Beverly Dahlen Tribute at Small Press Traffic Saturday December 13, 2008

Beverly Dahlen and Charles Alexander

A Beverly Dahlen Fete!

On Saturday afternoon Small Press Traffic honored the writing of Beverly Dahlen. Members of the SPT community read selections of Dahlen’s work and discussed her contributions to experimental writing in the Bay Area and beyond. Beverly Dahlen then closed the event with a reading of a number of poems, some of which have never been published or read publicly.

The event was very moving as each participant(including two--Ron Silliman and Rachel Blau Du Plessis-- who were not present but whose tributes were read by David Buuck) spoke of his or her encounter with Dahlen's work.

Stephen Vincent spoke about being Dahlen's first publisher and meeting her in 1967. Lauren Shufran talked about her ongoing relationship with Dahlen's work and read one of Dahlen's poems dated on the day of Lauren's birth. Charles Alexander, the director of Chax Press and and early publisher of Dahlen, read a poem of his own that could not have been written, he said, without his reading of Dahlen's work. Jocelyn Saidenberg read from A Reading 8 and discussed Dahlen's generative negativity, her uncanny reading and reader as radical. Bruce Boone spoke of his first encounter with Dahlen in the rain and their subsequent sojourn at Bob Gluck's house where Bob offered them shelter, dry clothing and food. Bruce talked about how the dirty vatic and the ecstatic coincide in Dahlen's work, work that is characterized by both intellectualism and an impoverishment that is a grounding force. Elizabeth Robinson passed out lovely stamped mementos, mini broadsides on tags that are 4 inches by 2 inches. Robinson talked about Dahlen's engagement with the real--the daily concrete, the complex ecosystem of her work and the mystery that it entails. Rob Halpern spoke of Beverly Dahlen's Devotion Toward the Real, reading her work through Dahlen's engagement with Jack Spicer and Emily Dickinson. Rob and Beverly have been part of an ongoing reading group at Mark Linenthal's home and Beverly had brought some Spicer and Dickinson in to read. Rob also produced copies of some of Dahlen's work published in Gallery Works in the seventies and nineties, including "The Imaginary Conversation" in which Bruce Boone, Robin Blaser and Jack Spicer figure. Kathleen Fraser spoke of her meeting with Dahlen through Mark Linenthal and Frances Jaffer and their subsequent establishment of the journal HOW(ever). Finally, Beverly read a number of never-before-heard poems.

The event was revelatory. The speakers were thoughtful and their readings of Dahlen's work overlapped and radiated in mutliple directions. I will be returning to Beverly Dahlen's books soon. They are on my desk.

Congratulations Beverly and many thanks to all the engaged and moving responses to Dahlen's work. Bravo.

About Beverly Dahlen (courtesy of Small Press Traffic's web site):
A native of Portland, Oregon, Beverly Dahlen has lived in San Francisco for many years. Her first book, Out of the Third, was published by Momo’s Press in 1974. Two chapbooks, A Letter at Easter (Effie’s Press, 1976) and The Egyptian Poems (Hipparchia Press, 1983) were followed by the publication of the first volume of A Reading in 1985 (A Reading 1—7, Momo’s Press). Since then, three more volumes of A Reading have appeared. Chax Press published A Reading 8—10 (1992); Potes and Poets Press: A Reading 11—17 (1989); Instance Press: A Reading 18—20 (2006). Chax Press also published the chapbook A-reading Spicer & Eighteen Sonnets in 2004. Ms. Dahlen has also published work in numerous periodicals and anthologies. A forthcoming issue of Crayon will publish poetry and her essay on beauty.


Steven Fama said...

Thanks for this report. The event sounds great, especially since Dahlen read some of her work.

Is it possible to say a bit more about what you describe as the "generative negativity" that one of the speaker's talked about? I'm curious about this.

Thanks again.

charles said...

I touched on something like "generative negativity" in my omments on Bev's work, at this event, too. It's something like the nothing that is something, possibly everything. In her essay, "Tautology and the Real," she writes,
"Nothing is diamond is mind. There will always be a reading of 'nothing' in which it is full, rather than empty." -- charles alexander