See Review of Ambrose Gordon’s The Avenues of the Cabinets, here.

There is no truth like people who know you. These associations produce all the luck in a life. I was known in Austin, and in Texas in a way that became completely extinct when I left. After all I did not circulate but raised a family, started a medical practice and did free lance art. A lot was lost in the move, compensated one would hope in the experience of the wild that could not be gotten anywhere else. The people I knew then were doctors, church people, tennis people, business men. Even when I began ceramic exhibitions it was still in the business world, not in poetry. So all the affection in the world for the Eddas, the Sagas,  the poets, the epics was lost on them. After I began to publish online there were sympathetic ears, but none of these knew me or ever would. It would be hard for people to understand that I came to them with a full developed vision of America as a mystical place, America Spelled with a Y  gestated and honed in the Texas Hill Country and over much of the Edwards Plateau, interwoven with plants and poems, aquifers and stage stops, creeks and madrones, and with countless associations with scientists, botanists, herbalists, poets, editors. And of course I had come at Austin after the intensive experience of two years at Iowa among first class minds, two years of teaching black students in North Carolina and before both of six months residence in Costa Rica with all the richness both these entailed, and before that of completely changed life right before beginning college, becoming a flagrant Christian at age 17, fruition of a family of devout Mennonites.

All this continuity seemed to break in the move to Phoenix. You cannot just start over. You start way back. We left Austin in 1980 however for five years of medical school in Dallas, five because of one year off to bring our first son into reality. It is reality you know, this life. Even there we were connected however, knew people, were part of a social fabric, the whole of Texas. In Dallas we hiked at Greenhills many times. I wrote Native Texans. At Bishop taught poetry and published the Red Rose. I don’t know what we were thinking about for residency. The choices that appeared were Dallas, Albuquerque, Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, Phoenix. We could have had any one we wanted, but the interviews self-selected Phoenix for the validity of the program, the orange trees at Park Central and the permanent aloes growing at the Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Tonto, Mogollon, White Mountains, Mazatals, Chiricahuas…I gave it up for you. Oh, I almost forgot, the Grand Canyon, all the weekends being temp docs at the South rim Clinic, her month there, Desert View, Canyonlands, the North Rim, Arches. We even temped clinics in Kearney.

Another advisory, if these are memoirs they are American and do not cross the water, as Kathleen Raine charged against Help Send This Book Into Space, as American as the east and the west, the south and the north, having lived in parts of them all, as American as the earth, the land itself, with a big stake in the green tree and the herb. Among many statutes of the  psalms and prophets of the whole land of America this comes to mind, from Isaiah: I will take my rest, I will consider in my dwelling place as a clear heat upon herbs, like a cloud of dew in the heat of the harvest. I wrote whole articles about that if you can believe it; its only appearance though was in Italian. I wrote a lot about the green tree too. These are in only that poor member of the world called print. What I mean is that if you want sophistication of the world, Stephen Spender in the Weimar, aside from a week in Paris filling Cleo’s ear in the Tuileries, and some weeks in the Czech, with the giddy singers in Vienna, and more time in Wales, all over ,and in London, Scotland on the Reiff coast, and in Costa Rica–well not here. This is the primitive, the unconscious, the accidental. I was not a good student.

The people in Austin with whom I had incidental but real contact were friendly to the muse. If you outlive them you give an account. Hearing that  the Presbyterian Church of the Covenant (1901), where my mother, father and brother had obsequies, and from Mike Adams of the nature of the passing of Tom Cranfill (1913-1995), I learn also of Hans Beacham (1925-2004), Kurth Sprague (1934-2007) and Ruth Lehmann (1912-2000) of course long gone.  Hans became my friend the day I presented him with two or three quite large trash bags of composted horse manure. He asked how much did I want. Nothing Hans. I was, still am, in favor of gardeners, used to give away plants wholesale.

I was doing some work at Cranfill’s place to pay for the birth of my daughter, a cash baby, cutting down all the bamboo that had grown up and prevented his view from inside down the cliffs of Cliff St. where he lived. This was about 1980, long after he chaired my doctorate. I had been winging it for five years by washing bottles for the Clayton Foundation and running the Pharmacy Drug Garden, each 19 hours a week. We didn’t have insurance, although it didn’t stop me from steak, baked potatoes and Cabernet Sauvignon while she formed in her mother’s womb. Hans and I struck up a minor correspondence wherein he either gave or sent me some copies of his publications, A Modest Madness. I’m sure hundreds of people knew him better. For instance I was not aware of the extensiveness of his drawings for the Texas Quarterly. But a little manure goes a long way. So his letters are here just for the sake of his memory.

