Peter Dale Scott

b. 1929

Peter Dale Scott is a poet and parapolitical researcher whose artistic works are shaped by the subjects of his nonfiction. A former Canadian diplomat who has taught English at the University of California since 1961, Scott has concerned himself with some of the most perplexing issues of the late twentieth century, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Iran-Contra scandal during the administration of Ronald Reagan. Scott became interested in international conspiracies during the Vietnam War, and those interests still animate his nonfiction decades later. Nation correspondent Larry Bensky commented that Scott has spent his career documenting "an old-boy network of far rightists, gonzo adventurers, profiteers, drug-and gunrunners, religious fanatics, and intelligence freelancers who intersect regularly with the various government agencies they once served."

Scott first became known for his research into the Kennedy assassination. In books such as The Assassinations: Dallas and Beyond: A Guide to Cover-ups and Investigations, and Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, he explores the pieces of the puzzle that point toward a concerted conspiracy leading to the Kennedy assassination. Scott has also investigated the links between CIA activity and cocaine smuggling in Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America and the Iran-Contra gun-smuggling operation in The Iran-Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert Operations in the Reagan Era. In his Nation review of The Iran-Contra Connection, Bensky concluded that the book "is a start toward educating the public on those things that everyone wishes weren't going on, or would go away. Everyone, that is, but those who keep them going." A Publishers Weekly reviewer felt that Cocaine Politics offers a convincing argument for the theory that "the 'war on drugs' is largely a sham." The reviewer added that Scott's "heavily documented book deserves a wide audience."

Scott's poetry reflects his "uniquely broad" experiences, to quote a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Autobiographical elements blend with a wide knowledge of other poets' works, as well as with the author's concerns about government misdeeds, to create poems of "uninhibited yet crafted exploration," in the words of the same reviewer. Regarding Coming to Jakarta: A Poem about Terror, Times Literary Supplement reviewer Thom Gunn wrote, "The structure of the poem is an accumulation of juxtapositions between the political and personal, the small and the large, the reflective and the anecdotal. . . . Such a structure makes for a work of great richness and complexity." Roger Mitchell, writing in American Book Review about Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse, commented, "It is in their intentions and in their sense of form and language that . . . [Coming to Jakarta and Listening to the Candle] are most original." Mitchell felt that Scott's "manner of writing . . . is perhaps best described by a definition of the word 'entropy' contained in" Listening to the Candle: "[T]hat state of grace // when the words are free / to write themselves." American Poetry Review critic Alan Williamson commended Scott for the way he tackles his topics in the poem. Williamson stated, "Whether the issue is the role of linguistic error in early childhood memories, New Historicist misgivings about the ethics of Spenser and Shakespeare, or the value of sexual liberationism, Scott has a charming way of moving through both sides of any argument." Williamson maintained that "no book in recent memory is more venturesome in its intellectual voyages than this one; yet one of its most attractive qualities is its dogged humanism." Mitchell concluded in his American Book Review article that Scott has "given us a remarkable picture, not so much of the world, . . . but of the mind."

A Publishers Weekly contributor, after calling Scott "one of America's most trenchant political researchers," commended Minding the Darkness: A Poem for the Year 2000 as "most compelling when the book learning moves to the periphery and personal experience and thought come together in moments of simple, unflinching resolve."

Scott told Contemporary Authors: "My . . . writings, especially the long poem on Indonesia [Coming to Jakarta ], have aimed at bridging the gap in our globalized and fragmented culture between prose and poetry, politics and the personal, scholarship and imagination, meaning and being. I suspect this concern for integration comes from my Canadian background, and my experience there of a smaller-scale society. (In my long poem I describe sitting in a sleigh en route to a country railway station, on the knee of the local minister of parliament, a country lawyer and storekeeper's brother, who was soon to be Prime Minister.) It also derives from the cultural concerns of [T. S.] Eliot and [Ezra] Pound, especially the former's dictum 'that at the present time the problem of the unification of the world and the problem of the unification of the individual are in the end one and the same.'"

Career

Sedbergh School, Montebello, Quebec, Canada, teacher, 1952-53; McGill University, Montreal, Quebec, Canada, lecturer in political science, 1955-56; Canadian Foreign Service, posts in Ottawa, with United Nations, and in Warsaw, Poland, 1957-61; University of California, Berkeley, CA, assistant professor of speech, 1961-66, assistant professor, 1966-68, associate professor, 1968-80, professor of English, 1980-94, professor emeritus, 1994—.

Bibliography

POETRY

  • Poems, Fantasy Press, 1953.
  • (Translator, with Czeslaw Milosz) Zbigniew Herbert, Selected Poems, Penguin (New York, NY), 1968, reprinted, Ecco Press (New York, NY), 1986.
  • Rumors of No Law: Poems from Berkeley, 1968-1977, Thorp Springs Press (Austin, TX), 1981.
  • Prepositions of Jet Travel, Berkeley Poetry Review Chap-books (Berkeley, CA), 1981.
  • Coming to Jakarta: A Poem about Terror, New Directions (New York, NY), 1989.
  • Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse, New Directions (New York, NY), 1992.
  • Crossing Borders: Selected Shorter Poems, New Directions (New York, NY), 1994.
  • Murmur of the Stars: Selected Shorter Poems, Signal Editions (Montreal, Quebec, Canada), 1994.
  • Minding the Darkness: A Poem for the Year 2000, New Directions (New York, NY), 2000.

