On the Mesa: An Anthology of Bolinas Writing (50th Anniversary Edition)
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Afterword by Lytle Shaw
The Song Cave presents an expanded edition of the long out of print City Lights Books classic On the Mesa: An Anthology of Bolinas Writing in celebration of its 50th anniversary.
This is a gathering of poets, writers and artists living on or around the mesa in Bolinas, California. Not so much a school of thought as a meeting of those who happened to be at this geographical location at this wobbly point in time, several divergent movements in American poetry (Black Mountain, San Francisco Renaissance, Beat, and New York School poets) came together with new Western and mystic elements at the unpaved crossroads of Bolinas.
GORDON BALDWIN, BILL BERKSON, TED BERRIGAN, MICHAEL BOND, EBBE BORREGAARD, JOE BRAINARD, RICHARD BRAUTIGAN, JIM BRODEY, BILL BROWN, JIM CARROLL, TOM CLARK, ROBERT CREELEY, MAX CROSLEY, DIANE DI PRIMA, JOHN DOSS, BOBBIE LOUISE HAWKINS, LAWRENCE KEARNEY, JOANNE KYGER, KEITH LAMPE, LEWIS MACADAMS, PHOEBE MACADAMS, DUNCAN MC NAUGHTON, DAVID MELTZER, ALICE NOTLEY, ARTHUR OKAMURA, STEPHEN RATCLIFFE, ARAM SAROYAN, GAILYN SAROYAN, JOHN THORPE, CHARLIE VERMONT, ANNE WALDMAN, LEWIS WARSH, JOEL WEISHAUS, PHILIP WHALEN
Originally published 50 years ago, On the Mesa is the only anthology to come out of the vibrant and diverse poetry scene that existed in Bolinas, California in the 1970s. It appeared in the early days of that decade and thus didn’t feature the many other important poets who arrived there only a few years later. This updated and expanded edition has been a long time coming, but at last we have an anthology that truly represents the wide array of remarkable poets who called this legendary “psychedelic Peyton Place” home. -Kevin Opstedal
Bolinas retains legendary status in American poetry, an unincorporated community where in the early 1970s it was just as common to hear a Diane di Prima poem read at a school board meeting as it was to cross paths with Lewis MacAdams on his way to interview local sustainable farmers. Mixing avant-garde aesthetics with a communal ethos, the writers who settled in and visited Bolinas carved out a radical new home for the afterlives of the New American Poetry. Fifty years after its initial publication, this expanded edition of On the Mesa: An Anthology of Bolinas Writing adds 19 new contributors—including Richard Brautigan, Alice Notley, and Philip Whalen—whose work retrains our attention on the poet’s haven perched above the Pacific Ocean just north of Mt. Tamalpais. As Bobbie Louise Hawkins writes, “I swear nobody ever / had it better." -Nick Sturm
On the Mesa allows the intrigue of Bolinas to unfold through the voices of several poets in residence (circa 1971). The last splinters of the Spicer-Duncan circle are mixed with recent visitors from the second-generation New York School. This book functions as an open window onto a closed scene. The poems feel like well-placed mirrors hanging in the midst of utopia. ‘Lost’ masterpieces abound including Grain (a long collaboration between Alice Notley, Ted Berrigan and Tom Clark) as well as Anne Waldman’s immersive neighborhood poem Spin-Off. Enjoy the crystalline charm and uncertainty of Joe Brainard’s Bolinas Journal or Joanne Kyger’s epic epithalamium written for two friends. Some of the poets added to this new edition have been living in or near Bolinas all along, they fit in perfectly, like the faint shadow of Mount Tamalpais, like the Pacific left glimmering at the end of the road. -Cedar Sigo
Listen to Ben Estes, Anne Waldman & Joel Weishaus interviewed on KQED Forum