Should I Stay Or Should I Go
Bob Arnold, Faraway Like The Deer’s Eye, Longhouse, 2022
Faraway Like A Deer’s Eye is a memoir catalog of texts and a photo album of a life lived as a poet carved out of a northeastern wilderness as a grounded simplicity, an “if you build it they will come” Thoreauvian lifestyle in the original neck of the woods as the achievement of a scholar poet in nature. Bob and Susan Arnold’s Longhouse Publishers & Booksellers has long been known for the breadth of their all-inclusive author’s list published as books, broadsides, and various literary ephemera numbering over 500 to date. Deer’s Eye is an epic saga of homeboy Bob Arnold and his family and the local community in the unpaved rural reaches of southeastern Vermont engaged in the art of building and the practice of poetry outside the mainstream of literary commerce as well as engagement with the greater and much larger cosmopolitan community of poets worldwide. The book itself is a brick, weighing in at almost 500 pages, and dense with photos, texts, and poetry, meticulous in its documentation of the creation of a unique and friendly poetry zone, a personal poetry universe, and a labor of love.
“When I was constructing the huts and cottages I was reading when I wasn’t reading I was building stone walls when I wasn’t at wall work I was traveling with Susan on trains or Susan & Carson on trains and when I wasn’t traveling on trains with loved ones I was back home working in the woods and when I was out in the woods I was publishing others, many others, and they call came when I was thinking of them when I was building or always reading, and one of the best ways to improve your own reading is to seek out and publish the work you can’t find anywhere else, and make what you publish small if you can so people will carry these gifts in their pocket, or made-light so you can afford the mail and send what you publish around the world, and give as much of it away for free because nothing is more expensive than free and know there will be those that will leave you and those that will find you and be happy you’ve been found, because being found is one step away from being lost.” Arnold states in this breathless raison d’etre about his labor of love of over fifty years. “The labor is handiwork. . .It doesn’t matter if the books sell, no matter how hard you work at it, be content the book is out and available. It lives. You live. The reader lives.”
Following this statement are fourteen full page spreads of many of the items Longhouse has published in the last fifty years as books, broadsides, folded “bus tickets”, and poetry ephemera by poets as diverse as Anselm Hollo and Cid Corman, Janine Pommy Vega and Rae Armantrout, Tom Clark and Lorine Niedecker, Santoka and Anne Waldman, and that is barely scratching the surface.
As with the photo spreads throughout, this tome presents ample evidence that when Bob Arnold isn’t writing and publishing he is building cottages, sheds, additions, fences and stone walls. Andre Schelling’s afterword provides a succinct overview introduction of how one becomes a part of Bob Arnold’s poetry world and its deep down authenticity rooted in the land of his birth and the love of literature shared by a few close and shaping seminal friendship with poets like Cid Corman, Hayden Carruth, James Koller, and Janine Pommy Vega.
Bob Arnold is the epitome of the self-taught working man, a rugged specimen who measures in feet as well as in meter. His powers of observation, like his settings in stone, are peerless.
An Old Timer
Selling his old tools on the lawn—
what pains him most
seeing them laid out that way
Barbara Henning & Maureen Owen, Poets On The Road, City Point Press, 2023
When Maureen Owen and Barbara Henning descended on Black Bart country in 2019, the Russian River had just crested 17 feet above flood level. The weather was unsettled, to say the least, and they had just driven the thousands of miles, all the way from Brooklyn, New York, to get to the last stop on their cross country reading tour. Along the way, the two septuagenarian poets stopped along their trek through the south and southwest to give readings and connect with fellow poets and former students. Poets On The Road is the transcription into book form of the blog posts documenting this rather heroic journey.
No stranger to remarkable adventures, Maureen Owen, as a young woman and pregnant with her first child, moved to Japan in 1965 where she studied the practices of haiku and renku as well as Zen Buddhism. She then returned to the States and New York City in 1968 where she was program coordinator for the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. In 1969, she founded the literary magazine Telephone and the press Telephone Books, publishing many poets of the New York School. Owen is also the author of numerous collections of poetry, including Edges of Water (2013), Erosion’s Pull (2006), American Rush: Selected Poems (1998), American Book Award–winner AE (Amelia Earhart) (1984), and The No-Travels Journal (1975). Maureen is a pioneer in women’s publishing as well as a poet whose unique work represents a determined esthetic that rejects the dominant mode of institutionalized literature. Her presence resonates at the center of literate culture.
Poet and fiction writer Barbara Henning arrived in New York City with her two children in 1983 from Detroit, Michigan where she had attended Wayne State University. Her first book of poems, Smoking in the Twilight Bar, was published by Lewis Warsh’s prestigious press, United Artists, in 1988. Subsequent poetry collections include: Love Makes Thinking Dark (United Artists, 1995), Detective Sentences (Spuyten Duyvil, 2001), My Autobiography (United Artists, 2007), Cities and Memory (Chax Press, 2010), A Swift Passage (Quale Press, 2013), and A Day Like Today (Negative Capability Press, 2015). Henning is also the author of four novels: Just Like That, Thirty Miles to Rosebud, You Me and the Insects, and Black Lace. Barbara is also the editor of a book of interviews, Looking Up Harryette Mullen (Belladonna, 2011), and The Selected Prose of Bobbie Louise Hawkins (Blazevox, 2012). She was the editor of the poetry and art journal, Long News: In the Short Century, from 1990 to 1995. Henning taught at Naropa University, the University of Arizona, and Long Island University in Brooklyn, where she is professor emerita. As a prolific author, innovator, and participant in leading edge American poetry culture, Barbara’s engagement in the making and teaching of the art of writing is nothing short of inspiring.
Although a road trip across the North American calls to mind Jack Kerouac’s youthful meanderings of self-discovery, this reading tour was more in the manner of Basho’s late life journeys through the backcountry of Japan. Both poets have made poetry the focus of most of their adult lives. The road trip was in a sense a pilgrimage of reengagement with their calling as poets, and a chance to reacquaint themselves with like-minded friends, old and new, in a far flung landscape of American poetry. Poets On The Road is truly an amazing true story of love of poetry and commitment to the community it embraces.
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