Letters, Poems, to Michael Rumaker, 1955-58

John Wieners

Edited by Michael Seth Stewart


In his moving and indispensible memoir Black Mountain Days, Michael Rumaker describes the beginnings of his friendship with the young poet John Wieners, who’d trekked down from Boston to the experimental college to study at the feet of Charles Olson, who would become father figure to both gay students. Wieners had first seen Olson read at the Charles Street Meeting House and became enraptured; a dedicated lyric poet in love with Edna St. Vincent Millay, he was electrified by his new teacher that Spring 1955 term. The two writers, later joined by Ed and Helene Dorn, Joe and Carolyn Dunn, and in Wieners’ second term Robert Duncan, formed intense friendships based in a shared devotion to their writing.

Wieners and Rumaker hit it off immediately, fast allies as young gay boys in the protective yet hyper-masculine Black Mountain world. They formed the kind of friendship that happens between gay men once they’ve realized their attraction is platonic: tender, grounded in a shared history and “in deeply conformist, rabidly homophobic mid-1950s America” (Rumaker 487), a shared fear of the outside world’s authorities and mental institutions, the kinds that would later imprison both writers. But for now there was just the shared joy in the warm (but poor, and hungry) bubble of Black Mountain College.

Wieners’ letters to his new friend begin soon after he returned to Boston, trying desperately to rekindle things with the estranged Dana. Wieners writes eagerly about new struggles and studies, and continues articulating their queer friendship. In one letter Wieners describes the type of love he seeks:

Who wants to unionize. I give all of me, dangerous or not, when the pull is there, when I KNOW all of me is wanted, -- yet I don’t give up me: and for a prize, I get something else added ontop of me, whether it be a body or an emotion. I get supplemented.

This period saw Boston flush with new energy: Jack Spicer had arrived in December for a short stint at the Harvard rare books room, joining his old friend from Berkeley Robin Blaser, who was already working at a branch of the Boston Public Library and thriving among the Cambridge literary crowd that gravitated around the Poets’ Theatre, including Frank O’Hara, who was at Harvard for the Spring 1956 semester (it was working on a play together at the Poets’ Theatre that O’Hara and Wieners struck up their own lifelong friendship). These new arrivals came together with the native Boston poets like Wieners, the Dunns, and Steve Jonas, who together

led lives so louche as to approach a form of magic… uniformly charming, witty, and lovable, they sought poetry by following Rimbaud into a systematic derangement of the senses, a regime which left little time or inclination for ordinary jobs or schedules.[Ellingham and Killian 70-1]

Together they formed what Gerrit Lansing called the “occult school” of Boston poetry, fascinated by the occult but also occulted, hidden on the back side of Beacon Hill while Robert Lowell, Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and their ilk were garnering attention in the more upscale parts of town, institutionalized at the private hospitals. It was a Boston Renaissance that was invisible to many Bostonians, though right under their noses. These letters capture a spirit of joy and adventure that would permeate the next several years of their lives. From there the letters follow Wieners and Rumaker as they both move around the country, Rumaker first to San Francisco, Wieners following a few months later, both writers eventually coming back east. Wieners’ San Francisco letters, written during the Hotel Wentley Poems and 707 Scott Street years, offer a candid look at that fascinating time in literary history, the splendid and harrowing San Francisco Renaissance.

Throughout the letters, we see the growth of a friendship in embattled times, a tender relationship forged in the rigorous classrooms and shaded cottages of Black Mountain, two gay kids sharing their work and pushing one another towards greatness and more authentic lives. Rumaker describes one Black Mountain class from 1955 when he read his story “Exit 3” to the group, including a scene when the male hitchhiker character is kissed by “a drunken Marine.”

“You dare to have the two men kiss like that?” he asked, “And read it out loud?” standing up close to me, speaking in a bit of a shocked whisper so others around us wouldn’t hear, speaking with a smile of admiration, too, tinged with hesitancy… I nodded, smiling goofily in turn. [505]

It is this mix of earnest work, mutual devotion, and joyful discovery that makes Wieners’ friendship with Rumaker so marvelous to follow, and these letters such a pleasure to read.


                                           [Aug 11, 1955]
                                           [Milton, MA]
Dear Michael:

     I got up five minutes ago, washed, went down to see mail (almost psychotic, my need for mail) and opened yours, read, and am excited. How stupid of me to end up with the word ‘clever’. Those things in the story that excite me, (and I call them that,) but I agree with you. Of course they are not clever, but creation.
        I came running up here, all excited to write to you, and I begin and go dry – so to warm up, I will start with my own poems. As you can see, machine is beautiful, better now than ever. And yesterday was first day with it, so typed up all poems written since leaving BM. They come to 11, but like you, I do not know. And the reason for me is, I write them so crazy. I feel hot, or chaotic, so begin writing, and by the finish, it has come out, the thing inside, but they are all written on the moment, and when that ends, usually about 30 mins., I figure, I put it aside, not forgotten, but really unable to touch it again, until I am forced to, or the deadline I have set in my mind has been reached, and then I take them all, and spend an afternoon or a day, tightening, working out lines, watching words, matching words, --- all sort of mechanical and I could do this, over and over, if I have hit a poem that still excited me – like the ‘wreck’ poem, or poems OTHER people seem to be interested in – thus, even those ones from BM have been tightened and mostly always – shortened, brought down to essentials. I hope. I will send the poems off to Olson, probably tonight, also some to you, O.K. and the copy of the ‘wreck’ which I am happy to give.
        Back to what you have said --- true; / maybe we are talking about same things, but the crux to remember is that if you feel someone has to go, let them, all the way, even though reality might stand in this way. Now what is reality – my using it here I guess means, making people real as they are expected to be, following the laws of real, as we know it, or as the readers know it, or as you know it – rather than letting Billy suddenly (this is nuts) sprout wings and fly.    I think I have said it, there.     If I wrote, and I dried in the writing, then I would take this way OUT, and it would be easy for me, and maybe this is fault.   I think you have told me your ‘raison d’etre’ of writing, and I agree with you.     Yeah, you are more than right – ‘that kind of fantasy is backboneless to me, doesn’t give the imagination a chance to set its teeth into: to something solid: this earth, what’s in it’.
        I wish we could touch like that,[1] sexually, but until this other one dies in my eyes, even after, I am no good, I am afraid of taking off my clothes in front of anybody else – HEY – maybe that’s why homosexual love or homosexual sex is SOMETHING – because it’s not a blending but a give and going back, each remaining separate, yet, god knows, in contact. And thus, the act is not selfish, as I have been told by the ‘soul-saving’ set, when they tell me, “there is no union, only a giving, so one may take.” Who wants to unionize. I give all of me, dangerous or not, when the pull is there, when I KNOW all of me is wanted, -- yet I don’t give up me: and for a prize, I get something else added ontop of me, whether it be a body or an emotion. I get supplemented.

All that really matters is that the dry spell has broken, and always will break, you want it to that much, so I remember, you writing that you got up every morning, hoping something begins and nothing does, but you must know (you probably do) that the mornings may stretch into months, without it, still it’s there in you – all you need is patience, in those times only, on the hot days, patience with nobody or nothing. viz. Brancusi quote – you remember – 85th Canto, I think, something like, those days when I would not give 15 mins. of my time to anything under heaven.[2]
        I know who this unrequited love is of yours, the one watching the dancers, I can’t see it myself, and I hope you do get tough; so there looks like nothing there, but don’t get hard, hardness means, I suppose, no holes to let it out, use it and then you escape from the dying you. You know I say these things, as much for myself, as for you.  I do feel though that all of us, in this, can hear this stuff from each other, it’s our duty to each other, remind each other to keep holes open, mostly through our finger-tips.
        Now some news about my plans for Sept.  Tomorrow, Dana and I resume apt. hunting on Beacon Hill, something high up, with lots of space and windows.  Looked at something in a god-awful tenement, with an hallway, indescribable – 5 flights up, 5 rooms, $55.00 a month.   It is too much to pay, so we are eating the landlady down, a Mrs. McGonagle, who is fine as she don’t care what us boys do at night, in fact wants us to make so much noise so as to evict the widow downstairs and her four children.   If we can have it at $45.  we will take it, and the rooms are wonderful, big and a lot of walking space, and room for guests, which I enjoy, especially if from BM.   If you can do it for a week, Mike, do it – bus fare from Boston to NY is $5.75, and a midnight train – roundtrip – is less – the Owl, a vacation special. You know, Dana[3] will drive all who can fit, and who want to, back from BM to the North.  So far, Herb Ross asked and Joe and Carolyn said – as far as NY, that is, if they don’t get an extension of loan.   Things are indefinite there. I know, so make no plans, simply realize that a car will be available for four or so, if they want it.
        I am like at the end of a poem, so goodbye for a while and write as soon you want to.
        Big polio epidemic here, 80 cases a day, and I have a stiff neck, so begin building an oxygen tank for my arrival.
                        My love,

You Can’t Kill These Machines[4]

Only a paper moon hanging
a smashed up body by a squeezed car,
chopped bones and their moaning as sweet music plays
body and soul                on the road with blood
                       on our arms.
A hundred feet up the street his watch
and further a door handle, some chrome
     while somebody sits on him to keep his head whole
          somebody says his sides are coming out of his shirt.

You, dying under this moon, what would it be for you
on an old road with nobody to hold you,
blackd eyes and mashed hands.

They can carry this other body off,
                                      out of my eyes,
pick up, put in his sides, piece his watch,
but your hair gold in the headlight
chin also
high cheek clean in the beamlight,
                            this is not in my eyes.

Silver silk is the skin I love to
                                  and thru
the bedroom went the whispering and laughing and lighting
of matches.
              Don’t let the matches
go for it comes, fear of
shall it be alone or together we get it
some starry blue night
on what highway?

As long as my blood grows cold on the skin I love to
and your good leg is on mine
and a hundred feet up the ditch
somebody else brushes off our mouths,
who cares.

                                A copy for Michael Rumaker            from John Wieners
                                                who was there                          August, 1955

*  *  *

Ode to the Instrument
I have wanted to write a love poem like the river merchant’s,
and call:                I miss your arms under my ear,
small words like sad song, running wine,
there are cold sheets.

I write the news:
we found and ate red plums today, rain, the rivers are full.
I saw your name in a book.
On the deck where I danced one morning
                                             I heard you
in the frogs with rain on leaves.
Saturday night I laid down in it,
then walked back wet hoping you were home
                                                  to dry me.
Bring curtains for the bedroom.

