Stefan Hyner


Ed Dorn, a Recollection

Looking out over the fields toward the river from where the fog is rising. It'll be a hot day once it burns off.

Vaguely remembering Lawrence Ferlinghetti's essay in Don Allen's anthology New American Poetry (my copy turned to ashes in a 1985 fire), it seems funny that one has to come to the defense of engaged poetry. But I did so in 1995 when Ed was attacked in Exquisite Corpse on the grounds that his book Abhorences was ‘propaganda', not poetry. The attack likely came from people who nowadays strive to have their crap published in collections like Poets Against War or other fashionable anthologies based on the misconception that G.W. Bush is the culprit & not the system & always was. The more reasonable bunch simply missed Ed when the shit really began to pour down; his completely independent mind that wasn't dependent on a ‘thesis superior' or some kind of ‘mandarin' & didn't concern itself w/ pleasing/displeasing the established authorities or some possible ‘clientele'.

I met Ed Dorn for the first time at the One World Poetry Festival in Amsterdam,1979. I remember him well there in the Milky Way where the readings were held, lean, good-looking in cowboy boots like the personificated image of ‘the West'. When I returned from China in 1983 I visited Ed & Jenny in Boulder. Trungpa recently had moved into town & the news was that Ed was the only one at the reception who didn't get up & bow. By then Ed had realized that the mood of poetry was changing away from the personal toward the investigative which he put into action w/ the magazine Rolling Stock, one of the most interesting publications coming out of the US-American scene in the past 25 years. I continued visiting Ed & Jenny whenever I came to the US & we maintained an intense & somewhat hilarious correspondence, ranging in topics from the display of Catholic bigotry by Marie Pierce to the destruction of Jugoslavia & other favorite games of capitalismo. And when Ed came to Heidelberg in 1992 to give a reading at the Amerika Haus, I used a line from him on the poster: ‘If those Germans in the East have any sense, they'd defend that wall to the very end'.

For me Ed's work is characterized by the concern for the downtrodden, the losers in the capitalist game, but his solidarity has no Samaritian aspect to it, it's not trying to bandage the wounded, telling them instead that there is nothing to expect but what they themselves fight for. His novel By the Sound, though set in a definite geographical & historical milieu, is a parable for this struggle as it takes place in every capitalistic society, wether long established or newly formed. And with the recent disappearence of its anatagonist — however totalitarian it was — from the world stage, we slide back into times when this struggle was a question of bare survival.

Governments always conspire against
The population and often
This is not even malice;
Just nothing better to do.

World leaders can claim
What they want about terror,
As they wholesale helicopters
To the torturers –


(from: Tribe, published in Chemo Sábe, Limberlost Press 2001)

& how they thrive, these torturers; from Guantanamo Bay to the Irak & the secret dungeons in Eastern Europa, carrying the banner of Arnald-Amalric: Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eis...
The fog has burned off by now, it's hot as hell.

Year of the Fire-Dog (2006/2550)
Bird's Nest Studio