Barbara Guest’s remarkable first book, The Location of Things (Tibor de Nagy Gallery, 1960), establishes that it is possible to reclaim gendered space, and this possibility is manifest in language itself. As Julia Kristeva writes, “Writing is an act of differentiation and of participation with respect to reality; it is a language without a beyond without transcendence.”  The act of writing is human, and in being human it is gendered. By presenting or writing a female text, the writer internalizes and recycles the desire for the dominance of masculinity, meaning the historically accepted male language. In “ The other window is the lark’ on Barbara Guest,” Rachel Blau DuPlessis writes, “Once more, as so often in the fifties, female figures are positioned in an asymmetrical binary system through which they are habitually left behind as all too normal, all too tedious. Indeed, they must, by definition, be left behind for anything amusing and lively to thrive.”  These binary realities (particularly relevant when situating Guest in the male-dominated New York School) coupled with the alienation and surveillance of the Cold War, make Guest’s domestically divergent poet(h)ic lens even more striking — mandating that the poem opens up to something more than “public speech.”  Robert Bennett describes these spaces as “deliberately constructed both to unsettle conventional expectations about the nature of spatiality itself and to suggest instead intimations of a more complex world in which both ‘proofs’ and ‘illusions’ of ‘stability’ are subverted by a profound awareness of the chaotic contingencies of modern life.” 
The Location of Things indicates sovereignty of the writer over the inanimate. If this title was “A Location of Things,” this control would not be present, but the use of “the” leaves the impression that this “location of things” is an absolute, a constant. And, in contrast to several nonfiction bestsellers of that year, including Better Homes and Gardens First Aid for Your Family and Better Homes and Gardens Decorating Ideas, Guest presents readers with an alternative to the “woman in the house” — rather, as Lynn Keller writes, “Guest indicates that love, romance, and a man’s protection — all essential to the gender divisions of the fifties feminine mystique — cannot possibly do all that they are supposed to do.”  Guest displaces the relationship between woman and house that the public is accustomed to and creates a new relationship, quite different from the one indicated by the househelp books sold that year. Sure, “no one listens to poetry,” yet one can’t help but salute this new architecture Guest establishes here — a “Shifting Persona,” where, “without the person outside there would be no life inside.” 
Beginning with the poem, “The Location of Things,” the book launches into a deconstruction and reconstruction of the domestic.
Why from this window am I watching leaves?
Why do halls and steps seem narrower?
Why at this desk am I listening for the sound of the fall
Am I to understand change, whether remarkable
or hidden… 
We begin with the repetition of “why,” an interrogative adverb; instead of describing a situation, Guest questions it. In his 1941 “Foreword to a historical geography,” Carl Sauer writes, “houses are historical geographic records.”  Rather than literally placing the speaker inside a house, Guest offers readers the chance to involve themselves in the architecture of this inquisitive space — to build a “record” through engaging with language. Anna Rabinowitz refers to this as how Guest’s “language seeks ways to become that which it sets out to name; poems where the page functions as pictorial space…”  The real power of this collection is in its poeticization of the painterly priority of “defining space,” while redefining the domestic. We see this aesthetic re-visioning of space in lines like: “This roof will hold me. Outside the gods survive” (“The Hero Leaves His Ship”). 
“Sunday Evening” begins:
I am telling you a number of half-conditioned ideas
Am repeating myself,
The room has four sides; it is a rectangle,
From the window the bridge, the water, the leaves… 
“Safe Flights” ends:
The house is a burden to the weak cyclone,
You are under a tent where promises perform
And the ring you grasp as an aerialist
Glides, no longer. 
This dichotomy of inside/outside, voyeur/actor resonates through out the book and continues to remind the reader that women do not have the luxury of occupying space in the same way men (her male contemporaries) do/did. In these early poems, we see the surfacing of Guest’s commitment to poetry that works as painting or architecture — poetry that demands the reader look at the thing in front of him/her and then let it teach them to occupy space, with one eye on object and the other on the gendered body that views it.
