February 12, 1974

The Irby family taking a walk in Denmark, 1974.

12 Feb 74[1]
[Copenhagen, Denmark]

ED —

              A query: Moritz and I are abt to get started on the reprinting of the Max Douglas poem, figuring to change the format to 5½ x 8, like say a New Dir. pb, and to add “Jesus” and “Delius” (keeping the same overall title though), along lines had been considering for some time (both Harvey Brown[2] and Gerrit[3] had suggested including those other two poems of the same time, two years back) — anyhow, the question is this: can you see using that piece you mentioned you’d done for Vort,[4] but never got to Alpert in time, as a preface, postface, whatever, for this new edition of To Max D.? Since I ain’t seen what you wrote of course I don’t know how it looks etc, but how wd it seem to you?
                         I don’t know Johns schedule on all this, but he seems anxious to get it under way soon — from my end of it, there isn’t much to do, very few revisions in any of the poems.
                                                                                                                                                        … I feel like I’ve been typing with no let up ever since I got back from England the middle, last, whenever, of January, doing the ms. for Callahan,[5] which took an incredible amt of wk for such a short bk — he’s got (I hope, if the mails didn’t go down again) it by now, take a look at it if you wd — any comments wd be appreciated — then on top of that some poobah shit for a talk the Fulbright office[6] rookydooed for me in Brussels, god they’ve wanted one thing after another, summary, bibliography, copies of poems, on & on, all for some pittance in Belg. fr. (which as I fast found out, ain’t the same a-tall as French fr.) — AND starting now on the ms. for the other book Moritz wants to do, the one I wrote you abt in the fall I think, of poem 1968–1973, which is going to be a real bitch to get together[7] — anyhow, um hum and ah ha and on …

                                                        I left here just after Xmas for Paris, where I stayed first with Clarence Brown, the Russian translator, a friend through my brother from Princeton,[8] who was getting ready to head back to the US, his wife & kids already gone back, had the whole apt (Ionesco’s![9]) thus empty, spent a week there (rue de Rivoli, just where it starts, in the Marais, not down by the Louvre), mostly walking around digging the place, the incredible produce in the mkts in the streets, whew! esp after the Barren North, drove around in his truck some, etc, then spent abt a week with the Eshlemans[10] in their place (Cavalcanti’s[11] apt!) in Montmartre, during which time ate magnificently (except for one record and some postcards, that’s all I spent any money on in Paris: food and drink) though never more than one star Michelin, but lawsy what goodies, esp. the game, venison and wild boar. A memorable visit, all around.                                                                                                                                                                           Then to England, crossing the Channel on one of those damned hovercraft, people barfing all around me and me feeling like my kidneys were going to bounce out my mouth, worst storms, I later heard, in 30 yrs, etc — went up to Yorkshire to visit Jonathan Williams[12] in his “cottage,” 2 floors 2 baths and a sauna, which was very comfortable, the dales lushly green, the weather mild, incredibly soft and mild — back to London, stayed with Pierre Joris,[13] the Luxembourg poet editor, via Bard, (Sixpack), where found Tom Pickard[14] also staying so got to meet and talk with him, spent one day wandering around some together, and stayed over to hear him read at that Poetry Society outfit in Earls Court, a curious scene, but his reading great — in fact found Tom altogether, of course, a lovely memorable person I instantly liked and got on with — also saw the huge Munch exhibit at the Hayward, worth, as they say, the whole trip just to see, esp the late work, Id never seen even reprod. of before & bought records, books, a silk sq on sale in Liberty for Ruth, a fancy facsimile of the 1870 ed of Lady Cadogan’s Illustrated Games of Patience, for Tad, etc — had a great time all around, though London was dark dark and the sense of impending civil scrimmage building … & if the Irish start hitting the subways instead of scattered buses, ah me indeed …[15]
                           &  back here to the typing mill. How’s with you all? Bob sd you were looking for a place in SF, without luck (at that point, but since he sent the letter by regular mail it took almost 6 wks to get here — so what’s happening now? & such — I reckon you’ve got the big baby anthology Quasha and Rothenberg’ve done, which I must say I’ve dug digging around in, a lot, and as I said to Bob, any such compilation that puts me in between Emerson and Rexroth cant be all wrong.[16]


So — basta for now — do let me hear soon /                                                                                  


My best to Holbrook,[17] whom I’ll be writing soon anyway (now that I finally got his address from Callahan) — hope the neck is ok again (how that happened Bob didn’t say)! Keep well!![18]



1. Irby to Dorn, 12 February 1974, box 13, folder 137, Edward Dorn Papers, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.

