In: About life

Orono travel report

This morning, went on a beautiful country drive with Ben and Carla to the nearby town of Unity to visit their U of Maine colleague, poet David Adams, who lives there in a small wooden house by the lake with his Siberian husky Kiska.

David showed us materials from a project he’s been working on, which will supply material for his presentation at the NPF conference: old copies of Chronos The Golden Goose, and other publications edited by Frederick Eckman in the 1940’s. The Golden Goose in particular was one of the most important small magazines of midcentury, published out of Ohio State and featuring work by William Carlos Williams, Louis Zukofsky, Robert Creeley, Norman MacLeod, and many other writers loosely identifiable as situated somewhere in the Objectivists/Black Mountain nexus. Another treasure: his copy of Jargon 45 (1964), an incredibly lovely chapbook of six excerpts from Sherwood Anderson’s poem sequence Mid-American Chants, illustrated by haunting black-and-white photographs of midwest farmscapes by Art Sinsabaugh, with an introduction by Jonathon Williams and an afterword by Eckman. Its horizontal format (about a yard in width) is striking: wider in its proportions than even Cinemascope, so the photographs really capture the expanse of their subject.

This New England literary heritage thing is getting under my skin. I can see why American poets have traditionally viewed its influence as both inspiring and monolithicallly oppressive. I have this increasing urge to start writing long semi-confessional poems in loose pentameter with lots of reference to Native American placenames.

My class is terrific. I have only six students, all of them very sharp and engaged. One of them, Arlo Quint, is preparing a conference presentation on Bern Porter, found-poetry pioneer, who passed away here in Maine this last Monday at the age of 93–a day after Arlo visited him in his nursing home.

Spent last weekend in North Carolina at the Carrboro Poetry Festival masterminded by town Poet Laureate Patrick Herron (long may he reign). A huge success, as you can see from all the other blog reports. It was a great pleasure finally to meet in person bloggers Chris Murray, Tony Tost, Mike Snider, Marcus Slease, Tim Botta, and Clayton Couch, as well as poets Mark DuCharme, Linh Dinh, Carl Martin, Chris Vitiello, Brian Henry, Murat Nemet-Nejat, and Hassen. Also nice to catch up with some people I hadn’t seen for a long time, like Standard Schaefer and Lee Ann Brown. An especially nice time was had with my gracious host Ken Rumble, whom I had met once before for about fifteen seconds in Washington DC, and who welcomed me into his beautiful country home for the weekend.

The readings themselves were stunning. Almost everyone was terrific, including those of the people listed above who were on the program, and some readers that were mostly new to me: Jeffery Beam, Gerald Barrax, Daniel Wideman, Brian Blanchfield, shirlette ammons, Joseph Donahue, olufunke moses, Ravi Shankar, and others. A special surprise: member’s of Carrboro’s "Noon Poets," a group of mostly elderly locals who gather regularly to read and discuss their work. I was especially blown away by David Manning, Michael Ivey, and Mitchell Lyman. Their work was conceptually inventive, politically charged, and wonderfully sensitive to language.

So right now I’m in Orono, Maine, visiting with Ben Friedlander, Carla Billiterri, Steve Evans, and Jennifer Moxley while I teach my poetry of the 40’s class and gear up for the big NPF conference. Having a wonderful time, wish you were here.

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