In closing, this amazing first volume anachronistically reminds us, as Yi-Fu Tuan writes, that “the built environment, like language, has the power to define and refine sensibility […] without architecture feelings about space must remain diffuse and fleeting.” 
 Julia Kristeva, Language: The Unknown (New York: Columbia University Press, 1989), 24.
 Rachel Blau DuPlessis, “The other window is the lark’ on Barbara Guest,” Jacket 36 (2008).
 Edward Brunner, Cold War Poetry: The Social Text in the Fifties Poem (Urbana: The University of Illinois Press, 2000). One of the main accomplishments of Beat writing — specifically Ginsberg’s “Howl” — was that it turned poetry (which was previously much more of a private art) into “public speech.”
 Robert Bennett, “Literature as Destruction of Space: The Precarious Architecture of Barbara Guest’s Spatial Imagination” Women’s Studies no. 30 (2001): 43-55.
 Lynn Keller, “Becoming a Compleat Travel Agency: Barbara Guest’s Negotiations with the Fifties Feminine Mystique,” in The Scene of My Selves: New Work on New York School Poets, ed. Terence Diggory and Stephen Paul Miller (Orono: The National Poetry Foundation, 2001), 219.
 Jack Spicer, “Thing Language,” in My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian (Middletown: Wesleyan University Press, 2008), 373; Barbara Guest, “Shifting Persona,” in Forces of Imagination: Writing on Writing (Berkeley: Kelsey St., 2003), 36 42.
 Barbara Guest, Poems: The Location of Things, Archaics, The Open Skies (Garden City: Doubleday and Company, 1962), 11.
 Carl O. Sauer, “Foreword to Historical Geography,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 31 (1941): 1 24. Full quote from Sauer: “The study of house types basically is the study of the smallest economic unit, as that of village or town is that of an economic community. In both cases description seeks the meaning of structure in relation to institutionalized process, as an expression of the culture area. Houses are historical geographic records. They may date from a former historical stage, or they may, as current buildings, still preserve conventional qualities which once were functionally important…”
 Anna Rabinowitz, “Barbara Guest: Notes Towards a Painterly Osmosis,” Women’s Studies 30 (2001): 95-109.
 Barbara Guest, Poems: The Location of Things, Archaics, The Open Skies (Garden City: Doubleday, 1962), 20-21.
 Ibid., 26.
 Ibid., 32.
 Yi-fu Tuan, Space and Place: the Perspective of Experience (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 1977), 107.
When discussing poetry in the year 1960, there’s perhaps no volume more important than Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry.  However, I’d like to argue that there’s another anthology that, in terms of both prescience and precedent, sketches out a blueprint for Allen’s collection and in some ways even supersedes his achievement. Nearly forgotten half a century later, A New Folder and its editor, Daisy Aldan, are certainly deserving of a greater critical recognition. 
A child star of the CBS radio program, Let’s Pretend, Aldan was first published in the pages of Poetry by age twelve. After taking degrees at Hunter College and Brooklyn College, she spent thirty-five years teaching at New York’s School of Industrial Art, where her students included Art Spiegelman, Tony Bennett, Calvin Klein and Harvey Fierstein, as well as Warhol associates Gerard Malanga and Jackie Curtis. She cofounded the Tiber Press and the journal Folder with Richard Miller, releasing four issues between 1953 and 1956, then resurrected the title herself in 1959 with A New Folder, first published in a small hardcover edition, which was followed in 1960 by a paperback version. Given that much of the work originated in the subculture of little magazines, this format, which more closely mimics the portable aesthetics of those journals, seems ideal.
Allen sought to answer manifesto with manifesto, countering the “cooked” traditionalism of New Poets of England and America (1957) with a volume that dressed itself in the raiments of canonicity (including bibliographies and statements of poetics). However, Alden’s hybrid aims for A New Folder are still quite ambitious — to combine the anthology’s snapshot view of the best and brightest of contemporary American poetry with the journal’s diverse, risk-taking scope and more modest selections (most poets are represented by a single work) — and it bears repeating that she accomplished all of this before The New American Poetry was published.
