Sunday, January 20, 2008
Happy Birthday David
We made a memorable journey to Asbury Park together in the 80's, 6 crammed into poet Jim Ruggia's Volks Beetle on a hot day, Parkway traffic jams, declining to pay beach fees for sand hardly anyone wanted to use. Dave wasn't especially surprised or disappointed by the desperate condition of that place; he saw right through it to the former splendor, & to the evil allliance of local government & organized crime that was sucking remaining life out of it. The town was also a bastion of rock & roll anthemic traditionalism (it was never "punk") in the growing Springsteen mythos. Asbury Park was the kind of bummer scene a downstate Michiganer could relate to without stretching. I was sorry we couldn't end the day with a Sandy Hook sunset or a carousel ride at Seaside Heights.
Dave just turned 60. He's featured in a new Wikipedia entry, Postbeat Poets. I have some quibbles with the idea of "Postbeat." Jack Kerouac was born in 1922, Allen Ginsberg in 1926. I consider myself two generations removed from the Beat writers, with Ed Sanders (b. 1939) & Anne Waldman (b. 1945) more direct successors. The poets in the article that emerged in the 70's are, as I sort them out, post-postbeat, & have a more than coincidental connection with "punk" rock. I think this is especially true of poets from the Detroit & New York City areas, which generated proto-punk scenes in the late 60's & early 70's that were not about peace, love & wearing flowers in your hair. Dave was not a hippie dreamer or a coffeehouse philosopher. Many of his earlier poems came literally out of a public school boiler room, where he worked for some years. But it doesn't matter. The absence of these "postbeat poets" as national voices is one reason why poetry doesn't count for shit in America. Unless you think the occasional "name" poets featured on public radio or at the Library of Congress are culturally significant & influential. Most of them are greased gears in a whispering machine they helped to build, & from which Ginsberg's heirs are excluded lest they make it squeak. Barbaric yawps get a poet marginalized in an already marginal art, & that is a pathetic situation. Ginsberg's generation - not only The Beats - made poetry matter outside of grad schools & other habitations of literary connoisseurs where poetry is prepared & consumed like sushi.