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One Plausible Literary History of the East Side,
With Some Side-Trips, Personal Attacks & Various Political & Cultural Diversions Along the Way,
Not to Mention Ego-Tripping (Remember That?) on the Part 
Of the Author 

by Mike Zetteler 

 

IS THIS ANY SORT OF WORK FOR A LONGSHOREMAN? The question arises as I contemplate making sense of heaps of paper and illustrations and print -- bulkily thick or thin and crackly, yellowing whites, smudged grays, some slick and even silvered, some the Zonyx Report:  Literary History of Milwaukee's East Side, Bugle American Counterculture Issue Cover,  Nov. 5, 1975cheapest of
newsprint disintegrating with age. 

There are names here and titles, ranging from Adversary and Arts in Society to Watt's Happening and Ziggurat

Amazing, I think, how much of the East Side's artistic energies and aspirations, if not talent, has gone into the production of words that few will read once and almost no one will read twice. And especially into poetry, an art so naked of technologically aided enjoyment (for practitioner and viewer) as found in photography, of so little decorative and entertainment value, as opposed to painting or musical performance, that it almost has to be a true artistic achievement to be of any worth at all. 

At any rate, I am faced with all these potsherds in the 
East Side's literary strata. Many works are embellished, inside 
and out: line drawings, woodcuts, Lois (Gibbons) Reitman's 
early psychedelic cover for  Pretty Mama, photographs,
engravings. Some, of course, is not poetry, but criticism, polemic or fiction. 

Surprisingly, the earliest days of the period under review
(roughly 1959-'75) offer examples of maverick journalism
professionally done, in the Milwaukee Literary Times, years
before the advent of the true underground newspaper phenomenon. 

Connections with the larger world (not just extending to 
Rhubarb bookstore on the West Side) are inescapable. There's 
Madison's Quixote -- with James Dickey, Diane DiPrima
James Bertolino, Ho Chi Minh, and local contributors -- edited 
by the unstinting Morris Edelson

And Goliards, edited by Jerry Berndt when he was in 
Tampa, Fla., should be in these piles, but it isn't, even though 
we wound up working together at The Milwaukee Journal
library back when I naively hoped to go on writing poetry 
while still earning a living. 

Writers from all over the continent are to be found locally (poets
and poetry editors are notorious back-scratchers) and some
local (more or less) talents such as Jim Hazard, Clark Blaise
[married to Bahrati Mukherjee, who later become an even
better-known novelist] and Kathleen Wiegner have found wider
recognition.  Nevertheless, all this may be lumped together as
publishing with an overwhelming East Side concentration. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

And to these publications -- broadsides, pamphlets, one-shot
deals and magazines that survived for several issues (seldom
longer) -- are added my haphazard collection of underground
newspapers: Kaleidoscope (my special interest), the Red
Star Express
(I must have one someplace), the Bugle American,
Street Sheet and the Longshoreman's Voice. College magazines
like Cheshire, Fortnightly, Tempest

Add it up and it means pounds of pages, words that 
made Supreme Court history (the  K'scope $100,000 Photos
and Chuck Bonamer's  "Sex Poem" ) and words that should 
make the authors -- names by the score -- cringe that they 
should be linked again for public exposure. 

You may well wonder, by this time, exactly to what purpose
is all this schlock, ephemeral journalism and a few literary
gems stacked in front of me to be sorted, fixed in time 
and blessed with resurrection through a mention in type? 
That makes two questions. The first (you remember) is: 
what am I doing here? This is, in part, a question of qualifications. 

I'm not, as I've indicated, unrepresented in these cardboard boxes
of print. But I am now a longshoreman -- in especially lean times,
such as large chunks of the last decade, a cab driver as well -- and
I may be a far-fetched choice to take on an ambitious project
like this. 

Well, at least I can say I was there. From UWM student 
in pre-journalism in 1959 (switching to English) to K'scope
reporter and news editor in 1967 and beyond. From be-ins to draft
board picketings to demonstrations for the  Milwaukee Three
as participant and reporter, pausing for the Milwaukee 14's bonfire
with humbling respect for the likes of Michael Cullen, from
appearances at the Gibsons' of personages such as Michael
McClure
, Paul Goodman and Allen Ginsberg to tours as
a reporter in Waukesha and Port Washington, where news of
the women's movement or fire bombings was treated like
quaint revolutions in Ruritania

Another aspect is why I want to write about all this, which is
bound up with why this is worth doing at all.  Now, this gave
me pause. That the Bugle decided upon this topic is not enough.  
If you will bear with the first of many digressions, I recently 
read a history of Richland County, Wisconsin in the local 
weekly there.  I read it because my family has roots in the 
area and an aunt collected the installments. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

It did not seem very significant. There were explorations,
settlements, births, trade routes by river and land, whole  towns
living and dying as railroads came -- or failed to come --  and
the Wisconsin River grew and declined in importance to 
commerce. There were deaths peaceful and by pestilence; the 
currents of the Civil War. Churches, schools, hospitals...you get 
the idea. But there were no events that changed the country, no 
giants of history. 

The point is, although there was personal interest involved, this
was not an essential history. It could be repeated,  with some
variation, in many of the 3,066 counties that make up the land. 

The same must be said of the East Side. After all, the 
valuable in art seems to surface in time (even journalism is now 
anthologized). If it stays alive, its merit elevates what would be 
gossip and trivialities to the status of legitimate biography. The 
truly talented and persevering from this particular section of 
real estate will make it on their own. 

But in re-reading all the material I have gathered, and  I've barely
begun, I realize: It has been an eventful, an astounding 15 years.
From a detested war to reversals in public policy that eliminated
the draft; from movements of liberation and the popular toppling
of presidents on the one hand to assassinations and implications
of already suspect agencies in these killings on the other. 

These changes are reflected in, entwined with, what we  may call
our home-grown literature. 

In the poetry, of course. Outrage abounds. But change is evident
directly in what may well take this historical scholarship from the
level of the banal: the establishing of a countercultural journalism. 

Usually journalism, with some exceptions, is inherently 
non-lasting, as is much of the essentially semi-professional
variety found in the underground press in Milwaukee. But
the sweeping events mentioned and their local manifestations --
the Water Tower Park riots, the murder by police of Randy
Anderson,
the Agnew demonstrations and downtown trashings
followed by roast pig in Zeidler Park, the onset of the hip
lifestyles and their inevitable Tac Squad type of repression
-- were not merely reported. 

On the contrary, K'scope and its successors helped shape
events and trends, in print for the public and through the lives
of the staffers, helpers, friends and hangers-on. Writers were
all too often (in my opinion) literal brick throwers while still on
assignment. Offices became experiments in communal sharing; the
sexual revolution and breaking down of sex roles might find a
liberated woman sunbathing with bare breasts on the common roof
overlooking Brady Street or locking inner office doors for
spontaneous sex. 

Another time, [Editor] John Kois might be serenely 
sweeping and mopping the floors, as if in penance for what 
came to be considered the paper's sexist attitude in running 
photos of naked hippie chicks in the earlier days. 

This underground coverage of the milieu influenced 
conventional journalism -- a point I hope to document -- which 
at the same time was being manipulated innovatively by everyone
from Yippies to Black Panthers

All of this produced a world that will never be the same and
media that will never see it in the old way of seeing. And
more: if the poetry unearthed is mostly undistinguished, it
unites with the reportage on a common ground  whose effects
must not be underestimated. That is the fight against
censorship and for freedom of speech and expression. For
poetry and fiction, the battle was carried on through small
events and large. Zonyx Report Down Arrow:  Continue Story

 

There were campus prohibitions of some publications, 
municipal bannings of readings by poets Morgan Gibson and 
Allen Ginsberg, and definitive victory in the courts. The 
K'scope hassles are themselves a small legend and culminated 
in a favorable US Supreme Court decision that, by coming too 
late, exacted a great cost in its achieving. 

Other skirmishes were fought and won, from shopping 
centers to the State Fair with test cases for Dennis Gall [now, 
appropriately enough, a public defender] and the hardy vendors,
resulting in the relative freedoms writers have today for titillation or genuine information. This is true even across the country in
cases that follow precedents set here by and for the alternative
press. 

So it is that, taking not the literature alone, but including the
sociological, artistic and political amalgam of those times, a
detailed inquiry into the literature of the East Side should be illuminating. 

I am not aware of anyone attempting correlations of 
varied cultural torrents of the past 15 years with their local
literary outgrowths in, for example, Detroit or Cleveland or
even San Francisco. And -- switching emphasis -- this is not
to overlook the rewarding aspects of a survey. There are
works here it is a joy to discover again and in which to
re-live an experience shared with mentors and lovers and acquaintances and walk-ons and fellow-travelers. What is
more important, if there is something in our literary past
deserving of rescue, this is surely one of the few chances
for it to happen. 

