Volume Seven

A Special Edition

Introductions by Jack Kimball & Robert Creeley


Boston is a ghost town.  It's in the air.  Wraiths of Mathers,
Adamses, Jameses, Eliots, Lowells, specters of Longfellow, Emerson,
Thoreau, Olson, Bishop, Plath circulate within tidy tea-and-thinkers
cliques, earnest writers' clubs and the neighborly poetry workshop;
and more to the point, they similarly inhabit influential university
course syllabi, reinstilling the mobile legacy of these antecedents'
austerities, their rationalist ambitions, their zealously normative
tones. And with Boston constituting a perennial "school yard" to
ascendant pedagogues, writers, and even painters, there's no getting
around the aftershocks of this ghostly legacy, both for Boston and
beyond, for a number of Generation One poets of the New York School,
for example, as well as a good fraction of founders of the language
poetry movement.

Post-Hiroshima, say, there has been no getting around the legacy, that
is, other than to see it, partake of it if one must, but also to
resist it mightily. Resistance comes, of course, in many strands.
Olson, for one, left Massachusetts, joining with Creeley, Wieners and
others at Black Mountain, in what today looks like America's prototype
of existentialist aesthetics -- a collective moment viewed as primary
research into new purposes and anticonformist procedures, resourceful
alternatives to the necessity and chance attached to a mutated and
muted Brahminism of the past. After Black Mountain Olson returned to
Massachusetts, developing his strand of resistance into fertile ground
eventually annexed by the legacy, which in turn has been reinvigorated
by it.  Olson's influence can be traced via fellow Gloucesterite
Lansing, Wieners and near descendants included here, Shively, Dunn --
closer to Wieners -- and Franco perhaps the closest Boston has to a
son of Olson.  Joel Sloman's cultural anthropology shown in Cuban
Journal and Joseph Torra's study of Steve Jonas indicate other
living connections to this Olsonian strand.

Even younger poets like Kiely and Debrot show they have been touched
by Olson and Black Mountain, but that's stretching it (this strand),
because who hasn't been touched? I guess what I mean is rushes of
discourse like "we're the telling we say" -- from Kiely -- and "Let
the mouth as broken" -- from a Debrot poem -- and "pieces of light
squarer like a series of bee stings or rose petals kissing the
physical eye" -- from Debrot's Confuzion Comix -- qualify as
unembarrassed sound clusters first and well before they cohere as
semantic units, an Olsonian paradigm if there ever was one. Other
phrases from Debrot, such as "The nerves jump intrinsically --
fuck-finger glistening," point more to a second strand of resistance
much evidenced in Boston 1999, the image-drenched quotidian in lyrical
or parodic or conversationlike (or lyrical-parodic-conversationlike)
juxtaposition.  After Williams, appositions of ordinary speech and
daily life have been part of the grand arsenal of discourse and
thematic strategies with which poets knock down pretensions of the old
order.  Bousselaar of "Fallen," Cain of "Prose #10," Pinsky of "The
Green Piano," Behrle of "Thunderstorm Watch," Cole of "Duplex" and
unquestionably Corbett sound their poems this way. Pinsky's poem,
though, joins others' in yet another strand here -- a poetry that
risks social commentary, an applied phenomenology verging on critique,
if you will -- poems by Bouchard, Lease, Franzen's translation of
Borinsky, and in its didactic compression, Corman's verse, as well.

My coeditor has suggested we talk about our acquisition methods as
if I were equipped to spin what we have come up with here into a
superordinate theory. Dan Bouchard and I asked poets and painters we
knew or those we would like to know to contribute to Boston 1999.
Then, as group efforts like this often evolve, friends of poets and
painters got the word, and this special volume started to take shape.
We defined Boston as a state of mind with geophysical limits -- the
North Shore, Worcester County in the west, the Lower Cape (where
several of us, happily, spend bits of the summer) to the south. In a
quantum stroke of largess that reflects a bias of The East Village
project, I lobbied for Boston's diaspora in Japan:  Cid Corman's
seminal involvement with Olson and Creeley while all three were in
Massachusetts has entered the ghostly legacy of our ocean-whipped
state of mind and state of poetry; my own connection to Boston is
lifelong, having lived there / here for decades, publishing early
editions of Shell Magazine and Shell Press books in Waban before
moving to New York, and returning many times to Boston for the past
several years I have lived in Japan. This same editorial bias
meanwhile welcomes the patent coincidence of Japan-based Tadashi
Kondo's taking up temporary residence in Cambridge and, more, his
buoyant collaboration with Raffael de Grutola, a friend I met years
ago at one of Joe (no relation to Jim) Dunn's now-legendary Monday
night seances on Beacon Hill.

I intend no slight to others here whom I have not singled out. To the
contrary, it's great to confront poems and artwork that cannot be
boxed into an editor's fiendishly solipsistic and -- let's face it --
desperate categories. Thanks to all for giving us so much to work with
here.  Thanks, especially, Dan Bouchard, as you keep things balanced
and generous.  Finally, I dedicate Boston 1999 to the memory of Joe 
Dunn, late of San Francisco by way of Newburyport by way of Irving
Street, in Boston.

-- Jack Kimball

There's always another side to Boston, all the more so if the winds of time are blowing from the usual quarters. I remember Bill Corbett saying, that of the first thirty or so authors in the Library of America's collection of our literary classics, all lived within twenty-five miles of one another. And guess where that was. There's always work to be done -- as this defining and extremely useful issue makes very clear. I think of Cid Corman all those years ago in the early 50s breaking the same often adamant ground with Origin. It seemed there were about twenty of us at best who cared. Still it's interesting that the two first New York State Poets come from Worcester and West Acton respectively. It's not that they thought they were going anywhere, believe me. Boston was my own first big city, first as a kid coming in with my mother and sister to visit Aunt Bernice who lived and worked there. Then as a college student, when I'd fade into Boston bars and jazz clubs to keep my own sense of validity, else walk down Mass Ave to Arlington just to get clear of the box of Harvard. Then there were curious epiphanal moments like after a night's work as copy-boy at the Boston Globe, going to a vast attic loft somewhere on Tremont Street at four or so in the morning to watch Willy Hoppe defend his world billiards title. There were only a half dozen people present and the silence, as we waited for each shot, was incredible. Then it was Cid Corman's Boston-based magazine aforesaid that gave me, in its second issue, my own validation in our common world. I guess I want most to say, forget the public past if that's possible -- or all that generalizes and obscures the specific fact of the lives you constitute and live with. The distance from West Acton to Concord is finally immeasurable, uselessly so. Now neither place is even there anymore. Olson, Cid, Vincent Ferrini, dear John Wieners, Joe Dunn and all the enduring company were newcomers from old people indeed. What echoes for me still are these lines from "Maximus, to Gloucester," at the close: He left him naked, the man said, and nakedness is what one means that all start up to the eye and soul as though it had never happened before Keep a light in the window! We're coming. -- Robert Creeley

Boston 1999 Index