THIS WRITING LIFE
Our generation lucky or not to be born within social reach (meeting, correspondence) of giants? I call them giants but could be in democratic era that's considered nonsensical. Continue : "In our era the necessary pleasure of reading…" : i mean, so much to read, to have to read as cultural & social responsibility, merely to stay with the culture, the language, --such reading & learning equal in our era to writing itself (aside : thus 'criticism' has become the abundant category that it is). Was it ever different? Earlier times there was reading & writing but (joke) no tv. Film crowds upon our attention (include the internet). Once upon a time no such or degree of distraction, though the younger, the newer (technologically speaking) wouldn't accept that demarcation, couldn't recognise it in such terms. Reminded of Olson in the Maximus,
of all things to eat: dirty
And words, words, words
all over everything
No eyes or ears left
to do their own doings (all
invaded, appropriated, outraged, all senses
including the mind, that worker on what is
And that other sense
made to give even the most wretched, or any of us, wretched,
that consolation (greased
even the street-cars
--Yes! --words words words, like advertisement, consumers instead of citizens & even artists sucked in, but words in my sense still special, --Olson's repetition summons inflation as the bastard figure, the too much of everything, the too little of the special thing (the words of clarity, the clear image, the clean mark)… The younger, the newer, appear to accept that clamour & bilge, while ourselves of the older mob read & write despite it…
Our friend Trimble's unprejudiced in his enthusiasms --ALL GREAT! --Hemingway, Peter Matthiessen, Kerouac, Steinbeck, Bukowski --George Johnston he also mentioned last time we spoke --my own belated discovery of 2017 --the modernism of 'Clean Straw For Nothing' astonished me --(aside : instructive that many will refer to novelists, prose writers, as examples of greatness which begs the question of form & meaning especially as their mentors are realists whose narratives bear the weight of testimony, the singular subjectivity intersecting with the story of the times --testimony, reportage, description, the gravitas of document (that it is specific) over & against the amplitude of language & the play of the imagination…) --the modernism to include disinclination to rot in the ephemeral, the parochial, but let's stress (Correction:) the local isn't the enemy --the enemy is volunteering for impoverishment (given an inkling of the possible glory)! --(Clarification:) meaning not city preferred to suburban norm, forest for farm & et cetera, but recognising that one's own natural creativity can better prosper in alternative milieu (unsure whether the 'intensity' i'd like to apply relates to the inner drive or to the physical context) --dramatic landscapes, intense (intensive) cultures? Yet nothing so easily objectified, except one knows when one's rotting & not blooming! --But then an example's presented of an artist, poet, who lives in isolation, (place, temperament), and makes an art of it (isolation, concentration, their metier), with no distraction but weather, stars, sea, hills, harbour, fields, village. (Posit the ephemerality of the city versus the seeming unchangingness of the country --and the opposing art & poetry of & within that dichotomy, tho, insist, far from absolute.) Such a one never doubts their place, is carried by soul's immersion in the all-that-is of a concentrated world --the entire situation & experience is soul --which isn't impoverishment at all --is liberation, paradise!
Ah, giants of my eclectic pantheon, as they trip off my tongue, four (could’ve been 40!) at random --Frank Prince (vividly recalled in Mark Ford's review of Will May's anthology, Reading F. T. Prince (Liverpool, '16), photo-copy from the LRB brought to me the other day by Stephen Hamilton who'd remembered the Frank & Me section in my book, Your Scratch Entourage (Cordite, '16) & rightly thought i'd be interested! --& Ken Irby, whose notes on the late Gerrit Lansing i've reread recently; --& Jack Collom; --& flicked at Haniel Long this hour, Pittsburgh Memoranda (Univ. of Pittsburg, 1990), --"Our forefathers were pioneers. / So are we." his history begins --Reznikoff in my mind but book’s flyleaf notes Whitman, Anderson, Dos Passos, Edgar Lee Masters --and Creeley too? --"our fathers died victorious over the outward. / Peace to them. Courage to us, / who fight not Indians but insanity. / We go quietly; there is much to do, / but nothing to do without going quietly. // Living rooms, bedrooms, court-houses, / banks, asylums, / are no more mysterious than the out of doors; / we shall know them and ourselves who dwell in them, / and what the shapes that dwell in the wilderness / within us all." --Pioneers, that’s right --as we still are, scuffing around the feet of giants…
ROB SHACKNE:-- TOPOGRAPHIES. I just read it. With pleasure. More of course than road signs. In the American experience the trip is the assumption, and the stops are experience. The journeys end variously? KRIS HEMENSLEY :-- Love an implication in yours of material & metaphysical equation/distinction... yes, the trip is the carriage, the means of volition, but for me that speeding along matches the speed of mind and what's observed that too is prime experience!