Cliff Street, at the end of 22nd St. further up toward town, had been the residence of Tom Goar  who with his wife Suzie and Tyler their young son often hosted a group of friends, Ann Oppenlander, myself, John Cullen. We once semi seriously talked about getting a big place and living together! What foolish times the 60s. One night there was a block party on Cliff St. The street blocked off. Crowds of a few hundred, usual carousing. The night was young, maybe 9 or 10 when a car with three occupants wanted to drive through the center of the party, which resulted in the car getting roughed up, rocked, pounded on. It drove to the end of the street, a dead end, turned around and accelerated into the crowd. There were so many bodies though that it stalled out. Maybe the driver lost his nerve. But he hit a lot of people. Nobody however died. The curbs were high on one side of the street. I remember the driver backing up one last time to get out of his fix before the engine died. There was  a kid just in his taillights who I grabbed and fell against the curb with, then it was over. Well partly. A serious demo of that car began. All the windows were broken out. The occupants looked like they had gone catatonic, were frozen motionless, glassy eyed. They were about to be torn limb from limb when John Cullen asserted himself and required everybody near him to join hands around the car, even while the bottles were still raining down and glass flying. This bought a moment respite. He was insistent. There was one guy who would not release his bottle to me and let fly. But it was the last one. After than it was all clean up and we disappeared from the scene.

Kurth Sprague owned and ran Blackacre stables in West Lake Hills. He had a lot of horse manure. I used to get elephant manure from the circuses. Always on the lookout when I was tending the Experimental Drug and Herb Garden, in conversation with Tom Cranfill this was mentioned.  He put me in contact with Kurth. I had a budget and was proposing a weekly or biweekly run of double pickup loads to the Garden. It is possible to say a thing, even initiate it, but deeply feel it is wrong, like the time Robert Williams wanted to install an astral battery in the fireplace room. Something prevented that, and something prevented Kurth, who sent the paperwork from the U for the contract, all terms agreed, from ever sending it in. There was silence. Months later that was all he said. With a sigh of relief I contracted with Cleo who hauled forty double pickup loads in two weeks from a huge pile at a stable out north and dumped it all over the garden, concentrated in one field especially. Maybe it was twenty double loads, forty in all, but it was significant. I had the U agree to bring all the leaves from the campus and dump them at the Garden. Since I had a tractor these were all plowed in continually so they broke down pretty quick. After two years of this the soil grew dill eight feet high. When it was disbanded the word went out and locals came and scooped as much of the soil as they could for their own gardens. They knew a good thing. Kurth was a follower of the Celt, Ruth Lehmann his mentor. Some of her letters are here too. He produced a book of her poems privately and presented it to her but she corrected all the accents by hand.  She had affection for the muse too. Kurth Sprague arranged and hosted a fine retirement dinner for Tom Cranfill that Cleo and I attended. These things stemmed from having to select a committee to oversee the doctorate.


I guess one wants to recruit people of understanding. Willis Pratt 1908-1991), Ambrose Gordon (1929-1987), Tom Whitbread, and Tom Cranfill were my idea of a sweetheart committee. I’d have entertained Warner Barnes for the American part but he was not compatible. I never took a class with any of them, except Whitbread. Played tennis with him too, but he couldn’t stand up so we went to have a beer. He came to several poetry readings I had on Spicewood Springs Rd. I sat in on Cranfill’s Shakespeare, Gordon’s Aiken. I guess I did take a Blake seminar with Willis Pratt. That was the third outing of my Tyger: Blake’s system in the round. I really wanted to get Willis Pratt’s Blake slides that he had showed in the seminar so I asked him to serve on the committee. I did get them too, made copies! That was before the Blake Archive.  Later in my reply to Hans I tell how Ambrose Gordon began the oral questioning with the metaphysicals. But in the center of that two hours I addressed Willis Pratt with the reminiscence  that he and I spoken before about Shelley’s Adonais. He had seen 50 Spenserian stanzas I had written on Persephone, the same stanza pattern as Adonais, so delivered an extempore discourse on Shelley among the stars.  The only contribution I recall Whitbread making was a yes or no question I guessed right at. Had I guessed wrong he would have failed me. Part retribution perhaps for his not appearing to give the minor oral at his house as scheduled, since he had hit a tree. The makeup was entirely brie, but I was saved by the arrival of one his “stews” as Hans puts it, and made escape. We were rolling along toward the end of the questioning of the orals when I cited Lowell as a summary of something objectionable metaphysically, gored by the climeractic of his want, he stalls above her [me] like an elephant. When asked what was the problem, I replied, its metaphysical, whereupon Dr. Cranfill said, full circle and stopped the exam, the time having expired anyway. I left the room for them to cast my fate. It was said that they had not heard such matters delivered with like enthusiasm.

