poem and most recently

a mile-wide poem.


That was Tomorrow’s version of the cancellation.

In Iowa City, Dean Jacobsen of the graduate college told me that his brother-in-law was a cameraman for the program. He didn’t work on that episode, but he talked to a cameraman who did. In this version of the cancellation, one of the program’s higher-ups said that I’d written on Joyce’s breasts.

She was wearing a low-cut gown, but not all that low. And I did write across the front, but only the magic marker touched her or the gown in that particular area.

For about two months, I watched the show every night, hoping to see our episode, but I got tired of it and forgot about it.

About a year after the episode, on April Fool’s Day at midnight, the Tomorrow show was scheduled to run excerpts of its worst programs of the past year. I decided to watch.

After three or four programs, it happened. I caught a glimpse, for two seconds or less, of me writing on Joyce, and then the program showed Snyder talking to the man from Alaska.

Our part had been cut, because his part was the main focus of their worst shows of the year program.

It wasn’t technical difficulties. It wasn’t touching breasts difficulties. It was the guy in Alaska who had nothing worth talking about and didn’t know how to speak a full sentence in the first place.


~16. The Poem of the Future

Where to now, O Muse?

By Jay Walljasper

Staff Writer

The Daily Iowan

Wed., July 13, 1977

After considering McLuhanism, paper

shortages, illiterate high school graduates,

the impact of television and the usual tales

of starving authors, the future of writing

becomes a valid topic for discussion.

When asked what direction writing was

headed a number of local writers gave a

wide varierty of responses. Some focussed

on the commercial aspects of writing while

others commented on the state of the art.

No two of them agreed, which probably is

as good an indication as any about the

future of writing.


professor in the Writers Workshop.

“Right now, it’s (writing) doing

amazingly well as far as the attention

certain novels are getting, espcially when

they are in paperback.

It will continue to be hard for new

writers to break in, but once the get in

they will probably find it mor rewarding

(monetarily and fame) than even my

generation did.”

LARRY DOWNES, aspiring professional


“I think that professional writing will

swing back into more discipline, that is a

return to the basic techniques, in pieces of

work. Experimentalism has reached a

point where people are losing origntation

with the original structures of words as

seen by growing illiteracy among high

school graduates.

DAVE MORICE, poet and instructor of a

poetry class for older people.

“In the next few years, poetry will

become an everyday experience. People

will see it in public places, not just graffiti,

but real poetry in places like newspapers,

billboards, backs of cereal boxes, maybe

on the sides of cards...Poetry is being

knocked off the pedestal and onto the

newspaper page.

ALLAN KORNBLUM, poet and owner of

the Toothpaste Press.

“I think that the future of writing will more

and more include the possibility of

celebration in literature as opposed to the

last 50 years development of the language

of delusion and disgust.

“I see small presses doing the

preliminary publishing of writers because

the major publishers are so large they are

unable to print an edition of only 20,000


MICHAEL GLICKSOHN, science fiction

writer from Toronto.

“I would say whatever the future of

writing as a whole, sciewnce fiction wil be

increasingly a part of it, not onlhy because it

is one of the few remaining areas for

publication of short fiction, but also

because the financial potential of science

fiction is growing year by year.”

MARVIN BELL, poet and professor in

the Writers Workshop.

“Questions about the future of writing

are questions about culture and not about

art and are probably irrelevent to serious

writers who write because they need to. I

think also that the audience for serious

writing was never large, but the value of it

for the reader was never measured by the

extent of the audience. It’s still true that

one word is worth a thousand pictures.”

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