Why shouldnt it be where?                                                  again.
It is thirteen days now
they bury men on the third.
                              No words are better than bitter word
                              bitter word is you live.
When we step on moths,
do they feel the rip,
I mean does it last?

I wanted to send a love poem.

All I stamp is me with no chains on
how do I go through tonight?
When you’re little you can go sleepy bye bye
and no big feet follow.
But I have put away, I am a man
from laying out my face
in the rain
in the hours where you were.

If you are coming down on the Blue Mountain Skyway,
please mail it soon
and I will come out to meet you
                as far as Philadelphia.

for Michel, if he will pardon the sloppiness,
and take it to say Thank You.

*  *  *

Out my window
runs the Neponset, a river enough to be written,
(but bloody from my baby wounds)
Phlox flowers, purple for any passage
or page or poem or whatever
(planted because Mrs. Reddington had yellow phlox)
Green grow the oak trees, giant leaves for publication
(beatings from their branches is not in content or text)
Christmas star, christmas trees, mistletoes and holly
but mother under everything in festival paralysis)
Old linoleum
                (she laid on that also
only it was daddy who kept her there those times)
My sister (but she cries at night)
My mates, play and otherwise,
Yes I can sing of tornado nights on fire
With black passion and no dawn
mouths that bleed from kissing.
Oh it was love love love
on our bedroom bathroom living room walls
(but that house full and go boom in the 39 winds)

It seems there’s nothing to sing out
this boyhood window

                        except her
                        across the street in the blue bushes
                        my lady of the gold cloak
                        stringing silver bow and arrows
                        wanting eyes
                        waiting for me as for no other.

My voice:
        Mother at your feet is kneeling
        One who loves you is your child
        Mother your altar boy is singing
        In sob syllables of sugar breath
        Mother cross my hands and hope to
        appropriate me from the living.

                                Wieners, 55



                                           December 2, 1955
                                           [17 Irving St. Apt. 9. Boston]
Dear Michael:
        Finally I can write to you, for now 1) this 2 mos. hocked typewriter is back in my cold study 2) the 3 mos. shade of inactivity, boredom, squabble and doubt is over. I have come alive again, Mike, for the first time since leaving Black Mt., that is, really alive, now over a period of one week duration, while before it was only spurt, die, spurt, cry, and the spurting was short and far between the dying, etc.   Dana and I live in five rooms on the 5th floor of a slum, but it is long and light, with steam heat and an extra bed, for week, weekend, or overnight guests. This means you! But more important, I am coming to New York on Friday, Dec. 9th, through Sunday, Dec. 11th, with the Poets’ Theater. No, not acting, not writing, only some sort of stand-in, errand-runner, lackey, usher-type post, but all very exciting for me, and the REAL reason for my activist state.   The show is Finnegans Wake, adapted for speakers and chorus by Mary Manning,[6] etc. etc. and to be presented at the Poetry Center Saturday, Dec10th, and Sunday matinee, Dec11th.  Herb is acting the role of Finnegan, and he too will be in the city, // we hope, staying at the Dunns, address, I think, 407 W. 23rd St.
        I have begun a one-act play, finished it too,[7]  am still on unemployment, or didn’t you know, since Sept. 20th. Dorn was right, that one never starves in this society.[8] I get 19.00 a week for signing my name, and that’s all, but now, the irony, when I have only two weeks to go, I begin to feel like writing again.         NOT a word from me, Mike, all these months, and yet I suffered no great agony. I went to movies, fought, drank, read (a little) etc, but god, what a feeling to be like in the mts. again. It comes on me, usually late at night, like now.   That is why I WANT TO SEE YOU.  I want to talk, just to be around and active with you, sit in Central Park in big over-coats early Sunday morning, walk to the bookstores, ride the bus up Riverside Drive maybe.   I know it’s short notice, but I will manage a place for you to stay, if you can make it.    I have not written to Olson, but have read two letters he sent to other people in Boston, one to a young insane friend of mine, a religious (he preaches on Boston Common) near-fanatic, who sent Olson a 20 page poem[9] about his insanity, his family tree, his memories of his shuffled childhood, his internment 5 doors from his mother in the same asylum, and Olson showed to Creeley and they are publishing it all in Black Mt. Review #7, since 6 had gone to press, I hope with the PIPE[10] in it.
        The drive from BM to NY with Olson and Creeley last Sept was the most memorable experience I had except for certain nights at BM.   I suppose I am being sentimental and pleading, but just to walk around a bit together in the cold would be fine!
        And of course, to see Finnegans.
        I was down to NY one weekend lasting five days a month ago, but didn’t go near the Cedar’s[11] or see anyone, except Dunns for 5 mins. as I felt, as explained above.
        About trip up, Creeley spent most of it sleeping but Olson and I talked in Back seat re everything from landscape to poetry, or rather he talked.
        There is so much to talk of, and it can only be done together in person. Also I will have a food allowance from the Poets’ so we can share that, thus if you are broke, and you are, no doubt, this would help.  Bring manuscripts you think we or you would like to show, and I will bring some, too.
        You show yours and I’LL show mine.
        Another quick and forgive me, dear Mike, for not writing before. I know since you have gone thru it all you understand (the only word I can find) while I was at the top, you down, re avoidance and contact. PS. Don’t worry about building up a reserve for the weekend, as it will be quiet, and I will make no demands.
        DANA TOO.                        My love,        JOHN

                                           December 11, 1955
My dearest Mike:
        I have just returned from New York, my faded blue coat still on, and your recent-read letter beside me. So I answer to write now, right now, that exactly I knew what I was doing, about you thinking I expected something from you, and my last goddam line was, don’t build up any reserve for this, I’ll have enough for both. Right?
        Of course, spontaneity would be killed, and is, by romanticizing over the past, and therefore always running running after and over losing the wonder of the present. I didn’t rely on anything from the past for us, our meeting, I JUST wanted TO SEE YOU AGAIN, YOU ME AGAIN, and walk in grey overcoats in Central Park????(why grey overcoats, why Central Park), just my idea of what eventually or bringing it to now, what naturally we should do.
        I felt I wanted to say that to you before I went to bed, so now I will take off my blue coat and sleep.
A little news:
I do not hear from Ed Dorn and doubt if I ever will, I never will have anything to say to him to prompt an answer, I am sure, yet I miss them both very much, have nightmares on subject. I want his address, if you will send it, Mike, it will give me maybe some night, when drunk, the chance to send a letter.
In New York, finally bought In The American Grain.[12]
I suppose you have seen Creeley’s new book, Robbery,[13] even if it is signed.
Jo and Carolyn very unsteady together. He is going back to BM in January, she in March, fighting like crazy.
Lorraine and Harvey to be married this Sunday.    Baby in April.
   And like the boy and girl from the fairy tales, she looks like a madonna, truly, her face all clean and very radiant.  She never has looked lovelier, as they probably say in your Ad Agency.
                                        Goodnight, now, Mike.

                                           [March 2, 1956]
                            The new March, ‘56
Dear Michel:

        I am writing this, because it is three in the morning, and I feel I have to write, but am dry of “inspiration,” yet the mind is going. Why I am dry of the poem is, yesterday, I sent off to Olson, the play, all the poems, 3 or 4 finished ones, since October!, a batch of un-done ones, and the great impetus of getting all these things ready for him produced in me 2, maybe three, I think of the best things I have ever done.
        I don’t know what they are. Poems – or prose – or super-real or what. I can’t hardly remember writing them, I mean, what was in them, only that I desperately wanted to speak to him. And I am still in the euphoria of accomplishment.
        Olson once said to me that most Americans bored him, because they refused to deliver the goods of soul. It is true. I didn’t know it at the time, but now I do, having read more of the contemporary…
So I am going at people like Cocteau – The Diary of an Addict, or the formal – Opium, the diary of an addict.[14]
                Appolinaire; selected writings – ed and trans. by Roger Shattuck, one of the “Cambridge poets” hereabouts, real base and academic stuff the introduction, but Guillame? himself is very exciting.[15]  It is a New Directions book. Another one of Cocteau’s is “Call to Order” critical essays up to 1926 with a fine one in it re Picasso, who himself is a delight.

I turn to these men only for the reason of exasperation with that which is at hand, namely the Donald Hall’s and the Richard Wilbur’s[16] surrounding me in this sterile Boston, or rather, it is Cambridge area.

Also the little (125 pages) of Jane Harrison’s prolegomena[17] has been opening the new world.

And Lawrence – The fantastic Kangaroo, the most exciting novel I have ever read, oh that is so inadequate. I say, I experience all of Kangaroo because of Lawrence – that it// the experience of “Kangaroo” has been great, quantity-wise.
                Also of course, the approaching of June, the realization that I shall soon be a part again of this budding thing, this thing on the black mountain, not Olson alone, but what he grows there, out of the dirt in his fingernails, as I say in a poem to him ‘The Big Man on the Mountain’.
                the blood of him his wheeze on me
                his dirty fingernails
                with violets in their dirt
                I pick and hand to you

My own life is good. The last week working nights until seven in the morning, that is, writing, then sleep, and take my morning walk under neon lights, going the other way from the boys and girls returning from the typewriters. The life, of course, which excites me, the life of counter current.

But if I get to the black mt., I have to have money, so the last two days I have tried to find work, and so depressing, if I let it, which don’t, but still an agony, I have to go through. To counter-set it, I went on a binge tonight at the library, with abt. 10 books, all exciting, which I dip or rip into middle, end, beginning.
        Tomorrow the pavements.
        June the world.
But I want
        very much to hear about you, and whether you have made yourself well again.
                And of course, the writing, maybe some of the poems, if any, you have done, you could send, as I possibly could help on them, that sounds pompous, but at least, I cd. make a critique on them, but I wd. like to get something, which I wd. return, so don’t worry abt. making a special carbon.  Just something to make you alive to me again.   I am a funny one for that.  With you least of all, though.  All the others are dead.  Tom,[18] a little breathing, and Dorn much more, but still not alive, so I can’t write to a dead man.  I wish I could write to him, and he wd. send pictures of Fred, or Helene – no no – that is so sentimental of me, but still, whether they have changed.
        Your mention that he might come east is exciting. to get settled. Maybe he is only 250 miles away, as I write.
        The more I read of Lawrence, the more I see Lawrence in Dorn. I think of them together, often. The walk Dorn had, that walk as if he was going through underbrush.

