Charley Plymell eating with William Burroughs. Lawrence, Kansas. Photo by Allen Ginsberg. Courtesy: Allen Ginsberg Estate/Stanford University Libraries.
Poet, publisher, provocateur and people-connector, Charley Plymell is, like fellow Midwesterner Ed Sanders, a floater among contingents of kindred spirits, from the Beats to the hippies to the punks and back again. Publisher of William S. Burroughs and Herbert Huncke; facilitator of the first issue of R. Crumb’s Zap Comix; friends with Burroughs, Allen Ginsberg and Neal Cassady, he opens up about his life to PKM’s Benito Vila.
Charming. Gritty. Flat-out. Excitable. Real. Those are words that describe poet Charley Plymell, a somewhat mythic creature who has always been resistant to labels or definition. He is said to have connected the Beats and the Hippies in his San Francisco apartment, although, even today, Plymell remains a rabble-rouser who pre-dates all that cultural branding and simply describes himself as a punk from Wichita. That said, there’s nothing simple about Plymell. He never finished high school yet he earned a graduate writing degree from Johns Hopkins. At age 13, he drove from his father’s house in South Dakota to his mother’s house in Kansas and kept on going, working jobs throughout the West. He later published William S. Burroughs, R. Crumb, Herbert Huncke and Janine Pommy Vega long before those names were ever said with the sort of reverence they get now.
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