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Kyle Waugh

“You Are Sometimes in the Trance of What Is Beyond You”:

Upheaval, Incantation and Ed Dorn in the Summer of 1968

Section 1

I shall confine myself then to a few words to announce that whatever others may wish to say about it, Paris no longer exists. The destruction of Paris is only one exemplary illustration of the fatal illness, which, at this moment, is carrying off all the major cities, and this illness is, itself, only one of the numerous symptoms of the material decadence of a society. But Paris had more to lose than any other. It was a great blessing to have been young in this town when, for the last time, it shone with so intense a fire.
There was at that time, on the left bank of the river — you cannot go down the same river twice, nor touch a perishable substance in the same state twice — a neighborhood where the negative held its court.
 — Guy Debord [1]

Ed Dorn

Ed Dorn

I. Love in the Time of Barricades


When the radical students at the University of Essex, in Colchester, England, voted to dismantle the structures of established power at their university in May 1968, they took up a continental, if not international, cue. Throughout the spring of 1968, student-organized rebellions across Europe occupied their universities and/or founded new universities in their place. In mid-February, while filmmakers Jean-Luc Godard and Luis Buñuel (later joined by Orson Welles, Roberto Rosselini, Robert Bresson, and others) marched in the streets of Paris to protest the Ministry of Culture’s removal of Henri Langlois as director of the Cinematheque Francaise (an organization he’d founded), a young American poet and psychiatrist, named Joseph Berke, proclaimed the opening of the Anti-University in London, featuring such lecturers as poet and psychiatrist R.D. Laing and playwright David Mercer. [2] At the same time, Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) presented the International Congress on Vietnam at the Free University in West Berlin, where Rudi Dutschke — an East German dissident, former theology student, and compelling orator, who’d roused a massive opposition to the Vietnam War among West German students — chided the overarching connections between class oppression in Europe, the imperialist interventions in Vietnam, and the masked perpetuation of slavery among the urban, black population in the U.S., chained to a modern institutionalized web of poverty, crime, and addiction. [3] Two months later, as the Essex schism boiled over, Dutschke, waiting to buy medicine for his infant child, was shot three times — in the chest, face, and head — by an angry twenty-three-year-old from Munich, Joseph Bachmann, who’d “heard of the death of Martin Luther King and … hate[d] communists,” he explained to the local police. Support for Dutschke poured onto the streets. In the short time between the SDS International Congress in West Berlin and the declaration of the Free University at Essex, thousands of students in Rome, Prague, and Warsaw (over ten thousand in Warsaw) staged mass demonstrations fighting to wrest their educational experience and intellectual communities from the homogenizing stranglehold of state power. [4]


The Essex revolt put American poet Edward Dorn, a Fulbright lecturer at the university since 1965, in tight spot. Academic superstar Donald Davie, whose vision and hard work had built the literature department at Essex and who’d painstakingly traveled to Pocatello, Idaho, to recruit Dorn to it, had since been appointed Pro-Vice Chancellor, a position incontestably antithetical to the notion of a “Free University” imagined by the radical factions of students and faculty. [5] Therefore, as a symbol of established power in the hierarchical superstructures that a “Free University” theoretically held in contempt, Davie was automatically ejected from the college’s new ranks. Understandably, Dorn was unable to vote against Davie in the divisive departmental election held that April, but he was also incapable of siding with the administration against the largely student-driven platforms. As a result, Dorn refused to participate in the vote at all, arguing that as an “American” and, therefore, an outsider to the logistics of the English university, his opinion on the matter was irrelevant. [6] Davie predictably lost the vote. Infuriated by what he perceived as a betrayal on Dorn’s part, and a cowardly one at that, and shocked by the loss of half a decade’s work, Davie promptly left Essex for Stanford late that spring. In the meantime, Dorn, along with Gordon Brotherston (with whom he was co-translating various “guerilla poets” of Latin America for the 1968 volume, Our Word, published by Cape Goliard), continued to lecture until the end of the term under the Free University “auspices,” where highly charged debates over the organization and operation of the university were frequent and public. [7]

Ed Dorn

Ed Dorn


A “lulu of morality,” Dorn later remarked of Davie, after reading his memoirs of the time. [8] Robert Creeley spoke in similar terms: “Apropos Davie,” he wrote to Dorn in the early summer of 1968, “that’s always I guess the limit of such scenes. I’ll remember him going in to lecture, donning the gown, etc.” [9] Dunbar recalls Davie’s resentment over the Essex debacle lingering in an unexpectedly negative recommendation letter, which kept Dorn from a teaching position at UC San Diego later in 1968. [10] Davie’s short autobiographical sketch, These The Companions, elegantly compares the seething, political atmosphere at the Caius College at Cambridge, in the early ’60s (where “the politics of envy, which I sometimes think of as the politics of self-pity, had sapped independence, self-help and self-respect, and had exalted ‘solidarity’ — not with the nation of course, but with a section of it — as the highest of all social and political virtues”), with the myopic and irreverent radicalism he saw at work behind the disaster at Essex:


What went wrong with [Cambridge’s] students and teachers in the 1950s and 1960s was something that was going wrong with the national life in those years, as I discovered to my cost when I left it in 1964 to help found the ill-starred University of Essex. Every instance of elegance or propriety, in the University’s social arrangements as in its architecture, was to my Caius undergraduates an affront, since it would be either unnoticed or else misconstrued by a rugby-player from South Shields. [11]


By the sound of “elegance and propriety, in the University’s social structure,” it seems likely that the schismatic faculty vote that separated the two Protestants — Dorn and Davie — was perhaps the final affront, in a series of affronts, that Davie judged from Dorn’s behavior that spring.


Dorn’s “odyssey of upheaval and exile” at Essex intensified in 1967, when his fifteen-year marriage to Helene Buck, with whom he had a son, Paul, collapsed. Adding to the emotional injury of the separation an insult to English propriety, Dorn “officially” began a new relationship (the primary reason for his divorce) with a twenty-one-year-old student, Jennifer Dunbar. [12] After moving in together in the spring of 1968, and subsequently moving all their furniture to the foyer (“like the set of a French movie,” Brotherston remarked), Dorn and Dunbar accompanied a small group of Essex political activists on a trip to Paris to behold the swell of student uprisings that spring and the radical lectures which fueled and gave them context. The couple never intended their casual attendance on the trip to signify an allegiance to the principles of the “politicals” from Essex; in fact, they intended to keep the trip a secret from the rest of the Essex community altogether. [13] However, that plan was ruptured, however, when another member of their party announced in “a manifesto of sorts to The Times,” that their collective voyage was intended as a “gesture of support for the ‘revolution’.” Dunbar remembers:


He listed all our names — including Anna Mendelsohn who was later arrested with others for having a bomb in her house (can’t remember what they intended to blow up) … the point is that the telegram was published in The Times and announced to everyone that we were going to join our fellow revolutionaries in Paris, and of course it served as a public announcement to be read by Helene, Donald Davie, et al. that Ed and I were off together. We did not want to be part of this official revolutionary group and it caused us some embarrassment. [14]


For many at Essex, the mere timing of the trip was probably enough evidence to justify whatever assumptions they had about Dorn’s and Dunbar’s “support for the ‘revolution’.” In the couple’s mind, a vast and variegated distance lay between the apparent alliances advertised in The Times, and their sympathetic interest in traveling to Paris. The fourteenth of Dorn’s Love Songs reiterates one of the work’s exilic, quasi-refrains — “Do you know where we are now” — and details the simple and natural charms of traveling, empty-handed, merely to be on the move, to be “active,” as Charles Olson (Dorn’s mentor at Black Mountain College) once put it: “… if he stays fresh at the coming in he will be fresh at his going out.” [15] Is “the announcement” of the following lines, the same to which Dunbar refers?


we have come here the day after
the announcement
     and we look at our lives
      in a camera

We have made the journey by train
it was cold now and then
a day scored by a cloud
the heat we had we had in our pockets
and occasionally we took some
what more can be said
more than the existence we have [16]


A lot more, some might say — Davie might have argued for an undeviating moral framework, even while he praised Dorn’s work for its experiential approach to morality. [17] No doubt the crucial distance between sympathy and support for the “revolution” was foreshortened from Davie’s perspective, already psychologically wounded by a rash of student revolts that he refused to understand. Not to mention that Paris was arguably the epicenter of student unrest in 1968, a student uprising par excellence.


In early May, when about five hundred students from the leftist Nanterre University, which had been under student control since late March, appealed to their compatriots at the Sorbonne for support in protesting outdated and overcrowded French educational institutions and rejecting the recent imperial actions of the de Gaulle government in Vietnam and Algeria, all hell broke loose. Despite cordons of police armed with nightsticks and tear gas, demonstration numbers grew by the tens of thousands. On the night of May 10, demonstrators and students used cobblestones, street signs, trashcans, and other illegally acquired refuse to barricade themselves in the Latin Quarter. In the early morning hours of May 11, gun-toting riot police charged the blockades, beating and arresting demonstrators. Consequently, on the thirteenth of May, more than a million people joined the demonstrations against de Gaulle in the streets of Paris. For several weeks afterwards the Sorbonne became a nexus of revolutionary ideation. [18] Among the many groups represented at the occupied university were the Situationists, led by Asger Jorn and Guy Debord, whose philosophy seized upon the unanticipated, discontinuous, and extraordinary moments of life in modern society, and hailed the creation of “situations” — that is, “the concrete construction of momentary ambiances of life and their transformation into a superior passional quality.” The Situationist methodological objective for a “transitory” and yet totalizing social condition possesses certain phenomenological congruencies with the eponymous Gunslinger’s pronouncements in Dorn’s late ’60s and early ’70s mock-epic. The Gunslinger’s emancipatory doctrine insists on “purity of the head,” and likewise detests interpretation, the extrication of meaning from event. [19] For example, in “Toward a Situationist International,” Debord writes:


We must develop a methodical intervention based on the complex factors of two components in perpetual interaction: the material environment of life and the comportments which it gives rise to and which radically transform it. … first of all by the use of the ensemble of arts and technics as means contributing to an integral composition of the milieu. … we have to multiply poetic subjects and objects — which are now unfortunately so rare that the slightest ones take on an exaggerated emotional importance — and we have to organize games of these poetic objects among these poetic subjects. This is our entire program, which is essentially transitory. Our situations will be ephemeral, without a future; passageways. [20]


By the end of the month, not only the traditional curricula of the universities, but nearly all of Paris was effectively shut down by demonstrations: four thousand Renault workers occupied their factories; the media employees of ORTF, France’s state broadcasting corporation, rejected further instruction from the Cultural Ministry; in all, ten million workers, from coalminers to department store clerks, went on strike. [21] Still, the political damage that the de Gaulle administration suffered as a result was a short-lived setback. The protracted and violent demonstrations and strikes were soon quelled, and the city returned to business as usual. The liberalizing cultural impact of that spring’s events, however, and of the intellectual movements that incited them, were enormous.


For the lovesick Dorn and Dunbar, it was, after all, still Paris, “City of Light,” even if it was on fire. And even if the world were a wasteland — “really, the world is shit / and I mean all of it,” Dorn writes in the Love Songs — it was spring, love was like a song flitting over the burning trash: April in Paris, this is a feeling / no one can ever reprise. The fury that spring in Paris, and all over the world, seemed to externalize the wild frictions between the intensity of the couple’s exilic commitment to one another and the necessarily clandestine nature of their Paris trip, and then explode in the subsequent “embarrassment” at its exposure. “[I]t is to test that steel / across the plain between us,” that love grows in a time of war, sowing its own strife: “The agony is beauty / that you can’t have that / and sense too.” [22] Thinking of Paris, thinking of Kansas (wherefrom, as a poet-in-residence at the university in Lawrence, he’d recently returned), thinking of intercontinental travel: “I just can’t imagine how bucolic life was then, I mean in my memory,” Dorn reminisced. “If you went to the Sorbonne, which we did, and, you know, saw the situationistes spilling over the balconies and explaining the L.A. riots, it all made some kind of sense. It was beautifully intellectual and feasible and containable, embraceable … and now it’s so cheap, you couldn’t give it away.” [23] Interestingly, while Dunbar’s recollections, in their self-conscious idealizations, are similar to Dorn’s, the images each assigns to their shared sentiments are strikingly opposed: “We did attend lectures at the Sorbonne … going from room to room to catch the range of polemic from structuralists to situationists. … It was exciting. We saw the students rioting in the streets, cars on fire, cobblestones uprooted.” [24] In a word… “bucolic”? Dorn’s choice is a bit strange there, and moreso because it seems entirely appropriate at the same time.


