(Chapter 10 of
Dreaming As One
Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California
1967 - 1980

by Kevin Opstedal


''Everybody was kind of aggressively being a poet, and
aggressively being everything else, in such a heightened
context.'' - Lewis MacAdams

The list of poets who were living in Bolinas, or just passing through, continued to grow as the seventies progressed. Joanne Kyger describes the attraction the town had:

Bolinas offered an alternative lifestyle, one that was sought at that time in the late 60s and early 70s. A small coastal town of about 500 inhabitants at the time, it offered rural living, the hippies versus the surfers for softball teams, and in large letters painted on the sea wall NEW YORK REFUGEES GO HOME…The pictures of those years have everyone sitting on the ground, shoulder high long grasses, and long hair. On Indian print bedspreads. We could sit all afternoon, with bottles of wine and smokes, and conversation and poetry, moving along with the path of the sun. Nobody sits on the ground anymore. Bolinas was a destination point.

Two important and influential newcomers to this destination point were Aram Saroyan and Duncan McNaughton, who both moved to town in 1972, and became long term residents.

Saroyan has said that living in Bolinas fundamentally redefined his sense of the role of a writer. His claim to fame as a poet was primarily fueled by the controversy over his extremely minimalist one word poems. One of these one word poems, ''lighght'', was chosen for a National Endowment of the Arts Poetry Award, and later would be used in attacks on what was argued to be wasteful use of NEA funding. Bolinas, Saroyan said, taught him to expand his artistic attentions from the strictly artistic creation of one- word ''objects'' to a sense of being a poet, attuned to artistic opportunities, but at the same time ''tuned to a wavelength where art is secondary to life''. ''I began speaking as a citizen,'' he wrote in the Afterword to his book Day & Night: Bolinas Poems (Black Sparrow, 1998), ''about all the things that were important to me: my wife, child, family, friends, and community …the psychic X-factor provided by Bolinas is exactly the sort of lightning one waits to be struck by. In one fell swoop, it provided a new chapter in my writing life…''

The community that so impressed Saroyan upon his arrival in Bolinas was one that consisted of not only a great many of his literary colleagues but one in which people of his own age, background, and experience were ''empowered''—they were in charge. Bolinas was, Saroyan said ''…very liberating, full of pitfalls, magical, and a bit maniacal.''

''The same kinds of things that happened in Bolinas probably happened in Papua, New Guinea,'' said Tom Clark, ''only all the centuries of anthropological tradition which were required to build up the customs and procedures in Papua, New Guinea, were all being created on the spot.''

Lewis Warsh remembers that, ''There was a lot of license—to be yourself, to go nuts, to fall in love, to be depressed and not see anyone for days, etc.—and a lots of support among ourselves, but there was also a feeling in the air that conspired against all the positive energy, and, as always, in all communities, it was the assertion of individual egos (who was strong, who was weak) that raised the intensity level beyond the point where I could stay there much longer than I did.''

''So much vibrated out from Bolinas,'' said Anne Waldman, it was ''the most intense collection of poets in one place not around an academic or university scene—so therefore more visionary, 'utopian'''.

Poet Harris Schiff, who was an integral figure on the New York lower east side poetry scene, visited Bolinas often in the winter and spring of '69- '70, while living in San Francisco. Schiff told Warsh, ''It's always good to know a place like Bolinas exists—even if you don't live in it''' (quoted by Lewis Warsh in a letter to Bill Berkson, May 15 1970).

''It was a scene of intense concentration. A community,'' McNaughton says, '' It hasn't anything to do with sentiment or agreement in values. It has to do with sympathetic coexistence in a single human fabric…We were, many of us, living together, and that makes some deeper human sympathies possible. There was no agreement at all, except the one of permission. That is a very subtle matter and asks a thoughtful inspection.'' The essential humanity of the town was remarkable. ''It was a way of life'', says McNaughton, ''one was on duty all the time.'' Within this context of permission the discipline was somewhat strange and it took some a few years to understand it. Others never really did.

The motive force in Bolinas (to paraphrase Roger Shattuck's description of the avant-garde in turn-of-the-century Paris) came from individuals reacting to each other and occasionally discovering a common end, yet never surrendering their integrity. They remained individuals, whom only critics and enemies lumped together, in order to have a bigger target.

