(Chapter 8 of
Dreaming As One
Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California
1967 - 1980

by Kevin Opstedal


''Coming to Bolinas and getting involved in politics saved my life,'' Lewis MacAdams said, ''I understood that that was what you could do, you could make it, you could start from the ground up, you know, make sure the water was right.''

MacAdams became deeply involved in town politics and working with the Future Studies Center, helping to outline the new radical principles of Bolinas He was the scribe for the Bolinas Community Plan in 1974, as well as the Bolinas section of the Marin County General Plan.

MacAdams also wrote A Bolinas Report, an on-the-spot piece of early gonzo journalism describing the effects of the oil spill on the town, which was first published in an underground newspaper in New York, then by Zone Press (with a brilliant cover drawing by Greg Irons). In 1972 he published a book of interviews with Bolinas townspeople about their gardens and the progressive organic farming methods that were being employed. The book, called Tilth, included photographs by Phoebe MacAdams, and was printed by the Mesa Press and published by the Bolinas Future Studies Center. The word ''tilth'' comes from the Middle English tilian, meaning ''to till''. It is defined as cultivated land, or ''the aggregation of soil in relation to its suitability for crop growth''. Organic farming and progressive land and water management, along with prohibitions on population growth and building, were the essentials of Bolinas politics.

Naturally this engagement with local politics made its way into some of MacAdams' poems:


     Last night we sat around the table plotting how to
     spend the town's money wisely. Orville said…
     something. Bill, his sleepy eyes,
     he ate granola. Does Paul know himself?
     Flushed, his fingers move across an envelope.
     Orville, pale, holds his heart. His forehead throbs
     and Paul discerns a new bottom line.
     Bill pops wood into the fire and spins around.
     We must face our neighbors with this information.
     Is it right?

            (from Live At the Church, by Lewis MacAdams,
            Kulchur, 1977)

MacAdams' poetry of the time reveals an engagement with not only local politics but with his family and friends, as well as the people and the place itself. ''Once Shao [John Thorpe] and I went downtown'', MacAdams recalls, ''and just wrote what went down all day from the moment the sun went up to the moment the sun went down . . . there were years that went by where I was really happy just looking down at the ground and seeing what was growing . . . Bolinas was like the whole cosmos to me. You could do everything in Bolinas that you could do in New York City or Paris, on a mythological or cosmological level, and that was totally true for me at the time.''


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