When taking advantage of the U.S. Postal Service program that enables the public to create their own postage stamps, most people probably choose subjects such as family members or their dog. A publicity-shy Woodstock resident who describes himself as a poet-anarchist decided he was going to make a stamp honoring his friend, the late Tuli Kupferberg, musician, poet, political cartoonist, pacifist anarchist, and co-founder of the band the Fugs.
“The trick was,” said the Woodstock poet-anarchist, “would the Post Office look up Tuli and find out he was the author of a book called Teach Yourself Fucking? They didn’t. I guess as long as it’s not a beaver shot, they don’t care.” He is amused by the idea of making a postage stamp as a subversive act.
Woodstocker Ed Sanders, also a co-founder of the Fugs, was pleased to hear about the Tuli stamp and found its existence appropriate. “During his lifetime, he was a prolific mail artist,” mused Sanders. “He drew his cartoons and was always sending out cassettes, and later, CDs, of his new songs, with his drawings on the envelopes. When he had a particularly pro-freedom and anti-government one, he wouldn’t put a stamp on it because he didn’t want it franked. He took off his return address too, and they would go through. I got ten or twenty frankless packages over the years before he died in 2010.”
Kupferberg’s New York Times obituary described the Fugs as “the most literary rock group of the 1960s, with songs suitable for the locker room as well as the graduate seminar (“Ah, Sunflower, Weary of Time,” based on a poem by William Blake); all were played with a ramshackle glee that anticipated punk rock.” Other Fugs songs, such as “Kill for Peace” expressed the band’s fierce antiwar sentiments, mingled with a generous dose of absurdist theatricality.
Starting his career as a Beat poet, Kupferberg went on to publish books such as 1001 Ways to Live Without Working (1961) and 1001 Ways to Beat the Draft (1966). Surprisingly, he also hearkened back to his Jewish roots. “I used to call his music anarcho-Hasidic,” said Sanders. “He took the Jewish folksongs of his childhood and put new lyrics to them. He would still sing them at 85 years old. He remembered Yiddish radio ads for shoe stores he’d heard in his thirties in Brooklyn.”
Our poet-anarchist considers creating a stamp to be a form of conceptual art. “When I heard you could do it,” he remembered, “it happened to be Tuli’s birthday, so I was thinking about him.” September 28 was also the date of the global event known as 100,000 Poets for Change, so it seemed like an auspicious moment to honor a revolutionary thinker.
Furthermore, the poet-anarchist stamp creator is a big supporter of the Post Office, since he refuses to touch a computer. “I use the mail,” he stated. “I’m very pro-Post Office.”
How to do it
The Postal Service website, https://www.usps.com/, encourages customers, “Unleash your creativity online. Design something special for your business, a big celebration, or just for fun.” It directs the user to any of several third-party websites, such as https://www.zazzle.com/, which makes it simple to upload a photograph, type out text, and plug them into one of several templates. Choices include stamps in several sizes, with first-class or post-card postage. Imprinted post cards and envelopes are also available.
The cost for stamps alone varies from about $20 to $25 for a sheet of 20, or roughly double the price of the actual postage. Shipping is extra. The layout file may be saved, in case the buyer wants to order more copies at a future date.
By late December, the poet-anarchist had mailed envelopes bearing all but two of his 40 do-it-yourself stamps to friends who had known Tuli. He’s thinking to make a new set with a different subject. “Maybe I’ll do another anarchist,” he said. “I’m pretty sure there’s never been an Emma Goldman stamp.”