Category Archives: Language Poetry

The Papa Bach T-shirt Jaunt

July 2, 2017

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At some point between late 1971 and 1980, I bought a Papa Bach t-shirt and wore it to readings and while I was teaching in the Poets-in-the-Schools programs. In the summer of 1981, I drove up to Eureka, California with Cathay Gleeson to visit an old friend of hers, Karin. It was my first jaunt that far north in California, and details of that trip appeared in a long poem I was working on at the time, “Your Move.” It wasn’t the first long poem I had attempted. In 1973, I had worked on a long poem entitled “The Resurrection,” parts of which had been published in The Lamp in the Spine (edited by Jim Moore and Patricia Hampl) and Intermedia (edited by Harley Lond). “Your Move” was influenced by my reading at the start of that decade of poets such as Kit Robinson, Ron Silliman, Lyn Hejinian, Rae Armantrout, and Barrett Watten. It quickly went beyond just reading of their work. Conversations with Ron when he came down to Los Angeles and a talk and reading at Beyond Baroque continued once we had left that venue, for he stayed over on that trip at my apartment in Ocean Park.

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Cathay and I spent a week up in the Eureka-Arcata area, and I commissioned Karin’s friend, Jim McVicker, to paint a portrait of me, for which I chose to wear the Papa Bach t-shirt, the same one I was wearing when I was photographed teaching a poetry class in Lone Pine, California. This particular classroom photograph brings back a set of contradictory memories, since working with CPITS was a problematic enterprise. The time spent in Lone Pine, however, remains one of my fondest occasions of working with other poets. Kit Robinson was there, too, and he mentions the gathering in the Grand Piano volumes as one in which he felt out of place. He probably didn’t realize how many of us didn’t feel quite at ease with each other, but our devotion to inspiring the students superseded the disparities in our poetics. I remain grateful to Eva Poole-Gibson for all she did to orchestrate two consecutive years in which poets from all over the state gathered in Inyo County to celebrate the joy of language surprising us when we least expect it.

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