I havent 'tagged' the named friends above not wishing to dump on their pages, but can call them here , i think, without greater annoyance : Pete Spence and Stephen Ellis. Re- idea of that English/American late 60s monograph i'm thinking of David Caddy & Ian Brinton. And for remarking the kinship with Jack Collom, Sharon Thesen. And Stephen Spooner & Ken Trimble for the other Jack, and Bernard Hemensley for the Japhy! Had better stop rollcalling here o/wise it'll resemble the Genesis begets...!
From the Journal
Pete Spence's visit today, Feb 28th, coincided with delivery of small shipment from the States which included the anthology mentioned to me some months ago by Stephen Ellis, namely WHAT IS POETRY? (JUST KIDDING), edited by Anselm Berrigan (Wave Books, 2017) containing numerous interviews from the Poetry Project Newsletter, 1983-2009, and in particular (the point of Stephen's tip) the interview with Jack Collom… I save up the Collom for later; make this five-minutes' appetiser Larry Fagin (memo to English friends : essay on the Americans in England, mid to late 60s, and the English in the States same period, annotated with photos tho cameras not everywhere then like today --but what a great monograph that would be)…
This package mainly a Jack Collom catch-up ("who said ketchup? asks the other Jack, joking of course, as always when there's piety to contend with, Japhy's, dressed up as rigour"), for example Collom's poetry-exercises for children, POETRY EVERYWHERE (at first flick recalls Kenneth Koch's great book from the 70s, "Wishes, Lies & Dreams"). We looked at the Collom/Lyn Hejinian collaborations, SITUATIONS, SINGS, wch hasnt been on our shelf for a few years, but didnt unpack the collaboration with Reed Bye, ADDLED SMOKE MATERIAL, Collaborative Poems, 1972-2017, till after Pete's departure for the SLV (the beautiful Johanna Drucker limited edition in his hand to flap at Richard Overall who knows a unique book when he sees one). Just to say ADDLED SMOKE (published by Baksun Books & Arts, Boulder) knocks my socks off! especially or primarily, "Valvoline" which is a 'topography' in all but name! I rise to it with amazement! joyfully!
Valvoline ("written in '84 over a 3 day drive from New York City to Boulder, Colorado…') --yes siree, a TOPOGRAPHY… The volition, carriage, what's thought on drive through the world, what's seen of the world, what's read, heard, thought as one barrels along highways & byways. Impeccable collaboration because it reads seamlessly, as tho the one narrative, the two authors subsumed within the variety & excitement of the journey, calling up the other as monologue would address self or reader, self as reader, in the perfection (the perfect text) of the journey…
My Topographies are just as notational, gleeful in their picking of road signs, annotation of geography, but use rhymes as, maybe, endless scat, the more likely to implicate writing in the thinking-aloud --so they're "writing" despite "not writing"! --hesitate to say 'more' writerly since American poets' gift has been the spoken rhythms, language as speech before its reassembling as poem on the page.