I had given Ambrose Gordon a piece of octopus meat to illustrate Aiken’s idea of corpuscular consciousness. Dr. Cranfill was just what I wanted and expected, an art collector and editor, he did not eat footnotes, as John Velz, his Shakespeare competitor boasted his students did. I gave Cranfill an early proof of Calendar and he put three in the Texas Quarterly. It was only years later that I saw he had edited, changed some the words to “The Way Into the Flowering Heart”! I have changed them back. What editors are for. As long as it’s not too much. He later published “Song” from my “translation” of the Taliessin Poems. I showed these to Ruth Lehmann, which elicited her letter. Cranfill’s office and home were a good breath of air. Art books covered his office shelves. His foyer had screens set up to further display the pleasing minimal line drawings of little animals, magic real groundhogs and men he collected from Mexico. I took my mother and father to meet him when they visited after the finish. He was quite genial and pleasant, that’s why when there was a conspiracy within the English Department of hard drones to dump him from teaching Shakespeare. It was easy to respond to them with a letter. Kurth Sprague was behind this defense. In any case I got a civil reply from the Chair at the time thanking me for my general letter of approbation and the whole issue was canned. There were many letters. He used to ride a stationary bike during the evening news for half an hour, to keep his legs. He would often walk to school from his home. One time on the way home he was held up by a street person, or I should say this was attempted. He did not look tough, but that belies his spirit and his biking. He was able to deck, or maybe it was sweep this wannabe and continued on his way.

There was other antagonism at the U, undercurrents of anger besides Megaw co-opting a teacher’s union and Moldenhauer decreeing nobody could talk to the press. Someone was stealing Garden plants just put in the ground. I found out who, and approached him with the news. After ripping my shirt he came at me with a shovel, which I sidestepped and held.  I said to him, calm down.  He could easily have the shovel sticking out of his pocket, so settled for threatening to kill me. That same day he insulted a friend of mine who knew nothing of this and punched his lights out. He wrote a letter to the President of the U then that I was a bad person, and filed an avoidance order with the Justice of the Peace. I insisted on a hearing, which occurred in a month or two. The JP dismissed him first, then apologized to me  and said this was the kind of thing to be endured from the public eye! Carlton Lake of the HRC in those years punched out an assistant and he had a hearing before a similar JP. But Lake’s book on French bibio, Confessions of a Literary Archaeologist, is to be read with gratitude and interest. I keep it next to Farella’s, The Wind in a Jar and Hayot’s, The Hypothetical Mandarin. After I got acclimated to the rare book trade, once on a visit to San Antonio I stopped at the Jenkins Book Company,  after the fire, but the results were interesting. Charred spines, smoke residue, like the coat of Hector, tattered and stained, advertised in the HRC catalogue that year. Bibilophiles wanted to go beyond the book into the personal effects of the Auteur, who inhabited the high state. They already had Michener’s eyeglasses and desk at the HRC.  Ken Sanders in Salt Lake had the ceder tree Abbey urinated on when first seeing the Grand Canyon. King Tut was under negotiation. I came away from Jenkins echoing moth and rust and thieves.

