Saturday, May 09, 2015

Daniel Fuchs: From Proletariat Williamsburg to Criss-Crossing Noir

AT FIRST GLANCE, Daniel Fuchs's screenplays bear little if any relationship to his fiction. While his best and most evocative scripts- The Gangster and Criss Cross- are, to differing degrees, prime examples of hardcore film noir, the novels Fuchs produced prior to those films, based on his formative years during the 1920s amidst Brooklyn's Jewish community, stand firmly in the tradition of first-generation, street-corner proletariat fiction.

Fuchs arrived in Hollywood in 1937 as much on a wing as a prayer, and stuck around for some four decades. Unlike many of his cohorts, he was able, upon permanently shutting the lid on his studio typewriter, to return not only to writing novels, but also nonfiction books covering a range of subjects, from Jewish culture to the poetry of Wallace Stevens. As critic Irving Howe once said, "In the writing of fiction, talent came almost as easily to Daniel Fuchs as to Willie Mays in the hitting of baseballs." Easy it might have been, for, for Fuchs, writing in those early years was a necessity, allowing him to escape a claustrophobic ghetto in much the same way Robert Tasker and Ernest used their writing skills to extricate themselves from prison and a life of crime. But just as Tasker and Booth would come to realize that working in Hollywood constituted just another kind of prison, Fuchs would conclude that, for better or worse, Hollywood was itself in fact just another kind of ghetto...

(To read more go to the L.A. Review of Books website)

Monday, May 04, 2015

Three Types of Loquaciousness, Two Types of Ambiguity, One Type of Southern Soul: Jeremy Prynnne, Tom Raworth, Frank Stanford

Within the space of a few weeks I was fortunate enough to receive books by three poets, each a personal favorite: Jeremy Prynne, Tom Raworth and Frank Stanford. While Prynne and Raworth share certain characteristics- each deploying units of language as either roadblocks or road signs, leading to various by-ways and highways- Stanford is something of an outlier. While the island-specific Prynne and Raworth can be as perplexing as they are intriguing, their words controlled onslaughts signifying something, or something not, Stanford was, in his short time on the planet, able to mine a deep narrative strain derived from a place-specific southern drawl.

To be truthful, I've never quite known what a Prynne poem means; that is, if meaning is even a useful term to deploy.  At best, I can only half-guess what he builds his poems around. Though I suppose any deep research and reading might reveal a great deal more. Consequently, for me, any meaning remains, for the most part, hidden within those perfectly formed structures and syntax. Not that my semi-incomprehension has ever stopped me from enjoying and taking an interest in his work, at least since first picking up  Kitchen Poems, published by Cape Goliard, in a San Francisco bookstore in the late 1960s. As for Raworth, I remember reading Relation Ship on my initial visit to London in 1967 (sorry, but books for me have always been place-specific). I wish I still owned that book, beautifully produced by Goliard Press, though, for some reason, I associate it with Asa Benveniste's Trigram Press. If I'm not mistaken it was also Raworth's first book. Since then he has produced work ranging from the easily comprehensible to the outrageously obscure. But, then, as far as I'm concerned, understanding Raworth's or, for that matter, Prynne's work, is almost beside the point. For me, it's like any other form of music, in that it's mostly about sound and rhythm, with the words moving in and out of earshot. Though with the difference that I associate Prynne with the printed page and Raworth, whose work can be funny, political, thoughtful and every bit as obscure as Prynne, with a voice rampaging through a text at heartbreak speed.

Sanford is another matter. His poetry, like Raworth's, pours forth.  And, in his few short years, he certainly wrote a lot of it. If I wanted to be unkind, I'd make a comparison with David Foster Wallace. But he isn't that. What Stanford was after wasn't meaning as such; rather a certain kind   pseudo biography as detailed as it is romantic, always informed by place and temperament.What did Lorenzo Thomas call him  a "swamp-rat Rimbaud"?  Though Rimbaud was nowhere nearly so prolific; and instead of killing himself as Stanford did in 1978, not quite thirty years-old, having shot himself three times in the chest with a .22 calibre target pistol, simply slipped away to live out a slow death gun-running in a foreign land.