Though such local heavies as Bob Watt and  Rich Mangelsdorff
can continue to look after their divergent careers in 
their own ingenuous ways, there is some recognition due to be 
meted out, whether to Cheshire's ex-editor Bruce Renner
published later in such as Esquire, or to Dave Porter, writing 
and living on E. Kane Place, little rewarded after all these years 
have gone by since his days as a contributor to Pretty Mama.
At any rate, I find even a cursory re-reading of Hey Lady and its
companions of 15 years ago a jolt to the memory of long-gone experiences. 

My history seems to be of a generation, or at least the segment of it
that followed a course from working-class families to an urban,
inexpensive liberal arts college on a mushrooming commuter
campus in a time of flux. 

Think of the trends at work: the spread of higher education to the
working classes; the flourishing of tax-supported institutions to
foster interest and provide availability; the acceptance of
education -- especially soft liberal arts areas like teaching and English and social work (some of which involve specialized schools) -- as a growth industry for recruiting new bodies; the decline of well-paying laborer's jobs as reliable sources of the comfortable buck. 

Well, lots happened, and we all know what the market 
for English majors is these days: The result of being too young 
to have been well situated in a career, as was the smug
Eisenhower-era group, but too old to be fully sanguine during the 
blossoming of the hippies -- though swept up in the idealism -- 
seems now to be a high rate of failure, inability or unwillingness
to enter the mainstream of the professions or embrace a hipper
world polarized into Mother Earth proselytizers and hedonistic
dopers. [Just what that tortured phrase meant, I no longer know,
but let it stand.] Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

All this generalization needs refinement. But I'm not thinking
of  the business majors or engineers or pre-law students. Yet, I see
men and women in their late 20s to mid-30s, societal drifters who show a reliance on alcohol (if anything), with secondary use of grass and whatever comes along. 

At any rate, these English or history or anthropology majors, the
ones who wrote for the UWM Post and literary magazine
Cheshire, and the others who brought in Andy Warhol's and
Kenneth Anger's films and who pushed the limits in the early
censorship conflicts, could have been expected to develop an
affinity with the hip culture, its newspapers and street sheets
and mass events, its neighborhood- and movement- 
(rather than campus-) centered small press publications. 

And many did. But the striking thing is the number of 
people now who have not found their way back to something 
meaningful after the deflation (not collapse) of the counter- 
culture. Now only craftspersons and fashionable artists survive 
comfortably. Hip entrepreneurs thrive. 

Not that I'm implying that jobs in the straight world are 
the goal of existence. But the market for counter-cultural skills, 
certainly in communications, has all but vanished, while the 
pay, always subsistence or less, remains the same. Except for 
those few who have found berths in FM radio, like Zonyx Report E-mail to:  Bob ReitmanBob Reitman, or at a porno tabloid, like John Kois [at Screw magazine],  or an inside track at one of a handful of papers that survive --  such as the Bugle [in 1976] -- nothing exciting is going on. Conversely,  few have broken into conventional reporting or editing, a field that has been transmuted into the new avenue for
 social consciousness (the Woodstein [that is, Woodward and Bernstein] effect) while becoming glamorous, too. Or into the freelance Ramparts, Rolling Stone, New Times mode of muck-raking one would have thought attractive. Neither have
they gone in very much -- or at least so it looks from here -- for
the things that previously consumed so much energy, the poetry
and small press products or quarterlies -- the urge to be published. Are they teaching, film-making, writing for Harper's or even 
Creem? Filming for TV? [Well, UWM grad Lou Gorfain is]. 
Generally, no, unless it's just that I keep the wrong company. 
Maybe the endeavors mentioned were never able to absorb the hordes of competent talents turned out in this generation -- so far, this generation only, I contend. 

Talent alone may never have been enough, without a strong
drive to have that ability recognized. But how monumental
must that drive be today to ensure even modest success? 
More monumental than ever, I suspect, and hard work -- which 
few relish -- seems barely sufficient to open some doors. It's 
not news that nobody makes a living writing poetry, and if the 
alternative press can't sell enough to compete with big dailies 
and slick mags to get the advertising that would let them hire 
the staff that would turn out the writing that would sell enough 
to compete. . . . 

It may be that the generation in question has produced 
only its share -- no more -- of misfits. But there are unsettling 
consequences if society is no longer absorbing educated
non-strivers  in the middle-level niches it used to make
available. I've already speculated on why myself and so many
like me, are, if  not yet certified failures, at least obviously
floundering. . . I  meet so many educated dropouts near my
age driving cab or on  the waterfront or working for
Manpower, Inc. I would like to  test out these themes, one
thesis of which seems clear: An older  group had the lock on
teaching jobs, the slots in reporting and  the like, as the
movements of the '60s and early '70s erupted.  Youngsters
streamed forth to become flower children or bomb  throwers,
or both in succession. But there was some expertise,  or at
least enthusiasm, supplied by we who were by then in our  mid-20s. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

The kids, of course, were older after this sifting process, 
but either burrowed into the hip lifestyles -- which thrive only 
with a kind of denial of mortality -- or continued their educations,
to proceed with their particular destinies. (The results of 
all that are not in yet.) 

But if some of us have cheerfully renounced all materialism,
I fear a lot of us got screwed by not sticking to the paths that
were easily opened when we were in college and the 
bulletin boards were still festooned with notices from employers.
But my peers, after all, didn't pass through the transformations
of the recent past to revert to complacency; I see this at 
meetings of unions we have perforce joined, where the old 
guard is being challenged from within. The nation will have 
something to deal with here. 

All this concern about failure may be projection on my 
part, but by tracking some names from the last 15 years I 
should at least find a corrective to this jaundiced view, if it exists. 

One entity does exist, a powerful force for an exercise 
centering on a pinwheel of the past. The center is the East Side
what has become my home town and a nourishing and continuing
phenomenon of people who found and live in it as a community. 

Try to describe the reality of the East Side without using
the word network. It's like describing a circular staircase 
without using your hands. This is recognized wherever past and 
present East Siders gather, and leads to hours of harmless fun 
in tracing links. 

Teachers, students, husbands, wives, drinking buddies, 
bed-mates -- a curious and tangled history for us all. I have 
memories for almost every block from Edison to Wahl, from 
Michigan to Capitol, but more than that, for the people. 
That is my real subject: to recognize those who have 
made the East Side more than just a certain part of town. Those 
whose company I enjoy or who have taught me to recognize 
injustice or how to turn on to new pleasures. To learn and write 
and attempt more, or even to give up and flex with it all and 
shrug and go on in pain. 

Most of all, to feel for -- and sometimes love -- men and 
women who awe me with their sincerity, goodwill and knowledge. 

And if there are a lot of reactionary idiots around, we 
generally survive, despite their repressive presence. [As 
Barney's habitue Mary Zinke was fond of saying, "One muddles 
through," though the list of suicides of those with a creative bent 
is long: painter Jim Mitchell, musician Tom Maryk, sculptor Robin Toellner, Cleveland's d.a. levy, Barney's hostess Erika Simon, poet and English professor Angela Peckenpaugh come to mind.] 

********************************************************* Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

There is a necessary ingredient in my formula for stability.
It is the educational institutions -- all of them, but the most
powerful here being UWM. This derives from its being an 
urban university where local residents are educated, usually
because they can't afford anyplace else, and then find employment 
here. Thus associations are made, some continuing from high 
schools and neighborhoods throughout college into what some 
call the real world, which is often right here in Milwaukee.

This fact, not so coincidentally for the purposes of this 
article, can be dated back to the year when UWM [University of
Wisconsin-Milwaukee] transubstantiated from a state teachers'
college into a university. It was destined to process thousands
(you'll recall my reference to trends in education) just as the
beatnik and then hippie generations came forth. 

Cause and effect can surely be spotted here. For one thing,
it may be that a commuter university like UWM is
paradoxically more conservative than some of the private or
more elitist institutions or, conversely, huge metropolitan
centers that draw from all over. 

But commuting in the same city where your parents live 
leads to a desire for off-campus pads which lead to an
appreciation of the East Side and its possibilities that might not otherwise occur. The long-range effect on this portion of society 
of the pooling of graduates and ex-students who stay in the area is incalculable. 

Certainly politics (Griffin [a liberal] follows  [reactionary]
Calhoun as alderman after [UWM student] Jerry Muelver
almost makes it) and media (consider how calendars of events,
an underground staple, have blossomed in the Journal and 
 Sentinel lately) have been moved to change by organizers,
 countercultural communicators and people who are just more
 aware. 

