Tuesday, January 15, 2008
This week: Ed Dorn
Thanks to Donald Allen's 1960 New American Poetry, Ed Dorn is still primarily known as a Black Mountain College poet. After his years at the college, though, he went on to become one of the foremost poets of the American West, in all its dimensions. This week's Wordplay features Dorn reading two works that helped to define that legacy: Idaho Out and Recollections of Gran Apacheria.
The Idaho Out opened a 1962 reading, probably in Albuquerque (Robert Creeley, who'd been his Examiner at Black Mountain, introduces him, and Creeley was then, I believe, still teaching in New Mexico). Dorn followed it with an equally spirited take on "From Gloucester Out", but I decided to save that poem for another show so that I could fit the second reading, from April 19, 1974, in Buffalo, into our hour. This reading was one of the first to which I lugged my trusty Uher reel-to-reel; I set up on Dorn's right, fairly close to the front of the room, and held the single mic in my hand (no mic stands in those days, so I could travel light) for the duration. I also managed to shoot several photos of Dorn as he read; I've posted them over at Facebook (that's the public link), and will probably upload them to Flickr also.
Before he read Recollections that night, he read a few short selections from the later books of Gunslinger, whose conclusion hadn't yet been published. I omitted those from the show in order to include all of Recollections - or all I had; back in those days of reel-to-reels, I always had to keep my fingers crossed that one five inch tape would make it all the way through a reading. That night it didn't, not quite: the end of the tape slipped through the capstan and across the heads just before Dorn spoke the last few words of the final poem. I supplied those for the show.
The readings are both now available online, the 1962 reading at the Slought Foundation, and the 1974 reading at PennSound; I uploaded it a few years ago to The Factory School site, and it somehow made its way across Philadelphia to PennSound. Ah, the wonders of the internet.
The music I played to open the show was "Apache", by The Shadows; I found it at YouTube. That's also where I found Vaughn Monroe's version of "Ghost Riders in the Sky", which led into the break. Leading into Recollections, and then out of the show, are short sections of two cuts from the Peter Kater/R. Carlos Nakai collaboration Natives, as haunting, and haunted, as the West which they echo.
Photo: Ed Dorn reading in Buffalo, April 19, 1974.