Thursday, February 23, 2006

Ducmanhaha, Vo. 1, No. 2

Happy Valentine's Day, Happy Bern Porter Birthday, to all!!
More soon,
Sheila Holtz
18 Benner Road
Royersford, PA

Tuesday, January 24, 2006


DUCMANHAHA, Vol. 1, No. 1, January 2006 has made its debut with the turning of the calendar year. In response to its masthead which reads: This periodical is published monthly with the artisitc, moral and financial support of Nguyen Ducmanh under the auspices of the Bern Porter Institute of Advanced Thinking. Contact: Sheila Holtz, 18 Benner Road, Royersford, PA 19468, nducmanh @ aol. com wrote:

Cara Sheila,
I am pleased with the format layout design and only the breadth to perpetuate the creativity of human spirit and the vision of B. Porter but I am not the voice nor direction for its political, religions and moral of the editorial contents; this gazette is for free speech for whom has something to express. "The mysteries of life is in the art," Oscar Wilde said, therefore I learnt after doing art for over 50 years that I only can change myself. Take care, x. Duke

In response, holtzholtzholtz @ yahoo. com wrote

Dear Duke:
Thank you for your insightful comments and your unflagging support of editorial freedom and the First Amendment. You are a mensch. Of course the moral support to which I referred in the masthead of Vol. 1, No. 1 was and is merely my knowledge that somewhere, someone is backing me up with a proverbial "You Go, Girl." That means alot to me. It is what enables me to go on. That, and perhaps the great words of Zen Master Ryokan (1758-1831) who offered this encouragement to a fellow poet:

not for a moment
must you think our voices die
leaving no traces;
truly more that what they are,
our words are equal to our hearts.

Vol.1 No 2 begins to take form in my mind as a compendium of love poems, beginning with Robert Burns, working up to Shakespeare, rounding the bend with the Surrealists, and, finally, culminating with US (you and me). Of course, February 14 being both Bern Porter's birthday AND Valentine's Day, adds to the auspiciousness of the issue.

The heart has its reasons reason cannot know,

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The First Annual Belfast Poetry Festival, October 7, 8 & 9, 2005

by Sheila Holtz

The First Annual Belfast Poetry Festival got off to a rousing start Friday Night, October 7, at the Hutchinson Center. Of special note to Bern Porter aficionados was the display of a selection of artworks from the Bern Porter International Memorial Mail Art Show, which remained hanging at The Hutchinson Center for the duration of the three-day event.

After many thanks and self-congratulatory remarks (well-deserved!) by the organizers (“Festivo” and its steering committee) we heard poems by three readers. The first was Maine’s poet laureate, Baron Wormser. He read from older and newer works, including his most recent book, Carthage. “Carthage” is, as he said, “a fictional character, a president of the United States.” It is a timely, scathingly funny work and was very well received.

The second reader, Matthew Thorburn, selected as the winner of “The Festivo Prize,” read his winning poem, “Loneliness in Jersey City,” named after the Wallace Stephens poem of the same title.

The third and final featured reader was 1990 Pulitzer prize winner, the Yugoslavian poet, Charles Simic. As I told a friend later, “He is really good … in a bleak, existential way.” Don’t get me wrong, I love bleak existential poets. In fact, the bleaker, the better. And Europeans, in my opinion, have mastered the art of bleakness in a way that Americans never will. Yet, along with that, his poems expressed tenderness and an appreciation of the broad range of human experience that only such mature and worldly writers can convey.

Saturday, the Festival continued during the day with a workshop, and numerous other readers in the Hutchinson Center auditorium, as well as on-going displays featuring local Maine publishers, booksellers and literary organizations. I myself missed these events, but I did have the good fortune to catch the Open Mic and featured poet Robert Duffy that evening at the “Dreamland” cinema in the downtown Colonial Theatre. This event also included a delightful and heartfelt rendering of a selection from Allen Ginsberg’s monumental ouvre, HOWL, presented by Weslea Sidon. Another highlight was Mayor Mike Hurley’s naming of Belfast’s new “Poet Laureate,” Elizabeth Garber. She succeeds Bob Ryan in that position, and also, of course, succeeds Belfast’s first poet laureate— a position instituted by executive proclamation … and under much pressure from the recipient—Bern Porter!

Sunday afternoon, the three-day event culminated with a “Poetry Walk.” Ten downtown galleries hosted readings wherein twenty selected poets, collaborated thematically with twenty selected visual artists. Both the pictures and the words were displayed on the walls, and the poets read to packed rooms, despite three days of almost continual downpour! I was impressed by the turnout! I had the opportunity to attend three of the Poetry Walk events, all excellent and inspiring.