This might never have happened had the veterans of the  UWM
scene been dispersed instead of taking a stand -- geographically
and culturally -- right at home [2/3 of all alumni, officially].

Which brings us to the beginnings of UWM, at about the time
the period covered by this survey logically starts. Approaching
the themes laid out here through a look at the printed products
of the times seems an inevitable quest. 

It is, at any rate, if you have an interest in the forming 
of a chaotic movement that found a city to dig into, forming a 
sociality that exhibits sometimes a sense of location, but at the 
least forms bonds of awareness that I suspect have been rare in 
metropolises of alienation in the past. 

To put it another way, there's something different about 
the East Side, and anybody who has lived here knows it. 

********************************************************** 

UWM meant little to me and the East Side even less in 
1959. Working for the Wisconsin Industrial Commission 
downtown and living with my parents on the near North Side at 
19, I only knew there had to be something going on somewhere 
besides the early marriages and factory jobs my friends were 
settling into. 

For recreation we hung out at bars that would serve us 
or drank at the homes of those who were married, with their 
own flats. Hardly anybody had an apartment if he (or she) was single. 

Our lives were really not much changed from high school days,
except that the auto body shop or American Motors
replaced West or North Division, and we had more money 
and freedom for movies, beer parties and cars. I had tried living 
in a light housekeeping room on N. 27th and State Sts., and found it dismal. 

My circle of friends had shrunk -- from the pull of married life
or the attractions of criminality and the deadlier dissipations --
but, incredibly, I had no idea there was a concentration of
people my age and with broader interests than those around
me. They were attending a new university, socializing  and
living independently, with even their own taverns and eating places. 

This is not meant to be autobiography, so let it suffice 
that these dissatisfactions and a vague plan that I could become 
a reporter and then write novels led me to UWM. Of course, I 
had the greaser's hostility towards the white Keds and letter- 
sweater crowd ("kaleege," as some "hoods" called them
[according to the Bugle's typist]), and  what I thought of as the
snobbish interests of the youths I identified as products of
Shorewood and Whitefish BayZonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

But college was a total, though gradual, revelation -- a  transition
that was eased by the rise of Beat as a lifestyle that could
accommodate disparate elements. Newly-returned veteran and
mystic Pooch Manske [a well-known cab driver today], painter
Nick Galen, and footballer Al Burns [later stabbed  to death by
his insane brother Jeff, who had worked as a  longshoreman]
from Shorewood High could all partake of the Corso-Ferlinghetti
mystique. 

I stayed for a while with my parents [salad girl and pastry chef
mother, chef and bartender stepfather] for economic reasons,
driving across town, often several times a day, sometimes 
taking the shuttle to the downtown campus or the Wisconsin
Tower
building on N. 6th St. and Wisconsin Ave

All this inconvenience was a result of the rapid expansion going
on, which in turn made for intellectual and social activity I
hadn't imagined, and I was plunged in -- by turns diffident and
enthusiastic. Handicapped, of course, by a greaser mentality and style of speech. 

Demonstrations were unknown at first. But as I was taking
Freshman English II, some sort of flap was caused over the
speaking appearance of the NAACP's Frank Wilkinson, an 
opponent of the House Un-American Activities Committee
(HUAC)
.  He had apparently earned the Congressmen's ire by
refusing to say  if he was or had been a Communist

I was indifferent to politics then, though an instinctive 
liberal in matters of personal freedom, and probably economics 
as well. But it was hard not to be affected by the pervasive cold 
war distrust of things Russian, on the grounds of totalitarianism, if nothing else. 

Not having for reference any of the early Cheshires,
have the impression nevertheless that the university's literary 
and editorialist efforts (as seen in the UWM Post) were
essentially apolitical or conservative. 

I took up with what amounted to the literary crowd and 
eventually looked over the current and back issues of Cheshire
It was edited by Russell Boerner, who wrote poetry for it and went on to edit the Schlitz Brewery house organ just short of his graduation. 

I once ran into him at  Barney's [tavern on Water St.]
after he had moved into advertising at Schlitz. Somewhat 
lacking in control after a few drinks, he would admit to a
certain discontent but still took pride in having coined, he said,
the slogan: "When you're out of Schlitz, you're out of beer." 

But this was for the most part a transition period for  UWM,
having been formed in 1956 by a merger of the Wisconsin
State College
and the UW Extension. Cheshire itself, 
though, had a tradition going back about 30 years; one
editor, Adolph Suppan, became a dean of the School of Fine ArtsZonyx Report:  UWM's  Mitchell Hall on Downer Ave. In all, I recall that the aspiring teachers had published a rather staid product. Certainly, honest language was only beginning to be found in the early '60s; the raciest thing I remember from my earliest reading was a poem, "An Afternoon of Loin," by one Melicent Heintzen. It had a certain amount of  innuendo, at least, but censorship had not become much of an 
issue yet.Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story
    [Right:  Mitchell Hall at UWM]

 

And social consciousness was definitely not rampant,  though I
was jolted now and then by an unexpected reference while at school. Such as in the then-mandatory ROTC course  where a bold student interrupted an instructor's anti-pinko tendentiousness with
a reminder that perhaps the officer wasn't  aware, but Milwaukee
was one city with a Socialist mayor [at that time still Frank
Zeidler
] and not too long ago a Socialist-dominated government. 

But education continues on many fronts simultaneously, 
and by the time I was a sophomore (having gone back to 
American Can Co. to work for a year) taking creative writing, 
changes were occurring. The editorship of Cheshire had been 
taken over by Tom Meisenheimer, an actual Socialist.  And it
was in this period that a man named Val Borger,  then head of
the audio-visual department, aroused some interest when he was
using his expertise to demolish some HUAC-produced
propaganda going around. 

As described in the Fall-Winter 1961 issue by 
Richard W. Braun, the film "Operation Abolition"

was made from newsreel material which the
Committee subpoenaed from a San Francisco
television station. The material was extensively
edited and the narration was prepared by the
committee. Given these conditions, it appears
that the film represents publicity by the
Committee to impress upon the public the
seriousness of the subversive threat and to
convince them that the Committee is
performing an invaluable service in
meeting the threat. The film is an argument
to those critics who contend that the
Committee serves no legitimate purpose
and that it ought to be abolished.

His conclusion, that "Thus far, it has not even been 
able to substantiate its charge that the student demonstrators 
shown in
Operation Abolition were Communist motivated 
and directed,"
was shown far more directly by Borger, who ran 
the film -- which purported to show the demonstrators in a bad 
light -- but skillfully exposed its techniques. 

He would stop it to examine individual frames where 
the action belied the narration, backing up and re-running it to 
underscore how music was used for false emphasis, as in 
playing ominous martial strains as students supposedly massed 
to attack policemen, while actually nothing untoward happened.
In fact, the demonstrators were hammered with fire hoses and
dragged individually down courthouse steps upon going limp. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

This issue marks a turning point in many ways. Meisenheimer
and his wife Marilyn had as next-door neighbors the 
recent arrivals Morgan and Barbara Gibson. A photo of
Morgan's was used for the cover, while several of Barbara's
earliest poems were to be found inside. (Already a published
poet, Morgan never wrote for Cheshire, put out by
undergraduates, but Barbara was just beginning to write, and only became an English instructor after first teaching at the Campus Elementary School.) 

As a student of Morgan's, I had my first short story  printed in
the same issue, thereby appearing with many names that were
to be locally prominent in the coming years.  Certainly,
Meisenheimer was taking a different tack from the artiness of the
past, selecting a book review-essay by  Myrtle Kastner,
long-time Milwaukee Socialist [now with Frank Zeidler's
Socialist Party USA ] and the Workers World Party candidate
for governor in 1968 on the Peace and Freedom slate, while still
working as a draftsman for a conservative Wauwatosa company. 

The firm's owner was known for his support of the 
John Birch Society -- as were his industrialist cohorts -- but 
Kastner could write authoritatively in "Practical Politics vs.
Theoretical Socialism"
on the book, The Origins of the British
Labour Party
. Kastner was, of course, somewhat older than 
most students, attending part-time while working. 

Still older, though no less radical -- and no student at all 
-- was the contributor of a poem called "Red Signals In the
South."
James (Jim) Boulton was one of the most fiercely 
dedicated Socialists on the local scene, and was active long 
before I finished high school. Though his speech and manner- 
isms were so much like The World's Greatest Authority, 
"Professor" Irwin Corey, to preclude him at times from being 
taken seriously, and his politics open to question if one favors a 
different splinter within the old-line Socialist movement, [the late]
Jim Boulton deserves recognition. 

