'You Should Never Have Opened That Door': The story of Long Shot Magazine

I first remember meeting poet Danny Shot at the 1981 On The Road conference, sponsored by Naropa University and held at the University of Colorado at Boulder. A recent graduate of Rutgers University, he too was bitten by the Beat bug and we were both there to attend what turned out to be the last gathering of the major players of 50s bohemian culture. As a relatively sensible American, I had flown in on a cheap US Air flight in order in celebrate the 25th Anniversary of Kerouac’s classic road novel. Danny and his friends opted to take to drive from the East to the Rockies. The long trip was made even longer given the presence of jazzpoet deluxe Ray Bremser in their battered van; his seemingly nonstop beer drinking made for hourly pisstops along the no longer lonesome toll roads of America.

Danny and I eventually ended up as neighbors in Hoboken, living in the middle of the city along the same block. He’s been teaching English in the NYC high school system for over thirty years and has been an indefatigable poetry activist for even a longer time.  He’s currently poet-in-residence at the Hoboken Historical Museum and the events he’s put together have drawn standing room crowds. The secret is an unembarrassed populism rooted in his practice of mentors Allen Ginsberg, Amiri Baraka and Pedro Pietri. It also traces back to his participation the 80s punk scene located in New Brunswick, jokingly/not-jokingly referred to as “The Liverpool of the East Coast.”

For over 20 years Danny was one of the main brains behind Long Shot, a lively magazine that not only survived without institutional support – it even managed to finish in the black and even sold out of a number of issues (a Vanity Fair plug for its issue featuring the poetry musings of Sean Penn inundated their pre-internet PO Box with checks and just plain old cash).  It was a magazine that was unselfconsciously multi-cultural, defiantly working-class and always rooting for the bottom dogs of both literature and society. The earliest iterations of Long Shot merged the aesthetics of the Beats and the Ramones-wing of the Punk world. My first submission to LS was rejected and returned along with a firm letter from Danny that warned me that his magazine was defiantly anti-intellectual and what I was sending was just too high brow for them (Danny claims not to remember this exchange). As the editorial staff slipped out of their mental Doc Martins into the boat shoes of maturity, parenthood, marriage and the work world, the magazine quietly shifted towards a more left-leaning populist political stance, but always remained rooted in the poetics of the Nyorican Café’ and the Beats.

I asked Danny to write a little history of Long Shot, as I think it is instructive as to how a magazine “happened” in both the pre-online era and also in the cultural backwaters of Jersey: 

Long Shot made its debut in early 1982, but the idea and planning of the first issue took place in 1980. Cofounders Eliot Katz and Danny Shot were just out of college (Rutgers University) and saw the need for a raw, fresh, and thoroughly exuberant forum for writers who did not fit into the literary mold of the early 1980's. Shot was living in San Francisco and Katz had recently attended a summer session at Naropa Institute. They shared a desire to publish some of the young, exciting writers they had recently been reading and meeting. The money for Long Shot volume 1 came largely from the generosity of poet Allen Ginsberg, with whom Katz had studied at Naropa. To help Long Shot get off the ground, Ginsberg came down to Rutgers to read with the two young poet-editors and donated half his usual reading fee to this new literary project. Production expenses were kept to a minimum. Katz got a job at a print shop, and along with a few sympathetic coworkers printed the first issue on a few small offset printing presses. The volume was typeset by members of the Rutgers school newspaper for the generous price of $8.00 an hour. Text and captions were cut out with Exacto knives and pasted down. Katz and Shot collated the loose pages and brought the magazines to Brooklyn where they were bound. Long Shot #1 features poetry by Susie Timmons, Alicia Ostriker, Richard Hell, Eileen Myles, Kevin Hayes, James Ruggia, Allen Ginsberg, as well as Long Shot regulars Andy Clausen, Katz, Shot, and Robert Press.