To some outsiders it seemed like an incestuous scene. A San Francisco poet dubbed it ''a poet's ghetto''. Others dismissed Bolinas poets as ''zonked-out bucolics'' or ''lobotomized Fielding Dawson-types''.

The place in general was seen as nothing more than ''an asylum run by the inmates'', as one frustrated member of the Marin County Board of Supervisors claimed. Saroyan recalls that, ''Someone once said to me: 'It's very difficult to identify the lunatic fringe in Bolinas'.''

But most of those who lived there obviously had a different viewpoint. ''It was a literate population,'' said McNaughton, '' there was a strong feeling for the presence of poetry and poets. It mattered, unlike elsewhere. The poets were held in esteem—an extension of the unusual acknowledgement of poets for a long time in San Francisco. Not that poets couldn't be assholes—just that there was respect for the poem.''

The Berkeley Poetry Conference (July 12-24, 1965) can be seen as a precursor to the gathering of poetries that occurred in Bolinas, and there are many connections between that event and the community of poets at Bolinas, on many different levels.

One of the watershed events in the world of poetry, the Berkeley Poetry Conference was organized by Richard Baker in conjunction with the U.C. Berkeley Extension. Baker, who later was appointed abbott of the San Francisco Zen Center, also organized a conference on LSD the following year. The Berkeley Poetry Conference, structured around Donald Allen's seminal anthology The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, featured contibutors to that anthology, such as Charles Olson, Robert Creeley, Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, Allen Ginsberg, Ed Dorn, Lew Welch, and Gary Snyder. Among the many poets who read at the event were Joanne Kyger, Ed Sanders, Jim Brodey, and Ted Berrigan.

This was a major gathering of poets and hundreds of people attended. As in the Allen anthology, the several, divergent ''schools'' of American poetry were represented: Black Mountain, Beat, New York—just as they were to be in Bolinas. A great number of these poets eventually visited or lived in Bolinas' even Donald Allen himself moved there.

Jim Koller and Bill Brown published a transcription of Charles Olson's controversial appearance at the conference as one of their Coyote Books in 1966. Olson's presentation was viewed by some as a monumental nuclear meltdown, and by others as a triumph. As Anne Waldman, who was in the audience at the time, remembers:

I took a further vow to poetry at the Charles Olson marathon event, for he read and spoke and raged and wept more than he technically ''read.'' But Olson was powerful that night, vulnerable, arrogant, bombastic, poignant, embarrassing. He was the poet coming apart before our eyes, scapegoat, shaman, doing it for us.... His friends were dismayed....

Something very Bolinasian in Waldman's take on Olson's performance, ''the poet coming apart before our eyes'', ''doing it for us'', rhyming as it does with the concept of ''permission'' within the community, as Duncan McNaughton and others have pointed out. This permission was, however, something more than merely tolerance.


Was there a Bolinas poetic? Duncan McNaughton said, ''What poets did there was their business.'' While it could be argued that there was no single shared aesthetic, other than the poet's personal engagement with the poem, there were distinct elements in Bolinas poetry that were common and invite a closer consideration.

Any attempt to label or categorize the rich subtelties and multilayered variances inherent in, not just Bolinas poetry, but all poetry in general, is a bad habit promulgated by academics and critics. The designations of Black Mountain, New York School, Beat and San Francisco Renaissance should be considered as a kind of shorthand for those who may not be familiar with the individual poets discussed. To characterize the poetry written by a group of poets who shared similar motivations and aesthetics, in subtle often complicated ways, within the context of a specific time and place, is a textual challenge that does not necessarily lead to a neatly labeled package. However, there would seem to be compelling evidence that among the poets of Bolinas there were common aesthetic threads, and that these threads were ultimately woven into the poetry written there.

A Bolinas poetic could be understood as a synthesis of the poetries represented in Donald Allen's The New American Poetry anthology. Donald Allen was no less than visionary, from his work at Grove Press, and his editorship of the Evergreen Review in the 1950s, to the publication of his landmark anthology in 1960, he championed the work of the non- academic, underground poets who were writing some of the most important works of the era. When he moved to San Francisco in the sixties he established his Four Seasons Foundation which went on to publish Richard Brautigan's novels and poetry, along with books by Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Joanne Kyger and Robert Creeley, and many others. Allen was appointed literary executor for Frank O'Hara and compiled The Collected Poems of Frank O'Hara which was published by Knopf in 1971. He was also the literary executor for Lew Welch, and published Ring of Bone: The Collected Poems of Lew Welch under his own Grey Fox Press imprint. His presence in Bolinas was significant and he was greatly respected by all.

