Michael Rumaker: Selected Letters
ed. Megan Paslawski
"The journey to 'do that thing,' to carve out a space of survival and nurture for the sensitivity that powers his writing, is the common thread of these letters which span decades of Rumaker's work. They record his growth, but they also record his contributions to the growth of a world where survival might be easier for everyone, especially his literary and queer descendents." - from Megan Paslawski's Introduction
Megan Murtagh Paslawski was born in Philadelphia. A graduate of McGill University and Trinity College, Dublin, she is currently a doctoral student at the Graduate Center, CUNY. With Ammiel Alcalay, she is co-editing Michael Rumaker's Robert Duncan in San Francisco, due from City Lights in the fall of 2012. With Occupy CUNY, she is co-creating a zine of strategy for student activists, due on the streets any day now. Megan lives in Brooklyn and teaches writing and literature at Queens College.
Michael Rumaker was born in South Philadelphia in 1932. After hearing artist Ben Shahn speak enthusiastically of Black Mountain College during a lecture at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, he applied to the college and was granted a work scholarship. In September 1952 he transferred to Black Mountain–washing dishes seven days a week, managing dishwashing crews–and studied in the writing classes of Charles Olson and Robert Creeley.
His breakthrough was “The Truck,” written for Olson’s writing class in October 1954: “after two years of confused false starts and superficial scratchings, I wrote my first real short story, although, in what was to become usual for me, I didn’t know it till after the fact.” He had “reached back,” by his own account, into his adolescence in the mid-1940s and a street gang he knew in the northern section of Camden, New Jersey, “to get it.” Olson’s response was enthusiastic, and he suggested that Rumaker send the story to Robert Creeley for the Black Mountain Review.
Since 1955, Rumaker has published works of fiction, poetry and non-fiction in literary periodicals, novels including A Day and a Night at the Baths (1979), My First Satyrnalia (1981), and To Kill a Cardinal (1992), a collection of short stories, and the memoirs Robert Duncan in San Francisco (1996) and Black Mountain Days (2003). Following the re-issue of A Day and A Night at the Baths (Triton) several years ago, the appearance of Leverett T. Smith’s Eroticizing the Nation: Michael Rumaker’s Fiction (Triton) accompanies several other 2012 editions of Rumaker’s work, including a reprint of the extraordinary memoir Black Mountain Days (Triton), and an expanded edition of Robert Duncan in San Francisco (City Lights). In addition, 2012 celebrates the opening of Rumaker's collection of papers at the Thomas J. Dodd Center.