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Matthew Zapruder:An honor to be here as part of this event and I very much enjoy the first few presentations and its great to be up here with Bob and Brenda. I cant think of two people with whom Id rather be discussing Northern California poetry, to one-day negative capability, whatever comes up. And I know you all, I'm sure you all know who Bob and Brenda are but I thought I would just briefly say that directly to my left is Brenda Hillman, who is the author of many collections of poems most recently seasonal works with Letters on Fire. I'm holding up the beautiful new cover. Its just out, and it is the fourth, the final volume in a tetralogy, thats the word that you taught me actually. Four volumes of poetry, each of which focuses around one of the elements and this is the Fire Volume, which is theits just a brilliant book. I've been living with it for a while now since it just came out. And she teaches the same area as College of Fine Institution where I now also teach. And the next seat over is Robert Hass and again, someone whose biography I dont need to go into great detail about. He's an admired, revered poet in America and someone whos done just about everything and this is his most recent book of poems, which is the Apple Trees at Olema, a new and selected poems. So it takes selections from his five volumes of poetry and then new poems as well. Its also amazing, beautiful book that I've been reading constantly since it came out and also recently the author of What Light Can Do, which is a collection of pros that he's written over the past many years, and I justits a follow-upI just finished reading that book. Its so good and it is such a great companion to 20th century pleasures, which was a book, these pros that definitely changed my life when I was first starting to read poetry and try to write it. So I think thats enough biographical stuff, right? And Bob teaches at Berkley, UC Berkley. And lets see, I am going to try to find a way to turn things over as fast as I can to Bob and Brenda since as I said I really want to hear what they have to say about the Northern California Tradition and Poetry. I think itsmy reaction when Bill and David asked me to help organize this was, you know, and to talk about Northern California Poetry, my first reaction was, well of course there's Northern California Poetry, I mean, of course thats a thing. I mean, its obviously something that we all know what it is and then start to think about. The more I thought about it, the more kind of despairing I got and realize that I had noI couldnt begin to define it, I didn't understand what it was. I could talk about poets and movements and famous things that had happened here and all kinds of stuff that is important to me, but I couldnt really get my head around what Northern California Poetry was as suppose to something else. Although, you know, that famous definition, pretty import definition of pornography, you know, you cant define it but you know what it is when you see it. I think its probably also true for Northern California Poetry. But I dont want to try to talk about my ideas about this yet. I really much rather hear what Bob and Brenda have to say. I justthe last thing Ill say is that we all independently arrive I think at this kind of thought, and maybe its native to poets that, to turn the question around and talk about whether there isnt a Northern California Poetry edition and what its not, I mean, that seems connected to the spiritual guiding principle of poets, which is negative capability. But I'm going to turn it over to Brenda first to say a few things and then Bob and well just chat a little bit and then open up for questions. Brenda Hillman:We were talking on the caf about either about pinning down whether Northern California Poetry exist as a, you know, as a unit and we definitely decided that it doesnt as a one thing and yet it makes sense to talk about this, not just a geographical concept of it but a state of mind andso I was saying to the gentleman that I think for me there's a three-part to it, not just the idea of the westerners and the sort of western concept of literature that occurs here along with all the things that Dana mentioned that we tend to be very in touch with the details of our landscape and with the materials that we live among and want to describe them and want to be in relation to them. But for me there are two other senses of place that I had when I moved here and very much with a sort of idealist notion of coming to this place. I had been at Iowa as a graduate student. I moved to Northern California to Berkley and my Iowa boyfriend had been reading Robert Hasss poetry to me and I had a very specific idea of what I thought. Robert Hass:So I owe him. [Laughs] Brenda Hillman:And in fact, it was a very unusual and special combination that I learned. I learned something very amazing about what was possible in poetry in through Bobs poetry, which was the coming together of the inward state, the meditative state and this outward, passionate description for the landscape and the sort of philosophical investigation that seemed to be extraordinarily powerful and riveting and exploring form spiritually and in language was a third sense of place and its never seemed to be different in our poetry culture here that we have a sense of sort of this westerners and this sense of inwardness of inner exploration and then the sense of exploring the page and exploring form. There's a really great book by Michael Davidson on the San Francisco Renaissance Poets and if you read that book, you really getits just called San Francisco Renaissance Poetry and it really goes into, you know, how important Rexroth, [PH][Spicer] you know, all of the San Francisco Renaissance Poets and for me, Robert Duncan was especially important in that time as well because he just opened this sort of hole idea that you could bring, your spiritual oddness no matter how odd it is into poetry and all these layers of nets. So along with the womens writing that was happening at the time, Duncan and thinking about the landscape and exploring, you know, westerners through the writing that was being done here, Snider and then of course through Bobs work. I mean, really, I was really in love with the idea of being in a place and naming the things but, you know, sort of womens exploratory way. So thats kind of my basic introduction to the idea of this