Gerrit Lansing (February 25, 1928-February 11, 2018)

Portrait of Gerrit Lansing by Jane Freilicher

Gerrit Lansing, poet, scholar, friend, passed away peacefully this past night. A man of wider & deeper knowledge than almost anyone I have known, Gerrit was as familiar with, and brought as much care to contemporary poetry & poetics than to older literatures, to the traditionary sciences than to modern science, to the making of music than to the preparing of food. A conversationalist sans pareil, he moved with grace, enthusiasm & profound savoir & savoir-faire from, say, a poet such as Henry Vaughn to his friend Charles Olson, or from the likes of John Dee to the likes of Harry Smith, or from Roland Barthes to Stephen Jonas — and knew the traceries that connected all of them.

“a writ is a route” he wrote in his great alchemical sequence “The Soluble Forest,” and he traced his route in one book, one gathering of poems, added to over time, re-published in time, and that started out in 1966 with the first immanentisation of The Heavenly Tree Grows Downward by Robert & Joby Kelly’s matter books. Jane Freilicher’s portrait of Lansing reproduced above was the frontispiece of that book. Here, two poems of Gerrit’s:



Who bury the dead

must from the grave

establish a habit


Who bury the dead

lead forth the bride

stainless in dress


the morning-

glory creeps




Who bury the dead

in fetal position

knees pulled up to chin


Who bury the dead

to rise again





              A WRIT is a route, a way and the map of a way. It figures and we make it our figure, you make of it your figure, I make it of mine. It is mind, and no mind, inner and dinner and outer and doubter.

             Doubtless these figures are crystal.

             From the center something spreads out, that then there now. From zero jumps two, two being how something is apprehended. Only a stone’s throw from writing to root. The rite of winter is the root of spring.

             The house stands on its cellar and grows up: Also grows down from its garrett invisibly, as the crown of a tree flourishes the idea of its root.

             Shine, heaven, darken and shine, that the process may stir as things emerge from the void of no-thing. It is plenty. All around us the letters are cast, to be spelt, to be sown like spelt, grain of the garment unseen as green as it makes it.

             Do you, do I?


Time now to go read Gerrit again. For those new to his work, here is a link to the poetry gathered in Heavenly Tree, Northern Earth, & here a link to A February Sheaf, essays, reviews, proses.

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8 Responses

  1. Michael Franco says:

    Beautiful Pierre Thank you

  2. Pat Nolan says:

    Yes, time to reacquaint ourselves with Gerrit’s work. “Shine, heaven, darken and shine, that the process may stir as things emerge from the void of no-thing.”

    Sorry to hear of his passing.

  3. David Matlin says:

    My wife, the artist Gail Schneider, loved anything Gerrit played and everytime we visited he played either
    Cole Porter or Scriabin on his Baby Grand to wake Gail up and greet her as she came downstairs. He was our dear friend, our lovely guide, and the host of always dangerous inspirations he made so inviting and by that also invited the fates and prophesies, and as well the good manners for diplomacies among the living and the dead.
    We Love and Honor You Gerrit, Gail Schneider and David Matlin

  4. Mark Weiss says:

    Thanks, Pierre. I’m lost in thoughts of him.

  5. John Mulrooney says:

    Thanks for this Pierre. One of my true teachers. I almost brought Gerrit up when I saw you and Nicole the other night. The plans for this event at the Gloucester Writer’s Center have been underway for a while. Now it transitions from birthday party to life celebration. A WRIT is a route. A way and the map of a way.

  6. G. E. Schwartz says:

    Thank you!

  7. Murat Nemet-Nejat says:

    Thank you, Pierre, for the obit.

  8. Reuben Woolley says:

    Thanks for introducing me to his work, Pierre.

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