New To The Society’s Shelves
Over the past year The New Black Bart Poetry Society has acquired either as review/gift/comp copies, subscription, and or diligent used bookstore browsing a fair but not overwhelming number of books to add to the Society’s shelves. As there is no particular system for tracking or cataloging the Society’s acquisitions (pace librarians), it is inevitable that a selection of poems or two might have been absent mindlessly squirreled away in some niche in the already teeming shelves and will miss making the list. Apologies in advance. Otherwise here follows a rather distinguish and respectable receipt into the inventory.
From Empty Bowl Press for 2018, two books representing Pacific Rim sensibilities are A Day in the Life: The Empty Bowl & Diamond Sutras, new translation by Red Pine (Bill Porter), and Cathedrals & Parking Lots, Collected Poems by Clemens Starck.
Red Pine’s translations from the Chinese are always accompanied by erudite informed commentary, in particular this time a reminder of the admonition “not two”. Otherwise, the reader gets two sutras for the price of one. Go figure. Along with the Diamond Sutra is another related translation titled appropriately the Empty Bowl Sutra. The sutras follow the familiar call and response/master-disciple narrative as a number of mendicants wandering around the countryside or seeking shade in a grove discoursing over nothing, the meaning and non meaning of nothing, how obvious it is that nothing is nothing, and falling into various states of Samadhi at the drop of a staff. Proceeds from the sale of the newly translated sutras will go toward the establishment and maintenance of the Port Townsend Meditation Center.
Clemens Starck’s workingman poems owe their rough hewn focus to Whitman and Sandburg and their succinct no nonsense diction to the plain speaking unpretentious cadences of a work force. A Princeton dropout, merchant marine, union carpenter based out of western Oregon he engages with austere depictions of life at sea or the job site, but always backstopped by literary concerns or philosophically knocking the sugar coating off misguided assumptions. He is the bodhisattva of the toolbelt when he writes
I try to imagine Rilke
showing up for work one morning on the construction site,
his sad, dark eyes and drooping mustache
under the yellow hard hat.
Not to mention the angels accompanying him.
Starck’s example should be a call to others in the trades that the world of literature doesn’t belong solely to college kids and the skills that they bring to the job are the same that can be applied to writing. Why shouldn’t the electrician be reading Voltaire, the plumber Heraclitus, the mechanic Socrates, and the mason Finnegan’s Wake? Craftsmanship is obvious and always appreciated.
Also in league with the Pacific Rim sensibility is that of the outdoorsman, another hardy specimen peculiar to the American outback with a unique blend of folksy humor and worldly wisdom. Affiliated with what might be termed the Gary Snyder “bear-shit-in-the-woods” school, and whose retort at being labeled as such is “be thankful that’s where the bear chooses to do his business”, Why Am I Telling You This? Poems and Stories by Doc Dachtler, with an introduction by Bob Arnold, Longhouse, 2019, highlights the wit and sagacity that has a definitive Western twang befitting Twain or Bret Hart, and pays homage to the tradition of the tall tale and the shaggy dog story. A resident of the legendary San Juan Ridge territory outside of Nevada City, Doc Dachtler, former high school basketball star, one room school house teacher, carpenter, and local luminary tells it like it is or was whether you want to hear it or not.
Professor emeritus Tim Hunt, late of Southern Illinois University, Robinson Jeffers scholar (The Collected Poetry of Robinson Jeffers) and author of two definitive texts on textulaity and Jack Kerouac (Keouac’s Crooked Road: Debelopment of a Fiction and The Textuality of Soulwork: Kerouac’s Quest for Spontaneous Prose), changes gear in poems of reminiscences set in the North Bay (Napa & Sonoma) with access to the burgeoning music scene in the late sixties San Francisco. In Ticket Stubs & Liner Notes, Main St Rag, 2018, Hunts traces the soundtrack of a generation born in the fifties listening to AM Rock and Roll on transistor radios and later to the 24/7 FM broadcasts of the psychedelic revolution on KMPX and KSAN. Hunt’s praise songs and laments of the particular heroics and foibles that characterized his youth in popular music are done in a blithe no-frills fashion that befits its subject and bookmarks (with a ticket stub) the days that were and never will be again.
Since When, A Memoir in Pieces by Bill Berkson, Coffee House Press, 2018 Berkson’s anecdotal highlights map out a life as impressive as the times which he chronicled and includes wives, children, travel, altered states, sexual encounters, marginal gossip, and even, in his sixties, a lung transplant. He grew up in a fashionable world with a sense of decorum that never left him, reserved and sophisticated. Through it all he passed with a certain sober equanimity, clear eyed to his sense of place in the world, especially that of art and literature. Berkson was proud that he could be equally comfortable with the natives as well as the society swells remarking that he was the only one he knew of his generation that had been at Woodstock as well as Truman Capote’s Black and White Ball. He attained personal equilibrium in July of 2016. Read a full review of the memoir in a previous post entitled Some Assembly Required.