The New American Poetry anthology presented an alternative tradition in American poetry, one that had been ignored by the general public, academics, and critics alike. Allen structured the anthology around the several distinct ''schools'' within the subradar poetries of the time. These distinctions were to be blurred, if not erased altogether, by the Bolinas poets.

It is interesting to note that of the forty-four poets that were included in the Allen anthology thirteen were either visitors to or residents of Bolinas.

A major influence upon Bolinas poetry was Charles Olson. Olson, who had the important position of being the lead-off poet in Allen's anthology, had numerous connections to the poets of Bolinas. As stated earlier, Donald Allen's anthology, as played out on the stage of the Berkeley Poetry Conference, could be viewed as a sneak preview of the gathering of poets in Bolinas. Koller and Brown's Coyote Press publication of Olson's famous (or infamous) presentation at the conference, was published shortly before the two moved to Bolinas. Robert Duncan, who taught at Black Mountain, and was a close personal friend of Olson's, later served as a mentor to Joanne Kyger, Lawrence Kearny, and Ebbe Borregaard (who had also spent time with Olson at Black Mountain in the fifties).

Olson himself visited Bolinas in 1968. Joanne Kyger, who at the time was working in experimental television at the San Francisco PBS station, arranged for Olson to be filmed reading his poetry for television. While Olson was in San Francisco Kyger and Jack Boyce drove him up to Bolinas to spend the day visiting Bill Brown. Kyger remembers that Olson had a vigorous, animated discussion with Hal Chase about boat-building.

John Clarke taught Olson's Myth and Literature course at Buffalo in the mid-sixties. Among his students were Lewis MacAdams and Duncan McNaughton. Clarke also oversaw the Curriculum of the Soul series of fascicles - seven of which were written by poets with Bolinas connections— Lewis MacAdams, Duncan McNaughton, Joanne Kyger, Jim Koller, John Thorpe, Robert Grenier, and John Clarke. Clarke's contribution being the aforementioned mythologized treatment of Bolinas poets in the form of a Blakean prophesy.

With the arrival of Robert Creeley in Bolinas the connection to Olson was hardwired. Creeley was a direct link and as his poetry was affected by Bolinas so were the poets there affected by the confluence of practice and process, life and text, that he brought with him. The image of Creeley, high on acid, screaming lines from Olson's Maximus from Dogtown, on the Bolinas mesa, in this context, takes on a mythic quality all its own.

Olson's influence is to be noted as well among the younger poets that emerged from the News York's lower east side. Lewis Warsh early on had a deep interest in Olson and the Black Mountain poets, as he puts it:

These poets taught me that psychology, magic, history, and dailiness could exist in poetry in equal measure. The New York School poets sounded a bit too formal and rhetorical to me, too on the surface —

          (Lewis Warsh, The Angel Hair Anthology,

Olson's theory of Projective Verse, ''A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it (he will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader. . . the poem itself must, at all points, be a high energy-construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge… ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION'', had a notable impact among poets on the lower east side scene¯from Paul Blackburn, Amiri Baraka, and Joel Oppenheimer, to the younger generation of poets such as Ed Sanders, Ted Berrigan and Lewis Warsh. Anne Waldman has said that ''Olson was the father of us all''.

The hallmarks of Bolinas poetry include an engagement with everyday mystery, with social critique, and transcendence, set against the imagery of the place, within the context of the community, as factors in a very ''human universe'' -and along those lines confronting the place, in particular and general, and where that leads one, inside and out, is a direct offshoot from Olson's teachings.

Olson throws down a long shadow, but it is really in the mix of poetries that one can begin to understand and describe a Bolinas poetic . The dailiness and ''personism'' of New York poets such as Frank O'Hara were also in play. Bill Berkson, who had spent a considerable amount of time with O'Hara was an important link. The spirit of poetic collaboration that came out of the St. Mark's scene was continued in Bolinas, notably by Tom Clark, Lewis Warsh, Ted Berrigan and Lewis MacAdams. Creeley's In London shows the influence of the New York School—possibly because of Creeley's close contact with Ted Berrigan during the time those poems were written. The use of humor which characterized not only New York School, but Beat poetry as well, became an integral part of Bolinas poetry, as did references to Buddhist and Eastern philosphy (an aspect of Beat poetry, particularly that which was written out of the San Francisco North Beach scene, as emblematic of a West Coast aesthetic).

