Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"Wowee. This is so much FUN to find out about all these forgotten poets. It's like everybody confessing their secret crushes."
             --Shanna Compton

Oh yeah, Shanna is so right on! Thanks to everyone who gave up their secret crushes, to help widen the force of the ripples, get us goggled, googled, and engaged out here. Dubbed THE NEGLECTORINO LIST by Ron Silliman? (Oh, I'm going to get such hate mail if it wasn't Silliman. That's okay, send it, I'll apologize then, and apologize now, but send me your hate just the same) But yeah, it sounds great, let's call it that, THE NEGLECTORINO LIST! Someone recently said to me when I told him that I read almost nothing but poetry, "Is there really THAT much good poetry to read?" Hehehe, man, there's so much you can't possibly imagine reading it all! Not that I'm complaining mind you!

It's exciting to note that, not only were so many poets generous with their participation in this project of the neglected, but Shanna Compton and Tom Orange have made available for us some amazing, invaluable access to work LONG out of print. Shanna created a file on Joan Murray, and Tom created a file on Rosalie Moore. "Created a file" sounds so FBI, but you know what I mean, PDF, downloadable, to print, to have and to get juiced by! Shanna and Tom, we are in your debt, truly!

Whenever possible I provide links to the internet on a poet. Saddly, as you'll see, sometimes none exist, and it's off to the Interlibrary Loan offices of our public libraries.

Here's to making some of our forgotten, neglected (and nearly invisible) unmistakably necessary.

Happy Year of the Dog everyone,
(to all readers, please feel free to share your own list of neglected poets in the five "comment boxes" scattered throughout this list.)

Not long ago I interviewed Eileen Myles for PhillySound, and one of the questions I asked her was, "There must be other poets whose work you admire whose work is either out of print or difficult to find. Can you share some names or titles, and what this work means to you?"

This was her answer:
Susie Timmons. Always Susie. Locked from Inside. Yellow Press of Chicago did it. She is my generation of poets who came up in the east village in the 70s and 80s. Very fast, very conceptual, funny and magical. Nobody like her. I loved her work then and now. Joe Ceravolo. Wonderful, also kind of religious-tinged work. Loose but sinewy. Spring in this world of poor mutts is a title. A guy completely unheard of is Richard Bandanza. He was in workshops with me in the 70s. He published one book under a pseudonym, Richard Nassau. It was called I Like You. He married a doctor and he lives in Connecticut. I bet he’s still writing.

Not only was I excited to learn about Susie Timmons and other poets unknown to me, but many of those who read this interview were also quite excited, and said so, and that's why I'm taking this question to the next step. It's important, I believe, to ask this question of poets whose work we admire, which is why I'm asking you and others the very same question, "There must be other poets whose work you admire whose work is either out of print or difficult to find. Can you share some names or titles, and what this work means to you?"


Well, I'm afraid I don't have a good answer. I remember the talented poet Darryl Gray who published a couple of small press books and died prematurely and sadly.

I've admired Christopher Dewdney's work but don't really know what became of him. That's what comes to mind. By the way, I'd also recommend David Melnick.

In 1971 I bought a copy of Anthology of New York Poets at a - of all palces - a corner drugstore in Buffalo, NY- those were the days! And I read Tom Veitch's Toad Poems - Wow! and years later I found the poems of Phil Boiarski - an Ohio poet - who wrote about his ethnic past. I keep going back to them - endless delight for me. And really - Danger Music by Dick Higgins.

Thankfully the small and wonderful Paris Press in Northhampton is in the business of rescuing out-of-print books by important women poets, and it's thanks to the press that I was able to read Muriel Rukeyser's The Life of Poetry, an incredible collection of essays about the importance of poetry in maintaining, making real, democracy. The founder of Paris Press, Jan Freeman, found an old copy of the Rukeyser book and spent years trying to find a publisher to reprint it. When none would, Freeman re-typed the book herself and published it.

While 81 year-old Samuel Menashe is enjoying the publication of his new and selected poems by the Library of America thanks to the Poetry Foundation, there is plenty of his work that is out of print. I think his collections Fringe of Fire and No Jerusalem, But This are unavailable. Menashe writes short poems. He also likes to talk on the phone and happily recites his work to listeners on the other end. Here's one of his poems, "Still Life": Where she sits/ With apples/ On her lap/ Kindling snaps/ Into flame/ What happens/ Fits the frame. He has lived in the same fifth floor walk up in the Village for decades and is often in the audience at readings around the city. He is New York City's Emily Dickinson, which I think he'd either love or hate to hear.

I'd also mention a little book, Givers and Takers by Jane Mayhall, a Black Mountain poet, published by The Eakins Press in 1968. The press is still around and has quite an interesting array of titles on its list. This particular Mayhall book, includes wonderful poems, like "SELL-OUT (FOR PERCUSSION)," with lines like: Advertising/ they are all advertising, you are/ all advertising. Nothing is anything/ UNLESS...

Finally, where can we find Jayne Cortez's early work? Cortez is jazz. Citylights published at least one of her early collections of poems, Firespitter, and I must admit, I'm not sure if they still have it.

After thinking of any number of contemporary poets whose work is less known than I feel it might be (the list is very long), I kept coming back to Samuel Greenberg. Greenberg was born in Vienna in 1883 and died in 1917. An immigrant, he came to New York's Lower East Side when he was seven and went to school only until the seventh grade. He died of TB at 23. Many of his poems were written while he was in charity hospitals in the last years of his life Unpublished in his own lifetime, Greenberg is primarily known as an important source for Hart Crane, whose "Emblems of Conduct" is a pastiche of Greenberg's work. A second-wave "ideoloectical" modernist, Greenberg practiced a radical forms of sprung lyric -- a wild, sound-wracked, syntactic syncretism that verges on the abstract and the rhapsodic, which I associate with Crane and Hopkins, but might also be described as as a cross between Leo Gorcey reciting Shakespeare and the poetical works of Elsa von Freytag-Loringhoven. In the postwar period, I'd point to Joseph Ceravolo's Fits of Dawn, many of the works of Clark Coolidge and J. H. Prynne, Kenneth Koch's When the Sun Tries to Go On, the early poems of David Marriott ... well, the list could go on. Just published -- a tiny book in a tiny edition -- is Self Charm: Selected Sonnets & Other Poems. ed. Michael Carr and Michael Smith (Cambridge, Mass.: Katalanche Press, 2005). The editors have carefully noted the erratic spelling and punctuation of Greenberg's poems, which had been slightly regularized in earlier publications; for example, restoring the hanging comma in the last line of "Enigmas": "Mine eye lids shut, I fell into unfelt realms,". Greenberg, whose holograph manuscripts are at the Fales collection at NYU, has been fortunate in finding these remarkable editors, and Michael Smith has assembled a stunningly good web site for Greenberg.

Steve Carey. Steve's books are very hard to find, but include The California Papers (United Artists), Gentle Subsidy (Big Sky), Smith Going Backwards (Cranium Press), and 20 Poems. Alice Notley's book of essays Coming After contains a memoir/essay on Steve, and the Up Late anthology edited by Andrei Codrescu has, I believe, a few of his poems. Steve's poetry is hard to describe, but I want to say and so will that a title like Gentle Subsidy in and of itself gives a sense of his predilection, one of several at least, for word combinations – a really delicate consonant balance, if such a thing makes sense. And a great sense of humor, love of song (he was a drummer and could play guitar) and companionship, and weirdness (of a mostly non-threatening kind, but you’d have to figure that out yourself). He was like this huge guy who wouldn't harm a soul, with a deep voice and ability to loom. Bob Newhart and Jimi Hendrix and Philip Whalen. His dad is Harry Carey, Jr. the actor in many of John Ford's films, and so Steve was a Cali kid from 1950s who spent time in New York in the 1960s a bit then moved to NYC permanently in the late 1970s. Brother of poet Tom Carey. Steve died in 1989. Happily, my brother Edmund is editing a manuscript of Steve's selected poems which, with a little luck, will be published this year by subpress. For lack of a better way of putting it, Steve's poems only resemble themselves.

bill bissett
Piero Heliczer
Jackson Mac Low

For the last few years, I have been making and distributing photocopies of a book called Poems by Joan Murray, published in 1947. I first ran across her work in the Yale Series of Younger Poets Anthology, edited by George Bradley in 1999. Her poem "Lullaby" in that book really knocked me out:


Sleep, little architect. It is your mother's wish
That you should lave your eyes and hang them up in dreams.
Into the lowest sea swims the great sperm fish.
If I should rock you, the whole world would rock within my arms.

Your father is a greater architect than even you.
His structure falls between high Venus and far Mars.
He rubs the magic of the old and then peers through
The blueprint where lies the night, the plan the stars.

You will place mountains too, when you are grown.
The grass will not be so insignificant, the stone so dead.
You will spiral up the mansions we have sown.
Drop your lids, little architect. Admit the bats of wisdom into your head.

