Colophon Collection of Moderns
To celebrate the twenty-fifth year of the Friends of the SMU Libraries, we have convened a class reunion of American writers from the Fifties and Sixties. The alphabetical seating assignments (with no attempt to separate the troublemakers) has created some interesting juxtapositions. Let us eavesdrop. Ashbury asks Baldwin for a light and they share a Galois. As Gaddis peeks behind the U.S. map, Ginsberg (clothed, but on the teacher’s desk) is holding his lighter up to the flag. Snickering in the corner are Kerouac and Kesey, who’ve been smoking something strange. Along the windows are Koch, Kyger, Levertov, Lowell and McClure. Are they looking out or studying the reflection? O’Connor and Oates compare weapons. Percy and Purdy are morbid enough to make Plath laugh out loud. And is it healthy for Wolfe always to be relegated to the back?
At the time, their experiments, pranks, and shared revelations were scandalous. It speaks to the end of this century that, in American literature, the promiscuity, drugs and obscenity, the private feelings, embarrassing addictions, and physical violence have lost their ability to shake us up as they once did. If sometimes belatedly, each member of these cliques of visionaries and rebels reached the head of the postwar literary class.
As the title of the exhibit reminds us, the dropping of the atom bomb fifty years ago began a new period in the American consciousness. The bomb stole the youth of a generation of young people wizened by a sense of impending world holocaust. Those on the verge of adult life suddenly found themselves searching for its meaning, asking questions like: Why jump on the treadmill? Why fear illegal drugs? Why marry before sex? Why trust corporations and politicians?
In addition, their youth was scarred by the faults of the powerful and the deaths of the beautiful. During the war, word of Nazi death camps had been ignored. The war ended deceitfully, causing a rift between Truman and Stalin that created a half-century of cold war and "police action." Autocratic Joseph McCarthy destroyed careers and strengthened the distrust of political power. The deaths of young cultural icons James Dean, Billie Holiday, Buddy Holly, and Marilyn Monroe brought disillusionment to the surface. By the time John Kennedy won the presidency, youth and change seemed synonymous. After the assassinations of Martin Luther King, John Kennedy and his brother Robert, it was the escalation of the war in Vietnam that lit the fuse on a generation betrayed. The turbulent times we think of as "the Sixties" spilled over into the next decade with demonstrations and riots against the war, the Watergate break-in, and the final evacuation of Americans from Vietnam.
A literary furor created at the beginning of this century was still being felt after the Second World War. The American and English Modernists, who depended on images and discontinuity rather than traditional narrative forms, began "the tradition of the new." Their literary descendants whose early work appeared in the Thirties and Forties carried experimentation into the era after the bomb. For example, some of the earliest writers of autobiographical poetry, John Berryman, Robert Lowell, Anne Sexton, and W. D. Snodgrass, found their work dubbed "confessional poetry," a pejorative term at the time. They prepared the way for their younger counterparts, the "Colophon Moderns" featured in this exhibit, who in return prodded some of their living elders, and each other, into further experimentation.
After the war, there were three very influential geographic centers for American letters: North Carolina, San Francisco, and New York. Out ofBlack Mountain College (1933–1956) in North Carolina sprung The Black Mountain Review where Charles Olson, and later Robert Duncan, taught the poets of Robert Creeley and Denise Levertov’s generation. Olson attacked the importance given to rhyme, syntax, and meter, recommended "open" verse (where the poem moves from one perception to another in an effort to convey its sense), and taught that the sound and the spacing of the words on the page were critical to the poem’s meaning—ideas that reached far beyond his classroom.
In the late 1940s,San Francisco was home to a rekindling of poetry as a popular medium. With the debut ofKenneth Rexroth’s weekly literary soirées, of Circle magazine, of poetry readings both live and on the new FM radio band, a foundation was laid for twenty-plus years of literary (and political) "happenings." With Rexroth, the founding leaders of the San Francisco Renaissance included Robert Duncan,William Everson, Philip Lamantia, Josephine Miles, novelist Henry Miller, and editor George Leite. In the years to come, their late work would be published with that of the Beat Generation.
During the Fifties, in both San Francisco and New York, the Beat movement, a cultural rebellion against "the establishment," was led by artists and writers who brought to their work elements of street life, Far Eastern mysticism, and jazz rhythms. Their efforts to shape their language and line with the human voice brought about poetry readings such as the one at Six Gallery in San Francisco in 1955. This reading, at which Allen Ginsberg gave his first public performance of Howl, caught the attention of mainstream feature magazines. Additional notoriety came from the obscenity trial over the publication of Howl. Its publisher, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, was already at the literary center of the San Francisco "scene" as the founder of theCity Lights Bookshop.
Many of the works on exhibit are products of the "Beat Generation," and many others benefited directly or indirectly from the popularity of the underground literary world. The expression "Beat" dates back to Jack Kerouac's 1948 conversation with novelistJohn Clellon Holmes. The connotation was that Kerouac’s crowd was "spent" from the lifestyle they had chosen in rejection of the "straight" life. There is also a sense in "Beat" of the sanctity of the impoverished, such as the sainted poor in Kerouac’s On the Road. By the time Kerouac’s expression was published in his own work, it was already part of the vernacular, and the "Beats" (most notably Gregory Corso, Allen Ginsberg, Kerouac, Gary Snyder, and novelist William Burroughs) are in the news. Their writing is characteristically playful, prophetic, and written to shock the comfortable and complacent.
More playful, and almost as colloquial are the poets known as the New York School. John Ashbery, Kenward Elmslie, Barbara Guest, Kenneth Koch, Harry Mathews, Frank O’Hara, and James Schuyler shared common values such as humor, experimentation, spontaneity, and an alignment with French literature, including Surrealism and European modernism. Several wrote art criticism and were much inspired by postwar movements in American painting, especially Abstract Expressionism, action painting, and pop art. Painters Jane Freilicher and Larry Rivers are two fine art colleagues of these poets.
Keep in mind how disturbed "the establishment" was with "these young kids," who, despite the odds, were recognized for their earnest talent. If your favorite selection from the era isn’t a part of the Colophon Moderns collection, please remember that you can play a part in acquiring and preserving the literature of postwar America as a member of the Friends of the SMU Libraries.
In this exhibit, the emphasis is on contributions to the literary canon and on the authors’ careers, rather than the physical volumes. Every effort has been made to assure the completeness of the publishing information, but it is inevitable that some details have been overlooked. Imprint information enclosed in square brackets does not appear on the title page, and the style of the publishing information has been standardized. Many of the books are propped open so that you may get a "taste" of the prose, poetry, and drama of the not-so-long-ago. In most cases, sample poems are displayed so that they may be read in their entirety.
Playwright Edward Albee (1928– ) won a place in the ranks of the great American dramatists with the social satire Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? The play became Albee’s most popular, most likely for its accessibility, its shock factor, and its 1966 appearance on the silver screen, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. The play was first presented at the Billy Rose Theatre in New York and featured Uta Hagen. In the play, a New England academic couple, Martha and George, spend the wee hours with their younger guests, Honey and Nick, revealing the psychological games played within their marriages. The middle-aged couple manage, as Albee has put it, "to claw [their] way into compassion." As great a metaphor as it is, the play does not stint on harsh realism. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? received the 1963 New York Drama Critic’s Circle Award and two Tony Awards that year. Virginia Woolf is notorious for not receiving the Pulitzer Prize because some prize committee members deemed it "a filthy play." The exhibit copy is open to the end of Act I where Martha and George try to drown each other out.
