Kathleen Fraser (1935-2019)

One of the projects I have in mind would be an anthology of poets who have taught in the CSU system. Among the minor irritants of the larger context of my professional appointment is that CSU’s administrative bureaucracy does not seem interested in ways to embellish the academic image of the system as a whole. In part, this dispersed self-image derives from the extent to which each campus of the CSU system is its own world, in many ways, and campuses in this enormous system end up focusing on their own special set of bragging rights.

In terms of poetry, the CSU system in the past half-century has had an all-star roster of contemporary poets:

David Bromige (Sonoma State)
Maxine Chernoff (SF State)
Paul Hoover (SF State)
Andrew Joron (SF State)
William Dickey (SF State)
Juan Felipe Herrera (Fresno)
Corrinne Clegg Hales (Fresno)
Philip Levine (Fresno)
Peter Everwine (Frenso)
C.G. Hanzlicek (Fresno
Juan Delgado (San Bernardino)
Pete Fairchild (San Bernardino)
Troy Jollimore (CSU Chico)
Charles Harper Webb (CSU Long Beach)
Gerald Locklin (CSU Long Beach)
Eliot Fried (CSU Long Beach)
Patty Seyburn (CSU Long Beach)
David Hernandez (CSU Long Beach)
Glover Davis (San Diego State)
Marilyn Chin (San Diego State)
Sandra Alcosser (San Diego State)
Dorothy Barresi (Northridge)
Benjamin Saltman (Northridge)
Ann Stanford (Northridge)
Timothy Steele (Cal State LA)
Henri Coulette (Cal State LA)
Alan Soldofsky (San Jose)
Judith Minty (CSU Humboldt)

The above are the full-time, tenure-track professors, but it would also be advantageous to include poets who worked only as adjuncts or in other literary positions: Steve Dickison, Eloise Klein Healy, Clint Margrave.

One of the poets who would make an outstanding contribution to this imaginary anthology would be Kathleen Fraser, who died this past week. Her first collection of poems was a “chapbook” from George Hitchcock’s kayak magazine. I put “chapbook” in quotation marks because it has 47 numbered pages, which is a bit on the long side for a chapbook. CHANGE OF ADDRESS came out in 1966, and many of the poems were published in some of the best-known magazines of the time. The title poem, for instance, was first published in THE New Yorker. Fraser, therefore, was hardly working at the avant-garde margins of American poetry in the 1960s. Her next two books were published, in fact, by Harper and Row.

She had begun teaching at San Francisco State in 1972, and during her 20 years there she had collections published by some of the best known West Coast independent presses of the time: Tuumba; The Figures; Lapis. The largest collection of more recent work was published in 2011 by Stephen Motika’s Nightboat Books.

In proposing a CSU anthology, I am of course pointing primarily at the need for a canonical collection of West Coast poets. It should, of course, also include essays on poetics, a matter to which Fraser gave much thought. One can hardly say that Fraser did not substantial recognition as a poet during her lifetime, but it is likely that her influence on a handful of poets yet to be born will be far more extensive than one might anticipate.

Poets House, in NYC, has digitized CHANGE OF ADDRESS, and those who would like to read it can find it at:

http://digitalcollections.poetshouse.org/digital-collection/chapbook-collection/Change-of-Address-%26-Other-Poems

Another link was provided the Harriet Staff at the Poetry Foundation:

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/podcasts/75259/cant-stop-the-cars-a-discussion-of-kathleen-frasers-the-cars