I mean--what an odd poem! Ostensibly it's spoken by a mother to a child she is trying to soothe to sleep, but it's full of images so strange it sounds more like a spooky incantation than a hushabye song. In 12 little lines, she's packed in a cosmology, her own weird mythology. She's musical and witchy and sly. I gobbled up the other six poems and the scant info in the bio--it said she'd studied acting and dance, was born in London but moved to New York City, that she may have been a student of Auden's (she was), and that she'd died young five years before the book was published. So I was taken with her poems, but also by the fact that she was a real mystery. I had to read the rest of the poems. I tracked down a copy of the book online, but there wasn't much more information about her in Poems either. The rest of the book was just as exciting to me as "Lullaby," so I kept looking. I found a couple of other mentions of her here and there--in John Ashbery's Other Traditions, for one, but nothing substantial or new. In 2002 I found out that her papers were held at Smith College, collected along with her mother's, who was an alumna of Smith and a minor actress. I needed a subject for my MFA crtical thesis anyway, so I went to Smith and poked around in the archives for a couple of days and read everything they had: journals, letters, drafts, reviews. The story that emerged about how the book came to be published was totally fascinating: Peggy Murray (Joan's mother) hired Grant Code, a family friend/magazine editor/poet, to prepare the poems for publication, before Auden chose them for the Yale Series. The publication process was complicated in serveral ways: The author was deceased and had a difficult style, atrocious spelling, and wacky diction. Code was a heavy handed editor, defensive and jealous, eager to be recognized as an authority on Murray's work. Peggy Murray was vain and mentally unbalanced. There were major personality conflicts between Peggy Murray, Code, Auden, and Yale University Press: Auden cut Code's lengthy textual notes and argued with him about some of the edits, Code told Auden in a letter that Auden's poems gave him "mental indigestion," and Auden complained to Eugene Davidson at Yale that Peggy Murray had once inexplicably accused him of killing Joan! It's a miracle the book was ever published at all.

It's exciting to think that Murray's poems can withstand all of that. And she just doesn't sound like anybody else, which is what's really inspiring.

For me, first and foremost would be Paul Blackburn. I believe that ALL of his work is now out of print. This seems outrageous to me, when someone like Pound is still IN print (and considering every used bookstore has Pound)! Every poet today should know about Blackburn, because he was dedicated to documenting LIFE, its rawness and music, in his poetry. Like Pound, Blackburn was incredibly erudite, but his poems were human poems, not in the least alienating or imposing. He strained his erudition through his particular hipster lingo and sense of the city into all of those wonderful New York poems he wrote-- "Clickety-clack, Horseman, pass me by!" They are as vibrant today as the day he wrote them. Blackburn, of all of the Black Mountain-categorized poets (he didn't attend Black Mountain), in my view most convincingly implemented and explored the open field form that Olson presented in his "Projective Verse" essay. It's a crime that his books are not currently in print. His collected poems is available on-line for as much as $100, another crime. Hello University of California Press, next project?

Another unique poet whose work is unavailable is Armand Schwerner. His THE TABLETS is one of the great late-modernist works. It's framed as a discovered set of prehistoric tablets, with much of the text missing or untranslatable. There is intermittent commentary from the pompous and often misinformed "scholar-translator" about the meaning of the text. The scope and originality of this work is absolutely exhilerating.

Rosalie Moore's THE GRASSHOPPER'S MAN won my heart years ago, and still does, I mean, this is something you MUST find, MUST read, just fucking do it! Kevin Killian was the first person to tell me Moore was part of a group of San Francisco poets called The Activists. Leave it to Kevin Killian to know this! Tom Orange then supplied me with some amazing papers about, and by The Activists. Leave it to Tom Orange to offer this! My gratitude to both of them for filling in the puzzle pieces. I wrote above that you MUST find this, well, the truth is that Tom Orange did the work for us by making THE GRASSHOPPER'S MAN and more by Moore available, just CLICK HERE and begin the download to NEW LOVE! Tom Orange has much more to say about Moore and The Activists later in this list. Trust that THE GRASSHOPPER'S MAN awaits your own gasp of discovery! (And, I'd like Rosalie Moore to become so well known and LOVED that we have to stop and ask "Did you mean Marianne or Rosalie when you said 'Moore's poems?'")

(hint-hint, wink-wink: Wouldn't it be GREAT if when Kevin Killian and Peter Gizzi complete the next Spicer collection for us that they also find a publisher for Spicer's tarot deck? Kevin Killian is the only person I've ever met who owns a copy, and I was MORE THAN excited to hold them and study them breifly when visiting. If you're lucky enough to have purchased the Black Sparrow COLLECTED BOOKS before those bastard rare bookdealers jacked Jack's price beyond reach, then you can glimpse the Four of Cups on the cover. Four of Cups means many things, but I've always felt it was placed on the cover of this book because it can mean establishing a family, which is what happens when you discover Spicer for yourself: Four of Cups welcomes you into the circle.)

Alexandra Grilikhes, old friend who died not long ago, all of her books of poetry are now out of print. One book which I helped edit with co-editors Jim Cory and Janet Mason called THE REVERIES was just, FANTASTIC! It was an honor and a pleasure working on the book. The poems are haunting, and cruel, as some of them involve the abuse she endured from her lover Elizabeth, who in turn burned the bulk of the print run while Alexandra was in bed, sick and dying. There are probably only about fifty or so copies which survived that outrageous act of censorship. I get so PISSED OFF when I think about this! What a beautiful little book, cover design by the inimitable John Ignarri. Only her novel Yin Fire is in print. Some of her books from the 70s are stunning, like On Women Artists, a book of poems which explore painting, film, sculpture, and even other poets, like the three-part poem on Marina Tsvetaeva. On the back of this book is a blurb from Rachel Blau DuPlessis stating that, "These poems make a spiritual quest for definition of the woman artist and her experience. Grilikhes has created a sustaining work imbued with her characteristic clarity and passion." Sustaining yes, I agree, but we need it back in print.

My dear friend Jay Pinsky who died about ten years ago. Or is it more? His haiku were unlike any other North American haiku I've ever read, and there was a time when I read a lot of haiku, from Arizona Zipper to Nick Virgilio. Jay Pinsky remains the best as far as I'm concerned, seriously! And I'm NOT one to be biased, at all, no matter that he was a good friend and lover, this is something I really mean! And I know you haven't heard of him because he hated poets, hated scenes, hated publishers, hated editors, hated the post office, hated me sometimes for loving all the things that he hated! He never published a book, but some of the poems made their way into magazines. He had a dream to start a literary magazine of his own, which I enjoyed helping him do. He called it MU, which he had said meant "nothingness" in Japanese. When I looked it up once, "kyomu" meant "nothingness" and "Mu" meant "six." He said the dictionary was wrong, or something. Maybe Mu has some way of meaning "nothingness" I'm not aware of, since I know nothing about Japanese as a language and it's various dialects. Saddly, Jay died before the magazine got off the ground, but, to be honest, it was the planning, the gathering, the concentration of the thing that was the joy, being together with all that arguing and the collage of ideas always reinventing itself, wow, such rich and beautiful years those were. His pleasure at having written a new haiku was always lovely, extreme, and something I enjoyed, like, HEY, write these more often why don't you! Here's one of many I believe to be brilliant, and fun:
           to my socks
       my shoes must seem like
             the end of the universe

Tim Dlugos, rock on! POWERLESS, and A FAST LIFE, very beautiful poetry! Although POWERLESS is the name of the selected poems (still available), the poems Dlugos chose for the still unpublished, separate manuscript, also called POWERLESS, are mostly still not in print yet. My friend Jim Cory showed me this unpublished manuscript once, opening the box of rare diamonds for me. David Trinidad published the long, exquisite poem A FAST LIFE in an issue of The James White Review which featured Dlugos, fast life! fuck! Fast indeed! Terrifyingly! You HAVE TO READ his long, powerful poem "G-9" and I'm telling you, you're hooked! "G-9" was the hospital room where he died, and it was his most beautiful, last gift to us. Would be invaluable to have a Complete collection in one volume.

Merle Hoyleman is a poet Jonathan Williams turned me onto, and has become a puff of smoke which barely appears, but remains an obsession of mine. She has one book you can get through interlibrary loan called ASP OF THE AGE, which is the book Jonathan Williams had me take a look at from his bookshelves. She was apparently not well, suffering from mental illness in her little home in Pittsburgh. One other thing you can possibly find are her pieces called LETTERS TO CHRISTOPHER, which James Laughlin published in one of his New Directions Readers. The story is that at one point in time both Laughlin and Williams were set to publish more than one collection of Hoyleman's poems, but she was so incredibly difficult to deal with that nothing more than the excerpt of her LETTERS TO CHRISTOPHER appeared in the Reader. I must say though that someone HAS GOT TO do something about this! Someone HAS to publish her! I've never EVER read any poet quite like Merle Hoyleman!

Candace Kaucher was a poet whose work blew my mind on a regular basis. She used to live down the street from me in Philadelphia, the years I lived in The Imperial Hotel for $210 a month (those days now recently gone, meaning rent prices, the new and improved fucking bastard carpetbaggers have arrived in the city I LOVE!). We'd sit in this little spot called DUCK SOUP, eat soup and onion rings and read each other our poems. Candace has no book that I know of, but was in that terrific anthology edited by Chris Stroffolino, Lisa Jarnot and Leonard Schwartz called An Anthology of New (American) Poets. Candace, where are you? Come back! We love your poems! Where the hell is she? Actually, a few years ago Frank Sherlock gave her a reading at his La Tazza series that was FANTASTIC, she scorched us with her delicious, strange charm at the microphone! She was so PUNK ROCK! THEN (oh this is so sad) she provided me with a cassette tape of her poems, which Magdalena Zurawski and I were going to publish on FREQUENCY Audio Journal, but when we got to the studio the tape was warped beyond saving. Gil Ott's tape as I remember was also pretty bad, but we had a tremendously gifted audio mixer named George Logan who saved Gil's recording from the static and buzz. Years ago Candace and I wrote a weird little song we called "JESUS WAS AN ALIEN FROM SATURN" which people seemed to enjoy as we sang it with our giddy-up kind of scooby doo dance. It was silly, but lots of fun!

Rafal Wojaczek is a poet I stumbled upon with friends when we went to see the film about his life called Life Hurts. We saw this at Philadelphia's International House. After the film, the director Lech Majewski was there to discuss Wojaczek's poems and the film, but he decided to use the time to bash American poetry instead, saying how awful it is, and that THERE ARE NO poets worth reading from America. When I started YELLING at that bastard film director, students sitting around me were shushing me, can you fucking believe it!? FUCK OFF, shush yourselves you fucking Euro-wannabees, Frank O'Hara and his many children and grandchildren are at stake here! I DEMANDED he tell us what American poets he had read. "Oh, you want a list!?" "YES A LIST! WHO!?" The first poet he mentioned was Stevie Smith, to which I yelled, "SHE'S BRRRITISH YOU ASS!" He then said that English was too vulgar for Wojaczek to be translated into properly, which brought Frank L. Vigoda stomping down the metal steps from the back of the auditorium to GRAB the microphone out of that bastard film director's hands! Vigoda is from Boston, and has translated (quite beautifully translated) Wojaczek into English. When the film house crew approached Vigoda to take the microphone back, Vigoda yelled, "GET AWAY FROM ME, I'M HERE TO PROVE WOJACZEK CAN BE TRANSLATED INTO ENGLISH AND I AM GOING TO READ SOME TRANSLATIONS I DID!" At that he began reading from the book, reading poems that literally made us gasp in our seats, applauding for MORE! Where do you get a copy of these translations? I bought a copy of the book that night, titled HANGED MAN'S LOVER, which was handmade, with black tape holding the spine together. I've just managed to get back in touch with Mr. Vigoda, and he's more than happy to let me give you his e-mail: franklvigoda@hotmail.com, so contact him about copies. (He's also recently translated a chapbook of poetry by Marcin Jagodzinski) By the way, as much as I DESPISE Lech Majewski, his film is wonderful, and you should see it if you can. Wojaczek was into autodefenstration (a word taught to me by poet Frank Sherlock), which means to throw oneself through glass. In the film Wojaczek has the HOTTEST sex with one of his nurses (after one of his shattering autodefenstration epiphanies, OUCH!) who, after cleaning his stitches from his many cuts, fucks him in the nearby church, IN THE CONFESSIONAL BOOTH NO LESS! OH, it's so fantastic! The Ooo La La Sacrament! A whole new genre of porn can be had from this, if we're lucky.

Then there's Gil Orlovitz, Ilisa Sequin, William Wantling, Alfred Starr Hamilton, Wendy Einhorn and many others. There's British poet Paul Brown, whose book MASKERS is just GREAT(!), and difficult to find. Oh my god, and William Talen's HERE IT IS THE ONE AND ONLY EVENING SKY. Talen's book I found hidden, stuck, half hanging on for how many years(?) behind the second row of books at Gotham Bookmart a few years ago. So many poetry books there that the shelves are two rows deep, so just STICK YOUR HANDS IN and get your surprise! This Talen book is from 1974, and I betcha it was stuck back there at least that long, dirty, dusty, and a mere $2.50. Gotham Bookmart ALWAYS coughs up some unexpected pleasure (not long ago I found Theodore Enslin's FEVER POEMS chapbook, for $1, how crazy is that!?)

The legacy of Cid Corman is rich beyond his own poems. His anthology THE GIST OF ORIGIN (selections from his many years editing his magazine Origin) should be brought back to print. All those marvelous, magical things in those pages everyone needs to experience, like Rocco Scotellaro's "La mia bella patria," where he whispers out of the page, "I am a blade of grass / a blade of grass that trembles. / And my Country is where the grass trembles. / A breath can transplant / my seed far away." The jarring "from Sunrise" by Philippe Jaccottet. From the beginning of the anthology you have complete trust in Corman's selections, and with that you read right through from page to page, it's church, hot, sexy church, this book. Poets I was certainly glad to discover, like Margaret Avison printed alongside Olson, Samperi, Enslin, Bronk, Taggart, and the like.

Simon Cutts, whose brilliant book A Smell of Printing is still available. He's one of those names I'll mention because so few know of him, but would LOVE his poems if they only knew them!

Mustn't forget the bizarre and dreamy Spike Hawkins, who you will LOVE if you don't already! There's actually so many more, but I've hogged up enough room on this list. Kind of too late to say I shouldn't get carried away.

Monday, January 30, 2006

I'm never sure how obscure he really is, but I always try to get people to read George Albon. He's a quiet person, and his poems can also be rather without showstoppers, so maybe that explains why you don't here of him much outside the Bay Area. He's got a rare range, where one book, like Thousands Count Out Loud, will have a closely-knit prosody and sound play, and in the next, like Brief Capital of Disturbances, there's still great attention to detail but suddenly it's a poetry of ideas. I always say of George's work that it's the kind of poetry one should read on a weekend in the morning because it has an Objectivist-type sturdiness and assurance and light but is also very leisurely. Beverly Dahlen is another Bay Area writer who doesn't hustle herself or her work, so as a result she's quietly, very quietly, built up one of the more impressive bodies of work with her "A Reading" series, kind of a Rachel Blau DuPlessis of the west coast in terms of working in a single series. Flexible and just very integral work, wonderfully able to work in a political point without a trace of dogmatism. Also right now I'm telling people they must read David Larsen's The Thorn, it's about as exciting a change from the norm as anything I've run across in many a year, just unpredictable and purposely slack but actually brilliant just under that surface.

I don't think I'm old enough to answer this question yet. Certainly not to answer it like Eileen did, lasering down through the parallax to illuminate the peers in her dust. I am anticipating that most of my generation has yet to suffer through enough loss to have learned how to answer such a question with any relevance, much less grace.

So: if a book is available through SPD, can it still be called "difficult to find"? I think not. In fact, if it has an ISBN #, I would disqualify it. You have to do a little of the legwork yourself in this life.

There is one bonafide book of genuis American poetry published during my lifetime that qualifies for the sobriquet "difficult to find": Robert Head, Refuges of Value. I would nominate him for greatest self-published poet since Blake, although he would probably not win, since he would not campaign. Robert's poetry is one of the few germane responses I have ever seen to the conundrum of just how is all this modernism crap supposed to help me live my life, anyway?

Every other book of poetry I can think of, basically I bought it in a store, so it couldn't have been very hard to find, right?