        Well, now I wait for Olson, maybe no answer until I see him in June, and I hope he is there (any inform. you have re this I would love to hear) but I think from the nature of stuff I sent, I will get an answer.   It was immediate, and I hope, lift him under the arms, like he said of one of my poems, once did.
        The BMR?   When? I never know on this St. Williams Island. Are you sending others out?  I sent two early RHYMED and traditional trashy poems to the NYer and 4 days later, had a rejection slip. That is all.  But I do want publication, somehow, maybe, it’s only the need of the winter, which the high mt. air will cure.
                I have talked enough, yet still I can’t sleep, I am doomed to another dawn, but I send this now, so I can have your answer, I hope soon/
        Thank you for the pleasure you gave me in your letter re “Asphodel”. I think what it did for you, your letter of joy did for me.

        What I tried to do was to show that LOVE survives in hell’s despite, in the lovers’ despite, in the audience’s – that with our hate, it is love, with our selfishness, it is love, with each generation, each recurrence of the pattern, each dialogue, each triteness and lust, it is still there, as DH said, the call, and the answer.  In the 2nd version, this is clarified and a happy note, is that BM or rather Herb wants to do it this summer, from which I will learn so much, and which will be exciting.
                        My love to you, very warm now,

                                           December 28. 1956

One of the dearest:   Michael,  (there aint many)

        I write to you first because you’re the easiest, because I don’t have to say anything that does not fit me to say, and also because your letter has given me things to say, or will after I re-read it in the middle of this.  I haven’t written since Sept., letters that is, except one to an old school Army buddy, so this is foreign ground.
        And the poem comes in spurts, as it always has, except how there’s never any time to pick it up again, or so much else comes in and masks its face, that it just becomes a pile of paper in the left hand corner. I work at Lamont five days, and six every two weeks out of three. And of course I have nights but “things” happen, and I’m not anywhere where the poem is.   So where do I go.   Nowhere.  Until next September 1th, nine months away (I don’t believe in the pregnancy period of the writer anymore) and then what. It will be San Francisco, but somehow it smells a little too much like home. Yet it might turn over, and to see all the many again, will do things, and Dana hopes there will be enough to see me in school  LIBRARY SCHOOL.   Anyway to get off the old rocking horse of tears.   I saw Connie Olson again  (without earrings)   and all done up in grey, very beautiful from out of space coming back from lunch hour (hers) she had been to Daddy and Jacks to find stuff for Kate’s[19] stocking, and they have a house, and I was walking up the hill of Tremont Street, very wide sidewalks, the street falling away on one side to the Boston common, and piled up on the other with the grounds and the bricks of the State House itself and I was going very slow and she was at the top, very windy, very small in grey wool stockings and a small grey fur coat and a light shawl wrapped around her head.  I know it sounds strange,  but all there was of Connie was the clean face out of all of the bundling.  She seemed happy and very pleased that she heard from one Mick Rumaker three days before, having thoughts of you that very day, wishing in fact there was a letter from you, and Merry Christmas, there was/  She said she liked the cold, what with the grey rat coat.   Now don’t you write back this description, I still wince about the earrings, but understand how I am about her type of femme, I take them as prototypes,   of me? of who? of where?   I don’t know,   but I do “impart significance” to whether they wear lipstick or not,  or drink whiskey with water or not.  In fact the whole damn sex gets this attitude, at the beginning, anyways.   We will have lunch I hope, but I feel a little at ease, seeing she knows I saw B.K.  O.[20]   but then you all have seen her too, and it don’t matter.
        One thing, Mike, I’ve done a lot of reading, more than ever before in my life, and the place is filled with books, you know, two chapters read, then down, then another, but all staying here, until I get through them.
                Stein: Last Operas and Plays        (The Ma of Us All)[21]  Dr. Faust
                                                   Lights the Lights
                        Autobiog of Alice B. Toklas
                Mary Butts::  The Crystal Cabinet[22]
                Her autobiog. upto the age of 26, very English country and delicate and magical, with the pain that she killed herself 3 weeks after writing it.

And a book I discovered myself which I find now was VOGue, among the [illeg] : : (intellects)
        Denis de Rougemont : :    Love in the Western World,[23] which I am only half thru, but which makes manifest a “disease” of heart, akin to me, and Edna Millay. Pantheon just re-issued it.  $4.50
Yeats’ poetry, and A Vision.
Blake’s PROPHETIC WRITINGS,   anything to wash out my mouth, but not with soap, wash the soap or sperm out. I agree, soap opera and of course all subsidiary stuff I can get.
H.D.’s  Tribute to Freud,[24] which gave me a poem.  I thank Duncan and Joe Dunn for H.D.  Just the “three books of the war”,  The Walls Do Not Fall,  Tribute to the Angels,  and The Flowering Rod. But what I have never gone back to and will, could fill a year. [illeg] and The Plumed Serpent,[25] Kulchur,[26] and Joyce,  although I do have some of Finnegan’s Wake, after the Poets’ Theatre show.  And Henry James, and some Bollingen Books,[27] I have stolen, which like every book I ever OWN disappears and won’t come out, very toughly, of the limbo of my bookcase.

        Somehow this letter makes an excitement that I don’t possess, an activity that is not in this setup.  Maybe it is,  I don’t know.  I meet with an ex-San Franciscoan once a week, one Robin Blaser, and we try to set up a “project to do that week (ladies bridge) but it worked out for the three days Jonathan Williams was here,  and there is a Steve Jonas ([illeg] Spicer re both or Dunn)  who has written long and lately well long poems, which at times show beautiful hip movements, as Olson might say.   And now next weekend, Marshall arrives, we hope with manuscript, in from New York, and that will mean readings, and maybe a chance to get the manuscript that somehow one of the ex-students took from Olson to SF. with him, and now Olson has given JWilliams the money to publish same “Tug of War”[28] and there is no word around, which must kill O.
        For the first time, I liked Jonathan, being here and boyish and somehow very earnest.

I send Lorraine and Harvey’s address,  in case you want to write.  She was reading Personae[29] and, blue, and so in years, she wrote a letter home to me, and that will be the hardest to answer, somehow.
And Jerry’s, me, I won’t send that, because Tom has it, and you have Tom and you probably don’t want Jerry.   Wow, I am letting myself be led by a sentence!
        Pardon Mike, the teacher tone in the top half of this page.  You probably know Love in the Western World, it’s just that there is no one really I can say I read this, and they care. I guess the lack of that, outside of a few intimate relationships;  care, is what makes the void. I know one can afford to stay out of a BM scene, but if you don’t want to, there’s a reason for jumping in,  there is care [illeg] are.
        Have you heard from O?  I am going to write I hope soon, maybe my birthday night, because I know he’s there still.  He forwards bills to my home and I recognize the handwriting.  Jan. 6th, I’ll be 23.  When I was 18 I had planned my first book like Keats to be out.
        You sound very healthy in your letter, I hope so, the “things” of the lung you’ve got to expect.  Journal of Med. Assoc. says artists are prone to respiratory ailments.  Lawrence says re Poe he sucked things up so much it weakened, lived by feeling, was that it? the membranes weaken, the vibrations wear them down.  Anyway I’m going to read the essay again.[30] And then again,  look at Lawrence and of course thinking of Keats brought all this up, like phlegm.
And just hordes of us can’t breathe right.  Yet I have an aunt, my mother calls Whistler’s Mother, age 25, who has asthma and never said more than fuck me all her life. Or fuck you.
I’ve always wanted to make a survey of writers who killed themselves, not a survey, but just a bibliography of where, when, how old, no need to ask why?  but now I think I will do one on which in history have had respiratory ailments.

        Of course, the best news is about Windhover Press[31] and it can’t be “special” like Mike McClure, because there’s too much.  I believe there’s enough to make a collection readable, and certainly Exit 3,[32] if for nothing else but the woman who comes out of the lighted store, something which has become an eternal image for me.

        The beauty of your talk on the SHE is that all of a sudden, someone is trying to write a play where there is mystery, there is going to be someone even YOU, baby, can’t see, now I don’t mean brother Duncan, who wants to write them  with magic up the ass, but a woman, who “goes in and out among the talkers” which is what woman is to us?  Despite your “cockfull of cunt”, still is more mysterious to us than the others, simply because we “dont want to see her the way we want to see our own, and on “kind.” If you want to, and of course she’s in my dreams, but I don’t want to be taken or take her anywhere, like I like the big ones to take me across fields or up stairs.  But of course, Michael, I’ve gone off on my own but it seems really what you wrote out for me is exciting, and if you don’t have a copy, I will send it back, it’s that good, and if you haven’t started yet, would serve as a plunge in, especially the idea of them, the anonymous ones. (only I don’t feel they are, I feel they really are clear and sharp to you, as she is not.) stand and begin talking, cafe table, : Stuck. I want to get unstuck. The way Gavin[33] would talk, except none of that jazz talk, which gets me fed up now, it’s everywhere,  like that awful Howl by Ginsberg,  howl, it’s more like puke, except molasses and all sweet and mystical.   I do hope that you have begun anyway, and that when you are free to write again, you will tell me more, because I am excited, even the fire, which can be anything, a spotlight, very bright, with a lot of individual ones on the talkers [illeg] and the rest of the stage black with this gray Connie Olson, which is wrong because she’s known, except CO is not to me.   moving in and out.  Maybe even the one who turns the lights on, and the mother, at least mine would.  In competition with her, but funny, now we’re back somewhat to my two women who ARE in competition, yet I believe they are.  After all,  this young man before the flames, his mother will hate the woman who so engages him.

I can’t send poems, right now, but I will,  Mike, when I get a batch for O, a batch for you.  And I hope you write and I will will write again sooner, even if you don’t, but I suppose, I need the impetus of your word first.   Congrats, again on Windhover, and I’m glad you’re out of Philly, somehow there seem to be spirits, maybe known ones in San Francisco.

        Dana is reading the American Grain right now, and loving it.  and we are the best together we have ever been, it’s all too good, that like Camille, and spa bubbles. I feel god’s got to pay us back.

                        My love,
Will Helen keep her man, or will he return to his formal evil ways among the furies who fire his body to forbidden lusts?  Oh I cd. write it.

Lorraine and Harvey Harmon
3933 Sawtelle Blvd.
Los Angeles  66.

And the Dorns, where will dawn [cut]
any more?

                                           February 6, 1957
                SEER (one wonders)
Dear Michael:
        I write again because of an activity here, mostly by me, to make a little magazine, whatever it is, but to start, after receiving a letter today from VILLIERS, they will print an issue of 300 copies at the size, not the paging, of ORIGIN, now defunct. It will have the paging of ARC, that is, number of pages, 48 or so. And the cost will be $163.00

                                What do you think?
Necessary enough?
                        For me, yes. Here
To the poem?                Toujours l’attack:   Olson[34]
                I don’t know, but there is enough work going on, by enough of us, there is enough to combat, that to circulate what is being done,  is necessary.