His fervor has helped keep many issues alive, especially in
various open discussion groups, and no doubt he has been as tireless within the Socialist Workers Party, for which he
was an organizer from 1940 to 1967. He has sometimes
spoken of the  difficulties he and other workers in the field
had encountered as  far back as the '40s in the Deep South
with black voter registration -- though he was modest about
the experience. 

"Of course, of course," he would rasp in prelude to one 
of the interminable debates in Hooligan's, in which he would 
demonstrate his chief argumentative weapon, a Marxist analysis
of any social phenomenon whatever. With me, one memorable
case was the relative freedom afforded me as a long-haired, 
former Kaleidoscope reporter by the Waukesha Freeman
owned by a wealthy family with a history of endorsing
Republicans, the Youmanses (though the Freeman, of course,
began as a noted  abolitionist paper, which is not inconsistent). 

He pointed out how common this actually was in small-town,
locally-owned newspapers -- they work low-paid,
energetic young reporters into the ground in return for the illusory 
shots they may get in at the establishment, and so forth. 

At any rate, Boulton's presence and perspective had -- 
still has -- an effect, and he has sacrificed. I remember him 
marveling at the new crop of radicals involved in local
publications and organizations and how they all seemed to
be involved domestically, if not married (many of them were
women, present at the time). 

He had himself felt -- though working as a machine operator
-- that he could never get married because of his precarious
economic position as an agitator within a capitalist system he
opposed ["And when would he have had time?" Kastner 
asked me recently]. 

Of course, it was surprising to find, as we did, that he wrote
rather florid poetry in traditional forms. But he has published
a small book of it that I saw years ago, Starlight On The
Lilac Crown. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

Boulton's poem illustrates -- as usual -- his ideology at  work: 

(Whitnall Park, Spring 1961)

High-struck, bold tulips tell the headline news
of Spring. Star-cut triumphant purples print
the prize event on fields blazing afterglows:
Foam-flooded, boughs of apple blossoms spend
their cherry whites to lace the green hot growth.
Plumed lilac, Lincolns, Dantons, and Toussaint
L'Ouvertures, crown the pageant May of youth.
Soldiers' red and lovers' blue, ah! magenta
bring the fragrant breath of life and strength,
thrust of the reborn human quest for truth,
fresh from the Cuban dreamers' cane-gold strand,
churned where the Caribbean hunger grew
to wrest our common fund of sun and sand
by storm! They plant Red signals in the South.

Conservatism was everywhere, then. As Cheshire moved
from the basement of Mitchell Hall to quarters shared 
with the Post and Ivy yearbook above Mrs. McClellan's
restaurant and Green's bookstore, coalescing into a group that
had some continuity for years, the Post began red-baiting us,
under the editorship of Joe Karius

This was a misguided effort, as Meisenheimer was the 
only doctrinaire socialist near us in age, and his participation 
was soon to end. He and Marilyn [who was the first woman I ever heard refer to herself as fuckable in mixed company, or even privately, but the Beat movement was indeed coming onto the scene for this undergrad] moved to Chicago and divorced, eventually. 

True, anti-ROTC sentiments were in the air (and succeeded in
making it optional) and the Gibsons' Marxist-Humanism had an
influence, especially on those who met with them outside the classroom. 

The Gibsons were the sort you felt free to drop in on, Zonyx Report Photo:  A Night at the Gibsons [Click to Enlarge]  for discourse of a wide variety. Guests could be Carlos Cortez, old-time Wobbly, perennial Socialist candidate William Osborne Hart, or Trotsky's last secretary, Raya Dunayevskaya [or Yetta Samovar, as I sometimes referred to her, to Barbara's disapproval], then writing in Detroit  for her Marxist-Humanist group.

 
                                                                                                                                 Barbara Gibson Photo
  
  [Above (l-r) , Morgan Gibson, Lois Gibbons, George Johnson, Mike Zetteler, Livija Johnson, Priscilla Vettel, Jim Gibbons]
Or Kenneth Rexroth [about whom  Zonyx Report Mailbox:  Send mail to Morgan GibsonMorgan wrote a critical study] or anarchist and writer [protean, as Morgan said in a Journal book review of one of his many  works] Paul Goodman, for that matter.  

But even though some of us became sort of closet-socialists under the guise of forming the UWM Liberal Club, our radicalism was mostly expressed in our tastes in literature and philosophy, a concern for the proletariat as seen by Nelson Algren, Harvey Swados or Richard Wright

And on a campus of 8,000-10,000, we were only a  handful.
Cheshire printed only 1,500 or 2,000 copies and attracted little attention. 

Of course, there were always a few non-literary, party- 
affiliated Socialists around -- Jim Eyman comes to mind, with 
his '30s style cap, puffing a pipe and handing out leaflets under 
trying conditions. And the old guard Communists like Fred 
Blair
[owner of Mary's Bookstore, located Downtown]
eventually, made limited inroads among some activists, usually
those who  were only secure with a supportive dogma. 

Still, apathy -- the leading cliché in descriptions of student
life at that time -- remained appropriate for a long, dreary time. 

In fact, the height of engagement was probably not 
reached until after 1966 with the growth of the anti-war,
anti-draft Milwaukee Organizing Committee (MOC),
an eclectic group of everybody from pacifists to
Communists like Mike Eisinger

It is not strange, then, that the remaining contributors of 
fiction, poetry (such as  Jeanne Scheeler) and art, with the 
exception of Barbara Gibson, were concerned with stylistic 
achievements, whether traditional expressions or avant garde in 
intent, not social reform.  (Though Vanucci's poem, "Rain Shot
From Hell," "prodding tons of sunsets into the mouths/of
mountains of men,"
touches on the ban-the-bomb sentiment
that had been  around since the 'fifties.) Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

Barbara, represented by three poems, was of course 
concerned with form, though her trademark was a lack of
traditional rhyme and structure, and use of commonplace,
unpretentious diction for a very simple appearance. But not
without complexity or power, which relied on grammatical
devices --  parallel structure of sentences, repetition of key
words or  sounds -- for effect. 

Her influence -- in a poetry of humanness, in school and 
social integration, her battles with the university administration 
culminating in the general strike over the Cambodia bombings 
and the Kent State killings -- remains inspiring. 

Her "insights into the structure of power," [as I once 
wrote somewhere] whether manifested in the new feminism or 
in her pieces for K'scope, [excerpted elsewhere in this issue] 
are a legacy that befits a teacher and creative force that spent 
more than 10 years among us, and who cared deeply. 

Her first poems here are similar in style to those found 
in the special edition of Cronopius published six years later; 
"Forest Park I" and "When Most People Feed The Ducks"
can be found in  Our Bedroom's Underground, published in 1963

"Today" is in keeping with my aim of selecting from 
works that reflect a social consciousness or a feeling for this 
specific community and its tides and fashions. This is the poem 
as it appeared the year of the Bay of Pigs invasion of Castro's 
Cuba failed, one year before James H. Meredith became the 
first black to enter the University of Mississippi after days of 
campus violence and bloodshed there: 

Today

is Thursday, October 26, 1961
today I light a cigarette
and write on yellow paper
today the leaves are almost all fallen
today I am cooking a leg of lamb
today the fall-out of Krushchev's bomb
begins to fall on North America
and in Japan children
caught in a rain
must run home and wash it off
today in Berlin who knows what
bayonet and bomb madness

Yesterday I saw along the lake front
kids in parked cars
loving it up
yesterday I heard two brown-skinned cats
with bongos and congas
and rapid rhythm arms and palms
beat out a dance of life
while one crazy guy with beard and black eyes
jumped around like mad holding a board on his head
yesterday I made a thing --
a construction with driftwood, shells, a feather, a cork
glued it together with an evil-smelling substance
but it held OK and looks good

Tomorrow we'll eat
the rest of the lamb roast
tomorrow the genes in ovaries of my
ten-year old daughter
will take on who knows what ghastly deformations
tomorrow will someone push the button?
and the last sunrise, will it burn and glow?
and the sweet skin of my children
will it pull off like the Hiroshima people's did?
tomorrow maybe I'll watch the gulls on
Lake Michigan
sleeping as they float, waking fly, hover, dive
tomorrow it might rain

Tomorrow is beginning to sound like
a word said over and over
until it loses sense and meaning

Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

This watershed issue contains some other familiar 
names, at least on the local scene. We find a Salingeresque 
(inevitably, I suppose) short story, "The Day We Got Rubbed
Out,"
by Robert Jansen, about a "kid maybe eight or nine or
ten"
and his brother Denny. 

