Stop #10: Les Deux Megots
The New York School poets continued to move their hangouts east and began spending time at a place called Café Les Deux Megots, at 64 East 7th Street. Les Deux Megots is French for “two cigar butts” and is a play on words of a famous café on the Left Bank in Paris called Café Les Deux Magots, which was a popular hangout for many members of the Lost Generation expatriates that situated themselves in Paris during the first part of the 20th century as well as many European artists and writers.
Le Deux Megots in the East Village became what many of the bars on MacDougal Street and in the West Village had been for artists before them. It was a place for collaboration and presentation. Regular poetry readings were conducted at the café and much of the work was published in mimeographed magazines that were distributed throughout the artistic community.
Mellilo describes the Café Les Duex Megots and later Café Metro as “seedy and drug infested places…that hosted poetry readings where poets new and old could gather, drink, and play” (61).
Dan Saxon, the poet who created the magazines showcasing the poetry from Les Deux Megots, used the mimeograph technique for publishing his magazines because he could “create quick and cheap publications that avoided the inhibiting codes of taste and unofficial censorship that guided mainstream publishing” (Melillo, 61). Other members of the East Village poetry movement who published mimeographed magazines included, Ted Berrigan, Amiri Baraka, Diane DiPrima, Ed Sanders, Bernadette Mayer, and Vito Acconci.
By avoiding the mainstream publishing industry, these poets continued to push the limits of poetry and experimentation. Much of their work was sexually charged and purposely hard to comprehend. One particular example that Melillo discusses is The Fugs member Ed Sanders’s Fuck You/a magazine of the Arts. The work that was featured in the magazine was particularly sexual in content and a very aggressive example of breaking the boundaries of poetics.
Up Next: Cafe Metro