Thursday, March 23, 2017
e-mail to Linda Russo from Ron Silliman
Date sent: Tue, 28 Apr 1998 05:00:30 -0500 (CDT)
Subject: Re: Silliman on Kyger
On 04/27/98 20:10:48 you wrote:
>Dear Ron Silliman --
>you maybe recognize as a sometime poetix listperson --
>i've been only skimming posts lately (busy) but I was wondering if you
>could say more abt. Joanne Kyger being the most influencial progressive
>woman poet of the 60s - 70s. She's been important to me & it does seem,
>considering the scope of her work, that she *should* be important, but
>doesn't seem so considered. So i wonder if you'd be willing to tell me a
>thing or two, or maybe point me to something you've published re kyger.
Been thinking about this myself over the past few days. Kyger's not in the [Paul] Hoover [anthology Postmodern American Poetry] or the [Douglas] Messerli [anthology From The Other Side of the Century] and absent even from Moving Borders [ed. Mary Margaret Sloan], an anthology I imagine as having been premised on precisely this sort of omission (though I argued over this with Margy Sloan, who simply doesn't know the work and doesn't have the historical depth I wish she had -- she told me that she was only using writers from the late '70s onward, so I was surprised to see Niedecker, Guest and Fraser, all of whom are contemporaneous with Joanne or, in Lorine's case, even earlier).
Joanne Kyger was a student of Hugh Kenner's at UC Santa Barbara in the 1950s who moved to SF where she became the only woman to participate as an equal in the otherwise remarkably misogynist Spicer circle. She married Gary Snyder and traveled with him to Japan (and, also with Gary, to India where they traveled about with Ginsberg). Back in SF she was also best friends with John Weiners and is the Miss Kits he refers to in his Scott Street journals. She worked for awhile as a TV producer for the local PBS station (this was 35 years ago, when such a job was not impossible for somebody just roughly creative and intelligent to go get), then moved to "the Mesa" which is a hill overlooking the ocean in Bolinas (there are two other neighborhoods to that small town, a section by the road coming in, neighboring -- literally -- a lagoon that's one of the great birdwatching spots in northern California, then the downtown itself, nestled betwixt the beach, the lagoon and the Mesa. During the early 1970s, Creeley and Bobbie Louise Hawkins, Lewis and Phoebe Macadams, Larry Kearney, Peter Warshall, Bill Berkson, Bob Grenier, Richard Duerden, Tom and Angelica Clark, were all living in Bolinas, a town with a population of just 300. Phil Whalen was there for awhile also before his duties in the Zen Center became full-time.
Joanne's influence on Grenier is palpable, it really is the connection between his fascination with Creeley (he edited RC's first Selected Poems), and his own later work which is so much about how thought emerges.
Joanne has never ever been one to push her own work, but there was a time circa 1970 when every poet I knew owned a copy of The Tapestry and the Web, her first book (I have no idea where my own copy disappeared to -- I'm certain I never sold it, although it may have gone off in my divorce from my first wife back in '72). In 1975, Berkson published her second book, All This Every Day, and Kenward Elmslie I believe was behind the 3rd one, The Wonderful Focus of You, John Martin publishing Just Space (poems 1979-89) from his Black Sparrow press. There's also a chapbook that contains a poem based a local indian tale, Up My Coast and most recently a big book of her Japan and India Journals from Tombouctou. SPD would still have whatever is in print. There've been other chapbooks, I know. The National Poetry Foundation is talking about doing a big selected poems sometime in the future, although there needs to be (I hope) a book of the poetry since 1989.
The very first poetry reading I ever produced, in 1974, was a benefit for a Bay Area prison reform group. My readers were Creeley, Kyger and Dorn and in the context of SF in that year it was very much a line-up of people recognized as equals. 400 people attended.
I've written at some length about the disappearance of poets and how it reconfigures history into something unrecognizable to those present at the event. This isn't always bad -- Ferlinghetti was shocked to see that anyone was still interested in Spicer as recently as a year or two ago. But all too often it leads to this sort of erasure of a major writer.
I don't know if you know Joanne's work. It has its closest affinities, I think, with Whalen, Grenier and, though I don't know how well she knows him, Anselm Hollo (Joanne has a terrific sense of humor in her writing, which may in fact actually work against her being taken as seriously as she deserves). I know that Bobbie Louise Hawkins has wanted her to come and teach full-time at Naropa for years, but Joanne (who has no visible means of employment, though she must live on very little money) seems willing only to do the occasional workshop there.
She's one of our hidden treasures -- the poet who really links the Beats, the Spicer Circle, the Bolinas poets, the NY School and the language poets, and the only poet who can be said to do all of the above.
