Raleigh Rambles

John Dancy-Jones at large!

Jonathan Williams The Lord of Orchards: an anthology

Jeffery Beam is an old friend and a wonderful poet whose work is often celebrated here. In 2009, a year after the passing of Jonathan Williams, he and Richard Owens published online a “festschrift” of remembrances and appreciations in honor of Williams and his accomplishments as small press publisher (especially of The Black Mountain School poets), photographer, writer and cultural bloodhound in a lifelong pursuit of a “poetics of gathering.” The print version, with many excellent additions, has now been published.

The image above is my copy of the book, from Prospecta Press,  and my copy of a postcard*, pictured on the back of the book, which I received in 1980 from a dear artist friend who purchased it at the Gotham Bookshop. I met Jonathan Williams at a small press fair in Carrboro where we each had a table. Over the years, Jargon Society titles and broadsides of JW’s poetry have come my way and kept me intrigued with the noble, eclectic, Epicurean curmudgeon of Highlands.

The title of the book comes from a JW poem:

the Lord of Orchards

selects his fruit

in the Firmament’s

breast

JW had many titles, most of his own epistolary stylings: Lord Nose, the Colonel, J Jeeter Swampwater, Big Enis. He was also called, by Hugh Kenner, Custodian of Snowflakes and Truffle-Hound of American Poetry, in honor of his indefatigable efforts to find and preserve culture, some found in the oddest places. He was a champion of Outsider artists, a curator of obscure literary references and a model for all those who shared or admired his “deep affection for the strange.” With Jargon Society Press, he presented the world with much important writing, well after his heyday of publishing cohorts at BMC, where JW enrolled in 1951 in order to study photography with Harry Callahan.

The BMC connections are strong but complicated,as described in Ross Hair’s essay in this book, entitled “Hemi-Demi-Semi Barbaric Yawps” – Jonathan Williams and Black Mountain College. He came late in the existence of this doomed educational icon, and immediately developed a strong but somewhat antagonistic relationship with Charles Olson, who JW found to be “an extremely enkindling sort of man.” As publisher, JW helped establish some BMC reputations but also applied his always broad skills as book designer and editor to create a unique body of published work that celebrates the visionary creativity to be found in the South. Mr. Hair well describes the way JW’s absolutely wide-open close attention and curiosity regarding all cultural phenomenon, in his poetry and publishing, provides a balance to the hyper-masculine and exclusionary influences of Olson’s BMC era.

The anthology, like the original online feature, contains four sections: Remembering (memorial writings), Responding (literary analysis), Reviewing (his photography), and Recollecting (appreciations of Jargon Society Press). Additions included in the print version include letters between JW and his first partner, Ronald Johnson, a recounting of the publication of White Trash Cooking, and transcripts of interview/film sessions with Neal Hutcheson. Congratulations to Jeffery and long live the memory of Jonathan Williams, a true original. My favorite JW broadside, reprinted from Pairadaeza for a reading at NC Wesleyan College, reads thus:

*Poet’s Silhouette (1951): Looking Forward to a Lifetime of meditation on a Text by R.B. Kitaj. NYC 1978, Artists Postcards.

original online feature at Jacket Magazine

Jargon Society Press is now part of the BMCM+AC

 

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September 25, 2017 Posted by | art, Black Mountain, literary | , , | Leave a comment

Jeffery Beam’s Gospel celebrates Earth

Jeffery Beam’s rich and varied literary contributions have been recognized here before, but his recent reading at the UNC Botanical garden was a found treasure.  He was surrounded by friends and presented not only botanical poems from his latest book, Gospel Earth , but sang, remininsced, and read favorite passages from the poets who have influenced him. Jeffery’s wonderful voice, his energy, and his exuberant love for natural beauty made his reading a meditation and a spiritual sharing.

Gospel Earth is described on the Regulator Bookstore site as a “a collection of monostitches, micropoems, American sentences, small stones, small poem sequences, & minimalist poetry.”   It begins with a plentitude of short quotes, almost all gemstones of thought from many different sources.  Just as he shared his influences in the reading, his book says up front: here I stand, the earth my image, love my fuel, all the beauty I have been given is part of me.  Those are my words and show Jeffery’s effect on one: spiritual and mindful.

Gospel Earth moves from the quotes to extremely short responses to images, many one line or even two or three words.  The literary devices are almost invisible behind the strong zen and monastic distillations of pure meaning.  The natural images shine for themselves in Jeffery’s deft and delicate frames.  The Botanical Garden says Gospel Earth is

 “a big book of little poems, [it] has already received acclaim for its transcendent, lush beauty; its minimal sacrament; and its simplicity and physicality. Described by the poet as a work intended to “invigorate the startling propulsion of haiku’s accessible simplicity and minimalism, while creating a more active canvas.”