The San Francisco Renaissance, as it has been called, from the occultism and alchemy of the Duncan-Spicer circle to the Buddhist ''dharma bum'' and Native American influences that came through the poetry of Gary Snyder, Lew Welch and Philip Whalen, were also important influences that informed Bolinas poetry. The latter three poets had attended Reed College in Oregon together, and all later relocated to San Francisco. Snyder, in particlar, was a counterculture hero, for his poetry and radical eco-politics as much as for the notoriety provided by Jack Kerouac's portrayal of him as Japhy Ryder in The Dharma Bums—a novel that portrayed a back-to-nature movement and lifestyle that 15 years later would be an important aspect of the hippie counterculture. Welch was a formidable presence on the San Francisco scene during the late sixties. He became involved with the Diggers and taught a poetry workshop for the UC Berkeley Extension. His readings were extraordinary events and his poetry was very much in the spirit of the Bolinas poets. The refrain from his poem ''The Song Mt. Tamalpais Sings''—''This is the last place. There is nowhere else to go.''— was appropriated by the Bolinas Future Studies Center for use as the title of one section of the Marin County Bolinas Plan. Whalen's characterization of his own poetry as ''a picture or graph of a mind moving, which is a world body being here and now which is history . . . and you'', encompasses day to day perception, subjective phenomena, fleeting thoughts and attentions, along with a free use of references from a prodigious reading list in Eastern, primarily Buddhist, literature, the classics, and poetry from the Greek Anthology to Allen Ginsberg. It is a dazzlingly rich, funny and open poetic score that had a major effect upon the Bolinas poets, most of whom Whalen had close and lasting relationships with.

The fusion of these diverse yet concurrent approaches to the poem provide a loose frame of reference for the poetry of Bolinas. Flexible enough to expand and contract, as the poems themselves do. This 1967 journal entry by Joanne Kyger is, I think, to varying degrees among the different poets, acknowledging the blending of the major influences discussed above, can be read as the underlying theory and practice of Bolinas poetry:

The structure of poetry interests me. All its layers. I do not like to see one image worked upon and developed, unless of course it is very insistent; but to see the stray and often extraneous seeming bits of image and fact brought to bear upon a loosely scattered area which is the poem. The linear aspect of the poem being merely a suggested voice line to take you from the beginning to the end, but suggesting no such consecutiveness in thought. The area of the poem is able to contain all elements. For what one can recognize and adhere to is the continuity, no matter how or where it comes from.

Robert Creeley has said that being in Bolinas made him want to get out of some of his internal emotional rhetoric and try to confront the place. ''I want to walk around here,'' he wrote in his poem ''Bolinas and Me…'':

look at the people, pretty,

look at the houses, stop in
the bar, get the mail, get

going again, somewhere.


The liquor store lights
shine out in the night,

and one is walking, going,
coming, in the night.

Holy place we stand in,
these changes—

Creeley learned from Bolinas. The poems in his book Thirty Things, (Black Sparrow Press, 1974), for example, are small but they have an absence of preconceptions and emotional structures that is a marked change in his poetry:

As You Come

As you come down
the road, it swings
slowly left and the sea
opens below you,
west. It sounds out.


No farther out
than in—
no nearer here
than there.


Here is
where there

Xmas Poem: Bolinas

All around
the snow
don't fall.

Come Christmas
we'll get high
and go find it.

                   for Joanne

They say a
woman passes at
the edge of the
house, turning

the corner, leaves
a very vivid sense,
after her
of having been there.

Similarly the short poems in Saroyan's The Bolinas Book (Other Publications, 1974), speak in a straightforward, deceptively simple language, directly to the people and the place:


It's interesting living in a community
Of people you know rather intimately

You can tell a lot from body posture
Or the fog in the air, what is going on here

There are a few birds
But many more stars on clear nights


Who am I?
Who are you?

Who is Lewis?
Who is Joanne?

And where is
Michael McClure?