Protest against the war in Vietnam took various forms. To create this bound set of broadsides, poets such as Robert Bly, Robert Creeley, Anthony Hecht, Denise Levertov, Joel Oppenheimer, and James Wright contributed poems pertinent to the war, the peace effort, and the people suffering in Southeast Asia. The collection is open to David Antin’s contribution, "who are my friends." At the time, Antin (1932– ) expressed an interest in what he called "primitive poetry" and "talk poems." In the year this broadside collection was published, Antin published his first two collections of poetry. In the next two decades he received Guggenheim and NEH Fellowships.
John Ashbery (1927– ) is counted among the so-called New York School of Poets that includes several friends immersed in the New York fine art scene. Turandot and other poems contains Ashbery’s first verses, those written before his years spent as an art critic in Paris. His literary influences include the work of modern French writers, Wallace Stevens and W. H. Auden. In 1956, Ashbery’s work was published in the Yale Series of Younger Poets as Some Trees. Turandot and other poems contains the title poem of that work. Years later his Self-Portrait in a Convex Mirror (1976) won the National Book Award, the National Book Critics Circle Award, and the Pulitzer Prize. The title poem of this volume is a short verse play with a chorus, a foreshadowing of Ashbery’s life-long interest in experimentation.
Go Tell It on the Mountain is known as James Baldwin’s first novel, although he completed another one years before. This is the story of a son who needs to assert himself, a situation common in a "growing up" novel, but one that creates an especially strong image coming from a young black author confronting his race, his Pentecostal upbringing, and his elders. The young hero, John Grimes, says he was "rooted in silent fury," and, despite his escape from his stepfather, is still burdened by race and religion. One of this novel’s surprising features is the narrative shift to other members of John’s family, such as that of his aunt in the chapter "Florence’s Prayer." James Baldwin (1924–1987) was a renowned essayist, novelist, short-story writer, playwright, poet, and social activist who wrote more than twenty books. He spent his first seventeen years in Harlem where he briefly followed his father into the church ministry. He broke away from family and preaching by moving to the then predominantly white Greenwich Village, about which he published a short story. Then, he moved to Paris, where he wrote Go Tell It on the Mountain and set his next novel, Giovanni’s Room (1956), about a tragic homosexual love affair.
While writers of the day were revealing authoritarian hierarchies (Catch-22), racial boundaries (Black Like Me), and sexist structures (them), John Barth (1930– ) began a new phase in his writing by responding to "the system" in Giles Goat-Boy, his fourth novel. An allegorical work set in a university world, Giles Goat-Boy reveals a Barth aware of the new social restraints that followed the freedoms of the postwar era. In this one novel are many of the important themes of the Fifties and the Sixties: the Cold War, the antisystem rhetoric, the pastoral, the apocalyptic, the campus wars, and control by computer. In the setting of New Tammany College, songs and poems are "performed" by various characters.
Snow White, Donald Barthelme’s (1931–1989) first venture into longer fiction, established him as a minimalist. Published after a year on a Guggenheim fellowship, Barthelme’s Snow White transforms the popular fairy tale heroine into an American woman of the 1960s who serves a household of impotent dwarves while waiting for her prince. The novel reveals the emptiness of contemporary fads and ideologies. Barthelme uses devices such as the questionnaire, headlines on an otherwise empty page, various type faces, lists, and white space to dislocate the reader. In the introduction to a 1992 collection of Barthelme’s work, Thomas Pynchon writes, "What he called his ‘secret vice’ of ‘cutting up and pasting together pictures’ bears an analogy, at least, to what is supposed to go on in dreams, where images from the public domain are said likewise to combine in unique, private, with luck spiritually useful, ways." Barthelme has shared his original and humorous vision of an absurd world in his many books and contributions to The New Yorker. Influential in American letters, Barthelme was honored with a National Book Award, the directorship of PEN and the Authors Guild, and a membership in the American Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters.
Saul Bellow (1915– ) is a living American-born recipient of the Nobel Prize in literature (1976). The Adventures of Augie March, his third novel, established his literary reputation and won a National Book Award. Augie, a poor young Chicago Jew expects a special destiny despite limited opportunities during the Depression, and takes up one picaresque project after another. Augie March is characteristic of the postwar growing-up novel, and appeared in part as early as the late 1940s. At least one reviewer compared the novel to the work of Whitman and Twain for its truly American character.
Said to be the finest example of the American postwar political novel, Henderson the Rain King pursues the theme that Augie March just touches: becoming rather than being. Eugene Henderson is a 55-year old millionaire with a passion for life. He leaves a life where he kept hearing a voice inside himself crying, "I want, I want, I want . . . ." While the novel begins in a realistic fashion, Henderson’s desire to find himself takes him on fantastic adventures. As the Beat Generation looked to the road for renewal, so Henderson picks himself up and goes to Africa.
Robert Bly (1926– ) is well known for each of the hats he wears: award-winning poet, translator, critic, editor, publisher, anti-war public figure, men’s movement guru. As a true believer in poetry as the conscience of the age, Bly helped organize "Poets Reading Against the Vietnam War." But Bly the poet resists labels: some of his work is political, some mystical. In a transcendental turn, Bly’s poem, "Driving Toward the Lac Qui Parle River," portrays a natural world possessing a spiritual life. There are soybeans "breathing on all sides," water "kneeling in the moonlight," and lamplight falling "on all fours on the grass." Sounding like Thoreau, Bly has said that poetry "must arrive at a visionary sense of the world through the least rhetorical means." Silence in the Snowy Fields is Bly’s first collection of poems. On the book jacket Bly comments on his work: "The poems are about the present rather than the past. They therefore touch at times on nature and the unconscious, both of which are part of the present."
Paul Bowles (1910–84) is best known for his first novel, Sheltering Sky (1949), written after he set aside a career as a composer. Sheltering Sky is one of the underground masterpieces of the postwar generation, and treats Bowles’ favorite theme, isolation. Bowles’ longtime editor, David Halpern, describes the novel as being about "these three Americans traveling deep into the Sahara, farther and farther away from what they had known as reality . . . ." Bowles became an expatriate in Morocco, the setting of all his novels, stories and poetry. This travel piece, "Ketama-Taza," is set during a ethnomusicology expedition in which Bowles taped the music of the Berbers, but the climax occurs when the travelers reach Ketama, the Morrocan "kif" (cannibis) capital.
This first number of Kulchur includes a previously unpublished section from the original manuscript of Naked Lunch (1959) by William S. Burroughs, as well as poetry by Diane di Prima and Charles Olson, who became contributing editors. The drawing opposite is by Basil King who illustrated several covers of little magazines and poetry volumes.
Richard Brautigan (1935–1984) is still popular for his anti-intellectual humor in Trout Fishing in America (1967). In addition, he is the author of ten volumes of fiction and 11 of poetry. Brautigan, mindful of an environment-at-risk, ends his fictional searches for the pastoral in disillusionment. Nine chapters of Trout Fishing in America appeared in Evergreen Review, three in City Lights Journal, and one in The New Writing in the U.S.A. Written in 1961, the novel was published three years after this second Evergreen Review preview. This number of Evergreen Review follows the one seized by order of the District Attorney of Nassau County, Long Island.
