Lewis MacAdams' marriage to Phoebe continued to disintegrate. It was
a long, agonizing process, but the outcome was inevitable. By 1974
MacAdams found himself essentially homeless in Bolinas. He stayed with
various friends in town, but was also spending more and more time in San
Francisco where he had landed the position of director of the Poetry Center
at San Francisco State University.
One of the temporary homes MacAdams found in Bolinas was in a small
shed, which he had actually helped build a few years earlier. The shed was
owned by Bill Niman, a ranching visionary, who is today a very successful
producer of high quality organic meats. The forty sows that Niman was
raising freely roamed in and out of the shed.
The booklength poem that MacAdams wrote during this period was
News From Niman Farm. The final piece in his Bolinas trilogy which
started with the journalistic account of the 1971 oil spill, A Bolinas Report,
and continued with Tilth, the eco-political book of interviews with Bolinas
farmers. News From Niman Farm is a long poem constructed of smaller
poems that build and expand upon one another. The subject matter includes
the political concerns
that MacAdams was passionately involved with in Bolinas, as well as the
sense of loss brought on by the break-up of his marriage. The locale of the
poems shifts between Bolinas and San Francisco, just as MacAdams' life at
this time was split between the two places. With lyrics that range from
descriptions of the weather, the retelling of dreams, and love songs, News
From Niman Farm is a dynamic and beautiful work. The final poem,
''Calling Coyote Home'' is a classic tour de force, wherein the poet
encounters the Native American trickster/god Coyote Old Man, ultimately
Coyote, are you a Buddhist?
The poem ends with a kind of shape-shifting vision, with the voice of
Coyote Old Man fading into that of the poet's:
I'm a friend of the Buddhist.
Coyote, what about marriage?
Boy, I'm afraid you're barking up the wrong tree.
It's just the same in your philosophy?
Boy, I don't have no philosophy.
Well, how do you treat women?
I treat everybody good.
You have to,
if you're gonna live in a family,
which I hope you're gonna do
because it's your ass if you don't.
And coyote actually began to disappear
into his own ravings, which began to sound more and
like my own meditations and laments
the longer I listened, until the night
began to close around me
and his yips began to fade,
and the only sound was
the heater working away
and the chorus of frogs and stars.
News From Niman Farm was the first book published by poet Michael
Wolfe and his Tombouctou Press. Wolfe, who moved to Bolinas in 1972, is
perhaps unique among the poets who came to Bolinas in that he was
initially unaware of the poetic community there. Nonetheless Wolfe fell in
quite easily among the poets and in 1974 he bought The Purple Heron
Bookstore downtown. He also started the reading series at St. Aiden's
Church which became a venue for local and visiting poets. Among the
readers featured at St. Aiden's, which was located at the corner of Park and
Brighton, were Robert Creeley, Lawrence Kearney, Jim Gustafson, Bobbie
Louise Hawkins, John Thorpe and Jim Carroll.
Sometime in 1975 Lawrence Kearney, who was hanging out at the
Purple Heron, suggested to Wolfe that he start publishing books. ''There
were so many manuscripts circulating in Bolinas,'' said Wolfe, ''and I
thought it would be great to be able to publish them. Bolinas was a place
where things could happen spontaneously.'' Wolfe applied for and received
an NEA grant and Tombouctou Press was born.
Following News From Niman Farm, Wolfe published Lawrence
Kearney's book FIVE, Duncan McNaughton's Sumeriana, and Frenchy &
Cuban Pete by Bobbie Louise Hawkins. Wolfe did the paste-up for the
books himself at his home in Bolinas and contracted with The West Coast
Print Center in Berkeley to do the printing and binding. Wolfe published
books primarily by Bolinas poets and writers, including Joanne Kyger,
Gailyn Saroyan, Jim Gustafson, Tom Clark, Dale Herd, Bill Berkson, Jim
Carroll and John Thorpe, to name a few. The Tombouctou catalog is
impressive and the books themselves were clean, attractive volumes. Wolfe
was hired by the Print Center in the late seventies and opened his own
bindery shop in west Oakland in 1979. John Thorpe and Lawrence Kearney
both worked for Wolfe at the bindery.
Tombouctou ran from 1976 until 1988, which was when Wolfe left
Bolinas. His mark upon the Bolinas literary scene was significant, so many
important books by Bolinas poets and writers may never have found their
way into print without Michael Wolfe and Tombouctou.
In the spring of 1976 The Bolinas Hearsay News published an
Anniversary Supplement. Printed by Mickey Cummings at the Mesa Press,
the Supplement was a community literary magazine, in the spirit of the two
magazines that Saroyan and Riviere produced in 1973. Among the stories,
poems and interviews were an excerpt from Orville Schell's book The Town
That Fought to Save Itself, poetry by Michael Wolfe, Stephen Ratcliffe and
Jim Carroll, and a section (printed on bright yellow paper) of stories and
drawings by Bolinas children.
