Why all this fuss about Ed Dorn?

19 May


Ed Dorn isn’t my favorite poet, not even my favorite poet of the Black Mountain crowd– I’d much rather read Robert Duncan with his lyric pauses, and even Charles Olson, with his incredible ambition outstripping his talent is more satisfying to work through. And anyhow, the Gunslinger poems bug the hell out of me.

But still, I really enjoy reading Dorn, especially this early stuff. There’s this sense you get of the man, of being not fully embodied in his work– at one minute, he feels more like an academic scribbling poems that are marginalia to his favorite works, and at others, he’s the acolyte to Olson, so enshadowed by the Boss-man that he thinks the best he can do is imitate. But in spite of all that, there are these flashes of brilliance– he can really knock it out of the park, sometimes, as he does in “Six Views from a Grocery,” for example.

And because he’s not always committed to a particular way of working, he’ll sometimes surprise you by finding a new vantage on things that Olson would be too stubborn to attempt, or that wouldn’t quite fit the music of Duncan’s lines. Dorn is a completely minor poet, but that just means that his gifts, when they are on full display, are hard to easily categorize.


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