Containing approximately the same number of poets, A New Folder and The New American Poetry have sixteen authors in common, representing one-third of their respective rosters — an all-star lineup consisting of John Ashbery, Kenneth Koch, Frank O’Hara, Edward Field, Allen Ginsberg, Gregory Corso, Jack Kerouac, LeRoi Jones, Paul Blackburn, Denise Levertov, Robert Creeley, Charles Olson, Larry Eigner, Madeline Gleason, Michael McClure and Philip Whalen. The selections Allen would make for both the Beats and New York School are almost identical, and many of the major Black Mountain poets are present as well, along with interesting outliers like Wallace Fowlie (who contributes a foreword), Aldan’s close friend Anaïs Nin, Kenward Elmslie, Harold Norse, James Broughton, M.C. Richards, Gerrit Lansing and formalist poets Richard Eberhart and James Merrill. Taken together, what we have is a wide-ranging chronicle of New York’s burgeoning cross-cultural scene, which works against Allen’s useful yet problematically reductive aesthetic/geographic subdivisions.
In and of itself, A New Folder’s literary content is enough to make it a notable anthology, however, the volume also contains work from a staggering array of more than thirty artists including Larry Rivers (who also contributed a poem), Jackson Pollock, Franz Kline, Joan Mitchell, Philip Guston, Willem De Kooning, Robert Motherwell, Jane Freilicher, Grace Hartigan, Helen Frankenthaler, Michael Goldberg, Robert DeNiro and Charles Henri Ford. In his preface to The New American Poetry, Allen observes that his poets are “closely allied to modern jazz and abstract expressionist painting,” and while the spontaneous bop prosody contained therein might ably represent swinging rhythms and action painting, the real thing is conspicuously absent.  Aldan’s black and white photoreproductions do an admirable job of conveying this vital aesthetic energy, and Library of Congress records show that she recorded a number of New Folder readings and discussions, perhaps suggesting that she intended to add yet another dimension to the volume. It’s worth noting that Alfred Leslie’s “one-shot review,” The Hasty Papers (also published in 1960) achieves a similarly effective mix of writing and visuals. However, it’s almost entirely a male affair, and this is the last, perhaps most obvious way in which A New Folder differs from its contemporaries.
While many “feminine marvelous and tough” voices could be found in The New American Poetry, there were, of course, only four women among forty-four poets in the anthology: Guest, Gleason, Levertov and Helen Adam. Guided by the eye of an experienced female editor, it’s not surprising that nearly one-third of A New Folder’s poets are women, and the same percentage holds true for its artists. Such opportunities seem unprecedented in the late fifties and early sixties: writers like Joyce Johnson and Hettie Jones have retrospectively documented the limited venues for creative expression open to women during this time, and even outside the literary counterculture, misogynistic norms held sway (New Poets of England and America, for example, contains just as few women as Allen’s anthology).
In The New American Poetry’s bibliography, Aldan’s work with both Folder and A New Folder is given prominent placement, and in the intervening decades many of her selections have proven to be leading figures in twentieth century American culture. However, Aldan herself has tragically slipped into obscurity. She’s missing entirely or given glancing mention in important critical histories of the period such as David Lehman’s The Last Avant-Garde (1999), Daniel Kane’s All Poets Welcome (2003) and Steve Clay and Rodney Phillips’ A Secret Location on the Lower East Side (1998), receiving the most notice in Reva Wolf’s Andy Warhol, Poetry and Gossip in the 1960s (1997), largely due to having been Malanga’s high school English teacher. Even among as well-informed an audience as those attending our Kelly Writers House symposium on poetry in 1960, there were only three or four people who claimed familiarity with Aldan or A New Folder. However, it’s heartening that in this era of electronic memory — and through events such as the one this commentary was initially conceived for — she might finally be given the recognition that she deserves.