Here's three fragments, one from each of the above poets, picked at random, however much any given fragment could run the risk of being atypical:

"what happens in any
 sovereign body is created
 on the evidence of the last
 head on its last lap/those of us watching
 then, during the programme,
 we do die seem to be cast/to draw the teeth
 of our first question/affecting essential interests"


"Trim forward but as it never was or bite fittingly so
 defused album transit for another,  into proof type
 pronoun intercepted. Our sung script frayed to gather
 in one for shifty plenum, tie up, her lung cavity
 dilated before. Riot babble scented, sleepless with anxiety unknowing."


"with a feather I ordered them 
 to salute the adventures 
 of their skin 
 the blue one like a constellation 
 of women prepared to undress 
 the yellow one who yodeled 
 the twig’s tornado 
 the orange one to be done with another poet 
 the final one hanging 
 like the noose of midnight "

What separates Prynne and Raworth, besides formalistic concerns, might be gleaned in that final line of Raworth's-
"we do die seem to be cast/to draw the teeth
of our first question/affecting essential interests"
is hardly something Prynne would likely write, but not that far removed from a unit that Stanford could employ. On the other hand, Stanford might also have written Prynne's Riot babble scented, sleepless with anxiety unknowing." Of course, anyone is capable of writing anything, so I'm referring more to tendencies and probabilities than possibilities. Meanwhile, the third quote, from Stanford,  remains, "in the noose of midnight," the odd one out, but perhaps only because he's more interested in the poem as a vehicle to transport himself and the reader from one place to another, if only from a specific geographical place to the page itself.

Incomprehension, of course, has its own meaning, and can reside within any given statement, word, line, declaration, or poem.  For me Prynne and Raworth have carved out a poetry specific to the British isles. Geographic even in its non-specificity. While Stanford is rooted in the hardcore actuality of the southern US. Stanford has been eulogised by many, not least C.D. Wright and singer-songwriter Lucinda Williams in her song Pineola, while the best overview of his life and work might well be Ben Ehrenreich's The Long Goodbye. For me, Stanford was a kind of one-off, certainly no one's protege, least of all macho pro-Vietnam war James Dickey, with whom he is, for some reason, often compared, but from whom Stanford took some pains to distance himself. I think of Stanford more as a poetic equivalent of various southern wrirters, more gothic, even noir, than literary, more early Cormac McCarthy, Barry Hannah, William Gay, late Daniel Woodrell, and maybe even Jim Thompson, than Dickey, Peter Taylor or Eudora Welty. In other words, Stanford is a regional writer whose work comes out of the Mississippi Delta, by way of his native Arkansas, his childhood having been spent in river camps along the levee, which helped turn his work into cries coming straight from the region's mud, muck and everyday life, to inhabit heaven, hell and places in-between.  A landscaper by trade, his are poems of isolation and marginality, like songs that have yet to be sung- think of Jimmie Rodgers crooning a country blues with birds flying from his skull- but which, nevertheless, reverberate in body and soul long past hearing them. Like the beginning from the poem Death and the Arkansas River:

"Walking from the killing place,
  Walking in mud,
  The bootsoles leave little hexes in the kitchen.

 One summer there was a place
 Where everyone chewed dirt in their supper

 It was a place like an attic
 With a chest of orchids pressed in books.
 Men cleaned their fingernails
 In the moonlight."

Stanford's poems are  rough and ragged and a million miles from Prynne's beautiful crystalline constructions or Raworth's wonderful non-sequitor rapaciousness. Hardly confessional writing, but rather a poetry of place and disposition with a weightiness as light as a feather, and written as if the poet's life depended on it. Does it bother me that I can appreciate, on the one hand, Stanford, and, on the other,  Prynne and Raworth. Not one bit.

