Mac Low, Jackson

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A performance artist and the author of more than two dozen books of experimental verse, Mac Low was born in Chicago in 1922 and educated at the University of Chicago (1939-1943) and Brooklyn College (1955-1958). He has worked as a music teacher, an English teacher, a translator, and an editor.

From the description of Papers, 1923-1995. (University of California, San Diego). WorldCat record id: 32539702

BIOGRAPHY

Born in Chicago, Ill. on Sept. 12, 1922, Jackson Mac Low spent his grade school years studying music and poetry. In 1939, he entered the University of Chicago to study philosophy, leaving there in 1943 with an Associate of Arts Degree and relocating to New York City. In 1955, Mac Low enrolled in Brooklyn College, where he completed a Bachelors of Arts program in Greek in 1958. The bachelors degree allowed Mac Low to secure a number of better paying and more flexible jobs, thus giving him time for his artistic career. He worked as reference-book editor and taught courses at New York University.

In February 1962, Mac Low married the painter Iris Lezak. In 1963 they gave birth to a son, Mordecai-Mark and, in 1966, to a daughter, Clarinda. Mac Low and Iris Lezak divorced in 1978, and twelve years later he married Anne Tardos, a poet, composer, multimedia artist.

Mac Low is the author of some thirty books of poetry, four playscripts, and numerous critical statements. His work has been published by a range of trade and fine presses, and individual pieces have appeared in a great number of poetry journals. Mac Low is known to most readers as an ardent practioneer of chance operations in poetry composition, which Mac Low first experienced in the musical work of John Cage, Earle Brown, and Christian Wolff. But the poet Ron Silliman has suggested that is a smaller part of Mac Low's overall importance. As Silliman explains, "Mac Low was more or less alone in the 1950s in his explorations of poetic form as system (to my mind a far more important implication of his work than his use of chance operations, whaich are merely one type of system)."

Mac Low's interest in poetry as system dates from 1954, when he used a chance operation to generate the text "5 biblical poems." The poems he wrote during the previous sixteen years were more conventional expressions of the writers emotions and reflections. Most of these early poems have not yet been published (a handful do appear in the collection REPRESENTATIVE WORKS, 1986), but are present in Mac Low's archive.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Mac Low's writing became prolific and more experimentally daring or reliant on what Mac Low describes as non-intentional methods. THE MARRING MAIDEN, a theatrical work, was first performed by the Living Theatre in during the 1960-1961 season. A performance piece, action in the play was determined by action cards given to actors at random intervals and by the director's scenarios. The plays language was determined using the I CHING. In STANZAS FOR IRIS LEZAK, a nearly 400 page work written in 1960 but published twelve years later, was generated from an assortment of religious and scientific texts, newspapers, and whatever else the poet was reading at the time. A year later, Mac Low composed ASYMMETRIES 1-501, an investigation of irregular poetic form, unlike the regular forms acheived in STANZAS FOR IRIS LEZAK.

In 1967, Mac Low's VERDUROUS SANGUINARIA was performed in Yoko Ono's loft as part of a series of "happenings" organized by La Monte Young. This work was generated from chance operations applied to twenty-six dictionaries, and it is the only work of Mac Low's to have yet been published by a university press. THE PRONOUNS, also written in the 1960s, was composed as a book of poems and a score for actions. The work, which Jerome Rothenberg describes as taking "hold of those old workhorses of our language," was conceived as a score for dance. While it has been performed infrequently, the work has become recognized as Mac Low's most anthologized composition. Other works rendered during this period include 22 LIGHT POEMS (1968), THE VIRIGINIA WOOLF POEMS (1985), WORDS ND ENDS FROM EZ (1989) and 42 MERZGEDICHTE IN MEMORIAM KURT SCHWITTERS (1994). Collectively they reveal the various generative methods and source texts Mac Low employed in composing his texts.

From a formal point of view, 1954 marks a rupture in Mac Low's career, as conventional intentional strageties are displaced by non-intentional strategies. But from a political perspective there is a certain and problematic continuity. Mac Low has always been a political activist, a self-proclaimed pacifist-anarchist. This political stance is evident in the content of the verse written before 1954, as it is also in the Mac Low's activity as an editor of anarchist publication. After 1954 and Mac Low's increasing use of non-intentional strategies, the politcal stance is shifted to the poem's form and becomes actualized in the transaction between the text and the reader. As Bruce Campbell has explained, Mac Low has no desire "to be a dictator....Instead Mac Low wants to 'empower' the reader....The reader is not someone who simply gazes upon the work or arrives at a prefabricated meaning; the reader helps to make the meaning." In short, using non-intentional strategies allows Mac Low to alter radically the power relationship of conventional author / reader transactions.

