Cover to Cover with Jack Foley

Cover to Cover with Jack Foley – September 18, 2019

Today’s show is the second in a series of shows presenting excerpts from Jack’s book, Visions & Affiliations: California Poetry from 1940 to 2005. In Jack Foley’s Unmanageable Masterpiece (Monongahela Books, 2019), Dana Gioia and Peter Whitfield write: “In 2011 a tiny press in Berkeley published Visions & Affiliations, an eccentric 1300-page chronology of post-war California literature in two massive paperbound folio volumes. With no commercial distribution or publicity, the book sold about two hundred copies and soon vanished from sight—but not from the memory of the small audience that read it. Some of them considered the elaborate time-line the first adequate account of California’s complex and contradictory literary life. Others recognized Foley’s radical innovation in changing how literary history could be written. A few even considered these strange and sprawling yet compulsively readable tomes an oddball masterpiece.”

 

Jack writes (in 2011),

 

POETRY AT THE EDGE OF THE CONTINENT

Westward is the world’s motion, and time’s,

If not memory’s.

—Joe Bolton

 

Charles Bukowski and Neeli Cherkovski (then Neeli Cherry) prowled the noir streets of L.A. Jack Spicer set up shop at The White Horse Tavern in Berkeley and at The Place in San Francisco, where “Blabbermouth Night” attracted crowds anxious to make their voices heard. Jaime de Angulo read his “Old Time Stories” (later Indian Tales) on KPFA, a radical FM station on which many poets—including Dylan Thomas—read their work. Kenneth Rexroth, paterfamilias of San Francisco poetry, reviewed books of all sorts on that station as well. Yvor Winters, Formalist poet and New Critic, took charge of the poetry program at Stanford; his students included Thom Gunn, Donald Hall, Robert Hass, Donald Justice, Philip Levine, N. Scott Momaday, Robert Pinsky, and Timothy Steele. L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets Ron Silliman, Lyn Hejinian, Kit Robinson, Steve Benson, Carla Harryman, and Barrett Watten flourished in the East Bay and San Francisco. Their work had an impact throughout the country. Experimentalists Leslie Scalapino and Michael Palmer were frequently associated with the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E group. Feminists Judy Grahn, alta, and Susan Griffin made the Bay Area their home. Experimentalist Kathleen Fraser taught for years at San Francisco State College (later, University). James Broughton, who liked to think of himself as a “wonderful fairy,” wrote poetry and plays and made experimental films. Etel Adnan, born in Lebanon, lived, wrote and published in Sausalito. Victor Hernández Cruz taught at UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and San Francisco State College. Teaching poet Thomas Parkinson became a link between theUniversity of California and the bohemian world of The Berkeley Renaissance, where Robert Duncan held forth on myth and magic. In 1953, the San Francisco Poetry Center was founded by Ruth Witt-Diamant; it continues today as an active force in the poetry community. In 1954, Bob Kaufman moved to San Francisco, and Jack Kerouac wrote his first book of poetry “in the Cameo Hotel on Third Street Frisco Skidrow.” In 1955, Weldon Kees and Michael Grieg parodied the formality of the conventional poetry reading (including what Witt-Diamant was presenting) with their “Poets’ Follies.” That same year, Kees may have committed suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge: his body has never been found. At the legendary Six Gallery reading in October 1955, Allen Ginsberg electrified the audience by reading the opening section of “Howl.” In 1964, California Poets in the Schools (CPITS) began at San Francisco State University; originally “The Pegasus Project,” it initially placed poets in classrooms to read poetry to children but quickly became a program to include students’ active participation. Greek poet Nanos Valaoritis taught for many years at San Francisco State. Street poets Jack Micheline and Julia Vinograd produced interesting, demotic work and sold their books directly to their listeners. In 1969, Objectivist poet George Oppen became the first California poet to win the Pulitzer Prize. “One man-experimental movement” H.D. Moe edited Love Lights magazine and did many readings. George Hitchcock’s kayak magazine was founded in 1964. Chicano poet Francisco X. Alarcón has taught for years at UC Davis. San Francisco’s North Beach neighborhood, home to the late Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia and to the Communist poet Jack Hirschman, continues to be a haven for the