Interview with Long Shot Magazine's Danny Shot by Jennifer Curry
After more than twenty years as a staple on the New York literary scene, what looks to be the final edition of Long Shot magazine was released this February. Publisher Danny Shot-the only constant in this eclectic poetry journal's history-has decided to step away from the publication to pursue other interests, effectively putting it to bed.
According to co-founder Eliot Katz, who scaled back his contribution to Long Shot in the late 80s, "With the destructive and mean-spirited policies of the Bush administration, I think there are more important things to worry about these days than the end of a literary magazine. But I do think Long Shot played a nice role in the literary world, and that it published many terrific poets who haven't been published often enough in other journals. I'll miss it."
You wrote in the Long Shot chronology on your web site that you started the magazine because you felt frustrated "with the lack of accessibility to literary magazines of the time." Why weren't the people in Long Shot getting published elsewhere?
When we started it, Elliot Katz and I were 25 years old and didn't know better really, in terms of why we were marginalized. It was the Reagan years and everything, especially in the literary world-at least as much as we could see from our twenty five year old eyes-was so staid. There were a few remnants of a few dying beat zines around yet, but they were an older crowd. The person in particular, the rejection that pissed me off the most was this magazine Beatitude from San Francisco. I guess it was a magazine in the fifties and sixties. I think Bob Kaufman was one of the editors even-he's one of my favorite poets. But they were resurrecting it as something in like 1982, '83, and I sent work, and Neely Chirkofsky, who actually is a good friend of Charles Bukowski, just wrote a really, not just a rejection letter, he just wrote a personal thing as to why they were not taking it that so offended me. I was like fuck this. We just can do better. And I learned as an editor one thing: don't write people personal notes unless you really like the work. Nobody's ever going to take it well if you're rejecting the work and you say why-because I sure didn't. In the early eighties, things were just so lame. I grew up in the suburbs. I liked all the Hippie stuff. The book BE HERE NOW was my bible. When punk came around that was a revolution for me. I was sick of the hippy shit by the time I was a senior in high school too, and the punk stuff was wonderful. I just liked the attitude. One part of the attitude was, "Fuck all, do it yourself." That was so important. Then all of a sudden, Reagan got elected. I guess he got elected a few weeks before John Lennon got shot. Everything just seemed so hopeless in the early eighties. It was a really bad economy in the first few years of his presidency also. Just everything seemed even more hopeless than the hopelessness that spawned punk rock. So we just did it ourselves. We printed the first issues ourselves. Eliot Katz and I did a reading at Rutgers with Allen Ginsburg. He liked us, and he liked Eliot in particular because Eliot had studied with him. He split the door with us. That was very generous of him. It only was like three dollars a person. Allen Ginsburg took $600 and he gave us $600. That was the door. Eliot worked in a print shop then. I helped and we printed it in a print shop in New Brunswick. Six hundred dollars bought us paper and stuff like that. The thing that was most expensive was binding. Anyway, we did it in our apartments. We had all the pages out, we collated it, we brought these collated things into Brooklyn to be bound, but that's how we started. It was so cheap and doable back then to publish. If we were starting now, it would be a whole big corporate investment to get something as good quality.
Why does Long Shot have such affection for the Beats?
I've always fought desperately to not be labeled a Neo-Beat magazine because sometimes...I don't like labels to begin with and really lazy reviewers always go to labels. "Neo-beat, blah, blah, blah." That's such a pigeonhole I don't want to be in. We have a strong relationship, affinity to the beats because of the people we published, some of our staples. Charles Bukowski, as a matter of fact, I know he's not really a beat writer but often gets lumped in. Amiri Baraka, starting off as Leroy Jones, was a Beat. Gregory Curso, Jack Micheline. There are some people we had a lot of times, so we've always been closely tied to it. One of the saddest things is having these issues as each person died-the Allen Ginsburg issue, the Gregory Curso issue, the Jack Micheline tribute issue. Add Bukowsi in there; they're some of my favorite poets. Of course, being much younger, we all looked up to them.
What would you say is the underlying theme of the poems collected in Long Shot?
What ties them together? I don't know. Sometimes I've got to admit it's a very flimsy thread tying them all together. The only thing really tying them together is that they are all in the same book. No, I don't know. There is I'm sure when we put an issue together there's a certain collective zeitgeist that those editors wind up... you know it has a certain tone. We just look for what we think is best at the time.
So do you think the real meaning of Long Shot is in the space it provided?
