Ed Baker writes: “The following letters were written by me to Cid Corman in 1973-1975 while I was working on restoring John Penn's 1723 farm-house and writing Restoration Poems and retrieved/purchased from the William Reese Company via abebooks.com on March 12, 2005. Cid's replies to my letters are in Restoration Letters (tel let, 2003). Cid gave a packet of some of the things that I had sent to him to his brother with instructions to sell. The letters included here were included in that package presented here in a little different form. Some of Cid’s replies to my letters in RESTORATION LETTERS (1972 – 1978), tel let, 2003. The poems were published as RESTORATION POEMS, Country Valley Press, 2008. That's 35 or so years AFTER first writings / versions of the poems ! As Cid wrote in 1975: ‘No hurry with the book : it won't improve with haste. And now one riding you. Let it accrete and shape it with care as it comes. And then mull it with even more care when it seems “done”. The way you’re working makes heavy demands on each word ...’” — Ed Baker 9 - 10 - 2010 / 11 - 13 - 2012
One October 11, 2012, I hosted a debate on Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall.” Well, not quite a debate, but I knew that I, sitting in the middle of four poets, would be on the fence, as it were, with two on a side. The live webcast, hosted by the Kelly Writers House, was associated with the 36,000-person free online course "ModPo," and was viewed synchronously by dozens in the room with us and thousands watching digitally around the world. We made a recording immediately afterward, and have posted it to YouTube here (1 hour, 9 minutes). (And here is a recording of Frost performing the poem. We began our discussion by listening to it; the performance is certainly important to at least the beginning of the debate.)
The differences between the sides, two versus two, didn't really emerge until the end of a fascinating discussion, but they did indeed emerge, Rachel Blau DuPlessis first finally expressing concerns about the attitude of the poem’s speaker, then Bob Perelman joining the view, pointedly. To be sure, all four poets — Bob, Rachel, and John Timpane and Taije Silverman — spent much of the time assembling a full close formal (and meta-poetic) reading of the poem. Its thematics — and politics — derived, as is apt, from the poem's quality as itself an instance in form of the speaker's impulse to have and also to keep apart from the stilled human object of his beautiful but empty annual cultural rite. Later John Timpane thought some more about his own position on the poem’s speaker; I'm pleased that he has given me permission to publish his statement here.