MillValleyLit Publisher King in front of Gary Snyder's former Mill Valley, CA home. Jack Kerouac once stayed on the property.

Gary Snyder (b. 1930) is one of the most distinguished American poets, remarkable both for his long and productive career and for his equal contributions to literature and environmental thought. His childhood in the Pacific Northwest profoundly shaped his sensibility due to his contact with Native American culture and his early awareness of the destruction of the environment by corporations. Although he emerged from the San Francisco Renaissance with such writers as Kenneth Rexroth, Robert Duncan, and William Everson, he became associated with the Beats due to his friendships with Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, who included a portrait of Snyder as Japhy Ryder in his novel The Dharma Bums. After graduating from Reed College, Snyder became deeply involved with Zen Buddhism, and he spent twelve years in Japan immersed in study. Conversations with Gary Snyder collects interviews from 1961 to 2015 and charts his developing environmental philosophy and his wide-ranging interests in ecology, Buddhism, Native American studies, history, and mythology. The book also demonstrates the ways Snyder has returned throughout his career to key ideas such as the extended family, shamanism, poetics, visionary experience, and caring for the environment as well as his relationship to the Beat movement. Because the book contains interviews spanning more than fifty years, the reader witnesses how Snyder has evolved and grown both as a poet and philosopher of humanity’s proper relationship to the cosmos while remaining committed to the issues that preoccupied him as a young man. (From book jacket.)

 

Tamalpais Walking: Poetry, History, and Prints by Gary Snyder & Tom Killion. Seventy-two views of Mt. Tamalpais. The artwork is the product of Tom Killion s decades of depicting and interpreting the mountain s many moods and aspects. Gary Snyder has been hiking Mt. Tamalpais since 1948, and through poetry and a new, revealing essay he offers his thoughts on the mountain, its history, and the practice of walking meditation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Corso, unknown date.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gregory Corso:

" . . . A tough young kid from the Lower East Side who rose like an angel over the rooftops and sang Italian songs as sweet as Caruso and Sinatra, but in words . . . Amazing and Beautiful Gregory Corso, The one and only Gregory the Herald. Read slowly and see."—Jack Kerouac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Poetry Review Spring 2020

  Our Featured Poet: Gerald Nicosia with two poems

 

Gary Snyder, poet, environmentalist, wanderer, close friend of Jack Kerouac and inspiration for Jack and the Beats, ("Japhy Ryder" in Dharma Bums), and long-time Mill Valley resident, appeared at the Mill Valley Library after a long absence of local readings. The evening of January 19, 2020 was a standing-room-only event and reported the best-attended (400!) in the library's history. Mill Valley poet Jane Hirschfield opened for Gary.

Snyder photos by JMK.

Poem on Seeing and Hearing Gary Snyder at almost 90 at the Mill Valley Library by Gerald Nicosia

                                    for Jack Kerouac, "Memory Babe" 

