Seventh Year for Voice, Jail for LeRoi Jones


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October 26, 1961, Vol. VII, No. 1

Voice Begins Seventh Year

With this issue, The Village Voice enters its 7th year of publication. Volume I, Number 1 was dated October 26, 1955.

The anniversary comes at perhaps an unpropitious moment. Owing to labor-relations difficulties in the New York printing industry – difficulties to which The Voice itself is not a party — the current issue may be late in reaching newsstands and subscribers.

Poet Jailed for Obscenity

By J. R. Goddard

Poet LeRoi Jones had only the most literary of reasons for distributing his newsletter, The Floating Bear, through the mails, but postal authorities last week showed they took a dim view of the whole idea. They arrested him on charges of obscenity.

“The Bear is kind of a trade journal for writers, a fast way of displaying new work,” the bearded, quiet-spoken poet protested after his release from Federal Courthouse on Wednesday. “But now it seems the postal inspectors think they’re qualified to judge whether it’s literature or not.”

Jones, a leading figure of the so-called “Beat” school of literature, began the publication early this year to communicate new writing to a select readership of writers, artists, and editors. He was aided by another well-known poet, Diane Di Prima. The now-controversial Bear floated freely through the mails (it is not sold, but supported by the contributions of its small audience) until this summer, when authorities at the Rahway, NJ, Reformatory intercepted a copy sent to a poet inmate.

It was not until last week, however, that anything was done about the complaints from the Rahway jail-keepers. Bright and early on Wednesday morning, U.S. Marshal Joseph Caffery, an FBI agent, and another government officer showed up at the Jones residence with a warrant. Jones and his wife Hettie were routed out of bed while the men searched the apartment. When Mrs. Jones enjoined them to be quiet and not wake the children, one of the arresting officers reportedly said: “Shut up or we’ll arrest you too!”

Jones was charged with sending obscenity through the mails and taken to the Federal Courthouse. With him went confiscated copies of issue No. 9 of the Bear, which included a short play by Jones on homosexuality and a scathing political satire by novelist William Burroughs entitled “Roosevelt After Inauguration”…

[Each weekday morning, we post an excerpt from another issue of the Voice, going in order from our oldest archives. Visit our Clip Job archive page to see excerpts back to 1956. John Wilcock is still going strong at]

This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on January 6, 2009


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