Puck Schot (1994) is a visual artist, filmmaker, writer and poet from Rotterdam, who graduated from the Royal Academy of Arts in The Hague in 2016. Her work spans various disciplines – video works, writings, sculptures, drawings, sound works and performances – which go hand in hand to explore man’s darker desires in modern media-generated realities. Since 2012 Schot has taken part in various group shows, programmes and festivals as well as done solo shows in Germany and Rotterdam. She was a guest lecturer and teacher for young talents at the Royal Academy of The Hague and received a Grant for Emerging Artists from the national Mondrian Fund in 2019. This grant has enabled her to publish her first book ‘Urge’ in collaboration with Ralf Friel’s renowned Moloko Plus press from Pretzien, Germany.
Urge, introduced by the artist as ‘a fictive vacuum inside a violently compressed wound or simply a compilation of fragmentary poems’, has turned into a handsome edition under the wings of Moloko Plus and designer Anneke Auer. Schot’s carefully arranged texts and images lead the reader along deliriously probing chapters with titles such as Angelic or Brutal Breathing to the final poem End of me, which closes with the line ‘I’m going to unveil my flesh to the world as you’ll add light to a tumoured sore’. Whose desire is at the root of this mess, baby? The urge is there for all to see, you know. It’s throbbing. Naked.
Poet and musician Louise Landes Levi was born to a Jewish family in New York in 1944 and studied at the University of California, Berkeley from 1962 to 1969. There she joined Daniel Moore’s seminal Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company before studying with sarangi-master Pandit Ram Narayan at Mills College and travelling to Afghanistan and India in 1969 to research North Indian classical music and poetry. She studied with Ustad Abdul Majid Khan, and over the years with Ali Akbar Khan, Annapurna Devi, and La Monte Young. LLL has performed and recorded her music all over the world since and has produced, as an extension of her study of Indian music, translations of works by Henri Michaux, René Daumal and Mira Bai. LLL’s own poetry has been published by a variety of small presses.
For the Counter Culture Chronicles cassette Not Further than the Nightingale LLL was recorded in Amsterdam in June 2019. Accompanied by Eric Thielman’s percussion the release opens with LLL chanting the four syllables of the Vajra – AH HO HA YE – followed by her reading her own poetry and sharing entertaining stories of her many journeys and encounters. The cassette comes with a laser printed poetry broadside of LLL’s poems Eulogy for Lionel Ziprin (2009) and Most Wanted (2010), in style and imagery reminiscent of her friend and fellow-orientalist Ira Cohen.
Nanao Sakaki (1923-2008) was a Japanese poet and wanderer who was raised in a traditional Japanese family in the Kagoshima Prefecture. After having worked as an errand boy and having been drafted into military service, he moved to Tokyo after WW2, where he did odd jobs and lived in a tunnel near Ueno railway station. Spending all his time reading and studying English in the early 1950s, he moved to Shinjuku in the mid-1950s where he started writing poetry and – through his friendship with a local wood sculptor – developed a profound relationship with the forests of Japan. Sakaki’s poems and his friend’s sculptures were combined in several exhibitions before they parted ways in 1959. Sakaki befriended British writer Neale Hunter, who helped translate some of his poems into English and publish them under the title Bellyfulls in 1961. Hunter introduced American Beat poet, Zen scholar and environmentalist Gary Snyder to the book, who recognised a kindred spirit in Sakaki and looked him up in Tokyo. Snyder’s ensuing friendship with his Japanese counterpart led to an American reprint of Bellyfulls in 1966 and, several years later, to Sakaki’s move to the US, where he wrote and read poetry and explored the wilds on foot for ten years. In his foreword to Sakaki’s 1987 volume Break the Mirror Gary Snyder writes about his friend’s work: “His poems were not written by hand or head, but with the feet. These poems have been sat into existence, walked into existence, to be left here as traces of a life lived for living …”
Ira Cohen’s fame mainly rests on his work as a photographer, filmmaker and publisher. Cohen developed his lauded ‘mylar chamber’ portraits of friends and fellow-artists, directed the seminal underground film The Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda and published his exquisite Starsteams Poetry series of hand made books from Kathmandu in the 1960s and 1970s. Cohen’s work as a performative poet is somewhat eclipsed by his flamboyant visual work and his groundbreaking activities as a publisher, but with the second cassette that Counter Culture Chronicles has now devoted to Cohen, this aspect of his creative output receives due attention.
Recorded live at ‘Kill Your Timid Notion’, Dundee in 2003 Ira Cohen is heard reading some of his poems in his typical deep and commanding voice, accompanied by David Keenan on guitar and Chris Corsano on drums. Cohen, aged 78 at the time, vigorously trumpets his messages, memories, thoughts, visions and mini revelations into the audience while Keenan and Corsano subtly wrap his opium fuelled words in improvised music.
Raised in Europe before World War 2, ruth weiss turned into a pioneering bohemian poet on the other side of the Atlantic after the war. weiss was born into a Jewish family in Germany in 1928 and much of her childhood was spent running from the spreading and intensifying Nazi persucation of those days. After having found a temporary refuge in The Netherlands, weiss and her parents escaped to safety in Chicago in 1939. There, ruth weiss began experimenting with combinations of poetry and jazz in her early twenties before hitchhiking to San Francisco in 1952, where she began performing with street musicians and soon developed into one of the pioneers of fusing poetry and jazz.
ruth weiss – who has spelled her name in lower case to break down the hierarchy in letters since the 1960s – met and worked with Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady soon after her arrival in California and turned her apartment into an early project space for poetry readings and music the next year. weiss paid tribute to the female poets that she admired in her compilation Gallery of Women in 1959 and adapted her poem The Brink for a short film which she directed herself two years later. Her most important poem, the experimental and revelatory Desert Journal, was started in 1961, completed in 1968 and published in 1977. weiss has continued to publish, perform and read poetry to this day. With this cassette CCC has published a beautiful document and tribute to ‘beat goddess’ ruth weiss.