Skip to main content

More on John Wieners



Just a quick note on John Wieners, via Silliman.


Between Visions:


I printed a few paragraphs from the essay below in My Year 2004 in a piece devoted to Marjorie Perloff, in whose course I first encountered the work of John Wieners. The essay was one of my first attempts to discuss contemporary poetry, and it reveals the graduate-student environment in which it was written. The essay was written at a time when postmodernism was just beginning to have an impact on literary texts and my own notions of postmodernism, moreover, were highly influenced by the course for which I wrote the essay, which would ultimately result in Marjorie Perloff’s important study, The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage.

Consequently, I had decided not to republish the piece until news came last week that Wieners had collapsed on a Boston Street and died a few days later, on March 1, in Massachusetts General Hospital. Without any identification upon him, he lay in the hospital for several days, hooked up to a machine, until a worker traced a prescription in his pocket to a local pharmacy. Soon after, the hospital connected with John’s friends Jim Dunn and Charles Shively, who sat with him as he died.

I first met Wieners in the mid-1990s when Raymond Foye, who had edited Wieners’ Selected Poems in 1986, introduced me to him at a small press book fair in New York. I had previously communicated with Wieners and had published some of his poems in my 1994 volume, From the Other Side of the Century: A New American Poetry 1960-1990, but I don’t believe John ever knew of the essay below. Nonetheless, he recognized my name, and, although he looked like a street derelict with his three-day beard and torn and ripped clothing, he spoke—as Fanny Howe described him—like a Southern gentleman: “Sir, it is so very nice to meet you,” he slightly bowed. The paradox was memorable, as if one were witnessing a true-life character out of a Damon Runyon novel.



I believe that I met him again a year later at the same affair, which I attended briefly for several years out of a sense of affiliation with these very small presses similar to mine years before. I believe Raymond invited him there each year—where he stood out as a sort of unexpected celebrity—to sell books and signatures that might bring the destitute Wieners a few needed dollars.

Comments

  1. I met Wieners only once. He came to hear me read in Boston in the mid 1970s. I remember he was wearing a hairnet -- I don't know why. Several members of a group called the Good Gay Poets were there, and I got the sense that they were all looking out for him. I'd read, and loved, his "Selected Poems," and was excited to meet him -- and saddened to see the condition that he was in.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I was here in Boston while he was alive, but I didn't know who he was then. I would have tried to seek him out. I have the heard the oddest, loveliest stories about him. Thanks for commenting.

    ReplyDelete

Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Amy Holman

My mother made herself the deer with a broken leg 
We saw a deer through the pane into someone else’s yard. The leg moved like a tube sock pinned to the hip  and half filled with sticks. I did not like to see it suffer,
either. She was upset —my mother —that no one helped  the doe. Was it a mother, too? As if we were the first to observe the scene. We weren’t. All had been told to
let her be. My mother had suffered a destruction  of the self, a divorce, and no one cared. That wasn’t true.  We were grown, on our own. I agree it was hard. Yet 
in those moments of a cold November day, we watched  a doe, disabled and enduring, walk across a yard and eat  a hedge. I wish she could have seen it like that.
Amy Holman is the author of the collection, Wrens Fly Through This Opened Window (Somondoco Press, 2010) and four chapbooks, including the prizewinning Wait for Me, I’m Gone (Dream Horse Press, 2005). Recent poems have been in or accepted by Blueline, concis, Gargoyle, The Westchester Revie…

Updates

Hi all. As you can tell, things have been quiet around here in the last six months. Heather and I have had the most exciting of lives--he said sarcastically--which has  hindered progress, let's say. We haven't gotten many submissions either, as I think poets assumed the market died. Nope. Still alive, just coming out of a lull. Look for more frequent updates going forward, as we expand back into poetry news and links from around the web as well as original poems from the small cadre of writers who follow us.

Priority list for LNP:
outreach (finding new poets for us to publish)interviews with small press poets and editorscurating poetry news (send your news to our email or PM us on social media)updating the Paul Blackburn page. You can follow my Black Mountain Poets obsession as I read my way through Blackburn's letters to Julio Cortazar, published last year by Lost & Found: The CUNY's Poetics Document Initiative. writing on Joel Oppenheimer, Black Mountain poet and …

June Poem Reviews

I've had fiction and non-fiction reviews published in quite a few journals and have been a member of the National Book Critics Circle, when I could afford it. Therefore, I feel quasi-professional in those arenas. I don't necessarily feel that way about my poetry reviews. I have opinions, though, and in the interest of keeping my poetry-mind occupied during an otherwise stressful time in my life, I'd like to make you, the poetry world, an offer. If you mail me your chapbook or book--at least 24 pages but no more than 100 pages, self-published or traditional--I will post a review of between 150 and 300 words about it, as professionally as I can, in the following months. Promise. Mail me your book, get a review. Easy. If I get a huge response, I'll declare a cap and communicate it here. I would prefer to work from print copies. I hate reading poetry in PDF or MOBI--my preferred methods for prose--because the lines never break correctly and I find myself critiquing lineati…