Omnibus Review by Peter Lamborn Wilson of Recent Publications from Shivastan Press of Woodstock and Kathmandu

(Note: all new titles are $10, except the two Louise Landes Levi translations are $15 each, and the Charles Henri Ford/ Indra Tamang book is $40. Please check for more information)

Omnibus Review of Recent Publications from Shivastan Press of Woodstock and Kathmandu
by Peter Lamborn Wilson

“Full disclosures” are all the rage nowadays, so I should immediately admit that Shivastan Press published one of my own favorite works, Atlantis Manifesto (2004). But why did I want to be published by Shivastan in the first place? Because I think it’s the coolest poetry press in the Hudson Valley, because I too am an “old India/Nepal hand” like so many Shivastanis, and because the books, printed in Kathmandu on Nepalese rice paper are beautifully crafted, are throwbacks to great designs of “my” period, the sixties. (One of them- I won’t say which- even has charas flowers pressed inside the rice paper.) And because of the exalted company, which includes Ira Cohen, Ed Sanders, Andy Clausen (with intro by Ginsberg), Janine Pommy Vega, Lawrence Ferlinghetti….

Shiv Mirabito, the Ganesh-lookalike proprietor of Shivastan, Woodstock’s resident saddhu, naturally publishes himself too. Recently he’s produced Transcendental Tyger (2004) which begins with his fine “Homage to Ganesh” the elephant god, and contains his rousing anti-war screed, “Real Men”. The illo’s include several charming Tantrik tigers Blake would’ve loved. Welcome to Freaksville (2nd ed., 2005) has a foreword by Ed Sanders and ends with the sharp devotional lines:

My fat body
and white ash
seem so different
but it’s all the same
A blackened skull
has no name

Poet/translater Louise Landes Levi contributes two books with spines to the list, both of them exemplars of her important on-going many-year project to save major French writers from undeserved obscurity in AngloAmericaland. Toward Totality (2006) by Henri Michaux contains selections from most of his poetry collections, charming photos of him as boy and man, facsimiles of original corrected manuscripts, and the lines:

The world is not round, not yet. No, we must make it round.
* * *
In a hundred years or so, I am sure, the world will be large. Finally, we will communicate with the animals, we will speak to them.
* * *
Will we soon bomb the angels?

Rene Daumal, author of Mount Analogue and A Night of Serious Drinking, should also be better known and respected as a Sanskritologist with great flair; and <i .Rasa, or Knowledge of The Self: Essays in Indian Aesthetics and Selected Sanskrit Studies (2nd ed., 2006) is–as far as I know–the sole accessible English translation of Daumal’s Indian essays. The only drawback is the small type, but that’s the price you pay for getting so much in one little book.

Laynie Browne’s Original Presence (2006) combines Ernstish and very clever collages with the laconic and mysterious story of Salt Girl:

I went to see the girl of salt
She gave herself to water…
She was dissolution
Will you seek her?

I read this work as Hermeticism, and I suspect the rabbi to whom it is dedicated of kabbalistic tendencies.

Pacing the Wind (2006) – a Taoist reference? – by Roberta Gould has no illo’s but a nice constructivist cover design. There seems to be something Taoistic in
Nothing happened
It didn’t achieve anything
But that feather did

Loosed from the bedding
It gloried around the house
All afternoon

Sainte Terre, or the White Stone (2006) by the prolific bard of Bard, Robert Kelly, is that rare bird, a successful long poem. The amount of erudition packed into this text paradoxically allows it a lyrical directness. Cuttyhunk Island, off Massachusetts, becomes Atlantis and perhaps the Isle of Prospero, a holy land where the Grail (the white stone) takes on various guises. Kelly’s recent work has been developing a strange alternate Christianity (“Christ was sly”) seen through a Hermetic lens (“Bruno, Paracelsus, della porta”).

only desire gets beyond the image
in the dark of possession, being taken,
locked inside the moment of

and it is dark. Electric lights began the reign of
* * *
The grail found is no grail at all- the heart’s
ease is in the seeking.

In Where is The Woman? Letters and Poems from California (2006) we have the mystical remains of Enid Dame, Jewish mythographer and cofounder of Home Plant News– the last dying words of this somehow already saint-like poet.

Because I am lonely in California
Because no one speaks my language
Because I don’t speak it either.

So she wrote from her hospital bed. Few deaths have inspired so much elegiac poetry, but this is Enid’s own self-carved tombeau:

My friends, I offer you this poem
in return for your prayers.

The biggest and deservedly most expensive of Shivastan’s 2006 crop is by the late (d. 2002) unjustly neglected unique home des letters and American surrealist Charles Henri Ford. Operation Minotaur is oversize and packed with witty and interesting photos by Ford’s Nepali friend Indra Tamang- but I wish Shiv (or whoever) had included captions. I recognize Ira Cohen, Raymond Foye, Grace Jones, Anne Waldman, Ginsberg and Patti Smith, Brooke Shields and Andy Warhol, the Dalai Lama, Burroughs, Julian Beck and Judith Malina- but other obviously famous faces (not to mention various charming-looking Nepalese people and gods) escape me. Ford’s haiku ought to be called “lo-ku”, since they’re all made of words and images clipped from advertisements and are quite funny:

The world’s running out of
Step forward and you’ll be asked

A highly collectable volume, and a perfect example of Shivastan’s high standards of taste and beauty–and fun.

(Note: all new titles are $10, except the two Louise Landes Levi translations are $15 each, and the Charles Henri Ford/ Indra Tamang book is $40. Please check for more information)

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About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = Previously: I co-founded and edited Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curated the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was somehow listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. From 2010 to 2021, I lived in rural wilderness in Joshua Tree, Ca.