If Wants To Be The Same As Is Collected Poems of David Bromige, New Star Books, 2018. That David Bromige was generous with himself as a poet and mentor is evidenced by his attentiveness to the community of working poets. He favored creativity over any particular cant or affiliation. And he was fortunate to find among some of those writers a determination to make available instances of his authentic genius to a more inclusive readership. That in the gathering of these essential poems greater emphasis was given to selections aligned with the language school agenda is not a fault, merely an accentuated perspective. Students of poetry, the obsessed and the merely curious, are indebted to that particular bond for once again focusing attention on the savant virtuosity and chameleonic versatility of David Bromige. In George Bowering’s words: “. . .he was always better than you thought he was.” Read the review of Bromige’s If Wants To Be The Same As Is by Pat Nolan published in Poetry Flash here.
Poet Tom Weigel belongs to that large literary demographic of undiscovered poets known as the “Undies” who have credibility and chops as poets but outside their select peer group (other Undies) do not really have any visibility. Perhaps on a more equitable and level playing field. . .but the literary scrum is anything but fair. Once associated with the Poetry Project in NYC, Weigel left the rat race of the Sour Apple for the tranquil seaboard of Connecticut. He passed away October 18th 1917 from leukemia. The Tom Weigel Memorial Issue of Joel’s Dailey’s now retired Fell Swoop poetry magazine (issue 157/158)* features a selection of Weigel’s poems as well as tributes and reminiscences by Joel Daily, Richard Martin, Janet Hamill, Harris Schiff, John Godfry, and Gerard Malanga among others. To satisfy your curiosity and perhaps obtain a copy of this rare and special issue, contact Joel at PO Box 231083, New Orleans, LA 70183
*Thirty plus years of Fell Swoop have been replaced by Joel Dailey’s new publishing venture, The Moron Channel whose most recent offerings are Wipers Float In The Neck Of The Reservoir by Jim Cory and The Pocket Rhyming Dictionary by Joel Dailey. Subscribe early, subscribe often (at the above noted address).
Spiral Staircase, Poems by Hirato Renkichi (trans. Sho Sugita), Ugly Duckling Presse, 2017. Once called “the Marinetti of Japan”, Hirato Renkichi created a unique brand of Futurism from the late 1910s to the early 1920s through poetry, criticism, and guerrilla performance and would later influence what became a lively community of Dadaist and Surrealist writers in pre-war Japan. Spiral Staircase is the first definitive volume of Renkichi’s poems to appear in English.
Where You’re At—Poetics & Visual Art, Kevin Power in conversation with Jerome Rothenberg, Robert Bly, Michael McClure, Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Bill Berkson, George & Mary Oppen, and David Meltzer, Poltroon Press, 2011. What is astonishing about these conversations conducted with this diverse group of poets by Kevin Power, who passed away in 2013, is the affable tone of the discourse and the fact that Power, former Chair of American Literature at the University of Alicante in Spain, is incredibly knowledgeable on the subject of visual arts and poetics. Never do the exchanges seem forced or awkward as often these types of interviews tend to be. The conversations with the poets were recorded between 1974 and 1976 and came about as ancillary to a thesis Power was writing for the Sorbonne concerning “the relationship between poetry and painting in postmodern American poetry”. Although all the conversations rise to the level of enlightening, the fifty plus pages of conversation with Robert Duncan is unique in its range as well as Power’s effortless pacing of Duncan’s vaunted logorrhea, certainly a match for the ages. Highly recommended although unfortunately out of print.
Basho’s Ghost Sam Hamill, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 2004. This slim volume of 129 pages which includes a valuable and extensive bibliography is in essence Sam Hamill’s Narrow Road To The North, a tribute to Basho and Japanese poetry as a travel journal, a portrait of people and places, and their importance in the history of Japan and its culture. Up close and personal, Hamill, a celebrated translator of Chinese and Japanese classics, starts with the 8th century poetry anthology, the Man’yoshu, and travels through time up to the present tracing the development of the Japanese poetic imagination in meditations on the work of Basho, Ryokan, and the poetry of Japan’s first modernist poet, Takamura Kotaro. Carried out with lucid poise and passion for the literature and culture, it is a true poet’s book.
Selected Poems of Alice Notley, Talisman House, Publishers, 1993. Truly a gift from the muse, this early selected poems highlights the progress and breadth of poetic genius, with an iconic cover by George Schneeman. Although many of the early books and publication from which these poems were selected are housed in the Society’s archives, this first of Notley’s selected poems offers their variety of range as well as a time line of poetic accomplishment that is thoroughly distinctive and radical. A must have, if you can find it.
Technicians of the Sacred, 2nd edition, revised and expanded, Jerome Rothenberg, University of California Press, 1985. Through his various anthologies Rothenberg has suggested a curriculum and a method for an acquisition of a familiarity of the subject of poetics and a unifying vision of the art of poetry. Their didactic intent is presented as necessary for the grasp of a world view poetics. Unearthing the foundations of modern and postmodern literature becomes an archeological dig. Rothenberg makes available the tools for such an excavation, the essentials for an overview and understanding of origins and how they relate to the present. For a look at the breadth of Rothenberg’s work which had its beginnings with Technicians of the Sacred, see the post entitled Rothenberg Poetry University here.
Submitted to the Membership by the Parole Officer 2/10/19