"12:15 Mon, noon, June 25
Reed and I leave in silver pickup truck
north thru East Village
Anne and Ambrose on sidewalk
I feel sick but cheerful
Chrysler Bldg. top in sunlite
FDR drive and river breeze"
and ends what looks like 800 lines later, 24 small pages,
"down into Boulder Valley
past purplebrown pond
ringed w/ russian olive &
the hills emerge & tilt & shift
as we roll on a little
dream of detail
down the road
snow peaks sink
behind the blue-green foothills
down to a daily brown---
on the diagonal into town
Mt. Sanitas like a piece of cake
"feel like I should go trim a tree
mutters something abt.
the Pacific Ocean
---NYC to Boulder, 6/25-28/1984
Philip Harvey :-- 'Big Sur' was a revelation. It's the tipping point, isn't it? The romantic highlife has reached its peak and is going down the other side. It's a gentle book and not surprising Gary Snyder is a presence. There's a point where you must stop idealising Jack Kerouac. He helps you in 'Big Sur'. Why does he drink? Why does he mess himself up? Why is he so alone? Any reader has to come to terms with the burn out, which continues all the way through to his death. It's not pretty and it's not romantic. The Kerouac I return to is the poetry, 'Mexico City Blues' and all that, where things hang in the balance.
[18/3] Dragged off my hold duties on the Fairstar in '65, i was given little kiosk on the tourist deck to run (previous experience as British Rail booking clerk stood me in good stead), and amongst the paperback books i had for sale was Big Sur! The first Kerouac i owned, the first i'd read (tho i knew his name) : "the story of the crack up of the King of the Beats". Hauntingly brilliant. Idealising? Yes, well for me it was a life literature, and i loved the characters and the story like i loved life itself... or 'loved', maybe say i held to the characters like i'd hold to life! No choice! Gary Snyder i have a continuing to & fro on & with... Jarry Wagner in that book!
Thanks very much for your comment, Philip...
PS// i'd certainly recommend a read of Lew Welch if you havent already, as a foil to Snyder... the three Reed College mates Snyder, Whalen, Welch... And do look up Jerry Martien's essay on Welch , a PDF via Google; best thing ive read on the poet, the man, the 'bioregionalist' et al
Regarding Kerouac & Welch, With Stephen Spooner, Jerry Martien
K H :--A surprise to see youve shared the new "This Writing Life" to your own page, Stephen Spooner, ... but want to tell you that in earlier communication, on Bernard Hemensley 's Timeline (but gone now), i'd highlighted particularly relevant line from your Kerouac piece of couple of years ago, describing Kerouac & Lew Welch, --"Bigfoot had only been to Northern California once long enough to check out Jack and Lew Welch in their Big Sur alcoholic nightmares,Jack was all too quiet for the kind of hallucinogenic drugs Jack was taking, port wine,port wine.Dt’s,Dt’s.It was time for Jack to relax at the hot rod wheel drink a gallon or two of cheap port and grope for the meaning in the perplexing highways of the mind" --but also attempted to share link i'd found by poet Jerry Martien (ex Alaska, presently in California) on Lew Welch, an essay available as PDF (the link wdnt copy), so you'd have to look up Lew Welch on Google and on 2nd page of entries you'll find the reference --Big Bridge & something or other -- in wch J M describes particular stretch of river he visits, well known to Welch, a recovery place you cld call it, from the very nightmares you touch on in yours... But i hadnt known the whole story before, until reading Jerry Martien's essay...
Check it out! In the meantime, greetings from Down Under!
Stephen Spooner:-- and so Jerry Martiens what a nice tip...now it's time for me to read a while...
[Stephen sent poem by Lew Welch:
Sausalito Trash Prayer
Perfect Beach by the last Bay
in the world,
None more beautiful,
Today we kneel at thy feet
And curse the men who have misused you
K H :-- Isnt that lovely! Where'd you find that? Thank you... Hmmm...
Dont want to tarnish the glow of it but here's a sentence or two from the Jerry Martien re- Kerouac & Lew; he writes abt Lew, Lenore Kandel and the "Big Sur" episode :
"For a couple of years they share the intense cultural life of the Haight-Ashbury and the communal life of East-West House, living the wild scenes described by Kerouac’s Big Sur, where they are Dave Wain and Romana Swartz. Something of their sweet impossibility is expressed by their saving to buy a commercial fishing boat, her with earnings from belly-dancing, his from driving cab in the off-season. When they agree to separate in spring of ’62 he’s without a settled livelihood and suffering severe depression, relieved only by speed, weed, and jug wine. He goes to a shrink, struggles to get sober, returns alone to Ferlinghetti’s cabin at Big Sur where he eats peyote and desperately seeks a vision—but the summer of revelation and nightmare leaves him sick and terminally strung out. The Salmon River is his last chance."
