Throughout its twenty issues, Kulchur maintained the character of a magazine of high seriousness and wide-ranging interest and investigation, in this resembling the compendious Guide to Kulchur by Ezra Pound. Kulchur included commentary or criticism (rather than poetry or fiction) by most of the writers of the avant-garde, and in a variety of areas, including literature, film, theater, books, politics, and music.
Kulchur 4 (1961). Photograph of William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac in Paris, ca. 1955.
Gilbert Sorrentino, who edited Kulchur 4 and was associated with the magazine as a contributing editor for two years, remarks on its impact: “Kulchur evolved a review style that, for better or worse, has persisted in little-magazine writing to this day. It was personal, colloquial, wry, mocking, and precisely vulgar when vulgarity seemed called for…nothing was ever explained, the writing was elliptical, casual, and obsessively conversational. We had wanted a flashing, brilliant magazine that had nothing to do with the academic world and we had got one.” Among the high points of the twenty issues were Charles Olson on “Proprioception,” and Julian Beck of the Living Theatre on “The Life of the Theatre,” in issue 1. Subsequent issues featured Jerome Rothenberg and Robert Creeley on deep image poetry, Paul Blackburn’s article on The Black Mountain Review, Ed Dorn on Olson’s Maximus poems (reprinted from his Migrant pamphlet), Edwin Denby on Balanchine, Clayton Eshleman’s translations of Peruvian poet César Vallejo, and a good number of Ted Berrigan’s Sonnets. Covers were contributed by a variety of artists, including Franz Kline, Robert Indiana, and Joe Brainard.
The artistic community of the early 1960s was reflected in the instability of Kulchur‘s contentious editorial history: there were at least four single editors, including Marc Schleifer for three issues and Sorrentino and Jerome Rothenberg for one each; an editorial board consisting of Sorrentino, LeRoi Jones, Frank O’Hara, Bill Berkson, and Joseph LeSueur for several issues; followed by the single editorship of Lita Hornick, who was also the publisher and the financier for most of the magazine’s feisty life.
One of the most vibrant issues of Kulchur, no. 4, was guest-edited by Gilbert Sorrentino at Lita Hornick’s request. As Sorrentino recounted in “Neon, Kulchur, etc.,” TriQuarterly (Fall 1978):
“I asked Zukofsky (whom I badly wanted to begin to use the magazine for an outlet), Duncan, Ron Loewinsohn, and [Hubert] Selby for contributions, and they all responded. Zukofsky gave me ‘Modern Times,’ a beautiful essay on Charlie Chaplin, written in 1936 and never before published; Duncan sent his matchless ‘Ideas of the Meaning of Form’; Loewinsohn sent ‘A Credo Sandwich,’ a piece on poetics that complemented Duncan’s; and Selby, writing as ‘Harry Black,’ submitted ‘Happiness House,’ a bitter assault on New York State mental institutions. [LeRoi] Jones, as an editor, gave me a chapter from his as yet unpublished book, Blues People, and I asked Edward Dorn if I might reprint his ‘What I See in the Maximus Poems,’ originally published in Gael Turnbull’s Migrant. Paul Goodman sent a comment on the material that had appeared in number 3. An oddly curious Freudian study of L. Frank Baum, and in particular the Oz books, came in unsolicited from Osmond Beckwith, of whom I have never again heard, and seemed to me exactly right for the issue. The reviews were by [Fielding] Dawson, Jones, Cid Corman (on Zukofsky), [Joel] Oppenheimer (on Dorn), and Walter Lowenfels, who sent a review of Tropic of Cancer, written in Paris on the appearance of Miller’s novel in 1934 and previously unpublished. Marian Zazeela, Marc Schleifer’s wife, gave me a snapshot of Kerouac and Burroughs taken in Paris about 1955, and that became the cover; the title page identifies it as a photograph of Inspector Maigret and Sam Spade.”
Ted Berrigan and Ron Padgett, Bean Spasms (1967). Cover and drawings by Joe Brainard.
Kulchur Press books include
Adam, Helen. Stone Cold Gothic. 1984. Paintings by Auste Adam.
Adam, Helen. Turn to Me, and Other Poems. 1977.
Antin, David. Talking. 1972. Cover by the author.
Berrigan, Ted, and Ron Padgett. Bean Spasms. 1967. Cover and drawings by Joe Brainard.
Brainard, Joe. Selected Writings. 1971. Cover and endpapers by Ron Padgett.
Ceravolo, Joe. Millennium Dust. 1982. Cover by Monica Da Vinci.
Clark, Tom. At Malibu. 1975. Cover by the author. Cover photograph of the author by Angelica Clark.
Elmslie, Kenward. Album. 1969. Cover and drawings by Joe Brainard.
Elmslie, Kenward, and Joe Brainard. Sung Sex. 1989.
Fagin, Larry. Rhymes of a Jerk. 1974. Cover by Ed Ruscha.
Ferrari, Mary. The Isle of the Little God. 1981. Covers by Jennifer Bartlett.
Giomo, John. Balling Buddha. 1970. Cover by Les Levine.
Giorno, John, and Richard Bosman. Grasping at Emptiness. 1985. Cover and drawings by Richard Bosman.
Greenwald, Ted. The Licorice Chronicles. 1979. Cover by James Starrett.
Hartman, Yuki. Ping. 1984. Cover and drawings by Susan Greene.
Hornick, Lita. Night Flight. 1982. Cover painting by Susan Hall. Back cover by Jennifer Bartlett.
Hornick, Lita. Nine Martinis. 1987.
Howe, Susan. The Defenestration of Prague. 1983. Cover from a drawing by Inigo Jones. Design by Susan B. Laufer.
Jones, Hettie, ed. Poems Now. 1966.
Katz, Alex, and Kenneth Koch. Interlocking Lives. 1970. Cover by Alex Katz.
Kostelanetz, Richard. I Articulations. 1974.
Lavin, Stuart. Let Myself Shine. 1979. Cover by Bruce Chandler.
MacAdams, Lewis. Live at the Church. 1977. Cover photograph of the author by Gerard Malanga.
Malanga, Gerard. Screen Tests: A Diary. 1967. Cover and illustrations by Andy Warhol.
Mayer, Bernadette. Poetry. 1976. Cover by Rosemary Mayer.
North, Charles. Leap Year: Poems 1968–1978. 1978. Cover and drawings by Paula North.
Notley, Alice. Waltzing Matilda. 1981. Cover by George Schneeman.
Owen, Maureen. Hearts in Space. 1980. Cover and drawings by Joe Giordano.
Owens, Rochelle. I Am the Babe of Joseph Stalin’s Daughter. 1972. Cover and drawings by the author.
Perreault, John. Luck. 1969.
Plymell, Charles. The Trashing of America. 1975. Cover by Les Levine.
Pommy-Vega, Janine. The Bard Owl. 1980. Cover and drawings by Martin Carey.
Ratcliff, Carter. Fever Coast. 1973.
Torregian, Sotère. The Age of Gold. 1976. Cover and pictures by the author.
Towle, Tony. New and Selected Poems. 1983. Cover painting by Jean Holabird.
Violi, Paul. Baltic Circles. 1973. Cover painting of the author by Paula North.
Waldman, Anne. No Hassles. 1971. Cover by Brigid Polk and art by Joe Brainard, Donna Dennis, and George Schneeman.
Waldman, Anne, and Susan Hall. Invention. 1985. Drawings by Susan Hall.
Warsh, Lewis. Blue Heaven. 1978. Cover by George Schneeman.