Kathy Acker (1968-1979)

Chronology of Kathy Acker’s works and life between 1968 and 1979 (work in progress).
Main sources: Chris Kraus
, After Kathy Acker, MIT Press (Semiotext), 2017.


• May: Kathy Acker finishes her English B.A. at UC San Diego (where she had moved in 1966, immediately after the wedding, with her husband Bob Acker), and begins earning credits for an M.A. in English (Kraus, p.34, 45).


Fall: Kathy Acker meets Len Neufeld at a David Antin’s poetry class (Kraus, p.50).


Late May: Kathy Acker and Len Neufeld (28 years old) move from San Diego to New York City, in the five-room apartment he had once shared with his soon-to-be-former wife (Martha Rosler); West 163rd street, at the 6th floor of a building in Washington Heights, upper Manhattan, “straddling the corner of Broadway and 163rd Street” (Kraus, p.25-27, 32).
Within weeks of arriving, Kathy Acker feels acute pain and is diagnosed at the hospital with pelvic inflammatory disease (PID) (Kraus, p.53).

December: Kathy Acker and Len Neufeld start to perform in the “live sex show” at Fun City, where they receive 120$ a night for performing six shows, twenty or thirty minutes each time (Kraus, p.27).


March: The vice squad raids Fun City, Kathy Acker and Len Neufeld spend one night in jail before being bailed out by Bob Wolfe (Kraus, p.59). End of the job at Fun City.

– “Poems 5/71—6/71”, Kathy Acker.

May 7: Kathy Acker reads at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project open-mike evening the “Poems 5/71—6/71” (Kraus, p.61).

– “DIARIES} DIARY OF THE WORLD”, Kathy Acker’s diary of December 1971.
“For the first time, she divides the text into sections with a series of intertitles, a technique Acker would use throughout her career in all her published writing.” (Kraus, p.61).


(?) No diaries, notebooks or written letters remain of the period extending between January 1972 and the last months of 1973 (when she started writing The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula). “Over the years, in New York and London, as her reputation became more established, she sold notebooks and letters to bookshops and dealers to raise extra cash: perhaps these papers exist in private collections” (Kraus, p.62).

February: “There’s no doubt” Acker attends Bernadette Mayer’s Memory exhibition, installed at Holly Solomon’s 98 Green Street loft (Kraus, p.62).

– The Burning Bombing of America, Kathy Acker, finished on the summer 1972 (?). Published for the first time posthumously.

– “Journal Black Cat Black Jewels”, Kathy Acker, prose poem dated Summer 1972; published posthumously in 2015 as part of Homage to Leroi Jones and Other Early Works.

– “The Revolution and After”, Kathy Acker, prose poem written around the Summer 1972.

July-August:  Kathy Acker goes to San Diego and visits Mel Freilicher, David and Eleanor Antin and more old friends (Kraus, p.64).
She gives “a few readings” in San Diego (ibid.).

– Politics, Kathy Acker; self published, Papyrus Press, San Diego, 1972. Composition of fragments of the notebooks she has kept in New York.

August: Kathy Acker leaves San Diego for New York, going by car with Peter Gordon and a friend of his (Kraus, p.69). Acker and Gordon stay together with Len Neufeld at the apartment on West 163rd Street; 10 days later Gordon leaves (Kraus, p.70).
Kathy Acker tells Lenny Neufeld she has to separate from him (Kraus, p.62).

Kathy Acker arrives at the end of August in San Diego to live with Peter Gordon, they would stay together for the next six years (Kraus, p.71).

– Homage to LeRoi Jones, Kathy Acker, poem which samples from and responds to Jones/Baraka’s short novel The System of Dante’s Hell (1965).

– “Excerpts From: Entrance into Dwelling in Paradise”, Kathy Acker, poem; “a mash-up of, presumably, John Milton’s Paradise Lost and her own notes” (Kraus, p.72).


– Some Lives of Murderesses, Kathy Acker, composed in May 1973 (Kraus, p.80); would become the first part of the Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula.

– Ripp-Off Red, Girl Detective, Kathy Acker.

– The Childlike Life of the Black Tarantula, Kathy Acker; serial of 6 installments sent by the mail to the “six hundred friends and acquaintances” figuring on Eleanor Antin’s mailing list for her photographic series 100 Boots (Kraus, p.82-83). The collection starts with the following epigraph: “Intention: I become a murderess by repeating in words the lives of other murderesses”.
1) Some lives of murderesses, composed in May 1973, printed in June on the press of the Solana Beach newspaper (San Diego) (ibid.).
2) A point-to-point comparison between my life and the life of moll cutpurse, the queen-regent of misrule, the roaring girl, the benevolent tyrant of city thieves and city murderers, the bear lady, dated June 1973.
3) I move to San Francisco. I begin to copy my favorite pornography books and become the main person in each of them, written in San Francisco, dated July 1973.
4) I become Helen Seferis, and then Alexander Trocchi, dated July 1973, with the following epigraph: “I’ve always feared most that someone will destroy my mind”.
5) I explore my miserable childhood. I become William Butler Yeats, written in San Francisco, dated September 1973.
6) The story of my life, last installment dated September 1973.
The 6 installments would be then “gathered and presented together in Acker’s first non-self published book” (Kraus, p.83).
→ The Childlike Life would be then republished by the New York independent press TVRT (The Vanishing Rotating Triangle Press), in 1975, with Acker’s third serial work The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec (Kraus, p.114); as well as a limited edition by Viper’s Tongue Books (New York) in 1975; then in 1978 with TVRT press and Print Matter Books.
→ TranslationsLa vie enfantine de la Tarentule noire, par la Tarentule noire, Kathy Acker ; traduit de l’anglais par Gérard-Georges Lemaire, éd. Désordres (2005).

July: Kathy Acker and Peter Gordon move to San Francisco, at 46 Belvedere Street, Haight-Ashbury district (Kraus, p.85).

July-September: “Around the same time, she begins drawing dense, intricate maps of her dreams in fountain-pen ink on large sheets of paper” (Kraus, p.86).

September: Peter Gordon starts classes at Mills, working mostly with Robert Ashley who would become “a powerful influence and a friend to both Gordon and Acker” (Kraus, p.87).

November: “Depressed by what she perceived as a lack of response to the later parts of the series, she collapsed with exhaustion in November” (Kraus, p.91).

November 25 : Jackson Mac Low creates The 8-Voice Stereo-Canon Realization (11/25/73) Of The Black Tarantula Crossword Gathas (Editions S Press, 1975). Hear online.

– “Diary II”, Kathy Acker, unpublished; she renounced to turn it into the seventh installment of the Black Tarantula (Kraus, p.91).


Early February: Kathy Acker flies to New York (Kraus, p.92).
February 18: Kathy Acker and Mel Frielicher read at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project with Ed Bowes and two other friends in the “younger poet” Monday-night reading slot (Kraus, p.93).

February-January: Kathy Acker meets Alan Sondheim “during those early weeks early in 1974” (Kraus, p.94).

– “BREAKING THROUGH MEMORIES INTO DESIRE”, Kathy Acker, dated March 1. Captioned “Part III of long work”; “Parts I and II are almost certainly the same text as the unpublished seventh installment of The Black Tarantula that she had described in her January letter to Jackson Mac Low {cf. supra, “Diary II”}” (Kraus, p.99).

Two first weeks of March: Kathy Acker arrives at Sondheim’s New York apartment (Kraus, p.100).

– Blue Tape, Kathy Acker and Alan Sondheim, 54min movie, filmed on a EIAJ black-and-white Sony deck.

March 18: Projection of the Blue Tape at the St. Marks Poetry Project (Kraus, p.108). Kathy Acker then returns to San Francisco.

June: Kathy Acker begins a new six-part serial novella, I Dreamt I Was a Nymphomaniac: Imagining (Kraus, p.109).

– I Dreamt I Was a Nymphomaniac: Imagining, Kathy Acker, six-part serial novella; printed in Noe Valley (San Francisco) at the Empty Elevator Shaft (Kraus, p.111). The collection starts with the following epigraph: ““This is very nonpolitical, therefore reactionary,” he said. “But what would the world have to be like for these events to exist?” I replied.”
1) Desire begins.
2) I found an object for my desire.
3) Peter’s story.
4) San Francisco and…
5) Distrust.
6) Dykes.
→ Republished by Traveler’s Digest Editions (New York) in late March 1980.


January: Kathy Acker and Peter Gordon leave San Francisco. She arrives in New York during the same month, where she first stays at Bernadette Mayer’s apartment at 65 Second Avenue (Kraus, p.114).

February 19: Reading of Kathy Acker and Hannah Weiner at St. Mark’s Poetry Project (Kraus, p.115).
February 26: Kathy Acker is kicked out of Bernadette Mayer’s apartment.

Summer: Writer Constance Dejong sublets her apartment to Peter Gordon, Kathy Acker moves in (Kraus, p.130).
Kathy Acker applies for a CAPS grant (Creative Artists Public Service), proposing to travel to Haiti for extended research (ibid.).

