The Latest Word

The Latest Word

a Steamshovel Press column not appearing in the magazine

Roy Lisker Turns Sixty

Above: Roy Lisker, center, in 1965 with two others who protested the Vietnam War by burning their draft cards at Union Square in New York. A photograph of the burning appeared on the front page of the New York Times on November 7, 1965.

Steamshovel Press would call him a genius, but Roy Lisker notes in the current issue of his newsletter, Ferment!, the term "renders explicit the eugenic fascism which is clearly at the core of [such] observations." Nevertheless, the sometimes Steamshovel contributor celebrates 60 years on September 24, and this momentous occasion cannot go overlooked at Steamshovel. Since he was first encountered by Steamshovel personnel in Boulder, Colorado in 1982 being carted off by bus depot security for chanting his poetry in the terminal, Lisker has been a constant inspiration.


"One might posit the existence of a conspiracy in the collective unconscious, whereby society arrogates to itself the right not only to pass judgement on all matters of the heart, but to credentialize it as well, deeming illegitimate and even non-existent all manifestations which do not conform to a deliberately reductive framework imposed by social institutions and mediated through language." --Roy Lisker, Love and Cosmology, April 1979


Not only a musician and math teacher, Lisker is also the consummate zinester, having for over three decades published a regular newsletter--originally entitled New Universe Weekly--as part of his performance arsenal. The zinelet, now called Ferment!, is available only by subscription or from him at one of his performances, chants or lectures, which can often be attended on street corners. An electronic version of Ferment! appears on the Steamshovel web site, where subscription information may also be found.

Spontaneous spiral form, written on a paper plate at a St. Louis diner, July 9, 1983. Far right: Lisker breaks the law against street performers in St. Louis, June 1991.

Lisker's matrix poetry. Inset: Roy Lisker, 1995

Alien Mathematics?

From the latest issue of Ferment! : "On the afternoon of January 20th, 1959, John Forbes Nash Jr., brandishing that day's copy of the New York Times, walked into the mathematics lounge at MIT. In a strong voice he announced that he'd discovered that the little box in the upper left-hand corner (the off-lede) carried a message from outer space aliens to the governments of Earth, which he alone was able to decipher."

Steamshovel notes that Nash, indeed, was alone among earth mathematicians to notice the subtle alien code. Witness, for instance, how the off-lede subtly changed on the day the NY Times began to report upon Lisker's draft resistance event of 1965. Chalk up the irregularities of box lines to printing problems, but what of the motto "All the News That's Fit To Print," slightly askew only in this edition, which included a report about how Lisker and friends added up Vietnam...

...and what to make of this? Another edition with a news story about Roy Lisker and draft resistance.

Another example:

Happy Birthday, Roy!

Kenn Thomas, editor of Steamshovel Press

Previous Latest Words:

(Click on the last to get to more previous columns.)
Second Intern Theory Allen Ginsberg and the Student Spies of Czechoslovakia Illuminati Footnote by X. Sharks DeSpot

UFO Crewes and Castaneda Obit

False Report Exposes the Dirty Truth About South African Intelligence Services and Begs More Questions ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------