Saturday, October 29, 2016

21st October: On this day in 1969, Jack Kerouac died...

"21st October: On this day in 1969 Jack Kerouac died. The Lonesome Traveller. Among friends & allies here in Heaven." Our notice up on the wall at Collected Works Bookshop, 21-X-16.

[Facebook post: On that day, the day after, the morning after? the Hemensleys were visiting George Dowden in Brighton, up from Southampton for a couple of days. I'd begun corresponding with George as editor of little mag, Our Glass, in Melbourne, '69. Found his Letters to English Poets in Mike Dugan's collection in '68, which gave me a postal address. What more does a boy in the sticks require?! Anyway, cut to the chase Hemensley! George took us around the corner from his fine apartment to meet Bill Butler, fellow American, at Bill's Unicorn Bookshop. Bill was fetching us a cuppa or finding a book to show, something like that, but he returned with the newspaper, New York Times, the Herald Tribune? Oh my, he was saying, have you seen this, Jack Kerouac died. Took the wind out of our sails.
George burrowed into his shoulder bag, fetched out a note book. Ive got a new notebook, he said. This'll be the first entry I make in it. Bill Butler kind of drew himself even taller than us and said, cuttingly, I always thought one only wrote small things in small notebooks.
Ye-es. Hmmm.
On the subject of Kerouac... infinite. On the subject of Bill Butler, great little shop, nice catalogues, central to the Brighton scene. I liked him, his Americana poems. Not everyone did. I recall Andrew Crozier generally congratulating the particular issue of my English mag. Earth Ship, in '70 or so, but particularly objecting to Bill's poems. (I'll take this opportunity to reread him now; I mean Bill. Andrew's a constant though wasnt always for me...) And on the subject of George... what happened to George? Bibliographer of Allen Ginsberg in the 70s, prolific on the little mag scene. I shared poems he sent to Melbourne with other little mags. He corresponded with Charley Buckmaster; Charles hoped to get across to England.  I have some poetry on this in the book Kent MacCarter's publishing soon...
Yep! This has to be Heaven!


re- John Thorpe

John Thorpe is always ''descending from history''. He brings one back --to Pound (Canto II, "…Ear, ear for the sea-surge, murmur of old men's voices: "), that is to say, to the poetry able to listen &, whatismore, hear. He brings one back to the instant which is always local --to logography ("is the language of changing yr mind. It was not discovered by Pound (who called it ideogram) or Olson, etc it's so primary only kids & a very few writers have been able to equal -- 'english' being full of alphabetic, syllabic & prosodic reflexes."), that is to say, to writing as a way of being human, which realises & manifests nature, extending the possibility of life, enhancing the precondition, never setting out to be 'literary'.

John Thorpe is always descending from history into the present, the instant, the local, which really is the opposite of making the local etc. historical. What does he mean, "changing yr mind"? : "I make space-time. IT is not making it. (….) If i describe a condition, it changes. Or i hope to hell it does. If it didn't I'd be in trouble & I have been."


re- George Dowden

From This Is the Land of the Dead, The island of the Blessed, published by Hapt (Bournemouth, UK), 1970,

This is the Land of the Dead, the Island
of the Blessed

There is no Ship of Death - no where
to go but here

Here are the sweet-smelling trees, the gems
of the Earth are flowers, stones, a palace
is in the center - it is you, it is I,
that's all to know for beginning


Dowden's Ship of Death is a companion of John Thorpe's "Stranger in Paradise" --from Matter, or giving (Institute of Further Studies, Buffalo, N.Y., '75), "we came here on the 'Stranger in Paradise.' These were americans searching ease in the orient, never leaving Paradise, their ideological capitol, to look at the earth."

Literature is their prehistory. They swear that no more will they be led astray. (Though one wonders what's happened to that resolution in Dowden's most recent publication (three works by Kaviraj [George Dowden], published as loot 1 : 3, 1979, UK), praise poems for Muktananda, which are sopping wet with sub-Beat adoration.)


At the beginning, Dowden was one of the poets I found in Michael Dugan's treasure-trove of English little magazines. Or, at the beginning, in Melbourne, there was Michael Dugan, with his treasure-trove of English little-magazines, through which I rummaged at his home in Canterbury… Or, at the beginning, I was in Melbourne, putting my first little mag, Our Glass, together, when Ken Taylor, in some excitement, told me about & then showed me another little magazine, Crosscurrents, emanating from completely outside of our La Mama cafe-theatre circuitry. It was produced by Michael Dugan from his home in Wentworth Street, Canterbury. For at the beginning I was an English poet in Melbourne, who reconnected with the English scene through fortuitous meeting with Michael Dugan, whose treasure-trove of English little-magazines had inspired him to publish his own, Crosscurrents, & confirmed me in my own Roneo style direction!
George Dowden's poems in an issue of Ambit had caught my eye. I found his address somewhere amongst Michael's things. I wrote to him (& to Jeff Nuttall, & Simon Cutts). He replied, with poems, "(…) from my current 'set' called EARTH INCANTATIONS (Body Chants) - Blake, "O Earth, O Earth, return!" Etc. These have been my work through 1968-69, and are proving of interest to editors in a number of countries, underground papers as well as poetry magazines. I hope you will be able to get them into papers or mags or your own roneo series there. (….) Hope this catches you before you sail [back to England via French Polynesia, the Panama, Martinique, Madeira, Marseilles, departing Sydney August, '69]. Good luck to your group, and on your trip…" (27,VII.69)

At my farewell party, given by Betty Burstall, July '69, I distributed poems by George Dowden, & Michael, similarly, poems by Jim Burns. We were four La Mama poet-editors, Michael Dugan, Charles Buckmaster, Ian Robertson & myself. Buckmaster corresponded then with Dowden. Dowden negotiated an Australian issue of the English magazine, The Curiously Strong, to be edited by Buckmaster. Dowden sent copies of his books to Ken Taylor (at the ABC, the 'safest' address!) for distribution 'for everybody'. And so on…

It seemed to me, in '69, '70, that Dowden's poetry, his Blake/Ginsberg epistles, could be a stimulus & elevation in the level of political-poetic address then being attempted in Melbourne by such poets as Charles Buckmaster, Paul Adler, & Geoff Eggleston. Both Ian Robertson & Buckmaster were enthusiastic to publish him. Dowden (an American living in England, teaching, writing Ginsberg's bibliography for New Directions) was closer to the Melbourne aspiration, was more accessible than Michael McClure for example.


George Dowden to K.H., "Had weird letter from GREAT AUK Chas. Buckmaster. I got Fred Buck to do an Aussie issue of THE CURIOUSLY STRONG, sent a couple of samples to Chas, told him choose 3 or 4 poets there and make up (edit) the whole thing as per the way it's laid out. Said a few words I thought were encouraging, like poetry should be really strong, dangerous, etc., things I thought they were after and were finding in my poems they were praising -- he took it all wrong, thought I was trying to tell him what to write, but was only trying to impress on him the idea of making a really strong issue in his editing (what else?). It must have been that I honestly told him I didn't care for a few little poems he included in letter, wanting me to get published for him --I told him to make them better in THE CUR. STRONG. Oh, well, sensitivity and all that. I explained that 'known' poets when asked for criticism/opinion can only give it from what they want and are doing -- the younger takes it or leaves it (same as in my LETTERS TO ENGLISH POETS, 1967, where I say that they are firstly for me, and only secondly for anyone else who wants to listen). Forget it. Nothing serious. But must be understood: when one is asked for opinion, he does the younger poet no good by lying…." (30. I. 70)

"Yes, overemphasis on description in aussies -- must be a nice place to describe, physically, Pacific, the sun, greenery. But hoping that can be fused with saying something vital -- will be in best, always is (where Pound is so good so often)…." (7. II. 70)


Quoted from Being Here, the draft of its first part, Interference, published in the Being Here issue of H/EAR #7, 1985.

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