NYS Writers Institute, May 1, 1997
NYS Writers Institute, October 29, 2003
Ed Sanders will talk about the late 1960s in Los Angeles and his investigations into the Charles Manson murder ring, which he details in his meticulously researched book The Family (1971). It was revised and updated in 2002 with 140 pages of new information.
Ed Sanders achieved fame in the countercultural world of the 1960s as poet, magazine founder, and leading force of The Fugs, a satirical folk-rock band. Later, he achieved national recognition for his 1971 book, The Family, a study of mass murderer Charles Manson and his followers that critic Robert Christgau called "excellent" and "terrifying." His poetry has been likened in its energy and ambition to William Blake, Walt Whitman and Allen Ginsberg, blending slang, neologisms, classical Greek, and Egyptian hieroglyphs. He has also written novels, short stories and song lyrics. His most recent work is 1968: A History in Verse (1997), a book-length poem tracing the events of that year.
Born in Kansas City in 1939, Ed Sanders dropped out of Missouri University in 1958 and hitchhiked to New York City’s Greenwich Village. There he hung out on the edge of the Beat scene, preparing himself unwittingly for an important role that he would assume in American literary life: providing a bridge between Beatnik and Hippie generations. In 1961 he landed in jail for protesting against nuclear proliferation. During the course of a short incarceration he wrote his first major poem (Poem from Jail, 30 pages) on toilet paper in his cell.
Sanders captured public attention as a mad poet who recited Beat poetry and his own work at anti-war gatherings in the 1960s. In 1962, he founded his infamous avant garde journal, F**k You: A Magazine of the Arts. Two years later, he opened the famous Peace Eye Bookstore, housed in a former kosher meat market on the Lower East Side. The Peace Eye became an international mecca for Bohemians and radicals of all stripes. In 1965, Sanders formed a satirical and self-satirizing rock band, the Fugs, which performed at Vietnam War protests nationwide. The band’s frank lyrics about sex, drugs, and politics aroused a hostile reaction in many quarters. The band issued a CD as recently as 1994, The Real Woodstock Festival, on London’s Ace Records.
In 1971, Sanders published The Family, a profile of the "Manson Family" and a detailed account of the events leading up to the Tate murders. Sanders obtained access to the cult-like group by posing as a "Satanic guru-maniac and dope-trapped psychopath." His fictional works include Tales of Beatnik Glory, an expanding collection of vignettes that documents the excesses of Bohemian life in Greenwich Village in the 1960s (the first volume appeared in 1975, the third has recently been completed). His poetry volumes include Investigative Poetry (1975), a collection and manifesto that exhorts poets to be muckrakers and whistleblowers in national life; Chechov (1995), a major verse biography of the Russian physician, writer and dramatist; and 1968: A History in Verse, which mixes memoir, anecdote and factual research about that fateful year.
Sanders also invents original musical instruments, including the "Talking Tie," the "Microlyre," and the "Lisa Lyre," a musical contraption involving light-activated switches and the "Mona Lisa" painting. CDs include Songs in Ancient Greek (1990), and American Bard (1996), a mix of poetry and music.
He has received several writing awards, including a Guggenheim Fellowship in poetry and an NEA poetry fellowship. His Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century, Selected Poems 1961-1985, won an American Book Award in 1988.
Ed Sanders lives in Woodstock, New York, with his wife of over 36 years, the writer and painter Miriam R. Sanders. Together they publish a newspaper, the Woodstock Journal, a biweekly newspaper. Sanders graduated from New York University in 1964, with a degree in Classics. His journalism has appeared in The Village Voice and The New York Times. He lectures widely on Investigative Poetry—poetry pursued in the manner of investigative journalism, and the tradition established by poet Charles Olson.
"a first-rate satirist..." - Carl Solomon, American Book Review
works by Edward Sanders