                                the only job is to get what is being done, the best, we know of, and can you help, in many ways, you know you can, and it might be of use, to keep you and me in contact, to keep, make a link.  OK.   I know there is plenty of little magazine, but what bores, and I want excitement,  the air filled always.  Would your participation fill your air?   Or would it clutter what you are doing anyways.  So if we have 48 pages, and we have BIG DADDY, and A Duncan, or two, a Jack Spicer,  THE BIRD POEM,[35] a Joe Dunn, A Wieners, Steve Jonas, Robin Blaser,

                                        or am I wrong, is this clique? I don’t know, But I will always remain open to the poem, and your ears, too.   BOSTON.   SAN FRANCISCO.   You could be representative, listening, editing from there, also distributing. First though, I have to find out about the De Boer. I am so ignorant of this, the business part.  of course, we would have Marshall, since he has taken to coming back for weekends, this one coming up to read, and this still leaves open space for whatever you find, this leaves space for you, but I don’t know how much you want to inhabit.  I have a Father poem, and then there is the one you wrote at BM, or would you rather just the story.   Talk it up Michael with yourself.  And let me know.   Of course, there is the money problem, but we know some people here, and will ask for sponsors, at $10.00 or more head. 16 people! could pay for one issue.  I need 1/3 of money in my hand by April 1st, with the entire copy also, because the process between galley proofs, returned back & forth, takes about 7 to 8 wks, and I would like it dated SUMMER 1957, for no reason, but then I wd. have the 300 copies in my living room June 1st, to begin distributing.

        Write whatever you think soon, Mike, pro or con, even if it’s only a lunch-hour jot,        and also leads as to what manuscripts you think you have heard, and cd. manage for        this.

Pardon the haste, but this too is before the deadline of ‘I have to go to work’.
                                                My LOVE,

And your own new poetry? – we could at least know what each other was doing through our mutual work on this –

                                           March 2 [1957]
Dear Michael:
        Sorry for the card, but it’s all the strength I got.
Got the Dorn from his, grace full, what I needed,
will also use Gavin.  Was in Ny for a week, saw him,
one of my 2 nites in the Cedar, his OK and address:
29 Bangs Street, NY. Promises he’ll be there.  Big
sky fallen down on Cock Robin.  Drawings by Dawson.
Not them so much,  but all facing[36] me.  Now about you,
do you know yet?  Had Ginsburg for about 8 hrs.  in
NY.  And the man is hot for all of us, he says, despite
Basil.  Tried to get stuff off Mary Fiore,  no go.
Much support though, and the wonder not shaken off me
yet is that we all were there the same night under
that Cedar Tree.
    Much help from Jonathan (Much love, John) & Corman’s
                                                mailing list

                                           May 7 [1957]
Dear Mike:

        A new one/ and the circumstance of it all so much in my eyes and my everywhere, that I want to go to sleep again quick, so I typed up two copies, one for you and one for Mr Big and I send Origin XIX off with the both, I lost the card, so I took it you meant me to send him his.
        Otherwise all is fine.  And I’ll write again, and your letter gave me great joy, and the poem I have read twice and will hold off on, until the dreams,  the poem is one too, I wd say.

        Scarlett O’Hara survived the burning of At., Ga. so??? why not?  What kept me off the streets, the what appears tonight to be the destruction of same, is what spurred the poem, after 11 dexamyls Sunday, and where do we it all ends.  Nevertheless we survive, and can come to that common ground,  CHRIST,  how I wd want to walk on yours, then again tomorrow will return with its personal joys.  I aint one to believe in agony.  As any kind of instrument of knowledge, only the
                                        LOVE always, funny how that word wdn’t be written.


                A PROPOSITION

Let me tell you a story/
                        and I warn you
BORE.  me/it
                but baby, it’s here
and I lay down for it,  on me
for two years to let it out.

As Blaze Star
Uta Graf,  how Blake makes
a word straight and Keats is clutteredup
with fairywings.

Now some of us are such
we hold our tongues out for love, into death
or is it life/  I cant answer
only we are thin bellies without it
With it we destroy it.
Olson says if he heard the word anymore
he’d go sick on it.
I am sick on it.
The Cock/
             is the door down below, no
opening for me?
Rockbottom Blaser wd say.
An expression of the personal, Duncan.

but we partake of the agony
of the toss on white sheets

My mother called tonight,  a thin voice
as she shall call many nights before she dies
(and after)  I’ll hear her

she has no rocking chair/  and I can have
no country fantasy of surprising her in one.
Nor a picket fence/  around the house

when I came home from school and found her in the kitchen
with the baker on top of her.

Nor when I helped her to bed
and pored   the last whiskey for sleep.
                                        And that aint record covers
Mr Big, nor Diana Barrymore

but just part of a day/ as we have put blood
in ours, our house;
                      Oh Rose thou art sick[37]

No wall
        no window
thick enough
to keep out the bread bandit
that man who stole my childhood cookies.
And Mr. Bear on the westcoast
        this is not Miss Millay, nor is Ladies Home journal.
A way of making the day. Or
Howl for me sisters, Hell? Honey you aint been on your knees enough,
nor do I intend to wait there
for you to find me.
A baker’s cock,
                so we raise our arms
and the muscles swell
Its black and blue
                   you better change yr way
of living or there wont be none left.

        For you aint ever quite safe enough
no ladies riding out to green fields
or madeup meadows or beds
                                  work up
the blue eye so it glistens for the few
who cant give their bodies
                             learn that
they get mothers
or want hair on your chest, so we turn

And poor poem?  you bear it?
No dice.  Wont take it like the black man
who wants to suck off the world, and youre on your knees waiting
and he’s on his
                and never the tongue shall meet.
NOW LISTEN.  I’m asking nothing
I’m dropping in a few nickels
from a poor pocket, with holes
the prices go up at 9, make it
DRAMA, wipe it off your nose, and the kleiglights,
no one’s catching the dance,
          you & the word,
                            in the empty
house, with a little piano music

from the Adams family out the bedroom window.

A source to draw off
                        that some other
                                         maybe my old lady
laid down in tears and some good fairy gathered up
for the occasion.

                                           May 17. [1957]
Dearest Mike:

   I was thinking as I walked home this afternoon, happy and full of Measure, that it is not what I receive that matters/  its what I give, make of the space of myself that gives the pleasure.  This/ the success, why success is empty because it means you get things for what was done in the past.  NOW i walk in/ and there is Basil’s[38]  letter  (very firm with promise of drawings for No: 2)  and then you, and I read the list dream and I dont take so much to the language of, yet content & bulls & barn YES, maybe Mother in capial M, anyway I see the heading of the next/  and then it comes that you are GIVING me the dream from BM, and I go on & it builds and at the end there is something in my throat A BIG : OH NO, the perfection of, the no word there I dont make, that it rushes over me, the field the run the well and the stone, so perfect, with nothing but the fragment/ the clarity of what a dream is:  THAT i am opening MAGICK with THIS 1st night etc.  Above the lovely Duncan  Waltz, and then Creeley promises some thing, notes articles etc, and I have some NY poems that will make (not mine the NYers) and Basil’s drawings, and a few good Eigner[39] at this date ALSO  a contributors page, with a montage done out of their faces, maybe not even recognizable, at least not identified in contents just who they are; simply with HEADING:  CONTRIBUTORS, like a shot I sent O of negroes looking in a window, the camera inside, all black, them black, their faces clothes, all in positions, of desire.   So if the idea is not offensive to you please send a photograph, and you must trust me on it.  That it will not be exploitation – simply letting the face, whatever is seen of it or the tools of the men (yr hand, desk, pantlegs,) stand as biography of them.   Thus we do away with all that crap, and let the man in.
                OK  Forgive the thickness of language here, I go back to you with much pleasure.   The cover of Measure: I   is hideous, layout, type used for title)  so I got to do something there.  For Two.   My problems, however,   and things are well.  Did you get Origin XIX?   Come back later.

        I just typed the date above, must have been a happy day on the black hill two days, maybe when we walked down thru the flowers, and Olson tooted his horn, and gave that limp wrist wave, as if we were off to sin in the woods.   MAJOR STUFF, MIKE, THIS DREAM OF YRS.  Has sent me off frantic.  So that  one does get a lift from receiving.

                                                May 21
Well, I’ve gone over the dreams again & again. This business of editing is like the women with too many clothes laid out at her greedy hand.  She has no will.  Keeps saying: well, I’ll take just one more.  So altogether I take 8 of them – . they open the book. Followed by Basil’s drawings – I feel they shall fit there.  We’ll see.  He sounds like walking the good ground.  Here they are some reasons for same & the order as of now that they will be in. If you see contention,  etc  feel it, please write same & we can pull over the same material if you care to. – Possibly I try to impose a coherence on them.  A continuity.  Anyway read your copies as I have them now marked: to see how that buying man (the consumer) shall get it.

1)  1st night 2nd night 3rd night: Here because they: open   are tied to no place.  Have ‘THE IRIS SHOT as the silent movie men wd call a shot. Like seeing thru a periscope & then the scene opens to
   walking down a city street … like the sentence here. The verb ‘plastered’   the moving into another locale – No stated shift.  And of course – the intensity of the end – what makes it remembered   ‘They were watching me’.

