Hakim Bey's BLACK FEZ MANIFESTO, &c., reviewed by Louise Landes Levi

by Hakim Bey
(Autonomedia & Garden of Delight, Brooklyn & Dublin, 2008)
Reviewed by Louise Landes Levi

“Come to Prayer – prayers are better than sleep” Dawn Azzah
“But the sleep of the Knowers is worth more than the prayers of the merely pious” Hadith

Most poets have secret arts and even ‘professions’ that are not part of the official biography. The author of the book I’m about to ‘review,’ to take an example, is (I have heard from a reliable source) an excellent billiards player. One wouldn’t want to encounter him casually at a pool table, no. For my part, those who know me well will, on occasion, show me their palm and ask for a reading. Apparently a line beneath my right index finger indicates a propensity of this sort, or so I was told in Bombay. And why not, a line is a line, a line of verse or a line stretched across the mortal palm.

Earth needs more parking lots
the way you need more patches of asphalt
grafted to your face & genitalia


Esoterically, the chakras open, it is said, intuition reads through the labyrinth (of lines). Is this so different than reading a text? And the billiard player—is his first thought best thought to be doubted? The archer and his arrow, the pool player and his cue. We take the cue from Hakim Bey, aka Peter Lamborn Wilson, a national treasure, hidden, of course, but thankfully through publications of this sort and the dedication of publishers Autonomedia and Garden of Delights, in view.

In the back room of an
occult bookstore
near the Pantheon a groupuscule called
bomb plot but
the infernal device turned out to b
a dud but regret
is at least an emotion. I was there
& I am still there
a ghost to myself.

Personally I never go anywhere without a book by Hakim Bey, in tow. How many blessed moments reading through T.A.Z.: The Temporary Autonomous Zone, Pirate Utopias (then and now, on Isla Margarita not far from Santa Anna, a small village settled by Spanish version of same, holy drop outs, some hundreds of years ago), Avant Gardening, Millennium, Shower of Stars: The Initiatic Dream in Sufism and Taoism, such an esoteric and beautifully written book; and the poems, recent chapbooks, rain queer and The Atlantis Manifesto and those found, almost by chance in an anthology, to name one among many, Wildflowers No. 7 (Shivastan, 2007) or the recently published translation from the Persian Il divan-al-Ghalib (Longhouse, 2009).

Civilization in ruin is always a good idea.
Industrial decay has the same
beauty as Persepolis – the melancholy
of vast suffering ended & barely
remembered, like dental pain.


HB’s verbal presentation of the poems is, to say the least, an art apart. Declamation, no, a lecture, in the style of the didactic, definitely not, a mild reading of verse to comfort and align the chakras and channels, no, tranquility seekers, go outside and stargaze. Hakim Bey (aka PLW) is a shaman, and he plays his drum and his role wherever and whenever he can.

Chamomile & melatonin
poppies & hot milk
milk with a skinskim
of yellowish cream

beneath a quilt stuffed with Indian grass
in a hammock of Indian Summer
with a pillow blessed by ibn Sereen
the Father of Islamic Oneiromancy on

an island of lotus esters
soporific with ebony halls of
silent black marble & moonlight
highlighting the limbs of Hermaphroditus

‘assumes the shape of an egg’
& performs the opposite of hatching

( fr. SOMNIUM)

He has, therefore, developed a unique reading style. It is everyone’s privilege, and especially the lovers of his poetry (and his mind) to listen to and to behold it.

Cloistered alone round the faded hearth
Sweeney thinks he remembers being
driven woodsqueer eating watercress & nettles
till he became a kind of green man
himself. The college bell rolls emptily
Tristan Tristen driven frantic with
love potion flees to the forest
filthy & naked. Was that me?
Surely the zoning code would
forbid it or rangers would soon come round
with citations for violating
protected wilderness. Surely by now
I’d be in therapy no longer bothered
by Isolde or the horrors of war.


Black Fez Manifesto is a collection of brilliant antidotes, an encyclopedia of esoterica so complex a conventional review cannot possibly cover the terrain. A film containing this broad range of imagery, symbol and historical allusion, would last a few days at least. PLW does not assert a new paradigm; he does not uncover concealed truths, or those, held by ‘tradition’ (i.e. secular or ‘spiritual’ authority) to be so. He is not constructing a religious metaphor and certainly not a cult, heaven forbid—even hell would forbid such an attempt (on his part).

The Enlightenment is a Good Ship Lollipop of which
we’re the ratites norvegicus scuttling
ashore in rain-light sighing sauve qui petu.
Our guru knew that Dr. Brink of Kingston
his enchanted forest now reduced to a few
tombstones in a suburban back yard backed
up to the exit ramp for route 202
will supply us with graveyard grisgris
quack-spagyric brews & slews of roots
& simples.

