Tuesday, April 24, 2012


So yesterday, I was treated to two hours of examining 30 copies of Cid Corman's Origin. These are some thoughts (off the cuff). Some details might be a little off.

Origin magazine was started in around 1950 by Cid Corman who at that time lived in the Boston area. As the magazine came to fruition, there were a series of letters between Corman and Charles Olson as to what a 'good' magazine should be composed of. These are now published in Letters for Origin. Olson was Corman's first (and for a time, nearly sole) contributor. The first issue of Origin is nothing less than magical. It included (the first publication of?) Olson's opus Maximus - and having read Maximus twice, it appears to me to be an early draft (not the final). Origin was for sale for 3$ but this was optional. The first copies were printed by Divers (Creeley's press) in Mallorca, Spain. The early editions are ALL  letter 

As I read through these issues, I do feel forced to recognize the absence of women. However, I refuse to act with dismissal or anger. My reaction is one (more) of distant curiosity. I have a complex relationship with feminism anyway - as I feel like it pretty systematically discounts disability. And poetry isn't television. The gender problem is much more complicated. I want to just look at what happened and figure out why. To say Black Mountain men just hated women is too much of a simplification to me. 

Origin was very, what shall we say, male-oriented. Of the many issues I looked though women included were Denise Levertov, Lorine Niedecker (most people know that Cid was fixated on her), Barabra Moroff, Carol Berge, Jane Robinett, and, interestingly, Daphne Marlett - a feminist Canadian poet. Corman did a number of issues dedicated to one poet- and he did an issue on her - also did issues on Francis Ponge, Lorine Neidecker, Frank Samperi, and others. 

O and one more woman! How could forget HORRAH PORNOFF. This is a 'real person' -named Clayton Eshleman. In an essay in Attack of the Difficult Poems, Charles Bernstein writes, "HP poems inspired by a negative reaction to a review by Marjorie Perloff that Eshleman felt had challenged him to create works, with a female persona, of 'horror and pornography.....for Eshleman, the persona allowed him to create poems "free to be AND not to be me...(poems that were) an expression of the extent to which the feminine aspects of my personality had fought over the years for their rightful place in my work.' After finishing the series of poems, Eshleman took out a post office box and sent poems out in Pornoff's name, with the poems soon appearing in Fag Rag, Momentum....4th series of Origin. (did Corman know?) Eshleman notes that he kept up a few correspondences for his made-up poet, even fending off people who wanted to date her."

Corman did publish largely men - but I do know that he was utterly fixated on LN's work and is partly responsible for bringing her work to the surface. 

I haven't yet read all of Olson's work - but I don't find Maximus overwhelmingly sexist. Olson, famously,  did not want women in his class. However, in Michael Davidson's "Guys Like Us - Citing Masculinity in Cold War Poetry"  he notes, "the recently published letters between Olson and Frances Boldereff suggest that the re was a third interlocutor in the production of "projective verse" who may have exerted as much influence on the manifesto as Creeley.... The letters between the two figures, written from the late 1940's to the 1960's, testify to an intense intellectual and sexual involvement, especially during the period of Olson's apprenticeship as a poet." (Olson "became" a poet relatively late after life as a Melville critic, postman, etc). Davidson argues, "Projective Verse" appears in an early draft among the letters, and it seems clear that Bolderoff contributed certain ideas about language as action to the essay. The absence of any reference to this powerful woman intellectual can, of cousre, be explained (as Sharon Thesen does in her editorial introduction to the letters) by Olson's common law marriage to Constance Olson during the 1950's. But this occlusion of Boldereff's influence is also informed by Olson's phallic theory of literary inheritance that can admit the authority off Williams, Pound, Creeley, Dahlberg, and others, but not of strong women."

Sunday, April 08, 2012

Saturday, April 07, 2012

Letter from Larry Eigner to Bessie Eigner from Camp Jened

"My social experience always must be pretty discontinuous. And to have it going on and on wd never be enough anyhow. One example is, this girl (i) thought was a counselor – to give her a brief mention—I’ve on stumbling over her quite a bit, esp. yester…. Actually, I’ve been all through it before – ages 14-18 or thereabouts – and don’t plan on going all through it again.. (Back in my teens I fell out of propriety I shd tell you of it but was scared I’d wiggle too much if I did. Thinking it had something to do with the STARS or something. Etc.) I’ll see what I can make of the whole vacation later. All the material will take some time to assimilate.”

Thursday, April 05, 2012

Photo Essay on the Seattle Public Library

me and charles dickens

blury silliman books

Dewey Decimal Runway


This is a huge machine that transports books.

This is the floor, made to look like letterpress.

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

My Body is (the) Marginalia; The Sun Drawn a Saw Across the Strings//A Memoir in Progress//for Andrea

how much does one's ability to feel the other depend on one's feeling for oneself
                                                            how much does one's ability to be for the other
depend on one's ability to be for oneself

                        we are all windows

hold still in the light
the edginess / every year /o it's so painful/ to let go

etched on the river’s sound
the water has to suffer

I was a kind friend
held in the branches of dreamers


We were a perfect triangle. The three of us. There were systems, habits, clues to go by. But there was that missing element: longing. All I wanted to do is write, all I wanted to do is write things that people couldn’t read. You need your anger. I learned to love solitude.


