Mass: John Wieners

John Wieners outside the Grolier Poetry Book Shop in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

This segment of Jim Dunn and Kevin Gallagher’s feature “Mass: Raw Poetry from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts” focuses on poet John Wieners, and includes contributions from Dunn, Seth Stewart, Ruth Lepson, John Landry, Steve Prygoda, Lewis Hammond Stone, and Wieners himself.

John Wieners in 'Tenzone'

Tenzone was a highly optimistic attempt to bring free poetry, writing, and art to the masses and publish unknown writers not for money or fame but, well, the hell of it. Tenzone existed in the ’90s around New England and its high water mark was the issue with John Wieners. Wiener’s work was introduced to Tenzone founder Steve Prygoda as an undergrad at UMass by Bill Wellington, with whom Steve became friends with at the campus library.

Contemporary English poetry and North American influences

Left to right: Tim Atkins, Amy De'Ath, Jeff Hilson, Richard Parker, Holly Pester, Sophie Robinson, and Carol Watts.

Perhaps more than at any other time in recent decades, the influence of North American poetry and poetics on English poetry is surfacing in a number of different ways. Sharing a language but positioned at a distance from the personalities and occasional conflicts between schools and coteries, contemporary English poets combine their North American influences differently, perhaps more flexibly, than North American poets do. As the works collected here demonstrate, the results of these combinations are surprising and exciting, distant and familiar; this poetry is engaging even and especially when considered apart from its influences and precedents from across the pond.