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Friday, 26 February 2010

Edward Dorn: In My Youth I Was a Tireless Dancer

File:Phenakistoscope 3g07690b.gif

But now I pass
graveyards in a car.
The dead lie,
with their feet toward me --
please forgive me for
saying the tombstones would not
fancy their faces turned from the highway.

Oh perish the thought
I was thinking in that moment
Newman Illinois
the Saturday night dance --
what a life? Would I like it again?
No. Once I returned late summer
from California thin from journeying
and the girls were not the same.
You'll say that's natural
they had been dancing all the time.


In My Youth I Was a Tireless Dancer: Edward Dorn, from Hands Up! (1964)

(The poet's friend Lucia Berlin recalled Ed's account of returning home to Villa Grove from an early trip to Southern California and attempting to make a minor splash at one of those summertime Newman, Illinois Saturday night dances: "He was about sixteen. That was when the pachuco kids out in L.A. were wearing zoot-suit pants. Ed, with his great sense of style, had brought back home the most beautiful pair of pants. He loved to talk about those pants, they were brown-and-white-striped gabardine, they had those big wide pleats, he went on and on describing the weave and the fabric of those pants. They were so fine. Well, he brought them back to Illinois, wore them to the dance -- and nobody had ever seen such a thing!")

Phenakistoscope: A Couple Waltzing: Eadweard Muybridge, c. 1893 (Library of Congress)
Soldier inspecting men wearing Zoot Suits at Woody Herman concert, Washington, D.C.: photo by John Ferrell, 1942 (Library of Congress)



Thanks for this Tom, and to think that (coincidence) yesterday after that long 'note' to you I ran into Joanne when I was coming out of the water, who mentioned (in passing) Ed Dorn, who shows up here. . . . Meanwhile, south wind kicking up, more rain soon ---


first grey light in cloud above shadowed
ridge, red-tailed hawk calling on branch
in foreground, waves sounding in channel

perspective, adjusted sight
lines in this version

i.e., the shadow of a cloud
passing, being itself

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
white clouds in blue of sky above ridge

TC said...

Thank you Stephen, lovely.


Poem for the Day: Joanne

the shadow of a cloud
passing, being itself


Wish I were there, as always.

Yes, the wind swirling and building out of the south now. For us it's that Oh no, here it comes again feeling. (All fall apart & c.)

Pierre Joris said...

A pleasure to read that poem on a snowy morning in Brooklyn — Ed's elegance was indeed part of his sharpness — Lucia's description & the photo are excellent context — thanks, Tom —

TC said...

Thank you Pierre, and you are so very right about the elegance informing the sharpness.

(I have Ur-memories of those zoot suit pants.)

Anonymous said...

Not Heavily
Wish I had been there too
Just like that vaoporous
bunch of sky water...

Joe Safdie said...

The first time I saw Ed walk into a room at the University of Colorado, I knew he had "style" (and this was before I had really read his work) . . . but isn't that finally what attracts us to the poems we respond to?

Style is mysterious, but it includes elegance and sharpness, a simple "rightness" . . . no extraneous words . . . (which would partly explain the period between Hello La Jolla and Abhorrences ) . . .

I remember especially a Halloween party at Boulder when he and Jenny came as, well, denizens of the 1920s, and the hat he was wearing, and the Jack Daniels that was being passed around, and the uproarious laughter when he said that Wallace Stevens was the Christine Jorgensen of poetry . . . (well, maybe it was only me who laughed) . . .

~otto~ said...

Wow, you are opening me up to some wonderful stuff, Tom. I love love love wanting to read something again right after I'm done and this is that.

"he tombstones would not
"fancy their faces turned from the highway."

"thin from journeying"

"they had been dancing all the time."


TC said...

Thanks Otto, you've put your finger on it. I feel exactly the same way: no matter how many times I read this poem (and I've read it many, many times, over many, many years), when I've finished it I always want to read it again.

Sometimes many, many times.

I don't think I'll ever be done with it.

Susan Kay Anderson said...

The Burdens For Edward Dorn
They are infant sized
versions of worry beads
from out of Fall River
weighing about one hundred pounds.

They are blank clown faces
their bodies
are Fall River, Big Thompson.
They float in the meadows
as proof of some sort
shine almost obsidian.

The watershed is a watery muscle.
The fish its electric impulses
sending messages from the surface
to the pools of deep sand.
The burdens are all brow
from eyelid
to forehead
and back round again.

When they are hot—water sizzles
and drops onto the grasses
pleased to meet you
why don’t you stay—no I can’t.

TC said...


Thanks for the terrific poem. I think E.D. would have loved it.