Intellectual Curiosities and Provocations

Ed Sanders

By Hewitt Pratt on Wednesday, April 22, 1998 08:24 am


The poet and journalist Ed Sanders was born August 17, 1939 in Kansas City, Missouri.

In the extra chapter "A Book of Verse", appended to the 1990 re-issue of Sanders' satiric memoir 'Tales of Beatnik Glory', Sanders recounts the experience of discovering Allen Ginsberg's "Howl and Other Poems" as a teenage boy in 1957. Refering to himself in the third person, he says of the days following: "When he returned to school the next day he was a changed person. 'Holy holy holy holy holy holy', he must have chanted that word, in long continuous singsong sentences, at least four or five thousand times a day. He felt great. Every care assumed before evaporated. He read the poem to anybody who would listen and got into trouble almost immediately." School officials' admonitions to stay away from such "despicable ravings of a homo" were ignored, and before the year was up he'd be suspended for refusing to stop bringing "filth" onto school property.

Ginsberg's work, then, had a profound impact on the young seventeen year-old, showing him that he had more options than those carefully laid before him by his family: go to law school like his uncle Milton, or work in his father's dry goods store. After graduating from high school, he and a friend "got really loaded and then said goodbye. 'I'm going to New York to become a poet.' "

Sanders founded the Fugs in 1964 with Tuli Kupferberg. Their music was a literate-tone folk/rock: they "chanted poetry, wrote songs and did a lot of partying" (the name came from the "fornicatory euphemism Norman Mailer had utilized in his novel, "The Naked and the Dead"). They created the Fugs because it was "better than working or graduate school, and it gave us a modest hope of earning our livelihood from art."

Among his other ventures in the 60's were the Peace Eye Bookstore on East 10th Street in Manhattan, and a journal called "Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts." Other books include 'The Family' about the Manson family and 'Hymn to the Rebel Cafe'. In the late 90's he presented his "Amazing Grace" project at St. Mark's Church in the East Village; this involved many poets, singers and other creative people contributing verses to the old gospel song. He lives in Woodstock, New York, where he publishes The Woodstock Journal, a community newspaper with poetry and art.
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