Charles Potts gave me your email address, and said you might be interested in a project I'm working on, which is to write an online feature article for Big Bridge on the Berkeley poetry scene during the sixties.
I would want to create a profile of you in those days which would include poetry of that period, a photo, an updated biography, and anything you would like to write on Berkeley in the 60s.
Good luck to you. Potts is a great friend. He sent you to a hoary old man, a poet starving for Fame and Fortune.
Right now I'm way behind those curves, spending like the Drunken Sailor who spreads notoriety and foul smells where ever he goes.
Tired and in need of kicking off my shoes, coincidentally, I just finished a contempo piece of political rant which I will include for intro and color until later.
Anna Taylor on 5/27/07 12:10
I'm preparing for an interview about the literary interface between the
Beatniks and the Hippies in the 60's.
And I remember what we did during the last Summer of Love. (But certainly,
as we all know, Gentlemen do not tell all.)
Do you remember how we fought Ronald Reagan's National Guard; they with their
murderous buck shot on Telegraph Avenue and their toxic helicopters spraying tear gas all over Sproul Plaza?
Of course you do.
And if you'd like to tell me how much YOU hated Reagan, I'll show you my scars.
However, I implore you, Ms Taylor, ...Grow Up!
As we fashionistas are wont to say, that was then, this is... etc.
Duhh. Have you forgotten that the war in Vietnam was won in the Streets of
America? Everybody knows that; just as we know that we spit on our Service members if they dared travel through our airports in uniform.
Is any of this coming back to you?
There's a reason why so many Vietnam-era vets suffer post-traumatic stress
syndrome and have had so many problems making a happy transition back to
Our poor brothers-and-sisters-in-arms came home LOSERS. Remember how many people love losers?
And if you fast-forward a few years, you¹ll come to 1978. You want to talk
about a mess!
As our Country slid deeper into decline, I think Jimmy Carter called it
malaise, the old ambitions of the Caliphate seemed attainable to certain
And, when after more than a year of having our diplomats and our embassy in Iran held hostage, an act which I must remind you is considered tantamount to a declaration of war by the entire World of sovereign states, it was only the
leadership of our old, B- movie star that brought our people home without loss or a shot fired.
Please do not rehash all the old "October surprise" logorrhea.
I was there.
I had to chose between whether I was going to file stories for UPI about the
invasion of Iran, or go ashore behind my SEAL team students to make sure they got their writing assignments done. We inverted Sherman's march through Atlanta to the sea into OUR march FROM the sea to Tehran.
I never got around to thanking Bureau Chief Sylvana Foa for the job offer.
What we need now are positive suggestions to offer to them Yankee politicians so they can decide how to get us out of this mess.
I don't know if it's Republican or Democrat; male or female, black or white I
do know we need drastic action for America¹s future security.
It's beginning to feel urgent.
From: "Richard Denner
To: "Joel e-mail"
Sent: Monday, May 28, 2007 10:57 AM
ah, joel, i can relate
i'm a great grandfather
and a monk, to boot
now, tyring to get together
an endgame in cyberspace
interesting to me that
you will be interviewed
regarding an interface
between beatniks and hippies
or bohemians and freaks
as i think we prefered to be called
but no matter
i totally get your take on the troops
and have been wondering how
long will it take for this "support" thing
to wear thin, like when did not kill
cease to be a maxim?
my son's son-in-law recently rerun
thru iraqmire on his second tour
returned to the same old shit
reality, we call it, job, family,
psychic & physical deterioration
lucky he wasn't detonated
but to the project at hand
your rant has touches of what i need
would you be interested in putting out more?
To Richard Denner 5/28/07 10:57
Listen Richard, I got to figure how to share a high school graduation in Mendocino on Friday night and get to a bat mitzvah in Baltimore on Saturday.
All suggestions gratefully acknowledged.
First we were Hippies, then Freaks.
Now look at us!
I suppose I could fall back on my bed and breakfast business, or find a border or a renter or a room mate, but its got to be by yesterday and in cash.