Eight seed packets, each printed with a poem, are held in a folder that proclaims on the back: "This book is free," and grants permission to reprint "as long as it is not sold."
Crucifix in a Deathhand is the first volume of all new work by Charles Bukowski (1920– ). The foreword by the poet expresses his anxiety at becoming a writer of published volumes, for fear that it means he knows how to "work the bull." The promotional blurb for the collection reminds the prospective buyer that the sell-out of an earlier collection "embarrassed Bukowski into an LA drunktank." At the age of 35, after working mostly menial jobs, Bukowski began to write poetry. He received recognition in the 1960s through prolific output in limited-edition chapbooks, little magazines, and an anti-intellectual stand that best known for its gritty portrayal of the seedier side of life. Though never directly affiliated with the Beats, Bukowski’s popularity benefited from the attention that the Beats received.
In Naked Lunch, William Burroughs (1914– ) continued the account of an addict’s life begun in his first work, Junkie (1953). Naked Lunch was published in Paris in 1959 and in New York in 1962. Thirty years later the novel was adapted for the screen. In 1958, two Naked Lunch episodes appeared in the University of Chicago’s Chicago Review, its hero swearing and practicing promiscuous homosexuality. The university suppressed the Winter issue, and the editors resigned to start the quarterly little magazine, Big Table. When the contents of the suppressed Chicago Review were published in Big Table's first issue, most of the copies of the magazine were impounded by the Chicago Post Office and defended in court by the American Civil Liberties Union. Under editor Irving Rosenthal and poetry editor Paul Carroll, Big Table continued to publish work by Burroughs, Gregory Corso, Robert Creeley, EdwardDahlberg, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, and Kenneth Koch, for a total of five issues. After a legal victory, Big Table retired from the field, but not without setting an important precedent in the later obscenity trial for Naked Lunch. Unfortunately, Big Table’s legal troubles tended to discourage other literary journals from bringing forth efforts to shock the American reader.
Tom Clark (1941– ) has successfully juggled careers as a prolific poet and as a journalist, sometimes writing about poets and poetry. After a ten-year stint as poetry editor of the Paris Review during which time his own work was published, Clark returned to the U.S. to continue writing his unconventional verse and to record the lives of the literary heroes of his time, such as Charles Olson,Ted Berrigan, and Jack Kerouac. European surrealism is Clark’s main literary influence. He has published more than thirty collections of verse with small presses such as Angel Hair, Turkey, Little Caesar, Tombouctou, Cadmus and Black Sparrow Press. "Sonnet" was published the year Clark’s third volume of poetry reached the presses. He has since published more than fifty volumes, including poetry, biography, nonfiction and fiction, as well as a play. He has been honored by Fulbright, Rockefeller and Guggenheim fellowships, and several grants and prizes.
Robert Coover (1932– ) won the 1965 William Faulkner Award for the best first novel. In this novel, ordinary people become remarkable when the survivor of a coal mine accident announces the coming of Armageddon, and leads a nationwide cult. The political madness mirrors the McCarthyism of the Fifties, while the conflict between "haves" and "have nots" brings to mind the divisive Sixties leader, Malcolm X.
In the story, "The Babysitter," Coover provides incomplete layers of images that, as a whole, depict the overlapping needs of children, teens and adults. The story is a montage of simultaneous scenes: a teenage babysitter in a bubble bath, three children, their lustful father, the drunken mother, the sitter’s two boyfriends, scenes from the TV, and the fantasies and disasters running through the characters’ imaginations.
Gregory Corso (1930– ) is one of the original Beat poets and was actually born on Bleecker Street in Greenwich Village. The Vestal Lady on Brattle is his first volume of poetry, published with the aid of some Harvard students who supported him after Corso got out of prison. Soon, Corso was discovered by Ginsberg and mentored by Kerouac. The Vestal Lady on Brattle, and Other Poems was later included in the 1967 edition of the Corso collection Gasoline published in the City Lights Pocket Poets series, Number 8.
This love poem to atomic weapons is in the shape of a nuclear mushroom cloud. Reviews of early Beat readings described Corso’s work in a variety of ways, including: "untutored," "witty," "impertinent," and "hilarious."
Robert Creeley (1926– ) is compared to Emily Dickinson for his New England roots and his minimal structure, as well as his examination of love and death. Creeley was editor of Black Mountain Review(1954–57) and Le Fou (1952), and, while living on Majorca, founded The Divers Press.
Creeley’s poems often speak in intimate exchanges, exemplifying Charles Olson’s discussion in his manifesto "Projective Verse" of the importance of our "listenings."
James Dickey (1923– ) became known as a novelist with Deliverance (1970), and as a poet with his reading at Jimmy Carter’s inauguration ceremony. In addition, the film production of Deliverance gave James Dickey wider name recognition than most poets usually receive. Dickey is a popular, accessible poet with great narrative gifts, and, like the great southern storytellers, his work is full of exaggerations and populated by grotesques. "The Shark at the Window" was originally published in The Sewanee Review while the poet was serving in the Korean War. His first collection, Into the Stone (1962), came a decade later. Dickey’s early work shows more of the influence of Theodore Roethke and Gerard Manley Hopkins, as well as revealing an anxiety about past events.
Buckdancer’s Choice won the National Book Award in Poetry. In this, his third volume, Dickey sets aside the formal tools of rhyme and regular meter to employ what he dubs a "split-line," changing the appearance and varying the rhythm of the poem.
Joan Didion (1934– ) began her career as a story writer and a Vogue editor. She started writing novels with Run River, which depicts a deteriorating society using her native Sacramento Valley as the setting. The subject of the novel is the McClellan family, a doomed clan, reminiscent of Eugene O’Neill’s Tyrones. The heroine, Lily, is married to a wealthy rancher Everett McClellan. The action begins with Everett shooting his brother-in-law, then continues in flashback, to explain the murder, Everett’s compulsive sense of order, and Lily’s moral fragility. In the process, Lily becomes the first of Didion’s anti-heroines.
Robert Duncan (1919–1988) is remembered for his poems written in protest to the Vietnam War and for his influential theories and teaching. This collection of first poems reflects his early influences: his theosophist parents, Anais Nin’s circle, and the Black Mountain School. The predominance of the poetic process is most evident where Duncan’s verse changes topic without the aid of logical links or narrative. Duncan alludes to the process in his introduction to the volume, describing the poems as "a source of feeling and thought, following the movement of an inner impulse and tension . . . ." His large body of poetry explores the transcendent, whether it be erotic, aesthetic or religious.
William Eastlake (1917– ) sets much of his fiction in the Southwest, where he has settled on a ranch in New Mexico. His New Mexico palette includes cattle ranchers, native Americans, local legends, and Southwest landscapes. Three of his (out-of-print) early novels are collected in 3 by Eastlake: Go in Beauty (1956), The Bronc People (1958), and Portrait of an Artist with Twenty-Six Horses (1963). In a review by Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Eastlake’s questioning of our moral center is presented "with the most unimpeachable blend of sardonic realism and far-reaching myth."