The book does contain larger pieces, including a prose meditation on birding dedicated to Jonathan Williams (more about him below). One of my favorite pieces is a poem with notes that constitute an essay called “The Green Man’s Man.”  The poem finds Jeffery immersed in Nature but always open to the philosophical notes in her song: ” I open Nature’s book/finding:/The more I know/The less I know.”  The notes were written specifically for a different Botanical Garden event, and delve into the mythological image of the Green man.   Jeffery tells us

The Green Man is not separate from us, he is our source, emphasizing & celebrating the positive creative laws of Nature, the native intelligence that shepherds and protects this world, and the ecological rightness that guides us.

Jeffery entertains the Botanical Garden crowd as Stanley smiles

Jeffery continues to enact and support the spirit of Black Mountain College in many ways and I hope to learn more of his scholarship regarding Jonathan Williams.  He has presented numerous times about him, and is working on a bibliography.  He has also shared manuscripts and links that make it clear he is a leading authority on the man’s life and significance.

Jeffery Beam’s Jonathan Williams interview 2003

A SNOWFLAKE ORCHARD and What I Found There :  essay on The Jargon Society Press by Jeffery Beam

J. Williams obit at NCWN by J. Beam

 Another BMC link: J. B.’s Indy review of Rumaker’s Black Mountain Days

Jeffery’s website

Oyster Boy Review

Jeffery’s UNC Bio

Jeffery’s UNC Library archive

Jeffery’s feature on My Laureate’s Lasso

another feature at Jeff Davis’s Natures

Indy Review of Gospel Earth 

WUNC interview re Gospel Earth

 Gospel Earth. Jeffery Beam. Skysill Press, 3 Gervase Gardens, Clifton Village, Nottingham, NG11 8LZ, United Kingdom. http://www.skysillpress.blogspot.com/ Sam.Ward@nottingham.ac.uk

Parts of this book also existed in online and pamphlet versions:

Gospel Earth. Three color fold out booklet wrapped in Tibetan handmade paper with wrap-around band. Longhouse Press. 2006

December 26, 2010 Posted by | Black Mountain, literary, music | , | 2 Comments

Black Mountain College Continues to Inspire, Fascinate

Black Mountain College and BMC+AC,  the Asheville museum and art center devoted to its memory and influence, continue to generate artistic and literary responses that reverberate with the powerful cultural forces that coursed through the college until 1957.  An upcoming show at the Asheville center will feature Ray Johnson, whose personal correspondence with me is described on my Black Mountain page.  I am looking forward to attending and writing about the show, whose curator,  Sebastian Matthews, was so welcoming and enthusiastic at the recent BMC conference. He started a blog just for this show and it’s full of wonderful Ray J images and stories. Much more about Ray Johnson before and after the show in February.

From BMC to NYC: The Tutelary Years of Ray Johnson (1943-1966)

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Jonathan Williams feature by Jeffery Beam and Richard Owens

Jeffery Beam, UNC botanical librarian and Hillsborough poet, has made a major contribution to Black Mountain documentation with his recently posted Jonathan Williams archive, which gathers a wide selection of photography, poetry and essays in order to capture the unique vision of Jonathan Williams.  Jeffery and Richard describe the scope of the project below.

The work he produced for more than half a century is such that no one activity or identity takes primacy over any other. He is never only a poet or photographer, an essayist or publisher. What we find instead in the figure of Williams is a continuity that cuts across these practices — something we might call a poetics of gathering. All of his efforts are linked through an unswerving desire to collect and preserve, harvest and distribute.

The project,  which resides at Jacket Magazine, includes a photo essay, past essays and new pieces in response to Williams’ death in 2008 or commissioned for this project. More details from Jeffery:

 You’ll also discover 26 portraits of Jonathan from the age of about 12 up until 2005 – with other images scattered throughout the essays, 24 photographs by Jonathan – a number of which have never been published, works of art in honor of Jonathan, an unpublished interview with Jonathan by editor Richard Owens, a complete Jargon bibliography by Owens, and a selected Jonathan Williams publications bibliography compiled by me from a forthcoming complete bibliography.  Jeffery Beam

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Raleigh has some small claims to fame relative to Black Mountain lore.  Long before Glenwood South became known as an art center, Gilliam & Peden Art Gallery on Glenwood Avenue organized a show, curated by Ben Williams, called Black Mountain Connection. It featured Josef and Anni Albers, John Cage, Willem de Kooning, Franz Kline, Robert Motherwell, Kenneth Noland, and Robert Rauschenberg, as well as many others as seen below.  This is my copy of the prospectus for the 1987 show.

