Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Ed Dorn, too

The poet Ed Dorn died in 1999 at age 70. I came to his work via Black Sparrow Press, which published Charles Bukowski, Tom Clark, and Joyce Carol Oates, among many others. I'll admit that part of the attraction of Black Sparrow Press books was their lovely binding and and typography. The books are a pleasure to handle. I still have a shelf of Black Sparrow books.

This weekend, I dusted off a couple of Ed Dorn volumes because I was trying to find a certain poem about poetry -- how poetry could be graded like beef. I found it, and as I re-read his work found also that some of Dorn's poems (and especially the unfinished fragments retrieved from Dorn's notebooks by Tom Clark) are Brautigan-like in their deceptive simplicity. Herewith a sampling:

From "Hello, La Jolla"


I'm making a dogshit catapult
which I hope to market to people
who live on bluffs, or in flats
high above the city. I've taken out
a patent on a superb nickle-plated
guardrail mounting. I just haven't
worked out the throweight factors.

A slightly different version of this was first published in "Yellow Lola." In "Hello, La Jolla" it was part of a much longer work called Correct usages of some words widely misused or abused in modern conversation & poetry.

Another from the same collection, this one extremely Brautigan-like:

Lending a Hand to the Inanimate

Rocks like to be skipped
It's the only occasion
on which they get to take off
and land

And the one I was looking for in the first place, also from "Hello, La Jolla:"


Poetry is now mostly government product
therefore we can dispense with the critical apparatus
the grades assigned to beef will do nicely:


For a long time, I couldn't help but grade poems (at least other people's) using this handy scale. Also, It got me wondering just what utility-grade beef would be used for.


Rob Hardy said...

Your post sent me off on an internet tangent for more of Ed Dorn's poetry. I found this page that has a bunch of MP3 audio files of Dorn reading his work and some of Tom Clark's. He's a good reader, too. I'd never heard of Ed Dorn before. Thanks for showing me something new.

Christopher Tassava said...

Dittoing Rob's comment, thank you for these great poems. That last one was especially good - in an incisively disgusting way.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Just ran across this post from last year while doing some research for the "Near Perfect Books of Poetry" page. Someone nominated Ed Dorn's "Hello La Jolla" so I thought I'd link to your post since you've selected some great work. Thanks.

Don @ Issa's Untidy Hut