My husband is trying to help our son to his homework. My son wants to put they to signify a genderless he or she. My husband is sympathetic, but wants my son to know that he is grammatically incorrect. I keep my memoir in a children’s book titled Grammar Can Be Fun. If you leave, husband, I will be able to keep books and cats strewn across my bed.


The facts of my life are minimal, and I’ve named most of them here. I have mild cerebral palsy due to a trauma at birth. I grew up around able-bodied people. My parents divorced. My grandmother died. My mother was found temporarily insane (which is now, perhaps attributed to post-partum depression) and committed briefly to the mental hospital. During those few days my infant sister and I were in an orphanage. My father moved to France. My mother remarried. I had many responsibilities and few freedoms. I changed parents. I fell in with the gays. Ashley died. I met friends who would stay with me for life. Emma died. Then college, then more college. A love affair. A move East, poetry and so on. Marriage. Elizabeth died. Then John & Louis shot themselves. A baby who grew up to be a brilliant, obstinate boy. Dion died. Sasha died. 

I was an orphan for a short period. That my life occurred at all appeared, to me, strange and miraculous. I was born dead, after all. In another dream, I am walking toward and toward these places you inhabit, which are repetitive and timely, but I cannot not reach you. It is due to these dreams that with wonder, I stood outside the adobe house, gazing up the street through midnight. It was my father who always promised to call.


There are too many items in this house. I am one of these items. The cat is an item. Jeffrey and Geo are items. The husband with potatoes is an item. My dreaming. The dogs, items. My sorrow, an item. The Lithuanians, they are items too. Lucy is also an item. These books are items. My prayers for Swathi are an item. My unmade bed, my namelessness, my attempt at words, my copy of Cancer Ward, my desire, my wish to go to Russia, the love of this family, mail, the tiles, the titles, my heart.  Items, all.


My parents met when she was fourteen, and he was fifteen. My mother had an affair as a young woman when my father was in graduate school. She confessed this to him in the grocery story. The man’s name was Bill. My father would not forgive her. My father later left my mother for another woman. Her name was Mary. At first we were all together; we lived across the quad from each other in married student housing. I was stung by a bee. I had the chicken pox. I watched the Wizard of Oz every year on channel 4. These are ordinary girl things.


Difficult to rest in ambivalence.

                                                            Hi.                    Remember the house.

The last things before sleep: Allen chanting, animal record, and the thought that this is the third birthday in a row that D. has not left a message and never will again. Nevers do exist. This is what happens when I sleep. Sometimes it happens naturally, sometimes it happens chemically. Remember the child. I have had two soul mates. Neither were, nor would ever be, lovers, and that was strange to me. One died. The other lived. I creaked through the days without her.


At a certain point, it became important to know the cause of my sister Emma’s death. I had said that the cause of a death is irrelevant. I had said this many times: now it seemed no longer true. In my mind there were two reasons to go to the hospital: to give birth and to die. I had trouble finding my way through emotion to the logic of this. So that, when the neighbor’s child was hospitalized with pneumonia, I was crippled. My mother said she thought Emma had had cystic fibrosis, but no one was really sure. Now, it seems that this is no longer true. I had to learn that not every situation is the same, no matter the emotional response. Still, I waited for all the tiny deaths.


It was a mild winter and the sun drawn a saw across the strings of our awkward hearts.
                                                I flit away.

I want to live my life in poetry. If only I could get my body to be complicit & yet, the legs stay put.

I leaned into sleep in so much pain that I was breathless.


I had plans of how to behave when the social worker arrived, actions. I would yell. I would cling to my father. I would resist. How did you feel when she took me? She was kind & I had empathy for her. Davis. I remember the corner of our apartment building where we stood on the grass. It was sunny. I do not remember her car. The place was in Woodland. It was right before Christmas. It was an old Victorian house. They had horses there. Two? We had our own bedroom. Did she sleep next to me? They bathed my infant sister in the sink. The house was dark and silent. The people were kind. I want to meet the people who were kind to me in the days that I had neither a mother nor father.  When I was free floating. This is the time I fall apart.


I am trying to figure out what marriage is for. Marriage is for security, economic and emotional? Is it to properly raise children? Is it for passion? I want to skip to the end of my life, when I no longer need passion and so want security. I did, I do love my husband, but I thought that marriage could provide security and it can’t that can only come from within. The degree to which I can rely on anyone is limited.

I wish that I could take a small knife and cut passion out of my heart.


The Chowchilla kidnappings happened in 1976.  Twenty-six children and a bus driver were ‘stolen.’ The bus itself was concealed in a drainage ditch. My mother told me this story. Every day after school, I was responsible for my three sisters and brother. If I was in tenth grade, they would have been in fifth, fourth, and second, respectively. Every day I waited for my brother and sisters. If they were a moment late, the anxiety would spread throughout my body. I found out recently that the bus kidnappings were true – not something, as I suspected – that my mother told me to keep me on my toes. Now, it is time for my own son to begin walking home alone.