I’m drawn to these thoughts as methods of the unconscious, like the Sacred Stories of the Sweet Grass Cree, as Howard Norman’s take on them, to Stephen Spender, specifically his view, which I share, that there is some experience, vision or insight behind the poem more important than the poem, not just a place to hang its hat. This is what we remember. The text is written in memory and in air, a chord across time that links similar impressions. There being two kinds of writing, foreground, overt, conscious memory, and hidden, unconscious “so that remembering is like creating them anew, or like experiencing them for the first time,” (World, 53), the modern in the end seeks to escape consciousness, get out of the front brain into the ocean that supports the boats that sail. To experience everything for the first time I want and don’t want to learn to laminate, mix oxides in clay, impasto it on a surface wrapped around a tube, stretched till it tears, or just before. I don’t want to remember this time next time. As vacant and afeared as before a competition, a tennis match, a golf game, keyed up and slowed down, utterly blank, I come out of it I pretty much like I don’t know what it is. And the next day, the pieces  two feet or more that weigh twenty pounds, bending over them, stretching them up, cause some severe muscle pain, not to speak that I cannot sleep much that night for all the contradictions. To do this with words in letting go Spender says in contrast to Auden, I could not accept the idea that the poetic experience was left behind while the poem developed according to verbal needs of its own which had no relation to the experience.  (World, 54). Practicing outside idea, myth, creed, movements, out and in, the experience of the field of amaranth (so called),  cogwheels in the sky, the angel in memory continued. This so called fiction dictated by idea is revised by sound, then skewed by scribe into a tapestry. A drone becomes a dove.

Some Letters

There seem to be only two letters of Hans Beacham in the file, but there must have been more. There are not that many lovers of poetry. The first is enclosed in a printed booklet of twelve pages called Cautious Fugue, January 1987, including one poem of Willis Pratt, fifteen of Joanne M. Thaman and two of Ambrose Gordon’s.

Dear Andy — This “thing” you are looking at is a one-only copy, produced for you, to show an example of the format I might try to use for a small magazine. The poems printed here were taken at random from their storage in the computer’s memory. I simply run through and pluck out what I want, then send a replica to this file where this letter (to you) resides.

What I describe above has no limitation. I can usually do what I imagine. Eventually, the mechanical part of having the poems on paper does have a few limitations, but they are good. If I go beyond, say, thirty two pages I have a small problem with folding. The edges don’t come out just right. But that will keep me from trying to do too much. As you can see, even with the few pages in this one-only copy, a lot of poems can appear.

I like for the publication to be easy to read, and “nice” in the hand. Or in the pocket. Beyond those notions, such things as “fine” printing with huge margins on rare paper are of no particular interest in this sort of project.

Man, I was really pleased to have your note, from Phoenix, with the news that you’ll expose some art in a few days. Congratulations and best wishes. In your February 21 letter of last year, you mentioned that Pat’s circumstances might involve Arizona. I had hoped you might call in June if you came to Austin, and maybe you did, but I have been away most of the time with unexpected responsibilities. There have been a few surprises for me, too: soon I’ll have my 62nd birthday, which is surprise enough, but in serious areas there are parts of me which are no longer in like-new condition. I try to be detached as repairs are made. So strange.

Do you know how long you’ll be in Phoenix? Please don’t become misplaced because I want to stay informed of your gyrations, especially the poetic ones. I found PL3:HSTBIS most absorbing — the copy resides in a spot where I go to have a serious read. Speaking of spots and serious exertions, do you remember that ages ago you gave me a small but sturdy rosemary plant growing in a 6″ pot? I planted it in the garden I have about 90 miles north of here, east of Temple. Now it is a mound of about three feet, and continues to give great pleasure to me and my stews.

Best wishes for a splendid new year,  Hans Beacham

19 April 1987

Dear Andy–Your February 7 letter so pleased me that I set out to reply immediately, but just as quickly, unexpected circumstances took over, claiming most of my time, all of my humor, and left no energy at all.

You remember my plan to be printer and publish a collection of Ambrose Gordon’s poems. Well, I got a copy ready for him, all finished except for a binding. Silence. Finally, in early February, a lady whom I did not know telephoned to explain that Ambrose and Mary were at that clinic in San Diego (the clinic which believes in magic and tries to cure cancer with carrot juice). Mary asked the lady, an Austin friend of the Gordons, to explain why they had not acknowledged the unbound volume which they knew had been delivered to their Austin address. Ambrose died, just after his son Mack flew out to San Diego with the unbound copy which Ambrose saw and acknowledged (smile and twinkle–his cancers were of the esophagus, pancreas, liver, and prostate, all discovered in early January), but he and I had gone over the proofs so many times that we knew by then that the copy from the computer was perfect. No errors.

