Vanitas, #2, ed. Vincent Katz (New York, 2007)

by Jack Kimball

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Vanitas 2
Vincent Katz, editor

It's well-known that East and West mix it up somewhere. Like in Bolinas or Boulder. Boulder's is a mixology ethos easily mistaken for the smart neighborliness of Bolinas if not San Francisco. Every year a couple of classes or more at Naropa U. attract and launch the latest great. And there are innumerable presses and zines in or around Boulder that package the buzz of the good and the new visiting Colorado from either coast and elsewhere, studying, teaching, and/or performing at the university. (At Naropa, performance is teaching and learning.) This season a portion of the packaging rights go to Vanitas editor Vincent Katz, who's not based in Boulder, exactly, who nonetheless looks as if he's been gathering choice work as he's knocking back whiskeys with Jack Collom, Anne Waldman, Lewis Warsh, et al. So that's the first thing to keep in mind, he's got Boulder covered, and he's got the ethos down, younger and more established, famous and not-so (more, below).

Second point, that Vincent, like me, turned to Stephanie Young to help collect work by writers from Bolinas and the Bay Area explains the enormity of success he's had expanding one theme for Vanitas 2, "Far Out West," a 50-page "supplement," as Vincent labels it, that feels like an already-needed appendix to Bay Poetics (edited by Stephanie), work from Susan Gervitz, Suzanne Stein, Lewis MacAdams (now in LA), Ron Silliman (a national monument outside Philly), Mary Burger, Norma Cole, Cynthia Sailers, Del Ray Cross, Brent Cunningham, dozens more! Putting Ron in "Far Out West" is an editorial statement. Ability to entertain seeming-incongruities, the genius behind such a move, is a third point. Vincent doesn't seem anxious to give up on good ideas even when they're hard to pull together. He manages within 172 pages to flesh out the West theme and a second theme, as well, "anarchisms," that brings in work from near-hippies that haven't been publishing that much -- Elaine Equi (a contributing editor), for instance, Bob Holman, Duncan McNaughton, Joanne Kyger, or (gulp) me -- and then even rarer rads like Spicerian Larry Kearny, free jazz musician-poet Steve Dalachinsky, and Living Theater cofounder Judith Malina, among others. Vincent goes to additional sources of anarchy, younger writers, not just the famous-among-most-peers, Alli Warren or Prageeta Sharma, for example, but some who even while prize winners are less familiar, Kyle Dargan, Amanda Nadelberg, Elizabeth Hughey, Heller Levinson. I found two Bostonians I'll have to meet soon, Peter Jay Shippy ("I'm like straw. I'm your ear / when you were a boy.") and Sean Casey who says he's from J.P. and leaves his 617 phone number in a poem to prove it.

Now that's an outline. Haven't gotten to the surprises. There are scores. Here are three. 1) I don't know who Morgan Russell is but I would love to read more from him. He's already in three places in Vanitas 2; notably he leads the issue off in the format of his e-mail to Vincent: "had a dream some time back after discovering that person holding my family photos had died...the object of any search uncertain... // so the dream: // I ascend...everything thought lost is there." 2) Might anyone else agree John Latta and Kasey Mohammad deploy contracted diction to produce comparably neo-baroque vocals? Check their pieces in Vanitas 2 to see. 3) And finally, Ed Sanders shoots to the top addressing his readers, "O revs of the Morrow / Work in extra dimensions / Think 100 years ahead..." Yay! Then in the poem "Live Free Or Die" he lays down this stripped down narrative cum litany connected to Allen Ginsberg's first experience with LSD in Cambridge:

Allen took very seriously
his psychedelic experience with Tim Leary...

Among the first of those he turned on to psilocybin
were Thelonius Monk, Dizzy Gillespie, Willem de Kooning
Franz Kline & Robert Lowell.

Great graphics include a fanning windmill from LRSN and several photo-collaged lithographs by Kiki Smith.