February 12, 1971
12 Feb 71
My God I’m so slow getting this to you — thanks for yr card esp. tht Alex. Ham. brass balls special — I told myself 1 Jan I wdn’t write till I cd send on the poems enclosed — I thought a quick job to get together, but here it’s 1½ months later before there’s anything like done to send — but here they are, howsomever —
look, please tell me any thing you can abt these — maybe especially the one for Max — I’ve been in it since Oct & down so long I don’t know up no more, or out of it, or where — so any thing you can tell me wd be pure gold (or title? any ideas on that?) —
Kelly was here end of Jan & he dug the Max poem a lot thought I shd get it out & into the various heads/hands directly, but it’s not clear to me how I can do that — Jack Shoemaker’s sort of interested, but has abt a 6 month backlog to get through — haven’t sent it to Martin yet, but what can he do w/ just a small bk? Wd/cd Harvey Brown? or wd that be a year or more getting out even if he wanted to do it? Maybe mimeo it myself. Well, hog balls & wormwood, no matter now. I want you to see it, & I’ll fret the other shit later. I didn’t know Max of course — I met him one evening last summer here, at Bromige’s — but I took off for Oregon the next day — so Kelly’s right when he points out Max is emblematic in the poem — not addressed as a friend, really, nor grief of the close parting — yas, I know that — his death was suddenly the occasion for so much to get said — however strung out & hodgepodged — to him, or where he was from, the areal person — suddenly gone —
Well, all that’ll be clear to you w/o me elaborating — violá //
Aside from recent flurries of trashing, car burning, street sashays, etc., things have been quiet (except in LA of course) — the sudden heavy scent of early powerful spring here — cherry blossoms thick & the earth fermenting — always unbelievable for a Kansas/Texas man like me — as Feb must be still a freezer w/ you up thar —
Spring sometimes vertiginous here, as I woke up this morning dizzy, from a dream of catching mice — something I ate, surely! & a heavy smog.
Been rereading all the Sauer Pleistocene pieces, but where does one go from there — any takes on what else has been done, & since? Or any references on, say the Aztec–S.E.–U.S.–Indian/Mound builders trade? Maybe it was the Jews, as I see one man recently’s opining abt some Tennessee rock inscription — rock art certainly seems a next heavily accessary close attention — what’s between (as lines) sites on the map — Sauer suggested St. Louis was the nerve-center of Pleistocene N. America, & Calif. a dead-end drift — but what’s connecting, in between? (So there was Max, who might, in time, have found out, St Joe is such a weird crossroads — alas, who’s up to it now?). Kelly talked abt some guy’s notion that there are literal lines on the ground (visible from air in some cases, still?) connecting all the important early Neolithic centers of Europe (or earlier than that — meso- ?)
I dunno, questions as usual — somehow in my still dizzy brain (& stomach) this spring morning, its bound up w/ the roots of jazz in the Great Plains — Coleman Hawkins was from St Joe, after all, & went to Washburn in Topeka before he ran off w/ Mamie Smith’s Jazz Hounds c. 1923 (the year C.O. Sauer came to California & joined the freaks & exotica) — & Scott Joplin, I mean! Sedalia! From Texarkana! (if you haven’t, GET the new Nonesuch disc of S. Joplin’s piano rags played by Joshua Rifkin — they are great pieces of the finest sort) — & Charlie Christian from Oklahoma, Buck Clayton from Parsons, before he went off to Shanghai & played in a dance hall from 1934–36 — oh well, all the cross currents & travel lines of jazz in Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, down to Texas of course — Walter Page’s Blue Devils, Andy Kirk’s Clouds of Joy, Mary Lou Williams — & of course the K.C. scene —
but all those lines of movement — in that refractory space of the Plains, focus also on the Ice Age lines of movement — my lord, yes —
well, so it goes — maybe I’m coming down w/ some cunning virus (o Harvey) — all this febrile trembling over the table as I write this —
Anyhow — how are you all? & what’s up? & let me hear from you —
Is the Malin thing still a go? This summer my brother will be out here teaching at U.C. — & I think I cd, using his access to the U.C. Library etc, get the texts together finally, if you still want to collaborate on an introduction & if Harvey Brown will still do the book — I want to, if you’re game —
At any rate, do let me hear whatever, & esp. on these mss. enclosed — ¡Salúd! to you all —
1. Irby to Dorn, 12 February 1971, box 13, folder 137, Edward Dorn Papers, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
2. Dorn’s poem “The Poem Called Alexander Hamilton” was published as a broadside by John Moritz’s Lawrence-based Tansy/Peg Leg Press in 1971.
3. Aside from “To Max Douglas,” it’s not possible to determine which poems Irby is referring to, because they are not included with the archived letter. “To Max Douglas” was published as its own book (under the same title) by Tansy Press in 1971. A second expanded edition of To Max Douglas, which included the poems “Jesus” and “Delius,” as well as an introduction by Dorn, was published by Tansy in 1974.
4. Max Douglas (1949–1970) was a poet from St. Joseph, Missouri, and Dorn’s student at Kansas University in 1969. By the time Douglas died from a heroin overdose at twenty- one, he’d published a small volume of poetry, along with numerous poems in small magazines, like Caterpillar. His Collected Poems was published in 1978 by White Dot Press.
5. Jack Shoemaker, cofounder, with Victoria Shoemaker, of the Berkeley-based Sand Dollar Press, active from c.1970 to c.1977 and cofounder, with Peter Howard, of Small Press Distribution.
6. John Martin, who founded Black Sparrow Press in 1966, published Irby’s 1970 collection Relation and many of Dorn’s books, including Gunslinger, Book I (1968) and Book II (1969).
7. Harvey Brown, founder of Frontier Press, which published The Rites of Passage: A Brief History (1965; later titled By the Sound), Gunslinger Book III: The Winterbook (1972), The Cycle (1971), Twenty-four Love Songs (1969), Songs: Set Two — A Short Count (1970). Brown was a close friend of Olson, Dorn, Irby, and many other New American–era poets.
8. Irby is perhaps referring to John Michell’s book The View Over Atlantis (London: Sago Press, 1969), or to one of its primary subjects, ley lines, and their earlier discoverers, such as British amateur archeologist Alfred Watkins (1855–1935).
9. Cf. To Max Douglas: “The Berkeley climate of exotica / Sauer’s home // these almost 50 years, Kroeber’s / their houses just across the street from one another // Arch / and Rose // Grenier at one end / Bromige at the other[.]”
10. [Irby’s handwritten note]: (as people like Tenney are onto writing their own rags now). James Tenney (1934–2006), American composer and musical theorist.
11. Harvey Bialy (b. 1945), American molecular biologist and writer.
Kyle Waugh William J. Harris