April 17, 1966

Kenneth Irby with son, Daniel.

2009 Rose
Berkeley, Calif.
17 Apr 66[1]

ED —

             I asked Mike Brodhead[2] to send on some more of the Red Cloud[3] photos to you but I haven’t heard from him, so don’t know if he has, or has more, or what. Hopefully there are some left he can send. [Brodhead is going to England in June — will you still be there? I’ll give him (or he has already) yr address — he’s a very pleasant man, a student of Malin’s & head of the Kansas Collection in the Univ. of Kansas Library now.] / Are you staying on another year? I’ve heard rumors of? The people at K.U., by the way, are very interested in yr possibly coming there at least as far as I can tell. Creeley will doubtless have more information after his 2 weeks there. /

     Anyway. Here it’s Sunday, grey & cold after almost 80 yesterday. Verdi’s Requiem’s on the radio & I’m reading Paul Metcalf’s new book GENOA,[4] very strange & compelling work “on” Melville & Columbus, as well as the blood & the body — combined w/ “fiction” (how much it’s not clear — the narrator’s brother gets fused eventually w/ Carl Austin Hall, the K.C. kidnapper of 15 years ago [who was of a very old pioneer family from a town abt 30 miles N of where I grew up in Kansas.][5] centering equally on the landscape of the “middle west” — the prairie, let’s say, not the great plains — Indiana to Missouri, long grass & tree-ed. It is all in all a curiously fascinating work. Betimes I read George MacDonald’s[6] fairy stories. /                                                                                                                                                                                           Someone who was through left a copy of yr Geography, so I’ve been reading through that at leisure, too. A store down the street got Bunting’s Loquitur[7] also, but it’s too expensive to get now, short of copping (& it’s pretty big to do that, alas). But I’ve had a chance to look through it, & lord, it’s a beautiful book. /
                                                                                                         Of yr own book, of the poems I hadn’t seen before (which weren’t too  many) at all, it was the “Inauguration Poem #2” that really knocked me out — the dimensions of it. The relation of orders of the continent is set anew. Oh, the zap “We ever held it certain that going toward the sunset we would find what we desired.” — Cabeza de Vaca.[8] /

The good individual salvation is, is that, having come there, all the people are already there for you, you can meet them finally; not that any isolation, even w/ Divinity, occurs. O the federations of divinity. Last Sunday, Easter, I went to Sacramento & marched w/ the grape strikers their last lap from Delano to the capital bldg.[9] Even the cops were sympathetic & pleasant — meanwhile Gov. Brown[10] spent Easter w/ Frank Sinatra in Palm Springs. The coils & all motion of relation w/ anyone, are here, this, now. So that VietNam diminishes all friendship everywhere, but the act where we are w/ those we know is the only construct against it constantly. Where do the poems go, & to what end? If not now. So I applaud Creeley’s decision not to go to Pakistan, & even more his explicitly telling them the govt’s policy in VN made impossible his going as any kind of representative of it. I wd go further & say there is no govt anywhere anyone cd go as a representative of, no matter what current details of policy. What a great man Ammon Hennacy[11] really is, in the face of everything, the beauty of his acts, down the line.

“Let them imagine a life which is the outcome and growth of all lives,
and is mixed. But let them also imagine another life to grow in it from
all the lives, which though it had grown from all the lives, was free from
all the other lives, and yet possessed all the essential properties of those
lives. This other new life (let them imagine) is illuminated w/ the light,
and only in itself, so that it cd behold all the other lives, and they (the
other lives) could not see or apprehend the new life.”

                                                                       Jacob Boehme[12]

                                                                                                                   preface to Six Theosophical Points

 That last sentence I don’t know abt, but I am w/ him otherwise. Duncan more & more seems to me most a genuine anarchist poet. Why does no one note this — all his antecedents he clearly refers to? //

      News: Jonathan Greene[13] tells me Doubleday has taken Kelly’s novel Scorpions.  Kelly will apparently replace X. J. Kennedy at Tufts next year, Kennedy going to UC Irvine (Orange County S. of L.A. — Birch country), where are the Wagnons?[14] Have heard nor hide nor hair since they left a month ago. /
                           Anyhow. Hope Italy is/was what all Englishmen obviously flipped for, after England’s winters — SUN! WARMTH! Keep well, all of you, & write as you can. Hang loose!


                                                                                                                             — Ken 



1. Irby to Dorn, 17 April 1966, box 13, folder 137, Edward Dorn Papers, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

2. Michael Brodhead, historian, archivist, and friend of Irby’s since the late ’50s. See also Irby’s account of meeting Malin in this feature.

3. Red Cloud (Lakota: Makhpiya Luta; 1822–1909), war leader and statesmen of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux). Irby supplied Olson with a copy of the Red Cloud photograph, which appears on the translucent flyleaf of Olson’s ‘West’ (London: The Goliard Press, 1966).

4. Paul Metcalf, Genoa: A Telling of Wonders (Highlands: Jargon Society, 1965).

5. Carl Austin Hall (1919–1923) along with Bonnie Brown Heady, kidnapped and murdered six-year-old Bobby Greenlease , in Kansas City, Missouri, in September 1953. Hall and Heady were caught, convicted, and executed in December of that year.

6. George MacDonald (1824–1905), Scottish poet, novelist, and minister.

7. Basil Bunting, Loquitur (London: Fulcrum Press, 1965).

8. Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca (c. 1490–1557), Spanish explorer of North America and one of four survivors of the Narváez expedition in 1527, who, over the next decade, walked from southeastern Florida to Mexico City. Cabeza de Vaca’s written account of this voyage, titled Relación, was an important text for Olson, Dorn, Irby, and other poets at the time.

9. Delano Grape Strike: a strike and boycott led by the United Farm Workers against the Delano, California, grape growers. On March 17, 1966, Cesar Chavez led a 250-mile march from Delano that reached the state capital at Sacramento on April 10, Easter Sunday, the day Irby joined the march.

10. Pat Brown (1905–1996), Democrat governor of California from 1959 to 1967, lost the 1966 gubernatorial election to Ronald Reagan.

11. Ammon Hennacy (1893–1970), Christian pacificist and anarchist.

12. Jacob Böhme (also, Boehme; 1575–1624), German mystic and theologian.

13. Jonathan Greene, poet, founder of Gnomon Press, book designer. Greene designed Irby’s The Intent On.

14. Drew and Terry Wagnon, coeditors of the last two issues of Wild Dog and friends of Irby’s in San Francisco. See endnote 9 (“October 21, 1964”)