place, the poetry of this place. Robert Hass:But thinking about this from the point-of-view of the 1970s when there was already an incredible amount of turbulent and exciting work going on of all different kinds in poetry reminds me of what we started casually talking about before this which is talking about this is practically impossible. And so I was thinking that a place to begin would be to observe that of all of the languages on the North American Continent, 40% of them are in California. The landscape for whatever reason was so divided into microclimates that they are almost as many language in California as in the rest of the United States and most of Northern Mexico. And thats probably still true today for poetry. It operates in that many languages and that happened in a very specific explosion in the middle of the 1950s, which waswhen I was in high school and continued towhen Brenda arrived by way of Arizona, Iowa, Southern California where you got your education in surrealism, that Pomona College and romanticism, European poetry, and then arrived here where there were three different kinds of feminist writing and five different kinds of experimental writing. People were writing out of the beat tradition, people writing out of traditions to do with very conservative practice at Stanford University with three or four different kinds of practice that [PH][CAL] a poetry center. One of the first in the country had been created at San Francisco state so that when in 1970 or so, the Swedish poet, Tomas Transtromer who recently won the Nobel Prize for literature came to read in San Francisco. He filled the unitary church on Union Street. The Swedish consulate had never seen so many person at an event before and Transtromer, I overheard say to the Swedish Minister, Oh but San Francisco is the world capital of poetry. It got that reputation in very shortin a very short time. But it had that reputation by the time when they got here. I was trying to think about how to talk about this and I had a thought just now that it might help to talk about the geology of California in a way. I was thinking that theit occurred right when the Sierra Nevada as one massive rose up out of the sea about 30 million years ago and then it got sculpted into its present form. I'm told about 10,000 years ago. And then about 3 million years ago, the coast range came up, which between the two and they created the central valley, and then you have what people later would and what Kevin Starr would chronicle as California. And I thought the order of things in California writing was that, John Muir arrived here in 1868 and wrote the first enduring work of California literature, The Mountains of California was published in 1895. So that took care of the mountains of California. And then in 1888, I guess Mary, for the Southern California, Mary Austin arrived. And by 1903 had written The Land of Little Rain, which took care of the Mohave and the Owens Valley. Then Robinson Jeffers arrived from Pittsburg, son of Scotch, Irish Presbyterians. He hit Carmel in 1913 published the first book of his poems and to tap the landscape in 1924 and that took care of the coast range and the coast. And then John Steinbeck showed up in the Central Valley, born in Salinas and wrote the novels of that period and that took care of the central valley, which would cover the whole thing except that the northern part of the Sierra broke off above Shasta and developed into the Trinity Alps and made the connection between Northern California and the Northwest Coast. And Gary Snyder who wrote his dissertation on the mythologies of California and North Coast Indians at REED College, then showed up in 1955 in the bay area and he took care of Northern California. And its wild and these set of writers who are enduring, who have formed the imagination, the place kind of mimic the geography of it in interesting ways. No, every generation owes its something to the previous ones but there just was this extraordinary group of pioneering spirits that immersed in San Francisco in those years. Brenda Hillman:And we were just talkingcould I just say, put it in a word for Helen Adam too. We were talking in our Prosody class aboutI see one of my students here, yeah, about Helen Adam and the women and the renaissance movement too, you know, very much into performance and reading their work in a theatrical way. So that was also a really, really major thing. Matthew Zapruder:She wins kookiest performer in the documentaries which is quite a competition, but she has filmed in her apartment wearing giant, kind of like, I dont know, I would call themI dont know what those big glasses who started wearing those things. I want to see [???][0:14:31.4] but thats probably not. But she's wearing a housecoat and dancing around and singing andbut she recites this unbelievable poem when she's doing it. Its like really, its just the greatest thing. Robert Hass:Just to give you a sense of the firm at of that time, Helen Adam grew up in Glasgow and as a child, she became a radio star, 1930s the new medium, and somehow unfortunately grew up, sees to be a star and ended up in San Francisco writingshe was interested in witchy sounding ballads from the Scottish tradition, which she kind of remounted as off on guard place. She did a lot of theatre in those days, and she became part of the Robert Duncan circle. But here's a poem of hers called Pre-teen Trot. We trot hand in hand in the morning down where the huge ocean hums. Both of us wear striped bikinis to cover our neat little bums. Lively we trot in the morning as far as the boardwalk extends wearing the same striped bikinis because we are intimate friends. But my stripes are brighter than your stripes. This every watcher must know, broader and brighter than your stripes when we trot where the sea breezes blow. So this kind of poetry in amidst of the wildness that was going on in the other writers of that circle. Brenda Hillman:And its better sort of theI dont know, the Northern California as a matrix, had a cultural, obviously we talk about this endlessly, but had a cultural freedom that allowed the basic free-spiritedness of poetry that we all kind of get away from in some way because when you first come to poetry as a kid, you think, wow this is the place for the freedom of my spirit, you know, and then overtime it leaves you but there's something about being in Northern California as a poet that makes you think, wow, yeah