The brothers tangle with "tough guys who all had long
hair and pimples and their cars had those fur tails on the
aerials and all sorts of shiny crap hanging all over the place
,"
and get "rubbed out" after hitting "one of those Studs right in the pimple."

At the least, it has humor and convincingly evokes the 
aimlessness and pathos of growing up in the '50s. The Jansens 
(Bob had a brother Dennis, not surprisingly) stayed around for a while; Bob was majoring in philosophy, but the last time I saw
him he was pumping gas at the Standard Station at Ogden and Farwell to save enough to return to San Francisco to join the growing number of expatriates.

There are other poets. One is a pseudonymous "Bret 
Ginchberg," really anthropology student and poetry editor John 
McCormack
[now a law professor]. He is the author here of the 
Ginsberg parody, "Whimper"

"This is the way the poetry ends..."
I have been walking the streets of Biloxi after
listening to Bo Diddily records and the wail
of the hydrogen jukeboxes in the fog drifting on the
angelic harbor
.....................................................................................
And here in the world of the four-lettered words
I suck the truth of Henry Miller via Kerouac
caw caw caw caw caw gag!
.....................................................................................
Who sat foaming at the mouth at poetry lectures
and were dragged screaming into the room of
lobotomy -- ouch!
......................................................................................
Who thought up all these Anglo-Saxon
monosyllables?
Who? HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH HUH
HUH HUH HUH HUH?

The staff at that time was uncharacteristically small, 
consisting of Bonnie Pacala and a co-ed who went on to fame 
as a justice of the peace in St. Francis (and an appearance on 
TV's "What's My Line?"), later a city attorney and now state 
representative, Louise Tesmer [later a somewhat
controversial Circuit Court judge, now retired]. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

The faculty advisor was  Justin Replogle, an English 
professor who became head of the department in due course (he 
was one of the few holdovers left from State College days). I 
recall he was not impressed with the dubious honor of advising 
us, though he accepted it in good grace and did take a real interest
whenever he felt it was genuinely sought. On another level, he was
one of the few very good teachers, knowledgeable and communicative. 

If Cheshire at this period marks the emergence of some 
voices and trends -- conflicting ones -- that were to be in the 
forefront for a long time, the next few issues are something of a 
regression under the conservative editorship of Don Sager
Sager was a graduate student in library science who worked 
full-time with computers at AC Electronics and found time to 
write some solid, if stodgy, fiction on the order of a C.P. Snow. 
He achieved his goal of becoming a librarian to a school system 
[and then to the City of Milwaukee, though he finally chucked it 
all by decamping to a tropical island without his wife, it was 
rumored]. It was his reign that brought in another figure to
become known in politics, Business Manager Harout
Sanasarian
, now a state representative [and later county supervisor, now moved to Florida], whose wife Joy became my supervisor as head of the Journal library, where I was a researcher. But the period also gave rise to the first publication there of dissent within memory. 

At the very least, Adversary was a departure by merely 
existing as an independent, unsubsidized campus publication, 
conceived as a more open and liberal vehicle than the Post . I 
don't know when it first appeared in white boxes in the
hallways, selling for a nickel, but the copy I have, Vol. II No. 1,
is dated Sept. 28, 1961. It was hardly extremist -- in retrospect
 -- beginning with a eulogy to the late UN Secretary-General Dag Hammarskjold

And a contest announcement offered $5 for the best essay on
"why you will or you won't die for Berlin," this being 
the year the Berlin wall went up, with the possibility of war in 
the air. A cartooned poke at the John Birch Society ("What's a 
guy gonna do about red corpuscles?"), a long review of La
Dolce Vita
by Gordon A. Weaver, and a contrived, pretentious 
poem by Henry Barda ("mechanically performing for arachis
hypogea. . . .
" etc.) are found in the mimeographed, stapled 
publication. The masthead lists Lance Barlow, John Schimansky
(an assistant manager at the Downer Theatre), Ron Seder
Philip Spensley and Elena the typist

Of greater importance was the presence of a writer and 
activist who was to find recognition on the East Side and in the 
black community, Dave Novick . His contribution is a smoothly 
written, effective account of the trial of Pete Seeger for contempt
of Congress after HUAC in 1955 asked Seeger questions 
about the songs he sang and where he sang them, as well as
questions  about his personal political beliefs and associations. 
Believing, as do many other Americans, that no citizen  or group,
public or private, has the right to ask such questions under
compulsion, Seeger refused to  answer these particular questions.
At that time, he  said, "I feel that I have never done anything of
a conspiratorial nature and I resent being called before the
Committee just because my opinions differed."
He did  not
rely on the Fifth Amendment as he felt that his refusal to answer
these questions was protected under his basic right of free
speech and free association. 

Novick quotes Seeger's humble but defiant -- for those 
times -- philosophy at his trial in March 1961, reports the
sentence of 10 consecutive one year terms and his release after 
first being denied bail by the trial judge, and concludes with an 
appeal on behalf of the legal fund and "to help by expressing
your views in a letter to President Kennedy and your
Congressman. . . ."Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

Always as essentially gentle as that passage indicates, 
Novick was at the same time passionately immersed in some 
fierce skirmishes and protracted battles with enemies of the 
civil rights movement and oppressors in the black inner city 
and the hip community.  [Click here for Novick's obit.]

He has been an announcer on a classical format show 
and WAWA radio, as well as a reporter for the Milwaukee Star
and Courier, and Courier managing editor. As a figure on the 
black scene, primarily, he was often in a position to pass
information on to K'scope, at a time when help was welcome. In
the last months he wrote directly for K'scope, joining the
writing staff. 

Of some interest to those for whom this visit to the past 
evokes nostalgia may be the few ads carried by the Adversary.
Remember the Ivy House Restaurant, 2520 E. Belleview Pl., 
with "Farm Style Bread and Pies," known as Milwaukee's Little 
Side-Street Dining Rooms? Or Buddy Beek's on
Downer Avenue, now the Brothers II [and now the
Chancery]? And this sign that a trend to coffeehouses was
underway, an ad for the Unicorn, offering cafe espresso at
1914 E. North Avenue. The only other ad, for the Tuxedo
[a UWM-area bar], cryptically stated that "If you can vote,
You'll like the Tux."

But that 21-year-age for drinking, combined with the 
influx of college age youth with leisure (between bouts of 
studying) into a few areas of town accounts for much of the 
popularity of The Unicorn and the like. 

I have one bit of memorabilia from the coffeehouse era, 
a handbill announcing the Purple I Thursday evening forum, a 
debate at Turner Hall between [a local conservative irritant
named Nick] Burczyc (negative) and Chef Gordon Gustav
Goltz
 (affirmative) on the topic, "Resolved: Cooks are closer
to god than clerics."
Live enzymes (carrot juice) and espresso
coffee to be served for 50 cents. 

All in all, people with things to talk about and places that
stayed open till dawn offering cheap beverages combined 
to provide a forum for poetry, films, folk music and soap-
boxing, and made for associations that had to be seminal. 

This at least partially engendered a boom in poetry 
magazines and broadsides. One gathering [Send e-mail to John KoisJohn Kois,
Bob Reitman and  John Sahli, now retired as a desktop publishing
designer from Bader Rutter & Associates ] was
called specifically at the Knickerbocker coffee shop to bring
forth what was to be named Kaleidoscope, in turn the model
for other publications. 

The other necessary ingredient was the technological 
revolution in photo-offset printing which enabled anyone to be 
his own publisher of a professional product for several hundred 
dollars. A good typewriter, preferably IBM Executive, pens, 
rulers, scissors and rubber cement, a source of illustrations -- 
line drawings, even screened half tones cut from magazines -- 
in short, anything that could be pasted up on layout sheets, was 
all that was needed. 

It's apparent that photographers and film-makers were 
nourished by the coffeehouse milieu as well, and collaborations 
with each other, and later the popularity of self-publishing and 
personal, experimental films provided stimuli and outlets. 
(Local photographers Jim Middleton and Peter TibbsZonyx Report Photo:  Dennis Pearson Beastie.  Click for more photos. did 
K'scope covers, as did artist Dennis Pearson
[creator of 2002's Beasties sculptures scattered
around Downtown, seen at the right].) 

That all these vibrations were beginning to fill the
aether as early as the seminal year of 1961 is seen
in yet another new publication, this one truly divorced
from any campus. 

The first issue of the Milwaukee Literary Times, Feb.
2, 1961
, may not be completely representative of what followed 
-- aspirations as proclaimed in the customary manifesto usually 
outdistance the achievements of most short-lived publications 
-- but it is the only one I have. 

