East Side Bookstore

East Side Bookstore

34 St Marks Pl, New York, NY 10003

Bookstore Hangout

Along with Ed Sanders’s Peace Eye Bookstore, the East Side Bookstore on St. Mark’s Place was one of the key hubs of distribution for mimeo poetry zines.


The Mimeo Poetry Scene


In late 1966, a seventeen-year-old named Richard Meyers arrived in New York, enthralled by the scrappy writers whose work appeared in those poetry zines. “The street poets I liked wanted to have fun and be direct and uninhibited, and their whole thing was mimeo,” said Meyers, who later adopted the name Richard Hell and cofounded the early punk band Television. “It wasn’t just that they were simply done cheaply and spontaneously. You could conceive of a book in the morning and have it at the East Side Bookstore on St. Mark’s Place the next day.” He added, “The mimeo magazines were also gorgeous objects. The people who were making them had really advanced ideas and high personal standards for making a book as effective in every area, including its design. The font was a typewriter, but they had great illustrations.” This nearly instantaneous form of printing strengthened the connections that had already formed through face-to-face encounters on the street, and it anticipated a mode of publishing later enabled by the Internet. “There’s no question that mimeo was a community-building tool, but we weren’t thinking of it that way then,” Andrei Codrescu said. “We were thinking of the fact that we could actually publish our works quickly because, if you sent it to any other magazine, it would take about a year to publish it and we weren’t interested. The mimeos took one ink-stained day and three-hour street-corner distribution. Our poems were news and we had in mimeo the technology to make them news, but I’m not sure the Internet has the same kind of intimacy, even though it’s instant. It doesn’t have the touch of the flesh and ink on the hands.”

From Chapter 5 of The Downtown Pop Underground — order online, or from a local independent bookstore