The poetry of Larry Eigner (1927– ) typically concerns subjects close to home, sights and sounds that he took in from the confines of his bed and wheelchair. Eigner’s early publication history names some of the little magazines of the day: Camels Coming, Out of Sight, Penny Poems, Flame, Harlequin, Riverrun, Migrant, and Tish.
In the featured poem, Charles Olson’s influence is immediately evident in the arrangement of the words on the page; William Carlos William’s in the acute observation of the subject. However, Eigner found his own way to bring thought to word without being bound to speech.
Lawrence Ferlinghetti (1919– ) settled in San Francisco in 1951 after earning a Ph.D. from the Sorbonne. Kenneth Rexroth encouraged his poetry writing, and, in Rexroth’s weekly gatherings, Ferlinghetti became acquainted with others who shared his sympathy for anarchist-pacifist political ideas. His translations of Prevert gained him respect, and his role as the editor and publisher of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl put him at the center of the Beat movement. Ferlinghetti’s own poetry is just as topical, colloquial, and suitable for reading aloud as any of the Beat work he published. His A Coney Island of the Mind (New York, 1958) is one of the best-selling poetry volumes of the century. Pictures of the Gone World is the first volume in the Pocket Poets Series published by City Lights Books and is the first of thirty Ferlinghetti collections. Painting is one of this poet’s many gifts, and Pictures contains several "painterly" poems, such as: "Sarolla’s women in their picture hats." Much like Ezra Pound’s "imagist" work, the poem examines a single image using concrete language.
"Fuclock" is the title poem of a Ferlinghetti collection published that same year.
This 111-page collection was edited from the first 15 issues of the mimeographed, legal-size
Beatitude (pronounced: BEAT-I-TUDE), a publication founded by Allen Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman and John Kelly. It contains poems, a few prose pieces, and a letter, and is an important legacy of the later San Francisco Poetry Renaissance which included the Beat movement. The anthology contains Lenore Kandel’s "First They Slaughtered the Angels," a feminist "Howl." While Kandel’s poem also paints a downbeat picture of the world, it ends with the hopeful cry of an activist: "THEY SHALL MURDER NO MORE ANGELS! not even us."
Lenore Kandel (1932– ) was in the news with the obscenity trial for her first San Francisco publication, The Love Book (1966). Before dropping out of sight, she published Word Alchemy (1967) which includes "First They Slaughtered the Angels." The work of women poets proportionally made a larger contribution to the pages of Beatitude than is reflected by their representation in this anthology. Women who published in Beatitude include: Diane di Prima, Anne Frost, Anabel Kirby, Barbara Moraff, A. Pankovits, and Ruth Weiss.
William Gaddis (1922– ) published this first novel at age 33 after a youth spent in New York City, at Harvard, and in travels abroad. A long experimental work full of satire and foreign settings, The Recognitions was compared to James Joyce’s Ulysses and received reviews that revealed a baffled assortment of critics. Its reputation has grown over time, perhaps because its theme of "the counterfeit" speaks to well-remembered events of the era. The plot follows an artist who copies old masters to the detriment of his real talent. Appropriate to the theme, the novel opens with a reference to a masquerade party.
Allen Ginsberg (1926– ) and "Howl" brought the Beats to the attention of the mainstream culture when the defiant poem was the subject of a precedent-setting obscenity trial. "Howl" has brought to contemporary art the once-taboo subjects of homosexual love, the drug culture and street life. The poem is a Whitmanesque anthem, proclaiming rebellion against middle-class mores and the "death culture" of the "establishment."William Carlos Williams wrote the introduction to this fourth Pocket Poets volume, and reminds us, "Poets are damned but they are not blind, they see with the eyes of the angels." He praises Ginsberg’s vision, as one who "sees through and all around the horrors he partakes of in the very intimate details of his poem." Beginning with the eighth printing, Howl includes words previously censored from the text. After this first association with City Lights, Ginsberg published six more volumes in the Pocket Poets series.
Soon after this broadside was published, Ginsberg began study under Chogyam Trungpa, a Tibetan Roshi. The Buddhist monk asked Ginsberg to join him in Boulder, Colorado where he was founding Naropa, a college combining contemplative studies with traditional academic disciplines. With Anne Waldman, Ginsberg co-founded a writing program known as the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics. Having gained celebrity and a place in history, Ginsberg continues to speak out for artistic freedom.
In November 1959, John Howard Griffin (1920–1980) darkened his skin and traveled through the Deep South as a black man: looking for work, places to eat, places to use the rest room. Two years before Griffin began his historic journey through the South, he had been interviewing Southern Blacks about the growing suicide rate. Many refused to answer his questions and told him that the only way he would learn what he wanted to know was to wake up in their skin. Thanks to a newly developed drug, a sun lamp, some stain, and a shaved head, Griffin did just that. Without changing anything else about himself, he experienced the life of a "tenth-class" citizen. From April through September 1960, Griffin’s account appeared as installments in Sepia magazine as "Journey Into Shame." By June, he had received 6,000 letters from people throughout the South—and almost none were abusive. Black Like Me, the complete record of Griffin’s journey, immediately became a best-seller, came out in paperback the following year, and was soon translated into many languages. In 1964, Hollywood produced a film version starring James Whitmore. Griffin’s book and his many articles and essays about racism merited him several humanitarian awards, including the second Pacem in Terris Award. What Griffin thought would be a short digression from fiction-writing led to a decade of lecturing and further research that continued into the Civil Rights and Black Power movements.
John Hawkes’ (1925– ) response to the prosperity of postwar life was vigorous experimentation. He concerns himself with what he calls the "totality of vision" and "verbal and psychological coherence." As a result, his novels are dreamlike, dreams that combine the attractive and the repellent. Love, communication and sympathy exist within his bleak comedy. Hawkes’ originality makes critics work harder to see the influence of other writers. His perception of the psychological effects of horrible events makes for comparisons with Flannery O’Connor. References to his waste land novellas, his Kafkaesque first novel, and his Pinteresque second, translate into "a new American voice." Second Skin is Hawkes’ third full-length novel in which a retired navy man wanders like Ulysses through a new life, while an interior story probes the meaning of a disastrous past.
The success of Joseph Heller’s (1923– ) Catch-22 was not immediate—though the praise was—but within ten years there were at least 8 million copies in print. By the time of the 1970 film release, the term "Catch-22" was already a common synonym for a no-win situation. The writing of Catch-22 began in 1953 and spanned the decade while the author worked as a promotions executive. Heller credits Fifties civilian life as inspirational. The Army Air Corps setting of the novel goes back to Heller’s tour of duty in Corsica where he flew 60 combat missions as a wing bombardier. Yet, Heller has said that Catch-22 has more to do with Vietnam than with World War II. Catch-22 became especially popular with young readers during the era of Vietnam protests. Yossarian, the protagonist, goes against the war-novel type in his desire to get out of the action, rather than closer to it. As each chapter plays off another character, the satiric spotlight shines on the top brass, on military business interests, and on paperwork and regulations.
