It's a back to back to back 95 degree days (in the shade) and I've been trying to stay cool by being with gold prospector Jack London in the Klondike. In James L. Haley's new biography of London titled Wolf (Basic Books) it's fairly easy to do. This is the biography to finally end all biographies of the great adventurer and self-mythologer. So far holding Haley's hand through London's myriad childhood handlers, youthful pirate life, burrowing into the Oakland library with the autodidact, riding the rails eastward from California, to build-a-fire episodes, and soon to be as war correspondent, lover, sailor, rancher, book writing emporium etc., it's a brisk and sure ride. He'll be worn out and dead by middle-age, poor Jack. He lived five lifetimes compared to most American writers. I knew we finally had the definitive portrait when I saw the book title. But, dude, did you know Jack London, the father of Buck and Wild Fang, surfed? (Hawaii 1907)
Around the London I have new poems in the mail to read, many and flowing, by both John Martone and the painter and poet Ed Baker. These come to me as gifts and every poem and texture of the books feels this way. This good. As poetry draws away into one conclusion: unreadable to the masses (the ultimate conceit), there remains a poetry holy in its extremes of either complexity or simplicity and the beauty is when both mesh as one.
as the painter and poet affirms, it is all BRUSH MIND
You may write to John for his many books: Cathartes aura, drosophila 1, shell :
1031 10th Street, Charleston, IL. 61920
Ed Baker's DE:SIRE IS (www.knivesforksandspoonspress.co.uk).
My cap goes off once again for the many presses that dig in and sacrifice personal funds and their time to keep the juices of a small press community churning.
If it stops / It all stops.
where I left you
from Full Moon by Ed Baker
Lilliput Review #174, Don Wentworth, 282 Main St., Pittsburgh, PA. 15201
As for the neverending cycle of Beat Generation books — we seem to have a few domains that need be covered: Kerouac's, or better: Ginsberg's America, which Bill Morgan has enlightened with accurate swiftness in his The Typewriter Is Holy (Free Press). One may read this book as a sort of cliff notes of the entire Beat scope of things. The next domain is the Far East, and in this case India, which Deborah Baker in The Blue Hand, the Beats in India only improves upon alongside the books and poems of the travelers such as Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder and Joanne Kyger. We still need the hardcore portrait of poets and travelers and influences (which will be a great book, I believe) from Japan. That will come.
The European theater of Beat will open as readers eventually fall into place via Simon Vinkenoog and Franco Beltrametti and other courageous movers & shakers from that region. The ultimate Beat will be the women writers and poets that were neglected in their time, or seen more as a fancy, rather than the true romance of the era, which was only picked at or mauled over by many of the male writers. Think here massive collected poems by the likes of Di Prima, Kyger, Kandel and Pommy Vega. I'd even press ahead and expand the imagination for a full scale portrait of the post-Beat environment, Aquarian and Hippie stratosphere. This might incorporate a spellbinding cinematic text of poets, writers, singers, builders, dreamers, bomb throwers, activists, and tree huggers. Maybe one of many climaxes of the Jeffersonian and American Dream.
All in all I've never been satisfied by the list of usual suspects in the Beat pantheon — certainly Herbert Huncke, Neal Cassady, Bob Kaufman, Gregory Corso and the chief storyteller Jack Kerouac are there. Ginsberg almost became an academic, but nothing can deny his relentless spirit and ringmastery...or Howl, or Kaddish. Not to forget Ferlinghetti for being Ferlinghetti, his own island. But how can Bukowski be denied? even if he were denying the loudest! the slaw of the poems, the prose, the man, the style are beautifully misfitting, European tinged, with all the L.A. Fante and Chandler and horse-tracking, and just wanting to be left alone thrown in. Early, masterful John Weiners is yet another, and Jack Hirschman, Charles Plymell, and Barbara Moraff — don't sell America short, it's heartbreaking in its glory & faults.
In closing, before heading back into the shade and the World Cup final games, let me quote widely from Wade Davis The Wayfinders (Anansi / www.anansi.ca). You can see the only copy I have on hand is a borrowed library copy, so if you live close to Northampton, Massachusetts, I'll be returning this excellent book of field essays soon. Let me first concur with a rereading, slow and savoring. Writing and a practice of exploration doesn't come this wild, and likewise refined, all too regularly.
from SACRED GEOGRAPHY
The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honours the servant and has forgotten the gift.
