[The full interview, conducted by Ariel Resnikoff over a period of several months, is scheduled to appear shortly in The Wolfmagazine, number 31, edited by James Byrne & Sandeep Parmar, along with my own "variations" on the poetry of Mikhl Likht, mentioned below. (J.R.)]
Ariel Resnikoff: In the summer of 2013 you and I connected, via Merle Bachman, over a shared interest in the “incomprehensible” poetics of the Yiddish American modernist poet, Mikhl Likht. I had just finished my MA thesis at the University of Oxford, where I had been told I was crazy to write on the relationship between Zukofsky's English verse and Likht’s Yiddish. You, however, believed in my research and even began advising Stephen Ross’s and my translation to English of Likht’s Yiddish long poem, Protsesiyes (Processions).
[In the aftermath of Bernard Heidsieck’s recent death, I can only look back on the years when I knew him well, at first in a series of international sound poetry events in the 1960s & 70s, in which I always felt myself as an outside but very happy participant. In Paris Diane Rothenberg and I often visited with him &Françoise Janicot in their apartment on the Ile Saint Louis, but I also remember rendez-vous in New York & San Francisco, Glasgow & Verona, wherever those adventuresome & peripatetic times allowed us all to be together.
[What follows – my introductory note & Richard Johnny John’s account of his life as a traditional singer & songmaker – was originally published in Alcheringa, the journal of ethnopoetics that Dennis Tedlock and I co-published & co-edited in the early 1970s.