Volume #2 came out a year later. After Volume #1 sold out of its initial run of 500 copies, Shot and Katz found themselves broke and trying to raiseproduction expenses by selling ads to New Brunswick businesses including long time Long Shot patrons, The Court Tavern and Melody Bar. Long Shot #2 was put together in much the same way as #1. Vol. #2 featured original poetry by Amiri and Amina Baraka, Jim Carrol, Ray Bremser, Antler, Jeff Poniewaz, Janet Cannon, photos by Deborah Troeller, an interview with William Burroughs, more work by Katz, Shot, Clausen and Press, as well as the Long Shot debut of future editor Jack Wiler.

Long Shot #3 came out in 1984 with the financial help of friends and neighbors. Joanne Lanciotti, who had helped create Long Shot officially took on the title of Art Editor. Vol. 3 also featured unpublished poems by Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Tom Waits and up-to-then unpublished poems by Jack Kerouac. Long Shot #3 also marks the Long Shot debut of Charles Bukowski. Volume 3 opens up with 5 poems by Bukowski. The back cover is a reproduction of a letter from Buk that reads:

Hello Eliot Katz; Dan Shot;
 Glad I got some poems by you. Take your time.
 Ending 2nd bottle of wine, radio blasting Eric Coates -
All's Well. Everytime I get Drunk and figure I'm not in the tank, then,
That's a good night.
 Easy, Buk

1984 also saw the publication of Long Shot's first book, Andy Clausen's The Iron Curtain of Love.

It was two years before Long Shot #4 appeared in 1986. Progress was slowed by Shot's insistence on having a personal life, marrying artist Caroline Doncourt in 1985. Eliot Katz and Robert Press served as co-best-men. Shot also began working as a high school teacher in New York City. Volume 4 featured an all-star cast including: Amiri Baraka, Charles Bukowski, Marianne Faithful, Allen Ginsberg, Richard Hell, Alicia Ostriker, Mary Shanley, Tom Waits as well as the Long Shot debut of Pedro Pietri. Volume 4 also represented a friendly parting of the ways: after this issue, Katz left his editorial post to pursue political activist interests.

Long Shot continued in that vein until 2004 with the publication of Volume 27, the ill fated Beat Bush Issue. Along the way Long Shot published the likes of Reg E Gaines, Paul Beatty, Alicia Ostriker, Janine Pommy Vega, Miguel Algarin, Sean Penn, Edwin Torres, June Jordan, Leaping Lanny Poffo, Eileen Myles, Diane Wakoski, Anne Waldman, Tuli Kupferberg, Ted Berrigan, Jack Micheline, Ray Bremser, Lou Reed, Quincy Troupe, Nancy Mercado, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Yoko Ono, Leon Golub, Ed Sanders, Ida Applebroog, Peter Orlovsky, Herschel Silverman, Larry Clark, Larry Rivers, Cindy Sherman,Ted Joans, Hettie Jones, Amina Baraka, Archie Shepp, Victor Hernadez Cruz, Steve Cannon, Wanda Coleman, Amber Tamblyn, Jayne Cortez, Bob Holman, Arundhati Roy, Martin Espada, Sue Coe, Joel Lewis and hundreds of other worthy poets, writers, and artists.

Long Shot began its life in New Brunswick before moving base to Hoboken in 1988. A number of editors, most from New Jersey, left their mark; Eliot Katz, Caren Lee Michelson, Jack Wiler, Nancy Mercado, Lynne Breitfeller, Tom Pulhamus, Jessica Chosid, Ernest Hilbert, David Stack, Magdalena Alagna, Andy Clausen, and of course Publisher Danny Shot. During its time of existence (1982-2004) Long Shot tried to follow the aesthetic laid down by Italian film director Lena Wertmuller, sex and (leftist) politics, all the while un-self-consciously offering a diverse group of writers, artists, thinkers and raconteurs. All the while, Long Shot stood true to its New Jersey roots: Writing for the Real World. And New Jersey’s as real as it gets.

The curious might have to reach out to Danny directly for back issues as the magazine has no online presence and its files remain in the Shot household. This is not a Luddite or even an anti-institutional gesture; Long Shot’s aesthetic was always more about the moment it was in and less about what people thought about you when you were dead. And after years of promoting the local talent, Danny will be publishing his first book of poems through the offices of Fort Lee’s Cavan-Kerry Press.  And for those interested in obtaining copies of Long Shot magazine and books, contact Danny at: dannyshot57@gmail.com.