Clip Job: an excerpt every day from the Voice archives.
June 17, 1965, Vol. X, No. 35
An Interview with Ed Sanders
By John Wilcock
The nearest thing that the rebel New York underground has to a headquarters is the shabby Peace Eye Bookstore near Tompkins Square on the lower East Side. Here, invariably surrounded by plotters, protesters, and pamphleteers, shaggy-haired Ed Sanders operates a rickety mimeograph machine turning out a non-stop series of brochures, newsletters, catalogs of esoterica, and a legendary revolutionary organ which has been euphemistically tagged (by the uptown glossy magazines) as Love You, and whose real title will be found in the interview that follows.
How old are you?
What is people’s first reaction to the title Fuck You/a magazine of the arts?
Occasionally a reader will go insane with rage. Tight-assed people sometimes giggle. Some let their eyes glaze over and look bored. At cocktail parties in Michigan they burn it. The Mexican border police register disgust. But most are friendly and very curious.
Do you ever bother to justify or explain it?
Of course. I usually try to explain what I’m doing: A word should have one basic meaning: a lovely word like fuck, or fuck you, should not have hateful, pejorative connotations. I try to explain about the LSD Communarium, freedom for hallucinogens, God through cannabis, grope for peace, etc., etc.
What is the philosophy that guides your choice of content?
The philosophy of Total Assault on the Culture. I print the poetry I like plus occasional free-verse gutter doggerel. As for the editorials, notes on contributors, peace statements, and Egyptian freak-doodles, I pretend that the United States is a very permissive asylum, and act accordingly.
You frequently make reference to a mythology that I know nothing about, with your references to the Sun God Ra, etc. Whence?
In the early ’50s I studied Plotinus, Poe, St. John of the Cross, telepathy, and Bop Kabalia. In 1957 I had certain religious visions of a solar (Sun God Ra) nature which created an interest in things Egyptian. In order to read certain cantos of Ezra Pound in 1961 I studied Egyptian hieroglyphics at the New School and on my own. When I started freaking out F.Y./ in 1962 I sprayed my Egyptian studies into the editorial format.
You’ve moved the language forward by giant strides, particularly with your 42nd Street freak-sex scene vocabulary — are you creating slang or recording it?
Times Square has held my interest for many years; I’ve even worked at a cigar store at 42nd and Broadway for the last five. I synthesize and sometimes create slang, but more often I record it from the freak-language of my friends. I borrow from crooks, hustlers, queens, dope-freaks, amphetamine-heads, poets, Ginsberg, Professor Frank Peters, Charles Olson, the Ted Berrigan Conspiracy and other sources. I’ve learned much from the brilliant techniques of William Burroughs.
You’re married? Your wife is your private life?
I keep my wife strapped into a Perfumed Garden at a secret 27th Street scene.
Who finances Fuck You?
A leading Ezra Pound scholar, a millionaire painter, an uptown publisher, and a cartel of 17 Times Square toe queens.
Is there an official price? Do you charge anybody?
I give Fuck You/a magazine of the arts away free, as they come out. Complete runs of all back issues I sell to university libraries and collectors to help finance new issues. Many of the major universities in the country have full sets.
Why did the FBI visit you?
They think I’m wonderful.
Who are the Fugs?
The Fugs are a rock and roll, folk, and poetry spew-singing group operating as an emanation of the culture of the lower East Side. All of their 40 or so songs are original creations or adaptations of poems. We believe in BODY POETRY. That is the Fugs work through the genitals and the Big Beat to get to the brain, and through the brain and the Big Beat to get to the genitals, thus creating a thrilling cross-current. You can freak all this out in our forthcoming Folkways record album.
What are some of your other activities?
Co-editor of the Marijuana Newsletter, formed to promote legalization of marijuana; I operate the Peace Eye bookstore and Scrounge Lounge, in the lower East Side; I’m publisher and editor of several anthologies of poetry, among them Banana, Despair, Bugger, and Suck; I’m a veteran East Side bar creep. Currently I’m shooting short films at my secret movie studio to show with the Fug songs. That is, I’m creating a move/music system called the Fugitone: among the first to be shot are “Coca Cola Douche,” “Bull Tongue Clit,” and the “I Saw the Best Minds of My Generation Rock.”
[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. Go here to see this article as it originally appeared in print. John Wilcock is still going strong at his website, Ojaiorange.com. And at Amazon, you can order his recently released autobiography, Manhattan Memories.]