3) ‘A dark night.  A deserted sidestreet.’ Again the same province. This dream almost my favorite.  Because of after statement – “the blood will come & we’ll cry, I thgt’. Namely that ‘powerless feeling’ peculiar to the dream. & knowledge of event before it happens.  SPECTATOR.  Event in here most powerful.  So that… one flees &
4) ‘A door opens & an aged negro woman ushers me
Nothing much here for me but it casts image. Makes scene.  & creates a ‘him.’ for
5) ‘I take his yellow bird on my finger.’ Just that this possesses quietness, beauty, a warm dream until – the struggle, the horror & the gradual building up of occurrence until it happens.  Also friend here & 6) is My friend & I were working at a Woolworth 5 & 10. Now we are saved from the violence of the previous 4 dreams, the mystery’s over for we are delivered up to the keeper. OK that aint it. Just a sense for me.  That protection’s here.  I am not using ‘Old Casey is dead’ for somehow they seem to be similar in affect & like objects of this one better.
7) is the return from city etc.  The tall one ‘full of ideas & concern’ over what has happened.  Though I do object to Mother as capital M.  ‘the ancient Mother’. She is of course, but I like to do the work in discovering her (as reader, ie.). You do not have it capitalized all the way thru.  So advise me.  Return.   But the prize given.  The 5 for the 1.  Here was where I wanted to end it.  But my greed forces me to include
        8)   A jagged rock  in the midst of a dark, storm torn ocean.  For again,  as on bus – there is the sense you are held by/ held up by other powers – And it is the man in art … ‘have to hear what the voices say’  the in-conclusion.  The no answer given.  The doubt of ‘Why not fall in?’  Left actually as we are left in the day.  And ‘Then darkness’.  Sleep.  Dreams over.  Death/baby.
So please forgive me. Imposing things (scheme) on.  them you didn’t have.  But there are all kinds of other things going on that don’t relate to any of this.  Also providing the pleasure.  Robin Blaser very pleased here w/ them w/ give him copies (his request) & he’ll write you re them.  He said ‘Such joy to read the well-written, ‘complete sentence.’
I am in doubt over ‘bulls’. Think it shd. be used but can’t see an in yet.  Anyway w/ let you know final places.
        In every one – even ‘study’  I sense a significance.  And the intensity is brought here.  Sometimes the over-dramatic verb or adjective puts a pin in me.
                                ‘body straining into a white wind’[41]
                                ‘mutely grieving’
                                ‘blinding, obliterating’
These are all – and really only my style not in concord. Simply words I wouldn’t use.
                        ‘Weeping’  I have always hated. But minor actually. And they present no interferences w/ body of any.  I have said enough.  They add up to about 6 pages –
        And let me tell you very frankly, I believe the issue of 2 wd. have a rather has a significance now that all the poems in it/ wd not give.  A plumbline to a depth. Stirring up.  Giving the chi-chi NYers ‘a materia poetica’  They starve.  And don’t know how to ask. This lays out before their eyes. A direction.
        Don’t feel they are flat, w/o drama. They cd. be stripped further even/ and nothing wd. be lost.  Please let loose on any of this, if you want to.   Also/ the Lilacs can’t go now. As is, Measure No:2 will be 64 pages, I am hoping.
        Do send photo -- & trust me with it. Something w/ the eyes there.
        Still I hold Lilacs for far future.
For Measure goes to 1960.
Please excuse pencil as I am at Lamont & nothing else is available.  No:1 there middle of June in case I didn’t say.
                                Much love,
                                John –
I am well & very domestic.  Did I tell you Creeley in No2, he says & surprise. Also resting a bit from the hump of getting 2 off in June.

Dear Mike:
                The Last Addenda:  At Home, a letter and 2 photos from Olson, so send yours, man,  also he says:

                By all means, ast Mike
                  if he’ll let you use
                Section I (a page and ¾ single space
                of a piece
                The Use of Unconscious in Writing
                (isnt it a beautiful title?  and
                 section I of the whole thing is
                    a 1st class …. (something I cant make out)
                                richest wisest
                                imaginable statement
-- & one all others (including
                                myself) have not
                                succeeded in[42]
I’ve written him I think
section II & III steal fr
the unity and power of I,
exciting tho they are.

If not, send pronto.  But I fear so….
                        Also he says if I can get a photo from Harry Redl[43] of him in fuzz it is a wow, so I wd. write but no address, can you supply same?
                TRY, because I want this page great. No biography shit. Also pass to whomever there who’s been in this fucking thing, to send photos. I am bushed. Spent three hours, answering O, & nothing, on my part.
                We’ll throw you all in the Public Gardens.
    Oh honey, though I have never been as tired, it is the greatest time of all for me, since I began swinging this measured stick.


He says ‘this piece (TUOUIW) in the sense you wanted for #2”

                                           Aug 17 [1957]
Dear Michael:
        Thank you for your kind words/ & esp. if you was exhausted, then to use words is an agony/  I am in state that they run off at my mouth,  but my ‘typing fingers’ are so sore, that I will, after this, for rest of night, write longhand.  I stopped the letter business with one to Gerry, and that was 3:45PM. Whalen’s answer came with yrs/ WOW, never have I been so misunderstood.[44]  I gotta watch my mouth.  But I did scrape off an answer:
        the only important thing to me now, is that he return my original letter, so I can take up, the glories.  He says:  last page, rather last page & ½ were a delight/ & yet cant see that crap of previous 2 ½ pages was necessary to get that last one and ½ out.
                                                                & a page and ½ of delight is rare enough these days, such phrasing that I ache to get it back.  I wd say it wd be better not to mention to fracas to anyone, esp. Duncan, as Whalen wanted to speak to him abt:  Against the magic war:  an open letter to RD, before, I did, as if I wd.  He demanded his mss. back, which I regretted sending, but poss. after he reads M. he’ll see how crazy wrong:  telling me I shd go after live material:  etc, mixing me up with Harvard & the Cambridge academics, Yvor Winters, Lowes, Mathew Arnold, etc.  simply becuz I took a chisel to particular words he used, in poem.[45]  That you know:  I am careless:  as eigner says:  M has that:  the casual.
                So I go now, esp. with such manifest vagueness as Whalen’s stuff, most care-full-y.  & he cant see regard for le mot juste, I doubt.  Of course, I had misunderstood, so much, his intent/ but told him that in letter; ONE.
                                        But in Letter: TWO (today’s) i had no patience, laid in real fine, and I wear the snarl well on certain days.  Let me go on to M.
                Re: drawings:  I shd never have tried to find a continuity to the two of them & used a single space for both, as neither get proper air.  Tho Dawson is ecstatic w/ them. Maybe that accounts for grossness/ too much before the eye, when to turn a page wd have rested us.

I am going to omit drawings in II, except for a sketch contained in a letter that I will not tell you who from, until you see it/  and then you’ll know;[46]

II is such an improvement in weight.  Eigner found it ONE ‘quite a dash’. ‘Dada, Koshare,[47] the hard core, the Marshall ONE*TWO, S Jonas’ Word, then O’Hara rail too, and Spicer chewing butterflies, plus blanket, yet those breaks of shorter pieces of less crushing plentitudes, the brakes, the husbandman linchpin perhaps at least in itself sort of a little too much on casual side,’ which I take as the most, ‘Your cover brings koshare back : “magick”-aleck seems kind of swagger-tail mountebank.” (I like)

which I think TWO has more of, at least the blurb On What the City Issue Will Be Like:  has a nice kind of ‘know’-ing to it.  And there is a line that goes:
                Bandwaggin man:  ‘end your moan & come away.’ which is aimed at the Boss’s Dictation Chief, Kenny Rexroth.  Oh I am gonna hate SF.  Dawson:  the only other written word & that is full of superlatives, says Eigner best of his he has ever seen, I wd agree here, too/ at least more seems to be presented in BRINK, than he usually gives us.

Yes, MEASURE remains, as is, tho drawing on inside front goes (out).
Author’s names will not be on Cover in 2.  The word m a g i c k laid out in lower case vertically, where author’s names are now/  except the letters will be printed backwards, so we’ll pretend you need a mirror to dig what it says/ and you might.
                        The color red moves up to front cover, this issue, color of cover paper gray, and the ad (blurb) for the city on back cover, shall be blue. of course.
        Re Big Man on the Mt:  true, very much of a hit home, (what you say) about poem that I never thgt Olson was there much at all.  A labored poem, I think.  Listen, I’ll send you four short things, from this Boston crowd, if YOU PROMISE absolutely NO ONE ELSE reads them:  Duncan, Dunn, Allen, Tom, NONE. You will send them back here, in a couple of days, I just want you to see change, I think/  with some loss of dramah, but a more moving (in sense of going)  thing.
                                 These are the ones the girl in Chicago has, & they’ll be ret’d/ but you see, I am on verge printing them in MEASURE III, but they are still in process/  and if I know their secrets are out,  then I’ll stop work:   SO IT MUST ONLY BE YOU, she said.  And if you’re tired, please dont feel you have to open yr mouth re any of it.

Did I tell you that final editing of TWO, makes Seven Dreams by Rumaker.

In Marshall:  go look up in Funk & Wagnalls:  Dictionary of Folklore:  who Tiamat and Marduk are:  raises my respect for Marshall’s hits. & McClure dares call Measure queer, not to me yet/  but a robin carries news.  Again, dont confront him w/ this, it simply displays how much he’s hung on something.
                No Marshall in TWO; as he is a city BOY, and moving back to Boston late fall from NY, I wd say, prepared to write the great thing about NC. (Rimbaud moving back to me in the country; for writing down Saison en enfers)  Marshall moving back to our country, and in with Jonas, again.  SO:  (wow)   there’ll be a big blast from Marshall in III, and Eigner & Duerden will have big space in Four.  & why charles aint coming thru more, worries me.
                        We’ll see when Measure sticks in his craw/  what comes out.  Do you have Denise L’s address?

                                        Do follow up the ladyfriend, who w/ subscribe, as it is simply these scattered $3.00 that have done it.  Vocal response has been good here, too.  ‘Two gentle men have requested that their names no longer be printed as sponsors in such a magazine as Measure. They would like to receive, however, its future issues.’

                                                        starts off back inside page for II. It’s TIME all this tomfoolery was bought back in, as long, as one doesnt waste more than 25 words/ or more than a minute & ½ of the reader’s time.  In other words, these establish the presence of editor, a hand,  still I dont think, interfering with content of anyone.

                                Do you think  Measure lacks
                        humor/  (who cares) let him watch TV!

                                           August 17 [1957]
Dearest Michael:
        Your red letters have been the utmost joy to me: the spontaneity of them, the actual taking that wide trip alone right in yr mouth, so there is a great tipsy joy/ delight even in the disgust, man, their almost good enuf to print, but you dont  --- no, we won’t even go into it.
                        Anyway, thanks also for turning me onto Connie O, as I sent her MEASURE, then one high afternoon, two days ago, I just walked into Beacon Press / and there she was at THE desk, and all was of the greatest order.  I never sensed before her actual high-borness. An embarrassing thing to come back at her, probably, so dont, but I sensed it off so much of her.  And SHE liked Measure, which was a surprise, when I knew that yr fuckin glassunicorntown wd. not.  Of course, it’s not yr town.  I do hope you write what you once mentioned: thing on the myth of SF.

For you:  dont be put off by surface qualities of M: One, as I repeat, it has a breadth to it.  And not queer, as some think.

That has no weight here, the queer. There is so little actually to choose from, if say, Olson doesn’t come thru/  or if one believes in making it on strengths not already used by other magazines.

