Little Magazines of the Beat Generation

As I wrote before, little magazines were precursors for the modern zine and mini comic.  And what are little magazines?  They are non-commercial, small-press publications.  Topics of interest include literature, art and social theory. Little magazines are usually avant-garde works created by little-know authors.  You might think of them us the high-brow, older cousin of the sci-fi fanzines that emerged in the 1930s.

Like the Dada artists, poets of the Beat Generation used little magazines as an expressive form.  Here are a two examples, that have a lot in common.

Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts was founded in 1962 by Ed Sanders, emerging from the so-called New York School of beat poets. Sanders’ credo was “I’ll print anything”.  His magazine broke taboos about sex and drugs before the counter-culture movement was in full-swing.


Sanders was also the proprietor of the Peace Eye Bookshop, which was raided by police who charged him with obscenity.  Sanders successfully fought the charges with the aid of the ACLU, and gained much notoriety in the process (including a cover of Life Magazine!)

For more information on Fuck You visit Reality Studio, the best blog about little magazines of the Beat Generation.

On a side note: when I cover this publication in class, I always incite giggles from students who assume I never curse (little do they know!)

A similar story can be told about Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s publication of Howl in his Pocket Poets Series.  Ferlinghetti first heard Allen Ginsberg’s Howl at the infamous Six Gallery poetry reading of 1955 (considered by many to be the official start of the start of the San Francisco Renaissance).


Like Sanders, Ferlinghetti also ran a bookstore (City Lights Bookstore) which was targeted by police.  Ferlinghetti was charged with obscenity for selling Howl, a charge he successfully fought (again, with the help of the ACLU).  And like Sanders, the trial brought greater attention to Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, and poets of The San Francisco Renaissance.

– Robyn Chapman

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