LeRoi Jones (1934– ), later Imamu Amiri Baraka, is the most widely read contemporary Afro-American poet. An active black militant since the 1960s, his plays, poetry, fiction and nonfiction express anguish, bitterness and frustration, as well as an appreciation of the resilient spirit of black America. He has been a John Hay Whitney and a Guggenheim fellow and has written an Obie award-winning play, Dutchman. For a time, LeRoi Jones became a spokesperson for the Beat Generation on the East Coast. In the Greenwich Village of the late Fifties, Jones and his spouse, Hettie Cohen founded Yugen, a magazine that featured the work of the Beats. Tales collects sixteen stories: the first nine concern a young and sensitive black man in a white world; the last seven concern a man more conscious of his "black power." The setting of "Salute" reflects Jones’ service in the Strategic Air Command.
During the Sixties, Robert Kelly (1935– ) published twenty-five volumes of his poetry, Armed Descent, being the first. Kelly, whose work is image-based, coined the term "deep image" to describe a poetry process and product that became an important influence on many young poets in the 1970s. Robert Bly’s poetry is a prime example of "deep image" verse. Born and educated in New York, Kelly worked as an editor, translator, lecturer, and writer-in-residence. He co-founded the poetry magazine Trobar and Trobar books. Also shown is Kelly’s Trobar folio Round Dances (c1964) with drawings by Josie Rosenfeld (150 copies). In "Waiting for the Hurricane," the impending storm reveals the otherwise hidden memory of a particular woman at a particular moment.
In the Forties, Jack Kerouac (1922–1969) met Allen Ginsberg in New York City where they became friends through mentor William Burroughs. Neal Cassady entered the picture, the three summered in Denver in 1947, and the next year, Cassady joined Kerouac for the first of Kerouac’s inspirational cross-country trips. Kerouac published a conventional first novel, The Town and the City (1950), written in a similar style to Thomas Wolfe’s. From this, he gained some recognition, but his editor refused his next manuscript: a long, single roll of paper covered with unedited, spontaneous prose written during his journeys. Kerouac continued to write, unpublished, until the poetry reading at Six Gallery in San Francisco made the Beats famous and brought the publishing world to Kerouac. On the Road is a pseudo-autobiographical tale of young people roaming around America looking for fulfillment in new experiences. Unfortunately, its popularity may have contributed to Kerouac’s decline. Despite more than a dozen publications and several attempts to give up drinking, Kerouac met an early death.
Ken Kesey (1935– ) learned about mental hospitals as a ward attendant and created the comic yet gruesome world of one flew over the cuckoo’s nest, where a war of wills takes place between the joyful, free-wheeling McMurphy, an inmate-cum-ringleader, and the controlling "Big Nurse," Miss Ratched. The narrator is long-time inmate "Chief" (nicknamed for being part–native American). The film, starring Jack Nicholson and Louise Fletcher, swept up the 1975 Academy Awards.
Kenneth Koch (1925– ) is one of the parent figures of post–World War II poetry. He strives for what he describes as "incomprehensible excitement" in his poetry, much as he experienced in Europe, surrounded by foreign languages he did not know well.
Joanne Kyger (1934– ) has been associated with the Beat movement since the late Fifties. Kyger and many others read their early work at San Francisco poetry bars such as The Place and Gino & Carlo’s. With Brautigan and McClure, Kyger was a member of a San Francisco writers’ group formed by Duncan and Spicer which met on Sundays to hear each other’s poems. Kyger has published more than a dozen volumes of poetry which attest to her interest in Homeric subjects, and has published journals of her four years spent in Japan and of her visit to India in the company of other Beat poets. "My Father Died This Spring" was published in The Tapestry and the Web which also included her "Japanese" poems.Three of Kyger’s poems appear in this slim volume where she is again traveling with well-known poets: Creeley, Duncan, Jones, Levertov, Ferlinghetti, Ginsberg, Olson, Snyder, and Welch.
Denise Levertov (1923– ) immigrated to the United States shortly after World War II and the English publication of The Double Image, her volume of neo-romantic poetry. Once in the United States, she found her ‘American’ poetic voice, influenced by the work of H.D., Robert Duncan, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, and William Carlos Williams. Her own version of free verse is musical; its subject she describes as "the moment of heightened perception and its imaginative correlation in the poet’s ‘inscape.’"
Like William Carlos Williams, Levertov creates verbal beauty from her discovery of beauty in the unlikely. She urges readers to "make the most of the physical world and the senses."
Through an interesting chain of events, Robert Lowell (1917–77) made an early escape from the tradition-drenched expectations of the Boston Lowells to the tutelage of John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon College. After graduating, marrying Jean Stafford, and converting to Catholicism, Lowell underwent further transformations while working with Cleanth Brooks and Robert Penn Warren. The year after he was jailed after being refused status as a conscientious objector to the Second World War, Lowell published his first collection of poetry. His second volume was a critical success, winning his first Pulitzer Prize in 1946. Lowell’s fourth collection, Life Studies, shows the influence of the plain language poetry of the times, especially that of mentor William Carlos Williams. Life Studies is the first part of a life-long project of an intimate autobiographical nature. Elizabeth Bishop detected further change: "In these poems, heart-breaking, shocking, grotesque and gentle, the unhesitant attack, the imagery and construction, are as brilliant as ever, but the mood is nostalgic and the meter is refined."
Michael McClure (1932– ), like his colleague, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, is a proponent of poetry readings. McClure has said that poetry "is a muscular principle—an athletic song or whisper of fleshly thought." A large number of McClure’s poems have been published in broadsides and posters. The Jargon series published first books of poetry, including Denise Levertov’s Poems.
The Beard is an erotic dialogue between Billy the Kid and Jean Harlow. In Norman Mailer’s introduction, the repetition in the play is described as serving "almost as subway stops on that electric trip a man and a woman make if they move from the mind to the flesh." Michael McClure was a participant in the historical reading at Six Gallery in 1955 where he read some of Robert Olson’s work before Allen Ginsberg took the stage with the first part of "Howl." Though born in Kansas, McClure is a long-time resident of San Francisco, having become acquainted with the Beats through Robert Duncan during the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance. Since 1956, McClure has published more than thirty volumes of poetry, as well as essays and a novel.
In his first novel, Larry McMurtry (1936– ) creates the teenage orphan Lonnie Bannon, who narrates events on his grandfather’s ranch during a hoof-and-mouth disease epidemic. In his grandfather’s household lives his pleasure-loving step-uncle, Hud, after whom the paperback edition was retitled. Praised for its truthful portrayal of ranching life, the novel established McMurtry’s reputation among critics of Western literature. Horseman, Pass By won the 1962 Jesse H. Jones Award from the Texas Institute of Letters. The book prompted McMurtry’s 1964 Guggenheim Award in Creative Writing. The success of McMurtry’s work on the silver screen (The Last Picture Show, Terms of Endearment, and Texasville ) and on television has not hurt the sales of his novels. The film Hud (1963), starring Paul Newman and Patricia Neal, won two Academy Awards.
The White Negro was originally published in the magazine Dissent in 1957. The book opens with a long epigraph from a Harper’s Bazaar article by Caroline Bird (Feb. 1957) titled: "Born 1930: The Unlost Generation" about the hipster type: "an enfant terrible turned inside out." Then, Mailer begins: "Probably, we will never be able to determine the psychic havoc of the concentration camps and the atom bomb upon the unconscious mind of almost everyone alive in these years." Norman Mailer (1923– ) did not begin his career as a nonfiction analyst. He wrote fiction while still a student at Harvard and published The Naked and the Dead (1948) after his tour of duty in the Pacific.
