(Chapter 14 of
Dreaming As One
Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California
1967 - 1980

by Kevin Opstedal


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 interviewing him:

Coyote, are you a Buddhist?

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.

The poem ends with a kind of shape-shifting vision, with the voice of Coyote Old Man fading into that of the poet's:

And coyote actually began to disappear into his own ravings, which began to sound more and more 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 and efforts.

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 poem,



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- actors.''

The Turkey Buzzard Review ran from 1977 to 1981 and produced only four issues, but it was a classic, eclectic little Bolinas magazine.


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