Tag Archives: Gary Snyder

Made In The Shade 3-3

9/4/94
went right by my birthday
didn’t bother to check the odometer

button holes gaped like tiers of silent mouths
the certain cynicism of my reflection

coming on that moon
          gully mist
and a cool drizzle
drenches orange petals
surf up from a storm
          way way out
blasts the granite to sand

9/10/90
I dwell on the page
year in and year out

Maxims of Modern Life:
1. These days when a man glimpses death over his shoulder, he stops to put on his running shoes.
2. You win, and you lose, all at the same time—the lot of a parent.
3. One day we all go our own separate ways—no explanation needed.

9/13/91
Virgo: You’ve overextended yourself. Time to decide which associations to keep and which ones to dump.

long awaited the visitors arrive
the tea cups have been set out

this is the way I’ve come to know how to live

9/14/91
auto satori
happens in Japanese cars
auto epiphany
in European models
auto jackpot 
from Detroit

               Casual my sleeves pushed up to
               my elbows that’s the way I want
               to be immortalized in marble
               fist to hip and staring off
               to a point where a hot little
               turn of the century sports 
               car is parked at the curb
               and the pigeons are pecking
               at the cracks in the sidewalk
               as I compose my very first poem 
               effortlessly 
                                   forever

               say again
               
               I was just thinking
                                   thanks

               (the sales girl of my subconscious
               goes back to filing her nails)

               I shop around
               a knick-knack here
                    a gaudy trinket there
               in the great flea market of ideas
               the forgotten at bargain prices
               recall for sale
               never finding what I really want
               caught in the contest
               between the magic and the terror
               
               huh
               
               like I said
               I posture therefore I am

—Suppose that there were a California School of Poets, who would they be?

A question like that can only lead to trouble, mainly because of who might be left off such a list. There is also the danger of saying “California” and meaning the West Coast, or vice versa. There is not the cohesion or concentration of literary talent in one close area as there is in that black hole of New York City. Many writers are on the West Coast because they want to get away from the light devouring gravity of the literary scene back there. Or they’re looking to make the big money in Hollywood. Be that as it may, there seems to be no central area where the literary talent congregates. It’s a lot more disparate. Writers are more into woodshedding, living away from the big urban centers. There are loose networks, of course, and much of it is based more on personal friendships than on any dogmatic line. San Francisco, historically, has been the so-called cultural mecca, and the Language School had a formidable presence there for years. Now Los Angeles and Seattle are holding their own, with LA outdistancing the Bay Area just by the sheer number of writers.

—Not to beg the point, but you haven’t mentioned any names.

I was trying to avoid having to, but if there were a California School the prime progenitors would include Kenneth Rexroth, Gary Snyder, Lew Welch, Joanne Kyger, and Philip Whalen, just as the icons of the New York School are said to be Kenneth Koch, John Ashbery, James Schuyler, Barbara Guest, and Frank O’Hara. A gang for each coast.

—Isn’t the function of a literary movement primarily to secure publication of poets connected with that movement?  

That seems to be the way it works. The poets associated with L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E magazine, for example, and its off shoots, succeeded quite well with this strategy. Their publications were professional if not conservative. They presented the tenets of their philosophy in the accepted academic manner with much of the same professorial aplomb that you would find in any university house publication. They served up definitions and apparent conclusions. They appeared to have a goal. While the rest of American poetry reveled in the leftover anarchy of the Beat era or was held hostage behind the gates of academia, they presented a clear direction for the future of poetry. It was like they had it all mapped out. Their publishing record was amazing. Once you had the blessing of the inner circle, you were virtually assured a book of poems. They captured academic citadels and the apologists that come with them. They became literary darlings. They churned out tome after tome, spewing chapbooks from just about every small press in the country, and their monumentally indecipherable anthologies clogged the arteries of biblio-commerce, lining the shelves of specialty bookstores with their slick but ultimately insipid spines. Success, yes, but at what price? Where are they now? And is anyone reading that stuff? So, I guess the answer is yes, an organized effort is more effective in getting a group of writers’ works published. The Objectivists are a good example of this, so are the Surrealists. History has already passed judgement on them. The jury is still out on others.


9/17/89
Day’s mood chill with damp, blanket of gray clouds and the brow beating worries that accompany it. Those miserable raindrops, who told them summer was over? The oblique rays of late September had yet to bleach the golden landscape. The staggering heat of those late days like a door open onto a blast furnace reduced to a finger-numbing cool. And that semi-tropical ease evaporated like heat from a body whose circulation narrows its confines, and the grandeur of leisure is replaced by concerns over the mundane. Dust collects indoors to remind us of our transitory nature whereas outside of this tomb we are joined easily with the free flow of air. The ancients lived with these superstitions so long they’ve become second nature now and without them we wouldn’t know enough to come out of the rain.