Friday, February 24, 2017
Sunday, March 5, 2:00 pm
Maison de la Poésie de Nantes
The unique place
Quai Ferdinand Favre, Nantes
Part of the Atlantide Festival of Literature
Tuesday, March 7, & Wednesday, March 8, 9:45 am-5:00 pm
Room 830 (8th floor of the Olympe de Gouges Building)
Université Paris 7 Denis Diderot, Bâtiment Olympe de Gouges
with translations by Martin Richet
Tuesday, March 7, 6:30 pm
Hall de la Bibliothèque des Grands Moulins,
5, rue Thomas Mann, 75013 Paris
Friday, March 10, 7:00 pm
centre international de poésie Marseille
entre de la Vieille Charité
2, rue de la Charité
13 236 Marseille Cedex 02
Double Change, the House of Poetry of Nantes
& the International Center for Poetry, Marseile
Monday, February 20, 2017
Not to be confused with the Vichy regime being set up in DC and elsewhere. The following are Twitter accounts for the legitimate government of the United States.
Labels: Defend the Constitution
Wednesday, February 08, 2017
1938 -- 2017
A link here to the Poetry Foundation's recording of Tom Raworth reading "Gaslight":
Tom Raworth died this week. He was a giant as a poet, and a gentle, sweet fellow. One of the greatest compliments I ever received was a simple phone call from him -- how he got my number I do not know -- telling me that my book Ketjak was "alright."
I knew him slightly during the years he lived in San Francisco in the 1970s, was in the audience at New Langton Arts when he gave what may be the shortest talk ever, and was fortunate to see him whenever he came through Philadelphia in recent years.
I was once told (by a poet I respect) that Americans were too quick to declare him the finest living British poet. Just the opposite, I suspect, the far reaches of the Commonwealth have been far too slow to recognize the wonder of his work. After Bunting, Tom was the Alps. He himself could not have cared less for accolades, but the weak tea that is so much of British conventionalism is just so much piss-water alongside this stronger brew. I will miss him and we will all miss his work & wit.
Here are two pieces I wrote on Tom's work some 14 years ago.
Read Tom Raworth’s poetry aloud & you begin to understand almost instantly why, or more accurately how, he developed his reputation as – at least until Miles Champion showed up – the fastest reader on the scene. Try reading aloud the following stanzas from “Survival,” a poem in Clean & Well-Lit: Selected Poems, 1987-1995:
later she would walk
asleep on his feet
to the brink of inspiration
with lacquered nails
paused in mid-phrase
discounting – discrediting
the epic sweep of stars
shrunk back in his head
until the day was filled
creating an illusion
radiating orange lightning
sucked into a vacuum
past ponds, down hills
nothing better than to re-claim
duck with its head swinging
knife – a blue pencil
only bad things that affect
the opposite still she came
a tall black vase
fluttering her arms
moving every year
around protected by the wind
shook the plate in front
did not scream when he fell
outside down the stairs
poured all her brains
to differences in colour
associated with food
regarded as the simplest forms
stuck together in lumps
are irrelevant to survival
the struggle towards
exhausted from hunger
sounded like water
beginning to burn
or an extinguished star
fading with darkness
smiling at the skull
feelings belonged to the past
his stomach churned
the breeze blew
through thick underbrush
following him around
out onto the highway
not to touch his cold flesh
you could smell it
from deep in the earth
watching the smoke crawl
from his straining lungs
with its icy purity
The line here represents one phrase, almost as though each were a single stroke that, together, accumulate into a large, complex canvas. In general, the lines contain between four & eight syllables – the two shorter exceptions in the fourth stanza above are the first such exceptions in the poem, which is already 16 stanzas long at the start of this quotation.
A different poet who focused on the phrase might vary the segments of language actually used line by line more than Raworth does: a quick tally of the 56 lines above shows 21 starting with verbs – only one is a variant of to be – with another ten starting with prepositions. It’s precisely this combination of line length & syntax that propels Raworth’s text forward so rapidly. A career of reading texts such as “Survival” in public would speed up anyone’s reading style.
“Survival” is the longest poem in Clean & Well Lit, which – with the exception of the sequence Eternal Sections – represents eight years of writing, post-Tottering State, Like the “14-line poems” of Eternal Sections – Raworth pointedly does not call them sonnets – “Survival’s” 14-line stanzas carry that familiar quantity about them. Raworth’s reluctance to employ the S-word makes sense, as the logic of these stanzas is anything but sonnet-esque. Rather, the propulsion of the language carries the reader ever forward, ever faster. If the syntax does contribute to the onward motion of the language, it never really resolves up to the level of a sentence – those little moments of closure are themselves deferred or displaced.
I’ve sometimes wondered if it is a function of Raworth’s phrase-focus that makes his work so eminently accessible to U.S. audiences & note, just to use these four stanzas as an index, that only the spelling of colour marks his text in any way I think might be recognizable to a Yank as British. Do the British really use phrases differently? I’m not enough of a comparative linguist to know, although I’m aware of the stereotype propagated by so many BBC dramas on U.S. PBS television stations suggesting that fully formed sentences with many dependent clauses are “British” in a way that the more telegraphic, interruptive mode of Yankee discourse is not. Of course nobody in those dramas sounds like Linton Kweski Johnson either, or even appears to have come from the north. Still, the complaint I once got from a young poet with partly British heritage that “there’s waaaay too many ‘experimental’ poets who like to think Tom Raworth is the only poet in England” reflects, among other things, the enormous respect & passion Americans do have toward his work.
Raworth’s Collected Poems is about to be issued from Carcanet in the U.K. & is already available for sale over its web site. Every single blurb for the book is from a Yank.