Entries published at 06/30/2012

[in memory of Ron Allen]

Returning to Detroit from Germany, I continued my frenzy for discovery in an afternoon session at John K. King Books, a monument to the material text located off a ramp of the Lodge Freeway, just beyond downtown Detroit. I think of John K. King as a kind of mine, much like one I visited in Germany, where one laboriously seeks an ore-bearing vein from the base substrate (of pulp fiction, back issues, technical manuals, legal handbooks, and so on). On the day I visited, the poetry vein was productive, as will be evident from the finds below.

Numerous personal associations surround these discoveries. Josephine Miles was the only woman faculty in the English Department at Berkeley in the 60s and wrote for my admission to the Iowa Writers Workshop. She pioneered the use of quantitative methods (word counting) in the study of poetry; the two volumes are the major results of her work. Christopher Caudwell is a now forgotten Marxist anti-modernist critic whose work I read, likely in this edition, in the 70s. Philip Whalen’s On Bear’s Head has always been a mystery as an object; how could such a mass of jottings find their way through a New York publisher? A similar mystery attends Clark Coolidge’s 1970 Space, from Harper & Row. Ronald Gross’s Pop Poems ought to be on any canonical list of conceptual writing, as it antedates that movement by forty years. Gross would take banal ad copy and other socially inflected messages and versify them, anticipating the work of Rob Fitterman and his “rubber duck” catalogue poem. … More