(click to enlarge)

The NC Museum of Art hosted a major exhibition of BMC material in 1987.  In conjunction with this show, which also traveled to Annandale-on-Hudson and New York City, New York, , MIT Press published a truly sumptuous volume entitled  The Arts at Black Mountain College by Mary Emma Harris.  The book is wonderful, but I’m pretty sure it doesn’t now come now with the checklist of the exhibition which is tucked inside my copy from the show.  Looking over it, I recall the intense immediacy evoked by the multitude of so many different kinds of objects in that show.  There were architectural models, prints, oils and products of every imaginable drawing device and surface; announcements, bulletins, programs, photographs, glyphs, scores, weavings, calligraphy, letterpress printings and bound books.  You got a sense of the interspersing and practical (yet clearly micro-utopian) productivity of this self-contained culture studying culture.  The exhibition, The Arts at Black Mountain College  1933-1957 was organized by the Edith C. Blum Art Institute of Bard College and contained 219 items.

NCSU’s Gregg Museum has also done its part for BMC.  Anni Albers was featured in a 2007 lecture (links to pdf) by Mary Emma Harris (who had previously lectured there about the architecture of Black Mountain).  The NCSU Colleges of Textile and Design offers specialized degrees combining design and technology through the Anni Albers Scholars Program, which “is named for a designer who exemplifies the ideals and goals to which the program aspires: textile designer and artist Anni Albers.”

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Margret Kentgens-Craig’s book

 Yet another local connection to the threads of BMC influence is Margret Kentgens-Craig, part-time Raleigh resident (and fondly remembered stalwart supporter of my Paper Plant bookstore), whose book The Bauhaus and America: First Contacts 1919-1936 delineates the major connections between the Bauhaus and Black Mountain College.  Walter Gropius, a nine year director of the Bauhaus, lectured at the college, but also “tried continually to secure a teaching position at Harvard for Josef Albers.”  Lucky for BMC he didn’t!  Albers, according to Kentgens-Craig, “was the first Bauhaus master to acquire a position at an American educational institution, Black Mountain College.  His wife Anni, who was Jewish, joined him.”   The book describes the enormous impact Bauhaus ideas had on American architecture, and credits Lawrence Kocher, a BMC instructor, with creating opportunities for the dissemination of those ideas.

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A final BMC note: Jeff Davis posted recently at his blog Natures previewing the Charles Olson Centenary Conference, taking place at Simon Fraser University in Briitish Columbia June 4-10, 2010.  Jeff will be in Vancouver “to make a presentation on Olson’s curricular projects.”

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Raleigh Rambles Black Mountain page

January 15, 2010 Posted by | architecture, art, Black Mountain, literary, Ray Johnson | , , , , , | 2 Comments

Jeffery Beam helps us mourn Jonathan Williams

  he done

what he could

when he got round

to it

Jeffery Beam is a wonderful literary character who works at UNC-CH and lives in Hillsborough.  He has a book out of collected poems and has many interesting publications to his credit.

He is always alerting me to wonderful things, such as his readings for Groundhog Day, or a friend’s musical setting for a soldier’s last letter home, or the blooming of the Dove tree in the UNC Arboretum.  Recently he gave me the news that Jonathan Williams had died.  He knew the man and understood his importance as few do.

Here is the beginning of Jeffery’s obituary:

                      Poet, publisher, and photographer Jonathan Chamberlain Williams, founder of The Jargon Society press, one of the most renowned small presses of the last half of the twentieth century, and champion and publisher of some of the most important mid and late century poets in the United States and England, died on March 16, 2008 in Highlands, North Carolina. Williams, 79, began his avant-garde press while a student at the Chicago Institute of Design, naming it “Jargon” not only for its meaning of personal idiom, but after the French spring pear, “jargonelle” and the French “jargon,” meaning the twittering of birds.

Jeffery writes of his personal work, the incredibly important work of The Jargon Society press, but mostly he evokes for us the amazingly unique style and oulook of this man.

                       Williams’ interests and talents, revealed him as a Renaissance man – publisher; poet and satirist; book designer; editor; photographer; legendary correspondent; literary, art, and photography critic and collector; early collector and proselytizer of visionary folk art; cultural anthropologist; curmudgeon; happy gardener; resolute walker; and keen and adroit raconteur and gourmand.  Williams’ refined decorum and speech, and sartorial style, contrasted sharply, yet pleasingly, with his delight in the bawdy, his incisive humor, and his confidently experimental and inventive poems and prose.  His interests, in his own words, raised, “the common to grace,” while paying “close attention to the earthy.” At the forefront of the avant-garde, and yet possessing a deep appreciation of the traditional, Williams celebrated, rescued, and preserved, as he described it, “more and more away from the High Art of the city” settling “for what I could unearth and respect in the tall grass.”

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Just closed is a show whose prospectus gives some idea of the many dimensions of this man.  Thank you, Jeffery, as we try to find the proper way to remember and honor this unique individual.

Condolences may be sent to poet Thomas Meyer, Jonathan’s partner and
collaborator for forty years:

Thomas Meyer
The Jargon Society
P O Drawer 10
Highlands, NC 28741

 

June 8, 2008 Posted by | Black Mountain, literary | , , , | 1 Comment