Investigative Poetics – 2 (Ed Sanders – 2)

AG: There was a break-in into (Ed Sanders‘) house, where he kept all his stuff, and all his magazines and files and mimeograph stuff . Some of it was stolen. A lot of it was thrown around on the floor. And, at first, we thought, “well, maybe it was some meth-heads that resented him, or maybe it was local narcs, or.. who was it? – (Well), it turns out, years later, this year [1977] I went to Washington to visit a lawyer friend, Ira Lowe (who was the lawyer for a lot of the peace demonstrators in 1967, during the levitation of the Pentagon ceremony in Washington – you’ve heard of that, I guess? – which Sanders took part in, actually – in fact, (he) performed the main ritual exorcism, with a sound-truck, and The Fugs, and, I think, Kenneth Anger, who was angry at Sanders for his political exorcism, for some reason or other.. I think Kenneth Anger, being an S&M film diabolist, thought that it was the wrong tactics to try and exorcise the Pentagon, and so was exorcising Sanders!  from underneath the soundtruck..
Sanders was also one of the founders of the Yippie movement, withAbbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin, and a guy named Keith Lampe (who was one of the heads of Vietnam Veterans For Peace, a Veterans group). Lampe later moved (out) to the West and became Ponderosa Pine, a spokesman for the trees of California, as a deeper form of cultural re-adjustment, not just protest against the War – (he’s studying with Tarthang Tulku now, (so) he’s chanting the (Kum Nye) mantrain Berkeley).

Well, so, Ira Lowe, who had been the lawyer for a bunch of people at the Pentagon demonstration (who, I think, had been the lawyer that got (Norman) Mailer and everyone out of jail during that situation, that seizure of the Pentagon ..what was it? what was the name of his book, The Siege of Miami and..?, Mailer’s book?

Student:  The Armies of the Night, wasn’t it?

AG: Armies of the Night, yeah. Well, when Mailer was one of the members of that “army of the night”, he got busted, and Ira Lowe was his lawyer, and there were a whole group of lawyers in Washington that were radicals who helped out. (And) so I’ve been working with Ira Lowe the last few years getting my papers under the Freedom of Information Act – my papers from the CIAFBI, (DEA), the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Treasury Department, the Customs DepartmentArmy IntelligenceNavy Intelligence – there are about twenty-five agencies. If you want to get your papers, you really need a technical knowledge, and a lawyer, and many many duplicate letters to be sent out to each one of the agencies, with the follow-ups, plus forms filled out.
So he got my papers. Lowe was working on papers for Jane Fonda and for Tom Hayden, so he was getting money for that. And then he offered to get mine free. So I paid a couple of hundred dollars for Court costs and he wrote and got me packs of stuff. And then he got Ed (Sanders)’s papers too. And also, we were talking over.. we thought it would be interesting if he would get LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka)’s papers , and actually get the literary field covered, a little bit. So we had papers from LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), myself, from Ed.

Well, all this preliminary stuff about Ed’s apartment and being busted into was background to the fact that this year [1977] Lowe showed me a piece of paper, saying that, in 1964 0r (196)5, when Ed was living on Avenue A, actually, there was a little report, from an FBI agent, saying “Surveillance was maintained across the street from Ed Sanders’ apartment on a 24-hour basis, and the subject was reported to leave at one p.m. and take his car and drive it to some other place, and go to the grocery store and tarry and stay there for a full half -hour, and then walk back, by foot, carrying bags of groceries, stopping (off) around Avenue C on the way” – So, actually, it wasn’t paranoia. All the way from Washington, there were these filaments of electrical information going down to Ed (who was just a funny guy, actually, just sort of a comic writer in a way, (a) serious comic writer.
Screen shot 2012-02-08 at 9.48.12 AM
So, actually, the government had more mimeograph machines than we what it boiled down to, more telephones and more writers than we did, than the literary people did. There were more people at typewriters, more secretaries, more agents, more “activists”, than we (had) (and I think most of the activists were followed, and their work was checked on). Houses were robbed, forged letters were written to screw (things) up. Of Ed, the only.. (I haven’t seen his whole file), it was just this one little thing that really astounded me, because I thought he was such an innocent guy – Peace Eye bookstore in the Lower East Side, LEMAR [for Legalization of Marijuana], and Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts – and they actually had a whole corps of trained agents following him around.

Student: How much did they follow him?

AG: Well, I haven’t seen his whole file. It was just.. He had just shown me that one thing, because, actually, the reason that I was interested was (that) I (had) suggested that Ira Lowe get Ed’s papers, because I remembered, back in the early ‘Sixties, (that) there was a break-in into his house, and that’s illegal. And so that’s, like, a smoking pistol. And if that was FB  (or a local (red) squad), that it probably would be in the papers. And it’s probably been so long ago, that they would’t have covered it up, it’d be in his papers, it’d be in his files, and they probably wouldn’t have covered it up because the agents who did it probably moved on to some other Bureau, and when the slip of paper came in to get these files, it wouldn’t be anybody directly connected to the case. I don’t know what…

Student: Outside the statute of (limitations)…

AG: I don’t know what was turned up, actually. It was just that, since I told Ira Lowe, “why don’t you check that era?”, he pulled out this paper, saying, “Yes, it’s really true. He was being covered”. The government was really covering him at that time.
Well, what’s interesting was, what was Ed’s activity? It was really “Investigative Poetics”, in the sense of, in the dope area, he was checking the government. He was probing into government bureaucracies and making information (available) to the public through the medium of poetry or some literary magazine, or some freaked-out zap extravaganza-language-d manifestos. His style was Dada – Dada-ist, or old-fashioned American pamphleteer, Tom Paine, village crank, Petrashevsky Circle pre-Revolutionary Russian anarchist hidden with a basement mimeograph machine

One thing he kept noticing was that the government, the FBI, (President Richard) Nixon, (Attorney General John) Mitchell, and all the earlier FBI people, had read all these big books about the Russian Revolution, and took it very seriously when there was a group of three or four people with a mimeograph machine in their basement – because that’s how revolution’s really do begin! – you know, just a couple of guys with a mimeo machine and a funny idea, and you’ve got to watch them! –  otherwise they’ll grow, like a big cancer, and take over after a while.  So that was a paranoia of the government, dealing with the paranoia-critical sense of humor (that’s a phrase of Salvador Dali) – the paranoid-critical” style of humor, I guess, late Beatnik-style Sanders.

The point I’m making is that the poetic probing he did was sufficiently precise that it touched a nerve somewhere, and so, just as he was investigating the government, the government was investigating him. Not only investigating him, but manipulating (things), like, probably, breaking into his offices and turning files upside-down. So, through the ‘Sixties, he and I, and various of us, got more and more interested in investigating the government and illegal activities of the government, and that’s one aspect of what he means by “Investigative Poetry”, I think.

[to be continued]

[Audio for the above may be heard here beginning at approximately fourteen and three quarter minutes in, and continuing until approximately twenty-four-and-a-quarter-minutes in]

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *