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Archive for the ‘ArtCrimes’ Category

back when I was almost cool

Monday, January 16th, 2023
back when I was almost cool —

“Agent of Chaos That would be Steven B. Smith, the man behind Cleveland’s cult classic journal ArtCrimes, a limited edition lit/art publication that emerged during the mid eighties. Now you can order up your own at Steven’s agentofchaos website, launching literary outrageousness, entertaining criticism, art slide show, plus 900 pages of collage, mixed media, photography, guest artists and everything your mother warned you about. He has consistently refused to be conditioned by the public, and it’s a good thing; we love his contagion of undiluted underground art / lit / philosophy / abuse.” – – – – – – Cool 09.10-09.17 2003- Tisha Nemeth, senior editor


Smith reading 2019-02-19 at the Art On Madison gallery

Tuesday, September 24th, 2019

Seven month old fone video of my Art on Madison reading 2.19.2019, with guest appearance by Lady, hosted by John Burroughs.

Video volume is inconsistent due to ceiling heater cutting on and off, plus my soft speaking voice, and lack of a microfone – but it gives you a feel for the rhythm of the words. I had to use headfones to listen.

Friends have mentioned the best parts are Lady reading from the memoir at the end of her set, and me ending with mom’s death around the 40 minute mark.

Introduction by John Burroughs — 0 to 3:12
me reciting — 3:13 to 14:35
Lady reading — 14:36 to 27:13
me reading — 27:14 45:53
Q & A — 46:54 51:56

Watching it, there are moments of magic, but I need to be way less laid-back, and to add volume and texture to my vocal delivery… compensate for having part of my voice box removed in the early oughts.

But the words themselves are right fine. And the audience generous.

The two books read from are —

Where Never Was Already Is, 2018, Crisis Chronicles Press, 324 pages 244 poems 29 illustrations, $15

and my memoir

Stations of the Lost & Found – a True Tale of Armed Robbery, Stolen Cars, Outsider Art, Mutant Poetry, Underground Publishing, Robbing the Cradle, and Leaving the Country by Smith & Lady, 2012, The City Poetry, 344 pages, $20


6 Russell Atkins poems from Artcrimes

Saturday, September 15th, 2018

This fall, Cleveland State University Poetry Center is publishing selected poems by Russell Atkins (1926), co-edited by poets Robert MacDonough and Kevin Prufer.

Atkins lost all his personal papers when he went into the hospital then assisted living years ago and the city tore down his house, so they are looking for any poems published in magazines or chapbooks.

They discovered 4 of his poems in Artcrimes # 7 (1989 edited by Chris Franke) and 2 in Artcrimes 11 (1991 edited by Ben Gulyas) – and of the 6, 4 were unknown to the editors.

If anyone knows of any other published Atkins poems, please let me know and I’ll pass it on.

Russell AtkinsWiki article –

The 6 Atkins poems in Artcrimes — the blog editor deleted the special spacing from his poems and left justified.

~ ~ ~

by Russell Atkins

th’ baby came forward
with out-held arms
saying, ” — dah!”
to me?
knew a terror not to dare!
with fled I rushed
about the terminal
looking for things going now
like a bus for Canada —

a car’s approach:
“I need the swift of your help,”
I said, ” — a baby
with arms out-held!”

the driver said, “I dig!
(he knew the worst)
— let’s split

~ ~ ~

by Russell Atkins

reaches about
and has hold
of the throats
of trees
— such shake it to death wild!

the snow octopus
widths into blizzards
of mists
then furiouses!
a dash through sky
flung tentacles
full squid

~ ~ ~

Spring’s Generation Gap
by Russell Atkins

it takes evening
a long time to arrive — it
feebles (slow old man
still trying to hold down a job,
decrepit) forced to move fast
— janitor of the above offices!
he replaces things that
were used puts them in special
dark corners, closes shadows
into spaces like doors,
straightens, covers until
all seems gone
just before
youthful day comes to work
demanding, “Hey, dad —
— where the hell is everything?!”

~ ~ ~

Old Man Carrying A Bible In A High Crime Area
by Russell Atkins

Condense, will it? grow a barrel
for shooting?
flash open and spit God’s
electric al bullets, Leviticus
as the holy trigger – the thief
drops into hell? book develops
dimensions turned sanctuary
where no muggers plunder?
Does the dope fiend defer
to this, struck to a fix? will the book
in black, cleric vestment
convert loose women?

Old friend, listen: don’t wait
– when they come at you,
throw it at them!

~ ~ ~

Ninety Kilocycles
by Russell Atkins

Ever stuffed in that box living’s
claustrophobia’d surely, small
this harangue or abuzz’d of news
where miniature Savings & Loans
are robbed, where murder, as if betwixt dolls,
squeaks a gloom’d spider’s kept
spinning no matter what –
– to have everything in handfuls
is most convenient(even conscienced
by dials)
if someone leaps at end
from a vast height, it’s brought
between fingers of a mere hand
held for a minute, for a time
at this squat package of sounds
– when, quickly,
the button snaps off the world’s harsh
after its hush, sprung like a trap,
one imagines the rage goes on
within –

~ ~ ~

Public Square
by Russell Atkins

The light is at the back
it lets one know
it’s not for sure

as I’m amidst
this alit of a
chess’d up jut
long’d from by
shadows that ail

twilight’s haunt
is in appear‘’
downtown’s vaunt
is muted
so, half way
through some monstrous’d
I sense but its
– things told
should be open
by now
to what is



10 mail arts 1988 – 1995 – 2002

Thursday, September 13th, 2018

5 mail art cards to Stone Ranger & Ann, 1988-1995

postcard to Pappy


art for Artcrimes #14, The Book of Fools, 8.93

art for Artcrimes #20, Sea of Forgetfullness, 7.02

postcard for Mother Dwarf

these 10 collages by Steven B. Smith


Back Alley

Thursday, April 24th, 2014


Back Alley

People get lost in nooks,
the nooks and crooks
and sometimes the crannies too,
not granny crannies or booker nooks
or even crooked crook crooks
but kooks and cravings and unwashed bathings
and the flat footed vagaries of too cooked arteries
of oft farted smarteries
leaving lust in the dust with the rest of the rust
which cause such a fuss
for those of us before the fall
too tall to get small
in their nooks and untalleries calling unvoluntaries
to race for the rest instead of the best
such is life in the alley in the belly of the valley
in this test of the beast slouching from east
wondering away from the why.

– Smith, 4.24.2014

I published 21 issues of Artcrimes, an art/poetry journal, from 1986 to 2006 and will likely add issue 22 somewhere down the line . . . I lost $20,000 of my own money in the process.

I looked them up on, a rare books site, and found three listed for sale.

Artcrimes vol I no VI November 1988 – $75
although they seem quite confused about this one – publication date and number indicate me as editor of #6, but they list Chris Franke as editor and he was #7.

Language’smyths 17: An Artcrimes / 60 years of Poartry, 1995, edited by Lang and Smith – $46.70

Artcrimes #20: Sea of Forgetfulness 58 illustrations, 46 poems, 57 artists, 100 pages, 2002, edited by Wolfe and Smith – $10



gone Gehry fishin’

Saturday, June 1st, 2013

Frank Gehry’s Glass Fish, Walker Sculptural Garden Minneapolios MN – fotos Smith


I arrived 9 yrs after d.a. levy’s suicide

Friday, August 17th, 2012

Cleveland’s three best known poets are Hart Crane (who lived here early in his life), Langston Hughes (who lived here early in his life) and d.a. levy (who lived here all 26 years of his life). Two other prominent Cleveland poets would be Russell Atkins (born 1926 and still here) and Daniel Thompson (1935-2004). I can’t think of any current Cleveland poets of similar fame, but many of similar talent.

I came to Cleveland in 1977, nine years after levy blew his brains all over his apartment wall with a shotgun at the age of 26. He was basically hounded to death by the Cleveland police and politicians because of his liberal views, his pro-marijuana stance, his poetry, and for reading a minor’s poem which contained the word *fuck* to the minor and a bunch of other folk in the basement of a church with the cops present. They busted him for contributing to the delinquency of a minor — or more accurately (per Wikipedia) “In 1966 he was indicted for distributing obscene poetry to minors. He was arrested again in 1967, and his pressing materials confiscated, prompting a benefit reading on May 14, 1967 on the Case Institute of Technology campus which featured such figures as Allen Ginsberg, Tuli Kupferberg and the Fugs.”

It’s amazing how those in power fear poets, or at least used to.

On one level levy’s famous because he killed himself, died young and feisty and not-so-very beautiful but edgy. For a while some folk believed he was murdered by the Cleveland police or politicians, but according to his friends he was always suicidal, as evidenced by some of the titles listed below.

He wrote some very good poems, did rather clumsy cluttered collages and some very fine art, and most importantly was the 1960’s vanguard here for the mimeographed self-publishing poetry revolution. All of his output is available for free re-use by anyone because he always wrote *copyrot* in place of *copyright*.

Some of his better known works are The North American Book of the Dead, Cleveland Undercovers, Suburban Monastery Death Poem, Tombstone as a Lonely Charm, and his publishing of Cleveland’s first underground newspaper The Buddhist Third-Class Junkmail Oracle in 1966-7. In 1968 he also co-edited and wrote for the sole issue of The Marijuana Review.

Here’s an excerpt from a d.a. levy poem I included in Artcrimes #20 (2006):

the soulless men
bullfighters of insignificant stockrooms
mindless phantoms who never possessed a spirit
to gamble with
men with high school television dreams
who cross themselves in rituals of death
who whisper “jesus” before dueling
with their competitors each day
playing war games – becoming policemen
gambling with insanity
they drive their autos
laugh at hippies drink on fridays
go bowling shit on God each day & they die
& they die & they die alone
wrapped in flags
proud of their insanity
& the academic poets
write their cleaned-up dreams for you
pretend it is all beautiful
sitting in a bar
the alcohol confessional
& everyday i sit here
trying to become one of you
after another
trying on those high school dreams
for size
it doesnt work
you dont fit me

– d.a. levy – excerpt from SUBURBAN MONASTERY DEATH POEM

Below are samples from The Buddhist Third-Class Junkmail Oracle and a VERY un-Buddhist letter (the foto above) from a Buddhist temple in California which shows an amazing lack of Buddhist compassion. The Buddhist Third-Class Junkmail Oracle material is courtesy of my musical partner Peter Ball of Apartment One.

This blog is simplistic and shallow because I wasn’t here and didn’t know the man, but do know a few of his friends.

A reprint of SUBURBAN MONASTERY DEATH POEM can be ordered for $5 from Crisis Chronicles Press.

1968 foto of levy by Richard Ceasar heavily manipulated by me
from Artcrimes 20
all fotos or fotos of fotos by Smith


Surreal Thing

Sunday, November 27th, 2011

Cover foto by Jerry Mann

For a week in March 2000, everywhere I went in Cleveland I saw my face staring back at me from newspaper boxes, coffee house counters, internet cafes, diners, paraphernalia shops. It was the week after I turned 54 and I was the cover story for the Free Times, a weekly newspaper.

SURREAL THING – Collector & artist Steven Smith bares all blared from the cover as I posed in my Amish beard behind a hanging eyeball, maybe 40 pounds heavier than I am now.

I always thought that was about the time I was going to become famous because things were looking good from 1997 when I started being collected and met Meat Beat Manifesto and 2001 when I made the cover; but it’s been downhill pretty much fame-wise since, but a much improved uphill life inner growth wise.

Peter Ball, my musician collaborator, found this copy while cleaning out his attic and gave it to me a couple months ago and I’ve been debating ever since whether to blog it or not because on one hand it’s pretty cool to be a cover story, but on the other it’s a blatant me-ego-me-pat-myself-on-back thing.

Well, ego won. Big surprise.

The first third of the article is interesting; and so I think is the last third. And I love the last line: “My life,” he says, “is more interesting than I am.”

I’ve posted fotos of the paper version because the online story looks totally different.

here’s the article – Surreal Thing.

from the Free Times, March 2000


deep cleveland press & artcrimes donate to homeless

Monday, October 11th, 2010

Sleeping With My Sock and other poems
by Jack McGuane – a deep cleveland press publication

Mark Kuhar has suggested all of the profits from sales of his deep cleveland press publications and all sales of my old ArtCrimes back issues (which Mark has been handling since Lady and I left the country in 2006) will be donated to the new homeless Grapevine newspaper.

I have no idea of how many chapbooks Mark has published, but he’s been doing it for years and has an incredible inventory of poets. I published ArtCrimes from 1986 through 2006 — 21 issues, 517 poets and artists published — for which I lost $20,000 over the life of the project.

Here is poet/publisher Mark Kuhar’s announcement:

Let the words of the homeless be heard!

Cleveland poets are trying to raise money for a new version of the The Homeless Grapevine, the newspaper that the homeless used to give away to folks in return for donations. The publication closed last year. So far, almost $1,000 has been raised thanks to poet Larry Smith’s Bottom Dog Press, poet Mary Weems, poet Ben Gulyas and his friends, and poets Kathy and Steve Smith. That leaves the fund-raising effort $600 short.

I can’t think of anyone better qualified to raise money to print the words of the homeless than the word-loving poets of Cleveland. After all, if we don’t stand behind words for humanity, who will? I know that the late poet Daniel Thompson, a fierce advocate for the homeless, would want us to do this and we can’t let him down. To aid the effort, poet Mark Kuhar of deep cleveland press will donate all of the profits from the purchase of any deep cleveland press book, or any publication from the historic Agents of Chaos “ArtCrimes” series to the effort. Go to the below links and make a purchase today, and tell all your friends!

for back issues of ArtCrimes:

for publications of deep cleveland press:

ArtCrimes #15 front cover art by Jim Lang & Smith
published June 1994 – 8.5″ x 11″ – ©smith
Four Play With Heads – co-editors Jim Lang, Ben Gulyas, Mike Thomas & Smith / publisher Steven B. Smith
left to right: Jim Lang, Ben Gulyas, Mike Thomas – Smith reflected in car hood far right
foto by Smith



Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

Ponytails were killing us. My most excellent friend & I are solving the problems of the universe. The most excellent show maybe ever–“Red Dwarf…”

On Friday, the Red Dwarf ran into the Squid of Despair, a giant squid. The cast and crew discovered that everything is a giant, mass hallucination, that we’ve all been playing parts for four years in a GIANT VIRTUAL VIDEO GAME.

SO, now they find out who they REALLY are–and THAT’s the DESPAIR–the despair was that they found out who they really were…

AND, right when they were about to KILL themselves, all cast members lined up, four in a row with one bullet–the ship’s computer finally got to a high enough FREQUENCY where they could HEAR and save them.



Friends, we suggest that we buy each other’s organically grown sustainable smoothie very expensive cakes and artisanal food, get frequent behive hairdos, sans hair dye, at the beauty salons where the hairdressers are paid magnificently and enjoy their work. Exercise classes and spas. Sustainable capitalism–it’s a plan.

– –

I suggest free education for everyone, or paid education, whatever works. And a career of anyone’s choice. Some people have to go to school longer for their careers. Those people should be paid a wee bit more. OK, incentive. But not ridiculous incentive. I’m thinking: sliding scale speeding tickets, like the ones they have in Sweden. Getting rid of tax loopholes and offshore accounts. Staying local. Stopping all this weird international shipping except for cruise ships to one anothers continents. In the basements of the cruise ships, we could carry very expensive, fine cheese and the spices and coffee of the world. Gigantic, energy efficient cruise ships. Free energy? What was that thing Tesla was talking about? Hope it works. I would like to beam myself to the North and South pole if possible, and Japan. Coffee crops as well. I really like coffee from fair wage growers whose wages must grow more excellent.

Keeping the inheritance ‘stuff’ within reason, but making sure these rich people work doing art/music/artisanal food or whatever tickles their fancy and stimulates the economy in a sustainable way.

– –

Primed the pump last night and bought some local, organic food. Sharpened our old knives for only $12. Hope he charges more next time. Hope the family business has more business coming in–we are an overtly ethical business. Hope our book projects take off. I know all this will happen. I just, know… it.



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