Edward Dorn’s Two Interviews (Shearsman Books) edited by Gavin Selerie and Justin Katko is a useful companion to the Collected Poems (Carcanet Press 2013), reviewed by Peter Hughes in Tears in the Fence 58. Dorn’s poetic achievements are towering and well worth exploring. If you have never read anything by Dorn, I recommend starting with Recollections of Gran Apacheria (1974), which works by revealing a history of effects through suggestion and has a deep emotional pull, and proceed to the satirical epic, Gunslinger (1968-1975).
Two Interviews features The Peak Interview from July 1971 in Vancouver with Robin Blaser’s students, Tom McGauley, Brian Fawcett and John Scoggan, with Jeremy Prynne, Stan Persky and Ralph Maud present and contributing, and The Riverside Interview from 1981 between Dorn and Gavin Selerie. Both are terrific conversations, with Dorn speaking informally in the first and more extensively in the second. Justin Katko’s Preface surveys recent and forthcoming Dorn related materials and gives a context to this decade of adjustment for Dorn. There are obviously differences of tone and occasion, in Dorn the speaker in 1971 and 1981 that provide the book’s vitality. Dorn, as these interviews and Iain Sinclair’s memoir American Smoke (2013) suggest, was a man who knew the lie of the land and what happened in the wide spaces of the badlands and beyond. His methodology, derived from Charles Olson at Black Mountain College, was to locate himself in a place through a close reading of its cultural landscape, history, geography and geology. The great joy in this book comes from a greater understanding of his practical working methods as well as the way he adapted to new locations and developed his use of wit and aphorism. He was to some extent a nomadic exile by choice looking across and beyond the American West. There are questions devoted to his time in England, teaching at Essex University, and his fruitful friendships with Jeremy Prynne, Tom Clark, his first biographer, and Donald Davie.
Two Interviews includes a short selection from Dorn’s unpublished daybook, The Day & Night Report, from 1971, a selection of two chapters from Dorn’s unpublished prose work, Juneau in June (1980-1981) and three uncollected poems, originally published in Spectacular Diseases No. 6 in 1981, and rare photographs, including the human totem pole of Jeremy Prynne, Ed Dorn, Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, Kidd Dorn and Maya Dorn. Gavin Selerie provides a highly informative and detailed introduction to the Riverside Interview and there is also a bibliography of Dorn Interviews. The whole book as Justin Katko indicates is a worthy addition to Ed Dorn Live: Lectures, Interviews and Outtakes (University of Michigan Press, 2007).
David Caddy December 22nd 2013