Both the fiction and the nonfiction works of Norman Mailer have probed the American character, assessing the sacred institutions of the times: the Kennedy presidency, marriage, Marilyn Monroe, the Vietnam War, the lunar landings, political conventions, boxing, and the death sentence. The Pulitzer Prize–winning Armies of the Night relates Mailer’s four days in the October 1967 demonstrations in Washington, D.C., and a "history of the battle of the Pentagon." The first 90,000 words appeared in Harper’s Bazaar. The title comes from Matthew Arnold’s poem "Dover Beach."
The Fixer won both a National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize for fiction. Bernard Malamud (1914–86) created the character Yakov Bok ("the fixer") from an actual 1913 case of a Jewish man in czarist Russia falsely accused of a ritual murder. Yakov joins the ranks of the great literary "schlemiels" created byIsaac Singer, Saul Bellow and Isaac Rosenfeld. (Ordinarily passive, a schlemiel, out of stubbornness, becomes a threat to the powers that be.) Innocent Yakov Bok is a rebel by the time he emerges from two years of harsh confinement to face the Czar’s political machine which has used him as a scapegoat in order to start a pogrom.
James Merrill (1926–1995) came under the influence of W.H. Auden when the modern master of traditional forms settled in the United States. Merrill created a middle way between Auden’s impersonal style and the confessional poetry of the time, by creating visions of beauty and magic from examinations of his own life. With time, his tone became conversational, and his poetry more autobiographical. The personal subjects include alcoholism, dead friends, and old age. Merrill’s legacy is a dozen books of poetry, two prose plays, two novels, essays, and this collection from the first nine volumes. Recognized throughout his career, Merrill earned two National Book Awards, the Pulitzer Prize, the Bollingen Prize and the Book Critics Circle Award in Poetry. From the First Nine is open to the poem, "Mornings in a New House," which contains Merrill’s footnote, commenting on his choice of the words: fire screen. Also shown is The Fire Screen (1969) where "Mornings in a New House" first appeared in a collection.
New York City in the Fifties and Sixties had a thriving art scene that Frank O’Hara (1926–66), as an art critic and museum employee, found applicable to his practice of writing poetry. Once, John Ashbery compared O’Hara’s work to the painting of Jackson Pollock: "like Pollock, O’Hara demonstrates that the act of communication and the finished creation are the same." In the art world of the time, spontaneity and experimentation were the norm. Even in his short lifetime, Frank O’Hara accumulated a respectable body of work. He was lucky to have been encouraged and appreciated as a poet before being killed by a dune buggy at the age of 40. He received the Hopwood Award in Creative Writing, and his posthumous Selected Poems (1973) won the National Book Award. In "The Day Lady Died," O’Hara works through a precise account of a day in his life, the day being the one on which Billie Holiday ("Lady Day") died at 44.
Postwar fiction often portrays a broken world and a character’s impossible search for wholeness. Flannery O’Connor (1925–64), a native of Georgia, wrote Gothic stories set in the South. Like some of the characters in this collection, O’Connor rebelled against the Southern belle role and criticized Southern pride with its moral blindness and false piety. It is this pride that perverts O’Connor’s grotesque characters. In the title story of this collection, The Misfit, an escaped convict, is more aware of the hurdles along a spiritual path than The Grandmother who tells him to pray for help.
Joyce Carol Oates (1938– ). has become one of our most prolific writers of novels and short-stories, as well as poetry, essays and critical writings. In the Sixties, Oates taught at the University of Detroit and survived the 1967 Detroit riots, a violent time reflected in them, which won the National Book Award. In Oates’ more than thirty published works are characters swept along by inner and outer forces, most notably their own passions. In them, Loretta Wendall and her son and daughter are a "them" bound by hatred, love and the violent forces outside their circle, forces they also refer to as "them."
Joyce Carol Oates’ poetry also looks at the harshness in life and at the turbulent people who move through the American scene. Early poems such as "Snowfall" try to capture passion in a lyrical way. In an early autobiographical sketch, Oates writes, "All of my writing is about the mystery of human emotions."
Charles Olson (1910–1970) was the influential leader of the Black Mountain Poets during his tenure as rector of that liberal arts college from 1951 until it closed in 1956. His manifesto, "Projective Verse," was published as a pamphlet in 1950 and is quoted from in William Carlos Williams’ Autobiography (1951). Olson devoted his later life to The Maximus Poems, a three-volume work modeled on Pound’s The Cantos.
Walker Percy (1916– ) gave up a medical career and began a literary one when his health suffered. He achieved renown with his first novel, The Moviegoer (1961) which won a National Book Award. Percy’s medical background plays a part in his second novel, The Last Gentleman, about Will, a Southerner in New York with occasional spells of amnesia and a penchant for eavesdropping. Will befriends Dr. Vaught, a failed physician who hopes to transform him. These characters reappear in Percy’s The Second Coming (1980), which continues Will’s search for how to live when what is outside himself is not enough. A comment in Chapter 2 may describe Percy’s inspiration for the novel: "In Southern genealogies there is always mention of a cousin who went to live in New York in 1922 and not another word. One hears that people go to New York to seek their fortunes, but many go to seek just the opposite."
Sylvia Plath’s (1932–63) career as a poet, essayist, short-fiction writer, and novelist was too brief. Only her first book of poems, The Colossus (1960), reached the public while she was still alive. There are three posthumous collections: Ariel (1965) which is her best known, Crossing the Water (1971), and Winter Trees (1971). Plath’s autobiographical novel, The Bell Jar (1963), as well as her collected letters, published journals, prose, and stories reveal the short life of a poet who took her life at the age of thirty. Winter Trees contains poems written in the last nine months of Plath’s life and are from the same "batch" as the poems published in Ariel . Most pleasing are Plath’s gifts of musicality and imagery; most profound is her talent for disturbing our complacency by reminding us of death, even in poems which celebrate motherhood.
James Purdy (1923– ) is a novelist, short-story writer, playwright, poet and artist who often explores alienation, whether between the young and old, a war veteran and his sweetheart, or a homosexual and his lover. Although born in Ohio, Purdy’s literary influences include writers of the Southern tradition whose interest in eccentricity, incest, homosexuality, alcoholism, suicide and homicide, transplants easily to Purdy’s small midwestern town settings. More specific Purdy trademarks include antiaction, a desolate portrayal of the gay scene, and characters who are self-hating. 63: Dream Palace is a sometimes surreal, late adolescent coming-of-age novella about Fenton Riddleway who navigates his way among adults of various sexual preferences, including pederasty. While everyone in the novella speaks without inhibitions, their veneer of honesty hides motivations that make the "dream palace" a living hell. Earlier in 1956, William-Frederick Press published Purdy’s Don’t Call Me by My Right Name and Other Stories (also shown) which includes some of his illustrations. New Directions combined this short story collection with the novella to publish The Color of Darkness (1957). The English edition (also shown) contains two additional stories and an introduction by Dame Edith Sitwell who writes, "Even when describing the worst in human beings . . . Mr. Purdy is not actuated by anger. His longing is to bandage the wound that is sin."
