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Change magazine

Background

Following his separation from Virginia Dionne Alder, 24 December 1962, Brautigan lived with poet and friend Ron Loewinsohn and his wife Joan Gatten for about three months. In January 1963, Brautigan and Loewinsohn decided to publish a literary magazine called Change (Peter Manso and Michael McClure 65).

Brautigan and Loewinshon were responding to a history of small literary magazines, mostly mimeographed, published in San Francisco during the previous years. The first issue of Beatitude was first published 9 May 1959 and featured Brautigan's poem "The Whorehouse at the Top of Mount Rainier".

Jack Spicer's J was first published in September 1959. Brautigan's poems "The Fever Monument," "The Fever Monument," were published in J No. 1. The poems "The Pumpkin Tide," "The Sidney Greenstreet Blues," and "Surprise" were published in J No. 4, November 1959. The poem "1942" published in J No. 5, December 1959.

Following Spicer's lead, Richard Duerden started two small literary magazines: Foot and Rivoli Review. The first issue of Foot, published in September 1959, included Brautigan's poems "A Postcard from Chinatown," "The Rape of Ophelia," "The Last Music is Not Heard" "Horse Race," and "The Nature Poem."

Other notable small literary magazines included Mythrander (only one issue; published by Tony Sherrod), Capitalist Bloodsucker-N (edited by George Stanley and Larry Fagin), and Horus (created by Stan Persky who put Fagin's name as editor on the magazine as a joke).

In his article, "After the (Mimeograph) Revolution" (TriQuarterly 18 Spring 1970: 221-236), Loewinsohn notes a sudden proliferation of "little magazines" published by San Francisco poets, and others.

It seemed like every poet in town had access to a mimeograph machine, & was using it to crank out his own little magazine, filling it with his own & his friends' poems & criticism, & either invidiously or good-naturedly putting down his "rivals." . . . There were [also] mimeo magazines coming out of Pocatello, Albuquerque, Vancouver, &, Toronto, to name only a few unlikely places.

The upshot of these magazines was, according to Loewinsohn, "abundance & speed."

Having them, we could see what we were doing, as it came, hot off the griddle. We could get instant response to what we'd written last week, & and we could respond instantly to what the guy across town or across the country had written last month. Further, many poets who didn't stand a Christian's chance against the lions of "proper" publication in university quarterlies or "big-time" magazines could get exposure & more importantly, encouragement &/or criticism. For all its excesses it was a healthy condition.

Thinking they could improve on previous small magazines, Brautigan suggested the name Change.

The front cover photograph for the first issue of Change, taken by Joan Gatten, wife of Ron Loewinsohn, showed Brautigan and Loewinsohn, dressed in black, looking like serious poets, standing in front of a billboard advertising "the fastest car on Earth."

The inside cover read:

Copyright 1963: CHANGE
All subscriptions, contributions, correspondence, etc., to the editors: Ron Loewinsohn & Richard Brautigan, at:
1056 Fourteenth Street
San Francisco 14,
California.

Brautigan and Loewinsohn planned for a 1 May 1963 launch date for the first issue of Change. During the months prior they collected contents, bought publication supplies, and sold subscriptions, twenty-four paid by April, including Don Carpenter, Frank Curtin, Diane Wakoski, James Broughton, a library at Harvard University, City Lights Books, and 8th Street Books in New York City.

Contents

Only one issue of Change was ever published. It consisted of mimeogaphed sheets (8.5" x 11") and featured the first publication of Brautigan's short story "Coffee." Other contents included work by Loewinsohn, Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger, and Richard Duerden. The poem by Duerden, "A Part-Sequence for Change," was interesting in that it attempted to ward off the "bad magic" Duerden felt coming from Jack Spicer and his followers (Ellingham and Killian 261).

Loewinsohn said the magazine lasted for only issue because of the difficulty working with Brautigan.

He wasn't reliable or stable . . . and if you criticized him he would clam up and wouldn't talk to you for six months, which is what happened. (Peter Manso and Michael McClure 65)

In his memoir, "My Brautigan: A Portrait from Memory" Don Carpenter, who often said he considered Brautigan his best friend, provides more details about Change.

Back then it seemed possible to take control of American literature by simply starting your own magazine, printing your friends, and letting the world come to you. City Lights bookstore was a tiny triangle of cramped space with Shigeyoshi (Shig) Murau at its center, behind the cash register. The front rack, under the window and to Shig's left, was littered with hopeful new poetry magazines, ranging in price from FREE to $10.00. Brautigan and his friend Ron Loewinsohn decided to add to this blizzard of literature.

CHANGE was the name of their magazine, a bold announcement of what was about to happen to the world of art and letters. CHANGE was mimeographed on cheap 8X10 paper. It was priced at one dollar per issue and four dollars for a year's subscription.

Brautigan and Loewinsohn met me at a cafe on the corner of Columbus and Pacific. The place was shabby and full of poets, all glowering at each other and themselves. We sat near the window and glowered out at the citizens passing by. Ron Loewinsohn was and is a small handsome man with snapping eyes and a bright laugh, a poet with ambitions.

To keep us from being thrown out, I ordered coffee and probably paid for it, too. After all, they were poets and editors, and I was only a part-time teacher. Over coffee they talked and I listened. Their magazine was ambitious—they would be printing in their first issue Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, and I don't remember who-all. It sounded pretty good to me, and I said so.

"That's just it," Richard said, looking at me fondly. "We would like to offer you the position of first subscriber."

I didn't know whether to be flattered or insulted. Had they combed North Beach and discovered that I was the only person they knew with four dollars? Maybe so, but I decided to be flattered.

"Thank you," I said, and forked over the money.

Some time later I got my copy of CHANGE, Volume One, Number One. As advertised, it was full of poets who have now, with the passage of more than twenty years, become famous as the centerpieces of the Beat. I still have my copy, tucked away in lightsafe storage. Volume One, Number One was, of course, the only issue of the magazine to appear.

There is more to life than editing other people's work, Brautigan and Loewinsohn must have decided. As for me, their only subscriber (it turned out), they owed me three dollars. At that time, three dollars was a hell of a lot of money, and I frankly never expected to see it again.

But no. These were honorable men. About three months after I had forgotten all about the whole thing, Richard came up to me on the street.

"Ah," he said, "I've been looking all over for you. Where have you been keeping yourself?"

I explained that I had a wife and family over in Noe Valley, and that domesticity and work kept me out of the Beach, often for days at a time.

Not hearing the sarcasm, Richard pulled out an envelope and handed it to me. "This is yours," he said. "Your refund from CHANGE."

I was very pleased. In the world of poetry, in the North Beach of then, money was a scarce item. This bit of businesslike honesty was endearing to me. I liked Brautigan better than ever.

The fact that the envelope contained three-cent stamps instead of cash was irrelevant. People can always use stamps.

READ the full text of this memoir.

Online Resource

Don Carpenter website

Iterations of Change

An iteration of Brautigan's magazine, called CHANGE was started in 2006 by John Barber. Only two issues were published (Spring 2006 and Fall 2006). Download these two issues of CHANGE as .pdf files, ready to read.

Front cover Issue 2—Fall 2006
Contributions by James Abercrombie, Robert Birch, Martin Crane, Jeff Foster, Christopher Turner, and Brian T. W. Way. Interview with Marc Chénetier.
  Front cover Issue 1—Spring 2006
Contributions by James Abercrombie, Larry Allen, Éric Dejaeger, Pierre Gauvin, Walter Franceschi, Denis Robillard, Eric Sherman, and Fred Wright. Interview with David Meltzer.