John Wieners

Barbara Guest in C: A journal of poetry

'Looking at Flowers Through Tears' and 'Sturm Nacht'

Barbara Guest's note to Ted Berrigan
Barbara Guest's Note to Ted Berrigan, Courtesy of Fales Library Archive and Hadley Guest

“Dear Ted,” Barbara Guest writes in the note above, “Would they were writ in gold. Affection--though--Barbara.” This was the cover note Guest included with her submission of two poems, “Looking at Flowers Through Tears” and “Sturm Nacht,” for the summer 1964 issue of C: A Journal of Poetry. Guest's poems appeared alongside work by John Ashbery, John Wieners, James Schuyler, Ted Berrigan, Kenward Elmslie, Ron Padgett, and others; she was the lone woman writer in this and the other two issues in which her work appeared: Volume 1, Number 5 (October/November 1963) and Volume 2, Number 11 (Summer 1965). For a more complete catalogue of the Table of Contents for this and other issues of C, I recommend visiting the RealityStudio site, “Index to the Contents of C: A Journal of Poetry.” Below are the images of the manuscript versions of the two poems from Volume 1, Number 9 (summer 1964) as they appear in the Fales Library archive.

'It felt like many lifetimes'

The last issue of Angel Hair

Angel Hair 6, cover art by George Schneeman

“Only three years had passed,” Lewish Warsh writes of publishing the journal Angel Hair, “but it felt like many lifetimes.” By 1969, when the last issue of Angel Hair appeared, Warsh and Waldman had begun publishing books--mainly because many of their poet friends needed publishers for their book-length collections, but also because The World, a new magazine published by the Poetry Project, was covering much of the same ground as Angel Hair. “I also felt,” Warsh says, “that we had made our point in trying to define a poetry community without coastal boundaries--a community based on a feeling of connectedness that transcended small aesthetic differences, all the usual traps that contribute to a blinkered pony vision of the world.” 

The hurts of wanting the impossible

A review of 'Supplication: Selected Poems of John Wieners'

Photo of John Wieners (right) by Allen Ginsberg.

Shortly after the sad news of her death, I went to a screening of Chantal Akerman’s last film, No Home Movie.[1] The woman who introduced the film assured us — twice — that Akerman’s work is “unsentimental.” I considered the value of her insisting on this as on screen Akerman’s camera sat fixed upon her aged mother reminiscing, doing chores, and towards the end trying to eat a meal — with the help of a condescending nurse — in the grip of an unsettlingly deep and chronic cough.

John Wieners: video of reading in San Francisco, March 25, 1990

new at PennSound

 

Magazines #4

More Rabbit 1

Colour version of a b/w photograph by Nicholas Walton-Healey in Rabbit
Colour version of a b/w photograph by Nicholas Walton-Healey in Rabbit

Tim Wright's poem (see previous post, Magazines #3) plays off a fusion of open field and New York poetics pioneered by poets such as Laurie Duggan and Pam Brown; yet 'Suns' subscribes to neither, nor is antiformalist in the way of his precursors. Rather, I suggest Wright is conceptual, aformalist, in employing a kind of relaxed proceduralism. Which might sound like Ashbery by another name - yet the poem produced is unlike Ashbery's - for one thing, the tone is very different, its play both more random and more active.

Wieners by night (PoemTalk #43)

John Wieners, "The Acts of Youth"

John Wieners at the Odessa Restaurant, New York City, November 1993. Photo by Allen Ginsberg.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Ammiel Alcalay, Gary Barwin, and Danny Snelson joined Al Filreis to talk about a poem by John Wieners for which we at PennSound have two recordings. The version used as the basis of this PoemTalk discussion was part of a brief two-poem performance at the Poetry Project in New York, in 1990. (He also read "Confidence" that day.) “The Acts of Youth” was written in the early 1960s and published in Wieners's second book, Ace of Pentacles, in 1964.

Wieners by night (PoemTalk #43)

John Wieners, 'The Acts of Youth'

John Wieners at the Odessa Restaurant, New York City, November 1993. Photo by Allen Ginsberg.

LISTEN TO THE SHOW

Ammiel Alcalay, Gary Barwin, and Danny Snelson joined Al Filreis to talk about a poem by John Wieners for which we at PennSound have two recordings. The version used as the basis of this PoemTalk discussion was part of a brief two-poem performance at the Poetry Project in New York, in 1990. (He also read "Confidence" that day.) “The Acts of Youth” was written in the early 1960s and published in Wieners's second book, Ace of Pentacles, in 1964.<--break- />

On the Hotel Wentley Poems

John Wieners

I admire and am often mesmerized by the poems of John Wieners because they presuppose a music exhilirated--made absolutely alive--by deprivation and, at times, by self-destructiveness. They are "the score of a man's struggle to stay with what is his own."

The Hotel Wentley Poems, Wieners's first book (1958), are available online--all of them. This is a book that should be read in one sitting, and it offers a powerful reading experience. Not quite Beat (although he was feeling beat--out of it, not beatific--and he was in San Francisco at the time he wrote these poems in successive days) and not quite Black Mountain, the poems can be placed in their time and aesthetic context with some pleasure taken by the placer; but they do really well as more generally "New American" or, frankly, contextless, or in the similar/different context of love poetry across the literary ages. I have two favorite passages. One is the seventh and final section of "A poem for painters" and the other is a passage near the end of "A poem for museum goers." The latter movingly situates the speaker (a writer--the author of these very poems) both in the history of art (the art of lovers leaving lovers) and in the desolate present room at the Hotel Wentley, the room of the poem.

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