you're still a free that the core of it really is about being fundamentally a free soul, you know, that your soul cant be bound. Robert Hass:The way that we see ourselves here and the way writers have respond to it have a lot to do with the way it got sold to the rest of the country as a place to come to by the real estate developers who promoted California and theyin Southern California, they certainly promoted some idea of the good life, orange groves, palm trees, and I think in my experience that the idea about San Francisco coming partly from the fact that so many soldiers and so many pass through here in World War II and saw this really cool little city that wasthe idea was and I got it from the newspaper reading, Herb Kane as a kid, that anything goes here, that it was the kind ofwas it Barbary Coast? Was that the name of the wild district event before, and the international settlement? Do I have that phrase right? Before Broadway, which is incredibly seen now. There was this other incredibly CD place which promoted the idea that California was a wild and free place. And I'm sure that its people were drawn to it partly from that reputation, which also might make for some of the difference between the sensibility of Southern California writing, dystopian as against the idea that this is supposed to be a beautiful place, and the California Writing. I think at the end of Gary Snyders Bubbs Creek Haircut poem I think which is also called Hymn to the Goddess San Francisco in Paradise that ends, Because you can do anything you want in San Francisco, which is a little bit like those ads today now have about Las Vegas, you know, What happens here, stays here. So the idea that one, it was the place of last resort, which it was for Weldon Kees and the idea that was a place of particular freedom made it a place of particular freedom and artistic ferment. Matthew Zapruder:I did want to ask about 1955 though I thought it seemed like a big year to talk about a little bit and what happened andbecause there were so much and I just think, I want to teach an entire course some time on 1956, you know, how and some trees and all of them, Robert Lowell, I'm the biggest fan of, but interesting all this stuff happening at the same time, you know, City Lights getting started, but I dont know maybe thats just something to put out as being kind ofbecause you had mentioned 1955. Robert Hass:Well, again, the little microsystems but the beginning of this opening was a group of poets in Berkley, Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer, a poet named Robin Blaser who spent most of his later career in Vancouver and became the mentor of the San Francisco tradition for Canadian poets. He was given a lifetime achievement award in Canada four years ago before he died and he was the Canadian way in to San Francisco poetry in the beats. He was a classmate of Jack Spicer, another poet who is adored now by the young and who I think I saw once to a reading at The Anxious Asp in North Beach when I was snuck in there with a fake ID by my best friends older sister and it must have been 1958. Matthew Zapruder:Sounds like a good night to me. Robert Hass:I was, you know, 17 years old in a bar. I dont remember very much about the poetry. Anyway, it was a time of enormous ferment. Gary Snyder arrived at Berkley to study foreign languages. Allan Ginsberg arrived to do graduate work in English. He soon dropped out. He got a job in an advertising agency in San Francisco. He was writing a long poem called how well about going crazy in New York, which he read, which the deputythe district attorney of San Francisco prosecuted Lawrence Ferlinghetti for selling the single act that perhaps made San Francisco a world capital of poetry. It made us famous for resting poets. And at that moment of artistic ferment, San Francisco was a place where a lot of what was happening and many of them were gone after that but the reputation and the sense of excitement remain. There was the San Francisco Poetry Center. San Francisco was having weekly poetry reading at the time when maybe New York but no other city in the country was doing that. It was incredibly intense and vivid time. I have to say as a 17 or 18 year old, I was hardly aware of it, vaguely aware of it, finding my way through reading this poem here. If you grew up in California, you read Robinson Jeffers to see what that was about and Kenneth Rexroth, and then Gary Snyder and what reading those three you do have a really powerful Northern California ecological tradition. Brenda Hillman:And Ill read one of mine from my new book that sort of get some of this sense of it. Well, At the solstice, a yellow fragment. Our lord of literature visits my love, they have gone below, they have lost their way among the tablets of the dead. Preeeee dark energy, wood rat in the pine, furred thing and the fine, a suffering among syllables, stops winter drops from cold, cold miracle night. A fox deep in its hold under yellow thumbs of the chanterelles, no, gold. Gold thumbs, Goldman Sachs pays no tax. Baby goats in the pen, not blaming God, not blaming them. Alias, buried egg of the shallow helmet turtle. Actinemys marmorata. Alias, thanks for calling the White House comment line. For your life had stamina from a childhood among priests and far in the night beyond the human realm, a cry released the density of nature. And I chose that poem because that kind ofthat kind of brings together the things that were talking about, the idea of getting process and obviously modern reference and nature reference and politics and stuff like that. And you know, I think thats, you know, thats the kind of mix that interests me. Robert Hass:The gift, the language can give the city to give a place. I remember this from childhood. Here's a snowfall on Christmas day in San Francisco in what mightmust have been 1948. Kenneth Rexroth. Christmas eve, unseasonably cold. I walked in Golden Gate Park. The winter twilight thickens. The park grows dusky before the usual hour. The sky sinks close to the shadowy trees, and sky and trees mingle in receding planes of vagueness. The wet pebbles on the path wear little frills of ice like minute, transparent fungus. Suddenly the air is full of snowflakes. Cold, white, downy feathers that do not seem to come from the sky but crystallize out of the air. The snow is unendurably beautiful, falling in the breathless lake, floating in the yellow rushes. I cannot feel the motion--