Although I am not as blessed as you, I have no grandchildren yet, I would love to join your Endgame in Cyberspace.
My stuff is now surrounding me- read memorabilia.
But, I fear I am facing Technodeath. This machine, which was a gift from one of my kids, wheezes and sputters. Not enough memory to open Word . . . . no printer . . . .no scanner . . . . DSL unavailable from here so far.
And as I wrote to Charlie, I don't give a shit!
I can express myself with a pencil.
But I am not so obsessed with the Poetry Business as he.
Only the Temple Master bleeds for Free.
Best wishes Brother Monk,
Write if you get work.
hmmm, fast walking is my suggestion, first to mendocino, then to the airport, unless both events are on the same day, then i'd suggest fast flying or astral projection, but if nothing works, send a note in pencil,
so, if you do give a shit enough to write some shit down in pencil, i'll see if i can scan it in from hard copy, typewriter would be better for scanning, but pencil documents sound intriguing, each one would then be a picture online, maybe write a story piece about the flavor of telegraph avenue, as you crawled on hand and knees and kept going in legible crawling
you could write this while you fly to baltimore
then i'd need a picture of you, a less hoary you
a picture from the sixties or seventies
and a couple of poems from the period
and that'd be good
p.s. and if you need emergency money, you can contact poets-in-need at big bridge and ask, philip whalen left money for poets with legitimate emergencies
To Richard Denner 5/28/07 4:15
Thanks for your reasoned, and compassionate, reply.
Lots of the people you contacted are featured in a book called, "The Anthology of Poems read at the Conference of Small Magazine Editors and Publishers (COSMEP)." The event documented took place on the Berkeley campus in Dwinelle Hall around the time you are trying to recall. Potts was the main man at the event and served as M.C. for the reading. There are contemporary photos of most of the poets. You have not mentioned Andy Clausen among those you are in touch with. His picture is on the cover of the book wearing a tie with an American flag motif. Potts had him and his now partner, Janine Pommy-Vega, at the '06 Poetry Party. Contact Charlie for more details about the old volume. I have one copy somewhere in my library.
There was a poem of mine published in the Berkeley Barb called, "Would You Believe Me." If you wish you may include that piece in what ever you are planning.
. . . . I have a big picture window in my living room that opens on to Highway 1 and the ocean beyond. When I watch TV I close the curtains because I feel uneasy about people watching me watch TV.
As part of my bi-polar sojourn, today I am bummed out and in no mood for any activity that involves either thought or action. Nothing personal.
Please stay in touch.
While I love the garden that my family has become, it is too hard for me to claim a week-end in Baltimore as an emergency need. Bless the memory of Philip Whalen.
Now I have to go to work. I have a little job at the Post Office.
To Joel Waldman
ok, joel, i understand completely your need for privacy, and i'll let all this go, but i have one last request, could you send me a copy of the poem from the Berkeley Barb you mentioned called "Would You Believe Me"? and i'll leave you alone after that, except perhaps to send you a link to the article when it come out next near, thanks for what you've told me, it all helps in its way, sincerely, richard
To Richard Denner 5/29/07 7:11
Sorry for my erratic nature insofar as supporting your efforts.
I would like to assist you in your documentation of an era that was once so luminous and urgent in our lives.
On a personal, psychic level, I think I am a few steps behind you in this work and would like to offer whatever editorial and copy production assistance you may deem appropriate.
Some years ago I had a brief correspondence with Allen Ginsberg. One of the things he sent me was a series of cartoon panels bewailing the press of his Poetry Business obligations. I do not mean this exchange has any similarity:
"Oh, I'm five years late for my deadline with Harper-Row !"
But my chore-filled life, which I love and in which I flourish, is so surrounded with dikes crying out for my fingers to plug the leaks threatening to inundate my imaginary estates that, even when I am offered as honorific an opportunity as yours, I instinctively shrink from ANYTHING new.
Just like that other "loony fruit," sometimes I, too, must stop everything because: "It's time for a very important nap."