I can't recommend these three volumes highly enough. Even if you have previous volumes of Prynne's Poems (published by Bloodaxe)- mine, for instance, is the first printing, published fifteen years ago, which lacks some two hundred pages of subsequent poetry- any Prynneista will want to get this one. While Raworth's As When (published by Carcanet) contains poems not included in his Collected Poems of 2003, nor in his Windmills in Flames of 2010. As for Stanford, finally we get most of his poems collected in one volume, with a good selection of his first book, the mammoth 900-plus page The Battlefield Where the Moon Says I Love You ("a very unusual book," said Ferlenghetti)  interspersed throughout the book, all of it beautifully presented by Copper Canyon Press.

Note: corrections have been made to the original entry thanks largely to John Kearns, who pointed out that I had attributed authorship to the Prynne poem (from Blue Slides at Rest) to Raworth, and the Raworth poem (from The Vein) to Prynne. This, in turn, necessitated a slight change in the paragraph that follows on from the quotes.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

An Absurdist Western: The Drop Edge of Yonder by Rudolph Wurlitzer

Contrary to popular belief, westerns have never gone away. They have always formed a staple of American literature. A short roll-call would include Walter Van Tilburg Clark, Dorothy Johnson, J.P.S. Johnson, Tom Lea, Max Evans, Max Crawford, Dan O'Brien, not to mention Cormac McCarthy, Larry McMurtry and various younger writers.

Rudolph Wurlitzer has always been a writer of the west, though not a writer of westerns. Yet it's hardly surprising that, with The Drop Edge of the World, he should be adding his name to the above. Even if this is a novel that seems to have more in common with Ed Dorn's epic poem Gunslinger or Tom Spanbauer's exquisite novel The Man Who Fell In Love With the Moon, than with either Cormac McCarthy or earlier traditionalists.

Having evolved out of a screenplay that made the rounds int he 1980s, the accomplished Wurlitzer has produced a mind-bending western that, like his characters, between worlds. Well-researched, it can hardly be called a straight western. Some have compared it to Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man. In fact, of those who have, some have even said that Wurlitzer should sued for plagiarism. However, based on the novel alone, I find it hard to see any similarities other than it's picaresque quality. Funny, surreal, grotesque and profound all at the same time, The Drop Edge... is, in many respects, a million miles from his earlier, semi-minimalist and much loved, at least by me, novels like Nog, Flatland, Quake and Slow Fade. No doubt it's partly the product of spending all that time with Sam Peckinpah on the set of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, whose screenplay he wrote, or churning out all those heavy-set words and one-liners in his screenplay for Monte Hellman's Two-Lane Blacktop.  

The main character, Zebulon, could be a Native American or just someone who, by circumstances, has, through no choice of his own, gone native, so embedded is he in that semi-rural world circa 1845, so much so that it doesn't matter what he is or is not. Constantly interceded upon by his would-be brother Hatchet Jack, whom Zebulon's father won in a poker game.  The two men are at odds. Hatchet Jack, as a child, came close to killing Zebulon, and, as an adult, would still like to do so. Instead, he is fated to save Zebulon's life on various occasions. Zebulon, like apparently half the world, is on his way to California. En route he encounters Delilah, a woman of uncertain race, and the companion/slave of a Russian prince. Whether Zebulon is in love with her or her with him is another matter. What is certain is that they are fated to be together and can barely escape each other's presence.

An absurdist western, these characters have only a tenuous grasp on reality, all they can do is keep moving, trapped as they are in some kind of Beckettonian universe. Zebulon on a horse ambling through the landscape, is unable to fall asleep because he doesn't want to dream or, worse, end up in someone else's dream.  Meanwhile, they are fated to keep on, to pursue something or other, with, if not goldfield riches, no apparent reason. As  Delilah puts it, "Is that all we need? A map? Is that why we're here? To ride on, and then on some more, and then some more again, after someone who rides after us, or maybe ahead of us, because we don't know how to ride after ourselves?"

