Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tomorrow's Workshop: Ed Dorn's Gunslinger

The N.O. workshop will meet tomorrow evening (Thursday, 13 May), at the usual time & place (7:00 pm at the Mess Hall in Rogers Park:
Tomorrow we will begin a two-part discussion of

Dorn's countercultural mock epic, originally published as a series of chapbooks & broadsides in the late 1960s and early 1970s San Francisco scene is a foundational text of the Next Objectivism; it is from Dorn that we borrow the term OUTSIDEREAL to designate writing that situates the subject in a world of practical forces beyond the ego’s scope.

Dorn, who was born only 160 miles southwest of Chicago in 1929 & died a few years ago, was a student of Charles Olson's a Black Mountain college. From Olson he learned various objectivist techniques practiced by Pound and Williams, such as imagist and melodic principles, the notion of composition by field (which is the basis for Olson's "Projective Verse") and the conceptualization of the poetic act as one of “finding one’s place” in relation to the cultural vortex of the era.

Dorn took these principles with him on a "wandering work search" to England and through the American Midwest. He was a populist by upbringing & often affected a cowboy style. After Black Mountain he spent several years researching and writing about the Shoshonean Indians & tried some homesteading in remote Idaho. He wrote a number of books of poetry that were published by his friend Amiri Baraka and translated poems by Cesar Vallejo & Spanish guerilla fighters of south and central America. He taught and lived near many sites of countercultural production & agitation, including the Bay Area nin the late 1960s and Kent State in the early 1970s, before finding a permanent faculty position at the university in Boulder.

Gunslilnger charts the landscape of the countercultural vortex that emerged in these years. The poem tells the story of a Clint Eastwood like nameless gunslinger, who travels across the "high plains" with a Too Stoned horse, a madam named Lil & various hipppie freak characters, including the poem's narrator, an I named I, in search of Howard Hughes. As they go, they preach a Heideggarian metaphysical gospel of salvation—free your mind by opening it to the being of space & time & your ass will follow. The poem features stunning action sequences that 'translate' into poetry the visual texts of Hollywood anti-war westerns. Its a little like Alexander Pope riding with the outlaw Jose Whales. "Sergio Leone is like the classics" Dorn once said--so you might also think of Sappho trading lines of blow with Eli Wallach.

The Horse evangelizes
now and again
the reinchecked horses
of the plaza, bringing news
beyond the heads of most of them. Still,
One big white runs off immediately
when it is explained to her the reins
are not fixed to the ground,
and into the ear of a tall black
standing in front of the saloon
the message rain straight and clear.

This horse laughed out loud
and tore the finely tooled saddle
off his back by hooking the belly strap
on a not in the hitching rail
whereupon he seized the pommel
with his Great Teeth and pitched
the who affair thru the swinging doors
leaving one of them banging
off one hinge. A loud
vacuum of pure silence
flowed suddenly forth
from that busy place.

It doesn't matter if you haven't read Gunslinger yet! Join us anyway. We're beginning a longer conversation & everyone is asked to try to bring a few copies of passages to share with other if possible....



No comments:

Post a Comment