bohemian. Beat poet Michael McClure—participant along with Lamantia and Ginsberg in the Six Gallery reading—continues to teach and write in the area. Lawson Fusao Inada was born in Fresno, where Philip Levine was teaching. Philip Whalen—poet friend to Lew Welch, Gary Snyder, and Jack Kerouac and another participant in the Six Gallery reading—became a Zen monk and served as abbot at the Hartford Street Zen Center in San Francisco. Mitsuye Yamada announced that “I have thought of myself as a feminist first, but my ethnicity cannot be separated from my feminism” and founded “The Multicultural Women Writers of Orange County.” Lawrence Ferlinghetti (initially “Lawrence Ferling”) came to San Francisco in 1950; his work continues to have immense circulation, and his bookstore, City Lights, is one of the crown jewels of the city. In 1997, Ferlinghetti became San Francisco’s first Poet Laureate. Janice Mirikitani, devorah major, and Jack Hirschman followed. In June, 2002, poet, educator and author Quincy Troupe was appointed the first limited-term, Official Poet Laureate of the state of California; in October, 2002, after admitting he had lied on his resumé, Troupe submitted a letter of resignation. In 2002, peace activist Mary Rudge became the first Poet Laureate of the city of Alameda, California. In 1996—after twenty years in New York City—native Californian Dana Gioia returned to his home state, though he was to leave again in 2003 to serve as Chair of the National Endowment for the Arts. 1975-Pulitzer-Prize-winning Beat poet Gary Snyder, another native Californian and another participant in the Six Gallery reading, lives in Nevada City, California and is frequently seen in the Bay Area. Joanne Kyger, a long-time resident of Bolinas, has produced exquisite work of Buddhist orientation. In 1968, New Yorker Diane di Prima took up residence in California. William Everson (“Brother Antoninus”), born in Sacramento, California, wrote out of a powerful Catholic spiritual tradition and taught for many years at UC Santa Cruz. Poet/anthologist Jerome Rothenberg taught for many years at UC San Diego, as did “talk poet” David Antin. Post- (or Neo-) Surrealist poet Ivan Argüelles came to California in 1978; he published widely throughout the country and, with Andrew Joron, co-founded Pantograph Press in Berkeley. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Robert Hass teaches at UC Berkeley; Josephine Miles and Nobel-Prize-winner Czeslaw Milosz taught there as well. Hass’s wife, poet Brenda Hillman, teaches at St. Mary’s College of California in Moraga. In 1996, Hass’s “Watershed: An Environmental Poetry Festival,” sponsored by Poetry Flash, was held in Golden Gate Park; the annual festival, now celebrated in Berkeley, still continues. In Venice, California, Stuart Z. Perkoff, Philomene Long, Frank Rios, Tony Scibella, William Margolis and others were part of a bohemian artists’ community; fueled by a “powerful drive for nonrecognition,” their community became suddenly famous when Lawrence Lipton’s book, The Holy Barbarians, appeared in 1959. In 1978, leaving his home in Swampscott, Massachusetts, Black Mountain poet Larry Eigner moved to Berkeley, where his brother Richard fashioned a house in which the disabled Eigner could function; one of Eigner’s caregivers was L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poet Robert Grenier. In 1987, Herman Berlandt inaugurated San Francisco’s National Poetry Week, a high-profile, diverse festival presented by the National Poetry Association. The festival continued annually for the next several years. During the late 1980s and early 1990s, Spoken Word poets—“Babarians”—were thriving at the Café Babar in San Francisco, on the border of the Mission and Noe Valley neighborhoods. The National Teen Poetry Slam Championships were held at the Regency Theater in San Francisco on Earth Day—April 22, 2000. In 1972, Ishmael Reed and Al Young began publication of the influential Yardbird (later Y’Bird) magazine; both Reed and Young continue to write and teach in the Bay Area. In 2005, Young became the state’s Poet Laureate. In 1985, Carolyn Kizer’s book, Yin, was awarded the Pulitzer Prize; in that same year, Howard Junker founded ZYZZYVA magazine. Joyce Jenkins—editor in chief of the free newspaper Poetry Flash since 1980—continues the heroic task of listing in her publication all the poetry events in the state, though she now lists them on the internet as well. Noted Native American poet Gerald Vizenor taught for years at UC Berkeley. There are many other names, many other dates that might be mentioned…

 

memory

the sun

turns back

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