Ira Cohen (born February 3, 1935) is an American poet, publisher, photographer and filmmaker born in New York City to deaf parents. During the 1960s, he traveled to Tangier, where he published the exorcism magazine GNAOUA. He also published The Hashish Cookbook under the name of Panama Rose. He continued to travel until 1980, when he returned to New York City, where he now resides.
In 1961 Cohen took a Yugoslavian freighter to Tangier, Morocco where he lived for four years and published GNAOUA, a magazine devoted to exorcism introducing the work of Brion Gysin, William S. Burroughs, Harold Norse and other members of the Interzone. GNAOUA also featured Jack Smith, and Irving Rosenthal. He also produced Jilala, a mythic recording of trance music by a sect of dervishes, which was recorded by Paul Bowles.
In his loft on the Lower East Side, Cohen created the "mylar images", future icons developed by a "mythographer". Among the reflected artists in his mirror: John McLaughlin, William Burroughs and Jimi Hendrix who said that looking at these photos was like looking through butterfly wings. Timothy Baum, noted expert in Man Ray, Marcel Duchamp, said that these images were jewels and should be shown at Tiffany's. With this shamanic and tantric exercise Cohen explored the whole spectrum of photography from infrared to black light. In 1968 he also directed the "phantasmaglorical" film Invasion of Thunderbolt Pagoda and produced Paradise Now, a film of the Living Theatre's historic American tour. Invasion Of Thunderbolt Pagoda was inspired by the films of Kenneth Anger and Sergei Parajanov and began as an extension of his photography work with his Mylar chamber.
He went to the Himalayas in the '70s where he started the starstream poetry series under the Bardo matrix imprint in Kathmandu, publishing the work of Charles Henri Ford, Gregory Corso, Paul Bowles and Angus Maclise; and developing his art of bookmaking, working with native craftsmen. In 1972 he spent a year in San Francisco reading and performing and then returned to New York mounting photographic shows.
During the 1980s Cohen made trips to Ethiopia, Japan, and back to India where he documented on video the great kumbh mela festival, the largest spiritual gathering on the planet. In the latter part of the decade Synergetic Press published On Feet of Gold, a book of selected poems. He was also a contributing editor of Third Rail magazine, a review of international arts and literature based in Los Angeles.
Ira Cohen saw his poems published during the 1990s in England by Temple Press under the title Ratio 3: Media Shamans Along with Two Good Poet Friends, Gerard Malanga (Factory) and Angus Maclise. He had a show called Retrospectacle at the October Gallery in London and he also took part along with William Burroughs, Terry Wilson and Hakim Bey at the Here To Go Show in Dublin in 1992 which celebrated the painter Brion Gysin.
In 1994 Sub Rosa Records released his first CD, The Majoon Traveller, with Cheb i Sabbah, which also included the work of Don Cherry and Ornette Coleman.