Ambrose retired last year. he was 65. After he was put away in Savannah, Mary returned to Austin to face all the adulation. She and I talked at great length by telephone because I avoid those group things. Then she treated herself to suicide. A fine artist, she had been persuaded by Ambrose and me to do several illustrations for the poems. Most successful. I suppose Ambrose was an atheist. Mary was a fierce covert to Rome. They were lovingly compatible.

While all that was going on, Lois Trice’s doctor phoned me and said she was about to die. She was 91. After much chaos (“Go ye not gentle into that good night…”) she died. Tom Cranfill, with power of attorney, etc., came up from Mexico. (When he was a little boy in Dallas, she taught him his Latin. He was the nearest to being all that might be her remaining family.) By the way, you planted some unusual white salvia, on the edge of the cliff, just off the terrace of Tom’s house. Suddenly a big clump of it appeared this spring, filled with blooms.

Well, back to “Cautious Fugue” and the delight of giving you a surprise. Yes, a word processor was used in the production. There are many types available. I do not know how familiar you are with the jargon, so at the risk of sounding too simple, I’ll give you a quick explication.

Software, often called “utilities,” is a program on a floppie disc. The disc, made of material similar to magnetic tape for tape recording, goes round and rough in a little square jacket which balloons out with a bit of air when the square is put into the disc drive of a computer. This goes around sort of like a phonograph disc on a record player. The disc drive “reads” the disc and causes the computer to start doing things. The computer with its drive(s) is hardware.

For “Cautious Fuge” and this letter, etc. my Kaypros have their important relationships with my four printers. This letter you’ll have will be printed on a Juki 6100 printer which produces beautiful crisp copy, suitable for lithographic reproduction. There are many  styles of type. This one employs microspacing so the effect is one of real type. Another printer, a Mannesmann-Tall 1601, is a so-called dot matrix printer which prints rapidly. It can do 20 characters per inch, or as big as five characters per inch. Wonderful for proofs or just casual printouts. Very fast. [In the following paragraph, I will direct the printer to go back or NOT doing a flush margin on the right. You see, I could appear to be using a typewriter instead of a so-called depersonalized computer. They are not depersonalized at all. I named my first one Mnemosyne, and I hug and kiss them all the time, just the way I hug and kiss my cameras.]

I want to send you a copy of the Ambrose Gordon book, but his unexpected death, followed by Mary’s suicide, has caused a legal mess. Who owns what? Who has authority? Can any of their various wills be considered valid? Ambrose and I had been at this little project since 1983. We never hurried. I sort of dreaded finishing the project because I got such pleasure out of what was really a tactile encounter with poems. Now, while I own the “objects” I produced, I do not own any rights associated with the objects. In a week or so, I will see if I can send a copy to you, and if I find there is a legal problem, you can return the book to me later. Okay?

Your life with Pat and Elizabeth in Phoenix sounds rich, what with the three of you being so civilized. When I saw Willis Pratt (at a small sit-down drunk to remember Lois Trice), I repeated your remark about “collecting modern firsts” and how “there’s more worth in a good dust jacket than there ever was in a book!” but I never really got through to him. He is enjoying being old and mean and highly revered; and I  say okay. He was pleased to hear your name, even though he never really got what I was repeating. Are you aimed at some specific goal when Pat’s year ends? What is her area of medicine?

The warmth and enthusiasm of your February 7 letter were important to me. I felt encouraged. We’ll just have to see what happens. Having “A Green Tree” was an added pleasure. That sort of beautiful printing, however, does not usually happen with computers, unless they told to set the type photographically. This is done nowadays, especially in newspapers and magazines where even the lowly typewriter no longer exists. And seeing and reading  “A Green Tree” reminds me that I have always liked and admire e3veryting I have read that you have written.

