Monday, January 30, 2006

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


Blogger k9gardner said...

I have the manuscript of Gerard Rizza's second manuscript that I'd like to publish some day. A bit daunting. "Ensemble Holds - Fifty-one Fifteen-line Poems." Sonnets plus one, he'd call them. I hope to get it out there some day!

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