Another community literary effort was a magazine called Pacific Plate.
Printed in Bolinas, for Bolinas, and featuring a wide range of Bolinas
contributors, the first issue starts off with an illustrated description of the
Pacific Plate and a discussion of the 8 major plates on the earth's surface by
local geologist Ralph Camiccia. There are articles on community planning,
information on local farming, photographs by Ilka Hartmann, an eco-rage
entitled ''Bio-Centennial'' by Ponderosa Pine, and a choice selection of
poetry and prose.
A non-literary publication that appeared during this time was a little
magazine simply entitled Pamphlet. Printed by the Bolinas-based Shelter
Publications, Pamphlet was a progressive source book, the Whole Earth
Catalog meets the Farmer's Almanac. It contained recommendations for
local farmers, interviews with local oldtimers regarding farming, ranching
and gardening, and practical advice on planting cycles in the region.
An active series of readings and concerts were ongoing in Bolinas from
the mid to late seventies. Some of these events were held at the Gibson
House, a restaurant on Wharf Road; Lewis MacAdams, Bobbie Louise
Hawkins and Aram Saroyan were among those who had readings there, and
local bands such as The Duxbury Reefers and The Venusians were also
performed there. Readings, concerts and other events were ongoing, and
well attended, at the BPUD as well; Max Crosley's ''Ritual'' jazz/poetry
performances, readings by Bill Berkson, Joanne Kyger, Jim Carroll, and
Aram Saroyan, benefit performances and readings for the Bolinas School
and the Hearsay News, as well as for other worthy community institutions
Among the varied cultural activities that were taking place was a regular
informal gathering of the Harrison Dibblee Appreciation Society. Pre-
dating the poets in Bolinas during the seventies by 40 years was the Marin
county poet Harrison Dibblee (1876-1948). Dibblee was the son of a
prominent commission merchant active in San Francisco and the bay area in
the 1890's. He was to carry on in the family business and was an important
member of the Marin county community in the 1920's and 30's. He also
spent a lot of time visiting Bolinas and wrote three books of poetry, all of
which carry references to Bolinas—Hours That Count and Thoughts in
Rhyme (1930), Calling Quail (1940), and The Epic of Bolinas (1940).
Dibblee's grandson, Tom Dibblee, lived in Bolinas at the time and took part
in the meetings of the Harrison Dibblee Appreciation Society, as did Joanne
Kyger and Aram Saroyan. Meetings generally consisted of reading and
discussing Harrison Dibblee's poetry. In the one of the magazines that
Aram Saroyan and Russ Riviere published in Bolinas in 1973, they printed
three poems from one of Dibblee's books.
The Turkey Buzzard Review was a unique little magazine that first
appeared in July of 1977.
With a cover designed by Terry Bell and silkscreened by Arthur Okamura,
The Turkey Buzzard Review was inspired by Lew Welch's ''Song of the
Turkey Buzzard'' and inside the front cover, above a Susanna Acevedo
photograph of two turkey buzzards, was reprinted the last stanza of that
NOT THE BRONZE CASKET BUT THE BRAZEN WING
SOARING FOREVER ABOVE THEE O PERFECT
O SWEETEST WATER O GLORIOUS
This first issue, ''lovingly dedicated to Lew Welch wherever he may
fly'', was edited by Dotty le Mieux, assisted by Sara Schrom, Joanne Kyger,
Susanna Acevedo, Charles Berrard, Terry Bell, Diana McQuaid, and
Michael Rafferty. It was a group effort. The magazine featured works by
Bill Berkson, Lawrence Kearney, Aram Saroyan, Joanne Kyger, John
Thorpe, Michael Wolfe, Nancy Whitefield, with a collaboration written by
Tom Clark and Lewis MacAdams, photographs by Susanna Acevedo, a
painting by Lynn O'Hare, and drawings and cartoons by Gordon Baldwin,
Terry Bell, Lynn Phillips and Ted Saladin. Inset among its 24 pages were
excerpts from various sources related to turkey buzzards and vultures. The
theme set by the Welch poem was carried through the magazine.
Joanne Kyger said ''It was much fun and a group effort. We did have a
hilarious theater event presenting 'Woodrat and Gopher visit Tibet', which
was a benefit for the second Turkey Buzzard I think. Phoebe got ga-ga and
kept kneeling at Lewis' feet, Sara fell over a bench before it was her turn to
read, Nancy Whitefield's beanbag chair caught fire, etc, etc. It was a total
participatory event, in which the audience acted out as much as the readers-
The Turkey Buzzard Review ran from 1977 to 1981 and produced only
four issues, but it was a classic, eclectic little Bolinas magazine.