The First Annual Belfast Poetry Festival—whatta DO! As Bern always used to say, “You’re in Belfast now, Dear! Nothing but big time operations!!”

Tuesday, September 27, 2005


(Message to Ruud Janssen)

Yes. As a member of the "older [mailart] generation"
I do feel that I have been "left in the dust," but
then there is a certain crusty, curmugeonly, Luddite
pride as I say that.

Still, somehow I have managed to acquire a Blogspot
account... which happened almost by accident in
wanting to communicate with YOU!

I agree with Planet Dada that there is nothing like
getting "something tactile in the mail." But I
disagree that email is "cheaper and less time
consuming." Is a $1000.00 computer system cheaper
than a 37 cent stamp? And what about the time it takes
to master the technology? There are those of us still
on the lower end of the class and economic spectrum
who cannot afford our own computers OR the monthly
internet bill for private hookup and are consigned to
public libraries with crowds and bright lights and
waiting lists and time limits. Not exactly conducive
to creative process.

On the other hand I love to cut and paste by
candlelight with atmospheric music in a private alcove
in my room in the middle of the night.

Still.... as the gray hairs continue to sprout... mail
art does take up time. Time that I may not be quite
as willing to spend, now, as I sit and contemplate
human mortality and the ephemeral nature of corporeal

Well. Keep smiling, y'all.

PS Ruud: How does one become a member of IUOMA?
Please email me at

And you are doing a terrific job. Thanks.


Posted by sheilaholtz to IUOMA - Ruud Janssen - TAM at
9/22/2005 03:53:52 AM

Thursday, June 23, 2005

What, I Say, What IS Mail Art?

today, June 15, 2005.

Contributors from all over the globe have offered homage to "The Granddaddy of Mail Art," Belfast’s own, the renowned Bern Porter. Curated by Jacob R. Fricke, Editor of the newsletter, BERN PORTER INTERNATIONAL, the exhibit may be viewed during in the Library’s lower lobby through June 30th . And yes, children and savages are welcome (although pets are prohibited, with the exception of seeing-eye dogs and handicapped-assisting primates.)

It has been termed "The Eternal Network," "The D.Y.I. [Do It Yourself] Revolution," and, along with alternative journals called ‘Zines, "Networked Arts." But, ever since Ray Johnson founded the "New York Correspondence School" in 1962, "Mail Art" has defied definition… and… has nearly eluded description.

Nevertheless, at a Mail Art / ‘Zine retrospective exhibit in April, 2005, at The Design Center of Philadelphia University, I read this statement by curators Sean Carton and Gareth Branwyn. They describe Mail Art and ‘Zine culture:

"[Mail Art] and ‘Zine culture [have] always been about more than [disseminating] "sidestream" ideas. [They] have been about building networks of individuals. In the days before the Web, these networks were often invisible to the mainstream. Instead, they were tenuously connected webs of like-minded people joined through existing power structures such as the mail, the telephone, the fax machine. The do-it-yourself aesthetic of taking control of media for one’s own artistic and expressionistic purposes existed outside the mainstream."

In short, Mail Art was–and is—about subverting the dominant paradigm, about taking control of the means of production and dissemination of the Image and the Word in order to overturn the established aesthetic, undermine the prevailing social norms, and destabilize existing political structures. Mail Art creates an underground network, an alternative global community. To what end?

Continuing, Carton and Branwyn describe the historical context of such activity:
The history of ‘zines proceeds in a convoluted line that encompasses just about every cultural and artistic revolution over the past half-millennium. Martin Luther’s self-published 95 Theses jump started the Reformation in Europe during the 16th century. Benjamin Franklin’s broadsheets of the 18th century American Revolution helped win the propaganda war against the British. Russian samizdat (literally "self publishers") underground newspapers and books kept the voices of resistance alive in Soviet Russia. Dadaist diatribes of the post-WWI era, French Situationist art happenings, and Beat poetry chapbooks of the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance in the 1950s helped promote and solidify the avant garde in the United States and Europe. Underground comics and publications of the ‘60s anti-war movement in the United States publicized the cause and changed public opinion during a very turbulent time. They offered an alternative to the mainstream news media that, for a long time, ignored the groundswell of popular opposition to the Vietnam War. Punk flyers distributed on lampposts and city walls in the late ‘70’s and early ‘80s in the UK and US, and ‘zines documenting underground shows and events, were integral to the creation of a new musical and cultural form. On through the late 1990s self-published and printed materials were a vital element of the literary, musical, cultural, and artistic avant garde.

