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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Anselm Hollo: Bright Moments


Llama on Laguna Colorada, with Punta Grande in the background, Salar de Ayuni, Bolivia: photo by Phil Whitehouse, 31 August 2004

Bright Moments

when it all makes sense
a great crystal forest

because it seems only a sneeze away
from incomprehensible chaos
whose lineaments we are
only beginning to

"whose lineaments
we are"

well you go out there

& then come back in-
to the midst of whatever
awful things

the people who "make" money
make an awful lot of money
make money off of

but here walks a portly or is it potty? bearded person
carrying shopping bag moving along
up the street in big white sneakers  

having descended from stately vintage Checker Cab

it is God
forever unemployed

but really muy contento


Anselm Hollo (b. Helsinki, Finland, 12 April 1934, d. Boulder, Colorado 29 January 2013): Bright Moments, 1988, from Outlying Districts, 1990

Sad time, but many sweet memories of a lovely poet and fine friend of a half-century.

The dear person gone, but it's hard not to feel Anselm's spirit is still here with us in the genius of his poems: a high dry strain of the art, always luminous, the swift nimble wit forever a relief, sometimes just that right bit salty -- and the heart presence an abiding radiance of its own order, a shining.

Our mutual friend George Mattingly, publisher of much of Anselm's best work, tipped me to the news in the night. I put my head down upon the consolation and prayer beanbag and drifted off into a strange dream reverie of traversing the Laguna Colorada with Anselm and Joe Ceravolo. How strange the disordered mentations of age. The Green Lake Is Awake, and the Red Cats are running upon the distant silent peaks. Muy contento.

Another mutual pal alas now no longer with us, Bob Creeley, introduced Anselm's great book Sojourner Microcosms (1977, produced by George and Lucy Mattingly's Blue Wind Press, Berkeley), thus:

There is a quality in Anselm Hollo's person and poems which I value absolutely, and would call, for lack of a better term, a persistently integral manhood. For myself, the world is often a flux of shifting centers, a diverse and irresolute complex of 'points of view'—as if, each time, what might stay as measure of acts, either those of others or of my own, had insistently to be discovered in the moment. Which may well be the fact of one's Americanism, that this world has no incremental experience or habit with which to take hold and make judgment.

But, truly, the point is that Anselm Hollo is not only 'European' but a Finn, which is to say he has both the solid human realness of the Nordic and also the intensive visionary mind of those specific people. There is always a laughter in him, an extraordinary chuckling roar that is not mocking or contemptuous. It is literally the laughter of a man who lives daily, humanly, in the physical event of so-called existence—and, despite its trials and troubles, finds it good.

Here, then, the wit, the deftness, the active life of a primary man come again and again to form, to a thing said in the abiding pleasures of that possibility. No one will ever know more or less.

Laguna Colorada, near Uyuni, Bolivia: photo by Ville Miettinen, 13 November 2007

Flamingoes on Laguna Colorada, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
: photo by Valdiney Pimenta, c. 20 August 2007

Oh vida! Laguna Colorada, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: photo by Valdiney Pimenta, c. 20 August 2007


Chegando a Laguna Colorada. Laguna Colorada, Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
: photo by Valdiney Pimenta, c. 20 August 2007

File:Laguna Colorada MC.jpg
View over the Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by Christian Mehlführer, 23 February 2009

File:Laguna Colorada Panorama 2.jpg
Laguna Colorada, Bolivia, panorama 2: photo by Darkmagic, May 2008
File:Laguna Colorada panorama.jpg

Panoramic view of Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by Edouard Wautier, 12 January 2012

File:Colorada Lagoon Potosí Bolivia.jpg

View of Laguna Colorada, Department of Potosi, Bolivia: photo by Owen Prior, 20 April 2006

Flamingoes in Laguna Colorada, Ayuni, Bolivia: photo by Carlos Adampol Galindo, 23 February 2008

James's Flamingos at Laguna Colorada in Bolivia: photo by Valdiney Pimenta, c. 20 August 2007

Phoenocopterus jamesi (James's Flamingoes, aka Puna Flamingoes) on Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
: photo by Sarah and Iain, 12 December 2006

Phoenocopterus jamesi (James's Flamingoes, aka Puna Flamingoes) on Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by Sarah and Iain, 12 December 2006

Phoenocopterus jamesi (James's Flamingoes, aka Puna Flamingoes) on Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by Sarah and Iain, 12 December 2006

Clouds of salt stirred by the harsh afternoon wind on Laguna Colorada, Bolivia: photo by rackyross, 11 January 2011

RIP, mon cher Anselm. See you on the altiplano.


TC said...

...and also:

Sitting in Peaceful Lamplight


To Be Born Again

... and some sounds to remember the poet and his poems by...

Mose23 said...

It's that salted wit that comes to mind, like Finnish licorice. A great and human poet.

Lally said...




Beautiful post -- Saint Anselm would chuckle, and be pleased.


light coming into sky above still black
ridge, whiteness of moon above branches
in foreground, wave sounding in channel

retrospect of disappearance,
color become alphabet

long standing, she recalled,
he often spoken to me

silver of sunlight reflected in channel,
line of cloud on horizon across from it

tpw said...

Tom--Thanks for this post. I wish I had known Anselm better, but glad we did cross paths on a few occasions. I remember him showing up with a circus-like entourage, everybody fueled up on booze, at a gig my band was playing in a bar in Baltimore in the '70s. A crazy night ensued. I wonder: do you know if he (or his work) was celebrated in Finland?

TC said...

On Anselm's behalf -- Gracias Duncan, Michael and Steve.

David Lehman, back channel, has asked me to post this:

"Very sad to learn of Anselm's passing. When people look at poetry and utter a disdainful goodbye, I reply Hollo."