9/19/92
the antiquity of denial is noteworthy
righteousness arrived with property
and the choice of ownership or divestiture
moral value is basic diluted by possessions
less is moral and more is less moral
to deny is to remember who we are and
to remain moral is to keep that in mind

9/20/91
The formula for poetry is PIE: personality (wit) intellect (form) experience (content). Without one, the other two don’t make it.

smugshitdisturbinginsufferablecondescendingbadmouthingblowhard

9/22/90
now I worry over every precious  
little inkling of my existence

in waning day clouds continents of fluff and light

it’s 1984 all over again

never trust a man who takes the laughter out of meaning

growing up we diminish the purity of our feelings by accepting responsibility and an overriding symbology that lets us hide how we really perceive things. . .once the human has reached the age of seven (the age of reason) he or she has had it as far as really experiencing. . . .

               Have I always been this forgetful
                  	       I can’t remember
               some Marcel Proust I am
         	      one moment to the next without a thought
                  	  worth hanging on to
               unmemorable to the extreme
                  	       I mean
               I’m the only one whose thoughts cause
         	                          instant amnesia
                  	  kids sound off
                    in their own hierarchy of things
         	                     desires mainly
               accumulating the need
         	                to have more than others
                  	       the original social disease
               if I deal with the present
         	      I can see its relationship to the past
                  	       a kind of artificial memory
                    made of assumption
         	                     and speculation
               I suppose I was that way at their age
         	      now my desires
                  	            compounded over time                              
                    return the original investment
         	           in the memory bank
                  	                      where was I
               I had forgotten to call the plumber
         	      dripping faucet reminded me
               and distracted toaster pops up
         	      while I’m out of the kitchen
                  	                 my muffins get cold
               I’m guessing but 
         	                I forget therefore I am