There are deer and there are hawks but there
Is only one Gary Snyder
You want me to love the wild
But I love you, Gary
Because there is only one of you
And you will soon be
Extinct
Gary Snyder champion of the wild
And lover and defender of the earth
Walked through that crowd of several hundred people
At the Mill Valley Library
Looking stooped and shrunken
And oh so vulnerable
Coughing from deep in his chest
As he took the mike
And held us spellbound
For over an hour
With all the things that have
Fascinated him for nine decades
Who else but this one man
Loves ancient Chinese characters
Japanese haiku
Australian wildfires
And can also brag that
For a single year of earth-time,
In the confused and turbulent 1950's,
He was Jack Kerouac's best friend?
Gary comes to us as a teacher
But I'm not sure I learned anything
I didn't already know
At least from his talk that night at the library
But I'll never forget the unique
Dazzling combination
Of his sparkling eyes
Wiry, itchy, energetic frame
(even at almost 90!)
Fast, soft, throaty voice
Filled with enthusiasm for life
In all its forms
And the things life teaches
And especially the wild chuckle that keeps erupting
From the deepest, wildest, craziest part of him
That has remained untamed and untameable
For almost ninety years
He's merry, angry, cranky, smart
Sly and tricky as Coyote
And he'll never fall in anybody's trap
Or be anyone's pet animal
His memories are his trail
And he lets us walk it with him
For a little while that night
At the almost century-old Mill Valley Library
Which somebody built well
He reminds us
As your words flow over us
I'm standing right there with you
On Grant Avenue in North Beach
In the vanished pivotal moment of 1958
When under a streetlight Robert Duncan's crossed eyes
Gleam madly as he
Signs the very first copy of his book Letters
For you
A moment that is now eternal
Though it was gone in less than a second
Duncan, Rexroth, Spicer, long dead
Live for us again
As you tell of them
Arguing fiercely with one another
About poetry
No blood was spilled
But the hot intellectual life of the 1950's
Spilled all over the streets and pads of a gone world
Spilled all over you
And live on now only
In your crowded brain
And fecund river of words
That we are privileged to hear
Once only ourselves
And then will be gone in an instant
Like the Temple of Jerusalem
Except in our own living memories
Of this momentous, vanished night----
You tell of these men arguing with
Furious passion
And yet still loving each other
In a way that has been lost and buried
In the sands of time
Or buried as the treasures of Venice will be
Someday under the floods
Of global warming
And only your reaching a hand down
(or up)
To pull them into our sight once more
For a flashing instant
Can defeat oblivion
But you can do this only
Because you are Gary Snyder
And all the magnificent black bear and redtailed hawks
In the world
Cannot do this without
Your endangered self which
As you say
Will soon be no more
Yes, we can save all the wild animals
And plants in the world
And we should save them
If we can
But we need also to save
Every single precious human being
And the precious memories
They carry with them
Or there will be nothing left
Anywhere in the universe
Worth saving
Like this radiant star
Named Gary Snyder
With us for only a
Nonexistent ninety or so years
And then, like waking from a dream
No longer there
Except as a memory
For it's of memories like these
The universe is made.

END

 

 

Poem for Gregory Corso’s Ashes in the English Cemetery in Rome

By Gerald Nicosia 

Dear Gregory, as long as I knew you
They were throwing you out of places
I watched Bob Levy
Normally a kind man
Give you the bum’s rush out of City Lights
Yelling, “We want your books here
But not you!”
(There was a rumor you’d broken in one night
And rifled the cash register
For the royalties they forgot to pay you
But you couldn’t prove it
By me.)
I saw your name in concrete outside Vesuvio’s
Meaning you were permanently eighty-sixed
For going up to a cute woman and
Telling her, with an impish grin
“I’d like to eat your cunt!”
One night at Dante’s Bar
(how ironic)
When you’d gotten a little rambunctious
They again threatened to toss you out
And you told them that if they did
You’d come back with “a pistola
A Rosco,” and teach them a lesson
The barkeep threatened back,
“We got plenty of pistole of our own”
And you told him, “You dummy,
I’m not talking about a real gun,
I’m talking about the hot lead
In my mind!”
Now I hear they’re about to evict
Your ashes
From the English Cemetery in Rome
Where I sat on your marble tombstone
And played with the feral cats
Who came by all day long to
Pay homage
To your catlike grace
They say you’re not paying
Your rental bill
For the cemetery plot
On time
But who’s paying the bill
For Keats and Shelley
Who rest beside you?
Ah, Gregory, I hope those
Small-time thugs who
Shake down the dead
Wake up some night
With the hot lead of your mind
Scalding their dreams
Giving them endless nightmares
And teaching them the biggest lesson of all
that only the truly
and forever dead
would dream of
digging up
someone who is still alive
underground.

END

Nicosia at Corso's grave, English Cemetery, Rome, September, 2003.  Photographer unknown.