Though the printing process uses traditional cold type, 
resulting in narrow columns (or double column widths) and 
limited typographical choice in headlines and copy, the magazine
format (20 pages including self-cover), slightly larger than the
Bugle, offers much of what was to become standard fare in 
the alternative press. Also notable is the use of photos to illustrate
stories and ads, and the now familiar device of small
illustrations -- often bizarre, quaint or antique -- to break up
columns or provide visual fillips. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

Leading off with their credo, the editors --  Jay Nash,
managing editor; Robert J. Schmitt, executive editor and
business manager; Joyce Kiefer and Frank Olson, associate
editors -- take what became the standard tone for
anti-Journal editorials by its many successors. It begins,
curiously enough, in contrast to the mainstream of the
dissenting publications to  follow by over-stating the
Journal's political bias to the left: 

This has been a one-newspaper town long
enough!

The Milwaukee Journal, boasting the largest
circulation of any newspaper in the state and, in
our opinion, perhaps the most hypocritical editorial
policy, calls the tune to which this city jumps -- advertisers, readers, their own reporters alike.
Parading as a politically independent newspaper
while at the same time leaning constantly to the
left. . . .

The Milwaukee Sentinel -- requiescat in pace
-- just goes through the motions now, championing
the Old Guard as though this were still the good
old days. Can you imagine a reporter on either of these newspapers giving an honest opinion on any subject if it were to conflict with editorial policy?

Dominating the communications field in
Milwaukee by means of radio, television, the
printed word, and an eleven million dollar
expansion program which will enable them to
dominate still more, the Milwaukee Journal is, nevertheless, not content. We think that their
actions indicate a desire to establish a virtual monopoly and to suppress small newspapers.
And perhaps this is why, without ever having seen the Milwaukee Literary Times, they have already attempted to stigmatize this newspaper. . . .

Closing is a statement of aims, promising "writing
which is colorful, opinioted (sic), and decisive ...We are
carrying out no great crusade, no fanatical movement
for social reform ...We only hope to make you react --
to make you mad, or to make you laugh, or to make you
skip, dance, sing. . . ."

Within we find the now ubiquitous calendar, listing local music,
plays, lectures and films, art, and national and international
events in television, books, movies, theatre and, again, music. 

On the censorship front we read under Movies this note:
"Chicago -- Film distributor Charles Teitel charges
Milwaukee motion picture censors with being unfair
in their treatment of foreign films."

The strongest writing in the Times, (patterned, I assume,
after the Chicago Literary Times) exposes conditions at 
a "building on Seeboth and Ferry known as the Community
House,"
a flophouse, one gathers, on the verge of being razed -- 
as was much of the old Third Ward

The rest of the paper is chatty, informative, fairly well written,
more personal than the daily papers. It seems aimed at 
a community I suspect had not come into existence yet. An
interest in music, art, literature and an assumption of some sort of 
sophistication that relished put-downs of both low-brows and 
the establishment are its hallmarks. 

Nash himself -- rumor has it that he was a disgruntled Journal
reporter [and later author of several sensationalistic true-crime
books, if he is indeed the prolific  Jay Robert Nash ] --
while aiming at a cosmopolitan effect, also evinces a fondness
for the hard-boiled school of journalism, the "nose for
news -- stomach for whisky"
genre McLuhan cites. In a
column beginning "A farewell to journalists...," Nash
laments the loss of such as Henry Varnum PoorCharles
MacArthur "going down Michigan Boulevard to shoot
out the arc-lamps"
with "his friend Deanie [probably
gangster Dion] O'Bannion";
and portly, owl-faced Alexander
Woollcott
,  encapsulating each in a vignette. For the rest we
have reviews, including one by UWM's Szymon Deptula
("Spartacus" ), a profile of Florida artist Paul "Lobo" Zachary,
a fashion outlook, theatre and book criticism, and a critique of the
Sentinel's easygoing approach to its theatre criticism under Cy RiceZonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

It can be claimed that the Times was not of the East
Side
(offices were at 742 N. 11 St.), though I don't know this to 
be true of the principals. But the only large mass of readers, if 
it were to take off, would be concentrated on the East Side
Apparently, the Times was too many steps ahead of its possible 
readership, or suffered from mismanagement, and failed to find 
its audience. But something of worth was offered here that was 
to burgeon again, with far greater consequence. 

One implication I've left so far is that Marquette and 
whatever it produced -- whether in the arts or simply as the
locus around which people gathered to share intellectual growth 
-- had little noticeable effect on the entity that is the East Side

This is not to slight Marquette; it is just that it is excluded by 
definition from this survey, as well as by being a private school 
whose students make their accomplishments and move on [though many grads hung around to practice law locally or infest county government].  Two nearby spots often recalled, the College Inn and [Bob Watt's] Brat Haus, were really extensions of the East Side's influence, as was the Galaxie[bar] in Cudahy and the Double D group discussions that moved from the South Side to Jefferson Hall [founded by the original German freethinkers]
on Fond du Lac Ave. and Center St. 

There were exceptions, of course, and there were persons
who eventually found on the East Side something more 
compatible, such as Marquette graduate [and cemetery manager]
Bob Reitman . (And credit must go, if to no one else, to 
one-time Marquette student-body president  Art Heitzer [now a 
lawyer specializing in labor and discrimination cases], a force 
behind the movement-oriented enclave found at his
"subversive" bookstore, Rhubarb, with its back room 
coffeehouse for disenchanted servicemen, the Left Flank, at 
1618 W. Wells St., after moving from 13th and State St.) The 
area also saw the birth of the local RYM II [Revolutionary
Youth] movement and its Red Star Express later in the game. 

********************************************************** 

At this point I have to acknowledge that with two 
deadlines gone already, I have not gotten past 1961. I've spread 
my accumulated material out in a vast arc on the floor, according to year of publication, and it makes me uneasy to contemplate how busy was each year. 

Further inquiry among my friends and rummaging in 
my files has brought forth such additions as impressive poetry 
by Jennie Orvino (formerly Orvino-Sorcic), gay and feminist 
publications (Amazon), poems by Wiley, a mountain of Pat 
Small
, Jim Albers and their cohorts' inchoate but always lively 
Street Sheets. And a visit to the Infinite Eye photo gallery on 
Brady St. reminds me that Midwest Art is still publishing, 
though no longer through the efforts of Bonnie Berglund, a 
good journalist going back to the early K'scope days and a 
good friend who married [Bob Bruch, whose apartment I later 
moved into] and moved away. And an inquiry into poetry 
should include Tom Montag and Margins

Any overview must include one of my favorite book of 
poems (though I respect Morgan Gibson's technique more): 
Jim Gibbons' Prime The Pump, published in 1970. It has a 
finely-tuned humor that holds pathos in check and has an effect 
all of a piece, with a charm due in no small part to the job done 
by Ed Burton's Morgan Press. 

Burton is simply the best printer around, and this blue 
and red denim-covered work is up to the highest standards. But 
then he has done much for the local publishing scene. . . . 
Not to mention the Amalgamated Holding Co. and the 
Brewing anthology, the staggering output of saint-buffoon [and 
artist] Bob Watt [now a retired exterminator and recently a candidate for mayor on a platform of keeping bars open 24 hours
a day]. . . .  And Cheap and Fast, which was. [Sorry, I couldn't resist that.] 

Well, nothing to do but take a longer view, slighting lesser
and some major talents, I suppose, concentrating on the 
influential, most worthy, or -- sometimes -- the most
representative. But the panorama whose limits I've touched
lay out at least for me a scene of synergistic activity and
depth, one we can be proud of, while the details give a flavor
of where we started and what has changed. 

It must be acknowledged that the next few years of 
Cheshire (with one outstanding exception) did not break much 
new ground, though some familiar names are there. 
The Spring 1962 issue has the standard scholarly essays
and one offbeat attempt at the form by Ruth (Faulhaber) 
Legrand
that combines a loss of youthful innocence with a 
timid exploration of the beatnik ambiance of a poet friend's room: 

And there it was: deep magenta paint on the walls,
pink paint on the ceiling; a sectional sofa with
a magenta design on an off-white background; a
table in the exact center of the room, covered with
letters, papers, envelopes, pencils and other debris;
a white cabinet sink littered with unwashed dishes; bookcases without a single square inch of unused
space; many more books forming columns up the
sides of the room: a huge mahogany desk that had
definitely seen better days. A collage of North
African color postcards hung on the wall over the
bed; a tiny plastic statue of the other Peter Pan
(a gift from this Wendy) perched atop the
Twenty-Fifth edition of Gray's Anatomy. The
radio was on, as usual, Christmas carols seemed
to fit perfectly in this atmosphere of unreality.

