Poet, editor, filmmaker, actor, child star in Mussolini’s Italy, founder of The Dead Language Press and of the Paris Filmmakers Cooperative, Piero Heliczer (1937–1993) was an essential yet secret agent of the 1960s and ’70s counterculture. In the course of his nomadic existence in Rome, New York, London, Amsterdam, Paris, and Préaux-du-Perche, where he spent the last few years of his life, he met and worked with a constellation of avant-garde writers, forged friendships with figures from the Beat Generation and the British Poetry Revival as well as the New York art scene. At the crossroads of many underground experiences, Heliczer’s name appears in books dedicated to the artists and poets he collaborated with during his lifetime—names by the likes of Gregory Corso, Barbara Rubin, Andy Warhol, Jack Smith, Ira Cohen, or The Velvet Underground, a band he participated in creating with his friend Angus MacLise.
This myth obscures the fact that Piero Heliczer was first and foremost a poet. Today, this part of his work is overlooked; it is all the more difficult to encounter because Heliczer himself never collected it. So it was scattered, or lost, in the course of his wanderings. Heliczer favored the circulation of his works rather than their archiving: he was committed to the production of mobile forms—flyers, broadsides, and other ephemera—disseminated his verses in magazines, and preferred public readings and performances to the finished form of the book.
The present volume gathers a significant number of Heliczer’s poetic works through facsimile reproduction of his contributions to more than thirty periodicals—mostly stemming from poets’ presses or universities—published between 1958 and 1979. This collection isn’t “complete”—but it makes available again poems that, in some cases, never circulated after their initial publication.