Saturday, November 13, 2010

Aimless Reading: The L's, Part 4 (Gerrit Lansing)

Lansing, Gerrit
The Heavenly Tree Grows Downward


Given to me by the author. Inscribed thusly:

for Mike Kelleher

With love and admiration.

Gloucester
5 Sept 2006

[There is something I can't read just below the date, some letters or symbols that look like "en O in NY," which makes little sense. This illegible portion sits atop an illustration by the author of a leafy branch, perhaps that of the book's title, growing downward on a right-left diagonal into the author's signature, written just above his name on the title page]

Gerrit Lansing

My first memory of meeting Gerrit was when he visited Buffalo in the late nineties. There was a postponement of some kind and I recall that I was almost called upon to drive to Gloucester myself to pick him up. Eventually, though, he arrived.

I remember we went out to this horrible restaurant called Gabriel's Gate, where they serve hot tomato paste with black pepper and call it 'spicy tomato soup.' We sat at a large table in the back. Gerrit sat next to Charles Bernstein opposite me in the center. I think I still smoked then and that you could still smoke in restaurants. I remember smoking.

Charles brought in one famous poet after another to his seminars, but I got the sense that he was truly impressed by Gerrit as a man of intelligence, sensitivity and learning in a way I don't remember him seeming terribly impressed by anyone else.

I don't think I really spoke to Gerrit much on that trip. I remember listening to him talk about the books he owned and many of the things he read. Not in a boastful way at all, but in the voice of a person who loves learning and enjoys sharing what he has learned in interested company.

I wonder if there is a more under-appreciated poet writing in American today. He seems a victim of his lack of group affiliation. A member of the same generation as Creeley, Ashbery, O'Hara, a Harvard grad, friend to Charles Olson who settled in the same town as the big man, mystic, occultist, pianist, scholar, book store proprietor, et al, yet he did not live in NY or SF, never attended Black Mountain College, never taught. Just planted himself on a lovely hilltop overlooking Gloucester bay, studied literally everything under and including the sun, and wrote a few slim volumes of amazing poems.

from The Heavenly Tree Grows Downward

Needfire

Impure
of necessity
I cannot shut it out
the poem of fire
that burns in the night
men know not how to use.
A way of love,
lines of flame
too familiar
to be a god.

It is the keyboard of desire.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was dear friends with Garrit in the seventies. He gave me one of his books for New Years in 1977. I have always picked it up this time of year. I spent the last thirty years in Alaska, Oregon, and South Florida and lost touch with old friends. I would so love to find an address for in now. 1/2011

Michael Kelleher, Buffalo, NY said...

Anonymous -- if you give me your name and email address, I'd be happy to give you his address.