Edward Dorn: The Olson Memorial Lectures
ed. Lindsey M. Freer
"Over the course of these three talks, Dorn lays out the current scope of an American poetics on the verge of complete (academic) institutionalization. Through the active curation of both Olson's words and his own Olson-inspired work, as well as letters from certain correspondents, Dorn charts an alternative course - a survival guide for the Eighties, rooted not in the Buddhism of the Naropa community or the obscurantist literary theory of the modern-day English department but in the lived experience which drove Olson's 'projective verse' out off the page and onto the docks of Gloucester or the archeological sites of Mexican antiquity." - from Lindsey Freer's Introduction
Lindsey M. Freer, like Dorn, is "railroad progeny," the granddaughter of an engineer on the Chicago & North Western Railway. A Ph.D. candidate in English at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, she specializes in American poetics of the 1970s and 1980s. Her writing has most recently appeared in Cross-Cultural Poetics. Her photography has been published in the Virginia Quarterly Review, and will be featured in several forthcoming books. She is a proud alumna of the AmeriCorps national service program, and currently teaches American literature and history at the Fashion Institute of Technology.
Edward Dorn (1929-1999), protégé of Charles Olson and deep poet of the American West in his own right, was born in Villa Grove, IL and came of age in that Midwestern prairie town during the Great Depression and the Second World War. He studied for several years with Olson at Black Mountain College, and although poets who were involved with the college have often been grouped together as the "Black Mountain poets," Dorn told David Ossman in The Sullen Art that he has "been unable to find any similarity" among the writers associated with the school. Discussing his own inclusion in the group, Dorn added: "I think I'm rightly associated with the Black Mountain 'school,' not because of the way I write, but because I was there." He began composing poetry during his family’s itinerant wanderings across North America in the late 1950s. In 1961, he began teaching at the University of Idaho, and after four years there, during which his first two books of poetry were published, he collaborated with photographer Leroy Lucas on a road trip through the “Basin-Plateau”—a journey chronicled in The Shoshoneans (1966). In late 1965, he took a position at the University of Essex, where he began to compose the now classic long poem, Gunslinger. Dorn’s return to North America in the early seventies saw the completion and single-volume publication of Gunslinger (1974), as well as an experiment in periodical publication, Bean News. In 1977, he began teaching at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and in the 1980s, published Rolling Stock, a journal of diverse poetic, personal, and cultural interests, with his wife Jennifer Dunbar Dorn. Rolling Stock’s motto—“If it moves, print it!”—also encompassed Dorn’s approach to his own later work, which variously included a withering portrayal of academic life in Captain Jack’s Chaps (1983), a collection of what poet Tom Raworth called “savage observations” (Abhorrences, 1990), and his poetic reflections on cancer and chemotherapy—published posthumously as Chemo Sábe in 2001. Dorn remained in Colorado until his death in 1999.
In Series 1, Lost & Found published a selection of Dorn’s correspondence with his close friend Amiri Baraka (edited by Claudia Moreno Pisano); numerous larger Dorn projects are on the horizon, including a volume of collected poems (from Carcanet), collected prose, and a reprint of The Shoshoneans, edited by M.R. Hofer (University of New Mexico Press), and the complete Baraka Dorn correspondence, edited by Claudia Moreno Pisano, also from the University of New Mexico Press.