LeRoi Jones [Imamu Amiri Baraka] and
Hettie Cohen (assistant editor for nos. 6–8)
Nos. 1–8 (1958–62).
Covers by Norman Bluhm (7), Fielding Dawson (4), Basil King (1, 5, 6, 8), Peter Schwarzburg (3), and Tomi Ungerer (back cover, 2).
In the 1950s and ’60s, LeRoi Jones was as deeply involved as an editor and publisher as he was as a poet and playwright. His publishing ventures included The Floating Bear, Kulchur, Yugen, and Totem. Subtitled “a new consciousness in arts and letters,” Yugen ran for eight issues from 1958 to 1962 and published an ever-widening group of writers, starting in issue 1 with such Beat writers as Allen Ginsberg, William S. Burroughs, Jack Kerouac, and Gregory Corso. By issue 3, Yugen was publishing writers associated with Black Mountain College and the New York School, including Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Joel Oppenheimer, Fielding Dawson, Barbara Guest, and Frank O’Hara. Jones also paid considerable attention to a range of Eastern, Native American, and other minority cultures. The final issues included correspondence and essays exploring the theoretical side of alternative and experimental literatures; as contributor Gilbert Sorrentino noted, “the new writers had been appearing in magazines for about a decade, and it was time for the establishment of a critical position.” Yugen’s willingness to engage in debates over theory prefigures a growing concern within the avant-garde to define a poetic principle and thus establishes Yugen as one of the most important precursors of the New American Poetry. Yugen always looked interesting, too, with covers illustrated by such artists as Basil King and Norman Bluhm.