Incomplete Requiem for W. C. Fields

Al Hansen

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Though the title indicates an “incomplete” piece, this pamphlet presents the complete poem originally performed by Hansen in New York in 1958, at the intersection of the “backwash from the San Francisco Poetry Revolution” and the dawn of Happenings. Hansen read the poem aloud while a hand-spliced assemblage of W.C. Fields’ films was projected onto his chest. The pamphlet’s introduction, written by Hansen in 1966, consists of recollections of the New York art and poetry scenes from the time of the original performance.

Originally published by Something Else Press between 1965 and 1967, the Great Bear Pamphlet series was envisioned by founding editor Dick Higgins as a “poor man’s keys to the new art,” or a means of exposing the most vital work of the time to a mass-market audience, and vice versa. The series made uncompromisingly radical work maximally accessible, with slim, chapbook-like publications of a mostly uniform, pared down design. Taken together, the pamphlets constitute a firsthand survey of the sixties avant-garde (Higgins, Barbara Moore, and Emmett Williams all had a hand in the editorial process) that is both sweeping and utterly unique, transmitting a still-vibrant signal of expanded possibility in art, music, and poetry. Presented here in a facsimile edition, the Great Bears epitomize the utopian vision of Higgins and Something Else.

5 x 8 inches
16 pages
Paperback
B&W
Open edition
December 2007