THE INTENT ON
Collected Poems, 1962- 2006
672 pages; hardcover; gorgeous Thorpe Feidt painting on cover; excellently designed by Jonathan Greene; $40 from
This is a book I have been waiting for for many years now and finally, finally it is here: the Collected Poems of Ken Irby, one of our major neglectorinos (to use that word again) — essentially one of our very best poets, and someone whose work has been a touchstone for my own thinking about poetry and poetics since the the late sixties when I first encountered his work when given a copy of the just published The Flower of Having Passed Through Paradise in a Dream (Matter books, Annandale-on-Hudson 1968). It is that book (maybe together with Robert Kelly’s Finding the Measure, published the same year) that opened up the live possibilities of American poetry for me beyond the Beat poetry (Bob Kaufman and Allen Ginsberg, primarily) that had brought me over from Europe to the so-called New World.
In Irby there was also for me the discovery of that wider American space of the Plains as central to any active imagination of America, and of a certain congruence between that dizzyingly wide open outside SPACE (as Olson spelled it) and a just as wide and even more unexplored (at least by me) post-Rimbaldian, post-Artaudian inner space. To cite Irby:
Looking quietly for the place
to go in byand in the quiet, lasting miles to sea, hoursinland over the hills to the valleyrealizing to be here is tohave entered the whole —There is no illusory world, there is only the world