 The New American Poetry: 1945–1960, ed. Donald Allen (New York: Grove Press, 1960).
 A New Folder: Americans: Poems and Drawings, ed. Daisy Aldan (New York: Folder Editions, 1959).
 The New American Poetry: 1945–1960, xi.
Pick up a book any book cut it up
slice down the middle dice into sections
piece together a masterpiece a week
use better materials more highly charged words
there is no longer a need to drum up a season of
the writing machine is for everybody
This idea both precedes and inspired my own notion of “uncreative writing” by nearly half a century. Gysin’s notion of anti-genius still remains the most radical part of his statement, yet even he can't dispose of that idea entirely, still insisting on the value of creating a masterpiece. It’s hard to completely debunk our notion of genius. Even Pierre Menard, that great copyist, was an original genius albeit a one with tragically bad timing. Marjorie Perloff’s recent notion of “unoriginal genius” also holds that genius is still very much in play, it’s just an inverted notion of what we generally consider to be genius that is new.
Can we really kill genius, the masterpiece, creativity and originality? In the twentieth century, any number of great artists tried to kill genius — Duchamp, Warhol, Cage, Mac Low — yet all did it in the most exquisitely personal way, killing it with the best of taste. A Mac Low poem, for example, is not bereft of personal choices — it’s just the opposite. His “writing machine” is imprinted with the way he chose to construct it (the set of rules that determine the poem’s outcome) as are the source texts that he selected to dump into that machine. The resultant product, although determined by chance, is entirely Mac Lowian and could not have been done by anyone else.
Gysin couldn’t escape this either. Another section of Minutes to Go reads:
all words are taped agents everywhere
marking down the live ones to exterminate
Although the sources are unnamed (Gysin claims that they are from a variety of places, some found, some original), the vocabulary is immediately recognizable to anyone vaguely familiar works with produced in the Beat Hotel: “All words are taped” refers to the source material for recorded cut-ups; “agents everywhere” is taken from Gysin’s “Recalling All Active Agents,” (1960) a permutational sound work dealing with Cold War police states; and “to exterminate” appears throughout the writings of William S. Burroughs’s oeuvre, referring to both his own early stint as an insect exterminator as well as to nefarious criminal activities. Although Gysin advocates impersonal work, this is in fact a “classic,” a signature work of the period.
Yet I’m guilty of the same problem. While I trumpet my work’s “valuelessness,” its “nutritionlessness,” its lack of creativity and originality, clearly the opposite is true. There may, in fact, be a lot of truth when my detractors claim that I’m not that radical, that my name is still on these objects, and all the machinic and “impersonal” decisions I make in my works are in the service of upholding notions of my own genius. For an egoless project, there sure is a lot of investment in me here, leading Ron Silliman to acutely comment, “Kenny Goldsmith’s actual art project is the projection of Kenny Goldsmith.”
Perhaps it’s best to heed to words of Christian Bök, that constraint-based and performative genius, who proposes bypassing the human quotient entirely, claiming that “If we want to commit an act of poetic innovation in an era of formal exhaustion, we may have to consider this heretofore unimagined, but nevertheless prohibited, option: writing poetry for inhuman readers, who do not yet exist, because such aliens, clones, or robots have not yet evolved to read it.”  And yet there will still be some human programming those machines, resulting in the crown of genius being rewarded not to the best poet or the best machine, but to the best programmer, leading us back again to our (un)original quandary.
 Christian Bök, “The Piecemeal Bard Is Deconstructed: Notes Toward a Potential Robopoetics,” Object 10: Cyberpoetics (2002).
Mac Low as a Shadow Beatnik
For years I heard about Stanzas for Iris Lezak and read excerpts from it in Representative Works: 1938–1985 and Thing of Beauty: New and Selected Works, though never held a copy until recently.  When I did, I made a surprising discovery: the great extent to which Jackson Mac Low’s work at this juncture joins with the Beat zeitgeist.