Here's the thing about the question about the out-of-print, the forgotten. I have an odd, unsatisfactory answer, and I have been puzzling about how to say it. As an academic (i.e. I teach/learn at the university), I have devoted just about my whole book-writing career to this issue, but none of the people to whom I've given quality time is unknown right now, hopefully in part because of my efforts and the efforts of others interested in these writers. So I feel at the end of a process with this question, while you were probably looking for answers naming the beginning of another process. The people I am referring to are H.D., George Oppen, and to some degree Lorine Niedecker, plus Mina Loy. This "forgottenness" was compounded at that point because two were women writers, and not incidentally because one was a leftist with an odd career arc (leaving off writing for almost 25 years, I mean). Also, from the perspective of critical point of view: often the work I was doing involved gender readings of their poems and poetic careers—(tho not to date with Oppen). It was NOT going to win a popularity contest to do feminist-inspired work when I started to do it in about 1970. I know you know this, but it's hard to credit that people actually had their careers on the line, especially when now some of those careers are well-established. When I began work on H.D., only one or two people were working on her AND taking her seriously, not blowing it all off. I wrote a succinct, user-friendly book on her called H.D.: The Career of that Struggle (Indiana 1986). When I began doing the Selected Letters of Oppen, it was before he died, and I did it because it struck me how many great letters I'd received from him, all about poetics, and I thought (naively!) gosh—if there are a few more great letters out there, I'll make a little collection for friends. Once I realized (by collecting letters by George to others) that he had done some of the most compelling thinking about poetics that I had ever seen in the contemporary period, I knew I had to do that one right—which meant a full dress edition. It was published in 1990 by Duke UP, and it remains a work that is crucial to read if you want to contextualize the poems and study more about the objectivists. As for Lorine Niedecker, Jenny Penberthy did ground-breaking work with her edition of the poems (from California), but I emphatically have written on Niedecker in strong ways. In fact, not only is one of my Niedecker pieces going to be in Blue Studios (see flyer), but another article about her late work and thinking in poetics just came out in the scholarly journal Contemporary Literature. As for Mina Loy, again the incredible scholarship was done by Carolyn Burke and Roger Conover, but I got some writing done on her early in her "recovery" that has stood up (that's mainly in my book on modern poetry—like chapter title "'Seismic Orgasm'"). That, and Writing Beyond the Ending—which talked about women writers in a new way (pub. 1985) AND the recent (2001) Genders, Races, and Religious Cultures in Modern American Poetry whose whole point was putting people who are now well known (Eliot) near people who are not (Alfred Kreymbourg), and putting sometimes "ghettoized" writers (Countee Cullen) near writers now better known, only after some effort (like Mina Loy). But all of those people are in print, NOT unforgotten any longer, of serious and lively interest. However, you are emphatically right to be alert. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty to read those who have made serious contributions to what we are. I can think of several poets whose work has meant a good deal to me that I want to see in print or remain in print. Here's a list: Gustaf Sobin, a person writing a very austere, hermetic poetry who died just this past year (2004). Lorenzo Thomas (alas, another person who died in 2004), and Gil Ott (died 2003—this is a very mournful list). I will alter the tenor of mournfulness by listing a few really terrific "younger" poets (meaning—younger than me!!!!) who should be read: Daniel Bouchard, Chris Tysh, Rob Fitterman, Rodrigo Toscano, Jennifer Moxley, Renee Gladman, Evelyn Reilly, Laura Elrick. It's been fun talking. And I could extend those lists forever.

I was just discussing the subject with Brenda Coultas--what to do when people's work goes out of print (we even contemplated starting a press called Out of Print).

Anyway, I think first of Bernadette Mayer. It's incredible to me that her major works like Studying Hunger, Utopia, and Memory are out of print--with rare copies only available for sale at BIG prices. I really wish some small presses would reprint these older works alongside all the new works they are publishing. Moreover, apparently Bernadette Mayer has a 400-page manuscript called "the Studying Hunger Journals" which is supposed to be incredible. This should see paper and glossy cover and ISBN number!!! Step up to the plate folks!

On a calmer note, one totally out-of-print book I turn to often is a collection of Chinese poetry called Wen Xuan. I found it for 25 cents at a yard sale and when I finally cracked it open several months later, I was blown away by the scale of this epic poem, "compiled" by Xiao Tong around 501-531 A.D and translated by David R. Knechtges. I have Volume I: Rhapsodies on Metropolises and Capitals. I've only seen Volume III intermittedly on sale for at least $120. According to the front jacket copy, my volume is the first of eight planned volumes. And nobody seems to know about this masterpiece epic! I feel sometimes like it was printed and left on that stoop especially for me. Anyway, the title of my book Western Capital Rhapsodies came from this book, so that's how much it's meant to me.

I won't even get into all of the poetry of other countries that needs to be translated and published--or retranslated and reprinted--in the U.S...

One of the most frustrating things in the world is to find a poet, read his/her work, fall madly in love that work, become wildly enamoured with their language, and then go to tell someone about this monster genuis whispering in your ear, and recieve a glassy-eyed stare in the wake of your enthusiasm. Writers stay under the radar nicely these days, considering one in a hundred (thousand, million?) good writers get any press, but I have a short list of phenoms whose work deserves consideration. Davis McCombs wrote through the Yale Younger Series. Ultima Thule is the name of the book, and it's about his experiences in the cave country of south central Kentucky. Where the fuck did this kid go after he wrote this? Can I get a lapdance? Can I get some more, please? PLEASE??? So, McCombs is one of those poets where you're breathlessly awaiting the sequel...that hot one-nighter...Damn. Dana Gioia, specifically "Interrogations at Noon". A better known poet than McCombs, but still, this man does not write enough. I hear he's one of those self flagellating types that edits the shit out of things for years before they see the light of day. I say: More!!! MORE!!! He's one of Eliza. Bishop's finest little creations. But still completely under-read. His work is soooo subtle, and impactful without bombast, singular without shock. I would totally make out with this man. The last poet on my short list is Joseph Massey. Massey is an emerging treasure. There's plenty of natural tonality in his work, and he's a careful craftsman- Massey relies on the natural beauty of language and the world around him to guide his pen...like a hot chick with no makeup in sweats. A rare commodity these days.

The only one who comes to mind is Christopher Knowles, whose one book, Typings (1974-77) ...I think is still in print at SPD... Christopher worked with Robert Wilson on numerous performances, including Einstein on the Beach, music by Phillp Glass.... being severely dyslexic, language always seemed slippery at best, and hearing and reading Christopher Knowles who is autistic seems to offer a wonderful sense of freedom. The work is so out of the signify progress... and yet there is a rythum I can always settle in..

I would want to write that most poets under the age of 40 or publishing outside of the university press seem obscure, but this kind of answer isn't much fun. And the cycles of hot and cold, in and out make poets appear and fall out of reading and talking circles--I'll bet no one spoke of Ted Berrigan as much as now ten years ago. So no one is ever lost. But this is, again, a no-fun-answer.

I read Ashbery's Other Traditions some years back, and I have seen lately a greater interest in Raymond Roussel and Laura Riding Jackson, two of six authors who are subjects of this wonderful book. John Clare and Thomas Lovell Beddoes have had their work reprinted recently. But David Schubert and John Wheelwright have not had as much attention. Schubert was last collected in a paperback volume Works and Days, published by the Quarterly Review of Literature in 1983. Wheelwright's Collected Poems in 1971, decades after his O'Hara-like death, and Wheelwright is a real stunner. But I'm guessing that Ashbery's attention to these latter authors will gain them the fame they deserve, eventually.

I have a puerile fondness for Brewster Ghiselin, whom I found by Richard Hugo's Triggering Town. I don't know much about Ghiselin but that he seemed to keep up correspondance with Allen Tate and that he's really great with line-breaks. The poet Kevin Goodan found a copy of Ghiselin's Against the Circle in Troubadour Books when Kevin and I were living near Whately, Mass. And Lauren Ireland and I found the E.P. Dutton first-edition of The Nets in a shop in upper-state New York, shelfed near a beautiful copy of Berrigan's Many Happy Returns. The Ghiselin was far cheaper. Here is his "A House," which is dedicated to Allen Tate:

The rootless blossoms brought, from the horseneck curve
And foamy bulge of the greengage bough, from white
Dayshine, to the blackhouse of man
Are such estate of spring as may flourish here,
Standing like fallen things, like foam wasting
On a pool, or a bride's dreadful gown
That will never be used.

            But suddenly while I read
In the breathless room they curvet, in a fresh gust
Leap at my eye lifting from Tate's black page,
And stand like things risen, white out of light.

JOHN MCNALLY had a book called the "Undiscovered Country" that made a big impression on me when I was close to being a poet. He was friend's with Buck Downs -- they were grad students, while Greg Fuchs and me were undergrads. The post, I believe, was postcard size or nigh so, and was basically prose poems that functioned as photographs of dreams. Like many of my favorite books, it wasn't an endpoint but a catalyst, sans the catalytic converter. As far as I know, like Rimbaud, but with all limbs, he's since quitted the field (of poetry).
Ava Leavell Haymon, my first poetry teacher, pal of Buck Downs, runs a literary retreat in New Mexico part of the year, lives in Baton Rouge.

Jeffrey Miller, Northern California Poet, old friend of Codrescu's died in a car crash, there is one book of his, forgot the title, I have a xerox of it somewhere. I'll look for you.

Everett Hawthorne Maddox, New Orleans poet, died about 10 years ago, was a fixture at Maple Leaf Bar, where he held court, one of the longest running innovative poetry reading series, there is a plaque in his owner there, if the bar is still there, and he was one of the few if any poets and white men to be honored with a jazz funeral.

Jessica Freeman, Buck Downs turned me onto her, Brett and I published her in New Delta Review in late 80s, more recently she's become the darling of Bruce Andrews. Don't know if a book of hers ever surfaced, Buck had planned on it but she was even too wacky for Buck.

