Johnson County Courthouse, Iowa City.

I am reminded by Rod Smith’s move to Iowa City of my own arrival in January 1970. I had driven a driveaway Buick from California with several other students; stopped over in Iowa City to drop off my things and just miss an encounter with Alice Notley, then moving to New York; and brought the car to its owner near Kosciusko Boulevard in Chicago, returning by bus. That first night in Iowa City I slept in the car in front of the Johnson County Courthouse, a building renowned for its stolid but eerie architecture. In the morning, when I awoke, I saw farmers dragging fox carcasses up the stairs of the courthouse for bounty. At Iowa, I was obsessed with the kind of architectural symmetry typified by the courthouse (Romanesque Revival), which while highly rationalized went beyond any mere functionalism, to the extent that I took such design as a model for poetics. It was the arbitrariness of their forms even in their pure functionality, and the resulting dissociation, that communicated through such turn-of-the-century examples in advance of any knowledge of postmodernism (only then coming into its own as a discourse). I put a geometric modernist building, in single-point perspective, on the cover of my first chapbook, Radio Day in Soma City, and have returned to architectural metaphors often since.

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