By “bucolic,” Dorn suggests the gilded, ecstatic delusions by which one’s memory, in love, is pleasantly beset, and one’s experience exalted. The seventeenth of his Twenty-four Love Songs steadies its pace around the pensive satisfaction Dorn takes in reflecting on the determination required to keep “open” the world before him. The “City of Light” speaks directly to the imagination:


The imagined
      is the quality of life in Paris
not the bones in the fish
in the oppression
of La Cupole, the drama of
our time, masks, a dramatic
event dinner, turns, grin
frown, tables
a view of that world
open and filled
with the prospect, the long
perspective of the pain
of my life
in that text  [25]


All the “turns” and “masks” (are these verbs, or nouns, or both?) dizzy the “long / perspective … / of my life / in that text,” even as they work to explore it. To explore the life in the drama of a “text,” where the “text,” like a “mask,” can offer the “prospects” of another perspective. In his letters to LeRoi Jones half a decade earlier, Dorn criticized the aesthetic priorities of revolutionary movements: “The modern state, revolutionary or not, is run like a Graumans chinese opening. Everybody has some scene, a trademark, like a beard, or a fat stomach and bald head, or a wig-type haircut, with big white teeth sticking out of the middle of the smile. Piss on it.” [26] In the poem above, the “dramatic / event dinner” at La Coupole, the famous brasserie in Montparnasse, where Ernest Hemingway boozed with fellow expatriates, “where Jean-Paul Sartre philosophized over lunch and where Pablo Picasso often painted,” proffers a similar glimpse of the supercilious, imaginal marriage of aristocracy and erudition, evinced and sustained by “the drama of / our time… .” [27] That “drama” propels the artist and the society alike, but in competing directions — at once toward the superficial, imprisoning formalities that determine social strata, and oppositely, toward the transgression of those categories through a surplus of voices and identities which are given substance by the very “masks” and “turns” inherent to a “text.”


Through the dissemblance and disassembly of aesthetic and formal device, “the drama of / our time” is expanded and embellished; it reveals the ever-present struggle over fashion (as Charles Bernstein terms it), where an “embraceable revolution” — “beautifully intellectual and feasible and containable” — had swept Dorn up into its ranks. [28] As his adjusted locus of experience suddenly allowed for the incorporation of “who was standing next to me… who was in the immediate room,” he increasingly found himself in cultural spaces, in “rooms,” more populous, more socially diverse, and much closer to the epicenter of the advertised revolution than his previous experience had known. In this sense, Dorn’s locus necessarily shifted to rhythmically align itself with socio-cultural frequencies that his work now recorded; the “centrality” of the ego, the limber and transitory objective Dorn identified in his “What I See in The Maximus Poems” essay, took shape in Gunslinger, for example, as an “empiricism,” a seamless translation, “of the language I was hearing at the time.” “I’m just giving it a kind of expression,” Dorn insisted. [29] This overlap and absorption inflamed certain double-jointed tendencies that were latent in Dorn’s character as well, or were infrequently exposed. Hence, an unmistakable ‘coolness’ increasingly exuded from Dorn’s “self presentations” — a “Whiteness [that] remained cool,” Alice Notley remembers, fashioned from the zeitgeist aesthetic of the “Black poetry style.” [30]


As a person and a poet, Dorn was obsessively direct and often laconic (“Tall rock hard / Slim…” Baraka writes), decidedly on his own schedule (at the podium, “Ed Dorn pauses and thinks before reading,” the Daily Kansan instructively observed after a 1968 reading), and by the time he left Essex, he was confident in having successfully wired the “ritual of [his] own person,” to the whittled demands of his poetics. [31] “[T]hat happiness that so clearly shows in all of you now,” Robert Creeley observed in a letter to Dorn, “that’s got to be the center, very damn truly.” [32] Speaking in the context of his own filial tensions, Creeley continues: “You can see what the task is, i.e., not to enter the miasma of that contest, but just to keep to one’s own reality and to invite therein all or any of them who care to make it.” [33] Here Creeley describes a cosmologically modeled “center” for the human universe, wherefrom experience is alchemically reordered, projected outward, and bodied forth in style — “to keep to one’s own reality” — the extrinsic clarity of “the inside real.” It was to Zukofsky’s achievement of getting the “eye” into the “I,” as a locus of experience, that Creeley had looked in his 1969 collection, Pieces, and Zukofsky aptly defines style as well: “[F]irst shape / … Then rhythm,” he surmises in the 12th book of his lifelong project, “A”: “Then style — / That from the eye its function takes. / ‘Taste’ we say – a living soul.” [34] Elsewhere, thinking of Dorn, Creeley points out:


I think one’s well advised to keep conscious of how deliberate and worked for were Ed’s “self presentations,” like the white linen jacket Helene [once hand-sewed] for him, the intense self-consciousness and awareness of others he demonstrates insistently. “Gunslinger” is a successful “Ed” in obvious ways, and Gunslinger’s company is ideal indeed, a comfortably hip woman and a talking horse, another “Ed” as it happens, in an echo at least of the TV series — and “I” gets finally what he/she/it deserves. Stoned. [35]


We are again reminded of Dorn’s style by Amiri Baraka’s monodic blazon in his elegy, “Ed Dorn”: “Thin straight blonde cowboy / Movie looking white guy… / Straight as / The barrel / of a pen / Called his self / A Gun Slinger… ” [36] These lines, tuned to the nuances of style, suggest a mottled complexion, a partial merger of the author with the character she fashions.


Style rather obviously denotes the manner of doing something, anything, from one’s use of language, to one’s choice of wardrobe, to one’s behavior. “He was about sixteen,” poet Lucia Berlin recalls, retelling a story she’d heard from Dorn about the Saturday night dances in Newman, Illinois:


That’s when the pachuco kids out in L.A. were wearing zoot-suit pants. Ed, with his great sense of style, had brought back home the most beautiful pair of pants. He loved to talk about those pants, they were brown-and-white striped garbardine, they had these big wide pleats, he went on and on describing the weave and the fabric of those pants. They were so fine. Well, he brought them back to Illinois, wore them to the dance — and nobody had ever seen such a thing!”


Less obvious perhaps, in botanical vocabularies, style defines that part of the pistil — a term for the female sexual organs of a flower (another pun, like Dorn’s “barrel / of a pen”) — which supports the stigma (and another), which directly receives pollen during the fertilization process. In “stigma” is retained the doubled sense of style, both as a locus of creation, a fertile site, and as a mark of ill-distinction, of bad taste. “Stigma” comes straight from the Greek, where it signifies “a mark made by a pointed instrument,” like a “stilus,” maybe, or “stylus” (as it’s been erroneously spelled for nearly three hundred years), from which the word style is derived. [37] And like the stigma-bearing “style” of the flower, “stylus” denotes the sapphire or diamond ‘needle’ that brings forth music from the grooves of a phonograph, and also designates an ancient writing implement, the pointed end of which would inscribe a wax-covered tablet, and the blunt end efface any unwanted text. [38] Zukofsky’s connection between style and “soul” is therefore rooted in the parturitive capacity of the former, which likewise appears to “pierce” and intertwine the etymology of Creeley’s (and Dorn’s) terminology of the “center,” which comes from the Greek kentron, meaning “sharp point, stationary point of a pair of compasses,” and is related to the Greek kentein, meaning “to prick.” [39] Style is soul, the “outfront residence” of inner-penetration, the palpable evidence of “centrality” plugged-in, “embraced.” In the twelfth of Dorn’s Love Songs, this process of writing and rewriting possesses astral properties and deep-time effects, both for the poem and the life:


      Not this
not that
   and not this nor
       not this or that
   nor caught
on poles at
        all I have
          no place
outside might welcome
might warm me

     I am nothing
anymore at all
than in myself, you be
a still center
which has about it pivoting
ramifications of my strain
a marvelously pure chrystal
the center still and in me
and in the ten thousand
years or more
                will change
       and be
      the shift, location
and polaris
         a new name [40]


Together the poem’s opening lines and its closing image of a star suggest a redacted version of the first quatrain of Shakespeare’s 55th sonnet, which argues for the eternal character of poetry alone — the sonnet as the indestructible embodiment of love’s contest and power — to persevere amidst crumbling dynasties, wars without end, and time’s slow erosions: “Not marble nor the gilded monuments / Of princes shall outlive this powerful rhyme, / But you shall shine more bright in these contents / Than unswept stone besmeared with sluttish time.” [41] Ironically, in Dorn’s penultimate line, “polaris” possesses a startling double-reference, both to “war’s quick fire,” and to the “brightness” of celestial bodies, always already obliterated. As the name for the U.S. and British submarine-launched ballistic missile, “designed to carry nuclear warheads,” “polaris” signifies an underlying and sinister relationship that binds the couple as Allied citizens. On the other hand, thinking (like Heraclitus) of the married couple as one, and of the oneness of Jennifer and Margaret Dunbar (her twin sister), one notes that Polaris — the North Star, or Polestar, in Ursa Minor — is itself a double star. The bright light that has guided oceanic navigation for millennia. In either case, “polaris”’s over-determined, migratory context (the missile tracking, the earth turning, the stars shifting, etc.) recalls Dorn’s earlier frustration with acclimating himself to the “latitudes” of England (“So cold / you wake up / mumble some complaint / to yourself”), which serve only to confirm the fact that, “no place / outside might welcome / might warm me.” [42]


In “England, Its Latitude and Some of Its Conditions, the Seriousness of Ghosts,” Dorn repeats a central conviction of his work, the unimpeachable luminosity of one’s place — “so there you are,” wherever you’re at: “From the center of / the earth / the line comes up to / pierce / any man / can’t understand / what gravity is / that he has an / ordered and / endlessly transferable / place.” [43] Belonging is an “endlessly transferable” and relative property of the physical universe, but who does the “ordering” of it, who clears the path belonging takes? In the twelfth Love Song, the question rises, returns, recrudesces: “no place / outside,” outside what? Outside this place called Now, this body in action and acted upon? Outside “myself,” is it? — that locus, where “you be / a still center” — that is, a new center, of gravity, like the orbit of planet and moon, but “in me / located,” among these “newtowns of the soul.” In his biography of Olson, Tom Clark describes a similar love-driven transfiguration that that poet experienced (later wrote about) in the early 1950s on his way back to Washington D.C. from a romance-filled stay in New York City. Clark writes: “On the bus back to Washington [Olson] experienced a recurrence of mystical solar ‘illumination,’ sensing a ‘sun inside’ transforming him with a radiant inward heliotropism. (‘The moment you love, there is a SUN born, a sun inside yourself.’)” [44] Likewise, as Dorn’s “still center” enters Archaeus (“Archeus become my life”) the transmogrification of its material form generates another “center” — that which is made of the light it provides — and inheres its gravitational counterforce. As a palimpsest, the Love Songs also record a cosmogenesis. Thus, in the fourteenth song:


The largest center we know
makes his move
sundown in the window
and in space, double space
each one a concentration of
the other a difficult fact to absorb
it is a double labor to love
one twin [45]


And in the eleventh song, lovers and twins, like rocks and stars in orbit, gravitate toward one another, and sometimes align, say, under Dorn’s astrological sign, at vernal equinox:


you are a double letter
and I am equal only
     to my own singularity

the mixed strings of aries begins
you are sometimes in the trance of what
is beyond you,

           sometimes close
and then you turn into it
        so fast we turn

into another room we hear inside
and all the people looking
over the wall
are frozen  [46]


The architectural intimacy of “another room we hear inside” — a place we hear as lovers, a space we make in which to hear — evokes the amatory unification in John Donne’s “The Good-Morrow,” which title suggests love as a syncretic and perpetual moment of birth. In fact, Donne’s poem catalogues many of the themes explored by Dorn’s Love Songs. In casting their close attentions along the verge of language’s productivity, into the murky provocations and distortions of border regions, and in scrutinizing knowledge’s overlooked vanishing points, and in their talk of overcoming fear and embracing uncertainty (#13), or sea-voyaging (#1), or new and old worlds (#1), or dreaming and awakening (#2; #24), and conjoining (#3; #4; #5; #18), Twenty-four Love Songs, as a whole, effectively ramifies Donne’s twenty-one line, hyperbolic declaration: “I wonder, by my troth, what thou and I / Did, till we loved?… / If ever any beauty I did see, / Which I desired, and got, ‘twas but a dream of thee.” So opens and closes Donne’s first stanza, and the stanza that follows could serve as an epilogue (ever at the waking) for Dorn’s Songs:


And now good morrow to our waking souls,
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room an everywhere.
Let sea-discoverers to new worlds have gone,
Let maps to others, worlds on worlds have shown:
Let us possess one world; each hath one, and is one. [47]


That navigation and seafaring are central themes of Dorn’s Love Songs is symptomatic of the couple’s situation during the summer of 1968. After traveling in northern England for most of June and July, in early August they boarded the United States Lines steamship bound for New York City. Over the first week of that month, while Dunbar read about King Arthur and Avalon, the legendary refuge where the king is supposedly buried — thought to be at Glastonbury, in Somersetshire, southwestern England, where the couple had recently visited — Dorn wrote, from the “mid Atlantic,” to Tom and Val Raworth. In sharp contrast to the dreary anxieties of his correspondence earlier that year, Dorn’s idiosyncratic humor reemerges in the following passage, wherein he catalogues their sea-voyage pleasantries with Swiftian charm:


So last night was this night called Gala Night thus at dinner we found two small falgs uh flags on sticks an Am. flag and an United States Flage, ie, the steamer. People had uh horns and were Wearing their hats. … And they brought us a pate which was in a package and the toast was rusk and in a package also. And then they brought fish which had come from the sea betimes, but had been frozen and many other things they brought. And then they brought a great piece of meat which was utterly nude and accompanied only by five poor mushrooms in cowls. And when that went away they brought nuts and mints and figs and there was some ginger dried in sugar. Then Ice Cream was brought and it had a sea of chocolate on it and there were biscuits stuck in its side. And grapes in whole bunches covered with ice. And so the English gentleman took his grapes into his room and his wife went with him. And of all that we ate only the ice Cream and removed ourselves to the lower bar where we spent the evening drinking Brandy Alexanders. The host of the boat is Commadore Alexanderson.
Now then we are in the letter Writing Room there really is a room for doing that. The cat who sold me these stamps even told me in his NY accent How to put the stamp on – “upright like this” – wow I must look like I never done anything
Jenny sends love to both of you and stays very lofty-minded indeed. ie, insofar as she has come to believe any of it. She spends most of her time here in avalon located somewhere near the lower bunk. [48]