Moving from place to place and back again, Zebulon and company encounter ships, jails, cantinas, pool halls, Indian encampments, etc., and in each place they encounter the same violence, the same stupidity, the same wisdom and the same hunger for gold or just plain survival. Over and over again:

"From the moment Delilah slid the cards across the table, Zebulon felt caught inside a repetition that he was unable or unwilling to back away from. He had been trapped here before, over and over, ever since he had first seen Delilah in the Panchito saloon. Once again he was in the same dimly lit cantina with most of the oil lamps smashed or burned out, the same restless piano chords, a mural of an unfinished journey over the bar, a deck of rubbed and bent cards, two whores staring at them from their bar stools, and now, Delilah dealing a hand where winning and losing had already been decided. And there was something else. Something that he felt doomed never to be able to realize or acknowledge."

An unfinished journey, for sure, the meaning of which is left to the reader to realize or acknowledge. Published in 2008 by a relatively small press (Two Dollar Radio), this one slipped by without much fanfare. But, then, I guess that, to one degree or another, was always the case with Wurlitzer, which is why he can keep on keeping on, just like the characters in his novel. As real a western as any traditionalist has written, and proof, if one needs any, that the genre is alive and kicking. Now as it has always been.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Cry For a Nickel, Die For a Dime: An Imaginary Soundtrack

Here's a playlist for what could be called the soundtrack for my novel Cry For a Nickel, Die For a Dime. All the tracks are either referred to in the novel or catch the mood of a particular scene. Should you want to listen to any or all of the tracks, you can find this imaginary album on Spotify under the title Cry For a Nickel, Die For a Dime (see link at the bottom of the page).

Robert Johnson
1 Robert Johnson- Last Fair Deal Gone Down

2 Ornette Coleman- Ramblin'

3 Charles Brown- Driftin' Blues

4 Willie "the Lion" Smith- Carolina Shout

 5 Charlie Patton- Pony Blues

6  King David's Jug Band- Tear It Down

7 Geeshie Wiley- Pick Poor Robin Clean

8 Hambone Willie Newbern- Rollin' & Tumblin'
Ornette, Cherry, Haden, Blackwell

 9 Tommy Johnson- Alcohol & Jake Blues

 10 Sleepy John Estes- Floating Bridge

11 Sam Collins- Jailhouse Blues

12 Geechie Wiley & Elvie Thomas- Motherless Child Blues

13 Bukka White-  Shake Em On Down

14 Lowell Fulson- Reconsider Baby

Chet Baker
15 Nat Cole- Straighten Up and Fly Right

16 Hadda Brooks- Romance In The Dark

17 Pee Wee Crayton- Central Avenue Blues

18 Hop Wilson- Broke & Hungry

19 Little Julian Herrera- Lonely Lonely Nights

Sleepy John Estes
20 Don Julian & the Meadowlarks- Heaven & Paradise

21 Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie- Night In Tunisia

22 Frank Sinatra- One For My Baby

23 Red Norvo- Move

24 Chet Baker & Gerry Mulligan- Jeru

25 Charlie Parker & Dizzy Gillespie- Salt Peanuts

Hop Wilson
Hadda Brooks

Bird & Diz

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Emory Holmes II on Cry For a Nickel, Die For a Dime (from the Los Angeles Review of Books)


AMERICAN CRIME FICTION, at least in its so-called "golden era" of the 1940s and '50s, has always given me the creeps. No matter how much I rooted for the doomed hero at the heart of the narrative, whenever his journey brought him face-to-face with anyone who resembled me - that is, a person of color - he seldom viewed them as an ally or a peer, but as an agent of dread malignancies gathering at the urban core; cancers which his own flawed, if indomitable, energies had been honed to sweep clean. Operating under the descriptive rubric "noir" - which is, in a literal translation from the French, "black" crime fiction - noir denotes all things shadowy, duplicitous, corrupted, and Other. Its denizens (including the white hero tasked with sussing out its mysteries and bringing its myriad wrongdoers to heel) inhabit a world from which most decent folk, that is, most "white folk" have rightly fled.