Stop the defenses, John, it’s not needed.  Two will be different.  Of more substance, I think.  No MARSHALL,  who is now asleep five feet away,   do you have & will you be willing to give over to me the 8 pages of copy you made from his TUG OF WAR?  He found 3 himself of what I think was a 20 page poem.
                                                Also, could I have all mail after September 15 forwarded care of:
                        1130 Sacramento
                        San Francisco 9,    that is, upto the 1st week in October or maybe a week later/  but other than this; collecting it out of box, I wd put no obligation on you.  If you say yet, do you have a reliable box?  As checks arrive say twice or so a week,  only $3.00 ones, but what makes M. real?

And then: there wd be an absolute deluge of bookclub circulars, bills, maybe a few books, other mags, & letters, a few.  You really are the only one I can think of with trust.  Somehow I wd rather keep my personal away from Robt.  Not that I have any reason to say that.  but our judging days of each other are done. And his of me are not, or mine of him.  Joe & Mary F were here, but did not see them, Connie said they spent week at Wellfleet, and wdn’t it be great if she wrote?  I am after Connie too,  but I doubt she will.  She started going around,  taking books off the shelves for me,  & sent me out on wings.  She said:  drop in here anytime;  I said, if you are sure it’s not an imposition:  she said:  dont be silly, imposition’s a pleasure.[48]
I got fired two weeks ago from Harvard, and god, I am writing or just stopped two days ago, like I never have before.

So I will even print this section of Boston junk/alan poems in Measure: Three, the CITY, which is shaping, so I am pleased with that & the STATE, Eigner having done his best, on the theme.

The artEditor of Chicago Rev. said she had seen my poems thru Gerry Vande & asked if I wd send some for consideration in CR?[49]

That was 6 wks ago, so tonight I did/ all these new wild things, & told her, almost dared her ChiRvd not print same.
                        They turn out as the richest farewell I cd make to this beloved homeland of mind, & I dread There,  knowing that I will retire from the participation I think I thrive on, poem-wise.

                        Connie regrets she did not turn on The Beacon Press to you/ & I do too.  Simply that it is a place the others do not inhabit so easily,  not that I am snob/  but the valued shd be placed apart.  That dont mean:  flaunting.

I have been at this machine since literally 11PM beginning with the letter A (Allen, Don) and it is now 11:10 AM!  and I do not intend to stop until W(Whalen, Philip) has his.  & this is only the important other letters/  rejections, business, I have ignored.

It’s not that Mezuh is that busy, simply that I cannot work at a thing day after… so it builds a mountain to the sky.

(After reading yrs of July 28)  If thru any chance,  you plan to leave SF for those heart-lands you talk abt, please do not let the mail question hold you up, OK.  I wonder what happened that night of July 28, & what w/ the vocalist? All these will wait I guess until we can talk, if we do, are able, and do not feel

you shd defend me among the glasspitters, or Measure, cuz I know it’s getting done in.  Somehow its value to me increaseth, & again: only 75 copies of original edition remain, out of 300.

You see what I fear out there.  ARK II cd not make it.  So how can a magazine that keeps BOSTON on its cover.  Unless I do as before,  earn the bread myself.  Which really is best.

Tell me yr plans,  & I’d send you the poems:  but I wd rather just one night:  read them to you/  that’s all, no discussion, just relive their creation very privately.

                                                Night, how it comes down, and how the sun breaks it up/  has been with me the past month.  I avoid sleep like plague: find it’s the Great Eraser, that after it, nothing is left from the night before.  & one arrives at a high perceptive state, after initial exhaustion is met, say// after being up 50 to 70 hours (a six hour snooze was the only stop)  but say those last 15 hrs were hysteric with knowledge: all of which I threw at P Whalen last Sunday/  & which I dont even know he was prepared for, but I hope he sends letter back, knowledges there I will never regain again. RE BLACK & WHITE, which side I finally found myself on. & it’s the White: male, which I carry, of course, this manic letter to him, is actual end to series of poems, so the cat better not burn it.  It came out of reading his (again: secret as far as I know) AGAINST THE MAGIC WAR: AN OPEN LETTER TO ROBERT DUNCAN,[50] of course, all the things (criticisms) I said were wrong, misunderstandings, etc, not digging the poem as its intent demanded// but still being given ‘the secret’  out on a paper platter.
                                        Rimbaud: (did I quote this to you already or Duncan:) ‘I alone have the key to this savage sideshow.’ and Wellington; an axman here: ‘the secret’s stashed & only I know where it is.’
                                Of course, sleep washes all this away.
I cant write no more.  My wrists
                                        much love
        and hope you’ll be able to write much –
        letters – here or soon anyway – on the other thing like O
        wd say: you have no choice.
        How did Rimbaud escape:  that is the
        wonder/  that he was allowed to stop or
        maybe he reached/  had gone so far that
        he had actually laid so much out / he caught
        up with what (if we’re lucky) will take our


We go whatever route to run un-
      obstructed.    “A city without seasons”
may bug a man who needs thunder storms,
snow, frost-bitten leaves to clear away
stagnant August.
Keres,[52] dirty little things that fill the air
      obscure a weather’s message.
What softness massage festering reason?
       In Ireland fairies
coverd with hair scare girls and
prepare twisted paths into the mire,
      false landscapes, blight light,
      sour dawn, noon or evening gloom
to reflect heart’s discontent or
      raise vapours from sexual treasure

as gold rots in the ground sprouts fever
This green is obscene, seeded
      where the will moves not, no
      stout stalk leaf of the grass
but the green keres, no furies, fly
      up from bog of

----insatiable under the hand urge?
It’s the fearful rising where the cock
      won’t rise
that sickens the eyes, tricks
      the domestic poseur.
Black bile not blood drips
      from the enclosure.

This is the way the land lies.

As who from dreams as from marsh
They are mosquitoes biting wet flanks
      of natural flesh.

Did you?  Did you?  Who opend the damnd
      box?  But I hate locks.   I wish I could give you
      such openness,
filths, upswarms of fervor, to hold.

A man held so, up-
held we see in staind unmoving
sea moved sustaind in

        mannd against calm.

                                                Aug 19
I finish this right off, tho I cant mail same until tonight for I spent two days, working on poems/ then leave them all in Dana’s car as he’s gone home until, etc.

But I write so much that I will send it all/ also Big Man on the Mt.
In fact, I just remembered:
                                tonight, in car, I revised four of those done last night, so they have bee re-typed again, also did a bit on first part of Big Man on Mt. (3 pgs)
I havent thgt of poem for a year, I guess, so I cant say.  But I wldnt end it on
                        Because there were tears in the tent of years
                        my moth[53] want
                          the woulds of the world.[54]

                                                I wd omit that completely. And end on:  lines before /A man loves touched scar tissue./
                                                His scar tissue? Anyway poem’s in car, so cant say.
                Reason for this added note: I am going wild over Number 3, all sorts of kicks & surprises, aiming at all “pitches.”

and I mean to have many priestesses of the city, included.
Do you have Denise Levertov’s address, if it has changed. If not, I’ll will go back to one of yr old letters, where I think you list it.  I wrote to M C Richards,  Madeleine Gleason, Marianne Moore,[55] I told her for a statement, poem, whatever ‘from Brooklyn’ for I plan poems From Kyoto, from Boston, from Fairbanks, from Mexico City, from New York, etc from as many places as they come in, measuring up of course,  but also using the city, to a different sound, pitch of voice. I told her no one has her voice, and that it wd not be exploitation with M Moore on the cover, but her name as everyone else’s under her city.
                But the letter got a little confused at end, so, also I sent Measure I, as R Blaser, told me she & Duncan corresponded, and she might stumble onto other contents,  but I told her:  they probably will not please you.  You’re safe.  In fact, I shd have said AND page 2 and page 28.  Anyway, we’ll see.  DONT again mention this.  Because if she doesn’t appear, it might be a disappoint.  I do not want to build up expectation in any quarters again.  The magazine  (quality & frequency of mss so intermittent) does not stand its own chance, as an exploration.  So YOU is my own confidant.  Cuz I gotta yap somewhere.
                So if you can do,  quick – Denise address
                                            postal OK
                                            yr love

                                                my thanks & so many poems soon, I dont think you’ll ever smile again.  Just read ‘em and send them back, I’ll supply postal supplies.

I know I wish I’d limit myself to one             page. I

                                           [May 1958]
                                           [San Francisco]

                        A poem for the dead I know[56]

        Gather the voices, forces I have forgotten
                to find those graves I forget how
to come back to
                        DAVID ASPELIN
                                        died at 16
put a rifle in his mouth, and laid across his bed at night.
After he held my hand on the way home and said
                             I will be dead tomorrow.
I see his grave and its pink quartz stone.

                        And my uncle JOHN
LAFFAN, who I was named after, told me on Christmas
                        I wont be here next year
and died last week 13 years to the day after his mother
                                        May 13th.
                        And the blue eyed girl across
the room from me will die.  He came home my uncle John
to die in my mother’s house, as her mother did
                                in the same bed, I see her
& RICHARD TWARDZIK, over-dosed in Paris.

I mourn none of them.
I want no one to return, boys and girls who I have known,
to come back and deck the Coit Tower in American flags,
pin flowers in the market windows, we are wrapped
                                in the gloves of God.

Gone for good
the living and the dead, David and John
down, and what about the ones who walk above the ground
                  where are they?  where are my lovers
turned to dust, settling down on bar stools.
They sift through the streets of San Francisco.

I feel their hands, I know his mouth as my own,
I want him as I want my own body on me.
Her legs to warm my waist.

                        They walk through other rooms,
     their desire wails on the face of the full moon,
     their pricks rise and make flowers, their hands
     masturbate for May rain, and leave me marching
     dead arms around my back and stupid tears down
                        the cheeks of my dying face
I hear their voices on the radio.

I sit now 4 flights above Fillmore Street.
The dead are far away.
Only the staggering woman in a red coat
Rises.   We are all Lazarus
And carry our dead friends with us.

Come up.
Above the telephone wires   (if I fell on them
I would have a home tonight.
I would know where I’m going

. . as the houses fill the hills
as the humans the front seat of their autos
as the negro on the stairs of 2325
as the birds their blue fields . .

Green trees,
Green trees give forth the love of my old man
Neon lights give up the color of a Boston dawn
There is no death they tell me.
I am on the roof who does not dare to find them out.
Dead, be done with them.

How many have I know?  have I counted
as my own.  Oh does your flesh sit
on your bones,  after these hundred years?

Love, be gone with it.

How many heads have I had under mine?
Strange mattresses for our mistakes.
Does it matter?  The quick mating,
The meeting in public gardens.

Moon, be cool to night.

How many thighs opened at my hands? Are your hands still under ground.

Grass, be green on their sunken graves.

                                           Memorial Day, 1958.

