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!
“… a picture of Charles Olson with Connie Olson …”. That is, of course, not the mistreated wife Connie, but the daughter Kate, who also ended up badly.