Tom Dent, New Orleanian, one of the founders of Jazz Fest, part of Black Arts Movement, affiliated with David Henderson, Nikki Giovanni, etc.

Joe Cardarelli, Baltimore, many years ago I was given a xerox of a book of his and always loved it.

Tom Roder (RIP, 1962-1997). His books - game of O, A lever her twinkle, A Strange Packet, Special Weather, Henry's Dog's Poems (all published by Physiology of a Fly in the UK) - are mighty rare. His love poem to Elizabeth Bishop haunts me, as do the gangly rhythms, alarming conjunctures and sad crazy wisdom that radiate through the body of work. Consider this: "The world was created with / the letters of the alphabet: / some letters were more / slipshod ..." or "I should walk my days / with perambulators full of dust ..." Lines like that kept me writing past college.

I was having dinner back in October with Kevin Killian and Dodie Bellamy at a Thai restaurant around the corner from their apartment where we sometimes eat when I visit them in San Francisco, and Kevin asked me the exact same question (or a version of it): Who's the best poet writing in the United States without a full-length book published? I unhesitatingly said Roberto Tejada. Why Roberto Tejada doesn't have a full-length book published is beyond me. He's been a committed member of various writing and artistic communities in the United States and Mexico for almost 20 years. He's written extensively on contemporary poetry (including the work of many of our peers) and visual art. He's published his poetry in a wide range of journals, and it was included in the Best American Poetry volume for 1996. For 15 years he's edited one of the single most important literary journals, Mandorla. He's done significant translation work. When recent MFA writing program grads, whose idea of poetry is to record their slightly embarrassing foibles as teenage suburban lifeguards, already have a couple books published; when experimental poets who ape mid-'80s Language poetry have no trouble finding publishers for their work, it's outrageous (and, yes, I mean this with an ethical dimension) that Tejada hasn't found a home for at least two of his impeccably intelligent, edgy, beautiful, and sexy poetry manuscripts.

somewhere in my papers is a review I wrote in the early 1970s of a book Putnam publishd in 1937: The Bulls of Spring: The Selected Poems of Jake Falstaff. Falstaff was the psuedonym of Herman Fetzer, a burly newspaperman whose friends included Hart Crane & William Sommer. altho he spent some time in NYC most of his 36 years unwound in Ohio.

I remember trying to make the case that in the poem "Interludium in Modo Antico" that Fetzer/Falstaff was the literary grandfather of Frank O'Hara. that poem begins:
At Luchow's in Fourteenth Street
On the evening of Saturday, July 27, 1929,
Having eaten a dinner of sauerbraten, weinkraut and kaskuchen,
Having smoked two cigarettes and the half of a cigar,
Having made a mental note to have my shoes shined
And buy the Everyman edition of the Paston Letters...

I showed the piece to John Ashbery who paid as much attention to it as he did to my poems. but I recall Paul Metcalf taking it seriously.

I think someone needs to republish Stephen Rodefer's Four Lectures. Orbiting parataxis megalopolis in a pressurized camp cruiser is just about the most fun a neo-flaneur can hope for.

Yes, well, Susie Timmons one of my favorites, too (Ron Padgett and I were the judges for her Yellow Press Berrigan Prize book).

Two people who I don't think have received the attention they deserve are both gone now: Daniel Krakauer and Piero Heliczer. Some of Danny's work is (far as I know) still available in one volume, POEMS FOR THE WHOLE FAMILY, from United Artists Books. His work has the kind of sensibility, both humorous and fatalistic, found in the best Austrian writers of the last century (Robert Walser, h.c. artmann, konrad bayer), in a distinctly American setting. "What he is about is alertness and knowing" -- John Godfrey.

Gerard Malanga and I collaborated on A PURCHASE IN THE WHITE BOTANICA: THE COLLECTED POETRY OF PIERO HELICZER, published by Granary Books in 2001. Since I wrote an introduction to the book, I won't go on, here, about the absolute uniqueness and strangeness of Piero's work.

Well, I could go on -- how about David Rattray? How about Gerrit Lansing? How about, etc. etc.

Oh, this could get very lengthy if I were to generate a proper list, but for starters, most of Kamau Brathwaite's books are "out of print" or published so fugitively they are impossible to find—not to mention, 99% of his titles were published in the Caribbean. Middle Passages was finally published by New Directions in 1992, I believe. Thankfully there's his new Wesleyan publication, Born to Slow Horses. Danielle Collobert—her books, Chant de Guerres and Meartre. She evidently tried to destroy all copies of Chant de Guerres after a small publication run; she might have succeeded. Meartre is out of print and hasn't been translated into English as far as I know. Bernadette Mayer! Utopia—all of her early genius output for that matter!! Frederick Goddard Tuckerman.

As well, there needs to be a reprinting of Joan Murray's lone, enigmatic collection published by the Yale Series of Younger Poets in 1947. Could Portable Press at Yo-Yo Labs obtain the rights to accomplish this?! Kirby Doyle's work is quirky, gorgeous, sumptuous and out of print, see Kirby Doyle His poet maudit status might have been a factor…

My conception of who's hard to find is more than likely skewed, quite possibly inaccurate, since I don't "keep up" with reviews, list serves, etc. So, if this list turns out to be comprised of critically acclaimed, universally accessible, academically au courant poets, it just means I'm totally attuned to mainstream poetic discourse. Or maybe it proves that chaos theory is right.

LIST: Sherry Brennan, Of poems & their antecedents (Subpress, 2004); Curtis Faville, Stanzas for an evening out (L Press, 1977); Josie Foo, Tomie's chair (Kaya Press, 2002); Gail Sher, Kuklos (Paradigm Press, 1995).

For all I know Brennan & Foo's work may have more currency than my own at this point. Faville & Sher, I suspect, are not well known at this point.

While I'm at it I'll plug two more books which are almost certainly underappreciated in terms of what they offer; those being: Aram Saroyan's Pages (Random House, 1969) & Robert Grenier's What I believe in / Transpiration / 12 from rhymms (Pavement Saw Press, 1996).

There are some locals (i.e. DC-located poets) I might mention, as well, but I think someone else very close is going to be carrying that ball...

immediately i think of Tim Dlugos--Powerless, Strong Place, A Fast LIfe. Dlugos' poem, "At the Point," is something I can read an endless number of times. also the NIgerian poet, Christopher Okigbo, and his book Heavensgate, which i have as a photocopied stack of pages in a folder in my desk. never been able to get my hands on the actual book. also, Joan Larkin's Housework, Maureen Owen's Zombie Notes , David Shapiro's The Page Turner...there is a lot that i love, it is almost hard to think about. also, lots of new poets whose work is not yet in book form--Rachel Levitsky's NEIGHBOR, Stacy Szymaszek's hyper glossia, i also recently discovered the poems of John Tyson. Actually, I also recently read Susie Timmons' book and that has become quite important to me as well. hmmm...Joe Ceravolo.

The under appreciated poet I have in my mind, Craig, is Steve Abbott. Earlier this year I had the great satisfaction of seeing into print the collected stories of Sam D'Allesandro. The wonderful local press Suspect Thoughts has done a fantastic job and has made a beautiful book of this project (it's called THE WILD CREATURES). Oh, what a relief it was for me, and for Dodie, two of Sam's literary executors, in finally seeing Sam's work back in print. Because the truth is, it's difficult to get the work of even the very best poets into print. Publishing anybody dead is a risk for the publishers. Because the writer isn't out there to do all the "pushing" for himself (or herself). A few years back Krupskaya published Daniel Davidson's book CULTURE. It's not that the press regrets putting it out there, but we might have printed some better-selling titles. And yet in the long run, all poetry exists in a single time frame, the present, and some of it is available to us, some isn't. It's plain to me that we need to get Jack Spicer back into print, because with the dissolution of Black Sparrow, I hear of young people having to pony up 50, 60, 65 dollars for the now out of print volume Black Sparrow did in 1975. Well, that will happen for sure, but what about my friend Steve Abbott? Oh, how I loved him, loved his work, and yet, even though I'm his literary executor, even I don't know the work the way I should because it isn't in our currency any longer, not really. He wrote one book, THE LIVES OF THE POETS, that's as good as anything, oh, i don't know, anything Ron Padgett ever wrote. And another, SKINNY TRIP TO A FAR PLACE, that would have made Philip Whalen swell with envy. Or something. Anyhow, when you get a CAConrad Foundation I hope you will help me get Steve Abbott's Selected Poems printed. I used to roll my eyes when moderators--you know who you are!--would say, "Let's open up the conversation," but the older I get I ruefully see, there's something in that conversation gambit after all.

I hope you next have a round robin like this one that will dig up the poets who stopped writing poetry in the face of general apathy or whatever. When I was a boy there were all sorts of poets whom I know are still alive, but for some reason they dropped out of our rarefied air. Were they the canaries who went down in the cage? Or were they the smart ones who became lawyers, doctors, and munitions chiefs? Or probably somewhere in between.