Mac Low’s “systematic-chance” poems, known for their inventiveness, expose a wide range of human values, interests, struggles, observations, desires, and joys — even if they are mechanistically derived. Catching my attention in Stanzas for Iris Lezak was something humorous, not on the surface and not so much funny as revelatory about how the author connected with broader literary movements. A nominal connection, association, or appreciation for the Beats is not disguised by Mac Low. Poems titled, “A 2-Part Poem for Ginsberg & Burroughs from Burroughs’ Letter to Ginsberg” and “Asymmetry from Ginsberg’s KADDISH—22 Sept. 1960,” are among those that appear in the book. 
Beyond containing many poems referencing narcotics (i.e., “The Mind and Marihuana”), Stanzas for Iris Lezak’s camaraderie with the subcultural framework of the Beats also appears in its portrayal of hedonistic sexuality. A poem strongly representing this take on the material is Section I of “6 Gitanjali for Iris”:
Gain is rainy life
The Here end
Gain rainy end again the end see the
Feet. Utter. Cry know
The outside when Now,
(18 seconds of silence)
Life outside void end
Feet. Utter. Cry know
Gain is rainy life. 
The amusing and weird part, providing connective tissue to the Beats (beyond perhaps echoing Michael McClure), is not in the lines of the poem, which appear as sweet and expansive cut-up and/or slotted texts. Discovered in the “seed” text used to generate them — which “An Afterword on the Methods Used in Composing & Performing Stanzas for Iris Lezak” reports are taken from Rabindranath Tagore’s “Gitanjali” — are, however, these “exultant sentences”: “My girl’s the greatest fuck in town. I love to fuck my girl.”  Mac Low reads through Tagore’s book, selecting words conforming to the pattern designated by the seed phrases (e.g. first letters of the lines “My you / Gain is rainy life” spell “My Girl”). What Mac Low does with his corporeal impulse, expressed in a code a reader might or might not see, differs from the blatant sexuality found in Beat works. However, Mac Low significantly chooses to divulge this textual fact at the outset of his Afterword — so he clearly wants to let readers know it’s there! [Photo at left by Rachel Homer, used with her permission.]
Stanzas for Iris Lezak also connects with the Beats by overt emphasis — by reference and process — on Eastern religion; it is peppered with Zen à la Kerouac’s Mexico City Blues, as in “Haiku (3 Oct. 1960)”:
Ripples in a pool
passions thoughts sensations lives
in serenity. 
Many poems reference Eastern iconography and inclination; one titled “Rinzai on the Self, or ‘The One who is, at this moment, right in front of us, illuminatingly, in full awareness, listening to this talk on the Dharma,” being a particularly prime example. Mac Low’s methods involve use of “auxiliary means” such as dice, playing cards, numbers, and the I Ching.  These algorithmic inventions serve to decentralize a subjective self from the poem — although because it is a poem, made with decisive content from human input, self-importance remains at the fringes. Mac Low revealingly writes, “the most ‘personal’ aspect of the Stanzas […] is the variety of source text.”  Because these are poems, published in a book, we cannot consider Mac Low’s efforts as a rejection of materialism (although its methods of materialization do not follow common convention), but rather as processed re-materialism that finds ways for one set of words to say more than one thing, confirming that multidimensionality exists within a single set of resources. In the early sixties, Mac Low’s identity was normally associated with Fluxus rather than with his bawdy beatnik contemporaries becoming well-known at the time; however, both influences are there. Mac Low references Keats in the title of Thing of Beauty; we know Mac Low and the Beats drew from the Romantics, connecting themselves to all of it, filtering multitudes unafraid to disclose liberated glory!