Dorn and Dunbar were soon back in America, making frequent trips to visit old friends and new acquaintances who lived in the northeastern U.S., and once taking a longer road-trip and friend, Kenneth to northeastern Canada. By the end of the year, they were in Placitas, New Mexico, visiting the Creeley’s, wherefrom they left for Lawrence, Kansas, where Dorn held a visiting professorship in the spring of 1969. In the fall in between, they wandered New England, visiting Charles Olson in Gloucester, but mostly staying with Harvey Brown, who lived in West Newbury, Massachusetts, where he operated Frontier Press. The summer sun of New England was restorative, and the days, where “love is,” were “fresh” and open again:


Back Home, Back Home
the day wakes up and once
out the door into what’s
left of the fresh air it still
comes clear
how lovely
love is there [49]

II. Reconvening and De-Convention


During the years in Paris I had my doubts about those who had nothing good to say about America just as I had my doubts about those who talked about Europe’s being dead. They were like my father and his pal who always talked about the good old days. As a child I used to think that adults when they spoke always gave the impression that one lost something by still being alive and that all places had been better in former times. Before I ever went there I heard that Paris was dead, and later I heard that Greenwich Village was dead… but I never found any place dead where a number of men and women for whatever reason tried to strike permanently against uncreative work. In those places I found dissent, sedition, personal risk. And there I learned to explore and modify my great contempt.
 — Alexander Trocchi [50]


“It’s good to be in New England after Olde because it gives us some time to focus it,” Dorn wrote to Tom Raworth, from West Newbury, in Essex County (oddly enough), northeastern Massachusetts, on August 15. [51] The ascetic strength of Dorn’s and Dunbar’s voyage, to which the dedication of the Love Songs refers — “we took nothing / and grew thin, and strong / along the lance of our Journey” — also dictated the couple’s first weeks in the ‘New World.’ [52] First, their luggage had been misplaced, and its arrival significantly delayed — “card from the steamship trucking co. this morning,” Dorn wrote in the same letter to Raworth, “they are dropping our bags at the local supermarket… They accept anything dropped off.” Then, in New York City, their initial plans to stay with sculptor and Black Mountain alumnus John Chamberlain were soured by “the dust and heat of a shut up place,” and eventually abandoned due to an “up tight” landlord, so the visit was cut short: “[E]verybody was out of town or out to lunch,” Dorn complained. [53]


At least the northeastern landscape was rejuvenating, and with a car at their disposal Dorn and Dunbar kept themselves energized and busy with day trips from Brown’s house in West Newbury, taking long hikes through the Berkshire mountains — “… climbed a mountain… 3 thousand nearly 4 thou ft. on a short steep trail and it left a delicious exhaustion in the bones. Sweated everything out.” [54] Enjoying an extended hiatus from teaching that fall, Dorn and Dunbar, over the next couple of months, traveled as far as Labrador and Newfoundland to visit L’ans aux Meadows, the site of Leif Ericson’s Vinland settlement — a trip that inspired the short prose piece, “Of Eastern Newfoundland, Its Inns & Outs.” [55] In all, the time was relaxing, restorative: “Bright days and already fall crispness to the air, the sun hot but the temp not high,” Dorn wrote to Raworth, with subtle nationalistic prodding: “it was nice in fact getting that letter from England but especially so as the sun shone. We think of you all a lot and now it seems possible to keep closer track at this distance and especially for me since I’ve seen it. The next step is for you to make the trip.” [56]


Among all the activity, however, Dorn sensed little change in the “changing same” of the American atmosphere: “There is that funny inconsequential speed and that seems newer and more but not different,” he told Raworth. In actuality, student discontent with elevating death tolls in Vietnam and administrative shortsightedness had spiked since Dorn’s previous visit to the U.S. in early May — many things were in fact different. Most shocking, perhaps, had been the assassination of Democratic Presidential nominee, Robert Kennedy, in a Los Angeles hotel, on June 6, 1968. An event that officially confirmed, if confirmation was needed, that bitter divisions in American society, initially exposed and irritated by student demonstrations, were in reality deep and severely infected cultural wounds. Student dissidents in Berkeley, California, enraged over the protracted incarceration of Huey Newton and incensed by the Oakland police’s brutal treatment of Eldridge Cleaver (soon to be charged with attempted murder, and would flee to Algeria), clashed repeatedly and violently with state authorities. By November and through December, when SDS — more ethnically diverse and more militant than before — teamed up with the Black Panthers, striking oil workers, and numerous others to demand the implementation of a Black Studies Program at San Francisco State College, something Governor Ronald Reagan perfunctorily rejected, it sparked another set of demonstrator/police altercations, which resulted in 450 students arrested and charged with criminal actions. [57] Facing the situation first hand, poet and friend Kenneth Irby wrote to Dorn that fall:


… blow up in the University over Cleaver & his class still just simmering — the feeling of living in Germany c. late 1932 is still strong, except the Berkeley politicos (at least) aren’t that clear & efficient yet — but they’re learning. How’s Canada? I don’t really think abt leaving seriously yet, esp. since such a move, just to C., wdnt change too much — the demand is here, whatever is is or will be, at least for & in me — I don’t know — any more or different than the demands have always been here? [58]


Having just returned to America — “I was compelled Westward,” Dorn later put it — he must have agreed with Irby that, “the demand is here.” At the end of August, struggling to articulate the nascent energies of reentering that sphere coursing through him, Dorn wrote to Olson:


Do you know what I’m trying to say. That I feel terrifically excited being back home and that my ear is just dimply all over the place and I haven’t got my speech back from what I now feel was a long isolation. … The way I lived in America during the last 9 month in england, like a pregnancy jan to aug. makes all this present effort toward correcting that abstraction. [59]


Among other things, Dorn’s ironically displaced American “pregnancy” birthed a unique and largely unknown set of short and mostly comic epigrams. The poems are unique because they exist as the only tangible evidence of Dorn’s direct participation (not quite, it turned out) — aside from his oblique dedication (the following year) to Lawrence’s draft resistors — in the “embraceable revolution.” [60]


When Dorn and Dunbar left New York City in early August, they just missed Ed Sanders. Sanders was stopping over from Chicago, where he would soon return to continue preparations for the Yippie Party demonstrations surrounding the 1968 Democratic National Convention to be held, from the 26th through the 29th of August, at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago. Dorn explained to Raworth:


Called ed sanders who was leaving for interview in Chicago where it is all expected to go down the 22nd or some date around there. But we left before he got back the next day. He’s going to run a pig for president. The idea as he explained it is up to now we’ve had a president who ate the people and what we need is a president the people can eat. So the candidate of the Yippies is a black female pig. And he asked for fbi protection for the yippie candidate which it doesn’t look like they’ll get. [61]


“Pigasus,” the candidate’s name, was confiscated during the convention mayhem, after the Yippies had threatened to spike the Cook County water supply with LSD. [62] A bit of context: Sanders was an old friend of Dorn’s, on whose behalf, Dorn, years earlier, had written to John Lindsay, Mayor of New York City, in protest of Sanders’ arrest for “possession with intent to sell pornography,” at his Peace Eye Bookstore. It was a charge of “ignorance and anachronism,” Dorn argued. [63] Primarily, Dorn’s admiration for Sanders’ was rooted in the latter’s acute sense of style and humor, to which the passage above attests, and which Dorn elaborates in his prose piece, “The Outcasts of Foker Plat”: “Sanders is the medicine man of our era. He looks like the man who could have shot Lincoln but didn’t. … And whereas movie stars think of themselves as movie stars, Ed Sanders is a movie star.” [64] As an alluring, sharp-witted symbol of the hip and friendly “revolution,” and an architect of the amusing Yippie Party image, Sanders convinced Dorn to compose a number of brief poems to be printed on slips of confetti and rained over the convention floor. [65] How that would happen, no one was sure.


There are actually three sets of poems Dorn drafted for the occasion: a series of five chants and two series of cryptic epigrams, with seven and twenty-one poems, respectively. Common to all sets is the critical and mysteriously comic reordering, through pun and portmanteau, of the intense masculine air of the Convention, among the security and the official Party ranks (“The funny destiny of their homonotional heads”). [66] For example: “HOMOMENSURA / where is the manness here / HOMOMENSURA / … / where are the menhir / where is our cercle of perpetual apparition.” [67] Here the overweening virility of American politics seems ineffectual (see “mensur,” in footnote 67, below) and is mocked aside the elemental endurance of ancient cultures in Britain — “menhir” are standing stones; “our cercle of perpetual apparition,” both invokes the cosmic alliance arranged at Stonehenge, say, and the ghostly (in its secrecy, and its effects) “Cycle of Acquisition” that drives forward imperial war and churns earth over for commerce. [68] Each set of poems also shares the demand to refashion traditional orders through experiential understanding, simple and direct: “turn now and rise / Wrest the matter into your own / hands – and Nature’s laws,” reads one; “It is time the people had something to say about / War, about Peace, about Property,” reads another; “the fear of being / misunderstood (a great mass / Disease / that stops everybody / thats stopped,” reads a third; “They feel easier in the protection which the / inactivity of permanence temporarily gives,” reads a fourth. [69] Among the set of chants, “CHANT 5” presents the most piercing rhetorical situation:


think of the one you love
ask how your mother lived
ask where your father is
is there one there you love
who could you point your back to
who could you leave with the simplest task
how could you state a simple need to
what molecule of the connective universe
what sign of the spiritive permeation [70]


It seems accurate to refer to the rhetorical “situation” of a piece like this, since it was intended for the participants on the floor of a presidential convention. Read in hypothetical context as an item picked from the falling confetti, one imagines a jarring experience. Not as jarring, however, or not as disorienting at least, as would have been the experience of reading, in context, the longest sequence in number, containing the shortest individual pieces. The following represents a collection of terse curiosities through which seems to run a scattered, ‘McCluric’ narrative. Each number was to be printed on its own card:


#1: America you boil over
#2: The presidential pattern
      on the wall in Hell
      The Colesseum Birthday party
      for the Man of Sin
#3: We are in the Room-of-Sin
absorbing the pattern
      we are in with the men of Gath  [71]

#4: All this depicts our lives
#5: Where is the Man-of-Men?
#6: The Manroot
#7: Man-of-the-Earth
#8: The Man of The Signs
#9: UnConvention!
      Homo Signorum Homo Signorum
      Homo Signorum Homo Signorum Signorum
#10: Beware the approach of
#11: Man of Wax
#12: Man of Bland Iron
#13: Man of Mold
#14: Man of Motley his eyes
#15: and all the distortions of our friend
#16: the Man of Sorrows
#17: who can be the Man of Spy
#18: not the Man of War
#19: we are the Men of Men together Homo Signorum
#20: the Men Here, say it
        the Man of the Woods
   the Man of Blood
#21: So contra the Man of Motley wallpaper eyes
       fixed history on the wall
        say the wall away
        free of the hum
        in the Man of The Signs.  [72]


Not surprising, Dorn’s messages, like Pigasus, never made it to the Convention floor: “If any question cld be branded into the horizon, / wld it penetrate the hog?” another of Dorn’s epigrams appropriately queries. [73] The immense and diverse attendance that gathered at the demonstrations in Chicago that August — from militant radicals to upset-but-upstanding citizens — were met with an even more alarming display of police force — ten thousand strong, plus five thousand National Guardsmen — who indiscriminately beat protestors, bystanders, and members of the media, over the four, hectic days of the event. “Czechago,” the Yippies called it, alluding to the Soviet takeover of Czechoslovakia a week-and-a-half earlier. Having announced five months before that he would decline his Party’s nomination, and now sitting at home in Texas, President Johnson watched tyranny dismember the democratic process on television, along with thirty million other Americans. On television, Chicago looked a lot like Eastern Europe: barbed wire circled the tops of temporary board fences that separated the Convention grounds from the low-income, minority neighborhoods nearby; barricades blocked littered streets; and tear gas hung in the air. After the chaos, eight demonstrators were arrested — including famous Yippie leader, Abbie Hoffman, and Black Panther Party co-founder, Bobby Seale — and charged with an array of illegal activities, including conspiracy and inciting a riot. [74]


Unlike his curious little poems, Dorn never intended to physically participate in the Chicago demonstrations. Quite the contrary in fact, on August 28, he and Dunbar enjoyed another day trip: “J. and I spent the afternoon on the Rolycoaster [sic] at Salisbury Beach!” he wrote to Olson the next day. [75] However, pleasant as his homecoming with Dunbar was, Dorn sensed uneasiness in his older teacher and was soon reacquainted with the dramatic personal episodes and conflicts among those he knew from Black Mountain. Olson, for example, already exhausted from sickness and travel, was deeply mourning his most recent loss in love. In August, Inga Loven, an “attractive Swedish journalist,” arrived in Gloucester to interview Olson, who was instantly enamored of his guest and, Clark writes, “spiced his remarks with Scandinavian references, … [and] With the tape recorder turned off, … stepped up his wooing efforts.” Evidently, little got through but offence, and Loven returned to Sweden, where she received, but did not reciprocate, a final, inspired love letter, written (said Olson) “in Icelandic.” [76]


Distraught, Olson turned to Harvey Brown, his “legendary phone man,” and throughout the fall, Dorn and Dunbar accompanied Brown on visits Gloucester. [77] On one such visit, on the heels of Loven’s departure, Dorn unwittingly took Olson’s grief too lightly, or so Dorn later worried, after he’d talked with Brown:


… that moved me around to send you this and tell you how goddamn sick I felt to let such an impression of myself get past the gate, ie that last night, but you know how real paranoia is / I mean I don’t believe you can say you know whats happening to you in such a cool way as a smile might seem to reflect and of course I was unhappy, I was unhappy with the image of myself to which I said I won’t give this I must give something better, or nothing, and I understood your pushing at the same time I was “certain” it was a put down [78]


This kind of oblique, cautionary, “mealy-mouthed” talk seems exclusive to Dorn’s correspondence with Olson. [79] As the same late-August letter continues, Dorn’s hesitations bespeak his ill-defined and generalized uncertainty about how to reengage old friends, to match rhythms in conversation — how would Dunbar find Olson, say, or Robert Creeley, and vice versa? etc.:


It is great to see you. If my pride weren’t so much larger than my physical presence I’d ask you to wait a bit, as I almost tried that night jumping up but then I had that experience of seeing myself abt to do that and of course couldn’t. … What I’m saying is a thing I’d just guess you can imagine — how overwhelmed I am to see you again. And how beautifully and properly difficult you make, no Create, my reentry into this thing. [80]


As fall came on, Dorn’s “reentry” was turbulent with his old friends and wasn’t complete until the end of that year.

