Collected Poems – Edward Dorn

“A Collected Poems of Edward Dorn, the American poet who died in 1999, is a necessary and overdue publication, and, whatever the circumstances, the fact that it was not published in U.S.A. suggests that there is something very wrong with the local culture over there, a fact of which Ed Dorn was very much aware. In fact most of the time it dominated his writing. It has often been said that a ‘Collected Poems’ is a dreadful thing, and when it is 1000 pages long it is certainly a daunting thing, and there are all sorts of problems in how to use it. When Frank O’Hara’s Collected Poems appeared in 1971 I got rid of all the original books, and now can’t find a poem I want unless I can clearly remember the title or incipit. The first collected poems of Charles Olson (Archaeologist of Morning, 1970) had only a non-alphabetical chronological list, no indexes, and above all no page numbers (pagination being evidently considered bourgeois) – I had to pencil my own in. But Dorn’s Collected Poems is very professionally edited and produced in these respects, indexed and sourced, everything dated, and the original volumes are kept distinct, so the reader’s conceptual problems are reduced to the effects of sheer bulk. … Edward Dorn is not one of those. There is an immense variety of modes, scale, and pitch, from high elegiac seriousness to casual jokes, and from lyric to narrative and polemic, and there are latent contradictions. But all these strategies are conjoined in his insistent purpose as poetical radical, hater of establishment and commerce, towards which verbal projectiles of many kinds never stop being directed, bearer of a fury which never relents. In many quarters, Dorn has become a hero of the new, and the adulation is total, ‘a master among masters’ as Iain Sinclair says in his blurb. Although younger than most of them, his reputation sits comfortably with the poets of the ‘new American poetry’ of the 1960s – Olson, Creeley, Duncan, O’Hara, Ginsberg et al., inheritors of the techniques (modes of attack) and purposive scope of Ezra Pound, but never of his politics. These are the masters he sits among. And for all their differences they do stand together in opposition to the entire drift of American politics and society in the twentieth century, none more so than Dorn. Naturally in present conditions, many poets and readers experience a dependence on these pioneer radical poets which makes them sacrosanct, just as for many of us the light beaming towards us from Americans such as Dorn in the 1960s seemed the only channel to a future for poetry worth thinking about, however much we later learned what our native strengths were. …”
The Fortnightly Review
Guardian: Collected Poems by Edward Dorn – review

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