Robert Creeley
is a town figure
of no small


Getting yourself
operated on
by Bolinas, California—

all your friends there,
good doctors & nurses.


Joanne Kyger's writing desk
doesn't exist.


I come over
Find you listening to The Beach Boys
With headphones.


The best
player in town
is Lewis MacAdams, Jr.

Snapshots of Bolinas can be found in so many of the poems written there, each with their own unique framing and composition. Bill Berkson's poem ''Twilight Time'' contains the following list of Bolinas street names, tracing the route he walks to the Clark home on Nymph Road:

                   …& walking
          along on straight, starlit roads:
Brighton, Terrace, Ocean Parkway, Grove
& Juniper, Kale,
Laurel, Maple, & on
down Cherry, a little ways up Nymph
                                     here to there
                   the days are endless
                   though they surely go…

Poet and photographer Gerard Malanga, an early player at Andy Warhol's Factory in New York, and an important link between Warhol and the St. Mark's poets, lived in Bolinas for several months in 1973. While in Bolinas he snapped portraits of many of the poets and wrote several poetic portraits of the place, such as this quick polaroid entitled ''10:00 pm Bolinas'':

the only thing happening
is the ocean
outside this window

Malanga also contributed his own version of ''Things to do in Bolinas'':

wake up
go back to sleep
wake up again
wash face
brush teeth
mantra yoga
tea with honey
water the plants
write this mornings poem
read book
phone don allen
visit friends
exchange poems
take photos
karma yoga
talk to flowers animals birds
climb hill
see the sun
thank the boss for everything
go to the post office
          that there may be some news from you

Tom Clark adds to this poetry of dailiness, as in these samples from his poem ''A Sailor's Life'', which is a work consisting of a sequence of short verses separated by asterisks:

You're a piece
of the same person
I'm a piece of.


Who is Lewis?
Who is Joanne?


What'd Ed Sanders
call Bolinas—
a psychedelic
Peyton Place?


in 1969:

too many
to name.


After the rain

bloom too soon.


half silver
half black
eucalyptus leaf


follow the downstream flow
to the store—difficult
hitchhiking—the winter
of Charles Manson


A place where
the time of the year
is a color—
dark green

         (in Green, Black Sparrow Press, 1971)

To capture Olson's directive ''ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION'' is to understand that poetry is continually revelatory. What it reveals is the everyday world in which the poet dwells.

I say
this is real this is true there
I am
down the road.

Then there's a sense
of senses in a circle just
where they should be, that if

there's that real that bright
the haze and the clearness
have their real worlds their
invisible chested
blue plane people

walking past me like surfaces
the trees reflect in.

         - Lawrence Kearney, ''from Songs''

Again and again in the poems one finds that particular dailiness and attention to the immediate world that surrounds one.

It's a green uprising of weed & clover
grass spears reaching higher each season
out of ground we tried to till but found
useless for want of constant sunlight

The light speaks thru green leaves…

         - David Meltzer, ''From: Sefer Ha-Adam''

A conversation rather than a confrontation with the place, as in this sonnet by Ebbe Borregaard:


I am all that aspirations will contend
you, young of the east westward wending
It is for you I have been loved over & over
In alien temples, in homefields, where I was a rover

We have waited since the first celestial dawn
yr lovelyness to meet, the power of our Loving
as the principle law this univers abides
We luckt in its size & within us it is hiding

And I have waited out all my unthinking days
for yr glad light inbreathing, inothering my ways
As I tript on roots of misery & ate leaves of despair
looting the Stars for yr incandescent hair

See all the continuum knows the Cosmic Folly
which wld allow the human Ebbe no Angelic Dolly.

          - Ebbe Borregaard, from ''27 Songs''

In Max Crosley's ''Epic Today'' the poet details a chronicle of a day in Bolinas that works both from the inside out, and the outside in:

A black and ochre-fuzzed bee hovers and lands on the flower of a weed as I'm out of the house, down to the end of the road. Having paid my dues, I now live and walk in an unurban world where the bees continue to collect pollen and I can make all the word honey I try, here, now, on this path, down the cliffs off the mesa, to the sea


…the tide's in and the beach diminished…white foam up to my feet as I pause to write…it just keeps coming…ankle bent on the roacks…the cliffs faling…it keeps coming with its dirty angry waste shaped motion…hear the birds faintly…but here, always the rhythm to keen up the ears…


