Yugen and Totem Press


Edited by Beat poet LeRoi Jones (later Amiri Baraka) and Hettie Cohen, Yugen was devoted to “A New Consciousness in the Arts and Letters.” Bringing together the Beats, Black Mountain poets, and the New York School poets of the late 1950s, Yugen took its name from the Japanese aesthetic term meaning “a profound mysterious sense of the beauty of universe … and the sad beauty of human suffering.” Cohen, later Hettie Jones, had worked at the Partisan Review and brought with her a background in little-magazine design that gave Yugen an air of respectability and professionalism. The contents represented a new and untraditional approach to poetry. Jones and Cohen also founded Totem Press, which published important early books by Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Allen Ginsberg, Michael McClure, Diane di Prima, Jack Kerouac, and many others. Like Yugen, Totem Press books typically feature calligraphic covers that mix American abstract expressionism and Japanese Zen painting.

LeRoi Jones and Hettie Cohen
Yugen, no. 1, 1958

Diane di Prima
This Kind of Bird Flies Backward, 1958
Totem Press, New York. Introduction by Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Michael McClure
For Artaud, 1959
New York: Totem Press

Jack Kerouac
Scripture of the Golden Eternity, 1960
Totem Press, New York

Gary Snyder
Myths & Texts, 1960
Totem Press, New York

Philip Whalen
Like I Say, 1960
Totem Press, New York

Allen Ginsberg
Empty Mirror: Early Poems, 1961
Totem Press, New York. Introduction by William Carlos Williams

LeRoi Jones
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, 1961
Totem Press, New York