The novel, V, is Thomas Pynchon’s (1937– ) first, and the first of several complex works which explore contemporary life in a surreal, often allegorical, manner. There are two heroes in V. : Herbert Stencil, who is trying to discover the mystery woman known as V., and Benny Profane, a drifting failure who keeps crossing Stencil’s path during a madcap journey through New York, Alexandria, Cairo, Paris, Florence, Malta, and Africa. V’s philosophical nature was inspired by Henry Adams’ autobiography, which explores the modern mind and its world; and by the language theories of Cambridge philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein. Pynchon’s work is remarkable for its affinity with the magic realism frequently found in European and South American fiction. In Pynchon’s New York, one finds albino alligators living in the sewers.
Ishmael Reed (1938– ) may be one of the most underrated American writers, having produced a fine body of work in fiction, poetry, nonfiction and critical essays. Reed began his writing career creating experimental novels with wild plots full of fantasy. The Free-lance Pallbearers is his first novel. Reed creates a provoking fictional place full of violence and corruption, making racism and other evils seem clearly absurd. Both whites (called "Harry Sam") and exploitative black leaders are held up to the light. Reed was criticized for including evil black characters in his fiction: an oppressive Black Nationalist, a two-faced minister, a submissive police officer, and an intellectual phony. Reed also satirizes his black contemporaries who conform to white literary standards. In the Seventies, Ishmael Reed received numerous awards and grants, as well as National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships.
The year she graduated from Radcliffe, Adrienne Rich (1929– ) published her first volume of poetry in the Yale Series of Younger Poets: A Change of World (1951). This is her second volume, partly written during a Guggenheim fellowship (1952-53). Her later work has been honored by a National Book Award and the Commonwealth Poetry Prize. In the introduction to her Collected Early Poems (1993), Rich says many poems from The Diamond Cutters were "at best, facile and ungrounded imitations of other poets—Elinor Wylie, Robert Frost, Elizabeth Bishop, Dylan Thomas, Wallace Stevens, Yeats, even English Georgian poets—exercises in style . . . . Many of the poems in The Diamond Cutters seem to me now a last-ditch effort to block, with assimilation and technique, the undervoice of my own poetry."
This volume releases Adrienne Rich’s more rebellious poetry, written in the decade of her work to end the Vietnam War. In these poems she begins to examine women’s emotional and political position, losing some of the emotional restraint of earlier work. "With the poems in Snapshots of a Daughter-in-Law, I began trying, to the best of my ability, to face the hard questions of poetry and experience."
Philip Roth (1933– ) grew up in a first-generation Jewish community during the Depression and the Second World War. After the publication of Goodbye, Columbus, Roth received a Guggenheim fellowship and Houghton Mifflin’s literary fellowship. The short stories in the collection were previously published in magazines such as The New Yorker and The Paris Review, the latter having awarded the 1958 Aga Khan Prize for Fiction to the story "Epstein." The title novella depicts the relationship between a woman and man from two strata in American Jewish society. Roth’s social criticism of the boorish Patimkin family brought sharp denunciation from the Jewish community. The collection was praised for its perception of the tragi-comic predicament of American Jews who find themselves living in two worlds and trying to fit into one of them. The collection won a National Book Award and the Daroff Award of the Jewish Book Council of America. Also shown: Portnoy’s Complaint. (1969) which graphically described the Jewish protagonist’s obsessive masturbation, much to the further consternation of some of Roth’s readers.
Catcher in the Rye was J. D. Salinger’s (1919– ) first novel after a decade of publishing stories in major magazines, mostly in The New Yorker. For a generation of young people, Holden Caufield, a disgusted prep school runaway, became an important symbol of rebellion against "the phony." When the novel entered high school reading lists despite the hero’s use of profanity, school board meetings became free speech battlegrounds. Salinger worked on The Catcher in the Rye on and off for ten years. He continued to publish long and short stories until 1965 when he withdrew from literary life.
James Schuyler (1923–91) (pronounced SKY-LER) describes his work as especially musical and very visual. Schuyler’s comment on the New York School sums up what he, Ashbery and O’Hara had in common: "New York poets, except I suppose the color blind, are affected most by the floods of paint in whose crashing surf we all scramble." Schuyler’s early poetry experiments with surrealism and unusual narration. Later on, his work becomes conversational and direct. In 1980, his volume of poetry, The Morning of the Poem, won the Pulitzer prize.
Gary Snyder (1930– ) became associated with the Beat Generation when he moved to the Bay Area to do graduate work at Berkeley in 1951. There, he studied Japanese to aid his practice of Zen Buddhism. Snyder read "A Berry Feast" at the infamous Six Gallery poetry reading in 1955, and is partly responsible for the Beat interest in Zen Buddhism. (Jack Kerouac supposedly wrote The Dharma Bums about Gary Snyder.) Compatible with Zen practice is Snyder’s history of performing physical labor such as logging, forestry and tanker work. Snyder wrote "Mid-August at Sourdough Mountain Lookout" while working as an isolated forest fire lookout. Riprap , Snyder’s first collection, established his reputation for simplicity, distance, and a talent for conveying the outer and inner moment in concrete terms. In the tradition of Emerson and Thoreau, Snyder continues to share his awareness of, in his words, "the fertility of the soil, the magic of animals, the power-vision in solitude, the terrifying initiation and rebirth, the love and ecstasy of the dance, the common work of the tribe." Snyder’s honors include a Guggenheim Fellowship (1968) and a Pulitzer Prize (1975).
"The rhythms of my poems follow the rhythm of the physical work I’m doing and the life I’m leading at any given time."
Susan Sontag (1933– ) is a novelist and screenwriter, but is best known for her essays. This is the title essay of a collection published in 1966 in which Sontag argues against an intellectual response to creative works. "The function of criticism should be to show how it is what it is, even that it is what it is, rather than show what it means." (p.92)
Lie Down In Darkness is William Styron’s (1925– ) acclaimed first novel. It is the story, told in flashback, of a self-destructive Virginia girl, Peyton Loftis. Reminiscent of Faulkner, the main image is of burial, the girl’s own and that of her brother. The novel begins in the rarely used second person, present tense, to take the reader on a train ride to Port Warwick, Virginia. The person and tense change as the train is met by hearse and mourners to claim the heroine’s coffin. Styron’s next success came sixteen years and three novels later with The Confessions of Nat Turner (1967) which won the Pulitzer Prize and garnered protests from black critics offended at his first-person fictional account of the leader of the 1831 slave rebellion. It was thirteen more years before Styron published another novel, Sophie’s Choice (1979), where despite critical acclaim, he again drew fire for writing on subjects alien to his ethnic background.
James Tate (1943– ) was born only five months before his father, the "lost pilot" of the title poem, was reported missing over Germany. With this collection, Tate was selected for publication in the Yale Series of Younger Poets. Robert Lowell praised him for his "feelings of estrangement, anger and self-abasing humor." Reviewer Donald Justice describes Tate’s achievement: "These poems begin by taking the fact of despair for granted and end by showing us how it is possible to keep our balance by dancing on the thin air above the pit."
