I attended a reading yesterday at the San Francisco public library. The occasion was the publication, by Copper Canyon Press, of 'The Complete Poems of Kenneth Rexroth'. Featured readers were Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Michael McClure, Sam Hammill, Terry Tempest Williams, Jane Hirshfield, Robert Hass and Ken Knabb.
For the most part they read Rexroth poems. Parts of "Thou Shalt Not Kill" were read, and Ferlinghetti mentioned its influence on "Howl." I read both poems when I got home last night. I think "Howl" is a the better poem, but I can certainly see the influence.
Knabb is author of 'The Relevance of Kenneth Rexroth" and read from his book.
McClure, sounding very good, and looking better from a distance than close up, read a piece he had just written for the event, "Seven Things About Kenneth Rexroth." Very impressive. It included a great Rexroth parody.
Ferlinghetti, soon to be 84, looked very good and moved well, but did not have a lot to say. He spoke of the looming Iraqattack as "the war to end all peace." He introduced a recorded piece by Rexroth and got out of the way. He did not stay for the reception that followed the event.
Highlight of the day for me was reconnecting with Kush, a San Francisco poet whom I first met in Boulder in '82. He recorded and video-taped the event. Afterwards we stopped by his Cloud House poetry archive which is just amazing. Three words: Bob Kaufman's ashes. He is hoping to find more space and turn his extensive print, audio and video archive into a San Francisco Poetry museum.
All in all a very stimulating day. I got out Charters' 'Portable Beat Reader' last night and read her general Introduction and her introduction to the West Coast section, and then the Rexroth and Ginsberg poems mentioned above--also "Rexroth: Shaker and Maker" by William Everson, a very good piece.