The poet I admire whose work is either out of print or difficult to find has to be d.a. levy. I've always had a soft spot for the poet-publishers, with Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Ed Sanders, and levy being my holy troika. Ferlinghetti was the first poet I read after I'd been writing my first poems, and my first poetry friend turned me on to him. Sanders I learned of through his co-founding the Yippie! party with Abbie Hoffman, leading to my hearing him read while I was doing graduate work in Albany, N.Y. And levy, the late Clevelander at the vanguard of the mimeo revolution, who I discovered through a magazine article by Mike Golden, that later became the opening to his book The Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle, the largest collection of in print levy poetry. With levy it's the exploration of the locality, its geography and politics, his buddhist beliefs and narrative writing that brought me in and kept me there.

Honestly I'm having trouble thinking of anyone any more obscure than poets most people on PhillySound would already know of. I have an old email/mail art friend, Nancy Burr, whose work I have very much enjoyed over the last 8 or 10 years, altho the last year or two we have been out of touch. She lives in Seattle. And I don't think that her work is out of print or hard to find so much as I don't know how much of it she has published. For me, it's work I get firsthand through the mail. Visual poems and art, collage, mail art. We've done a couple of collaborations. It's the firsthand through the mail part of it that means so much to me. I've never met her in person. It really is a relationship of correspondence. I met her because she emailed me fan mail, and I'd never gotten any fan mail but I do love to send fan mail. I expect she has reams of work I know nothing about. i have a little corrugated cardboard collage she made me with my nickname on it and a picture of a campbell's soup can, which is hanging behind me now. the can is fading. that's how i know it's been awhile since we made our acquaintance, such as it is.

Frank Samperi, despite the fairly recent release of a selected poems -- Spiritual Necessity (Station Hill Press) -- is a nearly forgotten poet. I'm always pleased to introduce his work to poets friends who are unfamiliar with him (that would be most of my poet friends). They always respond favorably. Even if they're not digging Samperi's Catholic mysticism and his obsession with Dante, they always appreciate his attention to everyday particulars and his dedication to a life as Poet. His out of print trilogy: Lumen Gloriae, The Prefiguration, and Quadrifarian (Grossman, 1973 / 1971 / 1973) should be reprinted in one fat volume.

The first name that comes to mind is the French poet Philippe Soupault. It's nearly impossible to find anything by him in English other than his novel Last Nights of Paris (Exact Change, 1992) and The Magnetic Fields (Atlas, 1985), which he wrote with Andre Breton. Lost Roads did a selected poems called I'm Lying in 1985, but good luck trying to find that. I am currently working on a translation of his book Georgia (1926), so hopefully that will be available someday soon. At the risk of sounding unoriginal, I must echo Eileen and say Joe Ceravolo. If enough people say it, maybe they will print more of his work. He has two unpublished books that are just sitting there. Peter Gizzi published selections from one of those books in o.blek 5 (1989), but I haven't seen anything from them anyplace else. Dabble by John Godfrey (Full Court Press, 1982). You can find his newer books, but Dabble is my favorite. Michael Brownstein's first two books of poems. Gerard Rizza. Gerard died of AIDS in his early thirties and only published one book, Regard for Junction (Spectacular Diseases, 1992), which I don't think came out until after he'd passed away. Any early book by Bernadette Mayer. Unfortunately, I'll probably never be able to track down all of Clark Coolidge's books. It might be pretty easy to find Larry Eigner's work, but I'll add him anyway. And I can think of a lot of poets my own age whose work isn't necessarily out-of-print, but has never been in print: Travis Nichols and Dorothea Lasky, for example. Anyone who prints their first books is a saint.

So I've been thinking about your question about hard-to-find poets, and I have a slightly funny answer for you ... technically George Stanley is back in print in a big way, for the small-press world, since Kevin Davies and Larry Fagin brought out his selected, A Tall, Serious Girl, from Qua Books in 2003; but I still think he's under-read, and I'd kind of like to put him forward as among the hard-to-find. His poetry is amazing, conversational and abstract without worrying too much about whether or not he's being "lyrical," and he's equally at home in longer and shorter forms. The re-publication of his work should also help us re-think the heritage of the Spicer circle, and the Vancouver poetry scene, both. I'm a huge fan, and I recommend his poems every chance I get. Thanks for giving me another chance! Great interview with him from 1998: CLICK HERE

Sunday, January 29, 2006

you KNOW this is one of my favorite topics, because we've talked about it before. so i'm going to sit down and write this now or else it won't get done. at first i think even tho this is one of my favorite topics that i have nothing to say beyond what seems obvious to me and i know to you too -- rosalie moore for example, the she published her great book the grasshopper's man and other poems, picked by w.h. auden for the yale younger poets award of 1949, her next book not coming out until nearly 30 years by which she'd become rosalie moore brown. she and the activist poets of the 1940s-1950s bay area are almost unknown today, having lost the publicity wars to the beats and whatnot whom they all considered to be charlatans and mere pretenders to the true throne of euro-american modernism which they thought was theirs. i read a few lines from rosalie moore, along with fellow activists robert horan and jeanne mcgahey i think, in michael davidson's book on the SFC renaissance, and he dismisses all of it pretty summarily, and i immediately thought no way!, this stuff is aMAZing, esp. rosalie moore. (click HERE for PDF of rosalie moore) i dunno, should i quote some? god it's all so good. Here...

          The weather blew through its year
          Its months of moon mothing,
          Its spools unwinding.

          O flake and feather of moon--O air:
          The throat having its own
          Moon in the muscle--
                  full is the bell-shook hollow.

          But the watery month leads nowhere, or the strings
          Beneath this spring--
                  the peeled bird out of air
          Shines over shallows.

          Looking, everywhere looking, out of our stones of eyes--
          Hoping to see, to find,
          In the stone-swung moonlight
          Or wasp waters.

          ("Weather and Month")

this example is maybe a bit too much on the precious side -- she can get quite wacky too (see "imprecation for an aesthetics society with newts, warts, waxes and pins.") i was showing some of this stuff to rod smith awhile back and he thought my god, i wonder if ashbery and o'hara and koch knew this stuff. then it turns out cole swenson knew her, actually typeset a festschrift that came out in moore's honor (learned and leaved, marin poetry center, san rafael calif) in the early 1986. the only scholarly work of any kind that's been done on her work is by cynthia kimball, who did a phd at the suny-buffalo poetics program. a whole big chunk of kimball's dissertation is on moore -- she interviewed moore, covered her life and body of works (late poems on the children's crusades and gutenberg not nearly as interesting to me as the grasshopper's man).

the other person i think i've talked about with you is daphne marlatt, canadian poet who while still in her late teens i think was hanging out with the vancouver poets in the early 1960, say roughly the same age as lyn hejinian but started publishing earlier. when she's known at all in the states she's known either for her prose (ana historic) and or for her identity politics (lesbian). i don't know all her work that well but i love the early stuff in her talonbooks selected, especially leaf leaf/s which was a short black sparrow book from 1968.

          sun finds you two

          shells on our bed
          in a deep
          white you're tide

          only the
          hull of your push.

          ("for k, d")

there's a lush lyric density to this stuff that evokes for me the best niedecker or zukofsky. there's also the six-part prose poem rings which is one of the most incredible accounts of motherhood i've ever read. but leaf leaf/s was dedicated to d alexander who apparently also practiced a short cut-line lyric at the time too so i tracked some of that stuff down. ron silliman's written about d alexander a few times on his blog. i interlibrary loaned a bunch of his stuff and xeroxed it, it's good, shows a bit of creeley and duncan, but now i can't find it otherwise i'd quote you some.

there's a lot of canadian poets i wish more folks in the states knew and which i only got turned onto when i lived in london ontario. bill bissett for example, incomparable really but kinda like a proto flower child crossed with a sound/concrete poet. maybe his friend d.a. levy is the closest yankee counterpart. christopher dewdenyso completely sui generis, those 1970s and 1980s paleozoic geology of london ontario books that read as if someone found, i dunno, some kind of post-industrial nature guide or encyclopedia or something and ran it through a medieval comic book or something. and bp nichol of course, and steve mccaffery who has the wonderful coach house 2 vol retrospective, and karen mac cormack, and still more: lesser-known kootenay-associated people, like deanna ferguson, someone told me she stopped writing i think but i can't remember why, too bad tho cuz her tsunami books are great. and lissa wolsak, another great vancouver poet (and metalsmith apparently!), she has a terrific roof book (pen chants or nth or 12 spirit-like impermances) but her earlier tsunami book, the garcia family co-mercy, is equally fantastic:

          . .       distill light         as we do

            silence as unsound

                            mho   membra

          so-so flivver




                 thrips      alter by it

                   one can advance

          across a shallow

          compete    with their own deer

chosen almost at random but i love how it has an almost futurist or zaum-like interest in the trans-sensical combined with a lyricism like susan howe's but more sensuous or something. and close precedent perhaps for this recent ashata (sp?) press book by sandra miller called oriflamme which is one of the best things i've seen recently.

i wish more people knew -- here my dc poetry pride shows through -- the work of diane ward and phyllis rosenzweig, their rare titles from back to the 1970s i've been lucky enough to find and pick up or be given, but especially lynne dreyer whose books from the 1970s are collected in her roof book the white museum, these continually blow me away. (and she's writing new work too!) lynne's poem "introduction" from her first book (lamplights used to feed the deer, 1974) i think belongs with the very best of bernadette mayer and alice notley. it's too long to excerpt so here's a short paragraph from "stampede" (1976):

            Where she wrote from, where she stepped with stones,
         rivers where she severed their eyes, pressures of lobotomies
         of a poem without. I laugh ash to the wind. Mannequins dress
         themselves under the spell of some sordid fuel. They show her
         with two faces. I drop my voice in the dirt. Step on it
         viciously and let it grow. They notice seasons as if they
         were always changing, in one room they change clothes without
         the use of biographies. They were a group.

