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The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer.

Jack Spicer. The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer. Edited by Peter Gizzi. Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1998.270 pp. Paper: $18.95; Lewis Ellingham and Kevin Killian. Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance. Wesleyan Univ. Press, 1998. 461 pp. $35.00.

Jack Spicer is the only post-World War II American poet who seems to be compelling. Black Sparrow has kept his collected books in print for many years and they are as essential as The Waste Land.

Spicer is America's only modern poete maudite, but we still don't know who he is or was. He was first a poet and then a homosexual drunk--he succeeded in drinking himself to death in San Francisco in 1965--a believer in the poetic community (a great distruster of the isolated poetic soul) that has included Robert Duncan, Ronald Blaser, James Broughton, and George Stanley. He believed, thus endearing himself to publishers, that a poetic work should not be copyrighted.

The lectures--which are really more bait and response sessions than any straight forward transcription of prepared "remarks,-are well edited and annotated right down to the necessary baseball lore from the early 1960s. Refreshingly, Spicer does not believe in inspiration, in emotion, in seeing or any of the other sentimental stuff poets like to go on about. He argues that "A poet is a catcher more than a pitcher, but the poet likes to think of himself as a pitcher more than a catcher." Spicer makes clear that the words come from some place and the poet is only the one who puts them down on paper. Spicer's lectures are the finest descriptions of what goes on in the writing of poetry that I know of, and coupled with Ezra Pound's ABC of Reading, anyone is prepared to set up shop as both a reader and commentator on any sort of poetry; both books might serve as textbooks for the writing of the readable novel of the future.

The biography, dense with necessary illuminating gossip, is sometimes marred with a politically correct fastidiousness but is a wonderful source for coming into some understanding of Jack Spicer. One line from a love object of Jack Spicer hints at what is so attractive about Spicer and his work: "he would make a statement that just implied everything, and it was up to you to figure it out."
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:McGonigle, Thomas
Publication:The Review of Contemporary Fiction
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 22, 1999
Previous Article:Bordeaux.
Next Article:Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance.

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