MICHAEL SETH STEWART recently completed his PhD in English at the CUNY Graduate Center, where he edited “For the Voices”: Selected Letters of John Wieners as well as “the sea beneath the house”: The Selected Correspondence of John Wieners and Charles Olson, in Series III of the Lost & Found: CUNY Poetics Documents Initiative. A former resident of the Swannanoa Valley where these letters begin, he now lives in Astoria, New York, with a terrier named Frank.


About the graphics on this page: Very few of Wieners’ early letters were hand-written, and almost all of his letters to Rumaker are typed. The image appearing at the top of this page is a photo-collage built from letters sent by Wieners to other recipients; it is included here so that readers might see what they can infer about the author’s temperament and mind from the evidence of his penmanship. The image appearing between the first and second letters above is a photographic reproduction of the typed poem Wieners sent to Rumaker enclosed in his letter of August 11, 1955.
  1. “I wish we could touch like that”: Circled, arrow down to “give and going back”  // back
  2. “of my time to anything under heaven”: In the 85th Canto, the first of the “Rock-Drill” section, Pound is referencing avant-garde sculptor Constantin Brâncusi (1876-1957) when he writes:
    “One of those days,” said Brancusi,
                        “when I would not have given
    “15 minutes of my time
                         “for anything under heaven” (579).
      // back
  3. “You know, Dana”: Very little is known for sure about Dana Durkee. Rumaker describes him as
    a big blond bear of a guy, a little older than John, amiable, a simple heart, really… somewhat jittery, I suspected, at finding himself, a young man from a conventional enough background – besides being a volunteer fireman he had also played football in high school… the lover of a somewhat femme, quicksilver, ultra out-queer poet. (Rumaker 487)
    Durkee reunited with Wieners and moved with him to San Francisco in September 1957, but did not last long before moving back to Boston.  // back
  4. “You Can’t Kill These Machines” and the following poem, “Ode to the Instrument,” were both published in issue #10 of Floating Bear (edited by Diane di Prima and LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka) in 1961, in an issue devoted entirely to Wieners’ poems. Rumaker recounts the occasion of the first poem in Black Mountain Days: after a movie night in town, he was riding back to Black Mountain with Tom Field and Wieners when they came upon a tragic and bloody car-wreck. While former Army medic Field tended to the young driver splayed on the asphalt:
    John whispering to me how much the victim, with his blood-streaked blond stubble of hair, resembled Dana; he shuddered, imagining if it had been Dana sprawled there in the road... Back in his room, John later that night wrote a poem about the incident, naturally threading Dana into it, which he showed me next day and gave me a copy of” (Rumaker 492-3).
      // back
  5. “On the First Page” was published, dated 1961, in the collection Cultural Affairs in Boston with only the most minor edits (a couple of punctuation changes, the break between lines 16 and 17 is after “with”in Cultural Affairs) except that the line “My voice” has been omitted in the published form.  // back
  6. The Poets’ Theatre (1950-1968) was founded by a group of Cambridge poets who all, except for V.R. “Bunny” Lang, were attending Harvard at the time. The group, including Molly Howe, Lyon Phelps, Richard Eberhart, and John Ciardi, was committed to “experimental plays not likely to obtain commercial production, and to encourage poets to write for the stage and to educate them in the techniques of the theater,” and performed plays by John Ashbery, Lang, Frank O’Hara, and Archibald MacLeish. Famed performances included Richard Wilbur’s translation of Misanthrope and Mary Manning Howe’s adaptation of Finnegans Wake, both in 1955.  // back
  7. Asphodel, in Hell’s Despite is a one-act play whose production history features prominently in Wieners’ correspondence with Irving Rosenthal in 1961 (see Wieners’ letter dated November 9, 1961). As he mentions in this letter, the play was written in a flash in 1955.  // back
  8. Ed Dorn (1929-1999), American poet and scholar, a child of the Great Depression in rural Illinois and, like Wieners, a student and friend of Charles Olson. His first two books, The Newly Fallen (1961) and Hands Up! (1964) were published by Leroi Jones/Amiri Baraka’s Totem Press; Hands Up! contains Dorn’s essential meditation on poverty, labor, and American rhetoric, “On the Debt My Mother Owed to Sears Roebuck.” Dorn’s best known work, an often comic epic called Gunslinger, was published in six parts between 1968 and 1975, published in a complete edition in 1989 by Duke University Press. His Collected Poems, edited by Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, was published by Carcanet Press.  // back
  9. Edward Marshall (1932-2005), whose poem “Leave the Word Alone” appeared in Black Mountain Review number 7 and then in Don Allen’s 1960 anthology The New American Poetry; Ginsberg would later credit it as a strong influence on his own “mother poem,” “Kaddish.” David Abel, whose tireless work on Marshall is bringing about exciting discoveries about this neglected poet, has helped piece together some biography:
    He moved to Boston in 1953, where he met and roomed with the poet Stephen Jonas, who introduced him, Marshall was reputed to have said, “to poetry and to love.” Mashall’s other profound love… was religion, and at this time he enjoyed a period of public preaching on Boston Common. Through Jonas, Marshall met John Wieners (recently back from Black Mountain College) and Joe Dunn, and began writing poetry. In late 1955, Marshall sent the recently completed long poem “Leave the Word Alone” to Charles Olson… Olson was very excited by it, and wrote to Marshall: “That’s a fine thing you’ve done here, Marshall – very true, and quick, very thick. It speaks very much. It is very personal and formal at once. And form-wise it is very true – the peopling, the protests, the end.” The following spring it circulated among students at the college (including Michael Rumaker); Robert Duncan, in an interview, recalled that at the time it was “the exciting poem for everybody at Black Mountain” (n.p.)
    In 1960, Auerhahn Press published Marshall’s Hellan, Hellan; Transit Glory followed in 1965.  // back
  10. Rumaker’s story “The Pipe” appeared in Black Mountain Review number 6, Evergreen Review #9, and his 1967 collection Gringos and Other Stories.  // back
  11. The Cedar Tavern (1866-2006), bar and restaurant that served as locus for downtown New York culture, especially to the Abstract Expressionists and Beats who gathered there when it was located at 24 University Place, between 1945 and 1963. Condominiums now stand in the Tavern’s place.  // back
  12. William Carlos Williams’ essay collection In the American Grain, first published in 1925, went largely neglected (except by champions like D.H. Lawrence and Charles Olson) until it was reissued in 1956 by New Directions.  // back
  13. Robert Creeley (1926-2005) released All That is Lovely in Men in 1955 as a limited edition, published by Jonathan Williams’ Jargon Society. Featuring illustrations by Dan Rice, the 200-copy run was signed by both Rice and Creeley.  // back
  14. Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), French poet, writer, artist, and filmmaker whose Opium: the Diary of an Addict was published in 1929 (in the United States in 1932) with his own illustrations.  // back
  15. Guillame Apollinaire (1880-1918), French poet and art critic whose writings were indispensible in the formation of Modernist poetry and painting, especially Cubism, and the branch thereof that he called “Orphic Cubism.” His Selected Writings were edited and translated by Roger Shattuck (1923-2005) for New Directions in 1948. Wieners would later address these writings and art explicitly in his 1958 poem “The Windows” (see Wieners’ letter to Olson, May 4, 1958). Allen Ginsberg’s “At Apollinaire’s Grave,” published in Kaddish and Other Poems 1958-1960, recalls a visit with lover Peter Orlovsky to Pere Lachaise cemetery, crying “Guillaume, Guillaume how I envy your fame, your accomplishment for American letters … come out of the grave and talk through the door of my mind / issue new series of images.”  // back
  16. Donald Hall (b. 1928) and Richard Wilbur (b. 1921), American poets and critics, both Poet Laureates of the United States at various times. Both writers’ well-crafted verse was unavoidable in the 1950s and 60s.  // back
  17. Jane Harrison (1850-1928), British classics scholar and feminist pioneer whose 1903 Prolegomena to the Study of Greek Religion was central to modern Greek mythology studies. Primary to her study was a foregrounding of ritual as a way to understand myth, an approach whose absence Wieners will later lament when reading Samuel Noah Kramer (see his letter to Charles Olson of September 22-23, 1957). Olson dedicated his poem “A Newly Discovered ‘Homeric’ Hymn” to “Jane Harrison, if she were alive” (Collected Poems 363).  // back
  18. Tom Field (1930-1995), American artist. An Army medic in Korea, Field studied painting under Joseph Fiore at Black Mountain from 1953 to 1956, after which he moved to San Francisco and worked among other Bay Area artists generally ignored by the New York-centric art-world. With Alberto Saijo, Lew Welch, and Philip Whalen, he founded a Zen Buddhist community called Hyphen House.  // back
  19. Kate Olson (1951-1999), daughter of Olson and his common-law wife Constance Wilcock Bunker (1919-1975). Michael Rumaker describes Connie as sensitive and elegant, with “dark eyes that had an edge of sadness and inward contemplation… a delicate bird” (Black Mountain Days 17). She left Black Mountain with her daughter as Olson’s relationship with Betty Kaiser became apparent. Olson died during Kate’s first semester at Sarah Lawrence.  // back
  20. Elizabeth (Betty) Kaiser (1925-1964) studied voice and music at Black Mountain College, where she fell in love with Charles Olson; they had a son, Charles Peter, and moved to Gloucester after the college closed. She died in a car accident in March 1964 outside Buffalo, New York, where Olson was directing the poetics program.  // back
  21. Gertrude Stein (1874-1946), American poet, playwright, novelist, and art collector whose influence on New American poetics is incalculable.  // back
  22. Mary Butts (1890-1937), British modernist writer. Her memoirs, stories, novels, and journals speak to the mystery of Old England. A student of occultist Aleister Crowley, she was credited as a co-author of his Magick (Book 4) in 1912; her friend Jean Cocteau illustrated her 1928 book Imaginary Letters. Like most Modernist women artists her work fell largely into obscurity, but she was still admired by Wieners, Robert Duncan, and Duncan’s circles. In their introduction to Duncan’s The H.D. Book, editors Boughn and Coleman place her writing along that of “Edith Sitwell, Laura Riding, Djuna Barnes,” women of genius who “largely disappeared into the mists of time, ignored by the almost entirely male cohort of professors” (11). However, she is mentioned in passing only a handful of times in The H.D. Book, and never in depth.  // back
  23. Denis de Rougemont (1906-1985), Swiss writer whose 1940 book Love in the Western World was a history of romantic love from ancient through 20th-century Hollywood sources.  // back