I title this paper “Mac Low as a Shadow Beatnik” to commemorate the observation, and have applied Mac Low’s expansion method to the book using the “seed” “Mac Low as beatnik.” Linear reading of the whole brought waves of themes — touching and reading every page and word, holding transcribing staccato blasts of constrained concept. Any reader sees how Jackson blends native with foreign, but who else becomes aware of how many pages can pass without having a word beginning with “w”? Like Emmett Williams’ IBM poems or Hugh Kenner’s Travesty, participating like this is instructive regarding language, authorial range, how limited speech is not always limited, and how cycles and patterns build force. Here are results of reading through the poetry until page sixty — seven lines made by a chance melding on the bridge between Modern and Postmodern, instructive to a culture around it:
Maharishi always concerning little of written are same beyond each added teachings no in known
Man’s actual conditioned literally on way a sangsaric but existence and true not is karmic
Mental are conceivable like of wills and such believes essentially and to nationally
Matter adopted carefulness less orient which as set before east age this no is kind-hearted Moderate affectionate catch letter only widow attractive single business ex-Navy
adventure the N.Y.C. interesting kind
Mercenary American character love one who a sense background employed attractive
travelled nice if know
Marrying away calm lady over who actor seemed being else’s at nothing in kindness
My asshole clitoris little one while Augustin since begin Eugénie’s a those kid.
 Jackson Mac Low, Stanzas for Iris Lezak (Millerton: Something Else Press, 1972); Jackson Mac Low, Representative Works: 1938–1985 (New York: Roof Books, 1986); Jackson Mac Low, Thing of Beauty: New and Selected Works, ed. Anne Tardos (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2008).
 Daniel Kane, All Poets Welcome: the Lower East Side Poetry Scene in the 1960s (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2003), 30; Allen Ginsberg, “Foreword,” in Out of This World: An Anthology of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project 1966–1991, ed. Anne Waldman (New York: Three Rivers Press, 1991), xxv. Mac Low’s intimate association and involvement with the poetry scene in New York in the 1960s is reported in Daniel Kane’s All Poets Welcome — which includes excerpts from an unpublished essay by Mac Low titled, “The New York Coffeehouse Poetry Reading Scene in New York, 1960-1967” — as well as in Ginsberg’s “Foreword” to Out of this World: An Anthology of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project 1966-1991.
 Mac Low, Stanzas for Iris Lezak, 203.
 Ibid., 400. A description of processes used in Stanzas for Iris Lezak is also offered in Mac Low’s posthumous collection Thing of Beauty: New and Selected Works, 49–51.
 Ibid., 369.
 Ibid., 401.
 Mac Low, Stanzas for Iris Lezak, 405.
Preface to a Twenty Volume Suicide Note, LeRoi Jones’s first book, was composed between 1957 and 1961.  Arranged chronologically, the book feels distinct from the work Jones/Baraka is known for. That work, tho suggested here in isolated snatches, is yet to be written. In this sense the book truly is a “preface.”
And why to a suicide note? That part makes sense only in retrospect: Jones is poised to begin a decades long struggle to kill the white part of his consciousness. A belief common to Black Nationalists of the era was that many who are phenotypically black are ideologically white, therefore divided against themselves. This concept is explored in Jones’s “Poem for HalfWhite College Students” (1969), where he writes “check yourself / learn who it is / speaking [...] who it is you are and is that image black or white.” What begins in Preface as an embrace of open form, an opportunity to dig deep in his own mind and language, will develop, over the coming volumes, into revolutionary praxis. But as yet that struggle is kept at a distance.
Preface’s style is equal parts field poetics, Beat, and NY School.  Jones hasn’t arrived at a style quite yet, but instead presents an amalgam of influences. Though the authors in those movements had shifting perspectives, they often had well-defined approaches, habits, motifs. By contrast, the style of Preface feels uncertain — sometimes abstract lyric, sometimes visceral and incoherent, parodic in one poem, sincere in another. There’s anger, but its object remains unclear. The issue of race lurks, yet feels mostly repressed.
