Friday, June 16, 2006

The literary segment of the show

In retrospect, I realize that I have been sort of neglecting one of the things I set out to write about here in my little realm of knaves and knives. You see, I wanted to talk about literature and publishing a bit more, as my first few entries indicated, and then… well, I sort of just went all electronic media on you all.

But I was looking at my bookshelf and I noticed a book called The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry, I’ve wanted to tell people about for a while now. I am going to throw out a lot of names here, so be warned.

When I first saw this rather robust softcover in my local bookstore, I was immediately taken with it. It gave me the sense that this wasn’t going to be another book venerating the traditional, but a book which would seek to burn down the traditions. Ok, well, perhaps I am slightly overstating it, but it was far different than the books that surrounded it, you know, those Norton anthologies and the like.


First, I should mention that there are some unexpected names that just pop up at you when looking at the Table of Contents, like poetry by the likes of actor James Dean, artist Jackson Pollock, Lenny Bruce and Che Guevara, just to name just a few. Their inclusion gives the book some real flavor. Then there are of course, the usual suspects: Ginsberg, Kerouac, Burroughs, Jim Carroll, Patti Smith – exactly the kind of poets you’d expect in a volume like this. Of course, one of the most famous of the “outlaw” poets, Charles Bukowski, due to legal issues, does not appear, but this is not as major a loss as it would first seem.

Variety is the key to this book, with a lot of newer poets chosen for inclusion as well, including poets who emerged from the Poetry Slam scene. Now, I’ll be the first to admit my ignorance of many of the poets included, but after reading their work amongst their peers, they have won me over, poets such as Maura O’Connor, Ken DiMaggio and d.a. levy. It has also given me a renewed love of the works of David Trinidad, Kenneth Patchen and Jayne Cortez.

Something I find of particular interest in the book are the occasional letters and interview/article excerpts which appear throughout, documenting the figures and movements of this time. The most interesting are the letters between Harold Norse and William “Bill” Carlos Williams, talking about the young Beat poets, and the voluminous novel soon to be published by Kerouac. In hindsight, these letters, written in the late 1950s, give Williams’ evaluation of the poets who were inspired by him, and it is not always pretty.

This volume may not be to everyone’s taste and I wouldn’t call it one of the best anthologies ever, but for those who want to look at the seedier and visceral aspect of modern poetry, or are looking for simply something different will find The Outlaw Bible of American Poetry a welcome addition to their library.

4 comments:

SupComTabz said...

this has nothing to do with your post.. but you've been tagged!

MC said...

DOH! OK, I give... I'll do it once.

Anomie-Atlanta said...

Does the book have anything by Gregory Corso? He's cheerful, see below.

"Then Beauty...ah, Beauty --
As I led her to the window
I told her: "You I loved best in life
...but you're a killer; Beauty kills!"
-Excerpt from The Whole Mess...Almost

MC said...

4 poems by him, plus mentions in a few letters and a picture of him at Ginsberg's poetry farm in 1970.