This book offers the first collected works of the poetry of Piero Heliczer, an important underground poet, filmmaker, actor (Flaming Creatures), and musician (he was present in seminal jams which evolved into the Velvet Underground) and a small press publisher (Dead Language Press). Heliczer blends abstract or atmospheric images to create an almost religious notion of poetry and life. He was a crucial but obscure figure in the art underground of the Lower East Side 1960s.

Volume One of this two volume publication is a bibliography of The Dead Language Press and Piero Heliczer publications, including pamphlets, broadsides, broadsheets, and books. Volume Two features reproductions of a selection of Dead Language Press masterpieces. This two volume publication is produced on the occasion of the exhibition “Piero Heliczer & The Dead Language Press” curated by Jonas Mekas and Johan Kugelberg, to celebrate one of Jonas Mekas’ favorite unsung New York artists.

Piero Heliczer published You Could Hear the Snow Dripping and Falling into the Deers Mouth through his Dead Language imprint in 1958, when he lived in Paris. This beautiful letter press book (heavy yellow watermarked wraps with orange frottage on front cover, oatmeal colored paper) consists of six poems over 21 pages that are preceded by an ironic “avant propos”—a friendly note from Robert Graves admitting his inability to understand Heliczer’s poetry—and followed on the last page with a contact black and white print, by Beat Hotel photographer Harold Chapman, of Heliczer shirtless at his printing press. The six poems are “fuga xiii,” “ornithology for love cyclops,” “england,” “english girls,” “paris a scenario for a silent movie,” and “america.” This may be Heliczer’s first book, though another book, Girl Body, is listed inside the back cover as also available from Dead Language.

Returning to the U.S. from an extended stay in Europe, Piero Heliczer started printing and assembling Dead Language books—including neighbor Jack Smith’s The Beautiful Book—in his apartment on Ludlow Street in New York. The First Battle of the Marne, published in 1962, was the first, and possibly the last, book of Heliczer’s own poems to be published in the U.S. during his lifetime. The letter press book consists of six poems over 24 brown paper bag colored pages. A note on the poems by Anselm Hollo follows. The six poems are “poem number one,” “mantis,” “wm byrd,” “bird burgeoning sky,” “buckingham palace,” and “carillon booty.” On the front cover, the book’s title and a photograph of World War I German officers gathered around an automobile are surprinted in black against an art nouveau column of twisting leaves darker, redder, more orange than the pink card stock of the wraps. On the back cover, Heliczer’s full name and the photograph of the German officers are surprinted in the darker pink against the same art nouveau leaves, here printed in black. In other words, while presenting different verbal information against the same card stock, the front and back covers also reverse each other’s color values.

Angus MacLise was an American artist, poet, percussionist, and composer active in New York, San Francisco, Paris, London and Kathmandu from the 1950’s through the 1970’s. Best known as the original drummer of the Velvet Underground, MacLise’s lifework included music, calligraphy, performance art, poetry, drawings, plays, and limited edition artist’s books. MacLise was a collaborative partner in the early 1960’s with art groups and individuals such as Fluxus (George Maciunas, Yoko Ono), Theatre of the Ridiculous, and Jack Smith. As a poet, MacLise began publishing in partnership with high school friend Piero Heliczer in the late 1950’s, establishing the Dead Language Press in Paris, widely acknowledged as one a most significant small artist book presses of the 20th Century. Together with his wife, artist and underground press illustrator Hetty MacLise, he edited issue No. 9 of the magazine-in-a-box, Aspen, considered a hallmark of American publishing. While residing in Nepal, he formed the Bardo Matrix/Dreamweapon Press with Ira Cohen, issuing poetry in limited editions on handmade rice paper. The press published Paul Bowles, Charles Henri Ford, Gregory Corso and Diane Di Prima among others. MacLise also published his own works and edited the poetry magazine Ting Pa. On Summer Solstice 1979, MacLise died from hypoglycemia in Kathmandu, and was cremated in the fashion of Tibetan Buddhist funerary rites. A suitcase of Angus MacLise’s artwork, publications, and manuscript as well as more than 100 hours of recorded music was left with La Monte Young and Marian Zazeela for safe-keeping thirty years ago. This extraordinary time-vault is the foundation of the exhibition DREAMWEAPON, with additional materials drawn from private previously unseen collections and archives. The standard edition of the DREAMWEAPON exhibit catalog features texts by Lou Reed, La Monte Young, Ira Cohen, plus exhibit curators Johan Kugelberg and Will Swofford Cameron. This edition includes a laid in memorial letterpress broadside commemorating Ira Cohen, reprinting a 1976 ode to Cohen by Angus MacLise. The broadside printed by Jon Beacham/The Brother In Elysium Press.

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