Stan Brakhage

Stan Brakhage


Leaving Massachusetts in September, Dorn and Dunbar crossed the country to Rollinsville, Colorado, to see another of Dorn’s closest associates of the High West, filmmaker and Kansas City native, Stan Brakhage. At Rollinsville they rented “a big shed on the lake,” Dunbar recalls,


… about five miles from the Brakhages, on the condition we move out when the ice reached a depth safe for skating. That’s where Kidd was conceived. Stan dropped by almost every day after picking up his mail, and we went up to the cabin in Lump Gulch (full of children and various animals) to watch films. Stan gave me his old 8mm camera (a Beaulieu with a trigger handle like a gun). [81]


By late November, Dorn and Dunbar arrived in Placitas, New Mexico, moving into “a little adobe house,” a few blocks from Robert and Bobbie Louise Creeley. The rancor that had earlier grown between Olson and John Wieners over their shared affection for Panna Grady, and mainly Olson’s treachery (he’d advised Grady to abort Wieners’s child; see footnote), had since spilled over to irritate vague but extant tensions among other members of Dorn’s community. [82] On December 1, after what appears to be an uncomfortably prolonged silence, Dorn wrote to Olson: “There have been those long pauses in the life of my last month when I looked at the wall and wrote you a letter on it or lifted the handle of the phone and spoke w/out dialing… .” [83] The letter was occasioned by Dorn’s reading “that Turville-Petre book on Icelandic origins which Harvey gave me and you recommended,” he told Olson, for whom Icelandic references were likely still a sore subject. In defining Olson’s power as a poet, when Dorn refers to “the mythic relation one must become … to go beyond the mere the natural abilities are,” he rephrases the demand for a personal “ritual” and for “centering” one’s own language to refashion myth in the unlocking orders of the poem:


… and thot I shld now write to the scald of our Time – and I don’t know if that will please you at all to be thot skaldic – but I was very struck by that distinction the literature of that time and place makes… that the accentual skills of the Eddaic relation were the possibility of the born poet, the powers of the heroic lag – that transfer/transmission, but for the scald, the invention, the care and repair of metres, the mythic relation one must become that, as I take it go beyond the mere the natural abilities are. I was also working on the postscript to that “What I See” piece for Donald Allen and trying to see if there might be something important to add – because my secret problem has been w/ your work that I am essentially uncritical, ie, of it. But maybe that’s why I keep at it. [84]


As usual, it’s necessary for Dorn to sift through his appreciation and admiration for Olson’s work in order to clear a space to voice personal concerns. “The thing about Olson and myself,” Dorn bluntly put it to an interviewer in 1992, “is that we were never really friends.” [85] Later in the interview, he developed the claim:


We were close in the sense that our interests and our sense of morality and integrity were rather aligned. Our loyalty to one another and our allegiance was not based so much on friendship as on a concern for poetry and intellection and knowledge and public morality, which, in fact, I found him flawless on. He had much better friends, people who were close in that sense, but then a lot of people were not as close as we were in this other sense. [86]


Interestingly, though Dorn clearly defines “friendship” as separate from the “concern for poetry and intellection and knowledge and public morality” that he shared with Olson, the allegiances Dorn’s correspondence determines seem, in practice, to blur that distinction.


In the December 1 letter, for example, the (un)critical praise Dorn heaps on Olson’s work undeniably influences his appraisal and judgment of the present discord — i.e., the far-reaching aftereffects of the Grady affair — among their group of “friends” (one must say, since the discord depends on friendship in the first place). In Placitas, Dorn learned more about the strife between Olson and John Wieners (who’d recently been hospitalized) from Creeley, now also involved in the rift. The following excerpt is an intriguing example by which to ponder the idiosyncratic nature of Dorn’s relationship to Olson and to Creeley. Dorn writes:


The point is John is the only instance of something natural run away into that madness you spoke of one night as a thing you too shared but were saved from ultimately by the strength of your grasp of the sane, or rational – I mentioned that feeling of yours to Bob when he showed John’s letter to me and he ridiculed the idea that you might share such an aspect as that w/ John as a romanticism of yours but I ascribed his inability to see it to that peculiar inability of the Creeley’s generally to listen at all to what one might have to say – I don’t, also, find “The Finger” any indication, in itself, of an alteration of perception – it seems the same domestic inflexibility as ever. So Bob’s explanation is mainly that John suffers a love-hate relationship w/ his, Bob’s, person. I find that explanation egocentric and unengaging in the light of the really fantastic formality of John’s lunatic prose.

Now, the big thing that kept me from calling you or writing about John’s condition knowing you and Harvey were back there was that for the first time in my life I was stopped in a literal linguistic sense by a fantasy which I found too rich to absorb. There was the other fact that John had laid on me a load of “history” involving you which I’d not expected – ie – I thot when I finally asked him questions to get only the content you’d indicated from the calls… Harvey tells me you have received a legal text now of your own portrait from John’s hand. The last thing he sd to me when we parted at your motel was “thanks for bringing me Jenny” which straightened my hair for days after. … The Creeley’s again as always in that environment, an “instance” of conversation about persons or as Jenny says they talk about the “appearance” of people. [87]


Does Dorn’s overwhelming respect for Olson’s intellectual integrity and scholastic morality — “I found him flawless… ” — occlude his attachments to certain (mere) “friendships”? That is, if the two obligations should problematically intersect? One notes that just as Dorn’s sympathies and emotional support for Olson follow in the letter from his warming up to Olson’s work, so does his acrimonious disapproval of Creeley’s personal conduct lead to a more than mild rebuke of Creeley’s work. Are there human connections of spirit for Dorn that supersede friendship? And if that bond is indeed separate from other “loyalties,” do the demands of “friendship” lag behind? Do they lose their relevancy when set beside deeper alliances forged through the personal magnetism of another’s work? As his letter continues, Dorn admits his conflicted feelings for Wieners are directly related to his impressions of his former classmate’s writing; Dorn sees an introverted tendentiousness evident in Wieners’ work and behavior moving Wieners in opposing directions, toward both illumination and self-destruction. Dorn alludes to the strange, pathological genius of Wieners’ poem, “He’s not here / no one’s here,” published that fall in the Paris Review:


impatient to act, unable to turn off
because of the highway, in haste rejecting
your suggestion, ‘I know a motel,’
coming to my room instead, prone amid sheets
taking off my shirt and socks, the ghost
of Rudolf clinging to my limbs, hearing
this afternoon your scream from prayer
as I lay down beside you…  [88]


The steady, systolic/diastolic exchange between the internal and external spheres of activity, sensation, and language (“in haste rejecting / your suggestion”) was no longer a fluid, reciprocal transmission, but in Wieners’ “madness,” all was compressed into a single static force of interiority. And yet, the mysterious “lunacy,” Dorn noted, and “light/loose control of pure instinctual art,” which Wieners possessed, seemed to eradicate the possibility of personal judgment for Dorn, forcing his impressions of Wieners’ character into an ambiguous space:


What I’m trying to say is that I think you’d be the first to see that the world John invokes is as anti-personal as the world is – or I guess this evening I still feel that way abt it – the most dangerous property of it I see as a progressive enclosure for him, an increasing perpetuation that he become the pearl itself in the oyster of himself, that he become the obscurest kenning of himself as his perception is chased in some sinister interior. But he may be the self sacrifice of our parts – because I think at least I see him hanging upside down grasping the rune sticks  — Listen we both send our love to you Charles and think about you often. [89]


Back in Gloucester, a malnourished, chronically ill and lonely Olson was becoming increasingly familiar with the interior of his own Fort Square apartment, where the sun had white-washed his harbor maps and visitors were as scarce as heavy drinking was frequent. [90] Shortly after Olson received Dorn’s letter, however, unexpected events brought the two together in person.


“In the last 3 wks I’ve been on move so much I literally am misplace-able,” Dorn wrote to John Martin in early January, 1969, “to Barcelona, London – Boston and back here.” [91] In early December, Helene (Dorn’s ex-wife) was in a car accident in Spain, and required hospitalization for a badly broken leg. “Tom – I’ve had to come here to clean up this mess,” Dorn wrote to Raworth on December 11, on his way from Barcelona to London, with Helene, Paul (their son), and Helene’s daughter, Chansonette. [92] From London they traveled together back to the U.S., searching for a house for the single-mother family in Boston, until Harvey Brown suggested they move to Gloucester. “So took them up there,” Dorn wrote to Raworth, “and did find a very comfortable temporary place – a springboard from which the cast can come off and Chan can get into school and Paul too.” [93]


Meanwhile, Dunbar, a stranger to Placitas, alone with “three adobe fireplaces, all of which seemed to suck piñon smoke into the rooms instead of drawing it out the chimney,” and certain she was pregnant, grew understandably restless. [94] When Dorn returned to Massachusetts, “he sensed my desperation,” Dunbar recalls: “Harvey bought me a ticket to Boston just in time for Christmas.” [95] After settling matters in Gloucester, and briefly visiting Olson, Dorn and Dunbar arrived back in Placitas in late December, exhausted from incessant transatlantic and transcontinental flights. On December 27, Dorn explained to Raworth the complications of their return from the northeast:


… I had to leave abruptly when I realized there had to be a point at which I stopped cleaning the stables – and I was at the end of my energy reserves – we returned here w/out reservations which at this season means trouble – 3 different airlines and airplanes – finally at Kansas City I complained so much they put us in 1st class seats from there to Albuquerque which simply means more room for the ass which I assume those people really need, and a very fine double martini which we needed. Now it is quiet and warm again – piñon in the fire place – I think now we’ll go to Kansas early to find a place – perhaps by the middle of January or earlier. [96]


They stuck to that plan, leaving New Mexico by car for Kansas on the 11th of January. The last month had been extremely chaotic and stressful, but despite Dorn’s “misplace-able” sensation, his writing was moving confidently ahead: “It has been oddly possible to work,” he wrote to John Martin, “tho – I’m growing an auxiliary head.” [97]

III. The Ley, the Tor, the Henge, and the Joy of Expansion


… all terrestrial life originating in fire is attracted by the fire that dwells in the center. We had desired that in return the central fire would be attracted by the circumference and radiate without: this interchange of principles would be eternal life.
–Gerard de Nerval [98]

There are moments when I despair of others, give them up, let them stray out of the circle of light and definition, and they are free to come and go, bring panic, or chaos, or joy, depending on my own mood, my state of readiness. Readiness — as every Boy Scout knows — there is the virtue of the citadel.
– Alexander Trocchi [99]


“[N]ot men but heads of the hydra / his false faces in which / authority lies / hired minds of private interest / over us,” Robert Duncan writes in “The Multiversity / Passages 21,” from late 1967. [100] Soaring to unprecedented levels of prosperity, that decade witnessed an acceleration not only of rapid, post-war U.S. economic growth, but also of its thwarted, lopsided distribution, which dumped into the pockets of the wealthiest fifth of the population ten times the income it sprinkled into the hands of the fifth at the bottom. By the end of the decade, the bottom fifth still worked for roughly two or three thousand dollars a year. [101] Meanwhile, as Duncan’s lines suggest, there was a sharp, concomitant increase in corporate reliance on governmental contracts, which for some airline companies, for example, became the sole source of income. Private interest increasingly began to eclipse public responsibility: in shocking contrast to the mere four percent interest growth on the average American’s savings, “Lockheed Aircraft, for instance, made a profit in 1965 of 19 per cent of its net worth,” and General Dynamics, a defense contractor, “had government contracts totaling $2.2 billion.” [102] As Mayor Daley’s militia scouted the streets in Chicago for the 1968 Democratic Convention, and the wind-tense city awaited the descent of “democracy,” even Newsweek magazine agreed with Duncan’s assessment that the “hydra heads” of big business interests, operating far above the body of the citizenry, determined the outcome of political elections: “The plain fact of the matter,” an editorial bluntly put it, “is that U.S. Presidential nominations are not delivered by the people, but by the party professionals.” [103]


