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Monthly Archives: August 2012

Edward Dorn’s 1981 Charles Olson Memorial Lecture

On April 25th this year I mentioned the publication of Michael Rumaker’s Selected Letters as part of the extraordinarily professional and helpful series Lost and Found, The Cuny Poetics Document Initiative produced under the general editorship of Ammiel Alcalay. Having now seen the whole of Series 3 I have to say more!

Number 5 in the series contains the Charles Olson Memorial Lectures given by Edward Dorn. Dorn opens his lecture of March 19th 1981 by referring to Olson’s ‘legacy of intelligence’ which ‘has surely equipped those who knew him, or have learned from what he left, to weather in some spirit the abysmal storms which are routine in any future.’

What Dorn misses in Olson is, amongst so much else, ‘what all of us got from his actual presence: the ameliorating transport of his ability to relate not just the parts to the whole, but all the parts.’


The lecture also includes a letter from Jeremy Prynne to Dorn dated 22nd February 1981 which is well worth contemplating as he refers to English poets who ‘just fade smugly away; only a jetsam of token culture—poets, with hands outstretched toward disconnected levers, hanging around in Ireland or Earl’s Court.’


This wonderful Series 3 of the Lost & Found project includes two volumes of correspondence between Charles Olson and John Wieners and the whole batch of chapbooks can be purchased from The Centre for the Humanities, The Graduate Centre, CUNY, 365 Fifth Avenue, Room 5103, New York, NY 10016.

You can also subscribe or order books online at

Black Mountain Days

Black Mountain Days

Black Mountain Days: A Memoir by Michael Rumaker

The new edition of this indispensable book has now just been published by Spuyten Duyvil in New York [ISBN 978-1-933132-66-2]

The front cover has a picture of Charles Olson with Connie Olson and students on the porch at Black Mountain in 1953.

Jonathan Williams suggested that this book allowed one to feel that he/she is there, living through Black Mountain’s endless difficulties in the most intimate way.

It is a terrific read and is, for me, by far the most illuminating documentation of what life was like at Black Mountain as the last few years were energised by Robert Creeley and Robert Duncan, Edward Dorn and Fielding Dawson. Dawson’s own account, The Black Mountain Book [Wesleyan College Press, reprinted 1991] is also a vital testimonial to what exciting times these were and those interested need also to look at Martin Duberman’s Black Mountain, An Exploration in Community [published in England by Wildwood House in 1974].

Michael Rumaker’s style is both vivid and intimate and he was a writer of so-called ‘Dirty Realism’ before the term had been invented! His powerful short story Exit 3 had opened with a question from the narrator as he is trapped in a relationship of violence and brotherhood: ‘Who the hell are you?’ It ended with a marine forcing a fight that is bound to destroy him and saying ‘I’ll show you who the hell I am.’ In 1966 Penguin issued a selection of Rumaker’s short stories under the title Exit 3 and other stories and the editor, Tony Goodwin, chose a cover for it depicting a manic figure whose fist is punching glass only to crack it not to break it. This was the first photograph cover that Penguin ever used!


So Here We Are

David Caddy’s collection of audio podcasts is now available in this very attractive format from Shearsman and it is a must for anyone interested in the contemporary scene of British poetry.

In 2007 David was invited by the publishing director of MiPO publications and miPOradio, Didi Menendez, to present a monthly series of literary talks rather in the manner of Alistair Cooke’s Letters from America. As David has pointed out these talks were written quickly and intended as intelligent introductions rather than definitive statements. Rather like a gifted teacher his aim became ‘to stimulate the reader/listener and prompt further reading and discussion.’

Look out especially for the Letters on Bill Griffiths, Tom Raworth, John Kinsella, J.H. Prynne, Andrew Crozier and David Gascoyne. Another real delight is Letter 16 on John Riley: a very fine poet whose work needs to be revived. Michael Grant did a splendid job editing a Selected Poems of John Riley in 1995 (Carcanet) but this has now been out of print for some time.

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