The repetitions, the way the sentence lengths are paced, the contrasting imageries, the movement of attentions from personal to impersonal, natural to artificial, tranquil to violent, individual to communal -- sustained paragraph after paragraph! amazing.

god it's really hard to know where to stop in this process, so much good work out there, and i feel like with the exception of the quick mention of sandra miller i'm not even getting into my contemporaries, the thirty and fortysomethings. maybe i should go back to eileen myles' original comment which started off this whole thread for you. ceravolo, absolutely. i LOVE spring in this world of poor mutts. he's badly in need of a collected poems, but who would even buy it or care? (supposedly, i think peter gizzi was telling me that peter says there's a whole bunch of unpublished catholic devotional poems that ceravolo did late in life -- can you imagine?) you know i appreciate ashbery and o'hara, and i think the koch and guest and elmslie are far too underrated, but ceravolo's work is unparalleled! and i wish all the thirtysomething and fortysomething nth-generation new york school poets would give up their veneration of frank and ted and take up ceravolo with slavish devotion! i think i put this to rod smith once and he shot back, you can't imitate ceravolo! probably true

         O height dispersed and head
         in sometimes joining
         these sleeps. O primitive touch
         between fingers and dawn
         on the back

         You are no more
         simple than a cedar tree
         whose children change
         the interesting earth
         and promise to shake her
         before the wind blows
                     away from you
         in the velocity of rest

almost moronic in its simplicity ("sleeps" as a noun?) and yet with these stunning metaphors, that a cedar tree has children, that rest has velocity.

and in addition to neglecting my immediate contemporaries i've not even started with french poetry in translation, which i need since my french is not good enough to read in the original and which we're terribly impoverished from lack of, i mean not even french contemporaries but of earlier generations who have recently died who have dozens of titles to their names and maybe two of which have been translated, it's shameful really. . . .

but one more little secret, i owe nick piombino for turning me on to:
frank kuenstler!

The first person who comes to my mind is David Wojnarowicz. His book, Close To The Knives, changed my writing early on and made me realize how important political writing is to queer readers especially his notion of the ONE TRIBE NATION and how queerness is not necessarily confined to sexual identity. Queerness is within, internalized from a very young age, and it is when one is outside the realm of the illusory one tribe nation, (A perception of the self that is perpetuated by popular culture, visual messages in public space, government and the media), that one begins to seek out others who don't fit the robotic answer key programed by the U.S.

I don't think David Wojnarowicz's books are difficult to get, he's still available on Amazon.com; he's not obscure either, but the reason he comes to mind is because I'm always shocked how many queer writers have never heard of him. It tends to be the more conservative gays who have gained main stream acceptance who disregard Wojnarowicz due to his rants against specific religious zealots and sociopolitical ramblings, but his art and writings remain highly relevant to our current situation and there is no comparable queer writer living today.

Two poets I recently found out about are Norman Macleod and Katherine Hoskins--from the 50s. Hoskins seems a bit trapped in rhyme, but real emotional sophistication--not the easiest thing to find in poetry. Macleod has the word-to-word intensity of Crane, Moore or Zukofsky but he seems streetwise--well, Crane was too, but Macleod is sans uplift--pissed.

It strikes me that all sorts of (familiar) poetry is 'difficult to find'. John Wieners, say. He's often really really good, for no reason that the standard poetics maps can display.

The English poet Ralph Hawkins, whose interview with Ted Berrigan is in the volume Talking In Tranquility, and who shares Susie's "Ted" connection, might qualify, perhaps, for your 'Susie Timmons Award". His own work, laconic and dry, but also cleverly adept and both wise and funny has appeared in, by now, oh, I don't know, almost a dozen books (try and find them! - even in England!) including, most suprisingly, two (or was it three?) collaborations with the late great concrete (visual) poet, Bob Cobbing. Ralph is somewhat isolato, living not in the literary metropolis, and having minimum to do with any literary scene, prefering a pint of ale in his local pub in Brightlingsea, and a good murder mystery. I have most of his books on my shelves. I've long-time thought somebody should do a Selected Poems. For purposes of full disclosure, and for the historical record, he, I, Douglas Oliver, and Charlie Ingham (whatever happened to him?) edited the legendary (ha!) Human Handkerchief in the early '70's at the University of Essex, mimeo masterpieces, (six of them?), under the not insignificant influence of the afore-mentioned Ted Berrigan.

For decades my first thought would have been piero heliczer, but thanks to Steve Clay's Granary, a collection of his is in print again. A poet I always liked and find it difficult to understand why he's not in print (given what is), is Darrell Gray. His "Scattered Brains" (Toothpaste Press... later Coffee House Press) and "Something Swims Out" (George Mattingley's "Blue Wind Press")... both in the 1970s, are worth the effort. There are two UK poets almost completely vanished who stick in my mind: Oliver Gogarty's Snap Box which Trigram Press did in the 1960s; and Philip Jenkins' On the Beach with Eugene Boudin (Transgravity, London 1978). To digress a little (but I always thought their work as much poetry as prose) two books of short prose clips I always remember are Neighbors by Stephen Emerson (Tombuctou, 1982) and Dale Herd's Diamonds (Mudra, 1976).

It occurs to me that probably all of Aram Saroyan's poems might be out of print..... thinking of those late sixties/early seventies works.... they were certainly important to me at the time..... which reminds me of the Telegraph series of small black and white books that Andrew Wylie and Victor Bokris did back in the early 1970s... including some of Aram's work.... and a book of graphics I always remember by Bridget Polk called Scars..

Two poets come to mind: Doug Lang in Washington DC. Has one chapbook out--Magic Fire Chevrolet. I think something is in the works with Edge Books, but it doesn't seem to come. Phyllis Rosenzweig is the other--a large body of witty, moving, erudite humorous work, largely unpublished.

Two poets with whom I read when in Chapel Hill, NC, in the 1970s, Paul Jones and Ralph Earle. Jeffrey Beam, also from that era, is published and has CDs and etc. out, but I have lost track of PJ and RE.

Roger Sauls and Richard Williams, two slightly older (than I was at the time) poets in Chapel Hill who were guiding lights; Roger was very minimalist, lapidary (Light Poems by Roger Sauls, The Loom Press 1974 was out of print but I found a copy that had fallen behind a bookshelf in a store in 75, I forget the more recent book's title, pub. by The Bench Press), while Richard was whoa way crazy in some ways (Savarin by Williams, Ardis 1977 is the last published work I know of his -- hilarious and very very scary in places), what has happened to them?

Jenny Bitner, whom I met at the Warm Springs Lodge in Perry County, north of Harrisburg in the 90s, her book Mother, Pine Press 1995 is wonderful. Also the last I've read of hers.

Here's what I can think of at the moment: boy I would love to read and spend all my time with a collected John Wieners, or at least a copy of Behind the State Capitol. The years of reading it takes to get to unreading. One contemporary poet who I really dig is George Albon, he has a fantastic recent book Brief Capital of Disturbances (Omnidawn). Benjamin Hollander introduced me to his work - Ben's work has always been an incredible gateway for me, see his book Rituals of Truce and the Other Israeli for an interrogatory without another interrogation of the Mideast. Recently met with Ben and Steve Dickison, and Steve showed me a book by Ed Dorn, The Shoshoneans, long out of print, a book with a lot of heart put into it, but will probably never witness another edition. Though I realize oblivion is something that is selected for in nature.