Meanwhile, best regards, [Hans]

Ruth Lehmann At the very end of my sojourn in Austin I thought to show the Taliessin Poems to Ruth Lehmann, as she might like the idea of the effort. Why and how I came to  attempt such a thing stemmed from preparations for my first trip to the British Museum, London and Wales. I came on the four ancient books and conceived a kind of road map to follow in tracing sites relating to those poems and to Merlin, multipled all over Britain, but especially in the north. This took us to many standing stones, forts, Stonehenge three times in the rain with rainbows, it was not fenced at all then.Old Sarum, Bath, dozens of sites in Carnarvonshire and Angelsey, I didn’t take notes so much as impressions that carried along for two years until about1976 while I was driving from Bandera to Austin and began to compose Song, a villanelle that appeared in TQ: “Only three have returned from the battle’s rage.” I composed it in my head as I drove for those hours. It was folded into the three themes of the four books, the agony of war, the love of woman, the worship of God. so began to compose Takes of these had begun a few years before and continued or adapted withwork already in progress. One “Long the days and long the nights I held this image in my mind of red on gold” had to do with the last bushman of van der Post  introduced to me by Bill Lee. Five of the battle poems saw daylight in Austin in print in Latitude 30° 18 (Winter 1985), but the love poems and the divine sonnets attributed to Taliesin were no more his than the battle poems, all foisted on him after the manner of a mask, conceived from Shakespeare, so sometimes I called them Poems of the Unknown Soldier, buried as it were in the Welsh countryside, to consecrate the connection between Taliesin’s meditations and the entire Welsh nation, entirely fabricated. The Unknown Soldier came mythically to every country and each person. They pretended to be written in the mystical tradition at the battle sites of Britain, Merlin, Aneirin, the sea. The Poems of the Unknown Soldier were accompanied by the medieval manuscript of the Hanes Taliesin, properly understood as transformations of the living in the company as praises of Jesus, full of craving for God, a rough-hewn worship like Old Testament battle songs where they go out praising, and among them also songs of love. It’s a little amazing how far a  fancy will go. It was claimed that these took after the dozen historical elegies of the Sixth century in traditions Caesar wrote of in the conquest of Britain, tales of transformation that anonymousists in the mask of Taliesin added later to mystical religious work of Biblical and prophetic subjects. Myrddin, said to have gone after the Battle of Arfderydd (573 AD), and source of our modern “Merlin” out of Nennius (9th century), is made historical counterpart with Taliesin, and words ascribed to him in the 10th century Historia Britonnum flit about them in the battles. So the four traditional Welsh bards, Taliesin, Aneirin, Myrddin and Llywarch Hen, extant in manuscripts of the twelfth, thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, although the thirteenth century Book of Taliesin survives only in the fourteenth century Red Book of Hergest, are said to be the main source of the fifty-eight poems attributed to Taliesin.

Right before leaving Austin I looked up Ruth Lehmann and gave her a copy. I knew her husband Winifred from my days in the linguistic. I had turned down an offer when he suggested I take a government grant, a kind of pre DARPA affair. While I did not study with Ruth I had with Rosalie Colie at Iowa, her Science and Imagination in the Renaissance and through her with Marjorie Nicolson, so appreciate what her students mean when the pay tribute to her influence. She replied:

1 May 1981, Beltain

Dear Mr. Reiff:  Didn’t I have your wife in class some years ago? Thank you for letting me see your Taliessin. I think you have a real feel for the music of words and a sense of rhythm–qualities too often lacking in our free-verse present. your use of some of the intricate Provencal schemes shows your daring in your skill.

To keep this from being all praise, I have two suggestions: inversions, distorted syntax her and there are disturbing because so much seems smooth and perfect. I cite one example from “Nightingale,” I take it back, I misinterpreted. But there are some “did’s” that are unnatural. Your work is too good to have any flaws. The second: though you use assonance and consonance as well as rime, your rimes by and large are banal.

Many of your poems I don’t believe anyone could improve on. This is truly excellent work.

Most sincerely yours, RP Lehmann

So I sent her a copy of a Calendar of Poems after that to which she responded by returning her note with a copy of her Poems published by her students in appreciation, Celtic to the core, inscribing it to “A. E. Reiff, a man of talent.”

17 May 1981 Dear Andy Reiff: I have greatly enjoyed your Calendar of Poems. You show great variety of mood, voice, and from. I hope you did mean for me to keep it. In return I’m sending you my own privately printed poems. I particularly liked the early poems, perhaps because they really sing and I had this past year as a student a local poet who could well be Johnny one-note, and seems to consider four-letter words poetry in their own right. H also was stuffed with fundamentalist religion in his youth, has rebelled, and his verse is monotonous without insight or music. perhaps it is a wonder Christianity survives at all.