In a rugged knot of mountains in the remote reaches of northern British Columbia lies a stunningly beautiful valley known to the First Nations as the Sacred Headwaters. There, on the southern edge of the Spatsizi Wilderness, the Serengeti of Canada, are born in remarkably close proximity three of Canada's most important salmon rivers, the Stikine, the Skeena, and the Nass. In a long day, perhaps two, it is possible to walk through open meadows, following the tracks of grizzly, caribou, and wolf, and drink from the very sources of the three rivers that inspired so many of the great cultures of the Pacific Northwest, the Gitxsan and Wet'suwet'en, the Carrier and Sekani, the Tsimshian, Nisga'a, Tahltan, Haisla, and Tlingit. Keep on for another three days and you'll reach the origins of the Finlay, headwaters of the Mackenzie, Canada's greatest river of all.
The only other place I know where such a wonder of geography occurs is in Tibet, where from the base of Mount Kailash arise three of the great rivers of Asia, the Indus, Ganges, and Brahmaputra, vital arteries that bring life to more than a billion people downstream. Revered by Hindu, Buddhist, and Jain, Kailash is considered so sacred that no one is allowed to walk upon its slopes, let alone climb to its summit. The thought of violating its flanks with industrial development would represent for all peoples of Asia an act of desecration beyond all imaginings. Anyone who would even dare propose such a deed would face the most severe sanctions, in both this world and the next.
In Canada, we treat the land quite differently. Against the wishes of all First Nations, the government of British Columbia has opened the Sacred Headwaters to industrial development. Theses are not trivial initiatives. Imperial Metals Corporation proposes an open-pit copper and gold mine processing 30,000 tons of ore a day from the flank of Todagin Mountain, home to one of the largest populations of Stone sheep in the world. Its tailings pond, if constructed, would drain directly into the headwater lake chain of the Iskut River, the principal tributary of the Stikine. Over its lifetime of twenty-five years, the mine would generate 183 million tons of toxic tailings and 307 million tons of waste rock, which would need to be treated for acid drainage for over 200 years. Two other mining concerns, Fortune Minerals Limited and West Hawk Development Corp., would tear into the headwater valley itself, on a similar scale, with open-pit anthracite coal operations that would level entire mountains.
The largest project is a proposal by Royal Dutch Shell to extract coalbed methane (CBM) gas from the same anthracite deposit, across an enormous tract of more than 4,000 square kilometres. Should this development go ahead it would imply a network of several thousand wells, linked by roads and pipelines, laid upon the landscape of the entire Sacred Headwaters basin. CBM recovery is by all accounts a highly invasive process. To free methane from anthracite, technicians must fracture the coal seams with massive injections of chemical agents under high pressure, more than a million litres at a shot, a technique that in some deposits liberates enormous volumes of highly toxic water. More than 900 different chemicals, many of them powerful carcinogens, are registered for use, but for proprietary reasons companies do not have to disclose the identity of the solutions employed at any given site.
Environmental concerns aside, think for a moment of what these proposals imply about our culture. We accept it as normal that people who have never been on the land, who have no history or connection to the country, may legally secure the right to come in and by the very nature of their enterprises leave in their wake a cultural and physical landscape utterly transformed and desecrated. What's more, in granting such mining concessions, often initially for trivial sums to speculators from distant cities, companies cobbled together with less history than my dog, we place no cultural or market value on the land itself. The cost of destroying a natural asset, or its inherent worth if left intact, has no metric in the economic calculations that support the industrialization of the wild. No company has to compensate the public for what it does to the commons, the forest, mountains, and rivers, which by definition belong to everyone. As long as there is a promise of revenue flows and employment, it merely requires permission to proceed. We take this as a given for it is the foundation of our system, the way commerce extracts value and profit in a resource-driven economy. But if you think about it, especially from the perspective of so many other cultures, touched and inspired by quite different visions of life and land, it appears to be very odd and highly anomalous human behaviour.
~ WADE DAVIS
photos © bob arnold