 

Notes: Gregory Corso’s ashes were deposited at the foot of the grave of poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in the Cimitero Acattolico, the Protestant Cemetery, Rome, in 2001.

Credits:

King at Gary Snyder's former residence in Mill Valley where Kerouac stayed: J.Macon King, by B. Maisler.

Corso grave courtesy Paolo Scavino, Corso courtesy of Lisa, both of Findagrave.com.

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2019 Poetry Review

 

"I get it!"

"I get it!" Tony Soprano, on peyote, gets it before he really gets it.


        Mescalero

by James Mitchell


We were headed for the waters.
To that place where they slowed down;
To laze alongside the yellow meadow,
And down to the valley, further on.

You strode into those waters like a goddess,                                              
White dress hiked high up on your waist.
Sun shine was flaming in your hair,
White light was streaming from your face.

And our popsicles glowed like precious stones.
Emeralds shimmered, and the rubies throbbed.
They were crystalline hearts on sticks in our hands.
God sat and laughed with us in the sand.

No need to call it what it wasn’t.
It was just a blue peyote day,
Yes and a lazy, Mescalero afternoon.

We could hear the silence of the moment;  
See it in the clouds of sunlight on the air.
Your hair was crackling in the heat.
Water and insects buzzed in there.
 
We stepped into that moment on the dry grass;    
Holding tight to the book filled with everything.
We heard the whole world murmering in the air,
Then you straightened your dress and smoothed your hair.

Never saw it hiked up high like that again;
Left you at your old, rambling, hillside cottage.
Guess I hoped that we could try all that again;
But I have not seen you once since then.
                            
Don’t know why you crossed my mind this way.
It was just a blue, peyote day,
And a hot, dry Mescalero afternoon.
Just a true, true fine  . . .  Mescalero afternoon.  

by James Mitchell (* for bio)

Woodstock recreated drug-free at Woodacre, CA (* see below).

 

 

Fishing the River Hemingway by J. Macon King

Sun high noon
face turned up to see gold
under dappling branches make camp
Tie beer in cold river 
Escaped the city
to River Hemingway

Nick a fine fisherman
could read the undercurrent
tying flies his art
Nick’s baggie—of bait?
His familiar grin,
“ ‘Shrooms.”

Kick rotten log
catch grasshoppers for hooks
Thoughts jagged, big breaths,
walk down gravelly, rocky shores
silvery-snake-of-a-river,
icy, spring current sucking.
Chrome of Steelhead shine

“Steelhead, Rainbow
really the same,
trout are salmon so
Clear as mud!” 
Nick laughs

Wisping blue clouds in white sky,
or white clouds in a blue sky?
Whoa…
I grin at Nick, he gives a sign
“Oh boy, here we go!” 

Our little world
    transforms
            intense               cartoons
in shimmering water
philosophical meanings
of pebbles ripple effects
Thoughts kinetic, competitive
Water a sentient being?
Each grain of sand a planet on our shore?
Fish smart or instinct?
We wonder same for ourselves

Fishing lines caught, trees, tulies,
tangle each other
“First strike!” He tugs,
ratchets, drags, reels in—
soggy fishing hat,
replete with hooks and flies      

Pulls lost hat on head,
water dripping,
shivers in a laughing fit
Sputters,
“Sentient Water Being
has taken me
for a lover.”
We howl

Shadowed by mountain,
Nick slowly speaks
or am I slowly listening?
“…at this sacred Indian ceremony.”

Fishing a challenge,
trout fight, digging in water,
jump into air, breaking lines

They become lost to us
His words resonate,
“If you love them,
you have to let them go.”
 
Lift my face to the sky,
white cupcakes float—
frosting with peaks and tufts,
from artist’s palette knife
Cupcake clouds make me hungry

Trout for dinner,
beer, bota bag
Night grows cold
More wood                                           
Nick’s last spliff,
perfectly round, tight,
Drum tobacco mixed,
Bugle Boy paper                        

Nick’s words,
“Moon is God’s nightlight
for frightened children
Yet, only sun’s reflection
Two lights from one source
Living in the city
we cannot see stars
We forget about them
but they’re up there.”

