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.
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: email@example.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.