The poetry includes that of John McCormack, Penny Omelina,
Austin Mason -- whose brother CJ became an associate
editor -- and Barbara Gibson with her vision of "The Place,"
a then-popular jazz hangout [the Embers] on Humboldt Blvd. and Capitol Drive where (unfortunately for progressive music) a Hungarian refugee named Les Czimber and his group held forth, though he did give  Al Jarreau his professional start:

jazz and smoke heat the bar
dark in here, laughing
door opens, cold white air
blows on one arriving
quiet there beyond but for
bright snow singing

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Woodcuts (cheaper to reproduce than half-tones) were 
favored for use as illustrations, though they were submitted in 
their own right and then placed to best effect, a number of
artists being represented. One is Jim Sverdlin, who
collaborated with Stan Adelman (responsible for the text)
on a series of drawings depicting a "search for truth" in the city. 

This "pictorial essay" takes Diogenes on a search for 
truth through some of the more peculiar Milwaukee haunts -- 
from a John Birch Society bookstore to Joe Plotkin's delica- 
tessen, outside which burghers carrying "ban everything" type 
of placards parade -- to an encounter with a lederhosen-clad 
Spirit of Milwaukee on top of the Marine Plaza. There the 
truth is revealed in the sky: "Better dead than read," a topical 
reference -- one of many that crowd the strip -- to the censor- 
ship moves then rife in the city. 

The bane of an editor's life, on this level, is the quality 
of the submissions, which tend -- in poetry -- to girlish slush 
and sentiment, a preoccupation with falling leaves and the cruel 
seasons and (at least this was true 10 years ago) the intrusion of 
things sexual into romantic love. The men generally took a 
different course, tending at worst to either doggerel or tortured-
artist poses. 

The only feasible approach to this problem for Cheshire,
being a tax-supported venture, was to invite submissions 
and then print the best of what was obtained. This did not
always leave much room for an editor to leave his stamp on the 
product, as we like to think of influential editors as doing. 
Of some interest on the staff are Jane Rades, art, Myrtle
Kastner again, and Business Manager Albert Krahn. The 
faculty art adviser was Robert Burkert. Selections of art
include those of Laurence Rathsack, Jane Logeman, and a gag 
Christmas gift catalog by Martin Dean: "GIANT COIN
WASH,"
for example, as the photo of the laundromat sign 
on E. Hampshire Ave. said. "Have your friends been
grumbling about their giant dirty coins? Here is the
perfect gift . . ." 

The early '60s did see an openness in the use of honest 
language, previously thought unsuitable for the "literary" tastes 
traditional with college publications. Roger Christeck (1963) 
and I as editors certainly tried to bring in realism in fiction and 
poetry, though when the blunter obscenities (surely some sort of
mark of openness) began to turn up in student writing is hard to say. 

A perusal of Mike Grumley's short fiction in '63 shows 
that the sparing use of some previously unacceptable words and 
sexual references were no longer taboo. 

But the first big flap over censorship -- in retrospect an 
important milestone in the battle that went on until the present, 
with massage parlors and nude sketching establishments now in 
contention -- was about Christeck's 1963 issue

The Waukesha Freeman Printing Co. declared four poems
objectionable, and refused to print them. This, of course, was
the commercial printing jobber operated by the company 
that published Waukesha's daily newspaper. They arbitrarily 
balked at Peter Brunner's "Antipoem," Bill Olsen's
"Bullfight" and "Imagine This Thing," and "Meanwhile
Back In the Jungle"
by the pseudonymous Sean Bernard Smith. 

The odd part -- usually the case in this sort of prudery 
after a few years have passed -- is that the poems verge on the 
innocuous by today's standards. Explicit sexuality is almost 
non-existent, though  Brunner's work has a few scatological 
references (ornithologically inaccurate as they are) to "Brecht's
vermin birds pissing on my head,"
and "Sadsick actors in my
jumbled life . . . shitting on my head tonight. . . ."

Even at the time, they would fit no one's idea of prosecutable
obscenity (the only defensible concern of a printer), though
I suspect the multi-talented  Bill Olsen's musical metaphor
for a sex act disturbed the yahoos most, once they had 
figured it out [Hell, I didn't even know what it meant myself, then]: 

Imagine this thing
As you might imagine death.
Imagine a clarinet
Incased in flesh,
And warm red skins.
Tuned to the smell of fur
Tacitly articulating
Inside her.

Listen for the
shudder
of the slipping liquid keys,
that thrill
In silver-silent melodies,
Pulsing in the warm
blood:
I heard it sound once
(a throbbing silken perfumed mud)
As my tongue searched
To liquefy the reed.

Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

Olsen [now a stagehand at the  Performing Arts Center] is well known on the East Side as a photographer and filmmaker
 (mostly the industrial and TV commercial variety) with  his wife Meryl [Kantsteiner]. For a while he performed folk songs with a guitar on the coffeehouse circuit, and was responsible, with Jerry Colonna's son Bob and Bill Ross, for a Zonyx Report Literary History:  Avant Garde Building Todayhilarious parody-review at the Avant Garde coffee house
[left] some years ago. [The Garde, on Prospect Ave., was thriving in the early '60s, featuring local and national folkies and bluesmen from Jim Liban & the New Blues -- later A. B. Skhy on M.G.M records -- to Skip James  and Big Joe Williams.  Zonyx Report Photo:  Dave "Snaker" Ray & Spider John Koerner at the Avant Garde in the '60s, from Ray's Web site.  Follow link for info.Beat poet Michael McClure, staying at the Gibsons', who had just
written the Mercedes-Benz song for
Janis Joplin, sang -- or chanted -- it
for us one night while Morgan
Gibson sat in on the African finger
piano before she ever recorded it.
Other favorites were Tony Glover, Spider John Koerner,  and Dave
"Snaker" Ray
[photo on near rt.]  whose          Gordy Simon Photo
current activities are reported on his Web site, with links to sound
samples from the era and today.  (Play his short .mp3 file here, or
download a longer .wav cut from his "Snake  Eyes" album.)  And of course, poetry readings were given regularly.  Avant Garde founder Jim Barker -- internationally recognized jewelry maker -- died in Santa Fe, NM in Nov. 2005 at age 63.]

Bernard's (actually John McCormack's) poem was  merely an inferior Kerouacky parody in the beat vein, with common vulgarities like "fart" and "nuts" as in "get it right in the. . . ."

Christeck's reaction to the censorship was reported in 
the Milwaukee Sentinel, which said he "Had the poems
mimeographed and inserted in the magazine. Some faculty
members objected and asked that faculty advisers review
material submitted before publication. The issue came
before the UWM student life and interest committee, but
no action was taken."

That year saw new names on the staff: Business Manger 
George Welland, now bassist-about-town and public school 
teacher; Art Editor Livija Dunis (later married to George Johnson) [and eventually Bruce Renner]; Johnson himself,
eventually a Waukesha Freeman photographer, assistant
manager at the Skylight Theatre (as was Olsen), assistant
to the manager of Irving Galleries, and numerous other things [later, a high school teacher in Waukesha]; Victor Pribyl (a famous walker); and even Polly Sue Smith, who liked to threaten to castrate men with a kitchen match [a concept I could never quite visualize, but no matter]. 

As to the fiction, Lou Gorfain's efforts (he went on to 
teach English) were flawed by their mechanics; and Mike 
Grumley's (he was essentially an actor and artist's model who 
dabbled in decadence when S/M was still a new game in town) 
had an equally unsettling offhand quality, though he took a 
prize for it [later moving to New York with C. J. Mason and 
publishing fiction before dying of AIDS]. 

But as the emphasis turned off campus in this period, there is
one exceptional poem that bears reprinting, if anything does. 

It was published the same year as Betty Friedan's The Feminine
Mystique.
The author is Jody Schmitt [about whom I  knew
absolutely nothing]: 

SISTER

Blood's thicker than water, and my true kin's
a young Watusi wife, who learned to slit
the throat of a blatting calf neatly, and place a pin
where it would do the most good . . . now who finds
her man a sudden stranger talking mines
and unions; drinking; moaning in his sleep
and saying her clean-swept floor's no place to sit.
I know the nettles pricking at her eyes;
her cheeks' warm shame, watching his draw down
shames by her strong bare feet. Oh, and her wise
dull silence when he brings from town a dress
to shroud the bare proud shining of her breasts.
If we would meet, our hearts would smile and touch
knowing how similarly we bleed . . .
not from a lack of craft or love so much
but, for our ancient arts, a lack of need.

[If something in the poem doesn't make sense, I think it was 
printed incorrectly in the original version, and I don't remember 
how it should have read.] 