Mac Low's work, because of its experimental and difficult characteristics, has not received a strong general audience; it has been most enthusiastically read by poets broadly interested in some of the same poetic / aesthetic values Mac Low investigates in his texts. Nevertheless, Mac Low has been the recipient of several awards: two Creative Artists Public Service Program fellowships (1973-74 and 1976-77), a National Endowments for the Arts fellowship (1976), a Guggenheim Memorial fellowship (1985), a Fulbright fellowship (1986) and, more recently, The Fund for Poetry awards (1988-89 and 1991-92).

Mac Low continues to reside in New York City with his wife Anne Tardos.

From the guide to the Jackson Mac Low Papers, 1923-1995, (Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD)

Archival Resources
Role Title Holding Repository
creatorOf MacLow, Jackson. Letters, 1965, to Lewis Mumford. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Marguerite Harris Papers, 1901-1978 Special Collections Research Center, Syracuse University Libraries
creatorOf Mayer, Bernadette. Papers, 1958-1996. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Conjunctions. Records II, 1985-1987. State Library of Ohio
referencedIn United Artists (New York, N.Y.) Records, 1977-1983 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Richards, Mary Caroline. Mary Caroline Richards papers, 1928-1994. Getty Research Library
creatorOf Mac Low, Jackson. Correspondence with Singing Horse Press, 1978-1988. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
referencedIn Knowles, Alison, 1933-. Oral history interview with Alison Knowles, 2010 June 1-2. Smithsonian Archives of American Art
referencedIn Eigner, Larry, 1927-1996. Larry Eigner papers, 1937-1995. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Judson Memorial Church Archive, 1838-1995 Fales Library & Special Collections
referencedIn Poetry mss., 1954-2002 Lilly Library (Indiana University, Bloomington)http://www.indiana.edu/~liblilly
creatorOf United Artists (New York, N.Y.). Records, ca. 1977-1983. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Wieck, David Thoreau, 1921-. Papers, 1921-1996 (bulk 1943-1994). Churchill County Museum
creatorOf Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931-. Jerome Rothenberg papers, 1944-1985. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Jackson Mac Low Papers, 1923-1995 Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD
referencedIn Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Art and Technology Program. Modern Art Department, Art and Technology records, 1967-1971. Los Angeles County Museum of Art, LACMA
referencedIn Ron Silliman Papers, 1965-1988 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Dick Higgins papers, ca. 1960-1994 (bulk 1972-1993). Getty Research Library
referencedIn Peter Yates Papers, 1927 - 1976 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Brown, Jean, 1911-. Jean Brown papers, 1916-1995 (bulk 1960-1985). Getty Research Library
creatorOf Schwerner, Armand. Armand Schwerner papers, 1945-1999. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998. Dick Higgins Collection, 1958-2002 UMBC, Albin O. Kuhn Library & Gallery
referencedIn Ossman, David, 1936-. Tape recordings of interviews with poets and poetry readings, 1960-1970. University of Toledo, William S. Carlson Library
referencedIn Heller, Michael, 1937-. Michael Heller papers, circa 1960-2010. Stanford University. Department of Special Collections and University Archives
referencedIn Ian Tyson Collection, 1967 - 2006 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
referencedIn Larry Fagin Papers., n.d., 1958-1977. Archives & Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.
creatorOf Yates, Peter, 1909-1976. Papers, 1928-1976. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Eshleman, Clayton. Papers, 1958-1993. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Mary Caroline Richards papers, 1928-1994 Getty Research Institute
creatorOf Bergé, Carol, 1928-2006. Papers. Washington University in St. Louis, .
referencedIn David Thoreau Wieck Papers, Bulk, 1943-1994, 1921-1996 Tamiment Library / Wagner Archives
referencedIn Larry Eigner papers, 1937-1995 Stanford University. Libraries. Dept. of Special Collections and University Archives.
creatorOf MACLOW, JACKSON. Artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
referencedIn Pierrepont Press. Archives, 1968-1969. Washington University in St. Louis, .
creatorOf Archive for New Poetry (University of California, San Diego). Curator. Correspondence and subject files, 1974-1985. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Waldman, Anne, 1945-. Anne Waldman papers, 1945-<2002> (bulk 1958-1998). University of Michigan
creatorOf Mac Low, Jackson. Papers, 1923-1995. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Modern Art Department Art and Technology records, 1967-1971, 1967-2007 Los Angeles County Museum of Art Balch Art Research Library
referencedIn Clayton Eshleman Papers, 1958 - 1993 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Tyson, Ian. Ian Tyson collection, 1967-2006. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Donald Allen Collection, 1930-2005 Mandeville Special Collections Library
