Actualism may be regarded as less a movement than an attitude characterized primarily by generosity of spirit. Open-minded rebellious joyful dedicated deranged searching and self-satirizing. This volume is a montage: memoir history celebration homage elegy portrait gallery and timescape.
Actualism sprang out of a variegated and flourishing community of writers and artists who converged in Iowa City over a period of ten-to-fifteen years. Most were drawn by the Iowa Writers' Workshop some by the International Writing Program and some to the Introduction to Typography course in the Department of Journalism and some who just wandered into town.
The first section begins with a piece by Dave Morice and one by Allan Kornblum which include their recollections of the day Darrell Gray created the Actualist Manifesto followed by pieces that give somewhat of an overview of Actualism in Iowa City and the San Francisco Bay Area.
The second section includes the individual biographies poems and publications of the Actualists and the community that inspired them. Some began in Iowa City and migrated to the Bay Area and elsewhere. It was a magical mix of poets and writers artists actors and playwrights teachers musicians publishers translators and booksellers.
The third section covers the Actualist events and antics in Iowa City and the Bay Area.
The fourth focuses on the stories of two of the publishers closely associated with this group of writers: The Toothpaste / Coffee House Presses and The Spirit That Moves Us Press.
Morty Sklar (also Publisher). Born 1935 in Sunnyside Queens N.Y.C. Transplanted in 1971 to Iowa City Iowa where I met Allan Kornblum publisher of The Toothpaste Press and later of Coffee House Press and was welcomed by Allan and others into a community of poets and independent literary publishers outside the purview of the Iowa Writers' Workshop who came to be known as the Actualists. I published the first issue of my The Spirit That Moves Us magazine there in 1975.
In 1977 I co-edited with Darrell Gray and published from my The Spirit That Moves Us Press
The Actualist Anthology which Booklist (A.L.A.) called "A volume of interest as a record of and introduction to a purely American poetic movement."
It is the grandparent of The Ultimate Actualist Convention.
In 1989 after living in and publishing my press in Iowa City for eighteen years I moved self and press back to Jackson Heights Queens. N.Y.C. which turned out to be the most ethnically diverse area in the world and where I met my Peruvian wife of twenty-five years.
"The production job is entirely in keeping a bricolage of the important materials delivered in a casual but caring manner. This volume is a solid and colorful brick in the edifice of American literature." -Fred Chappell poet novelist essayist and retired professor
"The Ultimate Actualist Convention (2017) is a collection of poems plays autobiographical sketches essays and historical documents concerning the Iowa City poets and artists known as the Actualists a unique community of artists whose works deserve to be explored and cherished. In 2008 UNESCO bestowed the title of "City of Literature" onto Iowa City citing over 80 years of teaching creative writing on the University circuit and the city's world famous University of Iowa Writers' Workshop. Many writers and other artists who toiled on the "fringes" of literary expression outside the stuffy confines of academia were being ignored despite their invaluable literary and cultural contributions including the Actualists.
The individuals who would become known as the Actualists were drawn to the creative community blossoming in Iowa City during the early 1970s whether it was to attend the university's International Writing Program the Writers' Workshop or the Typography Course at the School of Journalism and Mass Communication. In other cases according to Kornblum "some just wandered into town." Fellow poet Anselm Hollo proposed an idea: "You know I think you guys have a poetry movement going on. The energy is there. All you need is a name for it " Morice recounted. Gray who "lived and breathed poetry " agreed with Hollo and later came up with the name: ACTUALISM.
"I see it as sparks of creativity that occurred within a community of writers artists playwrights and book enthusiasts. The poetry is playful grounded in everyday experiences and language with a variety of styles."-Allan Kornblum
Some of the Iowa City Actualists traveled west to San Francisco eventually giving birth to "West Coast Actualism." One of its prominent figures is theater artist and writer David Schein who co-founded the Iowa Theater Lab and later the Blake Street Hawkeyes in Berkeley California where in the late '70s he met future award-winning actress Whoopi Goldberg and they soon became collaborators. (Morty) Sklar founded The Spirit That Moves Us Press in 1975 where he published from his press in 1977 The Actualist Anthology co-edited with Darrell Gray.
Sklar Kornblum and Morice successfully bring together the voices of the Actualists into a vast collage of art and memories to be treasured for the ages." -- Mike Kuhlenbeck Little Village