I'll do what I can to help. Search when I have a few minutes to rummage and sort. Write and reminisce. Xerox at the copy shop twenty-five miles away, and send stuff through the USPS, my employer.
I wish I had more up to date machinery with which to do this work.
I have had to accept the fact that I can not make it to Baltimore.
To Joel Waldman
sorry for not responding sooner
a lot going on
thanks for your book -50 new poems-
amazing, freaky, sad, happy, lovely poems
much lyricism, and an epic arm reach to some of them
everything is there, prophetic and crazy
how do we survive in this criminal insanity?
and i appreciate your courage
i spent time in napa state mental facility
so i know
and the pic of you is a classic
. . . . i know you say you were in the 'second wave'
but your voice is relevant to my project
To Richard Denner 6/25/07 10:32
Good morning, Richard,
I am very happy to know your positive, appreciative reaction to my work.
Ferlinghetti scoffed, and said about Poetry, "You call it work? I call it play."
I don't know who is correct, but that's my story and I'm stickin' to it.
Charlie has a great line, . . . something to the effect that schizophrenia is no more of a precursor to great poetry than halitosis or arthritis...You'll have to check with him.
Remember the old, French post-romantics, Rambaud and Baudelaire? I think they favored the derangement of the senses with alcohol and drugs and the idea stuck to this day through Burroughs and Ginsberg to Bukowski.
These days, with my slowing trickle of testosterone, I refer to my psychic derangements as senior moments. I suppose, in my younger days, I pushed the envelope of reality to follow my impulses beyond Polite Society's bounds and got labeled with various tags that still stick.
As a personal example, and by way of trying to help you with your Endgame in Cyberspace...my two cents for your pot...here are some thoughts in profile.
Once I applied for the San Francisco Foundation's Joseph Henry Jackson Award for The Most Promising New Poet of 1969-1970; I knew It was Me and I was It.
But my style had an angry component in which I'd seem to threaten violence.
I acknowledge this part of my nature, and I suppose I've got to admit that sometimes the World doesn't take kindly to a good, that is to say, baaad, scare.
One of my colleagues from the Telegraph-Avenue-Sunday-Night-Open-Mike-Poetry-Readings at Shakespeare and Co. in Berkeley had won the coveted prize himself, earlier.
He was cool and a natty dresser, almost always in a tailored shirt and tweed jacket. He'd bop along the Ave. with an arch smile on his lips as he bobbed and weaved among the crowd. When he got to the mike, though, he knew exactly how to quiet an audience. He read Love Letters to us. Now Stanford University Professor Emeritus Al Young is serving as our Poet Laureate.
But then, he was on the panel of judges for the JHJ Award. As Al and I had been habitués at the Café Mediterranean, we often talked Poetry and compared notes on various happenings and events. Al knew I was putting together my first book, "Ice Princess."
(Please, no Disney cracks here.)
One afternoon Al introduced me to Glenn Myles, the graphic designer. Glenn went on to do the book design.
John Oliver Simon and Richard Krech jumped in with an offer to photo-offset and print galleys for the bindery. They had a hot, new press for their Noh Directions imprint and were dying for a chance to run something off. I remember how especially proud they were of their IWW bug. Only much later did I come to understand and appreciate those fellahs.
As an aside, I have one copy of "Ice Princess" remaining. I have seen my book for sale at a rare book shop, where, I'm proud to say, it appears to be keeping pace with inflation. What was once sold at a subscription price of $2.00, at last market check, was going for $35.00.
And I remember how the words of the Director of the Berkeley Rotary Art and Garden Center, Carl Worth, kept reverberating in my memory.
"Joel, the only way you can apply for a grant and still be consistent with your poetic style would be to pull out a .45 and say, 'Stick 'em up!"'
It was at the office of The San Francisco Foundation.
They were offering a prize which I KNEW WAS MINE!
I wasn't leaving until I got it.
The San Francisco Police came.
They dragged me to the San Francisco Hall of Justice.