  24. H.D. (1886-1961), born Hilda Doolittle, American Modernist poet, novelist, and memoirist best known for her centrality to the Imagist movement along with friend Ezra Pound. Her “War Trilogy” and Helen in Egypt are central to the teachings of Robert Duncan and Diane di Prima, and her condensed, stripped-down verse, with its ceaseless searching after mystery, inspired and challenged Wieners and his peers.  // back
  25. The Plumed Serpent, 1926 novel by D.H. Lawrence, written when he was living in Taos, New Mexico.  // back
  26. Ezra Pound’s 1938 Guide to Kulchur, published by New Directions in 1952, his study of 2,500 years of human history (focusing on economics) as “ideas going into action.”  // back
  27. The Bollingen Series, founded by Paul and Mary Conover in 1943 and named for the Swiss town where Carl Jung’s retreat was located, has published an eclectic list of writers, from Coleridge to Jung to Nabokov.  // back
  28. “Tug of War,” a long poem by Edward Marshall that went missing for some time; Marshall showed up at all his friends’ apartments looking for it frantically. It was not published in either of his extant books, and may still be lost.  // back
  29. Ezra Pound’s collection of poetry Personae, first published in 1926 by Boni and Liveright.  // back
  30. D.H. Lawrence’s essay on Poe in Studies in Classical American Literature.  // back
  31. It is unclear what Wieners is referring to; though there is a Windhover Press it did not exist at this time, and in an email Michael Rumaker wrote that he had no recollection of the name or this “news.”  // back
  32. “Exit 3,” short story that Michael Rumaker wrote while at Black Mountain College; published in the Evergreen Review in 1957, it would later become the title story of a UK collection (1966) reprinted in the United States as Gringos and Other Stories. In his memoir Black Mountain Days, Rumaker describes reading the story in its earliest form in the writing class he took with Wieners, who came up to him after in a “shocked whisper” to say how surprised he’d been at the story’s gay kiss (438).  // back
  33. Gavin Douglas (b. 1931), American poet. He was the son of Boston art critic R. Langton Douglas and brother of Claire Douglas, a wife of JD Salinger and the model for his character Franny. His great-uncle was Lord Alfred “Bosie” Douglas, lover and source of all pain for Oscar Wilde. In a memoir of their friendship, Martha King describes Douglas as “mercurial, full of references, mentally international.” His poem “The blanket” was published in Measure #1.  // back
  34. Unclear whether this is Wieners’ or Rumaker’s handwriting.  // back
  35. Jack Spicer’s “Song for bird and myself” appeared in Measure #1. It is a dark poem, to say the least, beginning with the lines “I am dissatisfied with my poetry. / I am dissatisfied with my sex life. / I am dissatisfied with the angels I believe in.” Robert Duncan’s reaction was to be “angry at his doing that Bird thing. Most angry because his lack of Measure misued the given experience, which had yielded otherwise a beautiful poem” (August 25, 1957, see appendix). Spicer was characteristically waspish about Measure, from its “littlemaggotish name” to Wieners’ selections: “Wieners had had the nerve to reject Spicer’s Boston piece, ‘Poem to the Reader of This Poem’…and to ask instead for ‘Imaginary Elegies,’ the suite of poems Spicer had written for Robin [Blaser], which he regarded as his best so far – and far too good for the upstart, no-nothing Wieners, who ‘only understands Black Mountain poetry and Cole Porter” (PBLG 94).  // back
  36. Either “facing” or “fazing.”  // back
  37. Wieners is quoting William Blake’s “The Sick Rose.” “Oh Rose thou art sick! / The invisible worm, / that flies in the night, / in the howling storm, // has found out thy bed / of crimson joy.” Allen Ginsberg wrote in “Howl” of his 1948 vision after reading the poem. In his memoir Ed Sanders describes the revelation, when Ginsberg
    heard the ghostly voice of William Blake chanting the poems from The Songs of Experience beginning ‘Oh Rose, Thou Art Sick’ and ‘Ah, Sunflower, Weary of Time’ in an apartment in Spanish Harlem. From 1948 through half of 1963 he had obeyed the implications of his Blake visions, searching for personal Illuminations and Ecstasy (Sanders 1).
      // back
  38. Basil King (b. 1935), British-born American painter and writer who arrived at sixteen to study art at Black Mountain College before marrying Martha Winston (b. 1937), a writer and student at the college, and moving to New York City. His signature style can be found on the cover designs of many books and small magazines, including the pivotal Yugen.  // back
  39. Larry Eigner (1927-1996), American writer. Born and raised in Swampscott, Massachusetts, Eigner was non-ambulatory, born with cerebral palsy, and his poetry and essays explored the universe from a unique perspective. Robert Grenier and Curtis Faville edited a four-volume Collected Poems (2010), reproducing Eigner’s one-keystroke-at-a-time typescripts and making available his extraordinary achievements.  // back
  40. Actually two lines dramatically arcing across the page.  // back
  41. Could be “white wine.”  // back
  42. This quote is from a letter Olson wrote to him on May 17, 1957, which Wieners seems to have received between starting this letter and writing the “addenda”; his habit of adding post-scripts to letters often stretched the letter-writing process over days.  // back
  43. Harry Redl (1926-2011), Canadian photographer whose portraits of West Coast writers and artists helped shape the public (and self-)perception of the Beat phenomenon. His portfolio “Eight photographs of San Francisco Poets” appeared in the Evergreen Review “San Francisco Scene” issue.  // back
  44. Phillip Whalen (1923-2002), American poet known for his deep commitments to Zen Buddhism and ecology in his life as well as his poetics. Wieners had written Whalen in June to critique a submission to Measure and ask for different poems, saying “I cant bring myself to say: yes, they go. It’s me you gotta make happy. And I aint.” Whalen responded by demanding his work be returned, adding “Why cant you decide what it is you’re doing or who it is you’re being? An editor makes a magazine to be read by other people. A critic is an unprintable fuckhead. Take your choice” (August 14, 1957, see Appendix A of The Letters of John Wieners for the full tirade).  // back
  45. Yvor Winters (1900-1968), American poet and critic and a leading voice of New Criticism in the academy; John Livingston Lowes (1867-1945), Harvard professor known for his work on Coleridge and Chaucer; Matthew Arnold (1822-1888), British poet, writer, and scholar who worked towards a systematic view of poetry that prized “high truth” and “high seriousness.”  // back
  46. The page facing Olson’s “She who hits at will” features an uncredited drawing by Olson of a shaky hand, with the handwritten text
    (or the ladies’
    white legs – no
    dirtiness LEFT
                This magic
                is not for, or for only
                the PRIESTS
    This short poem was included in the posthumous Olson collection Archaeologist of Morning (1970), edited by Albert Glover for Cape Goliard.  // back
  47. On May 8, 1957, Wieners wrote to Eigner asking whether the latter meant to say “Koshare” or “Kosher.” Koshare are sacred clowns in Hopi religious culture.  // back
  48. Constance Wilcock Bunker (1919-1975), Olson’s common-law wife until his affair with Betty Kaiser.  // back
  49. Eila Kokkinen, an art history student at the time, was made art editor of the Chicago Review in the Spring of 1957, when the Review was beginning its peak period of rebellion and (in retrospect) Beat canon-formation under the strident editorship of Irving Rosenthal. The Spring 1958 Review was dedicated to “Ten San Francisco Poets,” including the by-then San Franciscan Wieners; Rosenthal printed Wieners’ poems “From End Chapters in an Autobiography” and “The Bridge Word (on brown paper),” neither of which has been reprinted. The Chicago Review’s Winter 1959 issue set off a censorship war, publishing eight excerpts from Burroughs’ Naked Lunch (another excerpt from which was published in Measure #2 that same year). Rosenthal was fired, and Kokkinen and the rest of the staff quit in protest. Rosenthal and Paul Carroll formed Big Table as a way of reprinting the censored issue of the Review.  // back
  50. Whalen’s poem “Against the Magic War” was published in volume 5, number 7 (September 1967) of Ed Sanders’ magazine Fuck You/A Magazine of the Arts, with its plaintive injunction to the anti-war mage Robert Duncan: “O Robert, all of us are bound by hate & power – all we know is / misery and self-indulgence – why this battle among enchanters?”  // back
  51. “A Poem of Despondancies” remains unpublished.  // back
  52. In Greek mythology, “Keres” are death-spirits, sisters of fate, doom, and other baleful entities. In his August 19th letter to Wieners, Olson quotes Robert Duncan writing of Stéphane Mallarmé looming over his own poetry, “Keres from his world scuttering in to attend the séance of each poem.”  // back
  53. Either “moth” or “math.”  // back
  54. These three lines are lightly crossed out with an “x” in blue ink.  // back
  55. Mary Caroline (M.C.) Richards (1916-1999), American poet, writer, and potter who taught writing and studied dance at Black Mountain College in the late forties. Madeline Gleason (1903-1979), American poet. Marianne Moore (1887-1972), American Modernist poet and writer whose influence on twentieth century poetry cannot be overstated. She spent the last forty-three years of her life living in New York, thirty-seven at the same apartment in Brooklyn.  // back
  56. “A Poem for the Dead I Know” was published in the “Uncollected Poems” section of Wieners’ 1984 Selected Poems (Black Sparrow Press). Richard Twardzik (1931-1955) was a bebop pianist born in Danvers, Massachusetts, who fatally overdosed on heroin while touring with Chet Baker in Paris.  // back


John Wieners’ letters to Rumaker are held in the Michael Rumaker Papers. Archives, Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

  • Abel, David. “Edward Marshall.” The Text Garage. May 22, 2013. Web.
  • Ellingham, Lewis, and Kevin Killian. Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance. Hanover: Wesleyan University Press, 1998.
  • Jarnot, Lisa. Robert Duncan: The Ambassador From Venus. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012.
  • Olson, Charles. The Collected Poems of Charles Olson: Excluding the “Maximus” Poems,” edited by George F. Butterick. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987.
  • Pound, Ezra. The Cantos of Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions, 1993.
  • Rumaker, Michael. Black Mountain Days. New York: Spuyten Duyvil, 2003, 2012.
  • Sanders, Ed. Fug You: An Informal History of the Peace Eye Bookstore, the Fuck You Press, the Fugs, and Counterculture in the Lower East Side. Cambridge: De Capo Press, 2011.
  • Wieners, John. Cultural Affairs in Boston: Poetry & Prose 1956-1985, edited by Raymond Foye. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow, 1988.
  • ----- , and Charles Olson. “the sea under the house”: The Selected Correspondence of John Wieners and Charles Olson, edited by Michael Seth Stewart. Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Documents Initiative, Series III, Number 3, Fall 2012.