Jumping into the American River: New and Selected Poems Volume 1

BY Mary Norbert Korte

Edited By Iris Cushing & Jason Weiss


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This is a true Outrider tale. Mary Norbert Korte (1934-2022) first went to the Catholic nunnery, and then to the woods to live deliberately as Thoreau did at Walden, aching for a radical spiritual frequency, a space and pace to breathe and awaken her own biophilia. Then she jumped into the wild mind of the New American Poetry and also kept evolving in the faith that never left her, continuing that devotional deliberation as the world kept opening its sensorium and she further dedicated her life to the saving of the giant sequoia. She was never not a poet. Her poems are often rituals in service of creation. Quirky too, even salty, down to earth, yet always with a dose of the sublime. Korte is a practitioner of the wild, as Gary Snyder would have it, which is more and more inside us as it disappears. There are so many beautiful, visionary poems in this book. Meditations on dust as the “road that lives with you on your plate,” same dust on the same rhododendron, on the river, every mountain into the sea…Deep elegies for Lew Welch and Brother Antoninus, her lengths of loyalty there, an effortful dream of pushing her grandmother’s puce velour sofa up Mt. Everest, in “Sisypha: Running Down.” Myriad animalia, winged and walking always entering with their own lifestyles, scent of wild sage, and place at the bottom of the canyon where the sky breaks open a few moments a day and you look up the way you’d check for spiders on the outhouse seat. “A Breviary in Time of Drought” had me weeping, with a sense of the timelessness of mystic faith. How we might better count and dedicate our hours. As she does with her sharp ecological attentions to the thousand things of this world. She was a rarity, brave steward of her own life and held what was around her always in companionship and with awe. May this book travel far and wide. And may Mary Norbert Korte be recognized as well for the communities she inhabited, and brought life to, alongside the Beats and San Francisco cultural poet heroes. Welcome to her gates of Eden.

– Anne Waldman

Don’t take my word for it; take Michael McClure’s, Jack Spicer’s, Lew Welch’s, Diane di Prima’s, Denise Levertov’s, and Allen Ginsberg’s, for these poets and more recognized a fellow practitioner of the state of the art in Mary Norbert Korte. Bursting into the Berkeley Poetry Conference in 1965 in a soon-discarded nun’s habit, Korte published in the thriving mimeo scene of the era, but then largely dropped out, going off grid and devoting herself to redwood preservation. Jumping into the American River: New & Selected Poems instead shows Korte pursuing the art as a devotional practice within her life. Unashamedly occasional, quotidian, diaristic, Korte’s poems nonetheless partake in a mystic ecological consciousness, her art concealed by apparent clarity. But check out a mid-’80s tour de force like “In Memoriam” to glimpse the sheer range of subject matter and linguistic material she can bring to a single poem. A much-needed reintroduction to a missing figure of San Francisco Renaissance/ Beat poetry, with an excellent biographical introduction and an intimate portrait as afterword, Jumping into the American River is a crucial rediscovery from a heroic era in American poetry.

– Garrett Caples

This publication by Argos Books with TKS Books is part of Lost & Found Elsewhere, a unique series of book-length projects emerging from the research of Lost & Found editors. Working in partnership with select publishers, these books bring to light unpublished or long unavailable materials that have emerged alongside or as part of Lost & Found initiatives in archives across the country.



Collected in: Lost & Found: The CUNY Poetics Document Initiative

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