I come down—
still alone.
Still missing him
My fishing buddy Nick Adams
Why?
Damn your poetic madness
Damn your shotgun

by J. Macon King

 

From his Place under the Overhang in the Doorway of Smiley’s Schooner Saloon,
One-Eye Pete Squints out at the Rain

 by Dotty LeMieux

 

Says —

Look at the sky Man

It’s the new moon and the eclipse and something’s

flashing a light up there too

Look, there it goes again, it’s the spacemen

They’ve landed on Mt. Tamalpais

 

Me thinking — Old One-Eye sees more than the rest of us

with our two good eyes, secretly envy his talent

 

Thinking— He sees inside my head while dreaming; we dream

in tandem

 

It’s twilight in Smiley’s and the Winter Olympics

are on TV

 

Ed’s behind the bar, waiting for Nairobi Steve

to take over at seven o’clock

 

I’m drinking coffee with Hennessey in the doorway

with One-Eye, when this raindrop comes off the beam

over my head and lands in my drink

 

It’s the spacemen! They’ve landed in your drink.

See that? See that?

 

            Flashing there, a sparkle of reflected light

 

Pretty soon Big Carl comes back from investigating

and takes up his regular position at the door

 

Wasn’t it spacemen? asks the one-eyed man

 

Big Carl shakes his big head — Nah, it’s an electrical wire in the trees

It’s got a short or something

 

So Ed calls Jose at the fire station and he promises to notify

PG&E before the whole hillside goes up in smoke

 

One-Eye comes away from the doorway, big grin on his face —

Ain’t those spacemen something though?

  

Something - I say, my coffee gone cold in its cup

 

Big Carl doesn’t say anything; Ed pours another drink; on TV girls

in short skirts whirl their way across the frozen screen         

 

I toss the coffee to the ground, as a winking light sparks out of it

and flits away. Pete nods, shuffles, closes the door, shutting the night

with its secrets outside.          

 

by Dotty LeMieux

 

Trippy Hippie Poem "A Different Place" by Perry King, 1979

*Poet bios: James Mitchell, poet, musician, businessman, lived five years in Caracas, Venezuela and traveled in Asia, North America and Europe. He has the diverse experience of two U.C. Berkeley degrees and three years in the paratroops. Dotty LeMieux was publisher/editor of The Turkey Buzzard Review in the fabled lost city of Bolinas, Ca. She's published three chapbooks: Five Angels, Five Trees Press; Let us not Blame Foolish Women, Tombouctou; The Land, Smithereens Press, and has been published in numerous literary journals. Perry King is a Senior Editor of MillValleyLit, J. Macon King is the Publisher, and their bios may be found in our Salon sidebar.

 

Psychological Poems from real psych patients with drawings.

Introduction to Psychological Poems: Journal of Outsider Poetry
            by Richard Patel, MD. San Francisco General Hospital Dept. of Psychiatry & UCSF Medical Center

“I live for poetry. It saved my life,” “This is the first poem I ever wrote,” “The poem was talking. I just wrote it down,” “ This says it all for me, Doc,” “I hope this helps somebody else,” “This is my brain on words,” the vibrant comments accompanying the author’s works serve as a fitting introduction to Psychological Poems: Journal of Outsider Poetry. Pinned butterflies give little clue of their chaotic flight: and these poems are pinned butterflies.

In the beginning

a typical summer day in San Francisco: sharp sun belied a chill, bay wind laughing off your hat, and all that. As the on-call weekend psychiatrist, I shielded myself from the guffawing blast, straightened my spectacles, bowtie and remembering the saying of a former supervising therapist, “No one can look threatening in a bowtie,” stepped into the hospital elevator. I had called in to examine a patient the nurses reported as floridly psychotic, “She hears voices constantly. And they can’t stop writing about themselves.”

