Before Charles Olson left Buffalo in the fall of 1965, he had proposed founding an Institute along the lines of the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies, with which he’d been connected through Black Mountain College. Al Cook, then Chair of the English Department at SUNY Buffalo, was unsuccessful in getting the University to support the project, so John Clarke, Fred Wah, Albert Glover, and George Butterick decided to go ahead on their own and start The Institute of Further Studies.
They immediately began publishing The Magazine of Further Studies, the first issue of which appeared in the fall of 1965. Between 1965 and 1969 IFS published 6 issues. “I think it was Glover’s IBM Selectric we used,” Fred Wah writes. “And we got a big roll of corrugated stuff for covers . . . and us and our wives wld set up in one of our basements and cut covers and paint chicken blood (George wanted the thing to decay in the readers’ hands) and glue fur.” Al Glover describes the first issue as “awkward” beside the professionalism of Harvey Brtown’s Niagara Frontier Review: “this homemade thing that did put most people off. The lucky part was that Charles (and then Robert Duncan shortly) were interested in finding a means of production outside the establishment, even the ‘small press’ one.” Olson joins the conversation in the second issue, Duncan in the sixth. Butterick’s desire for decay emphasized the projective nature of the magazine, the fact that as you held it, it disintegrated, leaving you with nothing but what was further. Butterick was successful in that the various objects and substances applied to the covers of the magazine have by and large either faded over time or fallen off.
The magazine was unique for its time for a couple of reasons, both of which had to do with the rejection of the showcase model of the poetry magazine, already prevalent even then among small press magazines. The showcase magazine typically presents poems completely isolated and decontextualized. They appear as beautiful (or ugly) objects on the page. This mode of presentation reinforces literary culture by stripping the poem from the intellectual matrix it is part of, and then emphasizing its object status as a pure literary event. The Magazine of Further Studies refused, first of all, to isolate the poem. It included, in the body of the magazine, letters, prose exchanges, and bibliographies (most from the Poetry/Myth class John Clarke took over when Olson left), so that the poems that were also presented there were clearly proposed as simply one kind of event in a larger discourse that included many different kinds of events. They were not products with implicit value in and of themselves. On the contrary, the larger discourse was emphasized.
As the magazine developed, it embodied an active conversation, further undermining the product-status of the “poetry” it included. Rather than including poems intended as finished and self-sufficient literary products, commodities in the Literary economy, the magazine increasingly published fragments, challenges, responses, broken utterances that provoked other broken, incomplete utterances, so that by the final issue, the magazine has become a kind of clamor, a convocation of a conversation, in action, an event constantly pushing beyond itself, moving further.