In Woody Haut's new novel, Cry For a Nickel, Die For a Dime, this literary (and moral) paradigm is turned on its head. All the heroes and heroines in Haut's narrative, no matter their race or points or origin, are outsiders. And it is the white folk in the story, as often as not, whose lives can be described as duplicitous, corrupted, Other. Yet, they are not "caricatures" as they would be in many of the works by authors who lived through, and embodied, in real time, the bad old days of the golden era not just of noir but of America's macho exceptionalism (literary masters like Raymond Chandler and Ernest Hemingway; or James Ellroy, the contemporary kingpin of white power poetics and nostalgia). Rather they are "characters," that is, full-blooded participants, complicit in the double-deals, dirty schemes, and foul crimes that make the tale worth telling and its perpetrators worth watching.

In a classic noir fable, the typically faceless outcasts (that Haut chooses as his heroes and heroines) would have been pressed into action to serve as comic relief and scorn. But in Cry For a Nickel, Die For a Dime, this familiar lineup of insignificant "perps" - that is, the blacks, Latinos, Jews, homosexuals, ball-breaking women, et al. - are not bit players or living vessels of the city's corruption and veniality, they are the native sons and daughters of its hellish streets and hangouts, searching for love, illicit or otherwise, for redemption and a stiff drink, for easy money and a place at the "grown-up" table, as earnestly as any other harried and desperate American would do.

The flawed hero at the heart of Cry For a Nickel is Abe Howard, a freelance photographer of prodigious luck and skills, but also of questionable morality and tastes. Abe is also a Jew, although one suspects Abe wouldn't recognize Jehovah even if He exhorted him from a burning bush with free tickets to a Dodger game. Faith, religious or otherwise, is decidedly not the subject of this work. As in all classic crime stories, the engine of this narrative is human frailty, man's struggle to master the demons in his own heart, and his battle, patently doomed, against insuperable forces arrayed against him.

(To read the full review)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Edward Dorn's Derelict Air: From Collected Out, edited by Justin Katko and Kyle Waugh

This is one of those books that should come with both a caveat and a health warning. The latter should probably accompany any book by the contrarian poet of the American west Edward Dorn. Maybe something like  reading this book can seriously endanger your relationship with the world as you know it. But it should also come with a caveat that any potential reader, before dipping into Derelict Air, should first crack open Dorn's Collected Poems (Carcanet, 2012). Not that most of the poems in Derelict Air, painstakingly put together by Justin Katko and Kyle Waugh for Enitharmon Press, aren't strong enough to stand on their own. But to fully appreciate these poems one should, at the very least,  have some knowledge of Dorn's published work, from The Newly Fallen and Hands Up to Geography and North Atlantic Turbine, from Gunslinger to Recollections of Gran Apacheria, and from Abhorrences to Westward Haut, and Chemo Sabe.

The title Derelict Air: From Collected Out, comes from an early poem in this collection, but it also carries overtones of Dorn's narrative poem Idaho Out which appeared in his 1965 book Geography. "Collected Out" also suggests that these poems might be out-takes, though Katko and Waugh prefer to call them "poems of becoming." True, Derelict Air, weighing in at over 500 pages, represents a substantial amount, though not all, of Dorn's mostly unpublished poetry. But what's impressive here isn't just the quantity- apparently there was a good deal more that could have been included- but the quality of the work.  The fact is, most of these poems, in some cases only parts of a whole, read like finished products. While Dorn's Collected Poems contained a good whack of uncollected work, Derelict Air has ventured a step further. Of course, a book of mostly unpublished poems can be tricky. After all, how many poets can you think of whose unpublished work merits reading? But, in this case, it definitely makes for an interesting and important book. Particularly for those Dornistas who, over the years, have poured over the contents of The Collected Poems. Equally important, it makes one realise that Dorn was not only constantly writing, but constantly editing his work,  boiling it down to its essentials.