Like Duncan’s work, Dorn’s poems for the Yippie’s in Chicago demand fresh orders: an inclusive social concept fashioned and inspired by the “embraceable revolution” that surrounded and delighted him. In fact, at the time, Dorn viewed Duncan, most of all, as a beacon: “Duncan was a California touchstone for me all through the years of religious wars in Southeast Asia and the mindless tolerance of the satanic spirit at home.” [104] Dorn’s recollection, his choice of “satanic spirit at home,” for example, draws on Duncan’s introduction to his 1968 collection of poems, Bending the Bow, which mines the Heraclitean consistency of the poet-citizen, and of her poems — each simultaneously a part of, and apart from, the war, which “has invaded an area of our selves that troubled us” — that is, an area within us whereat we already harbor the destructive force bitterly inflated by the war. The war without “restriction,” Dorn might say, “because violence, cruelty, hurtfulness, and all the deeper psychological underpinnings of human nature are just as legitimate as anything else, although we must learn to restrict them.” [105] To style them, let’s say, to give them appropriate form. For Duncan, the imperial war is a misuse, an arrogant and misapplied force of destruction, “a monstrosity in the hands of militarists who have taken no deep thought of the art of war and its nature.” Duncan’s introduction to Bending the Bow continues:


In a blast the poem announces the Satanic person of a president whose lies and connivings have manoeuvred the nation into the pit of an evil war. What does it mean? It is a mere political event of the day, yet it comes reveald as an eternal sentence. Polysemous – not only the nation but the soul and the poem are involved in the event. In these days again the last day, the final judgment, in a form that knows only what the here and now knows of first days and last days. What is out of joint with the times moves as this poetry moves toward a doubling of the joint in time, until, multiphasic, we could imagine the figure we had not seen in which the joining is clear where we are. For these discords, these imperatives of the poem that exceed our proprieties, these interferences – as if the real voice of the poet might render unrecognizable to our sympathies the voice we wanted to be real, these even artful, willful or, it seems to us, affected, psychopathologies of daily life, touch upon the living center where there is no composure but a life-spring of dissatisfaction in all orders from which the restless ordering of our poetry comes. [106]


Though a cursory reading of the two poets might suggest few discrete connections or mere superficial differences, the excerpt above presents, nonetheless, a number of contextual realities and poetic objectives of commensurate significance to Dorn’s work. The most important of these congruencies is a totalizing view of the poem: ever at the verge (the “last day”); ever emanating new orders from a “living center, where there is no composure,” to sustain and enact the slippery double-sidedness of being and “daily life,” through the polysemous dynamism of their arrangements, and intertwining the nation and the soul into a single column of force. The poem for Duncan, like Dorn, “is a field of ensouling,” “a locality of the living,” and, we might add, congruously, a locus of experience. Thus, in the mythologizing transmutations of Dorn’s convention epigrams — “Man of Sorrows,” “Men of Gath,” etc. — one notes already the attempt to reorganize contemporary, political trajectories into cosmic networks of heteroglossic exchange, whereat “the real voice of the poet might render unrecognizable … the voice we wanted to be real.” Implicit in this attempt is a combined desire for the poem both to ascertain and establish its interrelated cosmic order — an order whose sequences are, by their own ceaseless upending, enthralled and empowered, and which remain aware of “the exile that is,” by bestowing upon time the nonlinear properties of space. Dorn invokes this deep-time/deep-space relation, ringing its “discordant,” zenith harmonies (“[f]rom the strain / of binding opposites / comes harmony”), as an overwhelming, organizational counterforce against the imprisoning superstructures of the state. [107] Thus, from Dorn’s Convention poems, we take the ritual of “Chant 4,” like some Dolman conjuration:










The particular imperatives of the chant that engineer “the mythic relation one must become” are useful to establish an overall context for Dorn’s work and experience in Kansas, and for prefacing the contours of his later works’ course. [109]


1968 pushed Dorn to the extremities of his emotional constitution, and yet, in the abject pain of his divorce, he found the seeds of a new marriage. The internal push and pull of that circuitry seems to parallel the concord-in-opposition of his external, social environment. Just as student dissatisfaction with contemporary political orders drove younger generations to explosive demonstrations against the war, that enraged confederacy also inspired new and intimate fellowships among those idealistic and disenchanted ranks. In the midst of all Dorn had left behind, and all that he newly encountered on arriving in New England that August with Dunbar, he admitted to Olson another unresolved, personal disturbance, some “indefinite” message he’d received just before sailing from England: “I had some experiences just before I left england that left me quiet, and without any definite information about them: Glastonbury. I mean I don’t know literally anything about my relationship to it except this knarl of feeling I now possess… .” [110] In Glastonbury, Dorn experienced a disorienting revelation of an underlying, telluric order, a “sacred geometry” in the landscape, connecting the human universe with celestial spheres and configurations. Rattled, he also wrote to Raworth about the incident: “We did get that last weekend to the most important place on the way to Wales, or anywhere, I think because it must be Glastonbury where those people put their thing, like it still comes up heads. yet was on top of Glitterbury Tor something turned my head all the way around like I didn’t think cld be done again. And at the last moment too.” [111]


Glastonbury, in southwestern England, is the site of significant geomantic, historic, and astrological interest. The town is home to Glastonbury Abbey, the oldest Christian church in the world. The Abbey was built in the early 700s on land previously settled by a community of monks in AD 63, the year that Joseph of Arimathea is rumored to have left the Holy Grail in their hands. Therefore, Arthurian legend also centers on the town, or more on the Tor nearby: Glastonbury Tor, a neatly conical sandstone hill infused with erosion-resistant iron oxides deposited by a subterranean water source. Atop this mysterious hill are the ruins of another cathedral, under which King Arthur and Queen Guinevere are supposedly buried. Or so goes the “excavation story” concocted by a group of monks in the 13th century, hoping to raise funds for the much-needed renovation of their church. The Tor, however, is commonly associated with Avalon, the mystic land of ferries, and Dorn’s unusual experience climbing its terraced sides is added to a rather long list of similarly strange occurrences. [112]


Aside from the grail and the apocryphal double-tomb, Glastonbury sits at the intersection of a number of moments of mystic and telluric energy that trace a variety of historical trajectories back to pre-Roman times. Standing on top of the Tor in the 1920s, pondering “references in legends and old histories to hidden giants in the landscape,” Katherine Maltwood, author of The Glastonbury Temple of the Stars, suddenly envisioned a vast, interconnected map of the zodiac inscribed on the surrounding landscape, which unlocked the Arthurian, “hidden astrological quest” — the ancient wells, hedgerows, and roads, demarcating its astral coordinates. [113] In its entirety, this map was designed, Maltwood vaguely surmised, with the intent to measure and/or direct dynamic forces contained in the overarching movements of the firmament through materials of the “terra firma.” [114] Around the same time, Alfred Watkins, a self-taught archaeologist, antiquarian, and the son of a respected brewer in Hereford, for whom he was the traveling representative, made a similar discovery from the Tor’s peak. A discovery that, at first, invested more significance in the landscape itself.


Watkins observed an enormous grid, plotted along many of the same points as Maltwood’s axis, which he initially concluded to be the remnant of an ancient Druidic transportation network, and to the axes of which he gave the name, “ley lines.” [115] After further collaborative study, however, Watkins proposed that “ley lines” indicated the organization of a much broader set of activities, such as the migratory pathways of bees, antelope, and some birds. For some scholars these lines connect religious and holy centers, for others they represent the wiring of the earth’s electric field, “that is, the voltage gradient which exists between the negatively charged planet and the positively charged ionosphere.” For others, “straight” lines are “faery and spirit paths,” along which “ancient cultures … believed that the souls of the dead could [travel].” [116] For others still, these notions merge: this rich and “sacred geometry” patterned over the earth’s surface is capable of harnessing celestial messages and transmitting them along manipulated pathways through a series of stone circles and ancient sites. [117] These sites themselves conduct and radiate earth energies. Many of the standing stones in England bear “cup-marks,” or small columnar indentions that serve to coil, focus and transmit magnetic forces in the earth. [118] These telluric energies, as they’re called, are frequently tracked by dowsers, or witchers — those who regularly locate subterranean sources of water, in addition to other sources of “etheric disturbance.” Not surprisingly, these water-seekers widely agree on the peculiar intensity of these vectors and their “disturbance,” at Glastonbury. [119]


Many scholars have compared “ley lines” to the Nazca lines in Peru, or to the mythological pathways of the Native American gods, which likewise connect holy centers, and serve as “cables of mental communication,” for instance, for the Hopi of the Southwestern U.S. [120] In Chinese culture, which often links “the planets with the materials of the body,” and landforms with astrological projections, telluric energies called “dragon lines” indicate “currents streaming” over the earth’s surface and, “until recently… every building, every stone… was placed in the landscape in accordance with a magic system by which the laws of mathematics and music were expressed in the geometry of the earth’s surface,” writes John Michell, in The View Over Atlantis, his historical study of geomancy. [121] The path of these “dragon lines” held great influence over the shape of the cultural landscape: “The eaves of a Chinese house were always set at a different height to those of its neighbours; if they were level, the long straight line might form a dangerously powerful conductor.” [122] This network’s power is held in a delicate tension that must be handled carefully in order to avert its destructive potential: “Straight lines drain the beneficial influences from a quiet, secluded site,” writes Michell. “They introduce tempestuous forces into areas of peace. The lines of the dragon current run straight across the country, but locally their course should be modified by a series of gentle curves. By this means the violence of their flow can be abated and their currents diverted into smaller channels to irrigate the surrounding countryside.” [123] Like these “dragon lines,” the intersection of multiple “ley lines” at Glastonbury creates a uniquely charged atmosphere on the Tor, as well as underscoring the relationship between the dimensions of Glastonbury Abbey and the solar geometries of Stonehenge.


A “henge,” according to English Heritage, the Historic Buildings and Monuments Commission for England, is “a roughly circular or oval-shaped flat area over 20m in diameter which is enclosed and delimited by a boundary earthwork that usually comprises a ditch with an external bank. Access to the interior is obtained by way of one, two, or four entrances through the earthwork.” The internal space of a “henge” may consist of portal settings, stone circles, timber circles, central mounds, monoliths, and a variety of other earthen components and/or modifications. [124] In the case of Stonehenge, where the concentric arrangement of the “external bank,” or mound, and “ditch” are reversed (making the “ditch” the outermost circle), the avenue, or “entrance,” into its stone ring (the standing stones and lintels of which were transported over great distances), connects the Neolithic site to the Avon River, over a mile to the east. The sarsen circle itself is positioned along the axis of the solstice — to receive the summer’s sunrise, and the winter’s sunset. [125] Yet, while the exactitude of Stonehenge’s placement and organization is an empirical fact, the monument’s particular purpose (or various uses, perhaps, since through the years it was put to different uses) remains an enduring mystery. Is it a calander? A healing site? A burial ground, certainly, but why? “Henges” are generally considered to represent ancient “ritual or ceremonial monuments, perhaps meeting places, trading centres, or sacred areas of some sort.” [126] So whatever Stonehenge’s uses, or whatever powers it possesses, one can be sure that Stonehenge is, and has been through the ages, a center for migration — plugged into a decentered, dynamic network that transmits and blends astral and terrestrial energies to unknown degrees of signification. In the broadest sense of connectivity, the “ley” confluence at Glastonbury Tor, another central node on this geomantic, migratory grid, invokes the vast configuration of cup-marked standing stones and stone circles that conduct and direct “ley” passageways through other holy and ancient sites. [127] According to two “notable” dowsers, the main line running through Glastonbury Tor is called “St. Michael’s Line,” named for the cathedral that once stood on the Tor’s peak, whereat Richard Whiting, the last Abbot of Glastonbury Abbey, was hanged, drawn and quartered, in 1539. And St. Michael’s Line is not the ordinary, “traditional straight energy ley,” which said dowsers “had initially expected.” It is, in fact, like Duncan’s doubled, “restless” force of poetics, “two tortuous streams of energy” intertwined, that rush “through Glastonbury Tor, Avebury and Silbury Hill, amongst others.” [128]


