Jackson Mac Low: A Few Images
        
 
Nick Piombino

I first met Jackson Mac Low in 1967. We both participated in an anti-war event, blocking the Whitehall Street Induction Center in November of that year. I found myself in a jail cell with Allen Ginsberg, who I had met a couple of years earlier. I asked Allen if he knew Jackson Mac Low, whose poetry I had been avidly reading and researching for the past few months. As we left jail together, Allen pointed to someone walking up the street ahead of us. "There he is," Allen said. I caught up to Jackson and introduced myself. He sent me a copy of The Pronouns, an early, stunningly beautiful serial poem, written as instructions for dancers, (which has been performed many times) that he had published himself, in mimeographed form. It has since been republished a couple of times.

Although at the time I was into some kind of vague, mystical inner vow of poverty, I woke up late and took a taxi to the demonstration which was scheduled at 6 am. When I arrived I pompously explained to the driver I had no money, but felt compelled to join the demonstration. As the cab driver stepped out of the cab irately, a young made strode by. After politely asking what was going on, the man laughingly suggested I get arrested for not paying my cab fare, but then paid it. He turned out to be the Civil Liberties Union lawyer assigned to this case. When a month later I was arrested for burning my draft card in the Oakland Selective Service Station, somehow he got a letter to me at the David Harris Resistance House giving me the time and date of the trial I was supposed to attend. “Do not take a taxi all the way”, he added. By the way, I came back from Berkeley in late November to attend the trial, only to learn the case was dismissed, since the judge decided we could not really have been blocking the Center at 7 o'clock in the morning before it was open! Another early memory of Jackson is that he was a frequent performer in Charlotte Moorman's avant-garde festivals in the late 60's and early 70's.. I and a number of my friends were also invited to perform in a few of them. An early one took place on the Staten Island Ferry. I found Jackson in a corner on the ferry, playing his music on an instrument he himself had invented.

Jackson Mac Low will surely come to be known as one of the greatest seminal artists of our era. Due to his convictions about forgoing the ego he was different from the avidly self-promoting artists and poets of today. His influence is pervasive but as yet remains largely undocumented and untracked. This is probably one of the reasons for his consistent tendency to carefully date and document his own works, as perhaps he was conscious of this situation, contributing to his relative obscurity, which was at least partly deliberate, and no doubt somewhat frustrating to him. Despite Jackson's ubiquitous presence throughout his life in experimental and avant-garde circles (Fluxus, L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E, etc), Jackson's humility, modesty, and unique ideas, kept him surrounded in mystery; an all the more intriguing figure whose voluminous, yet superb work will offer much for future critics and art historians to unravel. I can't recommend too highly, if you are unfamiliar with Jackson's work, to check out the CD he did with his wife and artistic collaborator, Anne Tardos titled *Open Secrets*