At Brian Cassidy Bookseller, the artifacts, ephemera, and "cultural detritus" of the old East Village have washed ashore. There are old newsletters from the Poetry Project, flyers for clubs long defunct, mimeos and zines. It's an impressive collection.
But there's one extra special item that recently caught my eye at Cassidy's booth at the New York Art Book Fair.
The item's card reads: "Sanders, Ed and Allen Ginsberg. [Pubic Hair]." The condition is described as "Generally very good, though lacking all but one of the original public [sic] hairs."
"One of the most infamous and written-about literary artifacts of the 20th century," the original collection of hairs was requested by Sanders and gathered personally by Ginsberg to be sold via mail order through Sanders' Peace Eye Bookstore on Avenue A.
Cassidy has Ginsberg's handwritten list, including descriptions of each hair in the giver's own words, as they were collected at a party for Giuseppe Ungaretti's poetry reading in 1963 or '64. Without looking too much into it, the way each poet described his pubic hair may provide some insight into his personality--competitive, self-deprecating, straightforward.
Frank O'Hara: "Mine are more golden than Frank Lima's, to tell the truth."
Joe Brainard: "Sort of irregular."
Ron Padgett: "Hey, mine's got dandruff."
Edwin Denby: "Beat up grey."
LeRoi Jones: "Black and curly."
Also included in the piece is a note from Ed Sanders, affirming the authenticity of the hairs, and stating that only Kenneth Koch and Barbara Guest refused to give up theirs.
Today, only one hair remains. To which poet it belonged remains a mystery. Each hair originally sold for $15. This whole package can now be yours for $2,750. Contact Brian Cassidy Bookseller if you're interested.