Robert Briggs


Knowing David Meltzer

Round the Poem Box
Round the Poem Box: Rustic and Domestic Home Movies For Stan and Jane Brakhage
by David Meltzer
Noel Young for Black Sparrow Press, 1969

Since 1957 when Allen Ginsberg first
sung "Howl" and On the Road was published,
along with countless others I've treasured
knowing David Meltzer -- a poet whose work
not only has heart but that rare hue of
soul that's too often stifled by modern

Although identified with the Beat
Generation, Meltzer's work has long gone
beyond such sorting. Early on, his
distinctive style helped refine a
Beat ideal, an organized persuasion
that produced the freedom to see that
there is always more to life than living
... more to see than is seen, more to
know than is known.

This promise, already apparent in his 1959
book, Ragas, was made more wondrous by
what followed: We All Have Something
to Say to Each Other
in 1962, The Process
in 1965, The Dark Continent in 1967,
Tens in 1973, and San Francisco Beat:
Talking with the Poets
in 2001. For me,
however, the promise was best expressed
when, in Tens, he asked:
     "But this poetry business,
     what about it?"
Then answered:
     "Dive into the mirror -- O My God
          my head -- head of my tribe
     cracked in half -- at last
          split apart -- twinkly splinters
          glass shat -- smashed
          rainbow glaze -- good
     let's go then
     let's kiss God on the mouth."

"God on the mouth?" Why not? For a
quintessential poet -- a dedicated
American writer, husband, father, and
politically concerned individual who's
lived all five roles while teaching
poetry and writing about family, birth,
and death -- why not lace lines with
jazz feelings that magnify a vision
free from the conformity of crass
consumerism, and from the dangerous
deceit of that now-arthritic Yankee
Doodle Dandy whose billion dollar shuffle
only warps the American dream.


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