As “Chant 4” and his letters to Olson and Raworth demonstrate, Dorn’s view from the Tor, like his view from the Eldridge Hotel a few months before (formerly the Free State Hotel, in Lawrence, Kansas, on the roof of which Dorn held his office hours in April 1968), not only had a lasting psychological impact, but its organizational concept was strikingly relevant to the present concerns of his work. In the preface for his 1971 collection of experimental prose pieces, entitled Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World, Dorn asserts a principal paradox, the uncertainty of which might prefigure that “knarl of feeling” Glastonbury left him with: “In speaking of what / is Outward and what / is Inward one refers / not to Place, but / to what is Known and what / is Not known.” [129] If nothing else, his dizzying farewell experience to southwest England confirmed for Dorn that the recent centrifugal tendency in his writing, already emergent in Gunslinger’s “multiple form of expression,” was not merely a way of engaging what was external (from those “in the room,” to those shapes in the stars) as opposed to what was lyrical, but also provided an efficacious model for exploring the reciprocal, centripetal motions of the inner, “human universe.” [130] The time-traveling Gunslinger’s methodical, interstellar hipness, for instance, his particular sense of style — half “timeless,” since he is “un semidios” — is programmed by his solar constitution: the style as “the gnomon of a sundial,” an instrument both of, and outside of, time — an instrument that makes (as its phallic shape suggests) time. For, like Dorn’s poet, who “can be there,” the Gunslinger is never outside the moment. Before departing Mesilla at the end of Book I, for example, the Gunslinger genuflects, “… on his long knees / facing the burning hoop / as it rolled under / the swinging doors west” — the very same ritual he earlier performed, when toasting his larger order:


Do you know said the Gunslinger
as he held the yellow tequila up
in the waning light of the cabaret
that this liquid is the last
dwindling impulse of the sun
and then he turned and knelt
and faced that charred orb
as it rolled below the swinging doors
as if it were entering yet descending
and he said to me NO!
it is not. It is that
cruelly absolute sign my father
I am the son of the sun, we two
are always in search
of the third…  [131]


In the proprioceptive balance, the “syzygy” of “Inside” and “Outside” realms, through the “I/eye” — such as when the Gunslinger, “pulling on his vest / fastened the mescal buttons / thereon and truly turned his eyes / into the landscape” — one absorbs and emits a particular style[132] One advantage of style is its phenomenal ability “to eliminate the draw,” that is, to remove it from “the space between here / and formerly,” which “permits unmatchable Speed, / a syzygy which hangs tight / just back of the curtain / of the reality theatre / down the street… .” [133] And don’t be mistaken, reader — you who were slow on the draw in thinking “I” was the narrator — “speed is not necessarily fast.” [134]


The Glastonbury experience inspired two poems actually — the chant for Chicago, and a longer poem, “This is the way I hear the momentum,” whose meandering lines recall the oscillating structure of “Thesis,” and “Tom Pickard and the Newcastle Brown Beer Revolutionaries,” and other adamant invocations for spiritual renewal that pepper Dorn’s catalogue. If “Chant 4,” as I’ve said, means to harness the intersecting energies of Glastonbury, “the holy wine of the quest / for the total cup,” and to raise them, “[a]gainst the predilections of Chi,” then the “momentum” poem finds among the epoch-vaulting relations and orders inscribed on the plains around the Tor, an interstitial moment of infinite expansion, “a syzygy which hangs tight / just back of the curtain / of the reality theatre” — wherein the future and the past coincide in the restless mellifluence of fresh poetic orders. “[H]aving touched the Slaughter Stone / of the Henge of Stone / Rock,” the poem follows a footpath to Glastonbury in the isotropic pressure of an empty stomach:


      well being arose
the emptiness
        of the stomach
   from the universe
        every change of placement
the shift of every leaf
        is a function
            of the universe which
moves outward from its composed center
            40 bilynyrs.  [135]


As with the palimpsestic motions of the Love Songs, wherein the double star, “polaris,” represents the “syzygy” of the lovers — the “new locations” and “newtowns of the soul” love continually bodies forth — the expansion from the “composed center” in the “Momentum” poem, again and again, “returns.”


                                         ...the pulse
             and location will have changed
      The location free of reference
except this obvious measurement because you can feel
completely a straight 5 b. years
     from some moment now which is not
        an apparent edge
but as mappa India anna
      as the source of speech
   is no simple explosion [136]


In these last two lines, the development of language through all time over scattered geographies becomes analog for the expanding fabric of space/time itself. In this twinned growth — language surging through the poet-speaker, as St. Michael’s Line’s doubled-stream does through the Tor — the poem’s self-consciousness nourishes its “field of ensouling.” Here, the way of going, the foot, is equally a rhythmic consideration, as one’s rising pulse on the steep slope of the Tor is the heartbeat of the cosmos, “hit[ting] inside this / … the soul of the universe”:


       our given pulse
                           hits inside this
everymoment we live
                                     to hear this
                         the soul of the universe
        calls indifferently the populations
                to proceed
                   from the tincture
            to the root of the natural
            in the present effort
                to arise into the light
            ness   of these limbs
   these parts of the universe having growth
                So the foot of this book
       is grown at last for the book to stand upon
thrown from myself as my life was given to me
        with sharp aim  [137]


The last stanza ascends the Tor, from which the poem’s locus skips along its own event horizon (“the scansion of its trip”), scanning, “the moment / approaching when all of it / will be stilled.” But the poem scans “the last day, the final judgment,” as Duncan writes it, “in [its] form that knows only what the here and now knows of first days and last days.” [138] The Tor “trip”’s final “open[ing] / on the arc” distends chain-linked borders of time, and restores to the “moment” its etymologically inherited tension of “movement.” In a “beautiful seizure,” the “elevation” unleashes, as it did for Maltwood and Watkins, “configured presentations,” obscured by industrial misuse, in the ancient and living landscape:


           When I reached the Tor
                and walked up to
        be elevated
enough to sense the zodiac
        of its configured presentations
                of itself the lit
                       and distant hills simply
                                the joy of expansion
                   which is what we’ve experienced
       for 35 billion years
                and can take in
                     the moment
approaching when all of it
        will be stilled in a shimmy
                of its own distance
         as the whole thing holds so
   with the delicacy of water tension
to avoid dispersal
   of all thats here            the wholly
        beautiful seizure of the co-
ordinates of its distance
    the scansion of its trip
          as we come around again to feel wide open
        on the arc  [139]


The version of this poem that Dorn mailed to Olson from Lawrence, Kansas, in early 1969, includes three final lines that were excised from the poem (the version I’ve quoted) when it was published in Io that summer: “… on the arc of our lives / as the organism / contracts toward its / center.” [140] It appears, however, that Dorn reworked these final lines, moving them to an earlier section of the poem; an earlier line in the Io version — “moves outward from its composed center” — is itself absent from the copy sent to Olson.


Evidently, Dorn was unsatisfied with the “momentum” poem, and never chose to collect it. Or maybe the poem was too close to him, personally, or too eagerly compiled, too “stoned,” too ecstatically direct a sentiment. For Olson’s copy, Dorn made a photonegative — white words floating in black space — but wasn’t swayed by the result: “I want you to have the black background even tho it too fails to come close to my own present conception of the nature of what I feel its abt — … .” [141] The Glastonbury incident seems to be inextricably tied, in Dorn’s mind, to Olson, as an example of the unsolicited propriocetive opportunity that Dorn’s education was intended to enable him to seize. Yet, for Dorn, the poem “fails to come close” to seizing it, to enacting “the nature of what I feel its abt,” and thereby invokes the exile — “the return into a people / woe to them who eat too much / from a people who eat / too fast as / tho it were an exercise” — that accounts for the need to “be elevated” in the first place. Back in Gloucester in early fall 1968, the “intellection” connection with Olson surfaced again, when Dorn surveyed occultist ground in his short prose piece, “A Narrative with Scattered Nouns,” which opens the prose collection, Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World. The “narrative” tells of the ritual construction of a large, driftwood sculpture, on a Plum Island beach, just north of Cape Ann. [142] Although the endeavor’s mythic, heliocentric dimensions are uncertain — “[t]hey wanted to call back the departing sun. … but these celebrants are removed a considerable distance from the altar of that center” — their awakening ceremony is structured around “the instance of this Circle,” wherein the past and future coalesce. [143] In the following passage, Olson is bestowed the archetypal appellation, “The Scald” (as in Dorn’s letter above), whose all-encompassing perceptive index is wired to the pagan, chthonic motherboard of Gloucester, on which time splays its own passing:


They wanted to call back the departing sun. Blood was not in their minds, blood was in their hearts, but these celebrants are removed a considerable distance from the altar of that center, tho not so far of course as the pedestrians. As everyone can feel, this is the nature of all true difference. There was a metaphysical space alternating them across what is taken to be the real space. They came across a seam of time which in some vast tongue of silence had been nearly joined. They had entered a process, at the instance of this Circle, in which the future took its tail in its mouth and clamped it teeth quite firmly in the flesh of the past. The past is not simply that, they knew, to find oneself in it is not a “predicament” and is never dismissed by any appeal to indecision. I meant to say torque, the result of the twisting of those time fragments we count one two three. I was among the processionals. The event was filmed and still exists, I believe, in a cardboard box.
This event occurred under the very eye of the scald. He took no formal notice because in fact he may not have known of it. Nonetheless I owe any granite sense I have of New England to him and refer at all times of doubt to the Chronicles which are the result of his labor. And I must say it was with some deeply lateral instinct the Charm was made a tribute to the Eye of the Scald. [144]


Just as he disclaimed the “Momentum” poem, Dorn also hedges the gravity of these cosmic intimations: “It must be understood that this is play,” he writes near the end of the story. “There is not even a shred of a work-ethic here. These people are beautifully ascended. They pay attention only to the ecstatic of the absolute and have no tolerance whatsoever for the static of the absolute.” [145] By early 1969, the “Eye of the Scald” was noticeably dimming, the ecstatic of the Absolute was expediting the impending and irreversible “static of the absolute.” Dorn’s frequent yet oblique salutations seem almost apprehensive, anxiously conclusive.


In mid-January, a chaotic, stressful, and impassioned year behind them, Dorn and Dunbar were on the road to Kansas, “to leave car and what gear then on to NYC for a few days then back to Lawrence to find house,” Dorn wrote to John Martin on the eve of the trip. [146] On the twelfth, Dorn mailed Olson a postcard from Dodge City, Kansas, with a photograph of the Cowboy Statue (“On the ashes of my campfire this city is built,” its base reads) on legendary Boot Hill: “Poised for action, with six-gun leaving its holster,” the postcard’s caption buoyantly describes, “this life size statue of an early day cowboy … was modeled by D.O.H. Simpson, a pioneer dentist of Dodge City.” On the back of the postcard, Dorn scrawled a single question: “is this the statue of the fisherman put another way? love from the high plains… ” [147] His query alludes to the Fisherman’s Memorial in Gloucester, Massachusetts, a statue “in the heroic manner, of a fisherman crouched at the helm,” which was erected to honor all fishermen lost at sea, “by the people of Gloucester in 1923.” [148] But a “pioneer dentist”? That droll curiosity was all the more appropriate: Olson references the “bad sculpture of a fisherman,” in one of his Maximus poems, and invokes Heraclitus in his condemnation of its public iconography, “… they pray to these images, … knowing not what gods or heroes are.” [149]


On January 20, 1969, Richard M. Nixon was inaugurated the thirty-seventh president of the United States. [150] Less than two months later, in response to the growing number of attacks on South Vietnam since the Tet Offensive a year earlier, Nixon initiated a secret bombing campaign in Cambodia to target and intimidate Communist soldiers traveling on overgrown, agrarian routes running through neutral, neighboring countries. [151] A year later, the public exposure of Nixon’s Cambodian secret inspired a string of the most violent student and police clashes America had yet seen, leaving student demonstrators dead in Ohio, Mississippi, and Kansas. In the meantime, Dorn and Dunbar, back from Dorn’s reading in New York City in late January, found their housing arrangements in Lawrence incomplete, and a dense snowstorm piling up on the quiet streets. They were forced to retreat to the Eldridge Hotel. Exasperated with the peripatetic, frenzied last six months, and again plagued by the familiar homelessness he otherwise sought out, on January 31, Dorn scrawled on hotel stationary a short response to Tom Raworth, who’d asked for some manuscripts:


… my problem is one of vast displacement – I haven’t lost anything but getting to it will take a day or two – we’re in the goddamn hotel because the lady who sd she’d rent us a house now can’t leave when she was supposed to – it has been that way endlessly and we get more and more beat down by it – that damn stupid and perpetual problem of a space of your own. What’s that but just to be able to find yesterday’s newspaper. The mail in the meantime to raise classical paranoias, is more fucked up everyday – the post office no longer recognizes state – just that hopeless telephone looking zip number – Snow here so deep you’d not believe it – and glazed over w/ ice from freezing rain – the excuse for not doing anything here in the weather and it makes sense… I’m sorry to be the one to hang all this up – it is the result of our skipping like dragon flies over the mud. [152]


Four days later, on the evening of Tuesday, February 4, Dorn headed up the steep, sandstone slopes of Mount Oread, the “Hill,” at the top of which stood Fraser Hall. There, in a first floor room every Tuesday night, from 7:30 to 10:30, for the next four months, he taught English 293: “The Writing of Poetry.” [153] That first Tuesday he was accompanied by New York-born poet, W.S. Merwin, who was passing through on a reading tour. [154] Merwin was the first of many notable guests in Dorn’s classroom that semester, which also contained a number of talented students. By the end of that week, Dorn and Dunbar were settled into a comfortable white house at 1420 Kentucky street — a one way street, shaded by maple trees, running north along the eastern base of the “Hill,” on top of which sits the college. Over beers at the Rock Chalk Cafe and the Gaslight Tavern, popular student and “freak” bars, each only a few blocks from their house, they were quickly reacquainted with Dorn’s friends from the previous spring. Despite the fact that their stay in Lawrence would last less than six months, the town’s brazen, unpredictable energy left a steadfast impression on the young couple. “We really enjoyed Lawrence,” Dunbar quietly recalled over thirty years later. [155] Indeed, in late 1972, from Kent State, Dorn wrote to George Worth, chair of KU’s English department, trying to find a permanent position for himself in Lawrence: “Of all the places I have been over the 11 years of my teaching experience, Kansas has been the most productive and pleasing of all of them. I want you to know that I understand there is a certain scarcity of places and that any such proposal on my part might turn out to be long range. … [I]f there were an opening in your department I would prefer it before any other.” [156]


I have not included any newspapers in this bibliography as they are cited in full in the footnotes.

