Jack Magazine, which began two years ago in June, 2000, is now in its fifth issue. I remember Jack's inception perfectly. I had designed, maintained, and written dozens of articles, reviews, and bios for Beat Generation News. A guy named Michael Rothenberg, of Big Bridge, found my site and wrote to me about a book he had written called Punk Rockwell; he wanted to know if it were "beat" enough for me to review at BGN. I read the book and liked it quite a lot. I thought it was incredibly well-written and kind of dreamy. There were some things going on in the book that I didn't even get until the second reading; it was like a movie that has many layers, and there was a lot of poetry going on in the book. I thought, sure I will review this. I love it. It doesn't fit into a Beat News site, but then again, by that time, I was tired of the pigeon-holing. I had begun BGN as a hobby, in order to focus on a literary period that has had a lot of cultural, political, and ecological extensions. Anyway, I did review Punk Rockwell, and thus began a lot of discussion with Michael about wanting to do something new that would get out of one literary period and onto what's happening today that springs from the beats. Michael had a lot of connections in the beat world, was good friends with people like Michael McClure, Philip Whalen, and Joanne Kyger, as well as people I'd start to get to know some, through their art or poetry, such as Ira Cohen and Jack Collom. This world opened up, and so we started Jack. I remember once McClure said something like, "now you know Jack," as opposed to "I don't know jack."
My friend Mike coined the name of the magazine, although now I don't remember why. I think it had something to do with the fact that "jack" can mean so many things. Jack of all trades, jack in the box, jack-ass, jack be nimble/jack be quick, jack around, jack off, Jack Kerouac, etc.
Now, two years later, I am admittedly burned out on doing Web work. I've Webmastered Big Bridge, Jack, Beat Generation News, and smaller pieces such as Michael's Language of War and Peace as well as the 2001 Euro-San Francisco Poetry special hosted on Michael's site. Surely but slowly, I found myself with no time to myself. Mine and Michael's work for each other, and for others, has always been volunteer--sometimes with mutual benefits coming our way. I'd do Michael's site, and in turn he'd encourage his poetry peers to submit to Jack. Unlike many who find themselves into this line of work, however, I was struggling to make ends meet here in southern California. I have also always worked full time, too. It just got to the point I needed to cut back the amount of stuff I was doing. Believe me, I'd much rather go to Bolinas.
So in the past few months, Michael and I agreed to not go our separate ways, but to be more independent of each other, at least with Jack and Big Bridge. I also put BGN on hold, for the most part, and update only once every few months. We decided that if I kept Jack going after this issue, I'd have to be more involved with knowing people and soliciting work. Also, he would find someone else to do the Web work for Big Bridge.
Good things have come out of our work together, including wonderful features at Big Bridge about Ira Cohen and Robert La Vigne. I spent hours working with both to put up their artistic "cyberspectives." Also, with the help of Michael, and one thing I'm proud of most at Jack, is the Gregory Corso feature from a couple issues back--a reprinting of a chapbook that Corso wrote in Nepal during the 1970s. When Corso died, there was a wave of sadness in the poetry community. That is well-preserved here on Jack with all the devotions that came pouring in.
Going forward, as I try to be more energetic in things I do with my life as opposed to things that might take hours on end here at the computer, I am not sure if this is a magazine that will flourish as we'd originally hoped. The readership is still high, but it's very hard to get the kind of material that Jack's about. We get plenty of poems, plenty of fiction material, and then scrounge around for features as well as articles to fit the Renaissance, Eco-Watch, Political, Road, and Path sections. What does this tell me? To change the layout of Jack? Perhaps that is a future goal. As it stands now, Jack's current issue was several months late, due to just not receiving the kinds of articles and essays I'd hoped. I didn't want to put up a half-full magazine, but this one's a year in coming.
I encourage people who are interested in this magazine to give me some feedback and submit essays. The poetry is always amazing. And so is the fiction. I'd like to see new names, new faces, new ideas. I want to see us contemplate the world today, since there is nothing dull here, and write about it. Honoring the beats and those who were influenced by them is okay with me, but, and maybe without being quite as eloquent as the editorials in the past, this magazine is not about the 1950s. It's about now, about what has become, what is happening, and what has evolved.
Afternote: As this issue was in preview for its contributors, Philip Whalen passed away. I haven't been able to write anything coherent yet, as a tribute, but I will. Whalen's poetry kept me occupied much of last summer, down at the beach, and to be sure, he was a quiet but loud force in the poetry movement that shook up the beats and Zen poets. He always has been on my mind, during this past year especially when he was quite ill and at a hospice. Though I never met him personally, I was able to get quite a few stories about him that made me giggle and smile.
Also, on that note, hasn't it been odd with the deaths of many during the past year or two: Gregory Corso, John Weiners, John Thomas, Ken Kesey--not to mention a Who member and a Beatles member: John Entwistle and George Harrison. It's as if a road is being run over.
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