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  • Writer's pictureSteven Heller

Tuli Kupferberg’s Real Fake Real News

In the early 1960s the emerging counterculture spawned by the Beats in New York City’s East Village began publishing a slew of what soon became known as “undergrounds.” Many of these cheaply printed publications followed in the Dada and Samizdat traditions. Some were known for raking the muck the mainstream media refused to print while others published real fake news that, paradoxically, turned out to be fake real news.

YEAH magazine was originally published between 1961 and 1965 by Tuli Kupferberg (a founding member, with Ed Sanders, of the satiric rock band The Fugs) and Sylvia Topp’s Birth Press. Kupferberg, who created a few self-publishing ventures, called this “a satyric excursion; a sardonic review; a sarcastic epitome; a chronicle of the last days.” Like Paul Krassner‘s The Realist, YEAH threaded “the needle of leftist politics with the sarcasm and sharp creative wit for which he became known.”

Now Primary Information, a nonprofit devoted to publishing artists’ books and artists’ writings, has reprinted YEAH‘s 10 ragtag issues. Although it contains no commentary, it is a welcome addition to the growing publishing literature of the era.

Kupferberg and fellow East Village denizens contributed poetry, drawings and collages that protested nuclear war, racism, white supremacy, and the conservative, middle-class values that had become the hallmark of 1950s America. By issue 8, Kupferberg dispensed with contributors, choosing instead to feature only his own work. These later issues are very post-dada/pre-punk, with collages of images, illustrations, and articles appropriated from magazines and newspapers. Depressingly, most of the concerns of the 1960s continue to plague us today.

From the website: “Several of the issues were published with bonus features. Issues 7 and 9 include small YEAH EXTRAs devoted to police dogs and satire, respectively. Others include Birth Press ephemera and loose-leaf flyers, such as the infamous ‘Fuck for Peace’ poster in both issues 8 and 10. Similarly, issue 4 contains a second smaller magazine called Kill Magazine stapled into the spine. This insert provides a bracing parody of the white American male belief system and is ‘dedicated to the annihilation of the enemies of the white people.’ Throughout the magazine’s run, Kupferberg addressed the absurd and grotesque voice of the oppressor (‘Colbert Report,’ anyone?) in an attempt to deflate and undermine the racist, sexist and anti-communist views that dominated the American perspective of the time, a period in which the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act had yet to be passed into law.”

Kupferberg was known for his beat and anarchist-influenced magazines and pamphlets, including Birth and Swing. His work was included in several hundred magazines and books.


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