I passed a Bob Bastien cartoon. A be-cloaked and daggered, black version of the Spy vs. Spy Mad Magazine character labeled C.I.A. was dangling three motley puppets. They were labeled: Writers . . . Editors . . . Publishers.
I was booked into City Prison. The charge was Trespassing Against The San Francisco Foundation.
The bunk-room lock-up was jammed with men coming in and going out of the barred and gated wall. The opposite wall was paneled with glass and looked out into a narrow hallway. There uniformed police led a steady parade of transvestites and trans-gender humans in various stages of reorientation. As the prisoners passed the window they put on suggestive and lurid and lewd displays for the men in the big cell behind the glass. Some were proffering beautifully formed breasts. The cops just smiled.
And so begins my profile that is struggling now to break out into the light of day. If what the Evening News now calls torture is what torture is, than I was tortured for six months. They tried to take me to Napa. I did not go gently. I was bound for Atascadero. Etc.
Got to shut down now.
Edit this if you wish and use it.
Please save me a final cut before you publish.
I'm still surfin' that second wave.
To Joel Waldman
Remember what Jack Spicer said, "Ferlinghetti" is a nonsense word
Richard Denner 6/28/07 9:03
Early Saturday morning...
I've finished last night's dishes. The old dishwater has been used to water the Mexican Sage, the Sweet Alyssums, the Fuchsias, and the Passion Vine.
The day is dawning bright and clear with a crisp tanginess to the air. The fog bank is hovering in a sharp, gray line, a few miles offshore. Across the road the divers are packing their gear to go down to the rocks at the base of the cliff exposed by the minus tide.
The news is droning in the background.
I'm thinking about what I've written to you and the impressions I may have created.
How can I express the totality of a life well-lived, filled with adventures and blessings few have experienced? While notoriety and adverse commentary and critical opinions have hounded me, certainly there has been more; much, much more.
Art and Poetry have been at my core for most of my adult life, but how I've conducted my existence as a social animal does not fit any of the notions about the lives of Artists and Poets that I have studied.
As it should be, I suppose.
What I have done with my writing is as insubstantial and ephemeral as these letters tapped out on this keyboard, data disseminated into the ether, waves and ripples of electronic on's and off's, signifying self-absorption.
But what about me? What has been important about me?
First, there are my children...my son, my daughter, my step-daughter.
The poem I mentioned to you that contains the line, "Would you believe me if I told you/ That today I met a CIA trained, Red Chinese double agent...," that was published in the, now defunct, "Berkeley Barb," ends with the line, "All I shall ever care about is the color of my children's eyes." That poem was written years before Adam and Anna were born; long before I met Maria. When I wrote the poem, "my children's eyes," were only metaphors suggesting the audience, my readers, those who heard me.
If I kept a diary, if I had clear notes about the chronology of my life, I know I could pin-point the exact moment when I became aware of myself as a poet.
Carole had walked out and left me. She did not want to marry me.
I was living in an apartment on Essex Street in Berkeley. It was located a block away from the original headquarters of the Black Panther Party. It was a nice neighborhood with tidy, flower-filled yards. It was the mid-60's.
She and I had just settled in to our own place after six months of living out of back-packs.
We had driven across America in a drive-away Buick convertible. Then we hitch-hiked to Mexico and lived on the beach in Mazatlan in hammocks strung between coconut palms. We lived in Mexico until the money we had saved from our jobs as social workers for the NYC Dept of Welfare ran out.
The agency from which we obtained the fancy, new car had an unusual order. We were to pick it up from the owner at her home. She was a Broadway showgirl who lived on the West Side of Manhattan. The woman seemed to be everything stereotyped you might expect of someone who lived the life of a leggy chorus-girl. She greeted us at the door in a flowing negligee with a martini in her hand and a sweeping gesture, "Darling, come in. Have a drink." It was 10:00AM.
In an irrepressible manner she was putting her life in order. She wanted us to deliver her car to her daughter, a starlet living in Hollywood. Inoperable, terminal cancer was drawing the curtain.
