The Collected Books of Jack Spicer (1975)


“Toward the end of his short life, Jack Spicer began to relax some of his purist principles about the publication and circulation of his poetry. In 1964, impoverished and unable to hold down a job, he consented to allow Lawrence Ferlinghetti to sell his books at City Lights bookstore in San Francisco, officially ending his long-standing boycott of a local institution he dismissed as a mere tourist destination. ‘I still think I was right and poets don’t really need a middleman and a middleman fucks up poetry,’ he explained in a letter to Robert Duncan, ‘but the number of things that are right and not possible is as infinite as God’s mercy.’ A firm believer in poetry’s capacity to foment active, local, living communities of dissent, Spicer regarded most trade publications, anthologies, and national literary outlets as middlemen who converted poetry into a commercial currency. The sacramental sharing of poetry among fellow poets should occur at street level, he believed, in the form of readings, evenings at the bar, and ephemeral publications to be passed around by hand: Spicer polemically forbade that his poetry be sent beyond the Bay Area, and he ridiculed institutions like Poetry magazine for fostering ignominious societies. As a result of the combative magnetism of his personality and the groundbreaking character of his poetry, Spicer attracted a community of Bay Area poets who were as devoted to him as they were occasionally wary of his power. ‘It seems to me you want a world small enough so that wherever you spit you’ll hit something, a world you can control,’ Stan Persky once wrote to his friend. Spicer died in 1965 at the early age of forty—no longer able, it would seem, to control the world in which his poems circulated. Still, the first generation of Spicer editors remained consistent with many of his wishes. Spicer’s work was first collected posthumously and in small journals such as Manroot and Caterpillar. Then, in 1975, Black Sparrow’s landmark edition The Collected Books of Jack Spicerintended ‘for Jack’s friends’ according to editor Robin Blaser—honored another of Spicer’s wishes: that his early work, which he had famously disowned, be considered separately, if at all, from the serial poems begun in 1957 with the composition of the breakthrough After Lorca. …”
Boston Review
Jack Spicer 1925–1965
The Nation: Between the Dead and the Living: Jack Spicer’s Second Life
vimeo – Jack Spicer: Poetry and Dictation (1965)
W – The Collected Books of Jack Spicer
amazon

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