In "Fanning Island," part of a montage at the end of the collection, John Updike (1932– ) speculates that men were cast adrift at Fanning Island, to pass their days in constant awareness of their ultimate death sentence. Only four pages long, the tale begins with "‘Let us imagine.’ Pascal invites us, ‘a number of men in chains, and all condemned to death.’" The stories in Pigeon Feathers are tied together by the theme of memory. "For many characters, the past is a miraculous land perpetually in need of rediscovery," the book jacket announces. Updike often kept to suburban subjects which, during the sexual revolution, included suburban promiscuity. The Rabbit novels (Rabbit, Run, Rabbit Redux, Rabbit is Rich) are his most popular work, the second of which received a Pulitzer Prize.
Kurt Vonnegut (1922– ) works social satire into wacky plots. A very popular writer, he brought new readership to the "disruptive" group: Richard Brautigan, Donald Barthelme, JerzyKosinski and others. His best-known works are Cat’s Cradle (1963) and Slaughterhouse Five (1969). Vonnegut’s first novel, Player Piano, takes place ten years after the Second Industrial Revolution, when machines do most of the work—and the decision-making. Dr. Paul Proteus and his friend, Ed Finnerty, rebel against the machines that control everything, even what they read.
Diane Wakoski (1937– ) a California native, began publishing her verse soon after graduating from Berkeley in 1960. Her work is often in first person, often prosy, but musical, full of digressions and fantasy. Wakoski uses repetition, an element she suggests is the basic structure of our lives. She writes, "I feel that poetry is the completely personal expression of someone about his feelings and reactions to the world. I think it is only interesting in proportion to how interesting the person who writes is." Diane Wakoski has received Guggenheim, Fulbright, and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships, as well as numerous grants and awards.
Despite time spent in each of the poetry capitols during the Sixties, Wakoski’s poetry is closer to that of the midwestern "deep image" poets like Robert Bly and James Wright. Her work also ventures into the surreal and confessional.
Anne Waldman (1945– ) is the author of 23 volumes of poetry published since the late Sixties. In New York, Waldman founded Angel Hair magazine, and in 1968 became director of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project. Since 1975, Anne Waldman has directed the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado. She and co-founder Allen Ginsberg have modeled the school after the former Black Mountain College program. Giant Night is Waldman’s first book of poems and is dedicated to her colleague at St. Mark’s, Lewis Warsh. Also shown is O My Life! (c1969) (Cover by George Schneeman).
Anne Waldman is renowned for her literary leadership of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project in New York. During the late Sixties, Waldman edited The World: A New York City Literary Magazine, a mimeo collection of poetry read at the St. Mark’s Christian Church-in-the-Bowery, the center of the East Village poetry scene. The World Anthology is a selection of work from first 12 issues of The World.The St. Mark’s Poetry Project hosted poets such as John Ashbery, Ted Berrigan, Tom Clark, Andrei Codrescu, Diane di Prima, Allen Ginsberg, Frank O’Hara, James Schuyler, Lewis Warsh, and Waldman. In the introduction, Waldman describes the mimeo-magazine genre of the time as "a special kind of experience involving the energy of a whole community of poets to respond and, more specifically, the energy of one individual to edit, type, run off, collate, staple and distribute with the help of several friends and a few pep pills." Waldman has since edited an anthology that collects poetry from 25 years of the St. Mark’s project.
Philip Whalen (1923– ) is associated with the San Francisco Poetry Renaissance and the Beat movement. Like his Reed College roommate, Gary Snyder, Whalen studied Zen Buddhism in Japan. He is a Zen priest and lives in a monastery in San Francisco. Monday in the Evening is an example Whalen’s preference for publishing in the likeness of a handwritten notebook. The ink sketches are by Whalen. Also shown: Like I Say (1960). Cover drawing by Robert LaVigne. LaVigne has drawn many portraits of members of the Beat movement.
Tom Wolfe (1931– ) is a journalist best known for his pop-style articles on American countercultures and cult heroes. The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test is about the adventures of Ken Kesey and his mystic brotherhood, The Merry Pranksters. Kesey, credited with the first psychedelic bus, helped spread "psychedelic," "communal," and "hippie" lifestyles.
Some issues of City Lights were co-edited by Lawrence Ferlinghetti. This number includes work by Ferlinghetti under the name of his younger days, Lawrence Ferling.
This issue includes work by Ginsberg, McClure, Olson, Corso, Ferlinghetti and Barbara Guest. It is the last issue before the journal suspended publication for more than a decade.
Evergreen Review published the work of such avante-guard notables as Samuel Beckett, e. e. cummings, John Fowles, Che Guevara, Vladimir Nabokov, and Harold Pinter. It was famed for its uncensored writings and radical politics. This "San Francisco Scene" issue includes work by Brother Antonius, O.P., Robert Duncan, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Michael McClure, Josephine Miles, Henry Miller, Kenneth Rexroth, Jack Spicer, Gary Snyder, and Philip Whalen. There is a fine section of photo portraits by Harry Redl, "8 Photographs of San Francisco Poets."
Students on college campuses were more than receptive to the waves of "underground" poetry and prose that swept across the country. This example opens with LeRoi Jones’ poem "David Copperhead" and includes work by Fielding Dawson, Robert Kelly, Denise Levertov, Charles Olson, Aram Saroyan, and Diane Wakoski.
Ed Sander’s outrageously named outlet for the avant-garde was only one of several that emerged from the Lower East Side of New York City. Also at large were Ted Berrigan’s C: A Journal of Poetry, Diane di Prima’s The Floating Bear, and sent over from England: Tom Clark’s Once, Twice, Thrice, etc. The issue shown includes poetry by Diane Wakoski, Allen Ginsberg and Lenore Kandel. Perhaps as another gesture aimed at the establishment, this magazine changed its volume number for each issue.
Two of Joanne Kyger’s poems appear in this issue of the most eclectic of the popular literary magazines. This issue contains work by Ginsberg, Barthelme, Ted Berrigan, Galway Kinnell, Olson and Snyder, as well as New York artist Jane Freilicher.
This issue contains the work of more than seventy writers, including: David Antin, Ted Berrigan, Raymond Chandler, Andrei Codrescu, Fielding Dawson, Kenward Elmslie, Allen Ginsberg, Lewis McAdams, Ron Padgett, Anne Waldman, and Philip Whalen.
Said to have transplanted the poetry renaissance to New York, the first year of Yugen included works by Burroughs, Corso, Ginsberg, Olson, and Snyder, as well as Jones’ eventual co-leader among New York Beats, Diane di Prima. They published eight more issues until 1962, and Jones helped edit Diane di Prima’s Floating Bear, which she began in 1961 and continued for ten years. In 1963, Jones edited an anthology of the Village Beats titled The Moderns.
While I am grateful to the Special Collections at UCLA and to reference librarians in the Glendale Public Library, especially Lora Martinolich, it eventually became easier to drive across the desert and work at DeGolyer Library than to keep driving across Los Angeles. DeGolyer Library and its sister libraries at SMU are to be congratulated for the courtesy, access and security I experienced while using the books that they care for. I would like to add that, during my years at SMU, I have admired the professional and friendly tone set by David Farmer, Maurine Pastine, and the cheerful and skillful DeGolyer team of Cammy Vitale, Kay Bost, Betty Friedrich, and Mary O’Connor, not to mention those amazing student assistants.