I'm a real content over form guy, generally. Not all editors necessarily are, but I'll always go for a poem that has good meaning that's not necessarily well crafted-whatever well crafted means to whoever. I am a meaning guy. Not to say that experimental poems haven't been in Long Shot because they have often. That's why we've got other editors also. But yeah, a lot of putting together an issue is alchemy it's a matter of chemistry. Putting things that fit together to make an oar a lump of gold-theoretically. But often sometimes, wonderful things don't go in because it just doesn't fit or it doesn't make the pieces around it stronger. There is a sort of magic to putting them together, even the order in to which you put things. You can put some of the things in a different order and fuck up the whole groove. It is about that...how it goes together. The meaning is important usually. Ultimately, it's very subjective, but you develop instincts at putting a magazine together. At the beginning we didn't know what we were doing, but we figured it out. It's sort of like, I've been teaching for eighteen years, and the young teachers are like, "How do you do it? How do you know?" You just know. You've done it so much it becomes instinctual. Putting together a magazine is like that to. What goes together, what fits, comes in the instinct.
Why have you decided to back away from that role now?
I honestly knew… I could feel that we weren't going to get any bigger or more successful. I knew the magazine is still pretty good, and I knew we could maintain it and be a good thing for some years. I also always wanted to stop while we were still good and vital. I'm a basketball fan, and I watched Patrick Ewing limp along for the last year or two of his career and that was a little bit pitiful. If he had just retired when he was still good... I just wanted to stop while we were good rather than get to the pitiful point of nobody caring about it.
Why do you think Ginsburg and the others helped you get started?
I don't know why, they just did.
Do you think they appreciated your youthful energy?
Well, yeah. I know Ginsburg did because he's Ginsburg. Bukowski didn't know us from Adam-he was very generous. Some of Bukowski's best poems appeared in Long Shot first.
Which ones do you think are his best?
I don't know. He wrote so many. You know he probably didn't even know what were his best is the truth; he was just so prolific. They're just really good poems. They weren't his throwaways that he gave us. We didn't pay anything.
Who were you most surprised to have?
Bukowski's my man. And I think it's because of Bukowski if I were to guess, that we had Tom Waits and Sean Penn. If I think about it, that's part of why Sean Penn gave us stuff. Bukowski was his hero. The movie, "Barfly", he tried to make, I think he wanted to be the guy like Bukowski rather than Mickey Rourke. I think three people who have helped us out and been there were Ginsburg, Bukowski and Amiri Baraka. Make it four, Alicia Ostricker. She's been there for us since the start, giving us support. She was our teacher at Rutgers, our professor. She's a very good poet.
When did Baraka come on board?
Issue three or four. He once did a benefit with us at St. Marks to raise money. Even though Ginsburg started us off with money, I don't know what Eliot and I did with the money, but by the time we were ready for volume two we were broke as can be. I hate to think we drank a lot of it away, but whatever. We had to start over to get the money to do volume two. The most horrible thing for me and I think Eliot too is soliciting adds. We went around in New Brunswick, going from business to business asking the local storeowners if they would take out ads in Long Shot. We got some at the beginning. It was just sort of humiliating. I've never been good at that. That's one thing I regret also. I wish I cared more or was just good at that, because it would have helped a lot. I guess there's ways to do it, to sell ads and I guess most magazines look like they have a lot of ads but they really just trade them. I don't know how people are successful at it.
Is that what you meant when you wrote on your web site about the dubious sources of funding?
I don't want to talk about the dubious sources. There's a statute of limitations. Our activities were not always...they were honest. Don't even go there. We never stole anything. I'll tell you that much.
We're you farmers?
We were like pharmacists.
Online you wrote that this last issue was quirky and somewhat uneven. What did you mean?
The last two issues were a lot of hard work putting them together. It's not that the editors weren't on the same page. We were. We put the poems together in fits and starts. The truth is we didn't communicate as well about what we wanted in, what should be in. Magdalena and I did the bulk of the choosing in this issue. Part of it's because Nancy [Mercado] is in Binghamton. Andy [Clausen] is upstate in Woodstock. When I think about it, it's so obvious. We were rarely in the same place at the same time to reach consensus about things so we wound up just choosing when I had one other person here with me.
The way you talk about your co-editors, I get the impression that the staff felt more like a family than a business.
We were never like a business, because it was so abysmal as a business. What is Tribes? It's like a weird dysfunctional family. We're like a dysfunctional family. You can't really write this article without mentioning Eliot Katz. We were twenty-five years old when we started it. And we had the concerns of two single twenty-five year old men. Things happened in our lives, other people came aboard and that had an affect on the content. If I'm like the center, or the one person this revolves around because I've been there since the beginning, I've been altered. It's not like a twenty-five year old's sensibility. A lot of my favorite writers died-our core. We could always count on a Bukowski poem up until 1994. Always, just count on it. Ginsburg, Jack Micheline, Corso. We did a good job I believe of keeping current pretty much to the end. I do believe younger people who start something up because they're sick of the shitty exclusivity of magazines could probably do a better job of keeping current or putting something out there with attitude and vision. I honestly believe that somebody could do a better job of getting at what's out there right now. I hope somebody with energy who is just fed up with what they see out there, with a real fuck-you approach we can do better, does something. I'm sure somebody is. I'm sure somebody's out there.