I had the extreme good luck of being introduced to Jack Spicer’s poetry in a graduate course I took with Michael Moon at Duke. He brought in the “Poetry as Magic” questionnaire, what was then available of “The Unvert Manifesto” and its accompanying “Oliver Charming” diaries, the entirety of After Lorca, and some other selections. I fell in love deeply and instantly and have ever since remained in love. And now, it is my great good luck that Kevin Killian and Peter Gizzi have edited a beautiful, new collected Spicer, entitled my vocabulary did this to me: The Collected Poems of Jack Spicer. If you don’t yet have it, it is a book no poetry lover can do without. Not because it is “necessary,” but precisely because it is “unnecessary” in all the right ways.
My affair began with great good luck. I was visiting San Francisco one break and while browsing at Different Light, chanced across, for $10!, the 1974/1975 issue of Manroot devoted to Spicer. This lead me to the therein oft-cited Caterpillar 12 issue, edited by Clayton Eshleman. So much delicious material. My obsession lead me far and wide--to Maria Damon’s brilliant chapter on Spicer in her The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry, to Michael Davidson’s right-on work on Spicer in The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-Century and to Peter Gizzi’s crucial The House that Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Spicer.
No one wants to hear the stories of how happy couples got together. Big yawn. So, in the next couple posts I’m going to tell all about how this affair went awry, and I’ll be nearly honest. It isn’t that I don’t still love, nor have been counseled on loving too much... no, I had to go and enter what Spicer basically spat out when he mentioned it: “The English Department.” And that, as some guy once said, made all the difference.
to be cont'd