Collected Poems

Iain Sinclair writes:

The publication in Britain of Edward Dorn’s Collected Poems is a big moment, a bonfire of the verities, for the embattled tribe of local enthusiasts, veterans of old poetry wars who are still, more or less, standing. Dorn’s face is news again, live and loud, on a cover laid out like a wanted poster, or the freeze-frame of a sun-bounced downhill skier, against a backcloth of enlarged script (his own words, not the usual blizzard of corporate logos). Here, cooling us out, is the essential leanness, the string and sinew of a Clint Eastwood with more candlepower and a much fiercer obligation to his nonconformist talent. Ed wrote his own one-liners. He wrote them, hand tied to the wheel like Count Dracula’s Whitby helmsman, as he commuted down 101 to a seasonal teaching job in San Diego. ‘A rather open scrawl,’ he said, ‘while one’s eyes are fixed to the road is the only trick to be mastered.’ He could hit it, when he chose, in a couple of lines. ‘The duty of every honest American/is to emigrate.’ ‘Recycling has grown to be/a major part of the pollution industry.’ The face on the Carcanet cover is a deeply scored calligraphy of experience, framed by rock-starish lightly silvered hair and reflective shades, behind which eyes that miss nothing flick from side to side, tracking through the exploitable sets of a working life: railside Illinois, Seattle and the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, Black Mountain College in North Carolina, a film festival in Havana, San Francisco, Rome, Avignon, Paris, London, Colchester.

(LRB 11 April 2013)