Don't stop me now, Richard. I'm on a roll. But I've got to go to work. I'm the local relief for the Postmaster. Neither rain, nor sleet, nor gloom of night, etc.
I don't have a printer. You're my only hope, Obi Wan.
To Joel Waldman
thanks, joel, actually, by sending your writing in the body of an email, it
saves me time, and i can whip the words into a doc and add them to your
file, work progresses, and as for what you've just written
this is exactly what i want
chatty but to the point,
personal view with historical context,
flavor of the street and of the mind space,
keep it up
To Richard Denner 6/30/07 12:53
Sheech, Richard, yr givin' me a swelled head!
But now that I think about it, my head can use a little swelling.
Hey, here's a stroke, straight from the pen... ball-point, that is.
The State Becomes
The Land Lord
And buys the homes for
Until we quit
Until we quit.
(from- "The Village of the Dancing Demonics")
As for the ongoing profile, I'm afraid I can't recall the names of the Showgirl nor her Starlet daughter.
The Mama and I stretched out in her mid-town living room and proceeded to tell stories to each other over glasses of gin.
Her life, in trophies and notices, was all around us; she wanted to know about me.
"Why are you in such a rush?"
I explained that after I got her car I had to find a sporting goods store to buy a sleeping-bag for my girlfriend who was waiting for me to pick her up and get on the road.
"Not to worry," she said.
We took the elevator to the garage. We got in the car and she drove us to the 72nd Street Yacht Basin where we found her boat. She took me below to a stateroom and opened a hanging locker. She pulled out a new, still-wrapped, down-filled beauty. She handed me the sleeping-bag, and asked, "Will this one do?"
We went back to her apartment for another round of martinis.
She wanted to know the route I proposed to take.
As Arizona zipped by, she said, "Aren't you going to stop at the Grand Canyon?"
"I'd love to, but I've only got so many days to deliver the car."
"Nonsense," she cut me off, and picked up the phone. "There are these simply divine Indians who live in the Canyon; you must visit them."
Here we use the sit-com convention of witnessing the caller on the phone and only hearing the garbled, yakety-yak, squawk of the daughter protesting the delay of her convertible's delivery on the other end.
"He's a lovely man and he must visit the Indians."
"Well, rent it for ANOTHER week!" Mama had spoken, and that was that.
I don't want to go into the horses and the donkey, pack-animals. There is no need to burnish the reputation of the Havasupi and their magical box canyon. Check out National Geographic. They have thousand-word pictures.
I can't remember what the Starlet was like when I dropped the car.
And this leads us to the beginning of a story that haunts me yet.
Here my ability to handle the truth weakens.
I remember e.e. cummings.
He read "I Dream of Olaf," to a packed auditorium at my college while I was
When the poet came to the part where Olaf says,
"There is some shit I will not eat,"
the author read it,
"There is some S I will not eat."
So I claim precedence as a rider to my poetic license regarding the use of
the N word.
The guys in their plaid, short-sleeved shirts and their close-cropped, buzz-cuts shouted "Nigger-lover" at us as we fled to the safety of the Greyhound Bus to avoid the rocks being thrown from their pick-ups skidding
The woman who would later become my first wife and I had gone on a Freedom Ride as part of a desegregation march. It was 1959 in Pomunkey, MD.
We fled to the sanctuary of a Black Baptist Church. They fed us there and we took the busses back to NY.
And here a few words about Ellen, my Jewish virgin, the only woman I married without issue.
She was too beautiful for her own good. When people told her she looked like Audrey Hepburn, she bristled: "Audrey Hepburn looks like ME!" Her parents proudly displayed the plaque which commemorated her award, at sixteen, of the New York City-wide Shakespeare competition as Juliet.
Later we were ushers together from the opening night in Lincoln Center's Philharmonic Hall, now called Avery Fisher Hall, until our catastrophic break-up. Great gig, though!
I shudder to think how close I came to being Joe in the song, "Hey, Joe."