Poet : Stuart Z. Perkoff
Publisher : Counter Culture Chronicles
Year : 2018
Recording : KFML Radio Denver, Colorado, 1971
One-sided C-60 cassette plus laser printed insert
Limited edition of 80
Postage & packing not included
Stuart Z. Perkoff was born in a liberal Jewish household in St. Louis in 1930 and started writing Kenneth Patchen inspired poetry at high school. He briefly joined the Communist Party but quit when the Party ordered him to write less personal poetry. Having turned to anarchist pacifism instead Perkoff moved to New York in his late teens, where he was active in the draft resistance. His first published poems there won him the attention of Charles Olson and Robert Creeley. After having married Suzan Blanchard in 1949 Perkoff moved to the West Coast. Not having enough money for either San Francisco or Santa Monica the couple and their first son Sasha settled in Venice, where Perkoff soon became a central figure of the emerging Beat scene. In his visionary poetry, a first compilation of which was published as The Suicide Room in 1956, Perkoff wanted to “recreate a civilisation in simple things on stretched skin & chewed out hollowed wood”. Hopping from one low-paying job to another anti-materialist Perkoff and his family lived on a shoestring. Some of his Venice poems were published in avant-garde journals, such as Wallace Berman’s Semina, but many poems remained unpublished. Perkoff, one of the founders of the bohemian Venice West Café, fell prey to heroin addiction in the 1960s. In 1968 he was convicted of dealing drugs and consequently did time in prison until 1971. After his release he briefly made a living in San Francisco, but returned to writing poetry in Venice in 1973. There he died of cancer one year later.
Stuart Z. Perkoff’s Voices of the Lady was published posthumously by the National Poetry Foundation in 1998. That compilation contained all of his books, his journal publications, and much unpublished work, including the sequence The Venice Poems. Counter Culture Chronicles has now released a rare recording of the same name, on which Perkoff can be heard reading a selection of his poems for KFML Radio in Denver in 1971. The Lady was the spirit that Perkoff communicated with when he wrote poetry. He thought of himself as the channel through which his muse sent messages into the world. The powerful, deep and meaningful voice that Perkoff lent to his Lady can now be heard on this excellent CCC cassette. Driving the words home with precision and cool, Perkoff demonstrates that his poems were not so much written but dictated. His voice was the jazzy trumpet of an angel of the streets.