Saturday, December 28, 2019

Peter Anastas, the Gloucester writer and activist, passed away quietly at 1:45am on December 27, 2019. The Gloucester Daily Times ran this feature on Saturday, December 28, and there will also be an obituary.

We will be posting more information about his memorial service this summer as plans develop. All friends and family will be welcome.

Thursday, May 9, 2019

Jack Kerouac's The Haunted Life

Jack Kerouac’s The Haunted Life at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre

Peter Anastas

“But we haven’t lived.  We have only thought.”
--Jack Kerouac, The Haunted Life

Lowell, MA—A singular event in Beat history is taking place in Jack Kerouac’s home town.
            The Merrimack Repertory Theatre has, since March 20, been staging to great acclaim a dramatization of Kerouac’s long lost novel, The Haunted Life.  The production will run until April 14, 2019. 
            Written by Sean Daniels, the company’s outgoing artistic director, and co-directed by Daniels and christopher oscar pena [sic], the play is based on Kerouac’s second novel, believed by Kerouac to have been lost in a New York taxi cab shortly after it was written, in 1944.  As it turns out, Kerouac actually left his only copy of the hand-written manuscript in the closet of Allen Ginsberg’s dormitory room at Columbia.  Discovered later, and held in private hands until 2002, the manuscript re-surfaced in a Sotheby’s auction catalogue in New York, where it eventually sold to an unnamed buyer for $95,600, according to U-Mass Lowell English professor Tod Tietchen, who edited the novel for publication in the US by Da Capo Press, in 2014.
            The novel, as published, is a nearly 100 page integral text, meant by Kerouac to be the first section of a longer novel that was never completed. Instead, Kerouac went on to write his first published novel, The Town and the City (1950), in which the story of the Martin family, begun in The Haunted Life and based on Kerouac’s own French Canadian family, is given fuller treatment.
            What is so important about The Haunted Life for an understanding of Kerouac’s oeuvre, is that in this early manuscript nearly all of the major themes of the work to come are present—the yearning to move, to travel, to be on the road; the tension between Kerouac’s attachment to his family and home town and his desire to free himself from both; and his desire for important intimacy in conflict with his need to set all entanglements aside in order to write.   There is also Kerouac’s incredible sense of place: the Lowell streets on summer nights, talk from neighborhood porches, trees shaking in soft breezes, and the silence followed by the thunk of bat on ball from nearby ballgames.
            The novel—and the play—focus on Peter Martin, Kerouac’s stand-in, and his family.  Peter is home for the summer after his first year at Boston College, where he has matriculated with the help of a track scholarship.   Peter reads Thomas Wolfe, William Saroyan, and the proletarian novelist Albert Halper.  He reconnects with his high school love Eleanor; and he and his best friend Garabed, based on Kerouac’s friend Sebastian Sampas, talk about the books they will write and the travels they will embark upon around the world.   What neither of them know, as they walk the streets of Lowell until dawn, is that Garabed will eventually be killed in action on the beach at Anzio in the Second World War.  It is a loss that Kerouac will never fully recover from.
            Peter is compelled to listen to his father, a Trump-like figure and owner of a failing print shop, who attacks the immigrants who’ve come to Lowell as degenerates that are destroying the city.  The father’s virulent racism, as war rages in Europe and will soon involve America, increases Peter’s sense of feeling haunted.  He is haunted by the books he wants to write, the places he hopes to visit, the sex he yearns to experience, and the call of big cities like New York.  What haunts him equally is the possibility of joining the Merchant Marines, which he and Garabed talk excitedly about, along with the war itself, which his friend Dick Sheffield urges Peter to participate in by enlisting in the army (Peter will later be haunted by Sheffield’s death).             
As Peter recollects:
            “This was the last of his magnificent summers… Something grave and perhaps terrible was impending, the war maybe, or some violent change in the structure of his [Lowell] world.”

            The novel leaves Peter with his personal issues and the pressures on him unresolved.  What writer and co-director Daniels have been able to achieve by the use of Kerouac’s writings about his novel-in-progress, including an existing outline for its completion and correspondence made available by the Sampas family of Lowell, is a play that transforms an intimate yet incomplete novel into a vibrant play.  Daniels has also been able skillfully to incorporate Kerouac’s lyrical descriptions of life in pre-war in Lowell, along with much of the narrative itself into the dialogue of the play and the directly spoken thoughts of the characters that connect the viewer with the time and place of the drama:
            “Soon it would be summertime dusk.  Voices below rose softly in the air. A tender shroud was being lowered on his life. With the darkness and the smell and feel of it would come the sounds of the suburban American summer’s night—the tinkle of soft drinks, the squeaking of hammocks, the screened-in voices on dark porches, the radio’s staccato enthusiasm, a dog barking, a boy’s special nighttime cry, and the cool swishing sound of the trees: a music sweeter than anything else in the world.”

Daniels’ The Haunted Life is staged in two acts. The setting consists of a backdrop of windows that appear to represent the windows of the tenements Kerouac grew up in, or the mills and factories of Lowell, which Kerouac himself described as “eyes” looking out on the world and through which the workers of Lowell peered daily.
            In keeping with the MRT’s reputation for world-class theatre, each of the actors has worked regionally as well as nationally, and many internationally.  Their resumes, described in the play’s attractive program, are impressive.  
Peter Martin is played by Raviv Ullman, who not only looks like the young Kerouac but speaks as he must have.   Joel Colodner plays Peter’s father Joe, gruff and opinionated but with a tender side.  Peter’s long-suffering mother is portrayed by Tina Fabrique.  Vichet Chum is precisely how one might imagine Garabed to be while reading the novel; and Caroline Neff is an ideal Eleanor, who loves Peter but learns to protect herself from his conflicted and wandering spirit.       
Kerouac is in good company at the Merrimack Repertory Theatre.  Founded in 1969, this versatile company has mounted prize winning productions of Waiting for Godot, Hamlet, Harold Pinter’s Homecoming, Marsha Norman’s ‘Night Mother, canonical plays by Eugene O’Neill, Tennessee Williams, and Arthur Miller, and a host of exciting plays by new writers.
            In recent years, the theatre has held a staged reading of Kerouac’s only play, The Beat Generation, the script of which was discovered in a New Jersey warehouse, in 2005, and a full production of Kerouac’s bittersweet Lowell novel, Maggie Cassidy.   
            But all the stops were pulled out for the MRT’s stunning production of The Haunted Life, created in collaboration with Jim Sampas and the Estate of Jack Kerouac.   One came away from the play with a sense that Kerouac had been given both the attention and the respect due him and his work by his hometown.  You could enjoy the play without ever having read a word of Kerouac.  This would not prevent you from feeling in awe of the writer’s early struggles to become one of America’s most original novelists, in the face of family strife, impending war, and the attractions of the new bohemia emerging in New York and San Francisco.  If you had read Kerouac and knew him through his books and the numerous biographies that tell his story, you would emerge from the play with an even deeper understanding of how seriously Kerouac lived his writerly vocation.  The seeds of everything Jack Kerouac would become may be found in both the novel and the play.   But in the play we participate in ways that only a beautifully made and staged drama can make us see and feel what the words on the page open us to: the pathos of a major writer’s life.

(This review appears in the Spring 2019 issue of Beat Scene, UK)

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Stamford '76

Stamford ’76: A True Story of Murder, Corruption, Race and Feminism in the 1970s, by JoeAnn Hart (U. of Iowa Press, 2019)

Peter Anastas

“A black drug dealer almost certainly killed his white girlfriend, then got killed himself by a police officer during an armed robbery.  What could I possibly hope to accomplish by writing that story?  Nothing. I had to shape meaning out of what seemed be to meaningless violence.”
  --JoeAnn Hart, Stamford ‘76

Among a writer’s books there are those that come to us naturally.  But almost always there is another kind of book. It is not the book we write, but the book that writes us.  We may be at the keyboard or with pen in hand, but there is another force driving us to put down words on a page. It may be a voice from the past urging us on, or the pressure of a traumatic event, the outlines of which are still unclear.  It may be a story we have long wanted to tell, if only we could find a way to tell it, or we could discover certain details that have remained hidden or even unknown to us.
When we do tell this story, we often discover that it is a story as much about ourselves as its elusive subject or characters.   Often we find out that we are trying to learn more about who we were at the time of the story and, as a consequence of the telling, who we are now—who we have become.   Hence, we are written as we write.
This is one of the themes of Gloucester writer JoeAnn Hart’s stunning new book, Stamford ’76, published in April by the University of Iowa Press. 
It is a book that works on many levels.  As memoir, Hart is writing about herself and her nuclear family in the context of an interracial relationship she embarked on after dropping out of college in 1975, at the age of 18, and moving to Stamford, Connecticut, where she found work in bars and restaurants, and eventually in a bank.
Stamford ’76 can also be read as a true crime story.  Hart and her black lover Joe Louis were friends with another interracial couple, both of whom died violent deaths.  The white woman, 24 year old Margo Olson, was found in a shallow grave in an abandoned potter’s field in Stamford, her heart pierced by a steel arrowhead.  Her partner Howie, who may have killed her, died at the hands of police during a botched liquor store robbery.  The circumstances of their deaths remained a mystery that haunted Hart for decades.
As Hart writes: “Leaving behind the memory of Margo had meant forgetting parts of myself, and I needed that eighteen-year-old by my side as I faced the challenge of getting three children through their teenage years.  I wanted to gain some wisdom from that girl, who was both reckless and brave to a fault, and to do that I had to open the box marked Fragile.
“In that box,” Hart continues, “nestled along with all my stored emotion, was a three-pronged mission, (1) figure out what had happened to Margo, (2), remember what had been going on with me, and (3) try to understand why her death made me so wary, for so long.”
This, then, is the thrust of a narrative that is as revealing as it is riveting.  It is here that Hart employs her superb investigative skills in attempting to solve the question of Margo’s death as a “study in silence,” and the abandonment of her body in a makeshift grave.  Here, also, she uncovers the couples’ entanglement with drug dealing and organized crime. Equally, Hart unearths a parallel story whose outlines were unclear to her at the time of her involvement with Margo and Howie.  And that is the story of the growing presence of organized crime in Stamford, aided and abetted by the local Democratic Party establishment and the participation in criminal activities of certain key members of the Stamford police force, including the drug trafficking that led to the deaths of Margo and Howie.
Having published two novels (Addled, 2007, and Float, 2013), along with numerous essays, short stories, and works of journalism, Hart is an accomplished writer of fiction and non-fiction. Everywhere in the narrative one experiences Hart’s novelist’s eye for detail, which helps to give the book its powerful sense of immediacy.
Hart’s story also has social and political implications.  At the time of the events described (and during the country’s Bi-Centennial Celebrations), Stamford was undergoing extensive Urban Renewal, so that the city could lure major corporations out of the nearby crumbling New York City.  In order to achieve this, blacks and other minorities had to be pushed out of neighborhoods that had long been theirs to make way for the high tax payers.  As a consequence, race relations, strained during the civil rights struggles of the 1960s, worsened, housing problems escalated, and Stamford became a more problematic city to live and work in, as it turned “whiter by the hour,” as Hart describes it.
Some of this Hart learned while living and working in the city and involved with Joe Louis, his family, and his friends, including Howie and Margo.  There is a particularly affecting picture of Joe’s jazz and gospel singer mother Georgia, with whom Hart remained close even after Joe’s death.  Though Joe had graduated from Columbia, much of his income came from gambling, drug dealing and flipping used cars.  He also ran unsuccessfully for public office.  As a consequence, Hart’s paychecks kept their often unstable living situations afloat.  Joe also became an increasingly heavy drinker.  A significant part of the narrative involves Hart’s attempts to come into her own as a person and a woman under the aegis of second-wave feminism, while trying to remain in a committed relationship.  Though Joe did not readily speak about it, the couple remained haunted by the deaths of Howie and Margo.
After the couple finally separated and Hart was living in Colorado, about to meet the man she eventually married, the story of Margo and Howie continued to affect her.   Her search for clues about their deaths, particularly Margo’s, as Hart traveled back to Stamford during the intervening years, searching through police records and the archives of the Stamford Advocate, tracking down people to speak with, and eventually writing about the case and her life in Stamford, constitutes one of the most dramatic dimensions of a book that will keep readers in suspense.
In the end, after all of her careful research and brilliant detective work, Hart returns to the potter’s field where Margo’s body had been found by picnickers.  It is there that she finally experiences a sense of closure.
“I had found Margo and with her, my younger self,” Hart concludes.  But in the process of this act of recovery, readers have shared the journey of a writer, who is as unrelenting in her pursuit of self-knowledge as she is redemptive of her lost friends, who, in part, enabled that important discovery.
JoeAnn Hart will be reading locally from Stamford ’76 at the Gloucester Lyceum, on April 18, from 7 to 9 p.m. and at the Gloucester Writers Center (Rocky Neck Cultural Center), on May 22, from 7:30 to 9 p.m. with discussion

Friday, October 12, 2018

An Open Map

(Peter Anastas and Vincent Ferrini at Charles Olson’s apartment, 28 Fort Square, Gloucester, January 1970; photograph by Charles Lowe, Gloucester Daily Times, from the archives of the Cape Ann Museum)

An Open Map: The Correspondence of Robert Duncan and Charles Olson
Robert Berthholf (Editor), Dale M. Smith (Editor), UNM Press, 2017.

Peter Anastas

“We also knew Olson as a secret spy of all the Gods in disguise.  Walking around Gloucester as a big man in sloppy pants; hanging around the bars; talking to the fishermen; shuffling around in the registry of deeds; looking at old court records to find out who first stole the land from the Indians; how much they got when they resold the land; and how the new owners abused the land, subdivided it, killed the Indians and the animals; and how their descendants continued exploiting their stolen property, and turned it into inhuman plastic.”

--Allen Ginsberg, at Charles Olson’s funeral, January 13, 1970, Gloucester, Massachusetts

I read my first poem by Charles Olson in the pages of Vincent Ferrini’s magazine Four Winds as a high school student during the summer of 1952.    But I came much later to Robert Duncan.  In college the Beats were my poets—Ginsberg, Corso, di Prima.   When I returned from Europe in 1962, Duncan’s name was prominent during nightly conversations at Olson’s 28 Fort Square dinner table.  Those who gathered to discuss everything from James Joyce to JFK were expected to have read poets like Irving Layton and Drummond Hadley, whose names often entered the talk that usually began after Olson emerged from his bedroom at the dinner hour and continued until early morning, when the whiskey had been exhausted and Olson excused himself to spend the remainder of the night writing.
Don Allen’s The New American Poetry, was published in 1960.  This seminal authority became the handbook for an understanding of what had been written by the Beat, Black Mountain and other vanguard poets, who replaced the academic poets of the 1950s, like Lowell and Snodgrass, whom our teachers had without success been urging us to read.  If it wasn’t Ginsberg, McClure or O’Hara, whose incendiary work came to us in the Evergreen Review, it was their progenitors Pound and Williams, who excited us.
I had not read Duncan’s poetry until that time, though I ought to have encountered it in the Evergreen Review, or in Cid Corman’s Origin, which I had been given by Vincent Ferrini, one of the stalwarts at Olson’s table.  Nevertheless, it was Olson’s mention of Duncan as though he were among us, and his reading to us from Duncan’s letters as soon as Don Whynott, the letter carrier, delivered them to the door of Olson’s second-floor apartment, that sent me back to Allen’s indispensable anthology, and hence to Duncan’s masterful The Opening of the Field, which appeared in 1960, the same year that Olson’s The Distances was published, both by Barney Rosset’s Grove Press.
Though Olson carried on important correspondences in those years (1957-1969) after he returned home from Black Mountain—his longest with Creeley and Frances Boldereff, and a briefer but no less crucial one with avant-garde filmmaker Stan Brakhage—his exchange of letters with Duncan, that began on September 9, 1947 and ended with the older poet’s death, on January 10, 1970, seemed of paramount importance. 
“Charles is just like I am,” Duncan once said of his fellow poet.  “He sits around and reads all day.”   No one read as much and as deeply as Olson, except possibly for Gerrit Lansing, who left a library of over 20,000 volumes.  But Olson, who’d worked as a letter carrier in his adopted city (“people want delivery”), was equally a writer of letters.  “Don’t hesitate to use the mails,” Olson often exhorted friends blearily on their way out of his kitchen door at dawn, so that the conversation we had been engaged in all night could be sustained on the page.
As for Olson himself, he is still remembered as lumbering down Main Street enveloped in a blanket—it was actually a Mayan Indian serape, acquired while doing archeological and linguistic research in Yucatan in 1951 on a Wenner-Gren Foundation grant.   Since his days in Washington at the Office for War Information, he had grown a thick mustache, and his hair was tonsured like a monk’s.  As it whitened, he allowed it to grow long, often tying it in a ponytail.  Along with the serape, he would wrap a moth eaten Shetland sweater around his neck, summer and winter, to keep the chills that assailed his massive frame at bay.
To be with Olson in those years was to have lived intensely.  One had a sense of what the Concord of Emerson and Thoreau might have been like, the talk of books, the activism, Olson’s attempt to live a life free of materialism—“in the midst of plenty walk as close to bare.”  In Concord, Emerson’s “plain living and high thinking” was tested by the rise of the Abolitionist movement, just as our city was being torn down around us by Urban Renewal (“renewal by destruction”) and the nation was in turmoil over Civil Rights and opposition to the war in Southeast Asia.
So while the talk at Olson’s table was of poetry, or who would be visiting or had visited Gloucester (Jack Kerouac, Ed Dorn, Robert Creeley, Amiri Baraka, Hettie Jones, Michael McClure, Diane di Prima, John Wieners, Ed Sanders, Ann Charters, among many others) to pay their respects to a poet who lived with his wife and son in a $28 a month cold-water walk-up overlooking the city’s waterfront, the background to our talk and the reading of letters, journals and books that arrived daily in the mail, was the war raging a world away and the growing opposition to that war in the country’s streets.
Such were the times: and I can only mark them here as an era of turmoil, during which we watched our republic falling apart, just as we experienced some of its greatest achievements in the work of writers and visual artists, whose poetry and paintings continually energized our conversations, keeping us sane in a world we believed gone mad.
There was a great spontaneity about Olson, along with a huge thirst for knowledge, for getting it right, even if it kept him and his friends up all night.  I remember one day—oddly in the afternoon—he called me over to his house to help him translate some passages from Hesiod’s Theogony (Smith kindly mentions my knowledge of Ancient Greek in the notes to these letters).  The gigantic poet was in bed—he often took to his bed when life got to be overwhelming, or when he needed to be utterly isolated so that he could work in peace.
I knocked quietly on the door to be let in by his second wife Betty, mother of Charles Peter, soft spoken with raven hair piled high on her head, the delicate abstract paintings she was working on spread out on the floor of the room between the kitchen and Olson’s study-bedroom.  She led me to Charles who sat up in bed surrounded by stacks of books—the original texts of Hesiod’s Theogony, his Greek-English lexicon, some hand written lines of a poem in which he hoped to quote Hesiod.
“I’m stuck on a phrase,” he said, making room for me to join him on the double bed.  He was in pajamas—Betty told me he’d only left the bed to eat and use the bathroom, he was so intent on the poem.   He smelled of the cigarettes that never seemed to leave his fingers.  We got to work, comparing the Loeb translation with Olson’s reading word by word.  I experienced first-hand how Olson’s mind worked, grasping for an idea or insight, rejecting it, checking the definition of  a word in his Oxford dictionary, or maybe the big Webster’s that lay open on his immense work table.  What were the roots?  How might Hesiod have employed the word or phrase, Homer? (Olson’s bible was Victor Berard’s 1931, Did Homer Live?, his copy made illegible by marginalia).
In retrospect, I do not know how helpful I was to Olson, but in encounters like the one I describe I observed one of America’s most original minds in action, to such an extent that I received an education I could never have obtained in graduate school, which I soon abandoned.
Olson’s kitchen had a gas-on-gas range that heated only that room.  There was a rusted kerosene stove in his study and some electric space heaters scattered around the flat, always damp from the fog off Gloucester harbor.  On the walls were coast and geodetic survey charts of Cape Ann and the Gulf of Maine, and a street map of Gloucester on which Olson pinned notes about who had lived where, and when.  At the center of that map was Dogtown, Cape Ann’s vast, wild interior, whose mythic origins Olson counterposed to the maritime history of the city (“go inland, the city is shitty…”)
Often at the table, along with Ferrini, whom Olson had met in 1949, when he paid a “fan call” to the former General Electric bench hand at his Liberty Street home, after reading a poem of Ferrini’s in a literary magazine, was Jonathan Bayliss, a Harvard and Berkeley educated novelist and playwright, who made his living as a market analyst at Gorton’s, Gloucester’s principal seafood company; Gerrit Lansing, also Harvard, whose exquisite poetry was just then beginning to be published; and painter Harry Martin, at whose studio on Main Street the group from Olson’s kitchen often spilled over to, along with whoever else happened to be visiting—once it was Harry’s friend Patrick Balfour, the 3rd Baron Kinross.