June: Kathy Acker starts to write her third and last serial work The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec (Kraus, p.117).

Late July: Kathy Acker and Peter Gordon make a reading at the St. Mark’s Poetry Project (Kraus, p.131).

Early September: Constance Dejong returns; Peter Gordon and Kathy Acker move to 341 East Fifth Street (Kraus, p.133).

Late October: Readings/performances scheduled for two successive weekends by Constance Dejong, first, and then Kathy Acker, at the Kitchen. After Dejong’s reading Acker cancels her performances of the next week. Kathy Acker meets Rudolph Wurlitzer at the opening night, and gets involved with him. She would write The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec #6 during this involvement (Kraus, p.136-137)

November: Kathy Acker arrives finalist for the CAPS grant (cf. supra), and accepts Lil Picard’s (the other finalist) invitation to appear in a duo performance at Stefan Eins’s 3 Mercer Street Gallery at the end of November (Kraus, p.139).

– The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec, Kathy Acker, written in 1975, and first distributed through the mail during the Fall 1975; six installments published in pamphlet form (each in stapled wrappers) by Acker and TVRT (The Vanishing Rotating Triangle Press) in 1975-1976. The entire manuscript wouldn’t be published as one book before 1978 (Kraus, p.134). Parts 1 and 6 list Acker as the copyright holder; the middle parts use the name “The Black Tarantula. The collection starts with the following epigraph: ““Make sense,” Fielding said. “Tell the real story of your life. You alone can tell the truth!” “I don’t want to make any sense,” I replied.”
Images of the six installments: image 1, image 2, image 3.
1) The case of the murdered twerp, starts with the following epigraph: “I’m too ugly to go out into the world. I’m a hideous monster”.
2) Longing for better things.
3) “‘Stop it, Ted,’ I screamed when he finally released me, but he didn’t hear, he was like a madman: overcome with lust, I was totally in his power, completely helpless”
4) How love can lead youngsters to murder.
5) The future.
6) The life of Johnny Rocco.
→ In the 1978 TVRT (New York) reedition, the third installment turned into two distinguished parts: 3) The desperation of the poor 4) The creation of the world; making a total of seven parts.


January: Kathy Acker receives a CAPS grant of 7,000$ that would allow her to travel to Haiti and live for a year (Kraus, p.141).

– Kathy Acker’s interview with Barry Alpert for Toronto’s Only Paper Today, March 1976.

June: Kathy Acker leaves for Haiti, where she stays for most of the summer, and would begin to work on the novel Kathy Goes to Haiti when she returns.


January: Kathy Acker’s stepfather, Albert Alexander, dies of a heart attack.

February 2: Kathy Acker reads Fairy Tale Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec, Raw Heat and Kathy Goes to Haiti, at Western Front, Vancouver (Canada). See video.


February: Kathy Acker and Peter Gordon marry “on a freezing February afternoon at City Hall” (Kraus, p.147).

– The Adult Life of Toulouse Lautrec, Kathy Acker (complete version), TVRT press and Print Matter books, summer 1978.

Around August: Peter Gordon and Kathy Acker separate permanently, after being together since 1972 (Kraus, p.147).

– Kathy Goes to Haiti, Kathy Acker, block-print illustrations by Robert Kushner, Rumour Publications (Fred Gaysek and Judith Doyle press, Toronto), end of 1978. Launching of the book in February 1979 in Toronto (Kraus, p.143).
Republished by Grove Press in the 1987 Literal Madness anthology.

– “The Persian Poems”, Kathy Acker, in Semiotexte, vol. III, n°2, Schizo-Culture, 1978 (read online); inserted later into Blood and Guts in High School.
Republished as an artist book illustrated by Robert Kushner.

Fall: Kathy Acker finishes the manuscript of Blood and Guts in High School (Kraus, p.151).

Christmas’ Eve: Kathy Acker’s mother’s suicides (Kraus, p.165).


Summer: Kathy Acker writes New York City in 1979 (Kraus, p.170).

October, 26: Kathy Acker’s grandmother dies (Kraus, p.180); she leaves an estate of just under $1 million to be shared between her two granddaughters Kathy Acker and Wendy.

October: Kathy Acker goes to Amsterdam for the One World Poetry Festival (Kraus, p.172).

October-November: Kathy Acker stays in Paris.

• Early December: Kathy Acker returns from Paris to New York (Kraus, p.183).
December: Kathy Acker begins to write Great Expectations (Kraus, p.153).


See as well our pages:

Kathy Acker’publications in periodicals between 1981-1997.
Kathy Acker related materials.