Paul Kahn collection of Bezoar materials
Collection formed by Paul Kahn of correspondence, manuscripts, broadsides, and ephemera related to the literary journals Bezoar and Alcheringa.
- Kahn, Paul, 1949- (Collector, Person)
Language of Materials
In English, with additional material in Dutch, French, and Spanish.
Conditions Governing Access
There are no restrictions on physical access to this material. Collection is open for research.
This collection is shelved offsite at the Harvard Depository. Retrieval requires advance notice. Readers should check with Houghton Public Services staff to determine what material is offsite and retrieval policies and times.
Extent3 linear feet (4 boxes)
Collection includes correspondence, manuscripts, typescripts, broadsides, and ephemera from the periods of production of the literary journals, Alcheringa and Bezoar, as well as later correspondence with people Paul Kahn knew. Correspondents include Fred Buck, William Corbett, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, Norman Fischer, Lyn Hejinian, Michael Palmer, Jerome Rothenberg, Leslie Scalapino, Ron Silliman, Gary Snyder, Eliot Weinberger, and Philip Whalen.
Biographical / Historical
Paul Kahn was editorial assistant at the literary journal ALCHERINGA and a founding editor at the journal BEZOAR. ALCHERINGA was a journal of ethno-poetics published (first by Stony Brook Poetics Foundation and then by Boston University) from 1970-1980; BEZOAR was published 1975-1981. Kahn conceives of this collection as consisting of three distinct time periods.
These materials represent Kahn’s first meeting with Gary Snyder, Allen Ginsberg, Robert Duncan, and Richard Grossinger, as an undergraduate at Gambier College (in 1971), and his friendship with John Moritz, bookstore owner and publisher of the magazine Tansy, and with poet and editor David Wilk (to whom Kahn was introduced Moritz and Grossinger) after Kahn’s move to Lawrence, Kansas, for graduate school.
Upon returning to the East Coast, his correspondence reflects new friendships with Ken Irby, Thorpe Feidt, Linda Parker, Robert Gibbons, and Fred Buck. During the fall of 1974, Kahn began auditing Dennis Tedlock’s ethnopoetic seminar at Boston University, a course he had learned about through his correspondence with Jerome Rothenberg. In the spring of 1975, Tedlock offered Kahn a full-time position as editorial assistant for Rothenberg and Tedlock’s publication, ALCHERINGA: ETHNOPOETICS a journal of tribal poetries, then based at Boston University. This experience, combined with the convergence of his friends (Buck, Kahn, Feidt/Parker, and Gibbons) in Gloucester, Massachusetts, led to a collaborative interest in initiating a new magazine. Kahn recalls that the name “Bezoar” was suggested by Linda Parker. Kahn remembers being “very impressed with the word’s etymological journey: Persian to Arabic to French to English. That a bezoar was an antidote for and a detector of poison was also attractive. I think we all felt there was plenty of poison around to be detected and defended against.”
These materials reflect Kahn’s continued work on ALCHERINGA (through 1977), including correspondence with many authors (such as, Ron Silliman and Lyn Hejinian) who would later be associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E; his contribution of reviews to Eliot Weinberger’s magazine, MONTAMORA; and the six years of BEZOAR’s existence, from its planning stages to its cessation. Correspondence also relates to Kahn’s own poetry and his adaptation of THE SECRET HISTORY OF THE MONGOLS (North Point Press, 1984), as well as poetry readings he organized in the Cambridge/Boston area. BEZOAR was planned in early 1975 as a 10-page folded-and-stapled magazine to be edited by four people: Paul Kahn, Fred Buck, Thorpe Feidt, and Robert Gibbons. Of the early years of BEZOAR, Kahn writes: “I remember the original plan was that each editor would select and produce an issue in turn. We would keep it small and inexpensive, easy to mail and available to anyone who requested to be on the mailing list. We put our mailing lists together and came up with about 300 names. I edited Volume One/Number 1. Fred edited Volume Two/Number 2. Robert Gibbons dropped out during the first round, insisting on publishing in large-poster format, which he renamed his effort Rose Supply. Thorpe edited Volume One/Number 4. Fred picked up a mimeo machine and stencils in the spring of 1976, to reduce costs when we didn’t have artwork that required offset printing. By that time, I had relocated [from Gloucester] to Arlington to reduce the commute. Stencils were typed using my IBM Executive electric typewriter; I inherited from one of my father’s business partners a machine that had variable width characters. Fred and I solicited work from many people and alternated putting issues together…. Fred knew many of the writers who attended Black Mountain College from his childhood and many contemporary British writers from his years at Cambridge University.
In 1975 I began a life-long friendship with James Koller when I invited him to give a reading sponsored by ALCHERINGA. We remained close friends through all the phases of our lives, in the United States and in Europe. Through Koller I met the Swiss-Italian poet/artist Franco Beltrametti, which led to contacts with several Italian poets.” In 1977, Kahn also began a voluminous correspondence with Montreal poet, Artie Gold, and a range of Canadian poets.
Three years into the publication of BEZOAR, Kahn and his family made a significant trip to northern California, where they met with numerous writers (including Michael McClure, Joanne Kyger, Duncan McNaughton, and Bobbie Louise Hawkins) whose letters are preserved in Kahn’s collection. During this visit, he also went to Tassajara, the San Francisco Zen Center's training monastery, to meet Philip Whalen, who introduced Kahn to the writer (and then-Zen student) Norman Fischer. The substantive correspondence with Fischer includes a typescript of Fischer’s book, SUCCESS, and a version of Kahn’s cover design for Fischer’s JERUSALEM MOONLIGHT. Buck and Kahn continued to edit, print, and distribute BEZOAR until the summer of 1981. He recalls: “We relied on donations from readers to cover our major expense, which was postage. The stamps ran out. We had published more than 80 issues over six years.”
These materials reflect Kahn’s continued correspondence with Franco Beltrametti, Karl Bruder, William Corbett, Stefan Hyner, Joanne Kyger, Norman Fischer, Gary Snyder, Roberto Tejada, and James Koller (the latter in conjunction with Koller’s Coyote’s Journal). These exchanges endured into the 1990s, when the correspondence migrated to email.
Main body of papers arranged alphabetically by correspondent.
Gift of Paul Kahn to the Woodberry Poetry Room, 2017.
Immediate Source of Acquisition
2018M-46. Gift of Paul Kahn, 2017 October.
Minimally processed by Melanie Wisner, 2017 November.
- Kahn, Paul, 1949-, collector. Paul Kahn collection of Bezoar materials, 1971-1995 (MS Am 3152): Guide.
- Houghton Library, Harvard University.
- 2017 November 13
- Description rules
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