July 7, 1966
7 Jul 66
Here at last are two more copies of that photograph of Red Cloud, all that Brodhead had left. I wish there were more, to proliferate that image all around England & the Continent, but then. Hopefully these will help. / Here everything is very quiet & almost idyllic. I had to go back to Kansas again in May—& while there it not only thunderstormed, as if for me to see it, but it hailed abt hensegg size tearing hell out of the greenhouses and forcing (!) the car dealers into sudden precipitate sales. I’d never noticed till then how different a green the foliage is there, as compared to here, say—how much lighter green it is in Kansas than the very dark here (eucalyptus, evergreens, camellias, fruit trees). On the way back on the bus I stopped off in Placitas, but Bob was still in Europe; the 5 days I spent at Goodell’s were the most peaceful & pleasant possible return to that country — the thirst, appetite, longing, for it, however much submerged & covered over, depressed, by living elsewhere & by the bad things remembered of living there, comes out completely, takes over again — that vista off toward the Jemez, Santa Fe, leave residues forever in one. No wonder Max went back, however desperate Santa Fe is. / Here, as I say, things are very quiet. I wallow sensually in the weather the way some people do in food & liquor. This is the foggy season but there hasn’t been much till lately. Even so, by noon these days its cleared off & like today you can see Marin clearly, Mt. Tamalpais & Angel Is., & SF; 60 out & the sun out. So I sit here writing this, with all that out both sets of windows, the bay on one side & the hills on the other — listening to John Cage, records out of the public library. / The library school here at UC has accepted me, so barring catastrophe (like the GI bill money being screwed up somehow) I shd be set for the next year — they’ve given me a research asstship which with the GI money shd be barely enough to get by on. For one year’s work I get a MLS degree which means I can get a librarian job; that pays, that is; without the degree, nothing. & I’ve abt concluded a library job is abt the ideal for me, better than teaching & with access to at least one major source (category) of information; books etc., by its nature. So. / I’ve also started working on Cabeza de Vaca, with the intent of writing a long poem on, or from, him, his account. I’ve just finished Hodge’s edition of the Relación (T. Buckingham Smith’s translation), & am going through Morris Bishop’s biography; having also read Sauer again (The Road to Cibola), on the western end of his trek; & am trying to get hold of Cleve Hallenbeck’s book on retracing the whole trip (he went out & found that most of the trails are still followable today, were Indian trails used over & over again before & after CdeV). I’ve got Haniel Long’s interlinear here, of course, & I’m pleased (never having read the book before, just looked at it), how much of the central concern that’s brought me to this work, is what Long was dealing with too. It is a study, of course, that could take the rest of my life, and even if Olson says, after 14 years or so on one such subject you’d know it & cd then deal with anything. I dunno how far or long. But already it leads afield, back to WP Webb, of course, and on to Sauer’s new book just out, The Early Spanish Main, dealing with Spanish colonial policy 1492–1519, i.e. up to the conquest of Mexico — as well to a much more firmly grounded botanical study, etc. Well yes. After all, I forget too often, I was born in Texas & lived there almost 4 years before going to Kansas. Maybe this will be, finally, the point I’ve sought & never got to, that will begin to connect all the other points I’ve wandered from & to. / As a poem, I ain’t sure of much, haven’t written anything yet. The specific appetite came from hearing Bunting (tape) read that wonderful “Chomei at Toyama,” that means of using another man’s words & aromas; but what Ill come to I dunno a-tall. I don’t want some “retelling,” a narrative that wd only dilute the much more compelling & vital original. Long’s is all right, it’s his work, really; & its revelation is demanding. At any rate, the decision finally seems (so I feel now) to have nothing to do with me, my self, will, but comes from the substance of CdeV’s account, that country, his acts, the fact of that relation. / I’ve abt decided anyway I don’t have anything original or very profound to offer, my own thought that is; I can best work letting what is around me come out, giving that. Somewhere I remember a statement you made something to that effect — was it? // Not much happening here, but Neruda did read at the campus abt a week ago — Duncan & Bromige came to dinner, & we all went up to hear him — he is a heavy, solidly set man, squarish, with a large, balding head & heavy eyelids. Some actor-fink read the English translations. But Neruda’s own reading was very impressive — he reads in the traditional Spanish dramatic manner, but not melodramatic — rising at times to an almost ecstatic pitch — more like speech, though, than most Spanish declamation ever gets to be. As seems to be typical here, the reading was held in an auditorium that even ahead of time was clearly too small, & many people were turned away at the door; I went out to pee & almost had to fight the ushers to get back in where my coat was on my seat. Ginsberg was there, came over & kissed Duncan, who said, my my people will talk, & Allen sd, o let them. So. / Last Saturday there was a benefit reading for Sinclair & the Detroit workshop, at which I saw Gino, after months — his left arm in a sling — he looked up one evening & some guy’s hand was coming in the window; he rushed headlong to push the window out against this guy, & ran his own hand clear through the window, slicing it up badly. Whew. / Tonight I’m going to see the Japanese movie (from Lafcadio Hearn ghost stories) Kwaidan; & tomorrow night 900,000 people are coming to dinner for curry. Sometimes things seem too quiet & easy (easy?), but they really aren’t, so I don’t worry. /
How are you all? You’re staying another year I hear. Tell Stuart Montgomery (as if he needs to be told) the books he is putting out are magnificent — that Bunting Loquitur is lovely beyond compare. /
So, enough. Creeley I hear is coming to SF for abt a month, next month I guess. Hopefully finally Ill be able to see him again, after missing three times in a row. Let me hear from you. Hang loose.
1. Along the right margin of this letter, Irby has drawn a flower in black ink, with a handwritten note above it that reads: “(Voodoo Lily ~[see July 16 Scientific American]).” Irby to Dorn, 7 July 1966, box 13, folder 137, Edward Dorn Papers, Archives and Special Collections at the Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries.
2. See endnotes 2 and 3 (“April 17, 1966”).
3. Larry Goodell (b. 1935), poet and founder of Duende, which ran fourteen issues between 1964 and 1966, published Irby’s The Roadrunner Poem (Duende 4, 1964) and Movements/Sequences (Duende 8, 1965).
4. Max Finstein (1924–1982), American poet.
5. Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca, La Relación, trans. Thomas Buckingham Smith, in Original Narratives of Early American History series, ed. Frederick W. Hodge (New York: Scribner, 1907).
6. Morris Bishop, The Odyssey of Cabeza de Vaca (New York: The Century Company, 1933).
7. Carl Ortwin Sauer (1889–1975), cultural geographer who had a very significant impact on Irby’s poetics. For further information, see Irby’s prose pieces on meeting Sauer and Malin elsewhere in this special feature. Sauer, The Road to Cíbola (Berkeley: University of California, 1932).
8. Cleve Hallenbeck, Alvar Nuñez Cabeza de Vaca: the Journey and Route of the European to Cross the Continent of North America, 1534–1536 (Glendale: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1940).
9. Haniel Long, Interlinear to Cabeza de Vaca (Santa Fe: Writers’ Editions, 1936).
10. See Charles Olson, A Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn (Bolinas: Four Seasons Foundation, 1964). Olson writes: “Best thing to do is to dig one thing or place or man until you yourself know more abt that than is possible to any other man. It doesn’t matter whether it’s Barbed Wire or Pemmican or Paterson or Iowa. But exhaust it. Saturate it. Beat it. [//] And then U KNOW everything else very fast: one saturation job (it might take 14 years). And you’re in, forever” (13).
11. Sauer, The Early Spanish Main (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1966).
12. Basil Bunting’s poem, first published in Poetry: A Magazine of Verse 42 (September 1933).
13. British-born poet David Bromige (1933–2009) shared the 1973 special issue of Vort 3 with Irby.
14. John Sinclair (b. 1941), American poet, manager of the MC5, founder in 1968 of the White Panther Party, an antiracist group organized to assist the Black Panthers.
15. Gino Clays, coeditor (with Drew Wagnon) of Wild Dog, nos. 10–18. See endnote 9 (“October 21, 1964”).
16. Lafcadio Hearn (also Koizumi Yakumo, 1850–1904), author of Kwaidan: Stories and Studies of Strange Things (New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Co., 1904). Japanese film director Masaki Kobayashi adapted Hearn’s stories for his 1965 film Kwaidan.
17. See endnote 9 (“December 26, 1965”). Montgomery’s Fulcrum Press published Bunting’s Loquitur in 1965.
Kyle Waugh William J. Harris