Wednesday, November 04, 2009
dear CA Conrad: thanks for your talk with Dale Smith on Ed Dorn and other matters. A brief footnote that should interest you (and perhaps, if you feel it is appropriate, can be posted), is relative to the Dorn/AIDS discussion):
In Dorn's (and his wife Jennifer Dorn's) magazine Rolling Stock, #5, there appeared, written in collaboration with Tom Clark, an item called "The 1983 AIDS AWARDS FOR POETRY--In recognition of the current EPIDEMIC OF IDIOCY on the poetry scene." The page featured a large illustration of a test-tube of reddish liquid, presumably infected blood, which was the "prize."
The recipients of this "award" were Dennis Cooper ("for writing the most AIDS-like line of the year: "Mark's anus is wrinkled, pink, and simplistically rendered, but cute"); Clayton Eshleman (for "attacking a dead--and thus harmless--poet, Elizabeth Bishop" in a review in the LA Times Book Review); Robert Creeley (for writing extravagant blurbs for books by Stephen Rodefer and Joanne Kyger); Steve Abbott ("for accusing everybody who doesn't like him or his poetry of 'rabid homophobia'"); Allen Ginsberg (for claiming he wrote some lyrics for the rock group The Clash, when supposedly he hadn't); and finally, "WRITE-IN CANDIDATE" ("Fill in the name of your favorite POETRY IDIOT here.").
I have taken the above information from Eliot Weinberger's note on "A Case of AIDS Hysteria" that appeared in Sulfur #9, in 1984. The clear implication of the "awards" is that all of the poets who had offended Dorn and Clark (with infractions of good taste!) should not only die, but should die after a long and particularly gruesome disease.
You can read the rest of Eliot's piece in Sulfur (I will send you a copy if you like).
This is another example of the sickening and pointless level on which Dorn and Clark were operating in the 1980s. My wife Caryl and I were living in Los Angeles at the time, and quite close to Koki Iwamoto (the owner of the famous Chatterton's bookstore on Vermont St) and a number of his gay friends. We watched most of these people die of AIDS, including our dear Koki. That poets themselves would indulge in the kind of right-wing AIDS hysteria and homophobia that Dorn and Clark did still strikes me as unbearably sad.
Best regards, Clayton Eshleman