The second poem, “Hymn for Lanie Poo,” is most indicative of what Jones is repressing. In it, radically fragmented voices act out contradictory attitudes towards race and bohemia. The poem seems to critique both bohemians and the black bourgeoisie, but these critiques are equally directed at Jones himself. He lampoons a black man in a café for talking about politics then turning to gawk at a blond woman; Jones is married to a white woman when he writes this poem, and writes in disgust at Black Nationalists who claim this invalidates his right to address racialized oppression. Likewise, the poem labels his sister’s boyfriend a “faggot music teacher / who digs Tschaikovsky”; but Jones, who in this book references Strindberg, Rimbaud, and Baudelaire, can’t question the character of a man “who digs Tschaikovsky” without implicating himself.
The poem is less about Jones making a critique, and more about the discourse landscape he finds himself trapped in as a black poet and intellectual. He wants a life in art, not in politics, but politics follows him everywhere. He ends a 1961 letter to Dorn — the letter that accompanies the newly-published Preface, but also recounts his recent arrest in Harlem — with “What is this all about? Who knows? It’s just that I’ve got to do something. I donno. I’m picked. What I wanted (& want) was soft music and good stuffy purity (of intent, of purpose) elegance, even (of the mind). And now I’m fighting in the streets and the cops think I’m dangerous. […] I have people, old men, on Harlem streets come up and shake my hand, or old ladies kiss me, and nod, ‘You are a good man… you will help us.’” 
Even at the end of Preface, which closes with eight poems written after his visit to post-revolutionary Cuba, Jones expresses no desire to move towards a political poetry. These last pieces are not much different from the rest of the book, leaning if anything more towards the lyrical and harmonious. Whereas in earlier poems anger felt submerged, was handled with parody and sarcasm, the anger in these last eight is owned, but oddly integrated into a calm lyric. These poems were written around the same time as “Cuba Libre,” his essay about the trip, and they seem to embrace its final section, where he holds to the primarily cultural rebellion of the Beats — poetry as soul nourishment, not praxis. One poem from this section, “From an Almanac” sees “our time,” as “a cruel one. our soul’s warmth left out.” In “Betancourt,” the one poem written in Cuba, he accepts poetry as something apart from the cruel world, and in a near-echo of Wordsworth writes:
(I mean I think
I know now
turning away . .
us . . .
Looking at the sea. And some
white fast boat.
So the poet of “Betancourt” accepts, regretfully, the poem as a “turning away.” He has had a realization about the difference between poetry and action, a realization we know will change over the coming years. But for now, he will continue his commitment to poetry as such. He will not be a revolutionary. 
In the closing poem of the book, “Notes for a Speech,” the word “speech” suggests a connection to activism, but feels tentative about identifying with the current configurations of the cause. It begins “African blues / does not know me” and ends “my, so called / people. Africa / is a foreign place. You are / as any other sad man here / american.”
 As a way of honoring the original event and its request for 750 words or less, all my serious post-event additions are in these footnotes. The complexity of Preface to a Twenty-Volume Suicide Note may be too much for so few words, and though I want to preserve what I presented, I feel concerned that my original text may be oversimplifying its topic, so in a move that would not normally stand in an ordinary academic paper, important parts of the argument are submerged in the footnotes.
