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The Poets

July 28, 2011

The Bookery Nook and Rexroth

I first began to learn about Kenneth Rexroth last year- he’s apparently a sort of prodigy, a sort of Renaissance man who happens to write poetry. He also happens to be associated with key figures of the San Francisco Renaissance and the poets of the Beat generation.

At the time I became aware of Rexroth I was in the middle of studying a few different schools of poetry (especially the Beat and Chinese Misty poets). Because of this I didn’t have a real chance to read his works- but all that changed about two weeks ago.

A few of my friends invited me to a privately owned bookstore that, and I loved heck out of this about that store, served ice cream. It was a cool little place located off of 4280 Tennyson Street in Denver called the Bookery Nook.

It was at this store that I came across an excellent collection of transliterated Chinese poems by, you guessed it, Kenneth Rexroth. (The book is called Songs of Love, Moon, and Wind.)

I was excited because I knew a little bit about the guy, but what really excited me was that I just finished studying the history of the Chinese Misty poets- and had a bunch of them I liked. Unfortunately, the poets in this collection were poets from long ago, and no Misty poet was represented.

Still, the book was a goldmine! So many incredible poems, so many incredible poets … I was utterly pleased with the book and the bookstore (and the bookstore’s ice cream).

Anyhow, since then I’ve read some of Rexroth’s own works, and was also very pleased. I thought I’d post a poem of his here to give you a taste. The poem is called, Gic to Har. Let me know what you think …


Gic to Har
by Kenneth Rexroth

It is late at night, cold and damp
The air is filled with tobacco smoke.
My brain is worried and tired.
I pick up the encyclopedia,
The volume GIC to HAR,
It seems I have read everything in it,
So many other nights like this.
I sit staring empty-headed at the article Grosbeak,
Listening to the long rattle and pound
Of freight cars and switch engines in the distance.
Suddenly I remember
Coming home from swimming
In Ten Mile Creek,
Over the long moraine in the early summer evening,
My hair wet, smelling of waterweeds and mud.
I remember a sycamore in front of a ruined farmhouse,
And instantly and clearly the revelation
Of a song of incredible purity and joy,
My first rose-breasted grosbeak,
Facing the low sun, his body
Suffused with light.
I was motionless and cold in the hot evening
Until he flew away, and I went on knowing
In my twelfth year one of the great things
Of my life had happened.
Thirty factories empty their refuse in the creek.
On the parched lawns are starlings, alien and aggressive.
And I am on the other side of the continent
Ten years in an unfriendly city.

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