TC said...


Anselm certainly ought to be well known in his native land, he translated quite a lot of Finnish poetry into English. When I first got to know him -- he was then living in London -- he was doing the Finnish Programme for the Beeb. I believe he always did keep up that connection.

We did a reading together in Cambridge in, if I recall through the fog, late 1963. He read a long and wonderfully funny poem about (in effect) how silly poets and poetry audiences are. Poems that actually made one laugh were a not-done thing in that privileged "context". The largely silent response proved the point of the quite funny poem.

TC said...

Pat Dunagan sends this along:


That one bright dot

brilliant singular point

never more distant

never more near


George Mattingly said...

Thanks so much for posting this, Tom.

I met Anselm when I was 19, in Iowa City IA, so he has been a light through my entire adult life. A light that's still brilliantly on though he is gone.

Good that you mention his laughter, which brought perspective to so many things (both good and bad). He once said that laughter denotes the power of sudden recognition, and I think that's absolutely right. Those who don't understand laughter don't understand.

Your story about the reading in 1963 is perfect on that subject.

When I heard that Anselm was gone I remembered this poem, which he once told me was inspired by his reaction to the Walt Whitman quotation (which I'm only paraphrasing): "Every atom of good belonging to me belongs to you."



i’m one of Your molecules!

i started from Crab Nebula, but i move about.
I’ve moved about for millions of years.

i entered Your body, perhaps as a factor in some edible vegetable,
or else i passed into Your lungs as part of the air.

now, what intrigues me is this:

at what exact point, as i entered the mouth, or was absorbed
by the skin, was i part of the body?

at what exact moment (later on) do i cease to be part of
the body (i.e. You) ?

let me know what you think.


[ —Anselm Hollo, from SOJOURNER MICROCOSMS, 1977. ]

TC said...


Great poem, touching memories.

And touching on memories (that sometimes too-hot stove league), out of your Iowa City memory popped the curious recollection that, in 1967, I was "tendered an offer" of a "position", which, after I had tried unsuccesfully to hand half of it off to Ron Padgett (he said, "What? You mean we'd actually have to GO there?! No sir, not on your life, not even for five thousand dollars!"), Ted Berrigan accepted, and I believe that job morphed into the landing of the laughing Finn (muy contento) there in your cornfields.

Or perhaps I've got this lineage all wrong, what with the cobwebs in the tall corn. One detail already rings as a wee bit suspect, that bit about me being tendered a position. Perhaps it was merely the standard missionary. (Diner to waiter: "I'll have that one rare, please.")

TC said...

Anselm looking out over the water, Brighton, last year: photo by Tom Raworth

vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

May the earth
That covers him

Be light.

Unknown said...

January 30, 2013. Boulder, Colorado.

Here I am in Boulder, Colorado
just thinking of Anselm Hollo...

Hoping to meet him sometime,
looking him up on the internet...

only to find out that he is home.
Perhaps he is laughing, "So, you want to
meet me? Read my poetry. There you
will find me."

TC said...

Tom Raworth has sorted some of the wheat from the chaff I've scattered amongst that tall corn. Here's his extremely useful Anselm obit:

Tom Raworth on Anselm Hollo, in The Independent

And it does glimmer through the cobwebs that, yes of course, Anselm was already in Iowa City when Ted got there.

As is indicated in this letter which the historian of the household has just now unearthed from the mouldering subterranean vault:

"Anselm Hollo is here, and is a kick. Wish I liked his poems. But I like him a lot, and we can talk. To Eskimos."

-- Ted Berrigan to Tom Clark, Iowa City, 28 September 1968

Later I'm certain Ted made the appropriate upward revision of his estimate of the poems. We all do live and learn...

bill sherman said...

yes. hadn't seen Anselm for decades; but when we first met in Buffalo '67, where he had a summer gig, he did me a kindness by coming to my first public reading there, and afterwards was flatteringly and sincerely encouraging. ... there's an online chapboook of his poetry titled "ancient land animal" @ Big Bridge, which is great.

John B-R said...

I love it how almost everyone who misses him misses him by quoting something he wrote. What better testament? Great post, with great comments, and great photos.

I'll just say that many years ago, when I was a teenager, Jack Shoemaker was telling me I had to read Pound, I had to read Olson ... I walked out of the shop (Jack was at Serendipity, then), with AH's The Coherences, which was brand new.

TC said...

John, Bill, many thanks for the testimony.

There are video clips documenting a memorable reading at the Horse Hospital in Bloomsbury, 18 April 2012; this may have been Anselm's last reading; he performs in a company of old friends.

Anselm kicks off his part of the show with a with a classic American moment, a bit of Williams, from "Spring & All" (1923):

The rose is obsolete

but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air--The edge
cuts without cutting
itself in metal or porcelain--

whither? It ends--

But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry--

Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica--
the broken plate
glazed with a rose

Somewhere the sense
makes copper roses
steel roses--

The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end--of roses

It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits

Crisp, worked to defeat
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching...

Some other highlights:

Tom Raworth remembers meeting Anselm 51 years ago, "just down the road from here in Camden Town Hall..."

Andrei Codrescu brings a useful "social realism" over troubled water from an uneasy Big Easy...

Gunnar Harding reads his poetry translated from the Swedish by Anselm: "The greatest common denominator/ is a sense of loss..."

The evening, experienced from his near/far distance, reminds once again just how much poets in this country have owed to the bracing influence of poets not born here.

Against the Course of Empire, a counter perhaps to the dark exemplar of Neil Young's Cortez the Killer. Again the adjusted perspective of one not born here.

He comes dancin' across the water mon'/ with his galleons and guns/ lookin' for the New World/ palaces in the sun..."