So one is hardly going to feel short-changed by Derelict Air. After all, these poems comprise, or are part of, over twenty different collections, dating from 1953 to 1999, the year of Dorn's death. While even the most dedicated Dorn reader will be unfamiliar with titles like Looking For a Thing (1957-59), Poems of Washington, Idaho and Mexico (1959), Late in the Revolution (1960-62), Silent Guns (1961-63), A Circle of Songs (1964), In the Face of the Liberal (1964-68), A Convention in a Wallpaper Store (1968), The Grave of Diana (1968-70), The Day and Night Report (1970), Office Equipment (1976-83), The Theater of Money (1971), A Mexico Scrapbook (1972), From the Wrong Side of the Partition- At the Houston MLA (1980-81), and The Connection to Nowhere (1992-99). Likewise, that reader may or may not be surprised by the subjects and formats, from a book of illustrated children's poems to political critiques, such as his poems on the Cuban revolution and missile crisis, and a series of short takes "Intended to be strewn on the floor/ of the 1968 Democratic convention."  

Other poems will be more familiar:  Gunslinger Fragments and Satellites (1970-74)- "Nought was on the set/ when zero placed his bet/ on by whom/ the engine would be BLED and with whom/ the secret train departed/ and, exactly when/ the man had/ started his trip"- Translations with Gordon Brotherston (1971-75, some of which appeared in Dorn and Brotherston's The Sun Unwound), Mellow W/ Teeth (1972-76), Homage to Gran Apacheria (1973),  More Abhorrences (1983-89), Abominations (1991), Denver Skyline (1993-99) and Plus De Languedo Variorum: A Defense of Hersey and Heretics (1992-99). Some of these out-takes could have been included in the appropriate collection.  But even though there are some real nuggets here, I'm not sure their inclusion would have necessarily improved the already published product. However, reading them here, they actually add substance to the finished versions, while, at the same time, demonstrating Dorn's ability, despite his range of subject matter and approach, to perceive the superfluous.

Some of the early poems fall short of what one would come to expect from Dorn, but not by much. Here, for instance, is the first stanza of the title poem,  from sometime around 1953: "A sharp green counter/ was where she sat/  & her color was/velvet it darkened/just right, like love." Not all that far off from lyrical poems that would appear eight years later in Dorn's first collection The Newly Fallen. On the other hand, one tends to forget that Dorn didn't really mature as a poet until he was in his thirties. And while he's often lumped in with various Black Mountain poets, he soon moved beyond the confines of that nebulous, if not meaningless, category. Still, there are those who would   portray him as such, citing Gunslinger as the point at which Dorn broke ranks with his former associates. Disregarding the fact that Dorn's poetry was always shifting in accordance with his interests, one could just as well cite other such points, such as Idaho Out, which mutated into the more radical North Atlantic Turbine. Then shifting once again in poems like The Cosmology of Finding Your Place and The World Box-Score Cup of 1966. That inhalation of the culture would crystallise in Gunslinger, which, following the death of (the) "I," would lead to Recollections of Gran Apacheria, gradually bringing the narrator back into the poem with the writing of Abhorrences and beyond.