Turn off the beach, silence downtown…pick a nasturtium, eat it (remembering e.e. cummings directive, ''perhaps it is better to eat flowers and not be afraid'')…tart cabbage taste…raw burning in the back of the mouth…take care of business…mail, pick it up…groceries, pick 'em up…eat another nasturtium…burn, baby, burn…surfers and young girls going to the beach…


a crow awkwardly walks down the driveway beside the restaurant, between bushes of roses, through the roof and into the air, cawing Smiley's, Snarley's, Scowley's…many songs…

Lewis MacAdams in his poem ''To Greene Street'' gives his take of Bolinas as a fabled refuge, part of one's destiny, in a mythic sense:

                   … There is a place
we can go to be well and act well, but sometimes
to get there we've got to kill somebody and then we've got
to go there all alone. I'm there now, and Agate Beach
tumbles with her moonstones. Sometimes
the whole continent trembles…

The underlying mythic dimensions of the place and time, something that poets are particularly attuned to, shows again in a poem by Berkson - it's a short poem but it packs enough to fill a novel:

air blue
ocean plain
& glowing
baby sleeping
woman turning
man on fire

Like a mirror, a shattered mirror, each poet reflected his or her own separate perception of Bolinas. Duncan McNaughton's poem ''Bolinas'', from his book Shit On My Shoes (Tombouctou, 1979), is a poem about marriage, although these lines would seem to offer a particularly concise, distilled, and perceptive evaluation of the rigorous expectations within the community of Bolinas:

compulsion superceded by orders
yawning emptiness by service
resolute solitude by confirmation
adversity by purpose

What is offered by the poetry of Bolinas is, to use a quote from Robert Creeley, ''the sense that poetry isn't a discretion, that it is ultimately the realization of an entire world''.

In The Cargo Cult (Big Sky, 1972) John Thorpe embraces Bolinas much as Charles Olson did Gloucester:

          . . . I address Bolinas
as if it were a condition
to be occupied
          as if it Arose
not after Frisco that monsoon of lights
but rather the unclaimed silt beach of
phonepoles, bridges, houses, shoes—a last outpost takes
out here, and the rest of the world a wake
of minor shocks not for a moment
                   to be received as
          except of delay
or the question can a 'town' afford
to have lived less
than the men

Thorpe's remarkable range and command is apparent everywhere in his poetry, from the use of early investigative historical data on Bolinas, processed through a time warp that overlays facts about the early settlers upon a contemporary view of, for example, the Bolinas lagoon, (another link with Olson's methodology, but also with Ezra Pound, specifically The Cantos), to the direct biography of his consciousness as laid out in a poem like ''I Just Lost My Tension Again'', which lists the attributes and the defects inherent in the condition of his existence.

There's a man in me who would prove. He is right but little else.

The separation between those two sentences alters the meaning, slightly, like a skip in a recording. Thorpe continues in a confessional mode, ''I blew money. I lost things'', and adds, ''I feel like everyone knows me''— perhaps suggesting that either they don't really know him, or that perhaps they are the only ones who do know him, that he actually doesn't even know himself? But Thorpe recovers:

There's a laugh which indicates simply I drink and I'm too afraid to pay attention.

The self-deprecating tone that carries the narrative of the poem is turned into a kind of nobility suggesting nothing less than triumph in the closing lines:

I did very little. I had a central character by virtue of that. Not as if I'd found a place they couldn't take away.

I did what I wanted. And I brought two children into this world. I respected the mystery and mastered nothing I'm aware of.

I squat here, looking at the moon, deciding to appear.

The conscious placement of the poet within the community, a particularly Bolinasian concern, finds it's mythological split when a poem like ''I Just Lost My Tension Again'' is read alongside another small masterpiece by Thorpe:

If anyone says I live in a town
The sea is my order
I know sheet water
& when so, its been
coast, I am no damn
good for depth
          (like bowels
rightly beyond that
dip at the end of the
beach before I stand
          waves come
up to be pulled over very quickly very
cold, in, dense, I go back

          what tricks did Mars try
          before and the air is so
          much wind you shout, lost