(Credit for the stark, wiry sculpture pictured on the 
cover, entitled  "Dead Bird," goes to UWM's Ruth Milofsky
noted for her work with inner-city youth at the Paintbox Art
Center
in the Hillside Housing Project.) 

Censorship did not remain dormant after Christeck's 
expedient solution; 1963 was only the beginning of hassles 
with deans and student governments over funding controls that 
eventually saw the magazine -- renamed Tempest under Bruce 
Renner
-- choked to death. It was the end of a laboratory for 
learning about publishing mechanics and writing and criticism 
and the joys of discipline of print and graphic media that were 
uniquely available to generations of students. A valuable tool 
was destroyed. In the interim, one such hassle led to a
prototype of the now commonplace small press publications
attempted here each year. Cheshire was issued once a semester; 
for more immediate effect it was decided to print a frequent 
supplement, named FortnightlyZonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

Almost immediately we ran into trouble, with what I 
thought was a harmless poem of my own in 1964 receiving an 
inordinate amount of hostility. I quote it here: 

COMMUNITY OF SCHOLARS

we often discussed sex
and particular girls
the professor (my friend) and I
Freud or not, is it strange
that I should have dreamed
we stood before a urinal
oddly constructed that drained
by running on the floor
between my feet
-- and he flicked drops of piss
upon my face
suddenly, so that with a jab
of my left I smashed
his humpbacked imperious nose
without thinking
and as I choked with remorse
he complicated matters intolerably
with his bitter forgiveness

I was grateful to Paul Goodman for writing a letter in 
defense of the poem to the Post [faint enough as praise: he said 
it was a "pretty good poem" and had a "beginning, middle and
end,"
attributes apparently lacking in much undergraduate
poetry], though this might have been expected. It was, after all, a 
borrowing of the title of one of his books and was stimulated 
by his presence on campus as a visiting professor [brought here 
through the Gibsons' efforts, of course, which makes it fitting 
that their presence should permeate the poem: imperious nose 
and a cool, curving fixture that drains urine, indeed]. He also 
got mileage out of the incident by reprinting his letter in an
article on censorship for Liberation. [Otherwise, Goodman
ignored my heterosexual self, even as I chauffeured him around 
in my Beetle, being much more taken with the fey Grumley.

To condense history quickly, it was this sort of 
reaction -- outrage and loss of funding -- that led several of 
us to circumvent prior censorship by changing the name of the 
magazine to The Other, and going off-campus. Originally edited 
by  George Johnson, Roger Christeck and myself, it was later
taken over  by Bob Nero and Rich Mangelsdorff and lasted
for four issues, before running out of funds. The last issue,
delayed until 1968, came out under Mangelsdorff and contained
some important national names [such as Charles Bukowski].
But soon, everybody was putting out a magazine. . . . 

By this time also, the two most prominent names to 
survive on the scene up to this day [1975, that is] -- Bob Watt 
and Mangelsdorff -- were already on a course of
accomplishment in their own fields. Watt for a poetry and
persona that cannot be explained without firsthand experience (so
you will get no evaluation here) and Mangelsdorff, primarily for
wide-ranging works of criticism. His expertise is undeniable,
though he is often in need of some close pruning, and he has
enriched most of what has been published here in the alternative
paper or small press mode, and is active on the national front
as well [and even wrote music criticism for the Waukesha Freeman]. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

Since Mangelsdorff's public image is one of calculated
boorishness, and there isn't room to consider the breadth of his
work -- from architecture to music, from K'scope to
[New Orleans'] Nola Express -- it is fortunate that Dave
Porter
captured some of the essence of both him and Watt
in a poem in Pretty Mama (1967) for consideration at a distance: 

when mangelsdorff meets watt

"turf" the big m will bawl
"goodies" from the smiling mischief
treetrunks will shatter lollipops
popcorn will smother the bear
"hassle" said one
the other answered "caboose"
"rumble" one belched
"buttons" the other whispered
"mess"
"toys"
"cunt"
"girlies"
and they blasted and wafted
grunted and kissed stomped and
soft-toed
until they sagged and blobbed into a
puddle of tar and lemon meringue

Probably the strongest impetus to self-publishing and a 
local press (as opposed to vanity press) other than the direct 
sort of opposition which led to The Other came from what I 
identify as the first such successful venture -- financially and 
critically -- the Gibsons' 1963 book, Our Bedroom's
Underground
[because, as Replogle wrote in a parody, it's
"the best floor around/second floor won't do/it's too high
to screw. . . ."
] which encouraged others to follow. It's
impossible to do these poems justice without extensive
quotations, but Morgan's title  poem will have to stand as an
example of his deftness of touch and insistence on control: 

Our bedroom's underground,
a Juliet's tomb,
Plato's cave or pulsing womb.
Here we embrace like foetal twins
blind to well-lit disciplines.
We separate in sunlight, rising
on wings of wisdom, agonizing
to the top of the morning where
every quarrel
consumes us in its blazing moral.

With this (with only one exception to come) ends a necessarily
limited overview that neglects much of importance, from Ken
Haferman's Earlobe
to the Third Coast Vibrator. But by
1967 Kaleidoscope was tapping the pervading energies of
the East Side, and it is here that a sense of history demands
that we turn, to the new challenges in partisan journalism. 

Impressions remain, however. The fight against censorship
continues, but we have seen it at least well begun. Tropic
of Cancer
was declared legal reading for Milwaukeeans in 
1961 as far as the post office was concerned, for example,
though it was still prosecuted in state courts until the Supreme
Court reversed the convictions in 1964.  And I can't help but
think of how technology inadvertently helped the fight. Every
man his own printer, and his neighbor's potential reader --
barriers must fall under the sheer weight of this lusting to see
oneself in print. And, quaintly, the photo-offset process made it
possible for the printer and his employees to not read (not
having to set the type) what was being put into circulation, like
D.H. Lawrence hiring Italian printers to print Lady Chatterley's
Lover
in English. The burden of indignation this lifted from the
working printers should not be underestimated. Zonyx Report Arrow Down:  Continue Story

 

And as to the critical worth of it all: two levels must be
recognized. A good regional anthology could be made that 
would stack up well against similar neighborhoods on a writer
per-square-mile basis. A handful deserves some wider
recognition; some will get it. 

But if all extraneous literature were to vanish without a 
trace, we would find nourishment for the community being 
produced right here. And by not being overshadowed by the 
best that the world can offer, it would get the attention it needs 
to fulfill its peculiar function. 

Its function -- which can't be duplicated elsewhere 
without dilution of the quality of being absolutely appropriate 
-- is to speak of ourselves as we discover ourselves and our 
community and its concrete circumstances. In the end, with a 
literature such as this, it's impossible to separate the poet from 
the poem. If done, the result is all too often flat. 

Universality is not all, and a personal communication to 
one's friends has its place. Which may be why I appreciate and 
end with this poem of Barbara Gibson's. It's failings and virtues 
are primarily the same: it belongs to, and speaks of, the East
Side
community -- however tangentially -- that I have tried to 
define. For the record, it mentions [artists] Richard Kreznar
Jim Sverdlin, Roger Ricco and Sue Bartfield; the collective 
exhibition is a tradition. 

WISCONSIN PAINTERS AND SCULPTORS

I.
your paintings are fading without you, Richard
when the gallery guard draws the curtain
when the buzzer sounds and the people go
home
your trees drop their red and green leaves
your lavender sky grays out
the boats sail away from your harbor
goodbye light
goodbye smells of oil and canvas
goodbye goodbye to Richard's paintings
goodbye Richard
II.
your paintings are fading without you, Richard
but in the dark
after the gates are closed
what undisclosed
few faithless blue boats harbor
in some corner
of your land-locked love-lost
blond and bony head?
III.
the paintings are fading without you, all of you
long gone or never near
hard headed or soft said
crazy eyed and full haired
my eye makes you
marks you well
if I have eyes for you
if I have eyes for your painting
you don't fade
don't be sad
I'll save you
hello Richard hello Jim hello Roger
hello Sue

Ironically, most of these figures -- including the author  [who is said to be living in the Pacific Northwest, divorced  from Morgan, himself with a new wife from Japan, Keiko, and teaching in Illinois]
 -- are not of the East Side today, or even Milwaukee. But we feel with a certainty that they once were here.  That, at least, we have. 

Zonyx the Dancing Scorpio:  Literary History Page


(Corrections & insertions in the above, usually 
done in brackets where needed to show they 
are today's afterthoughts, were kept to a
minimum, even though the temptation for 
extensive revision was powerful. I felt it was 
important to be faithful to the spirit of the 
original, in spite of the embarrassments I would 
just as soon get rid of in hindsight.)

 

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