innocents abroad

14Jan11

For several months now I’ve been reading through The Collected Poems of Ted Berrigan, a wonderful book in every way, but perhaps especially enjoyable to me because of all the poems related to people that I’ve had long love affairs of fascination with (the incredible Joe Brainard, for example), as well as all the poets who have been directly a part of my life — Robert Creeley (my grandfather), Anne Waldman, Anselm Hollo, Joanne Kyger, Tom Veitch, Lewis MacAdams, Jack Collom, and more recently the wonderful Bill Berkson, who I had the pleasure of getting acquainted with (again) at an event sponsored by the Japan International Poetry Society.  Although there were already a ton of personal connections making themselves felt, it still surprised me when I stumbled across the ghostly image of my childhood self  in Berrigan’s “Innocents Abroad” —

Innocents Abroad
(To Gordon Brotherston)

Fluke Holland:                — The Tennessee Third
Stew Carnall:                 He was horrified: The Little Pill.
Coy Bacon:                     A nincomparable nanimal:
Hunk Jordan:                  His Ghost.
Margo Veno:                   Pigtails : ink
Rugby Kissick                  “Sally Bowles”
Helen Keller:                  “Nuff said.”
Sue Bear:                       Car Crash.                 (Change)
Joe Don Looney:             Rexroth’s Tune
Cream Saroyan:              “Her first is a song.”
Trane DeVore:                 Hands Up!
Kid Dorn:                        I am dog.
Ava Smothers:                 Defies calipers
St. Paul.            (Bag)      Still. Say it ain’t so.

My guess is that the connection here is Bolinas, where I lived until I was about six.   Ted Berrigan and his wife, Alice Notley, lived in Bolinas in 1971 (the year I was born) and continued to visit off and on after that.  Bolinas at this time was a kind of cosmic magnet for writers (especially poets), and you can read all about it in this fantastic piece by Kevin Opstedal.  My father, Darrel DeVore, and Tom Veitch founded The Poets Orchestra, an experimental poetry and music unit, and I remember going to at least one performance that featured Lews MacAdams.  In an interesting joint interview with Devendra Banhart, Bill Berkson talks about The Poets Ochestra (as well as a C-melody saxophone that my father gave to him):

BB: In Bolinas we had the Poets Orchestra, which was an improvisational group put together by Tom Veitch. The lineup changed every time. A guy named Darrell DeVore, who invents instruments, gave me a C-melody saxophone, which I tried to play.

DB: How did that go down?

BB: We would get together – about 10 people, including David Meltzer, Tom Clark, and Joanne [Kyger]. We performed in Diana Fuller’s gallery in San Francisco. She said she’d never forget it, she hated it so much [laughs]. It was the kind of thing you could do in the early ’70s.

In addition to MacAdams, Veitch, and Berkson, the poets and writers that I associate with Bolinas include Bobbie Louise Hawkins (my grandmother), Joan Kyger, Duncan McNaughton, Bob Grenier, Peter Warshall (Whole Earth Catalog), as well as the wonderful artist Arthur Okamura,  and stonemason George Gonzalez (co-builder of The Wave Organ).  Not to mention, of course, the iconic mustache and wire-rimmed glasses of Richard Brautigan, which were always busy perambulating around the town.

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2 Responses to “innocents abroad”

  1. Enjoyed reading this, Trane! Missed the “Hands Up” on earlier passes through the Collected; will look at it with new eyes now. Do you know why “Hands Up!”? Was it something you said as a kid, or Ted said to you?

  2. 2 Trane DeVore

    Of course I can’t remember at all the circumstances behind “Hands Up!”, but I imagine my five-year old self walking around and pointing a gun-shaped hand at the adults and delighting at their reactions when I shout “Hands up!” I was actually a bit of a ruffian when I was young and living in Bolinas — perhaps a bit of an out-of-control wild child at times — and maybe that’s reflected in the choice of “Hands Up!” I was really startled to find this in the Collected as well — quite a wonderful surprise! And even more so since I’m not reading through the book systematically at all, but just kind of stopping where I want to and reading for a bit whenever I feel like it. The ability that Berrigan had when it comes to finding the vitality in language is really amazing. My favorite bit from the poem is “nincomparable nanimal” — by far!


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