 Amiri Baraka, The Autobiography of Leroi Jones (New York: Freundlich Books, 1984). Open form poetries offered a critical “place of first permission” for writers looking for strategies flexible enough to sustain language unfit for a more repressed, formal, 1950s poetics — what Baraka would later frame as the “lyricaljingles” of The New Yorker. Baraka, by his account in the Autobiography of LeRoi Jones (1984), first discovered poetic comrades in the scenes that would later be represented (however inadequately) in The New American Poetry. After a period of deep alienation where what he knew of contemporary poetry was mostly what appeared in The New Yorker, his discovery of poets like O’Hara, Ginsberg, and Olson gave him his first sense of possibility. In one of the most cited passages of Autobiography, he talks about a turning point in his early relationship to poetry. While stationed in San Juan in the Air Force, sitting on a bench in a park where black people weren’t allowed unless dressed in US military uniform, he was reading the poetry in the current New Yorker. Those “jingling rhymes” and “verse […] of lawns and trees and dew and birds,” he recounts, made him cry, sob “like it was the end of the world” because just as he was getting excited about poetry, this verse made him realize he was “so out.” He explains, “I was crying because I realized I could never write like that writer […] that what was in me that wanted to come out as poetry would never come out like that and be my poetry” (118). Later sections of Autobiography indicate that the poetic context leading up to The New American Poetry offered the first set of strategies Jones felt connection with (225). Whatever personal and very real shortcomings progenitors of NAP had, the writing strategies, the work, was attractive to Jones, who regularly aligned himself with those projects in the pages of his magazine, Floating Bear, edited with Diane DiPrima. A question arose at the Kelly Writers House Q&A about whether any of the presenters were nostalgic for 1960. My answer would have to be no. The socio-political context of 1960 would not allow Jones to continue seeking what he sought — a life committed to aesthetic exploration in language. Jones wanted a life more like Duncan’s at that moment, but the struggle heating up in Harlem forced his engagement with politics. Reading both Autobiography and his correspondence with Edward Dorn, one cannot avoid the fact that Jones’ turn toward revolutionary politics was long and extraordinarily painful.
 Claudia Moreno-Pisano, “Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn: The Collected Letters” (PhD diss., City University of New York-Graduate Center, 2010). I am grateful to my colleague at CUNY-LaGuardia Community College, Claudia Moreno-Pisano, whose recently completed dissertation is an (as yet unpublished) edition of the Jones-Dorn correspondence. Reading this correspondence has deepened my sense of Preface, and of Jones/Baraka’s early writing and political transformation.
 In “Cuba Libre,” he notes that approaching the Cuba trip, he was determined “not to be ‘taken.’” He tells the story here of meeting Rubi Betancourt, a Mexican delegate from the Latin-American Youth Congress, who he says harangued him for hours about the evils of the U.S. government and what an outrage it was that he didn’t write political poetry. He says he found himself growing more and more defensive, and excused his lack of activism on the grounds of being a poet: “Look, why jump on me? I understand what you're saying. I'm in complete agreement with you. I'm a poet . . . what can I do? I write, that's all, I'm not even interested in politics.” Betancourt attacked this position, as did a group of Latin-American poets a few days later, asking him: “You want to cultivate your soul? In that ugliness you live in, you want to cultivate your soul?” He notes in Autobiography his position on this trip as the “oddball, weary traveler/tourist from the U.S. of A.” and the surprise of finding himself defending his decision to define himself primarily as an artist. He returned from Cuba changed on this count, and though still frustrated and ambivalent about the emerging Black Nationalist movement, recounts that “arguments with my old poet comrades increased and intensified” (245–7). In this light, it is also interesting to note that in the letter to Dorn accompanying the delivery of Preface, fifteen months after the Cuba trip, Jones writes for the first time in their correspondence about politics. He had only recently begun to get involved in protests in Harlem, and writes about the current state of the Black Nationalist leadership: “I am, literally, the only person around who can set them straight. I mean straight… not only as to what their struggle is about, but what form it ought to take! I meet these shabby headed “black nationalists” or quasi-intellectual opportunities, who have never read a fucking book that was worth anything in their damned lives […] and shudder that any kind of movement, or feeling shd come down to the “people” thru their fingers” (Moreno-Pisano 81). Thinking of the last eight poems of Preface being written over the period beginning with the Cuba trip and ending shortly before this letter, one can see what a conflicted process was his coming to politics, and how resistant, frustrated, and ambivalent he was about it, how almost forced into it he felt. These poems are not yet at the level of praxis, but stand as evidence of working out a relationship between conflicted parts of a self. Where Olson, for example, is constructing a self in poetry — this will be who I have been — Jones/Baraka starts out already at an irretrievable distance from a coherent self. This book is the best evidence of that struggle unresolved.