Saturday, November 13, 2010


Sward reading at Bookshop Santa Cruz
Met prolific Santa Cruz poet Robert Sward at Alan Lundell's beach house birthday party a few weeks ago. We exchanged words, books of verse. Sward began as a poet in a North-side Chicago gang of ruffians, published lots of books including a stint as a small-press publisher (Soft Press). He's got a website where you can read his poetry and buy his books which all got fascinating titles: God is in the Cracks, A Much-Married Man, Rosicrucian in the Basement, Thousand-Year-Old Fiancee, Kissing the Dancer and The Jurassic Shales, for example.

What can I say? Carl Sandberg on laughing gas. William Blake on the back of a cereal box. Better to let Sward speak for himself. Here's Robert Sward on 1. How to Market Poetry and 2. an imagined Socratic dialog that Plato failed to write down.

I was impressed by the Beats--their camaraderie and the fun they seemed to be having. Ginsberg came to Iowa City in 1968, I believe, and gave a terrific reading. He drew hundreds of people. The Iowa poets seemed unnerved by him, mocked his work and the "look" and gave parties where one was expected to dress up in blue jeans, etc., and pretend to be "Beat".

I met him briefly when he visited Iowa--was teaching there at the time--toked on a joint with him. Ginsberg always seemed to me to be Beat Mother Hen, the Nurturer in Chief, and also an astute and effective publicist. Did you know that he worked for an ad agency in San Francisco, doing Ipana toothpaste commercials? The experience wasn't wasted on him. In a sense he was the brains behind the Beat movement, ambitious for himself and for his friends. Nothing wrong with that--without Ginsberg's PR skills, I don't think we'd be reading the Beats as we do. It makes you think. If you're gonna write and want attention, some kind of readership, you're probably gonna want a group of like-minded friends, allies working in a similar vein, plus someone who can act for you as Ginsberg did for the Beats.


(Sonnet for Two Voices)

Of Love, my friends (after such sophistry
and praise as yours), may one presume? Well, then,
let me begin by begging Agathon:
Good sir, is not your love a love for me?
And not a love for those who disagree?
Yes, true! And what is it that Love, again,
is the love of? Speak! It is the love again
of "Socrates." Love then, and the Good, are me.

Explain! Is Love the love of something, or
the love of nothing? Something! Very true.
And Love desires the thing it loves. Right.
Is it, then, really me whom you adore?
Or is it nothing? O Socrates, it's you!
Then I am Good, and I am yours. Agreed!


Tor Hershman said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Tor Hershman said...

..[___]..---{Coolsville, Daddy-O}