You ring many bells, waken many thoughts. Whatever you wind up doing for a living, don’t give up poetry. The Renaissance undercurrent helps to give your work depth and variety. Sincerely, RP Lehmann

Ruth Lehmann’s comment about the banal rhyme, the flaw, is worth noting. End stopped rhyme is banal in itself perhaps, internal rhyme less so. I had long much puzzled the banal occurrences in some of these poems, especially when they appear bracketing such unbelievable events as the word written in earth’s center in the matter of its making, or I bleed with him for he loves the world, or a being light radiant of golden man / whose living passion, like a redding sun. All these from the so called divine sonnets attributed to Taliesin also end the Calendar for the month of February. Tom Whitbread guffawed at the heart as an aging sack in the  last lines there once,  Where Love-Lies-Bleeding stretches all bejeweled. Out of the most baroque amaranth of Milton’s heaven,  flowers bloomed a vein of love and life to wind about a disembodied cross, a lot to take, but now my heart is but an aging sack / for love’s gone to the world and won’t come back. Never having never been able to tame these made it obvious that something else was at play. I hate to say it feels that if you want to climb or fall you have to contradict the text itself, an antidote, with antimony, the banal rhyme in this case, the flaw, although the contradiction could otherwise occur, the point being that there are not going to be perfect lines, but there will be  imperfect ones.

My response to Hans seems to have two states, a  hand written version together with the typed, partly the same, mostly different. I try to combine them

21 May 1987

Dear Hans,

I received The Avenues of the Cabinets, thank you, and will return it if necessary. Your letter was a shock-as the experiences you relate must have been for you. After I had decided to ask Ambrose Gordon to serve on my committee I sat in a semester of his  modern poetry class to know his mind a little, but the most likeable thing he maybe said to me was at the oral – first question – what are the metaphysical poets? I said… Rosemund Tuve says…he said, what do you think Donne would say about her? He could care less, I said, then gave my opinions as he had wanted me too, but he began the thing this way and I appreciated it a lot. That was the kind of committee I needed. I met [his wife] Mary several times at parties, esp. the Potters (she once read my hand as if such a thing were not mad) [AG once said he would never let her read his. She peered up  my fingertips the long way and said something like, you will benefit from more experience! But the look said something else, which we will not reveal here.] Her death is dismaying. If the poet ever has the last word over the critic that will be the best hope. I thank you for [the return] of the image of the white salvia blooming upon the precipice in all this as something to cling to.

I could not immediately respond, not time intervening, but my second (!) burglar at the window two nights ago (duly apprehended, etc.) and other events have shocked me in another direction, so that I presently feel slightly dizzy or euphoric. I am now two for two after the fashion of burglar napping and goods recovery, but it is rather wearing and saps one’s humor.

We have these past weeks negotiated various footpaths in the Four Peaks, Superstition and Mazatzal Mts. Pat carrying Aeyrie, age 2, at 35 lbs, most of the way on her back – up and down and up. Elizabeth, keeping a hearty, quiet pace between us. We average maybe 6 miles a walk. What a treat. In 40 min we can be in the wild – in 2 hrs, where wolves prowl (seriously) with elk, fly agaric mushrooms, pine and glacial rock. After this year we will need some healing-one month remains of the intern year. Three are required for board certification in Pat’s specialty nonspecialty, family medicine. Who knows what our goal is in all this. It has been already 7 or 8 years in the making.

My attitudes about it are complex. In the enclosed mag Fiction Review, is printed a story of mine, “Heavenly Agencies,” under the pseudonym of Eagin Arthur which was first an expression of irreparable contempt for all publishing efforts but may become something more. Did I not mention the birth of Aeyrie (April 3, 1985, our first son, gold-haired, hawk-like cries?)? He has gold hair! He managed to drink a little of some mineral spirits in which I had cleaned a paint brush with white paint so that it looked like milk – this 2 months ago – the story is a part of that experience of what then happened, which now I have also received from the dozen police standing on my lawn Monday night! We live in a mixed neighborhood here which is within five minutes of Pat’s hospital, Good Samaritan. Other experiences of medicine incline me to stay away from “the program” Pat is in as far as I can. The punitive, authoritarian sexist mall-ism of medicine.  So you see I am well adjusted!  The acknowledged universal agonies of the intern years will certainly leave us both with ironies to meditate all our lives; perhaps this book will be called “The Unmaking of a Doctor.” If you’re in medicine it helps to be 25, inexperienced and not too sharp, none which she is! It immensely helps to be male too. Hers is a three year program leading to board certification if Family Practice after which we ideally choose a locale and town in which to live and “practice.” We cannot see even tomorrow though so ours is a daily existence. I don’t want you to think however that this all is not producing growth in us because it certainly is. The old ladies in the immediate neighbor hood view me I think as a godsend, want me to joint the police force.! But conflict is not rounding our edges but sharpening them and since we have no TV to deaden senses, or sugar, I feel invigorated really, an appropriate mentality for the wilderness that surrounds Phoenix.  Aeyrie though is a true son of my spirit.