Can’t stop writing about themselves? In my years working at San Francisco General Hospital I’ve seen many notable things. County hospital psychiatric emergency rooms offer an endless parade of proof that, as a species, we are very clever at tangling ourselves up. Rarely, however, do patients  in-the -moment document their internal experiences and mental distress. There are manic patients that will write lengthy megalomaniacal manifests, present crushed wads of smudged paper brimming with diagrams, iniquitous physics, maps of the most dreadful levels of their private underworlds. Yet, this patient’s plight was intriguing.

(Editor’s note: After consulting with the woman and receiving her sheaves of paper filled with looping lines, Dr. Patel encouraged as much access to paper as the woman pleased. An epiphany struck him and he put up some posters in the hospital for poems. Ten submissions later he broadened his call to other west coast psychiatric institutions. Six months later he had collected over 2,500 works. There are now five volumes of these Journals.)
 
Since the first issue, a wider variety of poets, non-poets, hospital staff, police officers, psychiatrists, nurses, trainees, and many, many persons with mental illness have submitted their labors to form this impressive divergent corpus. And what unique minds! A “poem” without words from a man who cannot write nor speak, an urban Voodoo chant, hip-hop stream of consciousness, insights into electroshock, nets cast around stars and personal demons, a vast host of perceptions from this group of Outsider poets expressing their idiosyncratic experiences of the world.

These authors cut dangerously, laying out in words portrayals of a darkest caliper; the works are witty, oft oblique, from perspectives inspired by what most of us cannot imagine. There are a series of poems...that are highly critical, displaying mistrust, revolt and dependence – the normal ambivalences people experience toward their mental health providers, institutions and treatments. Included are various poems of mania, depression, trauma, anxiety, psychosis, each unflinching page turning the reader into another scene of unmitigated emotion, cognitive distortion and perceptual shift. The poems dig unwaveringly, exposing dark earth and light waters of humanity. Here churn good and evil aphorisms, engendering appall and empathy toward these poets who are living "in-between." These poems jar. We hope you enjoy these brief poetic journeys into darkness and enlightenment, and all of the oddly alluring places in between. It’s not a trip for the wary. Travel safely.

            Dr. Rick

(Note these pages are chosen from the five Journals, not specific to above intro.)

Dr. Rick & friend at home. Editor of Psychological Poems.

 

Groovy pants, dudes!

*Celebrating 2019's 50th Anniversary of Woodstock early the Woodstock Festival was recreated in Woodacre, Marin County, CA in 2017 with a cast of hippies and vintage vehicles. Mid-September, stage towers and a camp were set in West Marin's Dickson Ranch for VW's upcoming TV commercials. 1/2 of the 60 second spot aired during The Voice Oct. 30 of that year, oddly without showing any new vehicles! In the full commercial, part of Rancho Nicasio roadhouse, the Fire House and St. Mary's Church in Nicasio, CA are visible in the beginning.

The soundtrack is Joe Cocker's rendition of "With a Little Help from My Friends." After a rainstorm hippies push the old microbus out of the mud, and a classic VW Beetle appears. A voiceover plugs the new warranty, saying, "VW drivers have always put others first, now we are returning the favor." We suspect more ads to come, as we saw firsthand the big production behind the scenes, for their new 2018 Microbus. The minivan, as it was commonly known, was embraced by hippies, musicians, travelers and young families as fun, inexpensive, easy-to-work-on transport.

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Credits:

Author photos, this issue, from the authors.

Posters from web sources.

Hippies, labyrinth, uncredited photos by J. Macon King.

© MillValleyLit. All rights reserved. Reproduction of any material without permission is strictly prohibited.

All writing, submissions, and comments are the views of the respective authors and interviewees do not necessarily reflect the views of MillValleyLit or Editorial staff.