Monday, January 30, 2006


Bayard Rustin, Martin Luther King, Andrew Young, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Oprah Winfrey

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Irving Layton

Rosemary Sullivan, a friend from Honors English at McGill, was dating the poet Doug Beardsley, and Rosemary proudfully showed me an elaborately inscribed copy of Irving Layton’s Collected Poems. Layton dominated the Canadian literary landscape when I arrived in Montreal. I was excited merely to meet, for instance, one of the many people with whom Layton carried on public controversy. I never did meet Layton. But when I started Unmuzzled OX in New York and published Robert Creeley, one of Layton’s American champions, I did manage to start a small correspondence with Layton and finally publish him. He died January 4. I am tickled by his book Balls for a one-armed juggler. I published this poem in Unmuzzled OX:


When I was mad
about her
I bought her daubs
-money on the barrel:
she wouldn’t have it
any other way--
took her to expensive restaurants
movies and plays
lit up her body
with flowers and jewels
and with fever
of an aging lover
threw in a summer’s idle
on the Rivera

You, Luke, hanged yourself
so that she could see
your blue tongue
sticking out at her
when she found you

Layton discovered the poet, novelist and songwriter Leonard Cohen. “I taught him how to dress,” said Cohen, “and he taught me how to live forever.”

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Mary Jane Deranged

Years ago I wrote yards of copy for ART News and smoked marijuana every day. I’d rise every morning with my wife, Erika Rothenberg. We’d eat. Erika would head off to midtown and her job as an art director at McCann-Erikson. Then I’d have an anxiety attack. Sometimes I’d curl up back in bed. Generally, however, I’d light a joint. Then I’d phone another poet, usually Ray di Palma. We’d yak about, for instance, the grandeur of literature and the pettiness of other poets. His wife also worked 9-5 in advertising. Finally one of us would ask, Are you stoned?

Yes. Reassured, I’d start my day. Caffeine helped with the ART News copy. And this went on for years.

Then one summer weekend Erika and I and Susanne Ostro and her boyfriend decided to rent a car and drive up to Mohonk. I smoked my j at dawn, then took the subway to Avis. The three of them seemed sober, so I wandered off, and let them negotiate. I was hungry. I had a slice of pepperoni pizza.

Then we started our drive, and I promptly got car sick. I had fallen victim to the munchies! Disgusted with my behavior, I threw the pouch of marijuana out the window. Suzanne’s boyfriend braked the car and retrieved the dope. It was, Suzanne reported, strong stuff.

The last toke I ever took was with Gregory Corso and Herbert Huncke at Roger Richard’s bookstore. I had a headache for three days.