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Charles Plymell

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Title: Charles Plymell  
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Subject: S. Clay Wilson, Zap Comix, Underground Voices, Cherry Valley (village), New York, Second Aeon
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Charles Plymell

Charles Plymell
Born Charley Plymell
(1935-04-26) April 26, 1935
Holcomb, Kansas, United States
Occupation poet, publisher, author
Literary movement Postmodernism, Underground Comix

Charles Plymell (born April 26, 1935, in Holcomb, Kansas) is a poet, novelist, and small press publisher. Plymell has been published widely, collaborated with, and published many poets, writers, and artists, including principals of the Beat Generation.

He was a "hipster" in Kansas in 1950s subculture, and became involved with the Beat Generation in San Francisco, where he shared a house with poet Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady, the protagonist of Jack Kerouac's On the Road in 1963. Plymell spent important, memorable times with Ginsberg, Cassady, and author William S. Burroughs, who wrote introductions to his work. He visited with Ginsberg and Burroughs in Lawrence the last time they saw each other,{Moody's Skidrow Beanery, Kansas Underground From Beat to Hip Rowfant Press 1999, Chapter 9} and in New York City with and Ginsberg the last time they saw each other.

He has published, printed, and designed many underground magazines and books with his wife Pamela Beach, a namesake in avant-garde publishing. He published former prisoner Ray Bremser and Herbert Huncke, whom he identified with from the hipster 1950s. He was influential in the underground comix scene, first printing Zap Comix artists such as Robert Crumb and S. Clay Wilson, whom he first published in Lawrence, Kansas.

Plymell received a citation for being a distinguished poet by Governor Joan Finney of Kansas and was cited in the 1976 World Book Encyclopedia as a most promising poet.


  • Biography 1
  • Books 2
  • Anthologies 3
  • References 4
  • External links 5
    • Interviews 5.1


In 1935, Plymell's father took his family to Holcomb, Kansas, where Charles was born April 26, "in a converted chicken shed built to protect us from the black dust storms that had long covered the once thriving Plymell stage lines a few miles away. My mother had to put wet rags over our faces so we could breathe. When she wasn't busy with us, she was gathering cactus and shooting jackrabbits ("Hoover steaks") to feed us. In my poetry, I speak of the madness that this desperation could, in frailer women, evoke and of seeing in a Washington, D.C., gourmet market a half-century later the kind of cactus she had gathered."[1]

Plymell performed hallucinogenic Peyote rituals in Kansas in the 1950s and K.C. Jazz Benzedrine scenes. Allen Ginsberg credited him for inventing the Wichita Vortex. In 1955 he attended Wichita State University briefly and studied art, philosophy, and English. .[2]

Plymell moved to a quiet Russian neighborhood, rented a flat on the corner of Haight and Ashbury in 1962, and watched kids appear one by one, playing sitars, smoking reefer, ingesting Sandoz and Stanley Owsley's LSD tabs and peyote-derivative Mescaline. In 1963, Neal Cassady and Allen Ginsberg moved in with Plymell at 1403 Gough Street, and had a party where Beats met Hippies. Ginsberg also said Plymell was the first to play Bob Dylan for him at Gough Street.[3]

Plymell made experimental films which were accepted at the Ann Arbor Film Festival, and collages which were exhibited on the black walls of the Batman Gallery, along with works by poet/filmmakers Bruce Conner and Plymell's friend from his Wichita days, Bob Branaman. Plymell met avant-garde gallery owner, Billy (Batman) Jahrmarkt, who gave Plymell his classic 1952 MGTD Roadster.[4]

Plymell had a profound impact on underground comix by printing the first issue of Zap Comix on his printing press in San Francisco in 1968, with Don Donahue assisting (who would soon after take over his Multilith 1250). A few months earlier, Plymell printed a "lifted" R. Crumb "Head Comix" page from Yarrowstalks #2 in his tabloid newspaper The Last Times[5] before he actually met Crumb. (Plymell also published perhaps the second underground comic book ever, Bob Branaman's Robert Ronnie Branaman in 1963.)

