RSS Feed

Derelict Air: from Collected Out by Edward Dorn Enitharmon Press

Derelict Air: from Collected Out by Edward Dorn Enitharmon Press

In February 1955 Charles Olson wrote to his former Black Mountain student Mike Rumaker:

‘This is not an answer to your two, and mss. You will excuse me, but I
am selling cattle, plows, property etc., and it will soon be in hand, and I can get back to you, and proper work. But this is to tell you officially that the turn has come, and that it is forward, again: that we will operate spring and summer quarters, and I wanted you to know, simply, that you, Tom [Field], Jerry [Van de Weile] and Ed [Dorn] are our solids—solid core, and all that—around which we are building, taking only students who are sharp and directed themselves, and expecting a strong summer group, if the spring thing shows no surprising additions yet.’

Rumaker also recalled Dorn ‘presenting the illusion of a foxy preacher from the Old West’ and one can sense a slight whiff of this in Robert Creeley’s ‘Preface’ to the 1978 Grey Fox Press Selected Dorn:

‘No poet has been more painfully, movingly, political; the range and explicit register of Edward Dorn’s ability to feel how it actually is to be human, in a given place and time, is phenomenal’.

One highly engaging aspect of this terrific new volume of Dorn’s previously unpublished work is precisely to do with that ‘given place and time.’ People and places weave a haunting path through the 600 pages of this book with the convincing quality of diary entries. ‘An Account of a Trip with Jeremy Prynne in January 1992 through the Clare Country’:

‘Nobody knows what it’s like
to be in love in the country
nobody knows what the labor’s like
nobody feels the distant thermal
tedium in the fields, where the birds
mock such indenture with No Regard.’

The tone of voice here reminds me of the early poem from Hands Up!, ‘On the Debt My Mother Owed to Sears Roebuck’, whilst further on in this passionately serious new poem one can detect the voice and interest of Prynne:

‘the farm gone beyond its wretched and wracked
draft of human labor conditioned by
the fake gestures of Spring and Summer—free heat
no credit to the sun, whose ownership was,
and still is assumed, paid for with evermore
toil and exertion with a ration calculated down to
and including the last straw.’

It’s that wonderful merging of the colloquial with the analytic in the last lines, the anger and directness of statement, which becomes a hallmark of the work of both poets.

Last year shuffaloff / Eternal Network Joint # 6 published extracts from Dorn’s 1971 The Day & Night Book and my copy has a little insert that says simply ‘a slice from the year 1971, beginning with birth of our daughter Maya, to early summer.’ In this new Dorn collection the entire eighty pages of that diary-poetry appear and it is more than a ‘slice’. As if to emphasise again the close-working connections between Dorn and Prynne the 203rd Day includes ‘On first reading The Glacial Question, Unsolved, again. The tones of the two poets are again operationally interactive:

‘There are a legion of poets
and like
with any legion the work
is fixed and secondary
a ride in the desert
spent days, one
at a time
the serial is in some ways
perfect for a legion

and of the poets prancing
in the academy stock
talking into the face of the clock
only Prynne has the wit to compose
The Pleistocene Rock!’

Prynne’s poem, from The White Stones deals with the glacial movement south in the Pleistocene Era and within it scientific discourse becomes lyric expression which disrupts those discourses. Of course Dorn would have appreciated the compassionately aware sense of both history and humour in the English poet: ‘We know this, we are what it leaves’.

Ian Brinton 3rd July 2015

Advertisements

2 responses »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: