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Recent Woodburners 2004 now online




    ----- In Memory of Johnny Cash, Hugh Kenner & Dan Propper ------


    I have always wanted the hands of people to be seen in poetry.

    I have always preferred a poetry where the fingerprints show.

    A poetry of loam, where water can sing, a poetry of bread,

    where everyone may eat. - Pablo Neruda



BOOKS (what I could, at least, locate off the shelves room to room)


Joe LeSueur, Digressions of Some Poems of Frank O' Hara, an old friend & lover is the tour guide. The world was once that good.

Vincent Tripi, Small Town, out of the wild blue yonder came this little gem in the morning mail and it's a bird's eye-view of being townie. Cid Corman, One Man's Moon, Cid takes us all to haiku heaven. Gennady Aygi, Child-and-Rose this delicious book of poems arrived UPS one evening from New Directions and I opened the packet, loved the look of the book immediately - a quite different gatefold wrap with color painting - and began reading and never stopped for two hours. Mountain Home, translated by David Hinton, the rivers and mountains poets, rooted in Taoist thought, 5th century C.E. through the Sung Dynasty China, is some of the richest, simply empowering and bedrock centuries of spiritual muse ever.This book is a toss-up with Red Pine's translations of Poems of the Masters, the classic anthology of the T'ang and Sung period; both collections mending to an earlier master of the translation field and his own Pacific Rim literature:The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth, one sure sign that he is something to reckon with is just how many people are trying to forget him. Robert Mellin, Tilting, on the bookshop shelf, ideal for display, this book is a bold marauder. The author is a practicing architect teaching at McGill, who since 1987 has been thoroughly documenting a way of life on Fogo Island just off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland., Hunter S. Thompson, Kingdom of Fear,this is one more album of scattered shot writings that we have come to expect from this journalist since his hey-day of the early 1970s. Before that, he wrote two masterpieces from the era: one on the Hells Angels and all things rolling; the second on a fast-wired and now infamous journey once upon a time to-and-from Las Vegas. Both books made him famous. Unlike his brethren, he didn't succumb to mediocrity after awhile, in fact anything but, and this new collection paves the way in local Colorado of his home town conflicts, prankster theater, habitual target practicing with hand weapons and forever writing.  Gregory Corso, An Accidental Biography, the selected letters of Gregory Corso, is one more fine example of an author's long time publisher pulling through with a nearly impossible assignment of pinning down one of the best known vagabond American poets of 20th c. letters. And with editor Bill Morgan's help, they do it. Edited by Paul Cowan, Herzog On Herzog: interviews with filmmaker Werner Herzog and the best way to have him - at his own word. Everything is here from eating his own shoe on stage, to  his best 'fiend' Klaus Kinski,to feats of film wander. John Cohen, There Is No Eye: photographs over decades by folklorist and player (The New Lost City Ramblers) that covers the earth and its music - his compilation CD of the same title should be a companion with this book.The Letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov :best to stick with the softcover since the cloth edition comes in at near $100; 500 pages of good friendship tussle & poetry. Thomas A Clark, Distance & Proximity:""Every day should contain a pleasure as simple as walking on the machair or singing to the seals" the Scottish poet's first book of prose poem wonder.Frida Kahlo, text by Margaret Hooks which nicely stays out of the way of the finest photographs yet of the Mexican artist, full page plates and indeed portraits of an icon between the years 1911-and her death bed portrait 1954. You'll soak into some of these shots. Ezra Pound, Poems & Translations: The Library of America has finally put together the ultimate desert island Pound collection as selected by Richard Sieburth, minus The Cantos, spanning from the handmade first collection Hilda's Book (gifted to H.D.) to the later translations I'll make a song   with exquisite/ clear words, for buds are blowing sweet


MUSIC (some new, some old):


D'Gary, Akata Meso, another African best kept secret. Happy guitar.

Rodney Crowell, Fate's Right Hand, his best to date. Sing along.

Furry Lewis, Heroes of the Blues:The Very Best of Furry Lewis, the one-legged, Memphis street sweeper's little masterpiece selection.

Roscoe Holcomb, An Untamed Sense of Control, a Bob Dylan titled and John Cohen compiled best-of from over years Kentucky mountain banjo high lonesome sound. Go put a shiver up your spine.

Wanda Jackson, Heart Trouble (LP) her come-back!and she still belts a song. Not one weak moment; best found on LP for the lush, ravaged cover shot.

Michael Hurley, Tea Song I just went back to his first LP First Songs, since reissued on CD as Blueberry Wine and listened again to this gem tune. Did anyone else have such a pure animal cry at such a young age?

Jimmy Scott, The Source, a  voice to be heard to be forever believed.

John Fahey, Red Cross (LP) his 'last recording' but there is no such thing with Fahey. Play at any new year's party to bring people back to their senses. 

Fela Kuti, Box Sets (LP records) by strokes of luck finding these gems. Masaru Sato, Yojimbo (soundtrack) the opening! the hi-hat showdown!

Johnny Cash, UnEarthed (boxset) this earth angel went out flying.

Al Green, I Can't Stop (LP) the consummate preacher man is back, and so is producer Willie Mitchell and so is Memphis soul. A must to own...on Blue Note.

Sammi Smith, The Best of Sammi Smith (LP) like Dusty Springfield, a little Sammi goes a long, long way





Rupert Loydell of Stride Publications, UK., asked for the best coffee spots...since I don't drink coffee I shared some best spots to dine and include those here for the good:  The best burger is at The Cattle Baron in Roswell, New Mexico. Best home-made pies: Marion's Pies in Chatham, Cape Cod. Best meal out with good friends if you split the bill, The Bear Cafe, Woodstock, NY. The best all-day breakfast/lunch/supper, Michael's of Taos, New Mexico. Best smoothie, hot-dog and fries shared with a loved one between trains: Union Station, Chicago. A good way to spend a day amidst music and old/new vinyl records: Jack Evans' Mystery Train in Gloucester, Ma. A must on DVD: Once Upon A Time in the West :a beautifully restored letterbox version of Leone's film. The extra commentary isn't all that extra but worth a visit after an uninterrupted few hours with this classic.Charles Bronson never looked better. For hours & hours more do not miss on DVD the magnificent By Brakhage, Anthology: having made nearly 400 films, this 2-disc goldmine reveals 26 films by the experimental master Stan Brakhage. All of Dog Star Man is here. Another 'good', and just to let you know it hasn't been all eating and sitting with monumental filmwork - check out the Longhouse website: http://www.longhousepoetry.com for our travels to the 100 centenary for Lorine Niedecker (see her new book Paean to Place) in Wisconsin last October.Many marvels showed up, including the city of Milwaukee, in autumnal splendor. It took six trains, two bus rides, and 2500 road miles to get us out to there and then further to the southwest because we couldn't help ourselves. Once gone, keep going. Not at all comfortable at being complainers but The bad & ugly just has to go to Amazon.com because they dropped us from our many year 5-star rating because a customer made an innocent mistake: she bought a Christopher Isherwood title from us, and an Isherwood audio tape from some other book dealer. She was unhappy about the tape, and very happy with us, but inadvertently complained about the tape with Amazon using our name. Well there is no turning back when this happens, sorry to say. Amazon dropped our 5-star rating no matter how we tried to alert them to this mistake. The customer even wrote and called Amazon many times voicing her displeasure with Amazon's behavior. Crooked monsters. We spoke with operators,seemingly trained by the Pentagon, from west to east coasts. Nothin' doin. And there is no way to penetrate the Seattle home office. Even by regular mail. So when you come to our lower star rating, think 5-star. And as for Amazon, think creeps. A few more of the good to end things right:it isn't that the musicians are anything mouth watering but hearts are in the right place in celebration to the late George Harrison in the 2-disc DVD A Concert for George, in The Albert Hall and too bad Dylan couldn't show up. Don Roberts, Rockwell Kent, the art of the bookplate :over a half century artist-adventurer Kent managed to design 160 bookplates very nicely detailed here. He not only wrote great books, he gave you a spot to place your own name. Ward Churchill: one of the leaders of AIM (American Indian Movement) should be heard, read, memorized - whether off his double-CD of talks In A Pig's Eye or books A Little Matter of Genocide (City Lights). Robert Creeley, a selection of uncollected poems read at home in Waldoboro, Maine.(on CD: JAG 901) comes with booklet and the poet's homespun sense.


HONORABLE MENTIONS (Because it sounds so important):


More stagy than it should be, but it was also the times (early 60s) don't be a fool and miss the clean production and highwater performers on The American Folk Blues Festival vol. 1 1962-1966 (DVD):I don't own this copy and only viewed once but there is nothing like an opening number with T-Bone Walker waltzing onto a set with his giant guitar, one of the best Otis Rush (looking then like Cesar Rosa now looks from Los Lobos) a killer-diller routine with Willie Dixon, Muddy Waters, Sonny Boy Williamson, each introducing the other with that certain secret handshake. A friend recently sent a copy of Akilah Oliver's first book of poems The She Said Dialogues: Flesh Memory, a poet new to me and founding member of the Los Angeles performance collective "The Sacred Naked Nature Girls" she strips everything down i want the metaphor clear, and then some. Born in the same town as Chuck Berry and with a similar fighting spirit & wail.Speaking of wail - Munch, In His Own Words the ultimate art as documentary format showcasing the Norwegian artist's paintings, diaries, letters & photographs and ideally contextualised by Poul Erik Tojner. The full page photograph of Munch standing outdoors in the snow with his painting The Sun, draped off a hook, is worth a thousand words. The Look of Architecture, Witold Rybczysnki one of the better mainstream thinkers on the subject, he tends to write thoughtful primers on mainly western style. He also leaves his desk and rummages around in the surroundings of buildings but one would like to see him get under a yurt, trowel an adobe, maybe see into the why and what-fors of Saddam's Spider-hole. If you've been liking to follow around the world Ry Cooder and his musical, companionable handouts, be sure not to miss Bob Brozman and his swanky guitars (Hawaiian, Spanish & bottleneck) with Rene Lacaille on accordion & much more with Digdig (TUG CD 1025). Pulling music from Lacaille's Le Runion island, 600 miles off Madagascar, volcanic and steeped in historical trade routes between Asia and Africa, this recording is a hybrid dreamsville. Every Holiday season should have a little James Thurber, see The Thurber Letters, a tome easy enough to dip into with your pole for his celebratory humor, wicked distortions and idiomagic; likewise at least one novel by Chester Himes should be brought down off the shelves for the holidays - any of the Coffin Ed Johnson and Grave Digger Jones crime novels from Harlem streets. My pick this year: Blind Man With A Pistol, since forgetful-me bought a duplicate copy, never quite being able to help myself with wanting more Himes and no more Himes is there. Ideal rereading yarns. See our website for a copy this novel when I'm done and will post for sale. Even with a duplicate copy I am superstitious and faithful enough to want to read that copy found again. And I await a next generation putting these characters onto the silver screen - never done quite powerfully enough in the original, and why not with a backup soundtrack by Dead Prez?...with a Hank Mobley sidewalk jaunt. Anne Waldman just arriving in the day's mail the day before I shut-down the churning mill of reading, recalling, listing is a packet of Anne's many varied recent publications stemming from wholesome size Coffee House publications to the ever small press champ from the European Troubairitz (Stadlichter) to Zombie Dawn (Skanky Possum) coalesced with old friend Tom Clark...but what I like much is Live At Naropa 1974-2002 (CD, Battery) where the poet puts her money where her mouth is, "through vocalization of the text". Poems culled from the Naropa University Audio Archive and a very full hour's worth. Let this poet speak to you.


- Bob Arnold

December 21, 2003





Don't look for miracles. YOU are the miracle.  --Henry Miller



STORYTELLERS ALL ----------------------------------------------



Having spent much of late spring between locations woods & sea -

painting and making repairs to a small seaside house rebuilt in the early 70s from a typical driftwood colored cape shanty to a two-story top-deck vista that on a breezy day lifts the surf and snuffs the neighborhood hubbub sounds. Floating like a ship at sea is how it appears indoors. Working outdoors, paint wants to fling from the brush tip or you're chasing after cedar shingles in a churning wind. You aren't that far from home but it sure feels like it.


After some days of work it's a good change of pace to catch the early ferry to one of the islands. Still too early in the season for tourists or even kids; we load on with migrant work crews of house painters and general maintenance joes, and even one disgruntled dept. of motor vehicles worker not at all happy about this work stint away from the mainland. The shuttle bus ride rattles all four miles from a football field size parking lot to another parking lot and the first ferry of the day.


On the crossing, the regulars have their routines - while we ride the top-deck buzzed on adventure. The poor motor vehicle worker looks on us as a nuisance...out there with only those crabby-apples strolling the deck vainly searching for cellphone reception. The phone glued to their ear all 45 minutes of sea passage. A few shaved head types in commando pants in a work group huddle. Three teenage girls speaking fluent Japanese and as giddy as we are.


Why go into the fact we rented a red sports car for the day? It surprised us as much as anyone but there it was...dizzy low rates, the day becoming sunny rather than the predicted showers, and, oh yes, the driver looked particularly lovely with the top down. I rode shotgun. What we are about to do is called on-island by some.


But what we are really doing is flying in the little red sports car 100 miles for the next 12 hours. Plus some long stints hiking a southern, undeveloped shore gabbled in ownership between a super rich (easy to ignore since we are one-day invaders) and a native Indian community. We talked some with the latter in modest buildings on a glory headlands looking out to sea...selling trinkets, selling sandwiches, selling island logo sweatshirts to every tour bus after tour bus who always come.


Somewhere in this mix we visit a few towns, further away from the tourist-traps, that we like immediately. The communities remind us of our Vermont towns Putney & Marlboro from 30 years ago - the same look to the workers, those coming to the general store, the kids on-foot. We share hard bread and a cup of chili from the general store and stay out of the way. Watching. Listening. A porch made to sit on and do this. Once in Taos we bought fruit in a grocers from a young woman who had just crossed the country from Vermont and settled in without a hitch as if there had been nothing for her to travel through in-between.


Walk across the road from the general store to the town library, an easy ramble. With its active community bulletin board, colorful and stuffed childrens room and an unoccupied carol of state of the art computers free to use. No questions asked. A general calm sea breeze passing through the place. As itinerant booksellers (for the moment) we relay back to the world this way. It's okay to play hooky but there's still chores to do. While S. mans the screen, I wait for her to pick my mind on 20,000 books almost memorized, and for that moment turn in my seat to gaze upon the library's new arrivals. Too good to be true I find six books I'd like to take away with me. Somehow. There has to be a way in this big room solace with a wall just made up of classy editions from The Library of America - black-bound and noble and every single title from that publisher.


So we ask. We aren't from here. We aren't from the same state but a neighboring one, though we have library cards in four other towns in this state. That doesn't cut any ice here but the independence is personal and friendly, and for $10 we can have a lifetime library membership. Sometimes life is that naturally generous. We gladly pay and pick up the pile of new books (no protective jackets, no library stamp anywhere to be seen). This is all what I gleaned on that half-hour visit with a few other books riding in my pack. I like the idea of mentioning books in a small review as found objects. This island library is as much a participant as I. Once upon a time on a Maine island, and finding a fisherman size shack being the island library, there were the three volumes of Frank Samperi, with Will Petersen art-work covers, leaning in one very dark corner. I picked them up like talking to a friend.  On a summary look, I see that everything I carried away and read on this sojourn, are storytellers all.


Stan Brakhage, Correspondences (Chicago Review 47/48, 2001-2)

Clifford Burke, Out of Nowhere (Desert Rose Press 2003)

Cid Corman, One Man's Moon (Gnomon 2003)

Sam Fuller, A Third Face (Knopf 2002)

Joe LeSueur, Digressions on Some Poems by Frank O'Hara (Farrar 2003)

W S Merwin, The Mays of Ventadorn (Nat. Geographic 2002)

Sharon Olds, The Unswept Room (Knopf 2002)

Michael Perry, Population: 485 (Harper Collins 2002)

Charles Simic, The Voice At 3 A.M. (Harcourt 2003)

Caetano Veloso, Tropical Truth (Knopf 2002)


BRAKHAGE: an excellent introduction, or continuation, however you are approaching the bearlike cinema dynamo - with contributions from Brakhage, who was a fluid writer, through correspondence (herein to Duncan & Jess Collins, Olson, Ronald Johnson) and essays (Geometric versus Meat-Ineffable) and wonderful picked up talk: a must-read is Brakhage on meeting Tarkovsky. Having made nearly 400 films there is a small tribe of devoted essayists on film and all-things Brakhage who won't disappoint. Plus a color center-foldout of Brakhage stills and painted films. Your eyes will dazzle. Hats off to Chicago Review, who have for over 50 years and upteen editorial staffs, made special issues leaning its readers into a frontier.


BURKE: Clifford Burke taught many of us; you who work in small press, letterpress mostso, know perfectly well what I mean. See books made by Burke once upon a time from his various presses ala Lew Welch, Philip Whalen, Wendell Berry and each is a wonder. I still have broadsides on the wall shifted from woodsy cabin to a studio, work shed, tool-room, corner room of the house library in 30 years transit time that still hold up (because of production and the fine poem chosen) despite being chewed over by critters and silverfish. I like Clifford Burke's world around me. It's a world I savor along with stone-building, splitting mauls, an old truck. Handwork speed. The arc's perfection felt. This new book of CB's 19 tiny poems & woodcuts is in this morning's mail just before breakfast. Perfect timing. He says there is a poem in there in a reply to one of mine. Nothing like receiving it in a beautiful book. 


CORMAN: a handsome compendium of Cid's many best from many years. After a half-century of working his trade, Cid's own poems and Japanese pals (Basho, Issa, Buson, Saigyo etc) are now meshed as one. While most Asian translators frame a studious reverence - maybe too much incense, maybe too much bowing? Cid gets together with old friends and makes whoopee. Poetry lush as life.

Opening the window / a window full / of spring.  -Santoka (1882-1940).


FULLER: in the spirit of Candide - wandering the Earth searching for the truth (in 29 films written & directed by Fuller between 1949-1989) or perhaps as Fuller attests in the realm of his role model, Don Quijote de la Mancha - "If there's one reason to recount my personal history, something inspirational that I'd like my life experiences to offer you, the reader, be young or young at heart, then it would be to encourage you to persist with all your heart and energy in what you want to achieve - no matter how crazy your dreams seem to others. Believe me, you will prevail over all the naysayers and bastards who are telling you it just can't be done!"  Fuller was living proof. From newspaper man to first infantry division WW2 to the stable at Twentieth Century Fox production becoming a legend in his time for prolific film making with a fierce independent streak. A rare breed stemming professional friendships from old masters John Ford to Jean-Luc Godard (see a world of film between Fuller's Pickup on South Street to Merrill's Marauders to Shock Corridor). No surprise, this book should be seen as Fuller's final film. Number thirty.


LESUEUR: Lucky for us there was a Joe LeSueur - lover and companion of Frank O'Hara's between the years 1955-1965 when O'Hara wrote many of his finest poems, including the seminal Lunch Poems. Selecting poems of O'Hara's as a jumping-off point for literary commentary about most everything that floods back into LeSueur's head nearly fifty years later. Best described in words JLS may have used: carefree, gentle, amused, and ironic. Here comes the all-important New York City backdrop of friends, painters, poets, sidewalks to parties that animate an O'Hara poem. Still unmatched by any other poet for his touch and jockey intimacy. This memoir. A portrait. From the horse's mouth if there ever was one.


MERWIN: this is Merwin's personal story of France and a gentle, rolling tale of his chance meeting with Ezra Pound at St. Elizabeth's Hospital (Merwin still a teenager) and the master sending the young poet forth in search of the lyrical Occitan singers. The troubadours, legends of Richard the Lion-Hearted, and Merwin's own settlement in an old French farmhouse reminiscing and nearly reviving a physical landscape for the 12th century lordly bards & kings. "Even before I went to the Quercy, I was aware that the region, the valley itself and the country to the north and south of it, was the land of the troubadours."  To be read kissing-cousin with Pound's own: A Walking Tour In Southern France (New Directions).


OLDS: Sharon Olds doesn't do much for me as a book load but certain individual poems can be a revelation. "--O my characters/my imagined, here are some fancies of crumbs/from under love's table."  There is a great deal of suspended belief that must occur to read Olds, never mind my own island tale here. So do it. There is no doubt she invited you into a poem and takes you through every room, every drawer, ever particle, and refuses to show you out.


PERRY: my bias, because Perry has written my kind of book. Like Hoffer's longshoreman, Hamper's Rivethead assembly line, Foner's salmon fisherman's net, Niemann's trainyard, Smith's firefighter, and in that good tradition of a real tale from the real world. Not the professional writer's lair. Perry has a Billy Bob Thornton look. Put himself through nursing school while working as a cowboy. Has the same hangup Tom McGuane has of not wanting soft, pink hands. I've never in my life heard a worker ever fuss or fret about this. But writers that want to be more than writers do. To get more out of life and give more back to life, Perry joined his small but crucial fire fighting/EMT unit in backwater home state Wisconsin, mixing his scrambling love life and family tales with hoping to save lives. And the book glides. A born storyteller. "I can turn you into a corpse. I can look at you and know exactly what you would look like dead. It is a disquieting ability, one must frequently suppress." Somewhere, before or after that quote, he tells the reader most people are found dead between the toilet and the tub. Shades of Elvis.


SIMIC: like the Olds, I've now read too much Simic. I've also discovered over many years searching and waiting for translations, the best of his east- European bogeymen and influences; the real mccoys. But Simic has always had his own twist to things, ala American: the country fair dog with six legs will haunt me for the rest of my life. If any poet haunts me I have to continue reading...even take the said book some hundreds of miles off an island and try to figure how to get it back there. I read all Simic's books when they appeared and now go in for a second dip since it's free. Concise. There is always something very cleanly finished with a Simic poem. Why resist?


VELOSO: I can hear his voice mountain range and simmer as I read this book. Once heard never forgotten. And in the vein of Art Pepper, Levon Helm and a few others, Caetano Veloso has written a musician's book and a book-book. Here to stay. "For a long time I hesitated to write this book, one of the reasons being that I was unsure whether what I might say - and the way I might say it - would not be too complicated for people who wanted to read a book on pop music, and at the same time too close to pop music for people who like to read complicated books. --I decided not to pay undue attention to the fear of seeming too pretentious or vague (or, who knows, too modest and precise), focusing instead on the fact that books are written for those who like to read books."  Amen. One of the originators of tropicalismo = best summed up by hearing it rather than having it explained (boring). Part bossa nova, part revolutionary, part Anglo-American pop. So what? Hearing it, you'll dance. This is one of the finer development histories from a lustful participant.


TIP: Sam Fuller made the pilot for the original tv show The Virginian. He then went on to make some episodes of the program The Iron Horse. Good stuff circa mid60s. Sam Peckinpah was doing some of the same thing via The Rifleman and elsewhere.


TIP: the best pies on Cape Cod just may be at Marion's Pies in Chatham. I gave this tip to my mother who has lived on the Cape over 30 years and knew where Marion's was located but for some reason never stopped and went in. She makes her own pies. Okay, so does Susan, but after a sample wild blueberry pie she gave the finger-licking-good sign about Marion's. Marion is no longer, she died a few years back. The gusto new owner who bakes the pies with some helpers put Marion's photograph up on the wall and has a sign outside that brought me in: something like - "children well behaved are welcome/all others will be made into pies." That sense of humor, and not everything is about turning over a buck, used to flower around that region. It was a rainy day we went to Marion's. The gusto guy had been baking since 4 AM and still had a good side to him when we showed up near closing time. We took a pie and made it last, somehow, three days.

~ Bob Arnold




If you make me change, I'll make you pay for it -- Nietzsche


-- for June Carter Cash's recovery --


Back at nightfall. Sophie, the dog, left off by her owners in the stone hut late in the afternoon. Carson ran up there and let her go, while we unloaded the truck...gone since dawn on Tuesday to Provincetown. Raining that day. Hit around the National Seashore a little later than usual since there has been a detour down there for some miles the past year - that took us by a record shop we know and so pulled in since the guy was just opening. I liked his back-in-5-minutes sign while we waited around for him to return: Back In A Flash. Nothing much for Carson but I picked-up a Fred McDowell, Slim Harpo and Tom Russell all on LP and reasonable. Next door some boutique of incense parlor but they had buttons for sale: one I liked immediately; I READ BANNED BOOKS: bought one for each of us. Susan stuck her pin immediately to her satchel. Then to the seashore: outside the wilds of Wellfleet. Did some miles, not a soul in sight, fog lowering, high dunes edge of the Atlantic. At this point we have hiked almost all of the National Seashore since Carson was 13 - doing it in sections over some seasons (usually spring & fall). The woman we know up in Truro who has been nice to us and runs a string of cottages was away but left a key for us to have the place for two nights, smack on the bay facing Provincetown. Went down into town. The dead slowly stirring. Some of the same characters we recognize for years now were on the street, in the Grand Union when we went for supplies, in the pizza parlor when we went for a slice. The same woman on the same cell phone at what seemed like the same hour (Carson and I agreed on this) in the same apron and maybe talking to the same person? In another shop a woman had half her store at half-price: I found two dresses for Susan with scarf (one), summer/fall dresses. In other places nothing much for Bob or Carson, and we almost always buy used anyway. A fine used shop Susan and I went into 30 years ago in a far more funkier Provincetown is long gone. The leathershop my sister worked in circa 1965, also long gone. Norman Mailer looked home with the same jetty car outside the brick house facing the bay. Next day we hiked The Highlands and checked out Race Point, hiked all over Atlantic side and the sun came out a full afternoon to bake us. Carson and I went to the neighborhood basketball court - 4 baskets, all with string nets, tar court, 12 foot fencing - ideal. The first day we played in the rain a local squirt came by with his own ball and dirty wet cuffs and ended up chasing our ball for us when it crossed courts. A smile and a wave. The second afternoon we shot in t-shirts. Tied in all games of H-o-r-s-e. Susan sat in the car and caught up on the news by radio and read, legs outside the car door. Then we went to the very popular Grand Union (only grocer in town) and loaded up on their extensive salad bar for supper. Generally we like very little south of Eastham on the upper arm. Lower parts are nearly full suburbs to us but we'll hack it. May catch the ferry over to Martha's Vineyard and explore by bicycles. I used to know Tom Bridwell and Marilyn Kitchell when they were letterpress pioneers on the Vineyard in the early 70s...long gone. It still doesn't take much - a rain day, lowered fog, a spit of sand and a horn calling somewhere out to sea...and you're lost. Once upon a time went and found Kerouac's neighborhood in Hyannis. Unmarked. He was living there when I was a kid of 15 buying my first copy of On the Road in that very town....with no idea! Back then I thought he was eternally on the road.


SHUFFLE BOIL 3: I've only good things to say about ye ol' Shuffle Boil (see an earlier Woodburners for more). I have eagerly read each issue cover to cover; waited until I had ample time to read it all in one-sitting (like a concert all its own). This new issue has a classy eye-catching cover collage by Barbieo Barros Gizzi, all sorts of cool writers and poets (but it's edging on the precious 'cool ones' all the time: usually city boys and their "jazz" - and don't get me wrong, they do it better than anyone else and actually have a belief). So it is especially fine to see articles, this issue, on Hedy West! Mahalia Jackson and Astor Piazzolla. My son took a look at the issue and handed it back after awhile saying there was more-than-just-this-stuff out there. Other noise makers: Hip-hop, rock loud, street dawgs, folk improvisers. Pray tell fine editors?




Richard Wright: HAIKU, THIS OTHER WORLD (Arcade 1998): Richard Wright wrote the majority of his haiku (and he ended up with a notebook of some 4000) near the end of his life in a one year period between 1959-60. He had been living with his family since the late 40s in a somewhat rural Ailly, Normandy and many of the haiku came from his gardening and watching. As the fine afterword by Yoshinobu Hakutani and Robert L. Tener states, "...by the beginning 1959 he (Wright) was sick and often confined to his bed. He was approaching the end of the decade in an ambivalent mood, ready for union with that which lies beyond the artist, a theme appropriate for haiku." There are a wee bit over 800 haiku chosen here, plenty enough.As the music stops / Flooding strongly to the ear/The sound of spring rain.


Jack Kerouac, BOOK OF HAIKUS (Penguin 2003): nice looking, fair priced and gatefold wraps, with a cover drawing of the author that has none of the internal softie that shows up time & again in his haiku, Doctor Sax, Maggie Cassidy and his better poetry of the Mexico City Blues. But like Richard Wright, there sure were a lot of them, and while not as technically smart as Wright's, Kerouac had the satori beat over all the other haikumeisters since they all (Ginsberg, Kerouac, Snyder, Wright) referred to carrying around the 4-volume Haiku by R.H. Blyth in the 1950s. Walking on water wasn't/ built in a day. Two lush hidden smile lines that may just as well be three. Like the Wright book, well serviced with annotations, introduction and notes.


Vincent Tripi, SMALL TOWN (Tribe Press 2003): out of the wild blue yonder came this little gem in the morning mail a week ago. Infectiously charming and intimately made, I naturally read it spot on site and then read it again...you see I just happen to live up river from this 'small town' and Tripi has it, and every other small town, just right. The amount of poems is modest and there is something heckley-jeckley about the layout so it reads like you are jumping rocks to cross a brook. Tripi only about ruins a perfect read when it's stated at the end of the book that "Vincent Tripi is a nationally known poet". Heck, Vincent, we don't care about any of that stuff when you write this well. my town/my big words/are gone. Don't eat your words! The best little book of poems I've read this year. A corker coming into Spring. [now available through Longhouse]


Speaking of a small town sort of boy with a world vision see Ted Kooser's LOCAL WONDERS (Univ. of Nebraska Press 2002) I wouldn't go quite as far as Jim Harrison's cover blurb, "The quietest magnificent book I've ever read." But it is certainly one of them. And maybe not the world-vision as much as a wolf vision: known in his rural parts of the Bohemian Alps in southeastern Nebraska as someone who sees the changes in the landscape around him. Kooser has been doing this sort of thing for a long time, especially in his earlier poems, so it is one delightful page after another coming to you in short essays, notes, epiphanies, scratches on the ground. The earned wisdom of Kooser's asides - the littlest details, are what make the book and often close out each essay with a poet's balance. In a man who suffered and survived cancer while writing the book (or did this survival make such a wonderful book?) Kooser's humor, decorum to his neighborhood, love to family (he still wears clothes his mother made for him) is the cake, candles and party. I have to believe Willa Cather would have wanted to read this book when faraway from home in New Hampshire.


My other favorite book of essays this year is easily Andrew Schelling's WILD FORM & SAVAGE GRAMMAR (La Alameda Press, 2002): wait until you get a load of the cover painting and handsome design of this book. It's like reading a paperback made of soft ferns. The subtitle of: poetry, ecology and Asia is much the Schelling M.O., being a noted Sanskrit translator and a fellow who spends his off hours hiking in them thar Colorado hills. Schelling is also one more of those east coast children who went west and dunked his head unabashedly into the wild springs called Everson, Rexroth and Snyder and has come forth interpreting and continuing some of the best stuff of that archetypal west. He's a true blue lover of its region, its texts, and that poetry essay that reads so studiously fibrous.It gives me goose bumps! Sixty years ago and given half the chance he would have searched out Jaime deAngulo on the Big Sur coast like his New England brethren Van Wyck Brooks had done, but unlike Brooks he would have lasted out there longer. When Andrew comes to visit us, we all stand in the kitchen talking hours on end. Not a drink offered, not a chair turned to; all busy in that wild form of coming together.


While still on the west coast, see: OF UNA JEFFERS, Edith Greenan (Story Line 1998): first published in 1939 as a limited edition and now edited by Jeffers scholar James Karman, with new photographs, this new edition offers yet another peek into Una & Robinson Jeffers, a Carmel coast-life long vanished, the muses. As it says somewhere in the book, "even small books have epic histories". Amen.


At the same time Richard Wright was taking up haiku and filling notebooks on his Normandy farm, Italo Calvino was traveling through the United States and leaving behind a testimony of autobiographical writings HERMIT IN PARIS (Pantheon 2003): it's not as fine as Miller's Air-conditioned Nightmare nor is it primo Calvino but it's still Calvino, which makes for an outsiders glean on all things USA - something Wenders was good for in his early films of American visits. Calvino will meet the Beats (and Ginsberg's "disgusting black straggly beard")and Martin Luther King in Alabama where he will be face up with the Klan in action while finding himself later on gathered into a church with three thousand black students and "I the sole white among...perhaps the first white to do so in the whole history of the South." There is a calming effect to this dreamy writer of the fantastic and practical, plus an interview, and of course that one time in Paris.


Francis Davis, AFTERGLOW, a last conversation with Pauline Kael (Da Capo 2002): slight but trim portrait of Kael at home in Great Barrington, MA., after The New Yorker years and all the fixings, the many big books and brouhaha over Last Tango in Paris, and her insisting on films like Mike's Murder and Casualties of War...she tells you what she thinks. And Davis is the patient archeologist digging into a woman's past that included having a child with James Broughton, chumming with Robert Duncan, and coming present time with insights into mogul Spielberg, "His gift is a much lighter one. What you felt in E.T. was a lightness of soul. It's a wonderful gift , and he's working against it." Silly film chatter and she took it all so very seriously for us all. Too bad she couldn't come to like Jim Jarmusch films.


Good good good good guide to contemporary African music. Franco on the cover in wild Shaq checkered-board suit coat. Illustrated with photographs and linguistic maps of all regions; bibliography, biographies, discographies and with over 3000 listed recordings and personalities to look out for. More than for one lifetime: THE DA CAPO GUIDE TO CONTEMPORARY AFRICAN MUSIC, Ronnie Graham (Da Capo 1988). I grabbed my copy used and covet it.


Music! Music! What an ugly cover - and I love Philip Guston's art work generally but this is of his 1978 painting Friend -- to M.F. MF being Morton Feldman, GIVE MY REGARDS TO EIGHTH STREET (Exact Change 2000): an absolute gorgeous read for all things once upon a time music, poets, painters, New York City and environs. Feldman's intuition as a composer are now well known. Elsewhere described by Kyle Gann so magically, "he balanced sonorities intuitively, wrote simple melodies, and paced the flow of time with an exquisite inner ear". He got under Stockhausen's skin enough for the master to demand, "What is your system?" And his writing and look on the living has all the same zing. What more would you expect from a serious composer who had worked mornings, until the age of 44, in his uncle's dry cleaning plant? In the pantheon of real McCoys who made music around surviving - all activity in music reflects its process - and to this day has written one of the best about his pals John Cage, Frank O'Hara, Philip Guston. Darn well good job edited by B.H. Friedman making the book jump out of your hands. I could have gone on reading for weeks..and have returned to the music again. see: Montaigne auvidis: ensemble recherche edition


ACROSS STATE LINES, edited by The American Poetry & Literacy Project (Dover 2003): everyone was avoiding this little throw-away at a recent gala book sale we attended on a town common crushed with dealers and their boxes, and I noticed one dealer giggling uncontrollably as I worked beside him at one minor poetry table picking up items like a threshing machine, including this one item he threw to one side, and I nabbed it. America's 50 states as represented in poetry, and I said okay to 50 cents with the book spanking new and poets like Carruth representing Vermont, Berry for Kentucky, Snyder in Washington (so who's doing California? : Ferlinghetti, Charles Foster, Shirley Geok-lin Lim), with Scarbrough speaking Tennessee and Kirk Robertson Nevada I was sold on the variety by the editors. Good job, guys. But you should have combined Tom Sexton and John Haines in Alaska. Lucille Clifton is just right as Maryland. Silly, possessive, me.


The Phoenix Poetry series is published by Orion House (UK) in compact cloth editions & dustjacket with stitched-in bookmarks at dirt cheap prices you shouldn't neglect. $6.95 for my copy of POEMS by R.S.Thomas as selected by Anthony Thwaite of this Anglo-Welsh poet and cleared sensed brooding churchman. We met / under a shower / of bird-notes...


Two excellent collections with compact disc included as part of the text: THE POEMS OF DYLAN THOMAS (New Directions 2003) a backlist backbone for New Directions, this refurbished edition (first published in 1971) includes the work in Collected Poems with an additional 100 poems, plus textual corrections and Thomas reading eight of his poems on CD. This is the overhauled tome. Next: ALL POETS WELCOME by Daniel Kane (Univ. Calif. 2003): the lower east side poetry scene in the 1960s - behind the scenes diggings from the early cafe readings to The Poetry Project (still humming),the Bolinas gang, the now ever present Bob Holman, Nuyorican Poets Cafe, plus origins of magazines C, Fuck You, Trobar, Floating World, the lower east side black poetics of Umbra (a whole anthology should be made of this era). The best reading is the backdrop to all Ed Sanders escapades, the yeoman work of Waldman and Mayer, with photographs, and 34 selections of poets reading on CD. I grew up reading this circus and I'm not sure how much really interests me today, but a community-as-poetry - flocking the poets, musicians, actors, painters, hustlers and activists - it remains unmatched and the core of its virtue.


TILTING, Robert Mellin (Princeton 2003): on the bookshop shelf, ideal for display, this book is a bold marauder. The author is a practicing architect teaching at McGill, who since 1987 has been thoroughly documenting a way of life on Fogo Island just off the northeastern coast of Newfoundland. The outport of Tilting, with its Irish descendants of fishermen and farmers, has been his particular interest...paying attention through a collage of photographs, pencil drawings, in-field anecdotes on how the communities unique houses are built for mobility (launched); how out buildings, fences, gardens are made; the art of rebuilding and preserving. What makes a people perk. The all important good sign is that the author is invited into village homes. A novel condensed version in living color of many years visits. I couldn't put it down.


WINTER WORLD, Bernd Heinrich (Ecco 2003): the ingenuity of animal survival, and what grabbed me about this well illustrated and involving text is the question of just how many seeds a chipmunk usually packs into its cheek pouches? And how the author easily inserted 60 black sunflower seeds through the mouth into just one pouch of a roadkill. Answered! A professor of biology who gets down on his knees for research, has a verve for story telling as field-guide, and seems to enjoy moving about with his students. I felt like one reading this book - didn't mind it in the least.


Yuan Mei(1716-1798), I DON'T BOW TO BUDDHAS (Copper Canyon 1997):translated by J.P. Seaton, who was nice enough to send me a copy after reading something of mine (always a fair trade). I had briefly seen this book on the shelves when it appeared and then it was gone. Happenstance luckily brought it back for me. A strong arm book title for a poet profoundly influenced by (Zen) Buddhism, this is the kicker of this collection which seems esteemed in ironies and talent since the English versions of poems just have to be as well written as the original Chinese. There is something that confident and balanced and ever floating. I admit, I was left pleasurably 'mindless' at the end of my reading. All the heart needs is a home / in which to dwell in quiet.


FAREWELL OLD MAN: A week ago the granite state and face Old Man of the Mountain collapsed and fell to pieces into the valley it watched over for generations. Thoreau once looked at it as millions would afterward drawing either direction from Franconia Notch, N.H. I was a young hitchhiking passenger in a speeding Cadillac 35 years ago when the driver glanced out and pointed his thumb up for me to lean over and take a look. You only have a few seconds when going that fast. And that was before Route 3 was super-duped into a wilderness freeway (some of us fought that freeway and lost). Since that time I have returned many times as a family of hikers, bicyclers, itinerants and old stone face was always there. We expected that. And now with it gone, some are talking about replacing it. How do you replace something that isn't any longer? By coincidence, three days before the Old Man fell we were up there again for some spring hiking and to take a look. Snow on the high mountains, not another car with us on the highway coming south into the notch, and there he was. By now an old guy tattooed to license plates, postcards, restaurant menus, highway signs. Maybe it was his way of saying it was time to go? Leave a mountain a mountain. I brought my wife here to see him and later our son. We brought our friend Janine to him on the way to reading in Maine circa 1976. This poet inhabitant of Peruvian lakes and heights climbed out of our little VW with us, sun-shielded her eyes and had a look, saying, "So that's the Old Man, eh Bob?...isn't he something!"


-- Bob Arnold

May 2003



Take courage, the earth is all that lasts


-- Anon. (Sioux)


------------------------------------------------------------------------------------ in memory of Ric Caddel


BRAIDED CREEK,JIM HARRISON & TED KOOSER, a conversation in poetry (Copper Canyon 2003): After all that - two close friends and well known poets get together to make a book of exchanged poems to one another shared in their correspondence - and midway through it's suddenly ho-hum. Blame me, them, or Copper Canyon who published the book. There are some dandys in here but best rule of thumb when putting together a book of shortie poems: no bad apples, no matter what the temptation. Neither poet is identified who wrote which. I would have saved a third and this is but one: The butterfly's brain,/the size of a grain of salt, / guides her to Mexico.


CIRCLE HOUSES, DAVID PEARSON (Chelsea Green 2001): this is a fine cloth bound illustrated book at a fair enough price on a timeless tradition - building simple yet durable structures as yurts, tipis and bent-frame tents. Builders, nomads, participants of the earth come forth to tell their stories, complete with instructions, designs, construction-tips and many colored photographs on just how to roam with the seasons. Contributors hale from Mongolia, Lincolnshire, to home grown yurts the world round. Hearing from those that live this way is the joy.


THE TRIALS OF LENNY BRUCE, COLLINS & SKOVER (Sourcebooks 2002): remember when people used to tell the truth? Lenny Bruce did, and he did it best in public, eating up the old maxim that the world is but a stage. He infuriated the authorities and was maybe an O.D's death the same year Chris Rock was born. The story has almost become too ragged to go into any longer. The old timers nod impatiently yeah yeah, I know I know, and the uninitiated need more than ever someone to introduce them to the Lenny legacy. Dylan sang a song to him. Dustin Hoffman played the film part. Lenny wrote his own books and there have been a few biographies but thus far this is the best, supported by many of his compadres. Including an audio CD narrated by long time activist Nat Hentoff issuing performances, interviews and commentary. The book works as a wonder guide to all things Lenny and obediently pinpoints to the CD for added emphasis. Be fearless, it's the perfect birthday gift.The funny thing about Lenny Bruce is that he was, at times, not funny


AFGHANISTAN, ROLAND & SABRINA MICHAUD (Abrams 2002): now that we're bombing the by-jesus out of everything once splendid throughout The Middle East, it's time to pay homage. Save on the airfare, and screw giving the corporate lackies any more of your money, sit down in any library or bookstore and spend an hour of your life gazing upon this book. The authors set out east in search of a mystic El Dorado, finding it in Afghanistan - land of emptiness, troubadours and villages. With poems of Rumi interspersed (he never read so well) but moreso a grand photo display arced on a visual elegance with minimal text. Eye made text magnificent.


More for the eye. And don't insult things with this "eye-candy" nonesense. THE PAINTINGS OF JOAN MITCHELL (U/Cal Press 2002): abstract expressionist and friend of the original New York School of poets; first husband was Barney Rosset of Grove Press and thinking of those two together must make whopee in an artist's mind. From the 1950s through the 1980s did any painter use color quite so gorgeously and full thrown as Joan Mitchell? See the paintings here in her La Grande Vallee series, or spectacular Begonia, Gently, and Hemlock. This handsome gatefold edition was published on the occasion of an exhibit mounted at The Whitney ten years after her death. Nothing is dead in this collection. Nothing. Come and see.


BURNING THE YEARS, JOSEPH STROUD (Tangram 2002): I just have to stop gushing over Tangram books - and then again that will only begin when Jerry Reddan stops doing what he does best - letterpress setting and printing and sewing these lovely books. Often in very limited numbers, hardly ever a hint of who is preparing the book and not much of a colophon in sight - quite an oddity in this day and age of letterpress folks telling you their state of mind and weather forecast in every stringy colophon. Tandem is about poetry, leaning to a Far East direction. Stroud's poems are a homage to famous critters Basho, Buson, Issa & others done on one long sheet folded over and sewn and each is a beauty. I read it four times in one night - 15 poems like stars hanging loose in the sky - and couldn't get over how well the poems speak of so very little. So very well. The essence of spinning thin air. You'll like these. Fifty years / watching the blossoms / fall. Can it get any better? Sure it can: SIERRA SONG, STEVE SANFIELD (Tangram 2003): Once in another time I went looking for Steve Sanfield with my small family of train riders and we were in a Sierra foothills town roaming for a week off the train and thought we'd look up Steve Sanfield. Typically, we never forewarned Steve and just thought the local post office might give us a hint. Not on your life. I kind of liked the way they just brushed off my inquiry like it was never quite heard. We poked around the backwoods for awhile that day half-heartedly looking for Steve's road (a fictitious sounding address if there ever was one) which started to remind us of others trying to find us back home in Vermont. Ah, back roads. We never did find Steve's place but Sierra Song is as good a visit as you may ever have. Haiku style poems, or as the subtitle to the collection describes quite aptly: American haiku about the sounds and silences of one place in the mountains. around / every bend / a new song Once more, beautifully sewn by Tangram in only 150 numbers. Get it while it's hot.


CHILD-AND-ROSE, GENNADY AYGI (New Directions 2003): this arrived in the mail one evening from New Directions and I opened the packet, loved the look of the book immediately - a quite different gatefold wrap with color painting - and began reading and never stopped for two hours. Usually I'd like to save poetry this fine over a few days but there was no choice with a poetry this alert and spacious and experimental all at once. Aygi was born in 1934 in Chuvashia, a republic in the middle Volga valley and urged on by both Pasternak and Hikmet to switch from his mother tongue and begin writing in Russian. What we have here is nothing like Brodsky and more what Pasternak may have loved to have written, but never did. His heart was in the right place but in slow motion these days compared to the brisk instincts of Aygi. Some of the freest and loving, companionable poems written for/with a young daughter you may ever read. Plus that steady, deep ravine Russian eye. The combination will grip you. so - the wind's opening word


WRITER'S GUIDE TO PLACES, DON PRUES & JACK HEFFRON (Writer's Digest 2003): so I saw this silly looking thing in my local library - the size of a city telephone book - and thought I should give it a look. Raised as a writer that one should go-live-there if you planned to write about it, and go-live-there a long time if possible. But then there's that notion that DH Lawrence would get off the train in Lamy, ferry a ride to Santa Fe or Taos, barely look either way (so everyone thought) and go hole up in a town hotel and begin to write a masterpiece about the very region he supposedly didn't give a passing glance to. It's how you look around. This reference book states it's a one-of-a-kind reference for making the locales in your writing more authentic, colorful, & memorable. Impossible. But it could come in handy to fill in the cracks. I decided to look over the Vermont entry which is a state 96.8 (almost a body temperature reading) Caucasian, with a pared down almost half a degree each: Hispanic, Asian, Native American, African-American. By-crickity we're 'whiter' than Alaska, North Dakota, Idaho, Iowa and even New Hampshire and that should make you want to balk to come here, though it shouldn't. We remain the only state in the nation represented by an Independent socialist congressman. And until recently, there were more cows in the Green Mountain state than people. I knew all of this already but the book told me, too. And under the headline "Significant Events Your Character Has Probably Thought About" (every state chapter has this: meaning, the character in the book you are writing for). In Vermont in the year 2000 the state legislature granted gays and lesbians the right to apply for a certificate for what's called a "civil union" - but it's not deemed a "marriage". It's a fine state to live in. Your state is in here too (plus Canada). But don't come and settle down - I'm of the old-school - like 'dem cows more than people.


THE MODEL WIFE, ARTHUR OLLMAN (Bulfinch 1999): essays and individual portfolios on the artist and the muse, or that place where marriage and photography meet. Graciously illustrated and spoken about by several involved, this imagery history delves into nine 20th century photographers who portrayed their wives: Baron Adolph de Meyer and Baroness Olga de Meyer, Stieglitz and O'Keeffe, Weston and Charis Wilson, the Callahans, Emmet Gowin and Edith Gowin, the Friedlanders, Nicholas Nixon and Bebe Nixon, Masahisa Fukase and Yoko Fukase, Seiichi Furuya and Christine Gossler. It's a simple idea, which has varied applications. Nicely chosen portfolios each and a text that brings you around to the kitchen door.


AN ANTHOLOGY OF AFRICAN ART/THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, ED., N'GONE FALL & JEAN LOUP PIVIN (D.A.P.2002): if you want contrast, and perspective, the frontispeice photograph for the book reveals the workshop studio of the sculpture Tamba Ndembe from Kinshasa in 1996. It's a rubble of half finished products and general scrap things off to one corner of a high wall cement block building of some sort. The only lighting is about eight feet high coming through a few cinder blocks turned sideways for the exposed holes and square inches of daylight, and then there is this shaft of further natural light spilling from high at the very corner. It's either a skylight or a hole in the roof. But it isn't The Hamptons. I've been reading through this book for the better part of a month and its unfathomable for anyone coming to the subject for the first time. Contributions by a vast roster of international authors survey the rise of art schools in the 1930s, to the rebellion of the Independence movements. Every conceivable medium is shown of artists work from Ethiopia, Angola, Senegal, Nigeria, the Belgian Congo to Ghana. A continent. Illustrious design and a new world of history for many of us. I've renewed my library copy once already. One of my favorites already is the Niger artist, Malam Zabeirou, who records all of his town's and his own life's memorable events on the walls of his franchise and in annals of the Koran. Like Rev. Gary Davis, he is part journalist, historian and preacher with his meticulously archived decorated possessions. Naturally his neighbors think he is crazy. The painter is also a griot. As a chronicler and poet, his role is to memorize the history of the country, of its chiefs, of its ethnic groups and of its families.


MORE ON SWOFFORD'S BOOK JARHEAD WHICH I WAS HALFWAY THROUGH WHEN REVIEWED IN THE LAST WOODBURNERS AND SOON FINISHED AND SENT AS CODA REVIEW TO MY GOOD FRIEND KIRPAL: Well, I like a halfway vulnerable book, music or film reviewer; someone who talks to me. Someone who I can feel the action happening from. Someone who is a someone. Enough of the experts and the posing. So I came to JARHEAD halfway through and was much liking what was happening in the book - the author's background, his style of flitting like the mind does from one place to another (Kuwait, Iraq, back home, Twelve Palms, boot camps, upbringing, father Vietnam vet, siblings, politics and his inevitable antiwar stance). And by the second half of the book, the reader picks up that the author isn't going anywhere much. Hardly the typical Vietnam book as Tim O'Brien, Michael Herr and others have written. In combat. This one is a new age war of waiting; immense fire power that just about diminishes the soldier to days and weeks of frat-boy existence: mock rapes, punching at one another, wondering (as I do) what in the hell is anyone doing stuck in a desert of deserts except to capture oil fields and nothing more. So the book fizzles by the end. Barely much combat is seen. I can't even recall if the author ever gets to experience his "sniper" status. And then again this may also be the masterpiece part of the book - nothing does happen but full country genocide in this new age war. Death of people is only the start of it. Death of landscape, death of culture, death of way of life, death of one and homeland all at once and permanent. JARHEAD does convey page by page this unnerving hopelessness.


RIC CADDEL: I never met the British poet Ric Caddel but we corresponded as friends from the 70s-80s and exchanged many publications across the waters and poems and shared mutual friends from around the world and his poetry was very good. I don't know if after the loss of his son we lost contact or what it was but his books stayed with me. And when another poet sold us a book lot and I went through the carefully laid in boxes of well chosen titles, sure enough there were Ric's books...with his favored Basil Bunting, and some Tony Baker and David Miller and others often stapled wraps or a few regular books of poems and almost always something sent out homemade. Poets remain the constituents of the homemade, and Ric helped many along. When Susan caught the news sent from the ever reliable Rupert Loydell on the Internet - died of a massive infection - she came to me and wondered aloud, who was Ric Caddel? I knew he must be dead since she asked. He was someone from long ago. Only poets that are famous or dead are asked about. And then I started to remember again and began to tell her and then we both remembered Ric together.


THE BODY ELECTRIC, ED., STEPHEN BERG & OTHERS (Norton 2000): if you like your poetry anthologies dense, here it is. 180 poets condensed into 800 pages of climbing in sand from a poetry tabloid publishing since 1972 and offering mainly an overview of American poetry from Ai to Paul Zweig, with a fine sequence by Milosz riveted right in the center. However, barely an 'unknown' poet is included.


THE LEGACY OF LUNA, JULIA BUTTERFLY HILL (Harper 2000): In December 1997 and for the next two years the author held vigil 180 feet up in a thousand year old redwood ("Luna") in Humboldt County, California to hold off the loggers from Pacific Lumber from taking the earth mother tree. Hill was perched on a platform in full Tom Ridge regalia: tented by plastic tarp and a never ending supply of duct tape. She threw her piss to the wind and supporters carted away other refuse while caching in her supplies. Barefoot fulltime and determined, this young author's story is a legacy to all things wholesome worth saving. Last checked, Luna is still standing tall in the forest due to a butterfly.


THE FABER BOOK OF UTOPIAS, ED.,JOHN CAREY (Faber 1999): an eclectic marvel spanning 4,000 years of fantasy to the techno-fantastic writing. Only Austin Tappan Wright is missing. Included are such gems as Francis Godwin's The Man in the Moon (circa 1580; that's pre-Galileo), Montaigne's Utopian Cannibals, Swift, Rousseau, de Sade, Hudson, Yeats, Hitler's Russian Garden by himself, Skinner, Orwell, Vonnegut, Calvino, and all while a desert place called Baghdad burns. A sort of vapid eagerness flitted across Winston's face at the mention of Big Brother.


-- Bob Arnold~


Edmund Burke said:the people never give up their liberties, except under some delusion. -- Senator Robert C. Byrd speaking to Donald (Skull) Rumsfeld before the Senate Appropriations Committee in March 2003.



How perilous is it to choose

not to love the life we're shown?

-- Seamus Heaney


-----------------------------------------------------------in memory of Stan Brakhage


The War-Mongers want to make war and it is anyone's guess if they will succeed before I am finished with this short list of fine books read. It's March. The time of year our back dirt roads fall to pieces, firewood in the large woodshed is down to a flooring of shedded bark, a million tree splints and still a whole lotta wood, a banged up head on the old splitting maul and the maple sap buckets are just being hung. Everything's late - Spring, mail, sugaring, and most so a sense of Peace. And being a deep, no-holds barred winter, books have been read and piling up. Here's a few to remember:


Just in: NO: a journal of the arts, issue 1, spring 2003: 350 East 62nd St. Number 4M, NYC.10021 $20 annual for 2 issues: appearing out of nowhere with my mailing label on the cover and I thank editors Deb Klowden & Ben Lerner for a hefty first issue lit with many sparky names and the work to go with it, including a book size feature by Keith Waldrop. Plus Kenneth Irby, Rosmarie Waldrop, Marjorie Welish, Michael Harper, CD Wright. Forrest Gander, John Taggart, Peter O'Leary, Jean Valentine, Barbara Guest and I could keep on listing hitters. Highly recommend.


RIVENDELL ISSUE 2 NORTH OF BOSTON: PO Box 9594, Asheville, NC. 28815 $15: an issue looking for writers over hill & dale of today's New England by having a long conversation with David Budbill, a feature on Bob Arnold, poems by Enslin, Koller, Corman, Bruchac, Donald Hall, Marie Harris, Hewitt, Joly, Pedrick, Simic, Money, Giannini, Wyn Cooper and many more. Editor Sebastian Matthews shows the finest trait of gathering and grooving as he also rounds up photographs by Charter Weeks, prose by Budbill, Dudley Laufman: Hell no, he says, I tuned up the dance. We hummed the tunes don't ye know, mouth music we called it, some call it lilting, a canoe journal by Walter Clark and Sam Manhart, varied dispatches and archival messages from Russell Banks, Maxine Kumin and someone by the name of Thoreau. It's a never ending well spring of an issue. One of my favorites was a modest piece by Albert Dole on James Garvin's book A Building History of New England.


AMONG THE GENTLY MAD, NICHOLAS A. BASBANES, HOLT 2002, cl. $25: if you happen to be a book collector, dealer, reader then most everything by Nicholas Basbanes should be read. He's fanatic enough and balanced enough to record vital information with a punch on the subject of strategies and perspectives for the book hunter in the 21st century. I took a bit of this description right off the book jacket and it doesn't lie. Much shorter than his other books and still riveted with an excellent bibliography and appendix of a million bookish tidbits. He can spin a yarn.


TRADITIONAL AFRICAN & ORIENTAL MUSIC, OTTO KAROLYI, PENGUIN 1998 pb. $13.95: for a thumb-nail history I think this book ranks as one of the best. Illustrated. With melodic travels through African, Islamic, the Indian Subcontinent, China, Tibet, Indonesia musics and the instruments and general considerations picked up along the way. Cheap cheap ticket to many musical lands.


SELECTED POEMS, FANNY HOWE, U OF CAL. PRESS, 2000, pb $16.95: but I picked up my copy at $6.95 with a little crease on the front cover, no matter, the poems are lovely, with a modest size deep drenched soaking poem page by poem page. I like the tools of her language use - rakes, hoes and trowels, that craftsman sureness. Like this poem: I may never see the Vatican or Troy / but only let me sit in a car somewhere / I recognize as home by the hand / of the one I love in mine - // just once - O universe - one more time. Go on, runaway with that thought!


KISSING POETRY'S SISTER, TOM MONTAG, MIDDAY MOON/MIDWESTERN WRITERS PUBLISHING HOUSE 2002, pb. $12.50: another honed down beauty by long time midwestern stalwart Tom Montag. He knows that if we are fuzzy thinkers, it is because our language has grown fuzzy. So no fuzzy writing here. Just an elegant and smooth sailing collection brimming over at a little over 100 pages on the subjects of poetry, learning to write creative nonfiction (whatever that is but anyway Tom can do it), scuba diving, the poet in the business suit, tributes to a father, farmers, the poet Phyllis Walsh, some traveling with Mary. It's a secret little book I tell you. One to hole up a day with.


SAMUEL GREEN'S THE ONLY TIME WE HAVE is another corker. Splendid through and through as made by GREY SPIDER PRESS, 37607 Cape Horn Road, Sedro-Woolley, WA. 98284, pb $20 hand-sewn, letterpress, graceful gatefold construction - and that's the right word for this book made for a fine letterpress printer in his own right. And there is nothing quite like a beautifully made book paying complement to as beautiful poems. Not a dud in the basket. Short, almost psalm-like poems (often titled "Postcard...") hung within vines of longer, consoling poems featuring a life lived on an isle Pacific Northwest and sometimes far away. There is never a doubt Sam Green was meant to write us poems. Except for paying / attention, what else / is continual prayer?


FROM TOTEMS TO HIP-HOP, ED. ISHMAEL REED, THUNDER'S MOUTH, 2003. pb.$17.95: a multicultural anthology of poetry across the Americas, 1900-2002 and I'm hereby ordering you to read this. A no-brainer, Reed has been at this a very long time and the cornucopia is right here in this collection. I like big important biographical notes that show the editor and publisher take their poets seriously and the contributors are mighty and just too many to list. Over 500 pages, from Dead Prez back to at least Gwendolyn Brooks and who she learned a thing or two from. Don't hesitate.


THE BEATS, A LITERARY REFERENCE ED. BY MATT THEADO, CARROLL & GRAF, 2003, pb. $24: this is for the serious contender on the subjects Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs, Corso, Cassady, Holmes, Snyder. If you know the first names of these critters it's a good chance you will at least want to sit awhile with this masterpiece of documenting some parts of The Beat Generation in book form. Wildly illustrated in what passes as almost legible photocopy, it nonetheless fits the times and it means to be exhaustive. When I happened upon one copy on a bookstore shelf it was one of the moments where the feeling was: it doesn't matter what it cost. Even Maynard G. Krebs made it in.


DA CAPO BEST MUSIC WRITING 2002, ED. JONATHAN LETHEM, DA CAPO 2002, pb. $15: this series only gets better & better, somehow. It's also nice to read writers that don't have to tell me in the first line how "fucking great this fucking album is, you know what I fucking mean?" And still there is enough of the subterranean, rap scene, plain-jane, Ralph Stanley to Eminem and still you just want to buy it for Steve Erickson's "L.A.'s Top 100: Every city has a soundtrack, but sometimes Los Angeles seems like a soundtrack that has a city". He reviews his top-100 songs in twenty crisp pages. Simply icing on the cake to a crackling collection. With tributes to the sort-of-forgottens Steve Young, Anita O'Day, Roky Erickson, Korla Pandit and even Sammi Smith. Lots lots lots to read.


TWO MUST OWNS FOR THE LIBRARY: WENDELL BERRY, THE ART OF THE COMMONPLACE, COUNTERPOINT 2002, cl. $26: which collects twenty-one of the poet's agrarian essays and even if you own them all in separate books, this one volume pastures-of-plenty shall offer an alternative to our hustle & bustle culture. Besides, it's one book you will want to pass down to your children. // Masterpiece #2 is THE COMPLETE POEMS OF KENNETH REXROTH, Ed. by SAM HAMILL & BRADFORD MORROW, COPPER CANYON 2003. Cl. $40. One sure sign that he is something to reckon with is just how many people are trying to forget him. Take notice. The editors are top of the line - knew him, learned their combined editing and publishing prowess, poetry, rebellion of the norm, and stairway to heaven vision of earth and sky. After Ezra Pound, Kenneth Rexroth came and did it all and never went mute. I've rarely met a poet that hadn't read him, and this dynamic collection will make sure that tradition is everlasting. To be able to be blessed with never having read the poet's book The Signature of all Things (collected here) and to discover it for the first time again, would be something.


THE COMPLETE WRITINGS OF EMILY CARR, UNIV. OF WASHINGTON 1997, pb. 27.95: with paintings in broad color strokes akin to Marsden Hartley, Emily Carr also resembled this fellow painter as a fine writer. The best of it coming at middle age - after shaking off a Victorian raising - when she settled in British Columbia and wrote and painted from a wilderness of First Nations villages, dark forests and wild beaches. Stories of outback lives, memoirs and journals; a survivalist who raised and sold English bobtail sheepdogs, rabbits and farm poultry to make ends meet. Spring was young, I over seventy. With Spring all about me I sat sketching in the clearing...Seventy years had maimed me, loggers had maimed the clearing...but I got immense delight in just being there, in the quiet wood." Climb this tree.


MOUNTAIN HOME, TRANSLATED BY DAVID HINTON, COUNTERPOINT 2002,cl. $28: the rivers and mountains poets, rooted in Taoist thought, 5th century C.E. through the Sung Dynasty China, is some of the richest, simply empowering and bedrock centuries of spiritual muse ever. But few of the poets, if any, would want us to draw attention this way. They'd rather you came to the mountains, or at least, into the outdoors to read their poems. T'Ao Ch'ien, Wang Wei, Li Po, Tu Fu, Han Shan, Su Tung-P'O are only some of the names burned into the hall of fame, and David Hinton is probably one of the more exciting--along with Mike' O Connor and Red Pine and Paul Hanson--to come along since Gary Snyder to rock the boat attempting to complete the wilderness presence of these poets. A very handsome volume, with brilliant touches by translator and guide Hinton, as he takes us into the hidden valleys and distant peaks of each poet. A book to share.


THE HIGH SIERRA OF CALIFORNIA, GARY SNYDER / TOM KILLION, HEYDAY BOOKS 2002, cl: I can't get a price for you since a good friend of the family bought this book for us while in California and snipped the price as a gift. Adapted, and very nicely, from the handprinted Quail Studio production of Tom Killion's hand-carved wood and linoleum blocks of mountains and deep valleys. Beggars can't be choosy so I am quite content with this facsimile journey over many decades of both artist and poet's compilation toward the spirit of place. Snyder's contribution is selected from his unpublished High Sierra Journals: 1955-1991, which reveals the gold mine waters for many of the poems for his earliest books of poems. Excerpts from John Muir's California writings are also included and allow a deepening of the Sierra pool, and Killion's woodcuts literally shimmer in all this good company. Probably one of the benchmark places in time, with this company, where the wilderness poets (and teachers) of China, came to America.


SELF-TAUGHT & OUTSIDER ART, ANTHONY PETULLO, UNIV. OF ILLINOIS 2001, Cl: what a charmed life to have this collection of thirty-six European and North American artists hand-picked out for us by the author from his private collection. 150 chosen pieces in full-color representing the works of Henry Darger, John Kane, Martin Ramirez, Adolf Wolfli, Scottie Wilson, Alfred Wallis, Bill Traylor, names already well established in naive art, or art brut, or whatever makes you comfortable to call it - one would think calling it finally, art, is the least we can do to honor its magnificence. This collection showcases an opening of traditions, techniques, backgrounds and inventions; with attractive biographical information and photographs of each artist, since their lives are almost always as fascinating as their work. Try to find that consistency in Soho.


THE FARM, CLARENCE COOPER, NORTON 1998 pb: this has always been my favorite Clarence Cooper book, now reissued in paperback through the Old School Book series edited by Marc Gerald, rediscovering some of the toughest, finest and militant black writers from the past century. The Farm was Cooper's last book, released in 1967, after a life on the run of streets, penitentiaries and nearly a life long drug addiction. This novel is written on a long sharp edge of prison characters with a jazz ear commotion. The fierce attack of the page never has you for a moment think your cornered in a Donald Goines gang-bang but more likely in one of the best kept secrets since Chester Himes. Well greased and unpredictable at once. Tough to put it down. Snuffed out the twelve Richard Stark novels I read this past winter.


KINGDOM OF FEAR, HUNTER S. THOMPSON, SIMON AND SCHUSTER 2003, CL. $25: this is one more album of scattered shot writings that we have come to expect from this journalist since his hey-day of the early 1970s. Before that, he wrote two masterpieces from the era: one on the Hells Angels and all things rolling; the second on a fast-wired and now infamous journey once upon a time to-and-from Las Vegas. Both books made him famous. Unlike his brethren, he didn't succumb to mediocrity after awhile, in fact anything but, and this new collection paves the way in local Colorado of his home town conflicts, prankster theater, habitual target practicing with hand weapons and forever writing. His recently released correspondence in two volumes are top notch, screwed tight, excellent. On talk shows of recent times he appears dipsy, almost infirmed but rummaging a million self-inflicted images behind the dark shades. If he didn't have to work on a sound bite moment, he might lecture like Castro for hours. On page 193 may be found an excerpted letter by none other than Henry Ford on his opposition to war. It has all the savvy organic thinking of Kentucky bred Thompson. One of the only writers in America that shows no hesitation to fry George Bush's balls in an open farmer's market of writing post 9-11. Now, that's a Patriot. He's our Heine, our Johnson, our Hazlitt.


AMAZING GRACE, ED. JAMES G. NASKER, YALE UNIV. 2002. cl: an anthology of poems about slavery 1660-1810 and the first of its kind from America, Britain and around the Atlantic, compassing more than 400 poems of the well known: Phillis Wheatley, Dryden, Defoe, Pope, Blake, Coleridge, as well as abolitionists, revolutionary war veterans, scholars of the time. Charting the evolution of slavery as part of the collective consciousness during the Enlightenment and origins of the anti-slavery movement. No better example than that of John Newton, who became a captain of a slave ship before his leap of faith to evangelical Christianity and his penning Amazing Grace in 1779. Newton wrote the hymn to free himself from the demons and sins of shipping human cargoes, only to find the same hymn by the 19th century set to new music and sung by slaves. And it's sung to this day. Well documented biographies and poems that have never been seen in this light. You don't quite read this book - you return to it again and again.


ANTHONY SWOFFORD was a lance corporal in the Gulf War, U.S. Marines scout/sniper platoon. JARHEAD is his memoir of that experience and what Marines like to call themselves - it goes with the shaved haircut and hearkens to that tribal identification amongst a corps that is older than the United States, circa 10 November 1775. This book also hearkens to many a masterpiece written from war since the first battle and someone lived to tell a brutal story. I'm midway into the book and really can't believe how marvelous it is. The young author's father is a Vietnam vet and no where does Swofford hesitate to bridge the two wars (and immediately their literatures) in a swirling meditation of why do we kill. I recently caught the author being interviewed on CNN looking like a mild mannered wet slick hair Michael Masden. Since he was asked, he answered he was antiwar about the impending Iraq invasion. I liked his truthful, common sense, crosshair delivery and went and bought his likewise book. TV sold me something. SCRIBNERS 2003, cl $24. In short, as fine as anything from the heavies in the Vietnam War canon. We are soldiers for the vast fortune of others


-- Bob Arnold


Congress is our only truly

criminal class of citizens


-- Mark Twain




I want...to sit down and try to learn how to write in truth -- Zora Neale Hurston

A lovely culmination in one morning of the day's mail. A Saturday, often the day our rural postal carrier in pickup truck sees no need to sort the first class mail and we end up with flyers and next to nothing. Snow near to the windows in this first bear of a winter in a long while, how luscious it feels to hold mail in the hand. Far from this email chatter box like I am doing here (but loving the immediacy of it all, that spark from me to you). Mail today brings a handwritten postcard poem by Kirby Doyle from Brenda Iijima, poet and photographer and artist of many trades from Brooklyn, Doyle's poem To Dido Dying: consider -- a house, a hillside, / a large sunny box clutched in stillness...and I do. Poets have always read best coming from another poet. The eternal thread. Jerry Reddan  from his Tangram in Berkeley sends 2 Haiku by Jim Dodge, barren and frost thick poem tandem as letter-pressed foldout beauty. Think of it, in the morning mail...is there a better gift? Next, and it's not pure coincidence but actual synchronicity of spirit and energy, Jonathan Greene sends his new poem Waiting as printed by Jerry Reddan and arriving the same moment hidden fault lines / in the heart of things. Tucked in with Jonathan he sends Blink a little magazine of little poems edited by Robert M. West (bimonthly $6 for a year: PO Box E, Mississippi State, MS. 39762-5505) And in true to form the reader receives 4 poems in a blink's time. Another editor, Don Wentworth does much the same magic in his little magazine Lilliput Review (282 Main St., Pittsburgh, PA 15201/ 12 issues: $12)   shortie poems in the mail that Don sends along with the best of intentions. Another editor, Carl Mayfield, in the 70s, used to send his regular short poem master stroke magazine The Margarine Maypole Orangutan Express...what a title, eh? Back when poets had a better sense of humor and weren't so serious about themselves. Carl, are you still out there? Also today from British shores comes friend John Phillips and his immediately handsome Language, 26 copies made from Given Press for Jasna and Eva, a few diamond poems. All made from a cottage in Cornwall. Under these mailings of poetry a letter from Cid Corman in Kyoto slips out and not at all surprising but exhilarating in-context is a poem by Cid on the back of the aerogramme (each aerogramme from Cid has a poem--postal workers read up!) how about this one to go along with so far today: Every/thing matters/and that will/include you. Yes'um. The connections flutter amongst every one in this day's mail. Roger Snell writes from San Francisco a fine letter of making-do, reading, writing, printing and hoping to sustain Duncan's "genius" in own room writing away. More people should know of the fine young poet's out there like Roger Snell Roger Snell Roger Snell. So many young poets trying to figure out the way out. Lamenting serious debt, credential careers, all in a time where "experimental poetry" is now an academic pursuit. The actor Jason Patric brings up somewhat the same point speaking of Hollywood films--once upon a time an unknown actor (Pacino) could be found in a film like The Godfather. Today it is packaged, hideously so. Packaged book tours, packaged book deals, packaged even down in the bowels of the small press. Pay attention. The two best words in any language are yes and no, and meant to be used correctly. Finally, a letter to cap things off from friend of the family Janine Vega. May I say, poet like no other? I don't care, I'm saying it. She received the little gifts we sent for the holidays, including the mittens Susan knitted and the earrings I picked out which turned out to be like the earrings I picked out last year. But did Janine fret? Nope. I bought a pair of plain ground glass earrings, took them apart and added those earrings you sent. Terrific confluence. Everyone loved them. Make note, just one more way to write and live poetry. Plus, it's a bonus to be loved.


Onto a few books! One reader asked, how do all the books come to me? Are they sent from publishers? (some), do I order them? (some) How do I write the descriptions, do I read the books first, or browse through first etc? Now, get serious fella: all books come as may. I seek out no heavy-hitters, search for no popular names, could care less about charts. Finding is amazing. Live that way. The books come from a daily living (as meant to be described in the mail call above), visiting libraries, a variety of used bookshops, review copies on my request, happenstance a poet sending a treasure through the mail, gifts, what I see lying around. And read each book right down until you're picking the small bones. Pass the book on, the meaning of a Woodburner. The first book Susan, as star lover, had ordered for herself and it's been by a chair where she reads early in the morning: ASTRONOMICAL CALENDAR 2003 by Guy Ottewell (Universal Workshop, PO Box 426, Middleburg VA. 20118-0426 $24/$5 shipping): contributing writers for this astronomical almanac (think Farmer's Almanac for the heavens) include Fred Schaaf, Clifford Cunningham, Alastair McBeath, Alan Hale. An absolute majestic primer for beginners to the advanced star gods with feature sky maps,timetables, solar system plans, horizon scenes and more power and planetary visitations month by month than you ever thought possible. With this argosy in hand, there is never a dull day (or night) for you again.


THE SHAPE OF SURVIVAL by John Cohen (Stephen Daiter Gallery, 311 West Superior St. #404, Chicago 60610. 2002 n.p.):  some of us grew up with John Cohen as musician in The New Lost City Ramblers. Others know his work further as a filmmaker and combined musicologist in the best vein of finding the sweetest and often most hidden away music (see: There Is No Eye, music for photographs: recordings of musicians and photographed by John Cohen: Smithsonian Folkways Recordings 2001, Huayno stringband to Bob Dylan). Once upon a time, when John Cohen was 24 years old, he went to Peru to live with the Indians awhile and to document that time in this photographic essay circa 1956-7. You won't flip past these pages. Each one fixes. Over the tears of time, the Andean people of Peru have put the world together in their own way. This book collection of photographs is a complement and grounded testimony.


ROLLING WITH THE STONES by Bill Wyman (DK Publishing, 2002 cloth $50): well now--if you're a Stones fan--don't hesitate. The second best book by former Stone's bass player Bill Wyman (his book Blue Odyssey gets a smidge higher grade) a many pounds heavy back-stage photo album with insider text by Wyman who played with the band through their zenith. Like George Harrison, Patti Smith, Thurston Moore and a few others in the galaxy of popular music, Bill Wyman shows a way that it's books, poetry...drugs, sex and rock and roll. Tom Wolfe once said, "The Beatles want to hold your hand, but the Stones want to burn your town." I think in the end they both did a little of both, with an awful lot of help from Muddy Waters, southern blues and white teenagers everywhere.


Ah, the cottage industry for Lorine Niedecker marches onward. Just in is Lorine Niedecker's infamous NEW GOOSE (Rumor Books, 1605 Berkeley Way, Berkeley, CA. 97403 pb. $10): there must be something in the Berkeley drinking water because for over 35 years everything I've received from there has that certain edge of sparkle and completeness; and most recently just plain beautiful jobs. This New Goose is so fine looking that I stood it up as a showcase in our little bookshop. But then there is no one out here visiting in the woods at our on-line shop but I like it each time I walk in the door. Sidewalk booksellers should display this book at the front counter. Tip-top Niedecker scholar Jenny Penberthy sings its graces in a brief introduction describing the 86 poems collected herein survived from Niedecker's 1935-1945 "Mother Goose influenced" period which should be halfway taken seriously from the nursery lore to the poet's own axiom: Poetry is the folktales of the mind: so be prepared to be taken to pasture with one of the more electric minds of twentieth century poetry. An absolute must for any poetry library. There was a bridge once that said I'm going


ZORA NEALE HURSTON, A Life in Letters collected and edited by Carla Kaplan (Doubleday 2002) cl: $40: This is a very scary book, it's that good. And despite how fine,involving and important in the canon Valerie Boyd's new biography of Hurston is WRAPPED IN RAINBOWS (Scribners 2003) cl. $30  the collected letters of Hurston blows everything away. How could it not? Mostso when edited with such a thorough rinsing and telling and respect from editor Kaplan; her annotations bring forth all the pilgrimage a reader need to set forth into Hurston country. A few pages under your belt and you're hooked. I haven't felt this excitement since discovering Hurston with a million others via Alice Walker. Once more, our caps should be off to the women scholars who have broken a trail to the rediscovery of this hard headed individualist--part novelist, poet, essayist, folklorist, playwright, anthropologist, and being one of the only academically trained African American anthropologists of her day, she was in a unique position of introducing and salvaging forgotten cultures & ways as storyteller than scientist. She hep-cat the Harlem Renaissance as vigorously as any jazz players. Traveled with the Lomax team into the deep south to help find Leadbelly. Drove solo her Model T car she called "Cherry" in the 1920s through the dark woods seeking out the Negro farthest down  for stories, songs, tones, a real life; all with her pistol in a shoulder holster into turpentine camps, phosphate mines and sawmills of the American south. The controversy on her alleged lying, inventions, corruptions with the white and black worlds is now legend and should be chalked up as a smaller part of the story. Or integral to how Hurston worked. This is one of the giants of the last century who lived and worked fearlessly in the dynamic mixture of discovering her own identity, and thus ours. No differently than another maestro at her level and time-- Jaime de Angulo--and his tramping and studies in the outback west. It's only a matter of time but aligning Hurston's masterpieces from Their Eyes Were Watching God, Mules and Men, Tell My Horse, Seraph on the Suwanee and others, plus the variation of essays and field work, towered over by just how she lived, wrote and survived, it out blasts any of her critical male brethren often heralded at her expense. Zora Neale Hurston wrote an autobiography and this is the road in.


GREGORY CORSO: Another trailblazer. One found most "difficult" as well, who like Hurston, spinned a web of mysterious answers and contradictory stories to be set in the pantheon along with Bob Dylan, Thomas Pynchon and other fair weather birds wishing to be just as they are. AN ACCIDENTAL BIOGRAPHY, the selected letters of Gregory Corso edited w/an introduction by Bill Morgan (New Directions 2003) cl. $39.95: is one more fine example of an author's long time publisher pulling through with a nearly impossible assignment of pinning down one of the best known vagabond American poets of 20th c. letters. And they do it. People will laugh--people that knew Corso will laugh--but how Corso lived his life and survived (the miracle) plus leaving in his wake some of the damnedest best poetry, Beat or otherwise, is breath taking. And he lived the legend. His ruckus behavior in public, in these letters, anywhere, is taken to task straight up by Ginsberg archivist and stalwart Beat historian Bill Morgan in his no nonsense commentary. But pretty much Corso is allowed to roam free for 400 pages. Nothing like the absorbing richness of the Hurston letters mined beautifully by its editor's skilled portrait. Corso tells his own story here, while both curiously and telling of the book's 422 pages, we don't get out of the 1960's until page 390. Corso would live another 31 years in 32 pages of letters mainly to Allen Ginsberg and his publisher's office. The two who seemed to always stick with him, thick or thin. How good is Corso's poetry? He barely published anything new the last 25 years and everything before then still sizzles. He was an orphan, born with a beat spoon in his mouth, surrounded by a Beat Generation all college educated some or better. As Corso liked to say, he was the last of the "Daddies", as he described the vintage players who created the Beat Generation: Kerouac, Ginsberg, Burroughs  (I'd add Ferlinghetti). By the 1960s he was also calling The Beat Generation "a con-game". Kerouac had his own complaints. To this day, if I were heading for that desert island, it'd be Kerouac and Corso in my bag, along with these sassy. loud mouth, angelic letters. Ah this angry young man thing, what if one were angry young at God's lack of gift to us, the senses are insufficient. Gregory Corso died January 17, 2001 and his ashes were buried in Rome at the feet of Percy Shelley. Makes all the sense in the world. Live with  these letters and see why.


NEW DIRECTIONS BOOKS: everyone who grew up with this publisher's titles has a different story and I enjoy them all. Mine was a Berkshire hills boy earning my pay in a family lumber business late 1960s and hitchhiking on my Saturday afternoon off to Joe Dewey's one-room spectacle of a bookshop right on the edge of the Williams College campus. Ralph Renzi had an intriguing bookshop  on the same town lane but Joe Dewey had all the New Directions titles by his back door and they were shelved as if in a bookcase shrine. And bow down to them I did, buying each one, a few books at a time. As the crow flies--in South Hadley, Ma., another wizard bookseller, Romeo Grenier, at his The Odyssey Bookshop (still there, Romeo gone; Dewey not there, even the building is gone) displayed all his books by publisher with a milkman's memory to every book he'd weaned, nurtured and fenced throughout the two floor enterprise. Who needed the cities? it was all here! Downstairs I found every New Directions book in print on a solid wall of stately heaven. From Apollinaire to Colin Wilson. Those days aren't gone--I have those archeological book digs at Dewey's and the Grenier family throughout my library--but those booksellers are quickly leaving us. It's soothing to see the remnants of that time in little pockets. I just ran into one bookshop for a moment in Gloucester, Ma., that had the similar feel. Good books in order, friendly owner, no hustle. Even told us when we were ever back in town we were welcome to use his bathroom. Essential accommodations when new in town after a long drive. A bookseller used to be good for that and more. With the Gregory Corso letters and THE NEW DIRECTIONS ANTHOLOGY OF CLASSICAL CHINESE POETRY, ed. by Eliot Weinberger (New Directions 2003), cl. $24.95: New Directions continues to mine its wealth and share with us in Poundian revelation all ages are contemporaneous. This compendium selects jewels from the anonymous ancients through the masters and wilderness poets of the T'ang and Sung dynasties. And the chosen translators all come from the New Directions stable and just happen to be some of the miracle workers of the last century: Pound, Williams, Rexroth, Snyder and new-kid-on-the-block, David Hinton, who already has accomplished pieces now treasured. The poems are mouth watering and editor Weinberger--also a translator with a snazzy idiosyncratic mind--knows to spice the text with uncollected translations by Pound, sections from The Great Clod, an eco-cultural history of China as worked up by Gary Snyder, essays by all five translators on Chinese poetry, plus biographies and care to all involved. Definitely a book I would have read from all afternoon at Joe Dewey's bookshop and then bought and carried home. There is a joy in this vocation; all sages esteem it. (Lu Chi)

-- Bob Arnold




The mind which we are unaware is aware of us --R D Laing


PUNK, the definite record of a revolution by Stephen Colegrave & Chris Sullivan (Thunder's Mouth Press 2001) gatefold wraps $35: this is the same size and weight of twelve record albums stacked up. The cover photograph is a dead man's. The two authors seem to eat and run nothing but Punk. The text format is one magnificent photo-album of previously unpublished interviews, rotten, scuzzy, courageous images from the era's formative years some pin between 1975 to 1979, but why stop there? ...since others believe punk brought rock and roll back to its roots. "It (punk) gave everybody a chance to say something. That's revolution," according to the late Dee Dee Ramone.It's the best book I've ever seen on the subject and I wasn't even looking. Every young reader I've shown it to wanted to sit right down with it. Barometer enough. Plenty of Johnny Rotten, Sid Vicious, Siouxsie, Patti, bloodied, bandaged combatants to keep you happy. The young librarian I checked it out from said, with a sneer, she had just read and brought it back. But you don't read this animal; like Alice, you'll want to go inside. If you love Punk -- here it is.


Speaking of rock and roll roots and punk. American Recordings IV: The Man Comes Around by Johnny Cash (American 2002) lp: If you are up to three generations, or even better, four generations alive and visiting at the same time, this is the record for you. Put it on. There is a song somewhere on this record for everyone from ages 5 to 99. Even better, there is a definitive version of something for your scariest rock hound to your equally scary I-hate-all-new-music curmudgeon. No problem mixing Paul Simon with Trent Reznor, Johnny Cash does it; he not only does it, he completely makes each and every song his own. Despite my love for Ewan MacColl's First Time Ever I Saw Your Face, Cash's is a meltdown. Don't wait to immortalize the guy when he is finally dead and gone (he's been sick awhile), hug him now. Producer Rick Rubin has brought aboard a jacks & balls list of accompanied musicians and they all make sense: Randy Scruggs, Smokey Hormel,John Frusciante, Mike Campbell, Nick Cave, Glen Campbell, Bill Preston, Cowboy Jack Clement. My favorite record for 2002. I hurt myself today / to see if I still feel 


Dry Stone Walls by Lawrence Garner (Shire Publications, UK, 2001) pb $6.95: The British still tend to do these books the best. Neat and tidy and little fanfare publications--primers really--with dutiful photographs detailing the layout and lay up of a stone wall, or dyke, as often termed in Scotland. This is an often reprinted edition that I probably own in other versions but overseas friends have for years sent me the charming booklets knowing I build stone walls in Vermont. Unlike American books on the subject that tend to cotton to the wealthy homeowner wanting an expensive terrace wall, the Garner book shows plain-joe waller at work, or intense spectator interest at some North Yorkshire stone walling competition, and the always promising young trainees at work on stone walls miles long. That's right: miles long. A good book. Easily describing development, construction and styles.


Scats and Tracks of the Northeast by James C. Halfpenny & Jim Bruchac (The Globe Pequot Press 2001) pb. $9.95:if you judge things on a first appearance, then you are going to immediately like this book. A field guide to the signs of seventy wildlife species, and these two guides, illustrator and publisher, have a terrific feel for the territory. First off, the book is pocket-size and durable. Reasonably priced for the outdoor scamp. The layout is straight ahead and comes complete with gray measuring bars alongside each page for the reader to measure scat and track sizes, plus when all else is at a loss, there is a ruler for measuring printed on the back cover of the book. I guess they call this "user-friendly", I just think everybody involved wants you out there in the countryside enjoying yourself with this book in your back pocket. Contributors span from the fiddler crab to wild boar.You have to chuckle with admiration at just how good this looks. I'd  buy the book alone on the author's jingling name: Halfpenny, and knowing Bruchac is family member attached to poet (father) and taxidermist (grandfather). Halfpenny's book A Field Guide to Mammal Tracking in North America is already a classic in its field. Think a fine continuation in line with Olaus Murie.


Raga Mala, an autobiography by Ravi Shankar edited & introduced by George Harrison (Welcome Rain 1999) cl. $25: nazar na lage -- as Shankar would say in his own language, or: let there be no evil eye. There is no such evil eye in this extraordinary book, made extraordinary by the life of the storyteller. Benevolent and ever-lasting, Shankar always looked a cool dude, from his childhood years as a dancer in the glam 1930s of Paris and New York, to world master sitar player. John Coltrane had all his records, along with all of us but did any of us name our son Ravi? Raga mala is a style of playing the sitar where different ragas are referred to by the player while always returning to the main one. And Shankar plays this book like his beloved instrument. I can't think of another musician's autobiography so ravishingly decked with illustrations; it may as well be a private photo album. Shankar was one of the ground breakers to encourage an appreciation of world music in Europe and America. Let the recital begin.


I'm midway through Jim Harrison's new memoir and have been tempted to say a few words right at this stand point - Harrison bestows a confidence right from page one -- so why shouldn't his reader? But I reached for this disgusting book instead, WITHOUT SANCTUARY,lynching photography in America by James Allen et al. (Twin Palms Publications 2000) cl. n.p.: no need for any cover title or Madison Avenue sales pitch, simply a photograph of a lynched black man hanging over the heads of Sunday-go-to-Meetin' crackers, young and old. It always seems to be a mob of men with mission accomplished looks on their faces, or ditzy goons who should be hunted down to this day. At least have their families set right down with a copy of this book. The participants, the mob, these murderers are the disgusting part. The book is otherwise a profiles in courage. Allowing the grotesque scenery of historical photographs tell all the story that need be told with absolutely astounding reportage attached to each photo plate, somehow gleaned. You'll turn your eyes. You'll be sick at the thought that it happened in the United States. No matter what color you are, or who you are, it's your story. Hard to even comprehend a word like forgiveness. The majority of victims lynched belonged to minority groups but the vast number in this book are African Americans. Montana was the state most likely to lynch whites.


Maybe go next to Amiri Baraka's, "When Sun Ra Gets Blue" on the CD: AN AFTERNOON IN HARLEM (Justin Time 1999) with trumpeter Hugh Ragin and and his band covering ground, in snap swing blues and freedom swing, from Harlem to backdrop themes of history, whether ancient civilizations of Egypt, the Underground Railroad or the organic testament and drama of Baraka dedicated to Sun Ra. Can you sing yourself, your life, your place on the warm planet earth.


WEIRD SEX & SNOWSHOES and other Canadian film phenomena by Katherine Monk (Raincoast Books) pb. $18.95: I already know the title is catchy, it caught me. And when I set it onto a pile of library books I had stashed on a chair and my jacket thrown over, a critter stomped by in woolens and tied together hair, and despite my jacket he expertly reached under and pulled the book free for a look. Unlike a wise camper, he didn't put the book back where he found it (stack dry firewood when you leave for the next campfire) and instead tossed it on the jacket and maybe made a mental note. Good campers made this book, it lives up to its title and director Atom Egoyan wrote a foreword. Almost all of the best Canadian films I found once upon a time were located down in the spicy catacombs of Pleasant Street Video in Northampton, Massachusetts. A country boy doesn't have any ready cities to remember so the thrill of the week is a visit into town and an exciting hot-spot like a bookstore and a place that rents films on reels. You can watch them at home on a tv, holy shit! You'll meet some of these same types of woodchucks in this Canadian study of diehard independents of the cinema. The chapters are divided into distinct themes ("Survivors & Surviving", etc), biographical portraits of key Canadian film folks, and 100 reviews of films not to be missed but you probably have missed most. Instead of a star-rating the author uses maple leaves.I like her immediately. There is no Citizen Kane but Mon Oncle Antoine is as good a place to start. If you're stumped, call Pleasant Street Video--the staff was born film smart--and/or grab this book.


--- CULTS ----


And for kicks: A MASSIVE SWELLING by Cintra Wilson (Viking 2000) pb.

:subtitled celebrity reexamined as a grotesque crippling disease and other cultural revelations aka: celebrity torture fantasies starring Mick Jagger, Ricky Martin, Michael Jackson, Warren Beatty, Kathie Lee Gifford, Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion...zzzzzzzzz...but a humorous side-line for these times. A thousand thousand slimy things lived on, and so did I --Samuel Taylor Coleridge


CHICAGO BLUES,the photographs of RAEBURN FLERLAGE ed. Lisa Day (ECW Press 2000) pb. $22.95:Sam & Ann Charters also have a new and essential to read text/photography book on the blues. If you own blues records of Delmark, Prestige, Testament, Bluesville labels chances are you already have a Raeburn Flerlage photo in your collection. This handy and reasonably priced collection pulls the cream of the crop from this South Side Chicago artist's residency in blues nightclubs from Pepper's to the Blind Pig, Theresa's and many more.The one of Son House is worth a thousand words. Flerlage adds buoyant man-on-the-street commentary throughout.


ROUTE 66, the photographs of GERD KITTEL (THAMES & HUDSON 2002) gatefold wraps $29.95: as Wim Wenders has a knack for visualizing the American outback, fellow German Gerd Kittel shows much the same eye and verve for having the mythology live on. 83 color photographs, many wide scanned and lavish, breezing down the highway that once spanned from Santa Monica to Chicago. No one seemed too bothered that of the over 100 episodes of the television series Route 66 only two took place on the famous highway. A piece of it can still be driven today--somewhere out of Seligman, AZ is where I'd point you.


TESTIMONY, the Ronald & June Shelp collection, essays by Arthur C. Danto and others (Abrams 2001) cl. $39.95:hardcore, brainy art consultants and critics showcase a handsome exhibit in book form on the vernacular art of the African-American South. The exhibition is spread out thematically as witnesses to history, allegorical animals, icon/religious scenes etc., with powerful work displayed by the already famous, like Thorton Dial Sr., (whose work could easily stand alongside Pollock or Dubuffet), Bessie Harvey, Ronald Lockett, Purvis Young and more. The space allotted to a photograph of each artist and biography is admirable, along with nearly 200 illustrations. The lesser known look awful good in here.


IT CAME FROM BOB'S BASEMENT By Bob Burns (Chronicle 2000) gatefold wraps $24.95:this for yon crackpots who already explore the science fiction and monster movie milieu and no better place to fall into place than Bob Burns own personal archive...from props and models, sketches, storyboards, king-kong's skeleton and Frankenstein's clod-hoppers. Unless you are of the initiated this will be a bit of a chore to get a handle on but layout and gumption is done in typical Chronicle Books style, no corners cut. It's pretty much How To Make A Monster in book form.


ODDS & ENDS, R. Crumb (Bloomsbury 2001) cl.$34.95:a chronological collection of rare works by Robert Crumb--Picasso of the sixties--still living, breathing and playing his own frame of mind somewhere out of the United States, ever our faithful son. This many square inch energized notebook showing a variety of drawings the artist made for friends, relatives, The New Yorker, comic books, underground presses,record jackets, advertisements, you name it...Crumb is unstoppable. And he chose the material used herein. No one has his range or aplomb. Selected illustrations from Crumb's The Monkey Wrench Gang calendar nicely centerfold the text. My favorite has always been the figure "Sassy", she's a savage force of nature.




Speaking of savage forces of nature JIM HARRISON certainly would be one. Elsewhere in another Woodburner I've written of his food bully book (The Raw and the Cooked ) a better book I think than OFF TO ONE SIDE, a memoir (Atlantic Monthly 2002) cl.$25:or at least a spunkier tale since there is something about Harrison and food together. He seems happier, concentrated and loose as the goose he partakes with yarns to tell. Or as his own mother sides up to him two-thirds of the way through this many-spoked-wheel memoir, "You've made quite a living out of your fibs". Jim Harrison just couldn't help himself, he became famous. Unlike one of his heroes--Tu Fu--who never published a book in his lifetime, Harrison has twenty-four published books and they are all fine to brilliant. Along with Wendell Berry, he is probably our grandest man of letters who did it his own way: by resonant poetry collections, enduring novels of people and places often far from city life, bundles of personal essays in book form that every poet worth his salt has stacked in their own personal bomb shelter.  Harrison loves to think, loves to read, loves to travel (and stay put at one of his three abodes), loves and hates his obsessions (listed in finite detail here). Drop in diamond passages from Yuan-Wu to Rilke to an old Nebraska saying as if piffle infield chatter. But really it is the hallmark of a Midwestern upbringing amongst hardworking Swedes, and knucklehead became a writer. A terrific one. My life could have been otherwise but it wasn't.


Poetry that the gods would be pleased to share. RULES OF THE HOUSE by Tsering Wangmo Dhompa (Apogee Press, PO Box 8177, Berkeley CA 94707-8177) 2002, pb.$12.95: help every small press brother that you can but I have to tell you this is one outstanding looking book, with poems forever high-trail spacious and sure, He said to know where I was, I need to know where I came from. Tsering came from the Tibetan communities in India and Nepal and so does every poem threading family and home, seasons and exile, initiation and lessons learned. Without names, any story can be appropriated. Blood thickens. Rivers gather. There is a possibility. Faith is necessary. She was slices of apple in the sun. With this poet's grace, I knew where I was, walking through the door. It'll wash you quietly clean.


IN A GLASS BOX by Brenda Iijima (Pressed Wafer, 9 Columbus Ave., Boston, Ma. 02116) 2002, sewn wraps $5: photographer, painter and poet Brenda Iijima has traveled for many years abroad, come home to live in Brooklyn and only recently did I find out we were born and raised in about the same small Berkshire hills mill town. In a glass box forest thick and soil. The visual and sound contrasts throughout this small book of poems are exhilarating. It's as if one were in a terrarium of the mind. Poetry, layout and tone is crucially exquisite. Go ahead and reread the book for a few days in a row like I did. I sing a patch of bright and you dance


NORMAN MAILER "Birds and Lions" p. 76 The New Yorker, Dec 23/30, 2002: writing from the inside out. Give yourself 15 minutes, may be read as cold springwater at the newsstand.


Whom we would destroy we first call savage --Bertolt Brecht


In memory of Paul Wellstone from Minnesota and kudos next door in Wisconsin to Russell Feingold--the only member of the Senate to vote NO to the USA Patriot Act. Peace to Philip Berrigan who died in early December at the age of 79. Long time peace activist, Berrigan was most recently in an Ohio prison on charges of interfering with a weapons system. Lastly, and sadly, adios, to Joe Strummer.


-- Bob Arnold



WOODBURNERS HOLIDAY ISSUE 2002/OR: remember, you aren't going to stop a war sitting on your hands, artists talking only about themselves, nor keep a culture flourishing without circulating it. This isn't to say we need constant feedback but spreading the word of books, music, art and the good life is what we wake up each morning for...isn't it? And stop whining, we all have jobs.


None of the books reviewed below may be found on the Longhouse listing of books for sale -- it just happened to turn out that way. Good books came into view and were read. May it take you on to many bookshops!


In the end, all books are written for your friends 

                                             --Gabriel Garcia Marquez


Stone By Stone, Robert M. Thorson (Walker & Company 2002) cl.$26: One of the few books on the craft of stone wall construction that will take well over half the book to tell you more than you need to know about what is under any given stone wall, meaning: the earth. But when finished reading, you'll never walk the ground the same way again. Professor of geology and geophysics at the University of Connecticut, Thorson's inquisitive nature and instinct to look at what is right before him takes you out of the classroom and into the mainly Northeast pastures of stone, where, once upon a time, there was upward to 240,000 miles of stone walls which took three billion man hours to build. Who cares, really? Get out there with this book and stub a toe.


Moviemakers' Master Class, private lessons from the world's foremost directors, Laurent Tirard (Faber & Faber, 2002) pb.$15: a fine and showy idea, allowing film directors to straight-talk on the subject of film making and a bountiful cast is involved from Woody Allen to John Woo. The format isn't quite an interview and this works with better efficiency allowing each director to get to the heart of his craft without the tickling small talk. Directors are quartered into themes--the "ground breakers"  (Boorman, et al.) "revisionists" ( Scorsese..),"dream weavers" (Almodovar..), "big guns" (Stone..), " new blood" (the Coens..) and unabahadly "in a class by himself" (Godard (who else!?)). For some unknown reason, the author nor his fine British publisher, seem to mind there are NO women directors involved: no Agnes Varda, Barbara Kopple, Lina Wertmuller, Gilliam Armstrong, Nancy Savoca and others. Makes your head spin. For what it is, this is a good enough read.


Private Lives of Garden Birds, Calvin Simonds (Storey Books, 2002) cl.$18.95: nothing really grand or even scholarly from this professor of ethology and that's why I enjoyed the book so much. Hiking mostly his own farmland, and poking his nose at the right time into his garden, the author does convince me he tries to see the world as birds do. Mockingbirds, house sparrows, jays, chickadees, hummingbirds, phoebes all flutter about with a range of behavior but it is really the chapter on crows where Simonds nicely convinces me that crows can count up to seven. I always sort of knew this from my own experiences working in the woods, and of course thought I was simply acting alone. Maybe a little loony? But no, this book has many such yarns that may be familiar to you. Though make sure you bring the leisure of a house sparrow when reading. The book likes to mosey around. Likewise handsomely designed and modestly priced. A reprint from the 1984 Rodale edition.


Hummingbird, edited by Phyllis Walsh (PO Box 96, Richland Center, WI. 53581: pub.quarterly $15): for many years now Phyllis Walsh has been selecting & editing the short poem from poets worldwide and making consistently bright booklets of all her findings. It's quite something to watch this editor and poet fine-tune each issue by the matching season of the year. One of my favorite poems from the current issue is an all-seasonal one by Cid Corman: There is no question / We are the answer. Poetry is this magazine's nectar. 


Bringing Friends Over, Robert Sund (Tangram 2002) handsewn wraps: another hand-sewn beauty from this press completely touched over by poets. With an introductory note by Tim McNulty who describes how his friend Robert liked to stay up late with a pot of green tea and calligraphy pen and rework translations by Issa, Buson, Basho and others. It didn't matter that Sund didn't read Japanese, his own world had already been to "places" that were mutually revealed by these ancients. After reading his own books of poems Bunch Grass or Ish River--slim masterpieces from decades of living and writing and waiting--I think we'd all agree. A legend in his own time from the Pacific Northwest regions, Robert Sund recently passed away only to be memorialized by celebrations, readings and a commemorative book of gems such as this one. For more on Robert Sund write to: Robert Sund Poet's House, PO Box 1567, Anacortes, WA. 98221 : Asked for directions/the farmer points/with a radish. --Issa


Early Morning, remembering my father by Kim Stafford (Graywolf, 2002) cl.$26: I used to read William Stafford all the time, years and years of many books and I know other poets my own age were doing the same. He was such an ideal poet for a young reader. I like Kim Stafford's writing as well but their poetry is nothing alike. The older Stafford came from Kansas, period. His poems always seem to fly in like a migratory bird, dust to shake off and stories to tell. The younger Stafford has the good gifts to spare us a linear biography for a much larger range of searching for the man and finding what he can right along with us. I respect that confidence. Absolutely nothing new in often finding a poet and public man (think Robert Frost and others) buddying up with strangers with a warmth rarely seen by his own family members. I wouldn't even begin to judge Kim Stafford's intentions or conclusions since he seems to have neither. This isn't a son crying out or acting headless; it's fine story telling inherited.


The New World by George Evans (Curbstone 2002) pb.$13.95: time for bold statements: this is the best book of poetry I read in 2002. Hands down.I wrote nothing better and neither did you. For all the cranks writing antiBush poems and ranting and blaring--more power to you--but George Evans shows the way.This is one of the few books that survived with its author coming out of the Vietnam War (Evans was honorably discharged as a Staff Sergeant in 1970), traveling a course through the Orient living and studies, survival in America amongst the homeless, unemployed and sometime scholarly, finding three of his four books of poems published in England and still not properly known by his own country. But man, does he know his own country! These poems will take the top of your head off with at once a naturalist's elegance and likewise Hannibal's armies. The title section The New World  is the mindset of a fierce stone sober prophet, so beware. "What is not told does not exist". I'd wipe off one half shelf of books for one of these. Enough?


An Existing Better World, notes on the Bread and Puppet Theater by George Dennison (Automedia 2000) pb.  Another George, and a good one. This isn't the Bread & Puppet book George Dennison intended to write but it is a remarkable assemblage of notes presented by his friends Geoffrey Gardner and Taylor Stoehr from George's papers left at his untimely death. Dennison was a master of the memoir and portrait--whether in his book The Lives of Children, the exquisite and it seems forgotten Luisa Domic or this portrayal of a poor and always courageous theater, forever vigorous in its political and religious themes, and once seen trouping at any town common or antiwar rally, never forgotten. George Dennison was the perfect messenger for this sort of thing. With cover and text illustrations by B & P creator Peter Schumann, plus photographs and wide format book design to best activate the spirit of performance. I have yet to see this book in any bookstores. A loved one special ordered my copy. It's that sort of book.  (PO Box 568 Williamsburgh Station, Brooklyn, NY. 11211-0568).


A Pelican in the Wilderness by Isabel Colegate (Counterpoint 2002) cl. $25: a thoroughly enriched book of portraits drawn on hermits, solitaries and recluses from medieval to modern times. That's either singing to you, or it isn't. I couldn't put the book down. Whether starting off on a remote Taoist trail with Bill Porter or coming clean with Howard Hughes, there is an intricate threading of history, place and devotions."Chinese hermits seem always to have been the most elusive."


Guitar Towns, a journey to the crossroads of rock 'n' roll by Randy McNutt (Indiana Univ. Press, 2002) cl: as they say, before corporate takeovers, regional music centers from Muscle Shoals to Bakersfield were the talk of the town. Randy McNutt comes through with flying colors once again, as he did with an earlier book Little Labels--Big Sound (Woodburner Summer 2002) on the back roads and one time soul of American rock and roll. Tracking down forgotten treasures like Eddie Guitar Slim Jones, Dan Penn and Roy Head, whether at a gravesite or in person. It all began with the author one sleepless night turning on the radio and hitting the Box Tops singing "Cry Like A Baby." A flood of memories overwhelmed and at the next beat, the author was on the road celebrating an era when hometown labels could punch out a hit and compete with the moguls. Sort of an American success story, to some degree. Small labels, of course, reign in deeper piles today than ever before so the tradition hasn't entirely passed away. Their models are evident--far from any metropolis--in fact, there's a garage band I'm hearing even way out here, blasting out of a cabin in the woods.


Disaffections by Cesare Pavese, trans. Geoffrey Brock (Copper Canyon,2002) pb.$17: I can't vouch for the Italian renditions, how faithful to the language etc., but I do know these complete poems from the years 1930-1950 read with thickets of sparkle through and through: the hill sprawls and the rain soaks into silently. Having finally reached death (a constant companion) by his own hand in 1950, the same year he was bestowed the prestigious Strega Prize, Pavese wrote a friend, "The trouble about these things, is that they always come when one is already through with them and running after strange, different gods". Strange, because it seems since his earliest work, Pavese was forever on this trail -- torn and twisted like a dog on a bone between love and death. No better revealed than in this golden designed edition, cover art by another hard grit survivalist Thomas Hart Benton. Copper Canyon has grown to be a wise decider of essential works--with money in its pocket from foundations it hasn't wimped out to corporate row but rather stuck to its guns of publishing fiercely independent poets in great looking books to die for. Somebody's dream come true.


Green Integer is another ground-breaker, publishing everything from pocket size poet series (Larry Eigner to Vallejo) which are a treat to find and affordable, to The PIP Anthology of World Poetry of the 20th Century (2001) pb.$15.95: PIP stands for The Project for Innovative Poetry with a worldwide advisory board as long as your arm; needless to say, it's well connected. Well intentions throughout, the poets chosen for this eclectic anthology remains a surprise no matter how often I pick it up to read and set back down. It doesn't at all matter how smart you may think you are, there are poets in here never heard of -- each lodged with a photograph,fascinating biographical page / bibliography and always a fine cutting of poems. It's a walking and talking international course of poetics. Don't hesitate.


Remember when you could read liner notes on the back of record covers? In fact you leaned for hours over record bins finding treasures and reading reading Nat Hentoff, Robert Palmer, LeRoi Jones, Stanley Crouch go at it with a certain wisdom all their own, far beyond the glossy promotional racket to get you to buy the record, these writers said: you simply had to own this record. Period. Walk out the store with it. They were almost always right. Tom Piazza has collected some of this brilliance in Setting the Tempo, fifty years of great jazz liner notes (Anchor 1996) pb.$14: and I'm just coming to the book finding it in multiple copies on a used bookstore shelf. In some cases, it's like holding an entire record shop jazz collection in your hands. Certainly beats the "progress" we have made attempting to read miniature type, often made unreadable by design, in a plastic and not fantastic square CD case.


Of all the Joseph Cornell books popping up--because weird or different (and please be dead) is very popular now in these times of monotonous news, returning felons to power and the depressing fact that the art world is filled with nothing but millionaires, and if not, why bother? Diane Waldman's, Joseph Cornell: Master of Dreams (Abrams 2002) cl.$45: comes about tall and concise and heavenly illustrated, with a text that delves just enough while at the same time respecting an old recluses wishes for the powers of the imagination. The collages are here, handmade boxes of delight, the experimental films and Waldman's lean and engrossing chapter themes. My hat is off to the layout department who appear to know the other worldly subject like the back of their hand. As Pavese once requested in his final note to the world, "Don't gossip too much". Diane Waldman was already listening.


Just back from hiking our back woodlot after a heavy snow overnight and rain at dawn now ended--the hemlock glade hanging heavy, tracks deep and a few visitor chickadees following us up the hill path. One feels in a Rockwell Kent world this way. The spacious surroundings despite all woodlands, a stark livelihood and a snot cleansing goodness. Everything that comes to the reader in the quite beautiful Distant Shores: The Odyssey of Rockwell Kent by Constance Martin (Univ of Calif, 2000) cl: a companion volume for a traveling exhibition of the artist's wilderness art organized by the Norman Rockwell Museum in Massachusetts. Wilderness, meaning, Kent's sojourns the heartiest way possible to far off lands like Greenland, Alaska, Newfoundland and Maine. He took his young son with him to Alaska and wrote a modern bush classic in Wilderness. Twenty-five years ago Susan and I took an off-season mailboat to Kent's once island home of Monhegan, a place back then still over seen by a crusty fishing community. We were put up for a few days in the loft space of a lobsterman and his shrewd wife. She was one of a half-dozen  self-elected "officials" who met the mailboat just to eye-up who was unloading off the deck along with gas tank canisters and other supplies. She sniffed we two woodlanders over with other lady hens and when finding out exactly who we were and where we were staying (with her!) all arms opened, a bit. That evening, with darkness spread over the village like a jam and each home perked up with a dim light by generators, we visited over the constant hum of the motor. The next two days we scaled the shoreline and cliffs and hiked every pathway crossways and longways of the tiny island. It was on these hikes we found the two twin homes Rockwell Kent built by his own hands, and the much larger and elegant one for his mother. When we were there, Jamie Wyeth owned the house. His motorboat bobbed like a toy in the clutch of harborside fishing vessels. To top things off, in the hut-size library for the island, we found two volumes of Frank Samperi on the dark corner shelves. Presences speak. And everywhere Rockwell Kent went he left a trail. It was quite something to stroll the Norman Rockwell Museum and mix it up with an eager crowd of well wishers trying their best to get it straight that Rockwell Kent and Norman Rockwell weren't the same, never mind the clashing politics and social themes of their art work. Kent was in that one of a kind socialist don't-tread-on-me leanings that came with John Reed, Diego Rivera and other culprits who, when at work, the heavens broke open. He left a self-inflicted paper trail to rival Richard Millhouse Nixon's, in book form, detailing all adventures to his first passion of mountains and the sea. Constance Martin gathers a brilliant summation here. Kent, in his austere romance of grandiose dreamscape and frostbit modernism , will only take you further.


A few more stocking-stuffers since all Woodburner readers are St. Nick believers, right?


Land's End, a walk in Provincetown by Michael Cunningham (Crown 2002) cl.$16: nothing like a book that lives up to its sub-title. This is a very charming book, mixing excellent prose ruminations with dashes of selected poems from poets living by the sea. Not to worry, Cunningham is gay, so he covers that Provicetown scene without blinking and likewise probes the region's enduring history of Portuguese settlers, fishing community and break-neck art colony. It all lasts to this day. Remember, the Pilgrims landed here first.


For Writer's Only by Sophy Burnham (Ballantine,1994) cl.$15.50: but I found my copy, used, for $5. It is one of those nutty books no one should take seriously but this one you should--a garden variety of memorable quotes and wise-sayings by a cross range of writers, plus the author has her own good sense of observations and asides on the writing life. Or as the most famous insect once squealed about his writing life: You do not even have to leave your room. Remain sitting at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait. Do not even wait, be still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet. (Franz Kafka)


Speaking of ecstasy, try Nick Tosches, The Last Opium Den (Bloomsbury 2000) cl.$12.95: his fiction doesn't do that much for me but every inch of every book of Tosche's nonfiction is worth its weight in gold. From his portraits of Sonny Liston, Jerry Lee Lewis, Dean Martin or Emmett Miller, and now this postcard size book on opium to light your hair on fire. I'd give anything to have been the fly on the wall when Tosche's came to pitch any of the above book proposals--he seems to go out of his way to find the least interesting subject for market appeal and then proves everyone wrong and writes a barn-burner, capsuling a brave new world in each book. Hard luck stories each but the history of boxing is in the Liston, the crazy American "success story" with Jerry Lee, the 20th century immigrant tale with Dino and the "mongrel bloodlines of country and blues, of jazz and pop, of all that we know as American music" as Tosches writes from his book, Where Dead Voices Gather, on the mysterious yodeling blackface performer Miller. It shouldn't matter that you don't like yodeling, you should be still hung up on the briars of that book title. The opium book is a breathless 74 pages, or one should say 74,000,000 miles, starting with an opening line You see, I needed to go to hell, and by gum, he does! Imagine a Ralph Waldo Emerson Nothing is accomplished without enthusiasm bred with Hunter Thompson at his crackerjack level, and you have it. Prize winning denizens please take notice.


                                             -- Bob Arnold


P.S. it's only money, but imagine the multi-millions recently presented to Poetry (Chicago) being shared with the small press community living on skid-row. What a thought! And oh yes, Dana Gioia: your wondering if there was any poet of note ever from Los Angeles? little Charles Bukowski was from Los Angeles, where he remains king.






by Bob Arnold


Music is continuous; only listening is intermittent --Thoreau


REVERSIBLE MONUMENTS, Contemporary Mexican poetry ed: Monica de la Torre & Michael Wiegers, Copper Canyon, 2002 $20. pb:

One of the finest anthologies you will now find on the market no matter the country or poets. This is done well by both editors, and along the way they asked Eliot Weinberger for an introduction which would be worth your time to read while standing up in any bookshop, then buy the book. Here is but a dose of Weinberger gliding through with one paddle stroke: "Mexico, after all, is a huge country with a large peasant population, overwhelming poverty, and widespread illiteracy. The poets - with the exception of a vibrant poetry scene on both sides of the frontera, and an emerging movement of poets writing in the indigenous languages - generally come from a middle or upper-class educated elite that is mainly concentrated in Mexico City...They inhabit a small world, but one that strikes me as larger than the world in which American poets live. American poets are more diverse in their geographical and economic backgrounds, but they tend to live in a cloistered universe of other poets, poetry readers, and writing students. Mexican poets...are intellectuals _ a class that essentially does not exist in the U.S. - in a segment of the society that takes a nationalistic pride in intellectual accomplishments. Quite unlike the situation in the U.S., educated people who are not poets would be embarrassed to admit they hadn't read an important poet's work." And there's much more where that came from. Plus a frontier of poems. Stir that into your tea.


EDWARD WESTON, THE LAST YEARS IN CARMEL, David Travis (The Art Institute of Chicago, 2001) Clothbound:

144 pages & 108 tritone reproductions: these are the last photographs of Weston's life ranging between the years 1938-1948 when the artist had returned to live and work in Carmel, California and again exploring the regions of Point Lobos and Big Sur. Never mind revealing his own personal struggles with Parkinson's disease, a souring marriage and the domestic background of his sons leaving for military duty during World War 2. Few have been able to find people and landscape as one like Weston. Further readings proven beneficial would be Charis Weston's 1998 memoir, Through Another Lens--behind the scenes during these last productive years of EW by art wife and muse; or for a shorter rendition: Francine Prose's The Lives of the Muses (Harper Collins 2002) offering illuminating portraits of Charis Weston, Lee Miller, Lou Andreas Salome & others on the subject of partners and collaborators within the angel muse. We get married to continue a conversation --Ford Madox Ford.


SHOOTING BLIND, photographs by the visually impaired (Aperture 2002) Clothbound $35. Introduction by Edward Hoagland:

This unique collection made by Seeing with Photographs--an ensemble of photographers with visual impairment--has an immediacy that is spellbinding. Cover photograph, through Hoagland's straight-talk, and fascination page by page, one is introduced to an old technique called "painting with light" where flashlights are used to illuminate subjects during long exposures in darkness. Quick similarities may be drawn to Man Ray's rayographs, the work of Clarence John Laughlin, Ralph Eugene Meatyard and others but there is something less crystallized here and more personally charged.What may be termed a luminous distortion is actually the way things are. Interviews with each photographer accompany the text which I find thoroughly wholesome and generous of the publisher. The photographers are Mark Andres, Esmin Chen, Stephen Dominquez, Steven Erra, Victorine Floyd Fludd, John Gardner, Roseann Kahn, Marty King. Arthur Krieck, Peter Lui, Alfredo Quintero. All new to me no more.


THE POET'S NOTEBOOK, excerpts from the notebooks of 26 American poets (Norton 1995) ed: Stephen Kuusisto, Deborah Tall, David Weiss:

Unlike the less known photographers above, this book's premise is stacking-up fairly well known American poets and their squiggle sheets. Most of it is forgettable, most of the contributors teach and think alike and you can almost wander willy-nilly and read as you want and forget which poet is saying what. But you'll realize when you are in the smarts of Simic, the in-field chatter of Hall, the movement of Harjo, the care of Bell, Kennedy and Matthews, inventive Hollo, the field-guide of Oliver, but read at your whim. Some of the quotes and musings are well worth requoting.


A FEW MUSIC PIECES: Faith in Time, the life of Jimmy Scott by David Ritz Da Capo 2002, $25:

In the early 80s, suffering from a debilitating depression, Marvin Gaye was found holed up by this biographer with one music tape that he held dear because it consoled him. No, it wasn't Sam Cooke but it was Jimmy Scott. Most recently seen in Ethan Hawke's film Chelsea Walls,long ago in the Lionel Hampton stable,a voice like no other. And miraculously ignored by too many jazz experts.This book looks and reads clean and eloquent all the way through. CD: Total Lee! The songs of Lee Hazlewood (2002): this is a beaut. A 16 tune tribute to the old LA-Sweden cowboy with everyone from Lambchop, The Webb Brothers to Evan Dando and Sabrina Brooke and a bunch of others I never heard of and now gladly am enlightened. Hazlewood joins the good time with candid observations about each song in an accompanied booklet. CD: The Executioner's Last Songs, Vol 1. The Pine Valley Cosmonauts (2002): making songs of murder, mob-law & cruel, cruel punishment in the realm of myth, memory and history to benefit The Illinois Death Penalty Moratorium Project--sounds better than filling the filthy coffers of music moguls, eh? Thick gorgeous renditions on many horrible and haunting themes. And along with the Cosmonauts are helping hands by Steve Earle, Rosie Flores, Diane Izzo and many more remarkable ones. Take a test run and just listen to Christa Meyer & Tim Kelley of Puerto Muerto do The Hangman's Song and that should do it for you.Interview: Carson Arnold's interview with Dredd Foole (Dan Ireton) may be read at: H(ear). Origins for this interview derived from Carson writing a tad feisty review of one of Dredd Foole's performances with musical guests the Din. No one in the world seemed to give the review the time of day except, naturally, all those involved. In came mainly pissy letters from that brethren with the same hopeless whining that: being "experimental", and not commercial, they are thus bulletproof. Heads up,though,to Dredd Foole who wrote back a spirited note to equal Carson's zip & zeal. One thing led to another and this interview in a public place ensued. It isn't The Paris Review, but both players reveal a contagious fearlessness of musicians capable of meeting, conversing and often disagreeing in good sport. Refreshing. ISIS, a Bob Dylan Anthology ed. Derek Barker (Helter Skelter, UK. 2001) $19.95: should already be testament to any Dylan fanatic but this is the best-of essays & interviews selected out 16 years and 100 issues of rolling thunder. With photographs. Interviews include Dylan's parents, Martin Carthy, collaborators and friends from early Minnesota days to the present. CAN'T BE SATISFIED, the life and times of Muddy Waters by Robert Gordon (Little, Brown) $25.95: It seems to never leave the bottom shelf of the town library I visit. A shame. Short of the recordings, a visit to Rolling Forks, Ms., and having known MW personally, this has to be one of the best tributes ever. The best I know in print. Along with bright, extensive notes that are inseparable from the text, you'll want to dig in. Nick Tosches is the only other writer I can think of that could write a book as straight-ahead, inventive and thoroughly researched, without getting all wheels stuck in the mud. With photographs; and heck, a foreword by someone named Keith Richards.


G IS FOR GRANITE, Marie Harris and illus. by Karen Busch Holman (Sleeping Bear Press, 2002) $17.95:

Did you know the first, free publicly supported library in the US was established in Peterborough, NH in 1833? or that the strongest wind ever measured in the US laid into New Hampshire's Mount Washington at 231 miles per hour? I'm a neighbor and knew one and didn't know the other, so imagine what you might learn from this splashy, wide-awake book all about New Hampshire. Classified as juvenile but ideal to read aloud and learn along with any youngster.


THE COLONIAL ERA, an eyewitness history, Faith Jaycox (Facts on File 2002):

the author has an intriguing family tree that she shares with the reader on the dedication page...mostso Sarah Kirby (Allen), a Quaker who in 1657 spoke publicly in a religious meeting and was sentenced by staunch Plymouth Colony officials to a whipping for "opposing and abusing" the male minister. Faith Jaycox does even better--she speaks her mind from the years 1565, when Spain founded the first permanent European settlement in North America, to 1776 when Common Sense by Thomas Paine appeared. The book is first sight magnificent, bold and handsomely laid out with photographs, maps, biographies of hundreds of key figures, documents of the Mayflower Compact and the Declaration of Independence plus the highlight of the book--eyewitness accounts by diary, speeches, newspaper articles, letters clearly aligned with Jaycox's companionable essays. Send it to the President.


FROM QUARRY ROAD, Paul Metcalf (Amandla Press, 2002) pb. $20:

If Faith Jaycox and Paul Metcalf didn't know one another, they should have. Where these days the Americana spirits in music attest to Ives, Copeland, Paul Robeson,Jelly Roll Morton and Harry Smith (every serious musician has these) so too every writer worth his two-cents should have Paul Metcalf. He is one of the last mavericks in a world, long before academic tenure, that included an ilk such as Jaime de Angulo, Gertrude Stein, Scott Nearing, Henry Miller, Lenny Bruce, Harry Partch, George Seldes, Dorothy Day, Lorine Niedecker, Cid Corman and I'm not talking subject matter here, rather that certain independent quality. There are only 300 copies of this book printed and you can easily read it through an afternoon like I did. Selected essays on subjects from Michel Butor to Todd Moore. It's a short book but somehow I felt like I'd walked through an orchard because Metcalf was always more a scholar who walked outdoors with a book under his arm. His essay Geography and Culture is included and should be required reading. Editor Robert Buckeye has ingeniously included excerpts from personal letters of Metcalf: I guess what bothers me most about what {the Language poets} do is not what they do, but all that's left out. Passion, emotion, history, place, human relations, geographical realities, etc. It's all one electronic abstraction. Shit, man, no erections. I must say, I've never heard it summed up quite this way or as well. Unfortunately, the excerpts abruptly disappear halfway into the book only to have me begging for more. Though for more spice, Jonathan Williams does the preface to the book. Because we live in strange times, the collected three-volume Paul Metcalf (Coffee House Press) may be found in some quarters at the same price as this much smaller book. Don't be a fool. Buy them all.


If, like me, you were just watching a fly away documentary on the making of the John Huston film The Night of the Iguana and wanted to know exactly where the film was shot, then THE WORLDWIDE GUIDE TO MOVIE LOCATIONS by Tony Reeves (A Capella 2001) pb $19.95 is for you. Chocked with photographs, maps and mind boggling research right down to the last detail which often seems the case for the film fanatic. Mexico; Puerto Vallarta to be exact. A statue of John Huston is there, along with some of the stone buildings from the film. Burton and Taylor were at the height of their romance; they bought separate houses thereabouts, joined by a bridge, on a hilly neighborhood called 'Gringo Gulch'. The film was actually shot 6 miles out of town at Mismaloya Beach. Too much of nothing unless you take it seriously. There are over 400 pages of this wonderful pastime. Wanna guess where Blue Velvet was shot? The author will take you by the hand building to building.


EVERYMAN'S LIBRARY POCKET POETS: a highly attractive series and usually a nice find when checking through the poetry shelves of any bookstore. I must have bought a dozen over the years ranging from the theme of Animal Poems, Love Poems, Erotic Poems, Persian Poems, Rimbaud, Blake etc., literally postcard size in shape, and yes, easy to slip into a pocket. Something the creators lifted from Lawrence Ferlinghetti's Pocket Poets series at City Lights in San Francisco. Great to see the editors finally land onto an anthology of Beats: BEAT POETS, ed., Carmela Ciuraru (Everyman's Library/Knopf, 2002) cl. $12.50: fairly well represented since the likes of Ray Bremser starts things off but why in the world is Marie Ponsot here other than her first book was published by City Lights? And I doubt she would mind if her fine poems were replaced for another anthology and the poems of Jack Micheline be slipped in where they belong? Never mind adding Ed Sanders, Ted Joans, Kirby Doyle, Barbara Moraff, Janine Pommy Vega and the usual suspects that are too often forgotten. The most dynamic photograph of Jack Kerouac performing graces the cover. It's by beat photographer Fred McDarrah and it's been used a million times over. And it still catches my eye. Adding the letters, encounters & statements on poetics was a smart touch. POEMS OF THE AMERICAN WEST, ed. Robert Mezey (2002) cl. $12.50: is a bit more disturbing. Reach for a book on this subject and it better crackle. First off, don't be a stupid editor and leave out William Everson and Ed Dorn. How does Mezey sleep at night after pulling this stunt? Then don't make things worse and include nine poems by your good friend and colleague Dick Barnes (a good enough poet) when we're all still pissed off about these obscene omissions... then fall onto the same two measly poems always given to Gary Snyder (terrific as they are) as if Snyder never wrote past the age of 25! It shouldn't be a secret by now that there is a whole underworld of wilderness poets world-wide who have learned from Gary Snyder. I like the quirky misstep reading through the table of contents and seeing tribal poems and folk songs, even country & western lyrics, but jesus man, spice the punch up and give the reader a segment of Jaime de Angulo Indian Tales (don't be nervous: it's poetry!), then get out of the valley of California and discover the American West (since that is the theme of the book) from New Mexico to Utah to the Pacific Rim in the poets of Robert Sund, Keith Wilson, Simon Ortiz, Dale Smith, Tim McNulty, Mike O'Connor, Sam Hamill, Alan Chong Lau, Joanne Kyger. This book is an almost disaster; it's degree of skill by including excellent and refined poets and some who should never be forgotten (like Bert Meyers, Peter Everwine and Ted Kooser) is admirable but not at the expense of downright ignoring the wild bunch. What's worse, I know Robert Mezey knows better. One of the best poems in the book on California just has to be by Charles Foster on page 94. Thanks for that; could of done with many more.


A PALPABLE ELYSIUM, portraits of genius and solitude by Jonathan Williams. intro by Guy Davenport (Godine 2002) gate fold softcover. $30: hands down fascinating and elegant. Worth a half-week's groceries. Photographs / text by the grand maestro of Jargon Press joined at the hip with one of the last benchmarks of independent publishers, David Godine, and you get something quite wonderful and downright human. Color photographs with an intimate chatty text meeting the shakers & makers from Henry Miller to Stevie Smith, Lou Harrison to Jack Spicer standing on a pile of logs... and other like spirits. If there's a poet in your life, don't hesitate, give this book.


--Bob Arnold



Allow the President to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion...and you allow him to make war at pleasure. --Abraham Lincoln






Where we have never been is real -- Jack Spicer


Just to update everyone that I skipped the summer 'woodburning' (no wood needed to burn) and am about to return sometime this Fall with a full schedule of reviews. Books have been read at a regular clip but all other activity shifted to other jobs--working on two large houses--one requiring extensive jacking and renovation repairs and then each house was painted. I had the crew with me on most of the work, meaning Susan and Carson. So plenty of good music was on hand. The house jacking was done by Bob with Carson learning the ropes. I was glad to have him since working in only a foot clearance under a house is best left for gophers and rabbits but Carson was truly handy at grabbing tools, rolling jacks into place, moving sleeper joists along. The only way under was for each of us starting a trench at the opposite sides of the house and meeting somewhere under there. Shortly after mincing that job we began a small studio and like all studios I have built over 35 years it began with a glowing notion of Thoreau's idyll in size and then became hopelessly carried away. Unlike Thoreau's, this one has a loft that you can stand in, many more windows, an old glass door, skirted with dry stone and comes together at just about the same square footage...if you count his root-cellar, which this won't have. Like the larger cottage Carson and I built over his sophomore-junior year of home-schooling, the studio is a project for his senior year. One month into school and we are half done. Par for the course.


We were also busy stitching booklets over the summer new from Longhouse and lending a hand to our brethren in St. Ives, United Kingdom: Granite Press. From Longhouse comes Cid Corman's prose translation of Maurice Blanchot: The Instant of My Death as an accordion booklet,followed by Frank Samperi's booklet of poems The New Heaven Now. Longhouse is also mighty glad to introduce more readers to John Phillips in his new book Path. A few sticky August days were spent hand-sewing this book along with my own On/Earth from Granite. We had breaks from the sewing by enjoying excursions to one particular yarn store where we asked the opinions of everyone in the store as to color schemes of yarn for the cover and design of these books without having any books in hand! No one seemed bewildered and friends were made. We now are playing with the idea to edit a celebratory booklet of poems for Hayden Carruth and the announcement of his poet laureate position for Vermont. Kept tidy and to be given away in the spirit of don't fence me in. This position for Hayden, to take place state wide in November, is one of the best pieces of news we've heard this year.


First note of business, everyone should now check into David Budbill's website for sound advice on the war the Romans in Washington DC are cooking up for the world. It will begin in Iraq and naturally won't end there. The website: http://www.davidbudbill.com/jme26.html. Therein, will provide phone numbers to call in Washington DC to voice your say, other important connections, pertinent articles and the crucial reasons to be involved. If Bush looks plainly stupid to you, just dare to imagine what is ahead.


I thought I'd share with you an event over last weekend we just happened to hear about the day before and drove into town to see. The Brattleboro Literary Festival. Oh jesus, not one more of those you say? A friend in New York City saw a notice for the event in The New York Times and thought I probably wouldn't go but we had already driven in to catch Galway Kinnell read at 10 AM. Heavenly clear morning and a good crowd slipping into the dank dungeon of The Latchis Theater to hear Kinnell hold us all in the palm of his hand. He has that way. Graceful and most of the audience would have followed him to the moon. Instead they followed him through old favorites, bits of Wallace Stevens, ruminations on Rilke and a demanding, horrific masterpiece by Paul Celan. The Celan would show up a moment later in a puffy and awkwardly long poem on 9/ll by Kinnell. No harm. It had more a feeling of the poet still searching.


It was a fine start to the festival. People came blinking out of the dark theater still an hour from noon, town traffic, full-sun, all the day ahead of everyone and with schedules in hand and a goodly dozen events to march through Saturday and spreading moreso until late Sunday evening. Everything free. Not a teenager in sight (some of this should have been a healthy requirement from the local high-school: who the hell is in charge?!) as this gangly-many-school of-fishes made their way to the next event. All up Brattleboro's main street into little pockets at the town library for Karen Hesse, or at the more intimate Hooker-Dunham Theater for Archer Mayor, or at The Candle in the Night storefront where we caught up with a packed palace of oriental rugs and a standing room only crowd waiting for Saul Bellow. A long time summer resident of Vermont, Bellow was slated to read fiction but ended up squeezing through the crowd to an oak table where he slipped off his cap, ruffled his hair a moment and then looked out at the beaming crowd of worshipers and seemed to wonder a split-second who in the hell's idea was this? 87 years old and quite a boyish appearance and he did very well on a heavy dose of the same questions he has been asked over a long professional life. He held court. It took all of 20 minutes but with everyone standing like sardines it seemed an eternity. A wonderful touch for the festival organizers to have this and my hat is off to everyone because each event we attended was well hosted and with a minimum of malarkey on the introductions. However, the audience's reaction to Bellow may as well have been with the Pope. And he should have given the crowd a brief twirl through Augie or Henderson or Herzog...just to hear those sentences let go.


Business to do elsewhere. Besides, Karen Hesse's talk was room packed and we had insulation and building materials to pick up before closing time so that was enough literary for one day. On the way to the truck we saw people heading to Archer Mayor's talk with his books in hand. A popular mystery writer from these hills. But we had it circled to return early Sunday evening for three poets: David Hinton, F.D.Reeve and Ruth Stone. Quite a grab-bag if you are familiar with each. This was all to take place in New England Youth Theatre,a tiny space that I ate sweet and sour chicken in 25 years ago when it was a Chinese restaurant very new to this part of town. David Hinton was first, working his fine Chinese translations mainly from the T'ang and Sung dynasties, particularly the wilderness poets of that era, but Hinton was too meek on his reading. Too bad. These brief but resounding poems ask for (and give) everything from a reader. F.D. Reeve of Blue Cat poem fame was next and even had a new blue cat to tickle the place with, plus one lovely living/dying poem from an issue of Poetry that was his best piece of the night. But I will remember the night for Ruth Stone. By then the audience had thinned down where it should have thickened. Where were the stalwarts from the Kinnell morning? At exactly the same age as Saul Bellow, Ruth Stone put Bellow to shame by not only reading but courageously with humor, some momentary profanity and a sweetness that struggles with her blindness. Climbing up to the podium with a magnifying glass in hand she set to work and the audience was with her all the way. A truly marvelous half-hour of experiencing an artist showing life as a work-in-progress, with fiercely wrought forgiving lines that waited for its maker to come -- whether with a daughter's help on stage, the magnifying glass,or a rush of sudden memorization. It was one the closest things I've ever witnessed of improvising not from any artistic bent but a life's struggle. Ellen Watson introduced Ruth with a kindness that never left the room.


Now that's the way to end a festival, whether the organizers had this in mind or not. There was a steady thoughtfulness running through the two days thanks to efforts, chosen speakers,and the luck of a small town built for rambling. I was sorry to miss Howard Frank Mosher, Wyn Cooper, Kathryn Davis and some others but I've read them and the century is young.


When Carson isn't banging nails with me he is working on his new music journal of all sorts H(ear) which you can read via: http://www.LonghousePoetry.com/hear.html. The first issue has already sparked feedback from musicians grumpy about some of his viewpoints. A few have shown forth patience & clarity & a willingness to think things through. Thanks for not being cowards.


WOODBURNER WE RECOMMEND: GOOD POEMS ed. Garrison Keillor (Viking 2002, $25). You can't get this title wrong, it's plain dumb simple beauty, and the introduction by Keillor is even better. One of the sparkiest intros from an anthology I've read in some time. I was slapping my knee nodding "yes" over & over again. Finally someone with power in higher places of at least radio and publishing (his weekly five minute radio program The Writer's Almanac is the drawing pool for many of these poems) was singing the praises of Bukowski and Rexroth and Ferlinghetti and Sexton and about all things unpredictable. As if Keillor had risen from a nap and was determined to set it straight on the issue of poetry. He wants good poems, forget the big-names (though many make it in) and if the poem isn't still in his head a day later, no matter who wrote it, he isn't interested. It's very personal and he isn't making any excuses. It's probably a book some poets will hate which has me rooting for it even more, despite the fact swaths of poets (Lang gang etc) are not included and in an even better world, could be. When you go looking for the book in the poetry section of any bookstore it should be easy to find, the cover is butt ugly, like those new translation bibles. So far the poems I have been liking the most are by complete unknowns. Or a jewel of a poem by Robert Lax shortly followed by a laugh out loud parody of Williams and brilliant selections of Emily Dickinson dished here and there.


Oh yes, a final note: Bill you are not one of the lap-top geeks in Carson's music piece--you were on the point making photographs that day and sharing wildly. Thanks again. Michael, thanks for your letter. Mine was written in person that day in early June. Now, no more dead on the other line phone calls, please. Peter & Michelle, sorry we couldn't make your fest. We were putting a roof on that day. At 3 o'clock, believe this or not, we stopped work and cast a "blessing" to your place. Byron, you show class to C., which isn't lost on us. Thanks. But you still owe me a Fahey piece and you're lousy about getting back on Harry Crews books saved for you. More discipline, boy! Thanks again David & Lois for a rousing website. Carson just came downstairs having called Washington DC directing his NO WAR vote on Iraq and the rest of the world. He was bemused by actually talking to a live voice.


That number again for everyone to call today, tomorrow and the day after tomorrow: 202-456-1111. Plus action faraway from any phone lines.


War is hell


-- Bob Arnold

8 October 2002

The next time we meet, any of us, it will be on the ashes of all that we once cherished

- Henry Miller


Earlier Woodburner Reviews - from 2002

A Green Mountain Idyll - Poems for Hayden Carruth


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