Primary Sources:

Dorn, Edward. Papers. Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries, Storrs, Connecticut.

Dorn, Edward. Staff files. University Archives, Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas, Lawrence, Kansas.
Jones, LeRoi. Papers. Manuscripts Department, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Martin, John. Black Sparrow Press correspondence. Manuscripts Collection, Center for Southwest Research, University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Olson, Charles. Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries, Storrs, Connecticut.

Rago, Henry. Papers. Poetry Manuscripts. Manuscripts Department, The Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

Raworth, Tom. Papers. Archives and Special Collections, Thomas J. Dodd Research Center, University of Connecticut Libraries, Storrs, Connecticut.


Dorn, Jennifer Dunbar. Interview by author. Denver, Colorado, 19 March 2005.

Dorn, Jennifer Dunbar. Interview by author. Telephone recording. 18 February 2006

Moritz, John. Interview by author. Lawrence, Kansas. 10 March 2006.

Secondary Sources:

Ali, Tariq, and Susan Watkins. 1968: Marching in the Streets. New York: Free Press, 1998.

Baraka, Amiri. “Ed Dorn.” Cento Magazine. Online at Electronic Poetry Center. 15 January 2000. (2 June 2007).

Bernstein, Charles. A Poetics. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1992.

Butterick, George F. A Guide to The Maximus Poems of Charles Olson. Berkeley: Univeristy of California Press, 1980.

Clark, Tom. Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2000.

Clark, Tom. Edward Dorn: A World of Difference. Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2002.

Creeley, Robert. The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley, 1945-1975. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1982.

Davie, Donald. “Ed Dorn and the Treasures of Comedy.” Vort 1 (fall 1972): 24-25.

Davie, Donald. These the Companions: Recollections. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Debord, Guy. Complete Cinematic Works: Scripts, Stills, Documents. Translated by Ken Knabb. Oakland: AK Press, 2003.

Dorn, Edward. The Collected Poems: 1956-1974. Bolinas: Four Seasons Foundation, 1975.

Dorn, Edward. Ed Dorn Live: Lectures, Interviews, and Outtakes. Edited by Joseph Richey. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007.

Dorn, Edward. Gunslinger. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1989.

Dorn, Edward. Interviews. Edited by Donald Allen. Bolinas: Four Seasons Foundation, 1980. Dorn, Edward. “Selected correspondence with Tom Raworth, Charles Olson, Harold I. Cammer, & LeRoi Jones (1960-1962).” Chicago Review 49:3/4 & 50/1 (summer 2004): 25-84.

Dorn, Edward. Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World. West Newbury: Frontier Press, 1971.

Dorn, Edward. Songs Set Two — A Short Count. West Newbury: Frontier Press, 1970.

Dorn, Edward. “This Is the Way I Hear the Momentum.” Io, no. 6 (summer 1969): 109-110.

Dorn, Edward. Twenty-four Love Songs. West Newbury: Frontier Press, 1969.

Dorn, Edward. Views. Edited by Donald Allen. San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1980.

Dorn, Edward. Way West: Stories, Essays & Verse Accounts, 1963-1993. Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press, 1993.

Dorn, Edward, and Gordon Brotherston, trans. Our Word: Guerrilla Poems from Latin America = Palabra de Guerrillero Poesia Guerrillera De Latinoamerica. New York: Grossman Publishers, in association with Cape Goliard, 1968.

Dorn, Edward, and Gordon Brotherston, trans. The Sun Unwound: Original Texts from Occupied America. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 1999.

Duncan, Robert. Bending the Bow. New York: New Directions, 1968.

Elmborg, James K. “A pageant in its time”: Edward Dorn’sSlinger and the 1960s. Ph.D. diss., University of Kansas, 1994.

Harrison, Charles, and Paul Wood. Art in Theory, 1900-1990: An Anthology of Changing Ideas. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, 1992.

Karnow, Stanley. Vietnam: A History. New York: Viking Press, 1983.

Michell, John F. The View Over Atlantis. London: Sago Press, 1969.

Notley, Alice. “Where’d You Get It?” Bay Bridge. Online at Electronic Poetry Center. n.d. (2 June 2007).

Olson, Charles. Collected Prose. Edited by Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

Trocchi, Alexander. Cain’s Book. New York: Grove Press, 1960.

Wieners, John. “He’s not here / no one’s here.” The Paris Review, no. 44 (fall 1968): 143.

Wesling, Donald. Internal Resistances: The Poetry of Edward Dorn. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1985.

Zinn, Howard. Postwar America: 1945-1971. Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973.

Zukofsky, Louis. “A”. Berkeley: University of California, 1978.


 [1] Guy Debord, “In Girum Imus Nocte et Consumimur Igni,” No: a journal of the arts, no 6. (2007): 125-126.

 [2] Tariq Ali and Susan Watkins, 1968: Marching in the Streets (New York: Free Press, 1998), 88-100.

 [3] Ibid., 78-80.

 [4] Ibid., 79-80.

 [5] No doubt it was Davie’s irrepressible desire to hire him that first took Dorn to England, where his Fulbright was thrice extended. Years later Dorn would characterize his three year stay at Essex — where he and Helene, his first wife, separated, and where he met his second wife (as a student), Jennifer Dunbar — as “an odyssey of upheaval and exile.” See: Tom Clark, Edward Dorn: A World of Difference (Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2002), 12.

 [6] Clark, A World of Difference, 41.

 [7] Ibid., 41. Gordon Brotherston recalls Dorn’s relationship to the Free University: “The lecture theatre block became the daily focus of public debate. … Ed was very, very present in the Free University. He kept on meeting classes, but lecturing under the Free University auspices. It was an extraordinarily interesting time — for me, because I was very, very involved, and I’m certain for Ed as well.”

 [8] Ibid., 41.

 [9] Robert Creeley to Edward Dorn, 6 June 1968, Folder 77, Edward Dorn Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [10] Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, interview by author, 19 March 2005, Denver, Colorado. With fitting irony, Donald Wesling was hired to the position at San Diego. (Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, personal correspondence, email, February 15, 2009.

 [11] Donald Davie, These the Companions (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 134.

 [12] Dorn’s painful separation from Helene, as well as his courtship and subsequent relationship with Jennifer Dunbar, are covered in depth elsewhere in this manuscript. Below, I include a cursory summary of Dunbar’s background.
      An aspiring filmmaker and a talented writer, Dunbar was intelligent, confident, and attractive. At the center of a “swinging,” London art scene that included The Beatles and Marianne Faithful (who married her brother), Dunbar embodied “hipness” in a social world that stood in alarming contrast to Dorn’s “pioneering” austerity with Helene in Burlington and Pocatello. Dunbar’s was a world of diverse and intriguing connections. Her father, Robert Dunbar, founded the London School of Film Technique (now the London Film School). He knew Francois Truffaut, and worked with Carol Reed on the noir thriller, The Third Man. During the Second World War, he befriended Sergei Eisenstein in Moscow, where Jennifer and her twin sister, Margaret, were born, and where she remembers sitting on the montage/propaganda-master’s knee. On Dunbar’s mother’s side, the Blagoveschensk’s, were members of the “liberal intelligentsia,” and the former Russian aristocracy, but who shared Dorn’s family’s lineage of exile and uprootedness: “My grandmother’s older brother,” Dunbar explains, “was studying piano and composition with Prokofiev at St. Petersburg Conservatory when he was drafted into white army and then killed when Reds came into hospital (where he had dysentery or something) and shot all the officers in their beds. That’s when my grandmother escaped, with 2 children (my mother still a baby) by rowboat to Finland. They ended up in Mexico.”
      In the late ’60s, John Dunbar, Jennifer’s brother, operated a trendy, avant-garde London gallery, where he introduced John Lennon to Yoko Ono. In the light of all this, Dorn’s conflicted desires (“my adulterated self”) — irresistibly drawn to Dunbar’s foreign and energetically alluring world of youth and celebrity — could be mapped, some close friends argue, by his two marriages. Robert Creeley and John Moritz speak of “two Dorn’s — one with Helene, one with Jenny,” a concept Clark’s truncated biography rather unjustly reinforces, since the latter Dorn, but for his torturous bout with cancer, is scantly represented, and Dunbar almost not at all. Creeley’s, Clark’s, and Moritz’s readings are biographically founded, but contribute to a certain Manichean interpretation of the career, to which the critical categorizations of James McPheron, and others, adhere. Creeley somewhat insensitively identified a strong attraction in Dorn to a world where fame happens, the “world of large populations,” which eventually overwhelmed the asceticism he shared with Helene, and drew him toward Jenny. (See, respectively: George Kimball, interview by author, email correspondence, 8 May 2005; Clark, A World of Difference, 37; Nicholas Johnson, “Obituary: Robert Dunbar,” The Independent, 31 May 2000, online at <> (18 February 2006). The Independent claims Truffaut initially sought to cast Jenny and her identical twin sister, Margaret, as the leading actors in his 1971 film, Two English Girls. Jennifer Dunbar Dorn later clarified the somewhat inaccurate report: “Truffaut visited the film school when Margaret and I were students there (he came to dinner and we entertained him with our schoolgirl French). When asked by students what he thought they should make a film about, he said ‘the Dunbar twins.’” Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, personal correspondence, email, February 15, 2009; Dunbar Dorn, personal correspondence, email, February 15, 2009; Kimball, interview by author; Clark, A World of Difference, 36-38; John Moritz, interview by author, February 22, 2005, Lawrence, Kansas.

 [13] Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, interview by author, 19 March 2005.

 [14] Clark, A World of Difference, 39.

 [15] Charles Olson, Collected Prose, Donald Allen and Benjamin Friedlander, eds. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997), 162.

 [16] Ed Dorn, Collected Poems: 1956-1974 (Bolinas: Four Seasons Foundation, 1975), 244-245.

 [17] Davie identifies a “humility” in Dorn’s work: “the instruction [the writing] looks for and receives from people and places and happenings. It reflects upon them, it moralizes on them; but the reflection and the moral are drawn not from some previously accumulated stock of wisdom, but (so the writing persuades us) immediately out of the shock of confronting each of them as it comes, unpredictably.” See Clark, World of Difference, 14.

 [18] Ali and Watkins, 1968: Marching in the Streets, 86-105.

 [19] See Ed Dorn, Gunslinger (Durham: Duke University Press, 1989).

 [20] Guy Debord, “Toward a Situationist International,” in Art in Theory, Charles Harrison and Paul Wood, eds. (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers, Ltd., 1993), 694-695.

 [21] Ali and Watkins, 1968: Marching in the Streets, 101-105.

 [22] Dorn, Collected Poems, 237; 248.

 [23] Clark, A World of Difference, 39.

 [24] Ibid., 39.

 [25] Dorn, Collected Poems, 246.

 [26] Edward Dorn to LeRoi Jones, 10 October 1961, Chicago Review, 49:3/4 & 50:1 (Summer 2004): 55-56.

 [27] Steven Greenhouse, “A Restaurant Empire, Parisian Style,” The New York Times, 29 February 1988, <> (12 July 2006).

 [28] Charles Bernstein envisions the shape-shifting power struggle among marginal communities as a contest over “fashion” — who’s in, who’s out. “Fashion,” as a discourse, “seeks hegemony but produces resistance,” or rather, by prefiguring the production of its counterforce, resistance, proscribes its undoing, though never entirely. Thus, we find manufactured within “fashion”’s cycle both the zesty competitive enterprise of “free market” capitalism — the mise en abyme — and the multitudinous dissent to being “in” at all, that is, to “fashion itself.” (Bernstein, “Censors of the Unknown — Margins, Dissent, and the Poetic Horizon,” interview by Tom Beckett, in A Poetics, 188). Referring to Dorn’s statement (“[i]t was beautifully intellectual and feasible and containable, embraceable… ”), Tom Clark employs the term “embraceable revolution.”(Clark, A World of Difference, 31)

 [29] Edward Dorn, interview by Effie Mihopoulos, The Cento Pages. n.d. <> (5 June 2006), unpaginated.

 [30] Alice Notley, “‘Where’d You Get It?’,” in In Remembrance of Ed Dorn, Dale Smith, ed., Big Bridge Press, n.d., <> (2 July 2007).

 [31] Baraka, “Ed Dorn,” Cento Magazine <>; “A Popular Poet,” The Daily University Kansan, 2 May 1968; Dorn, “Driving Across the Prairie,” in Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World, 65.

 [32] Robert Creeley to Edward Dorn, 6 June 1968, Folder 77, Edward Dorn Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [33] Ibid.

 [34] Louis Zukofsky, A (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1978), 126.

 [35] Quoted in Clark, A World of Difference, 37.

 [36] Baraka, “Ed Dorn,” Cento Magazine <>.

