[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. Lenore Kandel’s Word Alchemy is a trophy moment of Beat feminism, worth study for its gender and sexuality politics. A true find of this excursion were Franklin Rosemont’s presentation copies to black Detroit surrealist Ron Allen; these and the two editions of Ted Joans were likely from Ron’s library. Thus I reencountered my friend in distributed form. The modernist editions are all good, as book dealers say, and especially the Square Dollar reprint of Pound’s translation of the Analects. The Square Dollar series was run by a congerie of right-wing ideologues, including Norman Holmes Pearson and Marshall MacLuhan, who were notorious for their segregationist politics in the 50s—with which Pound made common cause in publishing with them. At the opposite end of the spectrum is Jerome Rothenberg’s poetic sequence Poland/1931, which bears another look in relation to Charles Reznikoff’s Holocaust.


H.D. Helen in Egypt. New York: Grove Press, 1961. 1st ed., cloth.

Pound, Ezra, trans.. The Confucian Analects. Washington, D.C.: Square Dollar Series, n.d. Reprinted from The Hudson Review (1950). 1st ed., wrappers.

Stein, Gertrude. Last Operas and Plays. Ed. Carl van Vechten. New York: Rinehart, 1949. 1st ed., cloth.

Zukofsky, Louis.  All: The Collected Short Poems. Series 1 and 2. New York: Norton, 1971. First combined ed.; paper.

After modernism

Gross, Ronald. Pop Poems. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1967. 2nd printing, paper.

Joans, Ted. Afrodisia: New Poems. London: Marion Boyars, 1970. 1st ed., cloth.

———. Black Pow-Wow: Jazz Poems. New York: Hill & Wang, 1970. 1st ed., paper.

Kandel, Lenore. Word Alchemy. New York: Grove Press, 1967. 1st ed., paper.

Rosemont, Franklin. Lamps Hurled at the Stunning Algebra of Ants. Chicago: Surrealist Editions, 1990. 1st ed., paper. Presentation copy to Ron Allen, Detroit African-American poet.

———. Penelope. Chicago: Surrealist Editions, 1997. 1st ed., paper. Presentation copy to Ron Allen.

Rothenberg, Jerome. Poland/1931. New York: New Directions, 1974. 1st ed., cloth.

Whalen, Philip. On Bear’s Head. New York: Harcourt, Brace. 1st ed., paper.


Caudwell, Christopher. Illusion and Reality. 1937. New York: International Publishers, 1973. Reprint ed., paper. Simultaneously published with Lawrence & Wishart, London, and Seven Seas Books, Berlin.

Miles, Josephine. The Primary Language of Poetry in the 1740’s and 1840’s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1950. 1st ed., paper. Discarded from Marygrove College Library.

———. The Primary Language of Poetry in the 1940’s. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1951. 1st ed., library binding. Discarded from Marygrove College Library.


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