started in 1986 to publish work from a group of poets generating tremendous heat at the Cafe Babar readings in San Francisco. It was originally a collective more than a traditionally structured press, which explains both the press strengths and weaknesses. All the way back to the late 1950s North Beach Coffee Gallery, there was a Thursday night open reading in San Francisco. This community spawned some incredible poets– Bob Kaufman, Richard Brautigan, Jack Micheline. Other top poets of the era passed through as well– Diane di Prima, Ginsberg first drafted Howl at a cubbyhole in North Beach, Jack Gilbert, Corso & Kerouac, Rexroth, Ferlinghetti, etc. The reading had died down, lost energy, by the mid-1980s when it moved to the Mission District in 1985. Bruce Isaacson and David Lerner, Julia Vinograd, Bana Witt, were the original partners in the 4 books that came out on Zeitgeist Press at the end of 1987. Lerner named the press and did publicity. Isaacson handled the business side, the mechanics, and acted as publisher. Both edited books by various authors, as did poets and others.
The future in Poetry may be in your lit class, right now, and just need a little nudge and understanding and open-minded guidance. Sometimes, you’ll see people treating poetry or lit like a joke, a leftover, a piebald child. But it’s important, what we’re doing, it’s the mission of Zeitgeist, it’s a beautiful child that has yet to reach its prime. And those new voices will make their own demands, cause their own raucous ruckus, get certain groups pissed off and turn the structure of things on its head. It’s going to be fun to watch, and it’s a reason to stay around, stay open, and keep an ear to the wind.
As David Lerner once wrote, the future of poetry is to do whatever the fuck it wants. Over the long haul, we don’t have to guide and direct it– it will guide and direct us. There’ll be more variety in medium, perhaps, in the future. Maybe today’s Dante, instead of writing about the circles of hell, will make a video game representation. Or maybe it’ll kick into the realm of politics, as America thickens into empire.
Poetry’s moving towards a more responsible, democratic representation of the human future, towards the divine average. We want a greater appreciation for the divinity in each of us. We’d like to see society overcome more of the base qualities of human nature, greed, jealousy, lying, rigid-thinking. Poetry can be key to that evolution, and will be. Lerner, referring to the zeitgeist, the spirit or genius of the times, used to say, the mission of poetry in the 21st century is to drive a cherry red Mercedes Benz into the heart of hell, and place a bet on God. Still today, that sounds just about right.
Please read the complete ZEITGEIST story here…