 [37] New Oxford American Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. “stigma.”

 [38] Ibid., s.v. “Style.”

 [39]Ibid., s.v. “center.”

 [40] Dorn, Collected Poems, 233.

 [41] William Shakespeare, Complete Sonnets, Stanley Appelbaum, ed. (New York: Dover, 1991), 24-25.

 [42] Dorn, Collected Poems, 182; 243.

 [43] Ibid., 182.

 [44] Tom Clark, Charles Olson: Allegory of a Poet’s Life (Berkeley: North Atlantic, 2000), 225.

 [45] Dorn, Collected Poems, 244.

 [46] Ibid., 242; and this occurs in the fifth Love Song too: “I’d know you were my katalysis [sic] / had we never met, in all space / I am fixed beyond you, the cruel / is a decision of the stars, in all space / our clef is pitched together / we share / a completely trued voice / our substance carried / in our joined mouths / flows.”(238)

 [47] John Donne, “The Good Morrow,” in The Longman Anthology of Poetry, ed. Lynne McMahon and Averill Curdy (New York: Pearson Longman, 2006), 222.

 [48] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 3-4 August 1968, Folder Letter 1968, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [49] Dorn, Collected Poems, 249.

 [50] Alexander Trocchi, Cain’s Book (New York: Grove Press, 1960), 220.

 [51] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 15 August 1968, Box 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd. Mss.

 [52] Ed Dorn, Twenty-four Love Songs (West Newbury: Frontier Press, 1969), unpaginated.

 [53] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 15 August 1968, Box 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [54] Ibid.

 [55] Appears in: Ed Dorn, Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World (West Newbury: Frontier Press, 1971), 11-25. Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, personal correspondence, email, February 15, 2009.

 [56] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 15 August 1968, 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [57] Howard Zinn, Postwar America: 1945-1971 (Indianapolis: Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1973), 211-217.

 [58] Kenneth Irby to Edward Dorn, 11 October 1968, Folder 137, Edward Dorn Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [59] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 29 August 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [60] That dedication is called “The Cosmology of Finding Your Place,” and was reprinted in Dorn’s Collected Poems: 1956-1974 (Bolinas: Four Seasons Foundation, 1975), 233-235.

 [61] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 15 August 1968, Box 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [62] Ali and Watkins, 1968: Marching in the Streets, 51.

 [63] Edward Dorn to John Lindsay, 21 March 1966, Folder 93, Edward Dorn Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [64] Dorn, “The Outcasts of Foker Plat,” in Views, Donald Allen, ed. (San Francisco: Four Seasons Foundation, 1980), 82-83.

 [65] I learned of the existence of these poems from James K. Elmborg’s, “A Pageant of It’s Time”: Ed Dorn’s Slinger and the Sixties (PhD Dissertation, University of Kansas, 1994). The poems themselves are part of the Poetry Manuscripts special collections held in the Lilly Library, at Indiana University, Bloomington Indiana.

 [66] Edward Dorn, “Chant 3,” original manuscript, Poetry Mss., Lilly Library.

 [67] Behind the punning, “mensura” is Latin for “measure,” and at the root of mensurable — something measureable, or “with fixed limits” — and mensural, is a musical term for notes of “fixed” duration and tone. (New Oxfored American Dictionary, 2nd ed., s.v. “mensurable.”)

 [68] Elsewhere in The North Atlantic Turbine, of the perpetual cycle of responsibility to the “shared mind,” Dorn writes: “We are all in the sarsen circle. / We are all in the da nang. Even the Shades / All / of our numbers come up / Russia and china jockey, / it is not race, ‘La révolte / de Los Angeles / est une révolte contre La Marchandise / contre le monde de la Marchandise… .”(201)

 [69] Edward Dorn, original mss., Poetry Mss., Lilly Library.

 [70] Dorn, “Chant 5,” original mss., Poetry Mss., Lilly Library.

 [71] “Gath of the Philistines” was one of five Philistine cities, and home to Goliath.

 [72] Edward Dorn, original mss., Poetry Mss., Lilly Library.

 [73] Ibid.

 [74] Zinn, Postwar America, 177-178; 192; Ali and Watkins, 1968: Marching in the Streets, 151-153.

 [75] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 29 August 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [76] Clark, Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life, 341-342.

 [77] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 29 August 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [78] Ibid.

 [79] See discussion of “An Exercise,” chapter 25.

 [80] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 29 August 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [81] Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, personal correspondence, email, February 15, 2009. Dunbar also contextualized the trip according Dorn’s “human universe”: “Ed had introduced me to Olson — now he wanted to show me the West, by way of Stan Brakhage in Colorado and Creeley in New Mexico.”

 [82] A few years before, in July 1966, Olson had taken up residence with old friend, poet, and Black Mountain protégé, John Wieners, and Panna Grady, Wieners’ new love interest, a “glamorous, sophisticated New York City social hostess and art patroness,” who was vacationing near Gloucester for the summer. The vast and partly wooded grounds and the lively atmosphere at the Riverdale mansion inspired a slew of new pieces for Olson’s ongoing Maximus project, one of which centered around declarations of love and fidelity for those to whom Olson felt closest: “… to live in a world like this one we / few American poets have / carved out of Nature and of God. / … / the careful ones I care for … John Wieners, / Edward Dorn & the women they love… ” But Olson soon found himself smitten with the woman Wieners loved, and however cruel and injurious to his younger friend — already in the throes of a torturous struggle with his own sexuality — Olson pursued his interests late that summer. In September, when Olson discovered Grady was pregnant by Wieners, he selfishly advised an abortion. Then, in October, to add ferocious insult to irredeemable injury and loss, Olson and Grady left for England, alerting Wieners of their plans on the eve of their voyage, by phone, from New York City. Needless to say, Wieners, whose chronic emotional instability saw him briefly institutionalized, was devastated. At the same time, Olson was fooling himself, playing the “kept monkey,” as Robert Duncan put it, to the affluent patroness. See Clark, Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life, 330-332; and Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems, George F. Butterick, ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983), 557.

 [83] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 1 December 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [84] Ibid.

 [85] Edward Dorn, “A Correction of the Public Mind,” interview by Kevin Bezner, Ed Dorn Live: Lectures, Interviews, and Outtakes, Joseph Richey, ed. (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2007), 75.

 [86] Ibid., 76.

 [87] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 1 December 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [88] John Wieners, “He’s not here / no one’s here,” Paris Review, vol. 11, no. 44 (Fall 1968): 143.

 [89] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 1 December 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [90] Clark, Charles Olson: The Allegory of a Poet’s Life, 343.

 [91] Edward Dorn to John Martin, 10 January 1969, Folder 13, MS 313 BC, CSWR Mss.

 [92] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 11 December 1968, Box 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [93] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 27 December 1968, Box 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [94] Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, personal correspondence, email, February 15, 2009. “I loved the landscape, but only knowing a few people and not having a car (didn’t drive, yet) felt quite isolated. I saw very little of the Creeleys. Bobbie drove me to Albuquerque a couple of times, but I only remember being invited to dinner once — with Michael McClure and his wife. I had wanted Ed to go to Spain, but missed him incredibly.”

 [95] Ibid.

 [96] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 27 December 1968, Box 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [97] Edward Dorn to John Martin, 10 January 1969, Folder 13, MS 313 BC, CSWR Mss.

 [98] I found this quoted in Kenneth Irby, Call Steps: Plains, Camps, Stations, Consistories (Barrytown and Lawrence: Station Hill Literary Editions, and Tansy, 1992), 17. Irby’s citation is as follows: Gerard de Nerval, Voyage en Orient, “Les nuits de Ramadan”, III, vi

 [99] Trocchi, Cain’s Book, 235.

 [100] Robert Duncan, Bending the Bow (New York: New Directions, 1968), 70.

 [101] Zinn, Postwar America:1945-1971, 96; 100.

 [102] Ibid., 97.

 [103] Ibid., 117.

 [104] Edward Dorn, “From the Modern Language Association panel on the Poetries of California,” in Ed Dorn Live, 89.

 [105] Edward Dorn, “Interview at Madison,” interview by Tandy Sturgeon, in Ed Dorn Live, 51.

 [106] Duncan, introduction to Bending the Bow, x.

 [107] Heraclitus, Fragments, Brooks Haxton (New York: Penguin, 2001), 31.

 [108] Edward Dorn, “Chant 4,” original mss., Poetry Mss, Lilly Mss.

 [109] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 1 December 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [110] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 29 August 1968, Folder Dorn 1968, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [111] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 3-4 August 1968, Box 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [112] See John Michell, chaps. 1, 2, 3, and 5, in The View Over Atlantis (London: Sago, 1969), 1-82; 131-152; and David Cowan and Chris Arnold, Ley Lines and Earth Energies (Kempton: Adventures Unlimited, 2003).

 [113] Michell, The View Over Atlantis, 7-8.

 [114] Ibid., 8.

 [115] Ibid., 9-13; see p. 10 for derivation: “A peculiar feature of the old alignments is that certain names appear with remarkable frequency along their routes. Names with Red, White and Black are common; so are Cold and Cole, Dod, Merry and Ley. The last gave Watkins the name of the lines, which he called Leys.”

 [116] Cowan and Arnold, Ley Lines and Earth Energies, 3.

 [117] Ibid., chaps. 10, 12, and 13, 94-97; 103-116.

 [118] Ibid., chaps. 3, 4, 5, and 8, 25-57; 71-83.

 [119] Michell, The View Over Atlantis, 152.

 [120] Ibid., 19-21.

 [121] Ibid., 50.

 [122] Ibid., 50.

 [123] Ibid., 51.

 [124] English Heritage – Stonehenge & the History of England, n.d., <> (2 March 2008).

 [125] Michell, “Stonehenge and Glastonbury,” chap. 5 in The View Over Atlantis, 131-152.

 [126] Ibid.

 [127] Michell, “Stonehenge and Glastonbury,” chap. 5 in The View Over Atlantis, 131-152. Stonehenge is dedicated to the sun, and its specific geometric relations have a strict correspondence with their distance from, and the movement of the sun throughout the year; the Glastonbury Abbey shares a relationship with many of these exalted dimensions in its original layout.

 [128] Cowan and Arnold, Ley Lines and Earth Energies, 5.

 [129] Dorn, Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World, unpaginated preface.

 [130] Dorn discussed the compositional environment of Gunslinger at a reading at the State University of New York at Buffalo, on April 20, 1974, available through PennSound, n.d., <> (2 October 2007): “I felt a great urgency to get away from a kind of single lyric voice and into a kind of multiple form of expression simply because I thought poetry, at least as I was practicing it, was too bitterly simple, in a way. And I didn’t at any cost want to be associated with those who were simple, or anything else — confessional, or academic. I came out of a past of almost rabid anti-academicism. … Also I wanted to write a poem that would remain a poem at every point, insofar as I could force it to, but still take advantage of those dramatic and multiply voiced conventions that had existed in poetry at one time but had gone out of fashion. Also I was interested in insofar as I could reactivating the narrative. Because after all my mother read to me narrative poetry when I was a child… I was also interested in having the books be in their time, in a strange way, and I think that happens. I decided to remain emphatically unembarrassed by a certain currency of language, even though I thought perhaps I might look back on it and feel a bit… that it was current to another time.”

 [131] Dorn, Gunslinger, 41; 14-15.

 [132] Ibid., 52.

 [133] Ibid., 30.

 [134] Ibid., 30.

 [135] Edward Dorn, “This is the way that I hear the momentum,” Io, no. 6 (Summer 1969), 109.

 [136] Ibid., 109.

 [137] Ibid., 109-110.

 [138] Duncan, introduction to Bending the Bow, x.

 [139] Dorn, “This is the way I hear the momentum,” Io, no. 6 (summer 1969), 110.

 [140] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, n.d., Folder Dorn 2, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [141] Ibid.

 [142] Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, personal correspondence, email, February 15, 2009. Polly Brown, Harvey Brown’s wife, filmed the event, though the document has since disappeared.

 [143] Edward Dorn, “A Narrative with Scattered Nouns,” in Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World, 2-3.

 [144] Ibid., 2-3.

 [145] Ibid., 7.

 [146] Edward Dorn to John Martin, 10 January 1969, Folder 13, Mss. 313 BC, CSWR Mss.

 [147] Edward Dorn to Charles Olson, 12 January 1969, Box 150, Folder 1969, Charles Olson Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [148] George Butterick, A Guide to The Maximus Poems of Charles Olson (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1980), 224, I.152.

 [149] Ibid., 224, I.152.

 [150] Stanley Karnow, Vietnam: A History (New York: Viking, 1983), 584.

 [151] Ibid., 590-591.

 [152] Edward Dorn to Tom Raworth, 31 January 1969, Box 1974-0003, unprocessed, Tom Raworth Papers, Dodd Mss.

 [153] The Timetable of Classes, spring 1969, The University of Kansas, University Archives, Spencer Mss.

 [154] “Official Bulletin,” The University Daily Kansan, 4 February 1969, p. 5; Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, interview by author, 19 March 2005.

 [155] Dunbar Dorn, interview by author, 19 March 2005.

 [156] Edward Dorn to George Worth, 30 November 1972, University Archives, Spencer Mss.

Kyle Waugh

Kyle Waugh

Kyle Waugh lives in Lawrence, Kansas, and teaches at the Kansas City Art Institute and the University of Kansas.

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