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Dunagan, Il Gruppo Are Totally Ill About Yépez’s Empire of Neomemory
I had no idea what to expect from Yépez’s book. What I found was a lambasting of Olson faulting him for the miserable state of affairs that is Western Civilization:
An emissary of the dying gods of the Oxident and of the nascent empire of the United States. The poet known, almost unanimously, as the father of those so-called “New American Poets”—the generation of the beatniks and the counterculture—the poet who is, like Pound, Stein, or Ginsberg, a communicating vessel for studying an entire civilization. Olson’s tracks lead us to the avatars of empire. Biocriticism of the geopolitical.
Yépez takes up all the negative critiques of Olson and lays them out as stepping stones for his own scholarly hegemony as critic lording over the poet. I felt this unfair to Olson yet a justified stance in its wider terms. The conceptual dynamics and extra-lingual twists and turns deployed by Yépez are fascinating. I knew it to be a work that would excite a generation of younger poets and scholars. I did however fear that this would come at Olson’s expense.
I attempted to be fair and balanced in my review, indeed keeping in mind my ideal reader as being among the young poet communities of Oakland or Brooklyn. I don’t know how many of those poets have read Yépez’s book or my review, or are likely to read this. However I did receive word from one poet of the East Bay that he found my review “very measured very KEWL, surprised me a bit, if anything your Olsonian tendencies tend to be, well, tendentious to say the least.” Which leaves me feeling that the review more or less accomplishes what I intended. [...]
Last week, Jacket2 ran a follow-up commentary, consisting of a response to Yépez’s book from a group Hollander brought together in order to come to Olson’s defense. The group is known as Il Gruppo and includes the poets Jack Hirschman, Amiri Baraka, Ammiel Alcalay, Benjamin Hollander, and Carlo b. Carlos Suares. Here’s a link to that commentary.
The debate is just beginning. At the center is not only Olson but many of the poets and writers he had a hand in encouraging early on, figures such as John Wieners, Ed Dorn, Diane di Prima, and Michael Rumaker. Il Gruppo intends on keeping their operation moving ahead. Yépez’s book stands on its own, yet perhaps he’ll participate in the conversation Il Gruppo has begun. Sunday October 6, he reads along with Rachel Levitsky in San Francisco for Small Press Traffic @ ATA http://smallpresstraffic.org/2201. Whether at that event, or in a different forum some other time, it would be of interest to hear if he has any comment.
As for myself, Olson will always remain to me an astonishment. Such a figure as one would never be capable of imagining, let alone searching for. The fact alone of his words which embody his life and work remains the sole record we have and that is the record I hold most dearly to, “for dear life” as Wieners says. Yépez argues for a world we’re living in. I join Olson in looking for a world that is in back of that world. A world we get but glimmerings of.