02 December 2005

Literary Biography

Born on the 14th of February 1936, I began writing poetry in earnest with the emergence of Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry, 1945-1960. I had moved from my home in Ashtabula, Ohio to New York City early in January 1960 soon after being discharged from a four-year stint in the Air Force. It was at this time I met my lifetime companion, the Cuban born painter José Laffitte, and I soon joined a poetry workshop under Arnold Weinstein at the New School for Social Research, where I garnered a second prize Dylan Thomas Award.

By Columbus Day 1961 we were in San Francisco where I was dying to meet Jack Spicer, and I soon found myself in a workshop with him and Robin Blaser, Stan Persky, and George Stanley on Sunday afternoons at Stan’s place in North Beach. The “worked” poem. Near the same time I was in a seminar at San Francisco State College under Jack Gilbert. About a year after Spicer’s death in 1965, I joined Robert Duncan’s workshop at the Society for Individual Rights, while some of these gatherings later took place in Duncan’s home, or under his auspices at other locations with special guests. In August of 1969, Paul Mariah, one of the participants in the gatherings, and I started Manroot magazine, funded in large part by grants from the Coordinating Council of Literary Magazines through the National Endowment for the Arts (before it was virtually destroyed by Jessie Helms), and we also held a frequent and critical floating workshop for a few years which Duncan graced occasionally.

In 1973 José and I moved to the Russian River area of Sonoma County, California and became involved in a “heady” poetry community with Hunce Voelcker, Andrei Codrescu, Harold Norse, and a host of younger poets.

I continued co-editing Manroot until 1978 when we returned to San Francisco and went back to school, new jobs, and part-time destinations abroad. The 80s were essentially a lost decade, as all community seemed to have dissolved. Love died in 1992.

Around 1994 I met some poets in their 20s whose heroes were the same as those for me when I was in my 20s. What does this mean? Anyway, thanks to them, I have an audience again, and a new kind of long-distance community. Now life is Internet. Good to have a monkey.


At Friday, 02 April, 2010, Blogger larry goodell said...

How revealing, how near & evocative, and is close to my friend Latif Harris in spirit. See his Beatitude Golden Anniversary 1959-2009, his love of Spicer. When I saw JS in 1965 in Berkeley I was expecting a young man, ha! His Vancouver Lectures set the groundwork for my own writing . . . (after the excavation Creeley did for me). Thanks & glad to meet you . . .


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