"In the early ‘60s, American artist Ray Johnson was looking for a way to break out of the traditional arts power structures of galleries and critics. He turned to the mail as a way of distributing art to other artists. Johnson founded the New York Correspondence School in 1962 as a way of promoting "mail art," and saw it grow into a vital and comprehensive network of people who sent and received art in the mail. The phenomenon of mail art grew rapidly and gained some acceptance in the art world. The Whitney allowed Johnson and Marcia Tucker to put on a mail art show in 1970, and groups such as Fluxus and the French New Realists grew out of the movement.

"The mail art movement, with its emphasis on networks, jamming the postal system, and subverting power structures in the name of art shares commonalities with ‘zine culture, overlapping in many places. These forms of early-networked media arose out of a need for people to find ways to work around commercial media, a media that was often at odds with the expression of outsider ideas. And while ‘zines and mail art concentrated on printed material, other arts utilizing other forms found ways of stepping outside traditional media distribution networks. Musicians turned to cassettes and 45 records to self publish and distribute their music to those within their scenes, while labels such as Dischord in Washington DC and BOMP! Records in California, were published on shoestring budgets by punks for other punks. In many cases mail art merged with cassette culture when musicians with small audiences handcrafted packaging to ship their recordings to their fans."

The words and images themselves, as produced and distributed by Mail Artists worldwide, often combine aesthetic and political messages. Often, however, the Mail Art Network has provided a venue for the truly idiosyncratic vision. In this sense, it was—as the "Web" has become in recent years—an entirely "democratic" medium. Unlike the established gallery system, it did not, and does not, discriminate on the basis of degrees, credentials, connections, resources, or—even—talent! "NO JURY, NO FEES, DOCUMENTATION TO ALL PARTICIPANTS" was and is the standard banner on calls for entries to Mail Art shows in the ‘70s,’80s, ‘90’s and ‘00s.

Bern Porter’s vision was aesthetic, political, AND idiosyncratic. His "found art" ethos was widely accepted, adopted and adapted in the Network. Never prone to modesty, Bern often claimed, "I invented Mail Art when I was four years old in Houlton, Maine." Like most of Bern’s statements about his artistic activity and personal history, there probably is a kernel of truth amid generous helpings of braggadocio and shameless self-promotion.

But, without a doubt, in the world of Mail Art, Bern Porter was very widely known—often mentioned in the same breath with Ray Johnson himself. Those who place the descriptor "Mail Art Legend" before the name "Bern Porter" are, to my mind, both accurate and appropriate.
This exhibit pays homage to the "Legend" here in his long-time home, Belfast, Maine. Though some might take exception, I can state unequivocally: Bern LOVED Belfast. And, as I have often said, "Bern IS Belfast."

Bern was always telling me, and many others, "You’re in BELFAST, now, DEAR!" …after which he almost always added, "And if you don’t like it in Belfast, You can always go to EAST Belfast!"
But seriously… Many folks in Belfast may not realize the degree to which Bern Porter, by means of his Mail Art activities, put Belfast, Maine, on the global map. I myself came here in 1995—ALL THE WAY from Philadelphia, PA(!)—because of Bern and because of Mail Art. Both have had a life-transforming impact on ME. I think, if one would ask around the world, one might find many others who would say the same. The works presented in the exhibit are evidence of that.

Sheila Holtz
June 15, 2005

…on the occasion of the opening of "R.I.P., DEAR: TO THE GRANDDADDY OF MAIL ART—A Bern Porter Commemorative Exhibit" at the Belfast Public Library June 15 through June 30, 2005, curated by Jacob R. Fricke, Editor, BERN PORTER INTERNATIONAL

Thursday, June 16, 2005


Stay tuned and find out as we attempt to define the undefinable, pin down the impenetrable and masticate the unmentionable. Coming soon to this blogpost.

Friday, June 10, 2005

R.I.P., Dear!

The Bern Porter memorial mail art show is finally here! Behold the press release!

The editorial staff of Bern Porter International, a local newsletter of worldwide fame, have assembled a memorial art show in honor of the late BERN PORTER, government scientist, research physicist, Belfast presence, poet, publisher, and artist. The show, "R.I.P., Dear: A Mail Art Tribute to Bern Porter", was announced as an international call for submissions late last fall. The results, truly, are all over the map! Pieces of bona fide and ex tempore MAIL ART, sent in tribute by through-the-mails artists all over the world, will be on display in the lobby of the Belfast Free Library from Wednesday, June 15th to Thursday, June 30th. Come and commemorate with Eye and with Brain — during regular library hours. Come find the founds that have found their way. Children and savages welcome.