Joanne Kyger's poetry reads as part dream journal, part daybook, while displaying a truly astounding depth and range. There seems on the surface to be a simple, easy flow that sustains her line, but there is more than that flow, that direct notation lifted from, say, a diary entry, which, as Kyger has written, is ''the part of the writer that stays alive while 'personality' seems to be more and more a dried-up appendage of 'identity.' The 'individual' is swept out to sea, a group location identity, a place, takes precedence as voice.''. The ''place'' in her poems is most often Bolinas. Her method, then, could be given in these lines from All This Every Day (Big Sky, 1975):

                   I tell my complaints.
I intricately recite the details of the day and the
possibilities of what they mean

Kyger notes the people, and the place, the natural world, and it's ongoing conversations in way that is both intimate and private, while also standing somewhere to the side, objectively observing:

Watching everything, everything happens. Inside the pace,
well, it's rhythm & pulse too, you meet others inside
this flow, of the day, the whole town moves, meeting
across each other, traveling for a while.

          (from ''RCA Beach and Arthur Okamura'', in All This Every Day)

Nothing at all certain in the sweep of time, except that she is in it:

when I invoke the moon
          it's the best I can find

and all of Bolinas
          at my feet

The poem above is from her book Joanne, (Angel Hair, 1970), described as ''a novel from the inside out''. It's a Bolinas book in it's locale, it's sensibilities, and it's insideout references and sympathies:

what I wanted to say
                   was in the broad
form of being there

          I am walking up the path
I come home and wash my hair
                   I am bereft
          I dissolve quickly

I am everybody

With so many poets living in close quarters there were many collaborative poems being written. Like Bolinas Eyewash by Berrigan and Clark, several of these collaborations included Bolinas references, whether directly or implied:

An Indian is
better than
a newspaper.

If you want obedience
piss on the rug first.

The benefit of the
doubt has engines.

The only way to
make money in
Bolinas is to
sell out.

         - John Thorpe & Ebbe Borregaard,
         from ''Friday Night Proverbs by Shao & Ebbe'',
         published in The Paper, #7, Nov. 15, 1971


No more poems about inner nature
slimey or rambunctious, pure
I can't stand it
don't trust Aristotle (Ethics)
intellectual clarity I suspect
of capitalism
               a great guy wearing a bathrobe over a Levi

         -Bill Berkson and Joanne Kyger,
         untitled collaboration,
         published in Big Sky, Number Five, 1973


Our Town

Faded army blankets stretched over the tops of
some huge fallen eucalyptus trunks
might not sound like much of a house
unless you are from the outskirts of Rabat
but that's how we live in Bolinas.
What we call a Condo's three or four wrecked chevrolets
strung out along a dirt road.
We live in palaces constructed of mud
where it's so quiet you can hear the rats
piss on Kleenex.

         - from Expeditions by Lewis & Clark
         (Lewis MacAdams & Tom Clark),
         unpublished manuscript, 1972?

A very beautiful collaboration between Gordon Baldwin and Joanne Kyger was published as a small book entitled Trip Out & Fall Back (Arif Press, 1975). Baldwin remembers that Kyger said ''You draw the East, and I'll write about it.'' He did a series of drawings, and gave them to Kyger, who used the drawings as inspiration for her words.

The vibes are too high
They're Empire State high
I'm a ground hole watcher
Out my Bolinas window

          - Joanne Kyger, from Trip Out & Fall Back, 1974

Kyger and Lewis MacAdams collaborated on several plays for various civic events. Probably one of the most noteworthy of these was the play they wrote and performed at the opening of the sewer ponds.

The sewer ponds were the town's alternative to the Marin county sewer plan of the early seventies. The Kyger/MacAdams performance, as part of the celebratory opening of the ponds, included breaking a champagne bottle over a toilet.

At another celebration, for the dedication of a new park in town. The park was on the site of the Tarantino Seafood restaurant which burned down in 1974. When the debris had been cleared away the townspeople had various opinions as to what should be done with the vacant lot. It had been called People's Park, Tarantino's Park and Burnt Park. When the decision was finally made to officially dedicate the park it was to be called Birth Park. During his performance MacAdams, wearing goggle-like Adam Ant sunglasses, dropped to his knees in what appeared to be a shamanistic trance, and began to eat dirt. As MacAdams explained this performance piece was about giving life to the dead, eating the dead dirt symbolizing the transformance of life, as Burnt Park became Birth Park. The performance was appalling to some, poetic and memorable to others.


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