The following is an essay Kevin Gallagher wrote to introduce an extensive feature on the life and poetry of Kenneth Rexroth. The contents of the feature can be found on the main page of Jacket #23.
Now that his Complete Poems are laid out for all of us to see, we have no choice but to make room for Kenneth Rexroth in the canon. This special Jacket tribute celebrates the work of this great poet, essayist, translator and activist from the United States.
Rexroth’s poetry was not well understood during his lifetime. Born in 1905 in South Bend, Indiana, he moved to California in the late 1920s and remained there for the rest of his life. It was in California where he emceed the famous “Six Flags” reading that earned him the name, “the father of the Beats.” Rexroth hated such a tag and was known for replying “an entomologist is not a bug!” First off in this selection is Sam Hamill’s introduction to the entomologist’s new collected poems and gives new and old readers alike a snapshot of the life and work of the Kenneth Rexroth the poet.
Contrary to the popular label thrust on him, Kenneth Rexroth was a late modern poet, one of the early post-modern poets, and toward the end of his life (which ended in 1982) became an eastern classicist. Regardless of the form his poetry took, it always involved at least one of three themes: love, the natural world, or politics.
Matvei Yankelevich and Bernadette Mayer read at St. Mark’s Bookshop on East 3rd Street on June 11, 2012. Lewis Warsh hosted. Our favorite literary photographer, Lawerence Schwartzwald, was there and took this shot of Bernadette during her performance.
We at Jacket2 are pleased to announce that Jerome Rothenberg joins us a commentator. His previous postings to “Poems and Poetics” (heretofore a blogspot site) are all linked to his J2 commentary page, and he is now publishing new commentaries here: http://jacket2.org/commentary/jerome-rothenberg.
LS: Born in 1926, Robert Creeley is the winner of a Bollingen Prize in Poetry in 1999, a Lifetime Achievement Award conferred by the Before Columbus Foundation in 2000, and a Lannan Lifetime Achievement Award in 2001. From Black Mountain to wherever we are now, Creeley remains one of our most enduring and vital poets, “vital” spelled energetic and alive. His latest book just out this fall is If I Were Writing This from New Directions. I have him on the phone from Providence, Rhode Island where he is a distinguished professor at Brown University. Welcome, Robert.
RC: Thank you, Leonard. I hope the various beeps and gurgles (from the phone line) don’t throw us off.
LS: “Beeps and Gurgles” might make a good title for a new book.
RC: Yes, “and things that go bump in the night...”
Edited by John Tranter, introduced by David Lehman.
1. Ethel Malley — Letter to Max Harris, 28 October 1943 2. David Lehman — The Ern Malley Hoax — Introduction 3. Max Harris — Introduction [his original Introduction to the Ern Malley poems in Angry Penguins magazine, Autumn 1944] 4. Ern Malley — The Complete Poems 5. Ern Malley’s recently discovered Last Will and Testament 6. Max Harris — Two pieces [immediately following the Ern Malley poems in Angry Penguins magazine, Autumn 1944] 7. David Lehman — A Note on Harold Stewart [written after a visit with ‘Uncle Harold’ Stewart in Kyoto in 1990] 8. John Thompson — The Ern Malley Story: audio — the 1-hour radio documentary in RealAudio, with the voices of all those involved in the hoax, made by the Australian Broadcasting Commission in 1959. [You can download the free basic model of the RealAudio plug-in for your browser here: http://www.real.com/] 9. John Thompson — The Ern Malley Story: transcript — the full transcript of the radio documentary above; first published as an Appendix to Clement Semmler, For the Uncanny Man — Essays, Mainly Literary, 1963.