HOME MOVIE II

Ragtime piano roll music over pan up of a huge cement phallic fountain which then erupts against a background of tall yellow California grass and the mottled variegation of multiple evergreens in the distance. A blurring pan across the landscape. A fire burns in the firepit. The back of a woman at a piano. Die are cast and pennies move about to form shifting designs in a stop action sequence. A large sensuous wave breaks over itself.
Close up: Hunce Voelcker stares slightly above the lens and holds that gaze with an air of not quite agony and not quite ecstasy for the duration of his recital. The ocean breeze whips his wispy hair. In the distant background, the cliff-lined Pacific and the white glare of sea froth. His voice over speaks the introductory passage from his Hart Crane’s Voyages.
“. . .and Cutty Sark was drunk. . .the myth was sucked.. . .”  
Medium shot of Hunce donning his hat at shore’s edge. Another breaker spills over itself. Piano roll music over.
Close up: Dick Gallup’s long black hair surrounds his head like a dark halo obliterating everything but the mask of his face. He remains passive and a little self-conscious as if sitting for a portrait, eyes framed by glasses. His voice over speaks his poem.
“. . .urban blues may make me gray. . .victory or defeat.”
Close up of oil painting of Rich Taggart by Jose Lafitte. Medium shot of Jose watering the garden.
Close up: Rich Taggert, young handsome face’s trusting gaze at the lens, delicate cheek boned, seductive in a passive way. His poem is about Phaedrus.
“. . .the fire in turbulence. . .the scrotum’s blossom. . .”
Piano roll music resumes laconic. Medium shot of water rolling over a dam. Segue to wine stream from bottle neck into glass. Medium shot of Gil Helmick putting the bottle down, raising his glass to the camera.
Close up: Gil stares insolently into the lens, challenging it to be more than it is. His droop moustache and the wiry unruly tufts guarding his hairline give him the presence of an absolutely sane and ruthless Edgar Allen Poe. His voice over speaks his poem.
“a tiny explosive up for grabs. . .irreverently armed assassins”
Close up of Susan in profile with Gil glaring in the background. Medium shot of a woman at piano (presumably Susan).
Close up: Phil Newton, angry young poet with angry young beard stares relentlessly at the lens with angry dark eyes. His poem’s about eyes.
“. . .the sly eyes of kindness. . .two black eyes. . .”
Medium shot of Phil walking off into lush green underbrush. Resume piano. Medium shot of phallic cement fountain spouting jet of water. Medium shot of Ellen Appel’s husband, Doug, and their son, Adam. In the background, the sloping wooded landscape of Hunce’s property.
Close up: Ellen, the golden hue of waning day attached to the wisps of her hair in the slight breeze, mugs a pouty insolence, assured that it won’t affect her stark intellectual beauty. Her voice over insinuates her poems.
“. . .the yellow jackets are unrelenting. . .not adrift. . .”
Medium shot of Ellen, nude, bathing in one of the ponds in Hunce’s moat while husband and son look on.
Close up: Pat Nolan in straw hat with green plastic visor bringing cigarette to lips. Top half of face obscured by shadow of hat. Thoroughly animated, whistling, drinking from white coffee cup, mouthing words of insult. His poem about hitchhiking is a tribute to Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
“. . .the coffee trade is brisk. . .a car pulls up and I get out.”
Close up of baby Irene, cherub cheeked, golden curled. Music resumes, harpsichord and piano duet. Medium pan across the construction site in Pat Nolan’s back yard. Close up of Irene again, removing or placing something in her mouth.
Close up: Gail King, framed by a blank sky, coyly expressive indicating a giddy uneasiness with the camera hence the protruding tongue and the wrinkling of the nose. Her breathy voice over in the upper octaves speaks her prose poem.
“Mom was spaced out. . .a touch of science fiction. . .”
Medium shot of Jeffrey Miller and Michelle leaning on the fender of his old Ford, looking under the hood. Close up of Jeffrey’s hand placing a wad of bubble gum to seal the hole in the radiator hose. Raucous ragtime piano over.
Close up: Jeffrey’s head cocked to one side, dirty blond hair not so much slept in as lived in, generous amounts of mascara (raccoon-like) around half-lidded eyes that seem the perfect companion for the smirk and the delta of lip beard straight out of Dumas. The winning smile lets go with a puff of smoke. His poems sparkle, irreverent.
“. . .it felt like a kiss. . .I’m not Ted Berrigan. . .”
Stop action sequence. Medium shot of Hunce in a red dress, Jeff  in a suit twirl around the old VW station wagon. In the background, the red hued wooden A-frame of Hunce’s house. Medium shot of Alice’s yellow Vega zigzagging across the parking lot under the Monte Rio bridge. Montage of shots showing Andrei and Alice Codrescu mugging for the camera in their home. Close up of Alice’s portrait of Andrei on the wall. Up-tempo piano rag.
Close up: Andrei framed by luxuriant black curls of his long hair (shades of Louis XIV), dark compelling eyes give it the Svengali routine, lips under the dark moustache rouged. His Romanian accents curl around his English words.
“. . .a man of hair. . .my fingernails look good in jello. . .”
Medium shot family portrait of Alice standing to one side behind Andrei sitting with young Lucian on his knee. Resume piano. Montage of stop action shots as all the players appear one by one in front of the piano in a jovial gathering of artists and poets, Ellen reprising her nude scene stretched out atop the piano. Long shot of phallic fountain in the shadows moves in for close up of water jet gushing from tip. Linger on water stream. Slow moody piano. Long shot of sun in the trees at sunset as the signatures of the poets crawl across the landscape. Spare laconic piano. 15


9/28/91
Souls migrate like continents. Souls migrate with the sureness of continents. We all have our faults towards which we lean. Time erodes the standpoint from which we view ourselves, the curse of immortality.

I’m never done with anything

too many directions
not enough places to go

The theory of reflexive utterance is simply struck by phenomena (any), the mechanism of our souls (insides) starts the whelming and depending on the time or mood we are either speechless or like a mug with a good head we can translate our wonder into the creaks and groans of crying out loud

the baroque of being organized

no matter the technology
photos don’t show everything

language doesn’t change
it shifts like light

               Strife grief constant
               smooth cosmetic numb
         	      shatter response fail

               not exactly Mark Twain
         	                but what can I expect
                  	  screws clamped tight
                    I grind out my disappointment

         	           “I believe in love” 
                  	                      radio mocks

               feeling for a friend
         	                     (one of the few)
                  	       served injustice
                    with a side of heartache

         	           and I had to find out
               the hard way
         	                the dreaded phone call
                  	  of the ‘80’s
               where the tense
         	                     on the other end
                  	  is past singular

               another mistake admitted to
         	      and its residual sadness
                  	  like the odor that comes
                    with the opening of
         	                a can of worms

               “Hey, it sucks!”
         	                          I want to shout
               and it’s not even
         	                any of my business