( fr. DR. BRINK 1754 – 1843 )

HB deconstructs world history and places it at our disposal. His deconstruction is, however, not ‘postmodern,’ there is too much esoteric knowledge, and indeed mastery, for us to simplify in this way. HB is not reducing knowledge.

The days are our slaves
We set up maquiladoras on the Moon
An albine Persian cat
Watch yr. fingers the Sun’s dog’s
Convorting with its little pal
Nicola Tesla.


He is putting it together as an entirely new script or anti-scripture (and not one which requires linear analysis, i.e. logical derivation). For, it is true, if we haven’t seen it until now—when will we?

People of the Future are reading us
now & envying our thenness
blighting our crops & wilting
our infants, gnashing their gaze
over our intimacy with species long extinct.


As those who have even casually read his work know, HB is concerned with the Neolithic, so it is to be expected that a great deal of botanical reference weaves its way through the signs and symbols of antiquity, as well as in the post-modern reminders of the decomposition we witness in the social, spiritual and economic ecology of the 21st century.

Invest yr. Bank of Hades billions
in the Imaginal Wall St. of money gone
to heaven. Sipping the
green wines of science fiction with
futures so neoplatonic you can smell them suddenly


For those who have followed the evolution of PLW, & his shadow HB, or the reverse if you prefer, Black Manifesto is another sign or signal, an almost ontological proof of the existence of our local (planet Earth/Solar System, Galaxy Milky Way) genius and friend, for remarkable warmth issues forth from the man, in verse or in person, considering the vast, almost unfathomable erudition he has cultivated in his brief visit to the human realm.

I was pouring over a manuscript of Tocharian B
The sweat of my pores in the dead
oasis of Turfian when suddenly the shilling
in my akashicomter ran out & I
snapped back on silvery umbilical to
the mere here.


For those not familiar with PLW, one might bring along (to one’s favorite café or reading site) a dictionary and an Encyclopedia Britannica, to more easily check citations and references. A glossary would be impossible as the book is a mere 100 pages.

Anarcho-monarchist direct action:
sit on throne facing auspicious direction
doing absolutely nothing.

The wind rose itself can make any
two bit oasis the Mecca
of wayfarers.

Magnetic storms confuse our sense
of direction with pollution across the whole
hermetic spectrum.

I‘ve lost you. You’ve forsaken
the ancient secret of crystal radio
for an alien wavelength

( fr. GHAZAL))

And getting back to Palm Reading, I say to my reader, one of the laws of the profession: never show your hand to someone who is NOT at your level. The reader will enter your secret domain and, the warning implies, if at a lower level, psychically or spiritually (and thus in intent) create havoc. The gloved hand is your protection. I, an acquaintance of the author, took months to write what you have read by this time, simply because of that rule. Forgive me reader, if I have been unworthy of the text and immediately read it yourself to see, one way or the other.
And if by chance you see a white haired gentleman, with a distant yet very warm look in his blue eyes, a nice beard, an altogether attractive ensemble, in the pool room, flee (while your weaknesses – as a player – are still unexposed) because you have met your match. If, on the other hand, your ignorance needs exposure, of a certain sort, greet the gentleman and when you have played your round read Black Fez Manifesto to see what was really going on in the billiard hall.

As emblem of our joint

Intransgient disgust with the lukewarm
Necromanric vacuum of dephlogisticated
corpse breath
That passes nowadays for Empire
& organic death


Louise Landes Levi
Pedro Gonzalez, Isla M.
12 April 2009 – 6 May 2009

w. a tip of the fez to Esther, Orlando & Gerri for kind shelter
& RF for the cue.

Louise Landes Levi is a traveler, scholar, poet & musician, following a long lineage of beings devoted to the road, to the book & to the equality of beings. University of California, Berkeley in the 1960’s. Member of Floating Lotus Magic Opera Company–then travels to Inda & long studies in Europe. Self-publisher (Il Bagatto Press) & published by friends & colleagues fr. 1982 onward. Translator of Henri Michaux, Rene Daumal & Mira Bai. More: http://www.mipoesias.com/Volume19Issue3Gudding/levi.html

Categories: BLOG | Tags: , , , | 3 Comments

About Jay Babcock

I am an independent writer and editor based in Tucson, Arizona. In 2023: I publish an email newsletter called LANDLINE = https://jaybabcock.substack.com 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.

3 thoughts on “Hakim Bey's BLACK FEZ MANIFESTO, &c., reviewed by Louise Landes Levi

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