2. See endnote 7 (“February 12, 1971”).

3. Gerrit Lansing (b. 1928), poet, essayist, founder of Set, “funky scholiast,” and close friend and correspondent of Irby’s (see: “[Some Notes on House and Woods]  for Gerrit,” in The Intent On, 657–659).

4. “Kenneth Irby/David Bromige,” special issue, Vort 3 (Summer 1973); see endnote 5 (“September 27, 1973”).

5. Bob Callahan (1942–2008), writer, teacher, publisher, editor of New American Journal, cofounder (with Eileen Callahan) of Mudra Press, and founder of the Turtle Island Foundation, which published, among numerous other titles: Carl Sauer’s Northern Mists (1973); Dorn’s Recollections of Gran Apacheria (1974); and Brakhage’s Film Biographies (1977), for which Creeley, Dorn, and Guy Davenport supplied section introductions. It’s likely Irby is referring to his work on Sauer’s Seventeenth-Century North America book, which Turtle Island published posthumously. For further information, see the introduction to Irby’s prose pieces about meeting Carl Sauer and James Malin, elsewhere in this issue.

6. Irby received a Fulbright travel grant in 1974.

7. This book will eventually become Catalpa.

8. Clarence Brown, translator, arrived at Princeton as an instructor the same year as Irby’s brother, James, in 1959, and both promoted to assistant professor in 1962. Irby (Kenneth) and Brown shared an interest in Mandelstam: in 1965, Brown had translated and published, The Prose of Osip Mandelstam (Princeton University Press), and in 1973, his critical study, Mandelstam (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1973). In 1974, his cotranslation of the Selected Poems of Mandelstam (Macmillan), with W. S. Merwin, was imminent.

9. Eùgene Ionesco (1909–1994), Romanian playwright.

10. Clayton (b. 1935) and Caryl Eschleman. Clayton Eschleman is an American poet and translator who founded Caterpillar magazine, which published twenty issues between 1967 and 1973.

11. Alberto Cavalcanti (1897–1982), Brazilian-born film director and producer.

12. See endnote 8 (“September 27, 1973”).

13. Pierre Joris (b. 1946), born in France and raised in Luxembourg, poet, translator, essayist, cofounder and coeditor (with William Prescott) of Sixpack, which was active from 1972 through 1977, and a close friend of Irby.

14. Tom Pickard (b. 1946), British poet and filmmaker, founder of the Morden Tower Book Room.

15. [Irby’s handwritten note]: for the most part the inter-city trains weren’t heavily affected at that pt, though slow [After a thirty year hiatus, the IRA began an aggressive bombing campaign in London in March 1973. According to the BBC, “[o]ne of the most horrific bombings came in February 1974 when an IRA unit planted a bomb on a coach carrying servicemen and their families, killing eleven people” (“The IRA Campaigns in England,” BBC News World Edition, Sunday, 4 March 2001).]

16. Irby’s poem “Relation” appeared in between R. W. Emerson’s “Hamatreya” and Kenneth Rexroth’s “A Lesson in Geography” in the anthology America a Prophecy: A New Reading of American Poetry from Pre-Columbian Times to the Present, ed. George Quasha and Jerome Rothenberg (New York: Random House, 1973), 61–63.

17. Holbrook Teter (1930–1999), activist, printer, social worker, renaissance man, and cofounder, with artist Michael Myers, of Zephyrus Image, which produced hundreds of books, pamphlets, posters, and other printed items. Myers illustrated Dorn’s 1974 quasi-comic book edition of Recollections of Gran Apacheria, published by Bob Callahan’s Turtle Island Foundation. Teter designed the complete edition of Dorn’s Slinger (San Francisco: Wingbow Press, 1975), which remains unchanged in each reprint [Gunslinger (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 1989), and Collected Poems (London: Carcanet, 2012)].

18. In the original letter, this addendum appears in the margin at the top of the first page, directly above the date.