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Stuart Z. Perkoff[edit]

Stuart Z. Perkoff (July 29, 1930 – June 24, 1974) was an American poet, painter, collage artist and a central figure of the Venice West early beat era. Perkoff's poetry was first published in the second issue of Cid Corman's Origin. In 1956 he published his first collection, The Suicide Room, in Jonathan Williams's influential Jargon Society. Perkoff was included in the seminal anthology of avante-garde poetry, The New American Poetry 1945-1960 edited by Donald Allen.

Stuart Perkoff was born in St. Louis, Missouri to a relatively liberal Jewish household and got his first glimpse of bohemia as a teenager roaming a crumbling industrial neighborhood along the riverfront (62, Maynard). He moved to New York City, New York in 1948 where he was jailed for having turned himself in as a draft dodger (63, Maynard). Upon his return to in 1949 Santa Barbara, California he met and married Suzan Blanchard. Stuart and Susan Perkoff lived for a time in New York City and San Francisco but eventually settled in Venice Beach, California. They had three children together; Sasha, Ben and Rachel.

In 1956, Perkoff began a friendship with Lawrence Lipton regularly attending the Liptons' living room gatherings of friends from Hollywood and the literary world at 20 Park Avenue. Saul White, Bruce Boyd, Maurice Lacy and Charlie Newman were among the poets, writers and artists that attended the Sunday open houses. In December of 1957, Perkoff read his poetry with Kenneth Rexroth at the West Coast Poetry and Jazz Festival. Two local bands that included Shorty Rogers, Fred Katz, Bud Shank and Buddy Collette accompanied the poets as they read. The following year the Perkoffs opened the "Venice West Café Expresso" just off the Promenade. Wallace Berman's line, Art is Love is God, was prominently inked on the east wall. The Perkoffs sold the café about a year later.

In the spring 1959, Perkoff began walking the Promenade in the early mornings with Tony Scibella and Frank Rios. The three poets would walk the Boardwalk, sit on the beach, write, draw, create collages, get high on cannibis and partake in a bottle of Tussar. This short, quiet, isolated and idyllic time together infused with spontaneity, inspiration and comradeship is immortalized in the poems of all three men. In April, Stuart Perkoff separated from his wife Suzan and began using heroin.

In June, Lawrence Lipton's The Holy Barbarians went on sale and quickly became one of America's go-to guide to all things beat, bohemian and beatnik. Perkoff is portrayed as Angel Dan Davies. Perkoff thought Lipton should have called it, Holy Horseshit, and asked that he not be included in any of the author's publicity stunts. In September, Life Magazine published "Squaresville USA vs Beatsville". The article was inspired by Lipton's The Holy Barbarians. Venice was soon inundated with hordes of tourists, reporters, photographers, thugs, and wannabes. Perkoff decided it was a good time to leave and go to San Francisco. He didn't stay long, however, returning to Venice that fall.

Concurrently, Playboy published Jack Kerouac's "The Origins of the Beat Generation." In September, Life Magazine published "Squaresville USA vs Beatsville". The article was inspired by Lipton's new book. Angel Dan Davies

Angel Dan Davies Tony Scibella


Holy Barbarians:

Death Bed Conversation:

L.A. Exile: A Guide To Los Angeles Writing 1932-1998 (Marsilio Publishers, 1999)

"Squaresville USA vs Beatsville" Life Magazine Sept. 21, 1959

"The Origins of the Beat Generation" in Playboy (June 1959):

Yugen 7 Totem Press, New York 1961

Eat the Earth Publisher: Black Ace, Denver, CO 1971

Kowboy Poems: The Croupier Press, Golden, CO. 1973.

Alphabet The Red Hill Press, Los Angeles / Fairfax, CA. 1973.

Love is the Silence: Poems 1948-1974 Publisher: Red Hill Press, Los Angeles Publication Date: 1975

HOW IT IS, DOING WHAT I DO. Poems and Drawings. (Published as Bowery 21): Black Ace, Denver, CO 1976

Visions for the Tribe: Black Ace, Denver, CO 1976

As one of the poets of the Beat era, Perkoff's books included: Suicide Room (1956), Eat the Earth (1971), Kowboy Pomes (1973), and Alphabet (1973); was arrested on a drug charge in 1968 and released from prison in 1971; after trying to establish a bookstore in Northern California, he returned to Venice in 1973; died of cancer in 1974. [1]


VOICES OF THE LADY COLLECTED POEMS by Stuart Z. Perkoff p/b 474 pps b/w photo cover ISBN: 0-943373-48-4 (paper)

Published by: The National Poetry Foundation

From the NPF page "This volume brings together for the first time one of the great lost masterworks of twentieth-century American poetry. Stuart Z. Perkoff was the archetypal Beat poet, the central figure in the Venice West branch of this movement, where he lived within a maelstrom of jazz, sex, and drugs, and where he died in 1974, at age 43. In common with poets like Pound, Olson, Blackburn, and Creeley, Perkoff saw everything that he wrote as part of a continuous poem. From time to time he published bits and pieces of this endless poem, in magazines and in a few small collections. But he was too busy living—and then too busy dying—to bring his work together into a substantial collection. Now Gerald T. Perkoff has brought together a full collection of his brother’s work, in a book revealing that Stuart Z. Perkoff was a great poet not only in his capacity to describe his own tragic life-history, but also in his affirmation of the bonds that draw human beings together, and in his deeply religious sense that human life is a dialogue with—in the words of his last poem, found written on the wall of the room in which he died—“he who must remain unnamed.”" University of Maine, Orono, Maine 04469

see letter to Stuart from Charles Olson: [2]

The Suicide Room . Poems by Stuart Z. Perkoff. Drawing by Fielding Dawson. Photograph by Chester Kessler. (1956; edition of 200; 25 hardcover, signed & numbered)

Books: Love is the Silence Poems 1948-1974 edited by Paul Vangelisti Red Hill Press Los Angeles and Fairfax 1975


[1] <ref> Venice West, The Beat Generation in Southern California (Rutgers University, 1991) John Arthur Maynard <ref> Beat Culture Lifestyles, Icons, and Impact (ABC-CLIO, 2005) William T. Lawlor

The Holy Three:

Voices Review

The Holy Barbarians... "There was considerable anti-Lipton sentiment among his young poets. Perkoff, who was actually a good poet, referred to Lipton's book as "Holy Horseshit."<>



  1. ^ [2]