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A Radically Coherent excerpt: BOMB HANOI

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David Antin, champion of avant-garde sensibility, performance poet, critic, and peerless conversationalist was once David Antin, small press magazine editor. As an excerpt—from Antin’s Radical Coherency: Selected Essays on Art and Literature, 1966 to 2005—recently published by Design Observer recalls, Antin’s days editing some/thing with his friend Jerome Rothenberg were not without their difficulties.
Without giving everything away, we’ll quickly make mention that the excerpt is taken from the book’s Introduction, in which Antin charts his course from linguistics doctoral student to critic of art and literature. Along the way he encounters a cast of characters that reads like a Who’s Who of twentieth-century cultural life: Alex Katz, Andy Warhol, Frank Stella, John Ashbery, LeRoi Jones, John Baldessari, Frank O’Hara, Stan Brakhage, Allen Ginsberg, and paintings by Klee, Kandinsky, and Kirchner, among others. Zoning in on one particular episode that featured Andy Warhol designing the cover of some/thing‘s Vietnam issue, Antin remembered:

When I went to see Andy I showed him our previous issues and told him about the Vietnam issue we were planning, he said, “Great!” What he’d really like to do was a Vietcong flag. But I said, “What we’d like you to do is take a prowar slogan like ‘BOMB HANOI!’ put it on the cover as a button, and fuck it up any way you like.” So Andy said, “Great!” and I thought it was settled. But over the next two weeks I ran into Gerard Malanga twice in the Eighth Street Bookshop, and he told me Andy would really like to do a Vietcong flag. Finally I said, “Look Gerard, I don’t know too much about the Vietcong, and neither do you or Andy. But what we do know about are the American warmongers. So what I want is for Andy to take one of their idiot slogans and fuck it up any way he likes for our cover. That way any member of the American Legion could pick up a copy on a news stand and maybe read it.” Andy finally did it with the image of the BOMB HANOI button repeated over and over gain on a cover that functioned as a page of grungy looking stamps you could tear apart along the perforations and if you felt like it glue on a wall. When I gave Allen Ginsberg his copy, Allen’s jaw dropped and he said “What’s this?” Then he turned it over, saw his name on the back and said, “It’s all right, I’m in it.”

some/thing Vol. 2, No.1, Winter 1966
(image and caption courtesy of David Antin)

“The cover Warhol finally approved for the Bomb Hanoi issue. The cover was a sheet of real glue-backed stamps, made convenient for tearing out and pasting on telephone poles or subway walls by real perforations. It carried the deteriorated pro-war image Warhol was trying to show in all its pro-war shabbiness. It rhymed with the collage of war-promoting propaganda of the American and South Vietnamese Generals and the ‘Best and the Brightest’—the Rusks, the McNamaras, the Rostows and the still servile American press that surrounded a hapless LBJ in which we embedded the poetry and prose of the American avant garde.”

For additional images from some/thing‘s Vietnam issue, including the cover’s first take and the issue’s table of contents, visit the Observatory archive at Design Observer; for more information on Radical Coherency, visit the book’s UCP page here.