Thursday, May 8, 2014


Russell Edson
1935 ~ 2014

The poetry reading by Russell Edson, almost 10 years ago, might have been the finest poetry reading I ever turned up at. This formal affair for poetry is for the birds, so showing up and catching an act like Mr. Edson, who looked like he was just showing up, was two-for-one outstanding.

A slight man, a stooped man, a great sort of kidder on the stage, taking nothing about his reading seriously and having for himself a grand old time since the audience was glad to join along with him in taking nothing seriously, so if you know his poems, and prose poems, you can just imagine what sort of delicious madcap cookie was made at this reading.

First he was nervous and resistant, then he was welcomed by the audience and he welcomed back the audience, then we couldn't get him off the stage.

It helped the reader tremendously that the audience was mainly young men, maybe one or two with a girlfriend, but for the most part it was a male thing and none seemed familiar with Russell Edson's poetry and that fit right into his hands to bring them into his chaos and adventure. It was like watching a child holding a loaded shotgun.

We weren't in a basement, but it looked an awful lot like where The Beatles when they first started out in Liverpool at The Cavern. Dungeon lighting. It could have even been stone escarpment walls, low ceiling, everybody snorting and hooting and naturally enough Edson is rolling out one of his poems about an ape.

You had to be there. We won't be any more.

[ BA ]

an interview with Russell Edson ~


Jonathan Chant said...

Sadly, the first time I heard of this writer was through this touching obituary. I then read the pages that you posted. They are extraordinary and brilliant. Despite the sad occasion for their appearance here, they made me laugh out loud and hungry for more. Thanks Bob.

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Perfect, Jonathan!

Keep reading. RE has had the same effect on readers for decades.

all's well, Bob

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Edson was a scream; Our mutual friend, John Levy, included four of his daffy prose poems in Madrona 7 back in 1972--an issue also containing an introduction to prose poetry written by John and more work by poets such as Bly, Young, Ackerson, Bullock, Corman, Fixel, Rickel, Benedikt, and John himself, among others--another fine issue of a poetry magazine which was fortunate in having John as one of its editors.

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Even a greater scream, Vassilis, is that I still own that issue of Madrona, know John and you as friends, and we all three still write poems. Scream away!

all's well, Bob

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

You asked for it:

Bob Arnold / Longhouse said...

Wrong poet, though, not Edson — this is the Robert ("Bob") Frost scene.

all's well, B.