This then is the setting: Olson’s dinner on the table, which he picked at while talking, smoking and drinking; the day’s cache of mail, from which he read us a prize letter from Duncan when it arrived, or from J. H. Prynne; dozens of little magazines in German, French and Japanese; and the other correspondence from writers of his acquaintance going back to Harvard and Washington, D.C., from Black Mountain students and friends; though much of it came from readers he did not know, but who, having discovered a Maximus Poem in one of the many journals where the poems often appeared (including Ed Sanders’ Fuck You: A Magazine of the Arts) were prompted to write Olson.
I linger over these details to help you see what it was like to be around Olson in those fruitful years before Betty’s accidental death in Buffalo and his wanderings away from Gloucester to teach and read in the larger world.  For the atmosphere in which Olson lived and wrote, and into which letters like those from Duncan dropped, letters that fueled and informed the dialogue that kept Olson writing and thinking about the process of writing, was as much a part of the poetry as his night-long reading in the Quarterly Court Records of Essex County, where he found details of  the daily life—who sued whom for slander, which husband left his goods and chattels to his second wife; who had encroached on whose property, or stolen prize pears from a neighbor’s tree—in which the poetry was grounded.
While it is true that the most important phase of the correspondence occurred before Olson had returned to Gloucester, the years in which he and Duncan grappled with the work of creating a new poetics, the letters of the Gloucester years, though less frequent, are no less significant.
Looking back, it now seems to me that our talk and the endless conversations Olson had with other friends and visitors was like a holiday for the poet, a time and place for letting his hair down, for sharing what he had been thinking, trying it out among contemporaries who were open to it; while the real work of thrashing out the methodology through which the great Gloucester epic was expressed took place in Olson’s voluminous correspondence.   There was the reading, too, the work of intense and deeply mined research; but it was in the correspondence that Olson was utterly himself.  To turn the pages of An Open Map, is to discover two major poets, possibly the most important of their time, connecting intellectually and through their delight in language, in ways that in our era seem nearly impossible.
It is difficult to find a finer premise for these letters than in the introduction to the collection by Smith and Bertholf, where the editors describe the correspondence as “one of the foundational literary exchanges in American poetry in the second half of the twentieth century.”   Duncan and Olson are said to have “met each other with huge accomplishments, an inquiring declarative intelligence, wide ranging interests in history and occult literature, and the urgent demand to be a poet.”  Struggling together “to articulate a new basis for poetics, their shared goal was to reestablish the uses of poetry beyond the domain of literature, to confront a large cultural and historical field of action.”
As the editors equally assert, both poets favored the open approach “in resistance to New Criticism and to the models of closed form verse then promoted in academia and the literary public sphere.”  In other words, the verse they were each striving to achieve was open, not unlike the manner of Pound’ s Cantos, to whatever was happening or had happened in the world around them, personally in their own lives, and also to what they were reading, or what had simply occurred to them daily: a word on the street, a newspaper article, or an inquiry from a friend or reader.
There is nothing that seems to have escaped them in their struggle to make a poetry that was both original (Olson’s “projectivity,” Duncan’s “thinking of my own going at it along a literary voice”) and resonant. So while Duncan writes on January 9, 1963, “in vegetative terms I’m likely to luxuriate; not, here, to go beyond my roots, for I put out roots as richly as I put out branches: but to go outside of my seed,” Olson responds with a quotation from one of his most powerful poems: “I have this sense/that I am one/with my skin.”  For both poets the body was central, as ground of being, as Olson had explored in his essays on Proprioception, and Duncan had written about in his masterful poem Groundwork: “Now so late that my body/darkens and the gossip of years/goes on loosening the tides of/my body.”  “I now lie in a dark of my own/nursing my body’s unquiet watch.”
            While there were few face to face meetings between the two poets, the correspondence promoted a closeness, a sense of collegiality that could hardly be imagined now in the illusory intimacy of the internet.  “I miss your spirit in in my life,” Olson, lonely and declining in health, wrote to Duncan in April of 1968, seven months before his diagnosis of liver cancer, “and got part of it reading your piece on Dante…got it right beside me now,” And on December 18, 1969, Duncan responded, as his friend lay dying in New York Hospital: “It is a beautiful music for these here ears, and a music that is thruout, a melody of idears [sic] (as vision we hear must be.”)
            There was much that was new to me during those years in Olson’s kitchen, much that I did not understand; but reading this immaculately edited collection of letters between Olson and Duncan it all comes back to me with a stunning sense of revelation, of deep humility and gratitude for what I was privileged to have participated in.
(This review first appeared in Beat Scene, #90, Late Summer 2018)