These shifts are equally apparent in Derelict Air, moving, as it does, from the lyrical to the political and paradoxical.  The final poems in Plus de Languedoc Variorum: A Defense of Heresy and Heretics demonstrate that, though he was always political and, at least since Abhorrences and Hello, La Jolla, always flirting with the subversive, it's around this time that he really cranks up the volume. For instance, in Unabomber as Heretic, Dorn says, "The real and effective criminal here is not Ted Kaczynski but the legions of industrialists and their hierling scientists who for the past quarter millennium have hewed to the principle that if it can be found out if must be found out- the serpents in the Garden of Eden climbing the tree." While in A Review of Volume 10 of the Olson/Creeley Correspondence, Dorn contemplates suing the Olson estate, with Creeley as co-conspirator: for "the failure to hold up the text of James Thomson's/ City of Dreadful Night was deep intellectual abuse, intentional/ and deceitful- there's no forgiving such selective omission." And in Jesus- He was a Handsome Man, An Essay On the Reconstruction of the Whole Western Myth, Dorn, committing the ultimate Black Mountain heresy, writes, "One of the most powerful crossroads in modern poetry occurs in the West, when ee cummings meets Buffalo Bill, when cummings writes Bill's obit. Buffalo Bill's/defunct is the quintessential 'modern poem, not The Wasteland or The Cantos." After Subtexts, which extends the contrarianisms of Abhorrences while demonstrating that old Gunslinger adage that "only laughter can blow it to rags," one arrives at NAZDAKS, parts of which underscored the version found in The Collected Poems. But it appears here in unadulterated form,  all caps, consisting of warped news flashes, absurd updates and state of the  nation stock exchanges: "TELEFONUS INTERRUPTUS--BREAKFASTUS INTERRUPTUS--MENU MENISCUS--LUNCHCHECK UPCHUCK--DUMP IT--EERIE THEORY UP AN EIGHTH--DREARY THEORY UP A QUARTER--LEERY THEORY UP A HALF--QUERRI THEORY UP ONE AND A QUARTER--DUMP IT QUICK--SPEED OF THOUGHT DOWN A FIFTH...".

Reading Derelict Air, I kept wondering whether Dorn had read many of these poems in public. This, in turn, made me think about Dorn's relationship with publishers. One would have thought that at least some of the collections in Derelict Air would have been published during Dorn's lifetime?  Was it that Dorn held them back, or was it that no one wanted to publish them? Katko and Waugh, writing in the preface, quote a 1963 letter from Dorn to Jeremy Prynne: "I have been screwed of publication in america for verse." But that was quite early on, a year before Hands Up, published by Totem Press, and two years before Geography, published by Stuart Montgomery at Fulcrum.  Katko and Waugh go on to say that most of the early manuscripts and lost books made the rounds of publishers, and were presumably rejected, after which they were turned into other poems, lost or left behind. While this illustrates the task Katko and Waugh, with the help of Dorn's family and friends, had in putting this volume together, it also hints at Dorn's relationship with publishers. Some like Totem, Black Sparrow, Fulcrum, Grey Fox,  Frontier, Wingbow, Turtle Island, Etruscan, and, after Dorn's death, Carcanet, Shearsman and, now, Enitharmon, were more than willing to publish his work. At the same time, he's noticeably absent from the likes of  City Lights and Grove Press, not to mention larger publishers who occasionally dabbled in poetry. Whether Dorn had any desire to publish with such companies is another matter. Though, given his disposition, it's difficult to imagine Dorn publishing with some corporate subsidiary. And what about the unpublished collections from the 1960s onwards? But as Dorn was wont to say,  if a person says what they think and does so in a straight-forward manner, they aren't going to get a lot of grants, nor, one supposes,  are they likely to find many publishers.

Impossible to classify, Dorn wasn't  just a poet of the west, but, to quote the title of his 1993 book, a poet of the way more west. While that might sound like the name of an outlaw country singer, it indicates, as do the poems in Derelict Air, that Dorn's west stretches all the way to the horizon. Beyond boundaries, to a kind of Manifest Destiny in reverse, first glimpsed in North Atlantic Turbine. And he would remain committed to that pursuit, whether in quick lyrical shots, narrative journeys, critiques of history, short sharp shocks, screeds of metaphysical humour and paradox, or incendiary tracts and rants. In any case, it's all here in Derelict Air, proving that Dorn, whether published or unpublished, was a force to be reckoned with. Someone who, as Amiri Baraka once said, "wd rather/ Make you his enemy/ Than lie." Though Neophytes, heed the caveat: tackle The Collected Poems first. You won't regret it.