I'm lucky though since I have access to so many libraries, most of which will make copies of poems that I have trouble tracking down. Recently I've been looking for copies of William Carlos William's Contact, a journal he helped edit for a few years in the early 1920s with a bunch of manifestoes he wrote that I can't find reprinted. There is no current edition of Nelly Sachs in print (Green Integer is supposed to have something soon) - the last thing of hers was done in the 60s. Here are some other things I've been tracking down lately outside of poetry: anything by the philosopher Gilbert Simondon, Karl Marx's Ethnological Notebooks (a large pile of notes on anthropology that he took in the years before he died - a copy of these was printed in the 70s in Holland but I've not seen it for sale anywhere), and anything by Frankfurt School contributor Franz Neumann.

Celena Glen. She blasted off the stage at me during the inaugural Howl Festival. She is able to tear open a place in my inside that breaks ear and heart alive. I have an original of a poem she wrote and a chapbook of hers. Bethany Spiers. Her band the Feverfew and album Apparitions. Bethany is lyrically foreboding and musically pulsating as if drawing or spinning threads which turn into cords which make me gasp. Reaching in, gripping. I cry automatically/ before/ in anticipation of the moment in her song(s) that makes me cry.

Most of the poets whose work was difficult to find or lesser known 15 years ago (when I first started this life's study in a more serious way) have now been put back into print. Works by Lorine Niedecker and Mina Loy were, inconceivably, hard to get a hold of. Then there were the books that you could find in any used bookstore which suddenly went missing or became prohibitively expensive (Ronald Johnson's Radi Os or The Collected Books of Jack Spicer), but now have been or will be soon put back into print (Radi Os by Flood Editions).

An under-read poet whose work is available but few seem to talk about (is this because the poetry scene I'm involved in is so white? probably) is Henry Dumas who was "mistakenly" shot and killed by a NYC Transit cop in 1968, at the age of 33. His work is full of energy, intelligence, politics, surprise. Like Ceravolo (another somewhat under-discussed poet in younger generations), Dumas moves from whimsy to shattering pathos (as conveyed through sound, juxtaposition, etc) in a breath. There is a selected poems, Knees of a Natural Man, and Coffee House put out his collected short fiction a couple of years ago (Echo Tree).

My partner, Laird Hunt, put out a few chapbooks under his imprint, Heart Hammer, and I love them all, all by friends: Tim Atkins' Folklore 1-25, Garrett Kalleberg's Limbic Odes (now in his Psychological Corporations, another under-read book), and Dan Machlin's This Side Facing You.

And then there are my students, whose work is just coming into print or isn't yet in print — all fabulous.

(a note from CAConrad: Ron Silliman answered the question directly onto his blog (see his post from 12/29/05), which was great because it very quickly spread the word about the project, and got the interest, the conversation and the sharing underway. Here is his answer:)

At the time I told him I agreed with Susie Timmons as one such choice & I had never known that Richard Nassau was a pseudonym – I Like You is a terrific book. I, of course, have used this space before to write about several poets who fit this general description, such as Besmilr Brigham or Seymour Faust or Drum Hadley. I still have a stack of Harold Dull books atop a bookcase near this PC because his disappearance from the Spicer Circle was far more profound than, say, that of Landis Everson from the Berkeley Renaissance. You really can't get a sense of the Spicer scene without addressing the role of its core straight male member (and, so far as I can tell, one that Spicer never tried to seduce). Dull left the writing scene behind fairly soon after Spicer's death – Tom Mandel & I persuaded him to read in the Grand Piano series in 1977 or '78, but even then that was in the nature of a resurrection. In those days he was working as a therapist near the UCSF campus on Parnassus Heights in San Francisco. Relatively soon thereafter, tho, Dull began to develop Watsu, literally water shiatsu, which I believe he still does himself these days at the Harbin Hotsprings Resort north of the City.

I could make the case as well for Curtis Faville, whose Stanzas for An Evening Out, is a definitive book of the 1970s. Curtis, as readers of my comments stream well know, has hardly disappeared, but works now as a rare book dealer. In addition to Wittgenstein’s Door, which you can still buy through SPD, a new volume, Metro, supposedly is about to appear. But Stanzas is the book every poet interested in the evolution of contemporary verse ought to own. SPD has no copies & Abebooks.com shows none among the Faville volumes that can be found through the rare book network.

However, the poet who best fits this description for me – someone whose work I admire whose books are either out of print or difficult to find – unquestionably has to be Jerry Estrin. Estrin started out as a surrealist poet in San Francisco some time in the 1970s & saw his work evolve considerably right up until his death from cancer in 1993. He was a student of mine briefly at San Francisco State & when I say of that graduate seminar, that there was always at least one student there ready & willing to discuss just why this or that language poet was a fraud, deficient or just not interesting, the subtext is that Jerry filled that dissident role a disproportionate number of times. Yet these poets were his friends as well – when he drove cab around the City, he would stop & give them rides if he saw them, never ever charging for the service (I once literally threw money into the front seat & jumped out before he could give it back) – and he would have been amused to see the words "language poet" used in his own obituary.

His biggest & finest book is Rome, A Mobile Home, jointly published by The Figures, O Books, Potes & Poets & Roof. The book arrived the same week that Jerry passed over & what was to have been a launch party turned instead into a memorial service at the SPD Bookstore that then existed on San Pablo Avenue. You can still get Rome from SPD as well as Cold Heaven, a slightly earlier book from Manuel Brito's Zasterle Press in the Canary Islands. An earlier book, A Book of Gestures, published by Jerry's own Somber Reptiles press in 1980, is worth tracking down as well, capturing as it does his surrealist years (the cover image shows Gertrude Stein conversing with André Breton). Abebooks shows just two copies of that volume to be had, as well as another chapbook I've not seen and an issue or two of Jerry's magazine, Vanishing Cab.

Jerry tended to write in series – Cold Heaven is something of an exception in that regard, save for the last long work, "The Park," perhaps the first truly major poem Estrin wrote. A shorter version can be found in Rome. My own favorite Estrin poem, "Brace," is likewise to be found in Rome & focuses on the meaning of Roger Maris – I don't know if Jerry knew he had cancer when he began this or not, tho his version was not the lymphoma that took Maris in 1985 at the age of 51. The connotations around Maris' name have changed considerably since Estrin himself died in '93, as the two-time American League most-valuable-player enjoyed something of a renaissance of attention when Mark McGwire & Sammy Sosa first surpassed Maris' record in 1998. Here are the first two pages of "Brace," the ellipses in the original, which focuses on the moment of the homerun itself:

During the 1961 season, Roger Maris broke Babe Ruth's homerun record. At the conclusion of his final home run, Maris cried: I've taken my last swing, I am finished. I will now be visible forever.

Diary: the grass on the field, the stands, heavy with fans, the press corps, high in the sands, and Maris, connecting with the pitch, the ball, soaring over the center-field wall . . .

Maris, striking the ball, gives the home run its form.

People running, the ball, invisible, in the single movement of the swing . . .

Perfection of the swing, white-out of the ball, a surfeit never extinguished, asymmetrical to the distant epiphany of its form.

Crowds intensely draw all stories to themselves, are capable of any form. Violence of the swing, then a roar.

Without inside, Maris, after his final hit, would not speak, or rather, there was the sight of his swing, caught on camera, repeating itself, forever.

Maris' swing, its constancy.

Night, Maris, under Yankee Stadium light, the crowd.

The crash of the ball, and Maris, caught in that instant, without inside, opening, to the evening.

Goodbye, he says through the night of the stadium air. Ah, I am finished.

During of the game, a player’s ration.

Image of Maris, flap of pinstripes, under shadowless stadium light.

Image before, Maris at the plate, bat about to explode into ball.

The roar, the sound of bat on ball. The swing never post-game

but prior to definition, to description

to our agitation.

Repose, words of prose, existing once and for all, removed from bat and ball.

(NOTE: for QuickTime movie click here and scroll to bottom of page)

If you look at that grainy QuickTime movie linked above you will note how much this piece itself is a construction of memory: the home run went over the right-field wall & there were no people running to greet Maris or fetch the historic horsehide (a conflation perhaps with Bill Mazeroski's World Series' winning home run the previous autumn). The perfection of form – what this poem is truly about – is entirely Platonic, regardless of how temporary or complex.

Estrin creates the poem out of equal doses of cubism & Objectivism – the idea of a writing "without inside" is the point at which both join – yet his own position is outside of either. The poem's last page shows Estrin offering a critical, rather than figurative, frame:

Think of a film, an unmoving Roger Maris, whose doll eyes never flicker. Shot of the street, of rhythmical crowds, of Roger there.

Maris the modernist, sufficient to himself, has become the paradoxical hero of an instant that endures without a future.

That last sentence might have been written by Guy Debord, had the French philosopher-vandal only known baseball.

In a way, Jerry Estrin's own poetry likewise occupies this paradoxical space, still the writing of a young man, but forever a work that is finished, if never complete. I miss him personally a lot, but I know also that the world of poetry never has fully understood just how much his poetry has to offer.