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Sunday, 24 March 2013

Edward Dorn: 1st Avenue


1st Avenue between Union and Pike, Seattle: photographer unknown, September 1972 (Seattle Municipal Archives)

The truck shot forward across 1st Avenue to the Pike Street Market.  Through the rain, moving slowly down the plate glass shine of the store fronts, one can see the people of this world moving on their way to and from carrying the inevitable shopping bags.  The old ones carry umbrellas.  The old men have broad, flowered, disreputable ties around their necks.  In the plate glass reflected world are the brisker types in blue suits standing in the entrances of shoe stores and jewelry stores, ultimately, but they don't know it, in the hands of all these people with so little money each, but collectively what is referred to as a consumer power.  Something, each man in flimsy slacks is saying, will have to be done about it.  But probably nothing can be done about it.  With each new man born, a jewelry store is born for him.  The terrible leveling of Malthus plods on, on this frontier which no longer is a frontier.  A dead atmosphere.

Edward Dorn: from 1st Avenue (1956), in The Moderns: An Anthology of New Writing in America, ed. Leroi Jones, 1963

1st and Union, Seattle: photographer unknown, 1972 (Seattle Municipal Archives)

Shellback Tavern, Seattle: photographer unknown, 1972 (Seattle Municipal Archives)

1st Avenue between Cherry and James, Seattle: photographer unknown, 1973 (Seattle Municipal Archives)

Aerial of Pike Place Market, Seattle: photographer unknown, September 1970 (Seattle Municipal Archives)


TC said...

Ed's Seattle sketch recounts an expedition in search of lumberjacking gear. At the time (mid-50s) he was preparing for work as a logger, and was being taken in tow by a congenial Indian woodsman (whom he called "Bill Elephant") through the second hand stores -- and the bars -- around Pioneer Square.

Fifteen years and many travels later, he was doing the towing when he dragged me around many of these same sites. The place had changed very little, he was interested to find. Thus one may assume the look of 1st Avenue and environs in these photos made in 1972 is pretty much the look of the place as he had seen it fifteen years before in composing this sketch.

Joe Safdie said...

Tom, Ed and Jenny and Sara and I had a few drinks at the Shellback tavern (in one of these pictures) when they came through town in 1994. At the time they were working on a photo project called "Negativity" and were taking pictures of signs and billboards that were often -- hilariously -- negative; one I remember was "The King is rolling in his grave" (at the news of Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie).

Funny this would be the first post in the first time I've checked your blog in a year or so. Happy belated birthday . . .

Wooden Boy said...

The old men have broad, flowered, disreputable ties around their necks.

To each his own noose.

The World in reflection: this somehow anticipates the World we inhabit now.

TC said...

Thanks WB and Joe.

WB, dead on re. the refected anticipation of that world to come -- a world indeed in which this region was to hatch Starbucks and Microsoft. Talk about disreputable ties.

The "1st Avenue" sketch is framed, as is common with Dorn in this period, in a delineation of locale that goes beyond and beneath observation to include an acute understanding of the economic forces whose pressure exerted on the human are decisive in shaping all that is meant by the term "place". The paragraph preceding the one I've posted, for example, ends like this:

The major streets are named for early merchants. Mercer, Yesler, etc.
This is an order born of commerce, dry goods, the streets are now
crowded with the feet of consumptive buyers in whose hands the grimy
change of their cold northern lives is transferred in bags. An oversized
carrot, a massive cabbage, a grotesque squash, milk crackers. The
oversize cabbage & carrot come from that lingering light and cease-
less rain which filters down from the northern curve. And the latter-day
wise men with a touch of Midas in their eyes know now that it is
Food you must turn everything to. EAT!

And another Dorn sketch from the same period, this one not from the city but from the fields (of the Skagit Valley):

Edward Dorn: Notes from the Fields: an Exaltation of Larks, a Murder of Crows

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Just a few blocks away, a scant few years after these photographs were taken, the Squint-eyed Kid was on the night shift gathering mementos of the Seattle that was—alas, never to be the same again.

TC said...

So... can this mean that the curious life form known as poetry blogger is merely a "natural" evolution from the original mutant strain, Skid Row Desk Clerk??

Sounds about right -- at least you know you're not entirely alone after all, there behind that lonesome counter, on the night shift.



Another take on Wooden Boy's comment on "The old men have broad, flowered, disreputable ties around their necks" -- A Noose of "One's Own"


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, bird slanting toward pine branch
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

will be able to be question,
remembers to ask what

personal means, perspective
view, victim depicted

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
line of jet trail in cloudless blue sky