Later, Plymell and his wife Pam traveled to Cherry Valley, New York, to visit Allen Ginsberg's farm, and moved into the village. There they founded Cherry Valley Editions to print a series of books by William S. Burroughs, Herbert Huncke, Robert Peters, Dick McBride, and others, including Plymell's own work, that are now out of print and rare. Jazz pianist Paul Bley moved to Cherry Valley at Plymell's suggestion and bought an old building once owned by Samuel Morse from Plymell.

Plymell underwent triple heart bypass surgery at the end of January 2009.


  • Apocalypse Rose, Dave Haselwood Books, San Francisco, CA, 1967.
  • Neon Poems, Atom Mind Publications, Syracuse, NY, 1970.
  • The Last of the Moccasins, City Lights Books, San Francisco, CA, 1971; Mother Road Publications, 1996.
  • Moccasins Ein Beat-Kaleidoskop, Europaverlag, Vienna, Austria, 1980.
  • Over the Stage of Kansas, Telephone Books, NYC, 1973.
  • The Trashing of America, Kulchur Foundation, NYC, 1975.
  • Blue Orchid Numero Uno, Telephone Books, 1977.
  • Panik in Dodge City, Expanded Media Editions, Bonn, W. Germany, 1981.
  • Forever Wider, 1954–1984, Scarecrow Press, Metuchen, NJ, 1985.
  • Was Poe Afraid?, Bogg Publications, Arlington, VA, 1990.
  • Hand on the Doorknob, Water Row Books, Sudbury, MA, 2000
  • Eat Not Thy Mind, Eye Books Ecstatic Peace Library, Florance, MA, 2010
  • Found & Lost Magascene, Vol. 1 / No. 0 & 1 [Contributor], Back Room/Temple of Man, 2010
  • Tent Shaker Vortex Voice, Bottle of Smoke Press, 2012


  • Mark in Time, New Glide Publications, San Francisco, CA, 1971.
  • And The Roses Race Around Her Name, Stonehill, NYC, 1975.
  • Turpentin on the Rocks, Maro Verlag, Augsburg, W. Germany, 1978.
  • A Quois Bon, Le Soleil Noir, Paris, France, 1978.
  • Planet Detroit, Anthology of Urban Poetry, Detroit, MI, 1983.
  • Second Coming Anthology, Second Coming Press, San Francisco, CA, 1984.
  • The World, Crown Publishers, 1991.
  • Editors' Choice III, The Spirit That Moves Us, New York, 1992.
  • The Age of Koestler, The Spirit of the Wind Press, Kalamazoo, MI, 1990.


  1. ^ Plymell, Charley. Kansa, Land of the Wind People.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Plymell, Charley. Kansa, Land of the Wind People.
  4. ^ Plymell, Charley. Kansa, Land of the Wind People.
  5. ^ The Last Times vol. 1, no.1 (Fall 1967).

External links

  • Cherry Valley Edition Website
  • Charles Plymell, from Kansa, Land of the Wind People, Autobiographical sketch, 12/02
  • Charley Plymell, from Last of the Moccasins, Vortex excerpt
  • Charles Plymell Collection, Wichita State University Libraries
  • Two Charles Plymell collections (MS 137 in Special Collections and RH MS P760 in the Kansas Collection) are housed at the Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas
  • Charley Plymell portrait by Gerard Malanga, May 2010
  • Beat Generation Poets & Artists, City Lights bookstore, August 1963, San Francisco; Photograph by Charley Plymell includes Pat Cassidy, Philip Whalen, Robert Branaman, Alan Russo, Ann Buchanan, Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg, and Lawrence Ferlinghetti


  • by Jon Randall
  • by Catfish McDaris
  • Charles Plymell : The Benzedrine Highway by Paul Hawkins
  • Benzedrine Highway revised especially for RealityStudio, the interview now contains additional material about Plymell and William S. Burroughs by Paul Hawkins
  • Works by or about Charles Plymell in libraries (WorldCat catalog)
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