creatorOf MACLOW, JACKSON. Franklin Furnace artist file : miscellaneous uncataloged material. Museum of Modern Art (MOMA)
creatorOf Allen, Donald, 1912-2004. Donald Allen collection, 1930-2005. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Dick Higgins papers, 1960-1994, 1972-1993 Getty Research Institute
referencedIn Living Theatre records, 1945-1991 The New York Public Library. Billy Rose Theatre Division.
creatorOf Mac Low, Jackson. Office files of The American Poetry Review, 1972. University of Pennsylvania Libraries, Van Pelt Library
creatorOf Williams, Emmett,. Concrete poetry archives, early 1940's-1967. M-R. Library of Congress
referencedIn Paul Goodman papers, 1925-1983. Houghton Library.
referencedIn John Taggart Papers, 1962-2002 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Hejinian, Lyn. Lyn Hejinian papers, 1973-1994. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
creatorOf Antin, David. David Antin papers, 1954-2006. Getty Research Institute, Research Library
referencedIn David Antin papers, 1954-2006 The Getty Research Institute
referencedIn William L. Kinter papers, Kinter (William L.) papers, 1958-1965 John Hay Library, Special Collections
creatorOf Tudor, David, 1926-. David Tudor Papers, 1943-1989 (bulk 1950-1965). Getty Research Library
creatorOf Snyder, Ellsworth. Ellsworth Snyder collection of Fluxus multiples and ephemera, 1958-1987. New York Public Library System, NYPL
creatorOf Mac Low, Jackson. The twin plays : Port-au-Prince & Adams County Illinois : playscript, 1963 / by Jackson Mac Low ... Indiana University
referencedIn Lyn Hejinian Papers, 1966-2004 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
creatorOf Mac Low, Jackson. Questions & answers, incredible statements the litany of lies action in freedom statements & questions all round truth & freedom in action, or, Why is an atom bomb like a toothbrush? : a topical play : playscript, 1963 / by Jackson Mac Low ... Indiana University
creatorOf Silliman, Ronald, 1946-. Ron Silliman papers, 1965-1988. University of California, San Diego, UC San Diego Library; UCSD Library
referencedIn Archive for New Poetry. Curator's Correspondence and Subject Files, 1974 - 1989 University of California, San Diego. Geisel Library. Mandeville Special Collections Library.
Role Title Holding Repository
Direct Relationships
Relation Name
associatedWith Acker, Kathy, 1948-1997, person
associatedWith Allen, Donald, 1912-2004. person
associatedWith Andrews, Bruce, 1948- person
associatedWith Antin, David, person
associatedWith Antin, Eleanor, person
correspondedWith Archive for New Poetry (University of California, San Diego). corporateBody
associatedWith Archive for New Poetry (University of California, San Diego). Curator. corporateBody
associatedWith Bergé, Carol, 1928-2006. person
associatedWith Blackburn, Paul, person
associatedWith Brown, Jean, 1911- person
associatedWith Cage, John, person
associatedWith Conjunctions. corporateBody
associatedWith Eigner, Larry, 1927-1996, person
associatedWith Eshleman, Clayton, person
correspondedWith Fagin, Larry. person
associatedWith Goodman, Paul, 1911-1972, person
associatedWith Harris, Marguerite, Archives person
associatedWith Hejinian, Lyn. person
associatedWith Heller, Michael, 1937- person
associatedWith Higgins, Dick, 1938-1998, person
associatedWith Holst, Spencer, person
associatedWith Judson Memorial Church (New York, N.Y.). corporateBody
associatedWith Kelly, Robert, 1935- person
associatedWith Kinter, William L. (William Lewis), 1915- person
associatedWith Knowles, Alison, person
associatedWith Living Theatre (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Los Angeles County Museum of Art. Art and Technology Program. corporateBody
associatedWith Los Angeles County Museum of Art Modern Art Department. corporateBody
associatedWith Macunias, George, 1931-1978, person
associatedWith Mayer, Bernadette. person
associatedWith McCaffery, Steve, person
associatedWith Modern Poetry Association corporateBody
associatedWith Oliveros, Pauline, 1932- person
associatedWith Ossman, David, 1936- person
associatedWith Pierrepont Press. corporateBody
associatedWith Richards, Mary Caroline person
associatedWith Richards, Mary Caroline. person
associatedWith Rothenberg, Jerome, 1931- person
associatedWith Schwerner, Armand, person
associatedWith Silliman, Ronald, 1946- person
associatedWith Snyder, Ellsworth. person
correspondedWith Taggart, John, 1942- person
associatedWith Tudor, David, 1926- person
correspondedWith Tyson, Ian person
associatedWith Tyson, Ian. person
associatedWith United Artists (New York, N.Y.) corporateBody
associatedWith Waldman, Anne, 1945-. person
associatedWith Watten, Barrett, person
associatedWith Wieck, David Thoreau, 1921- person
associatedWith Yates, Peter, 1909-1976. person
associatedWith Young, Karl, person
Place Name Admin Code Country
Subject
American poetry--20th century
Occupation
Function

Person

Birth 1922-09-12

Death 2004-12-08

Americans

English

Information

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