NONFICTION

  • (With others) Education at Berkeley, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1966.
  • (With Franz Schurmann and Reginald Zelnik) The Politics of Escalation in Vietnam, Beacon Press (Boston, MA), 1966.
  • The War Conspiracy: The Secret Road to the Second Indochina War, Bobbs-Merrill (New York, NY), 1972.
  • (Editor, with Paul L. Hoch and Russell Stetler) The Assassinations: Dallas and Beyond: A Guide to Cover-ups and Investigations, Random House (New York, NY), 1976.
  • Crime and Cover-Up: The CIA, the Mafia, and the Dallas-Watergate Connection, Westworks (Berkeley, CA), 1977.
  • (With Jonathan Marshall and Jane Hunter) The Iran-Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert Operations in the Reagan Era, South End Press (Boston, MA), 1987.
  • (With Jonathan Marshall) Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1991, reprinted, 1998.
  • Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1993.

Contributor to books, including Remaking Asia, edited by Mark Selden, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1974; Big Brother and the Holding Company, edited by Steve Weissman, Ramparts (Palo Alto, CA), 1974; Ten Years' Military Terror in Indonesia, edited by Malcolm Caldwell, Spokesman Books, 1975; Government by Gunplay, edited by Sid Blumenthal and Harvey Yazijian, New American Library (New York, NY), 1976; The Endurance of Frankenstein, edited by George Levine and U. C. Knoepflmacher, University of California Press (Berkeley, CA), 1979; Saints, Scholars, and Heroes, edited by Margot H. King and Wesley M. Stevens, St. John's Abbey and University Press, 1979; The Great Heroin Coup, edited by Henrik Krueger, South End Press (Boston, MA), 1980; War on Drugs: Studies in the Failure of U.S. Narcotics Programs, edited by Alfred W. McCoy and Alan A. Block, Westview Press (Boulder, CO), 1992; and The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot, edited by A. David Moody, Cambridge University Press (New York, NY), 1994. Also contributor to Pentagon Papers, Volume V, edited by Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn, 1973; and Assassination Plots: A Report from the Inspector General on Plots to Assassinate Fidel Castro, Prevailing Winds (Santa Barbara, CA), 1994. Contributor of poems, translations of poetry, and articles, some under the pseudonyms Adam Greene and John Sproston, to journals and periodicals.

Further Reading

PERIODICALS

  • Agni, Volume 31-32, 1990, review of Coming to Jakarta: A Poem about Terror, pp. 297-304, Alan Williamson, "Poetry and Politics: The Case of Coming to Jakarta," pp. 315-325, Robert Hass, "Some Notes on Coming to Jakarta, " pp. 334-361.
  • American Book Review, December-January, 1994, Roger Mitchell, review of Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse, pp. 25-27.
  • American Poetry Review, January-February, 1994, Alan Williamson, review of Listening to the Candle, pp. 36-37.
  • Chicago Review, fall, 1998, David Gewanter, reviews of Coming to Jakarta and Minding the Darkness: A Poem for the Year 2000, pp. 19-23, Roger Mitchell, reviews of Coming to Jakarta, Listening to the Candle, and Minding the Darkness, pp. 36-40.
  • Harvard Review, winter, 1993, Daniel Morris, Listening to the Candle, pp. 1-3.
  • Nation, August 29, 1987, Larry Bensky, review of The Iran-Contra Connection: Secret Teams and Covert Operations in the Reagan Era, p. 172.
  • New York Times Book Review, July 28, 1991, Elaine Shannon, "Whose Side Are We on in the Drug Wars?"; September 8, 1991, Peter Dale Scott, "Propaganda Blitz."
  • Publishers Weekly, April 26, 1991, review of Cocaine Politics: Drugs, Armies, and the CIA in Central America, p. 50; August 10, 1992, review of Listening to the Candle: A Poem on Impulse, p. 66; September 20, 1993, review of Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, p. 57; September 18, 2000, review of Minding the Darkness: A Poem for the Year 2000, p. 106.
  • St. Louis Post-Dispatch, November 29, 1992, Charles Guenther, review of Listening to the Candle.
  • Times Literary Supplement, February 1, 1991, Thom Gunn, "Appetite for Power," p. 19.
  • Whole Earth Review, spring, 1988, Dick Fugett, review of The Iran-Contra Connection, p. 88.

OTHER

  • Peter Dale Scott: Poetry and Political Writings, http://www.garnet.berkeley.edu/~pdscott/ (January 30, 2001).

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Poet Categorization

POET’S REGION Canada

LIFE SPAN 1929–

Biography

Peter Dale Scott is a poet and parapolitical researcher whose artistic works are shaped by the subjects of his nonfiction. A former Canadian diplomat who has taught English at the University of California since 1961, Scott has concerned himself with some of the most perplexing issues of the late twentieth century, including the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and the Iran-Contra scandal during the administration of . . .

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