This wilderness, namely the Four Peaks, Superstition Mts., Mazatzal Mts, with 45 minutes to 1 ½ hours from our home is the real reason we came to Phoenix. We continually walk it, After some years more I hope to be able to write of these things,  capture the incredible event of simultaneous creosote, orioles, tanagers, king snakes, bobcat prints, shale cliffs, cool piney air, and this is just local. If we drive to Flagstaff, 3 hours, the San Francisco Peaks, Wupaki Desert, [Sunset Crater], Navajo and Hopi reservations, Canyon de Chelley, Grand Canyon, Oak Creek Canyon are all waiting there, and we’ve already been for the first time. Even closer is the Mogollon Rim and surrounding vast wilderness of elk and wolf packs, which we have heard howling in the night while camping. [Chinle, Tuba City, Navajo State Fair]

All this while I’ve been sketching such things in pastels, modeling clay sculpture (human figures) and book collecting (re the dust jacket, “On books 20 years old or older, the average increase in value added by the dustwrapper would be close to 400%” Allen Ahern, Book Collecting, 25), and most of all homemaking. Elizabeth, now 7, avidly reads the Hobbit & Narnia Books, with the encyclopedia etc. She turns up suddenly singing

“Far over the misty mountains old”- Of the Dwarves Song – all the stanzas! She multiplies one digit times any 2 or 3. Adds columns of 4 figures, climbs mountains. Home teaching has not taught her what she can’t do – but what she can. However, except for her rich imagination she is not a prodigy.

I’m glad to hear news of Austin and familiar names and places and I am interested in this book production by computer which seems to produce a superior product. The right-hand flush margin for instance has excellent space justification, especially compared to The Fiction Review which was done on a typewriter I think. I have recently sold a Green Tree and another like it “The Branch” to The Mennonite with perhaps more to follow. Imagine that, for real money!

I like this book collecting but don’t get to see much Hogarth Press material. Dust jackets  in good condition more than double the book’s value – esp. since without the dj the modern book is unsalable. Willis Pratt liked a long 50 stanza Spenserian poem of mine, but it never has seen daylight. Truthfully, I find that the little mags, contests, and other markets can’t stand a poem that exceeds 1 page, 32 lines, just as they can’t stand a poem to be about something other than personal inexactitude, pain and dissonance in a disconnected style, imagistic not philosophical in the main. I recently did a parody and sent it off to a Chop block Pub called “Yum Puppie.”

Little square tabloids like fryers [like fryers]

Littered ultitude ‘ools

Ad ernal art.

Or the bite of “Poets” profane pain:

The maker’s hat is newly drowned.

These insincere speakings intend mockery of the Guggenheim, Ford Ford poets. If this is a step toward distancing myself I’m glad my “Eagin Arthur” is a character long in the HA borning –  a couple of sequels going.

I’m also enclosing, I don’t think you’ve seen it, a copy of my Native Texans which I was rereading recently because I’m finding almost all these plants in AZ too. I hope you recognize many of the plants, of course, the several picture books available, produced by A&M, TX Monthly Press, and UT press will help remind you of any you can’t immediately place. I wrote that book after a dream of the dying Carroll Abbott, who in the dream was disconsolate. I had written one article (Equisiteum), sent it to him and he liked it so much I continued writing, sending him at least two more articles. Oddly, I finished the thing very near the time of his demise several moths later. It made the rounds of all the regional TX presses, was accepted by Eakin and Corona and reneged also by both-something about the market and the oil glut I guess-and at present is at the bottom of the drawer. I did print about 30 or 40 copies like this one, most of which are gone, but I present it to you in memoriam of my love for Austin, the hill country, plants and Texas.

Yours sincerely, Andy


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