9/29/97
Dear Jeffrey (in Heaven), 
     I know that’s where you are because all dogs go to Heaven (poets included). Poets only visit Hell in their mortal lives or for literary conventions. I’m writing this twenty years after your death16, and as we approach the millennium (something you would have had great fun with), the frenzy intensifies — all this fuss over a round number. Gail and I are the last of the old poet gang still in Monte Rio. I know you’re not surprised. Everyone else has moved away or died. I won’t bore you with news of the dead for obvious reasons. Andrei is in New Orleans. So is Gil. Dick, last I heard, was still driving cab in SF. Ellen is a teacher in Vermont. Rich is back in SF, and Phil is living off the land in Oregon. Lana landed in Oxnard. Michael-Sean dropped off the face of the earth (maybe you’ve seen him). Keith teaches in Boulder. Carol lives in SF, Karen is wildly successful, and Steve is back in Oakland. I’m still here because I didn’t have anything better to do or any better place to go.
      You probably know that Hunce and Andrei guided you across the Bardo plane with their readings from the Tibetan Book of the Dead shortly after your demise. A few weeks later your poems were read at an amazingly surreal memorial event in Cotati by a gaggle of friends and famous poets. You would have hated it. And within six months a selection of your works appeared, complied by Andrei and Jim Gustafson, and entitled The First One’s Free. You would have disagreed with the selection. As the title suggests, the books were free. Alive, it’s doubtful that your words would have seen print with such swiftness and ease. Ironic, isn’t it? As it was, once published and delivered to bookstores, your volume of poems was on its own. Unfortunately, the fact that they were free might have worked against them. Bookstores are not, for the most part, interested in “free” and the reading public regards anything free as disposable and probably not worth their time. Hence, a few of us took it upon ourselves to sell your books to used book stores, a copy at a time, so that they did eventually find their way onto shelves with a respectable price rather than in the bargain bin or the throwaway box. Your fame is also assured by another friend of Andrei’s from Denver, Ivan Suvanjieff, who became a great fan of your work and published some of your unpublished poems in his magazine, The New Censorship. Andrei also published your works in his magazine, Exquisite Corpse (no pun intended, I’m sure). You haven’t been forgotten. In fact, a filmmaker from Budapest looked me up a few years ago. He was comparing you to Kerouac and James Dean. You would have died, laughing. You were designated the first “punk poet,” after all. He wanted to produce a documentary of you for Hungarian National TV. I told him that you had worked on Christo’s running fence, something that would resonate with his countrymen. And I told him how your heart was ripped from its place when you were thrown from the car when it hit the tree. I took him out to Hunce’s and to where you used to live. He took some pictures out by the old whaling boat. Yes, it’s still there! Then his car got stuck in a ditch. I had to help him out using the old jack trick, you remember the one. Some things never change. In fact, they repeat themselves. I never heard if the documentary ever got made, but at this point, do you care? Whenever I dust off a copy of your book of poems to take down to the used bookstore, I always think, his was such a great beginning, it should never have been an end. Say “hi!” to everyone “up” there for me.


                       When there’s nothing else 		
                        to be done
               		     it’s hard to imagine
               		sitting still for this
               		a corona descends 
                    		and surrounds
                         		the body
                    	to announce
                           	   a pop quiz
               		tell
               		me who
                         			“who”
               		are
                    		you
                    	I examine my fingers
               		conclude the obvious
               		these agents of my desire
                    	have seen it all
                    		but they ain’t talking
               		I have to take an educated guess
               		so much for learning
                              anarchy at least entertains
                             I never get the whole picture
                  		           the blanks
                                 left up
                  	       the imagination
         		                     fills in
                               opportunity is having the time
                  	  to sit and say
                                “I don’t know”
         	          golden light pales
                                electric high hum
                                                   sputters
                                   near
                         the bottom of the page

Endnotes
[15] Hunce Voelcker first taped the poets reading on a reel to reel machine in his attic workshop. Then he filmed each of the poets in a setting of their choosing with a Super 8 mm camera. The premiere showing was at Hunce’s, attended by all plus some. The tape player and the projector were synchronized by hand, Hunce flipping the switch on both machines simultaneously after he’d yelled “lights out!”

[16] Death is a displaced name for a linguistic predicament.

Subtext
“. . .the name Orpheus itself belongs to the oldest level of Greek  names. . .pre-Homeric. . .an initiator whose power transforms even the wildest creatures, animals and men who live in the wilderness. . . associated with the initiation of young men in the wilds of nature. . .there something significant was disclosed to them in music and song that delivered them from their blood spilling savagery and gave a deep sense to the ceremonies of transit from immaturity to adulthood. . .the announcer of this mystery played the lyre but was not a mere singer. . . .”

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