Hi John [Shao / John Thorpe], thanks for what F/b now calls a "reaction"!!!! Youre still big in my heart albeit so long ago , 47 years & counting! Spence has evidently pulled you via his "Bolinas" quip out of the aether!
x Kris H
[To Jerry Martien] Thanks for connecting with me here Jerry Martien. And say again how valuable i found your essay on Lew Welch (found via Google a week or so ago). Ive recommended it now several times to Australian & American friends.
Still hoping to get couple of your own poetry collections to my bookshop tho disappointed not carried by our wholesaler, Ingram.
Best wishes from Melbourne! Kris Hemensley
Ah and hah Stephen Ellis! Thanks for this... as per the degree of paradox you plumb here, good for me to read tho cannot have! Suddenly Prynne pops into my noggin, --in mine not yours, just sayin'... "Singleness is emphatically not to line up as showing the individual at the helm" ...Much to think about ('unpack" eek), and will get back to you... (straight, no italics!)
Haha! Yes, the wit of it! "READ ON" (cover art by Aaron Flores), Pete's mag & everything to do of course with the joyous Kyneton visit yesterday --"the 3rd One-off magazine i have produced" Pete writes, hot off the press. Old & new friends in this mag, discoveries (Mitch Highfill, Barbara Henning), Australian, American, all local to Spence because reading & correspondence his modus operandi, so natural, and step by step with WCW's well-known sense of the experience of the little mag as walking along the street meeting friends & colleagues. A little mag, 36 pages, and i'm happy to declare my bias, one old & one new poem included, my pleasure of being in it!
Our ed says he doesnt pursue a "one school approach", and i'm sure that's so, but have to say i like the idea of sitting with particular Americans, New York-y in the widest (sometimes wildest) sense, --especially now when age disposes one to recapitulation --Gerard Malanga's elegiac surveys in this mag for example, as in a previous Have Your Chill, appear part of one's own song & chronicle...
I saw an opportunity to resurrect poem for Bill Berkson (written in 1974, originally published in A Mile From Poetry, 1979) wch maybe he never saw? --written, lost to manuscript wch took five years to be published, and did a copy of the book ever get to the States? --but now in such a mag as Pete's, Elysian Fields-ish, it can be read by Bill's friends, by readers for whom Bill 's a ready reference... something like that...
Closer to home catch up with Cam Lowe, Gig Ryan, Glenn Cooper, Chris Barron...
Now Read On indeed..!
Hi Stephen Spooner, nice to listen to... performer's resonant voice... Interesting poem by Snyder but as ever, i confess, am never quite sure what he's saying! I guess one's to accept he's proposing an equanimity, an equality in fullness of time... and yet... Easter greetings by the way... especially today, Holy Friday, at the start of the Passion...
All best to you & yours, kris
...with the rider, Stephen Ellis, description of poem isnt the poem itself, the which (bless you) is as mysterious as life is! --for any of us going further (Kesey) / father (McNaughton) --huh? what that i'm sayin?! --& havent yet said how beautiful is that line, "despite / unwavering belief in / semiotic majesty"...so, please no confirmation but with you in affirmation...!
Easter Greetings in midst of the Passion,
Response to Sharon Thesen's share of my Kyneton post of March, 29th :
"Hi Sharon, A pleasant surprise to find me here, ahead of myself as it were! Ta for sharing.
Similar surprise was to encounter you in early copies of Raddle Moon ive found as i rummage, sort, pack books & mags at the Shop (with the end of the year removal of stock to my bookshop-in-the-treetop in mind)…
A propos is opening of yr poem The Stone, in Raddle Moon #3,
"Good Friday, fragile / in the mirror, passion / in the music / on the slow radio"
--amazed i should be reading it on Good Friday, 2018!
Then in Raddle Moon, #2, Oct'84, read J Barton's review of Holding the Pose (Coach House, '83), first line of wch makes the heart jump : "At last a poet of talent and potential lives among us."
Easter Greetings to you & yours from Melbourne!