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Bay Area poets headline "Big Night"


It's been more than a half century since what came to be known as the "San Francisco Renaissance" first reverberated through American poetry and post World War Two America, but its legacy runs deep through the culture of spoken word performance and the spirit of collaboration between various poetry, music, and the visual art forms extending into the 21st century.   Although Walt Whitman ("...a Kosmos, of Manhattan the son..") may have been the first American poet to write of "urban affection," it was in the mid 20th century San Francisco Bay area that a different social model for a distinctly American creative community evolved.
 
One of the youngest members of the "Beat generation" of writers closely associated with the San Francisco Renaissance visits Buffalo Thursday night as the headliner of Just Buffalo Literary Center's latest "Big Night" celebration.  David Meltzer, born in 1937 but already a prominent enough voice to be featured in Donald Allen's anthology The New American Poetry: 1945-1960, brings one of the most eclectic resumes in recent memory to the Western New York Book Arts Collaborative on 468 Washington St.(near Mohawk) at 8 p.m. for an evening that promises more than a few surprises.
 
In addition to having published over 50 books, including over two dozen collections of poems, three story collections, a collection of essays, and in the 1960's ten books of erotica he now describes as "agit-smut," Meltzer has recorded as a jazz guitarist, lectured as a cabalist scholar, and taught in the New College of California Poetics Program founded by Robert Duncan.  The son of two classical musicians, he was born in Rochester, New York, but raised in Brooklyn, where his family moved in 1940.
 
When his parents separated in 1954, he moved with his father to Los Angeles, where he became interested in the growing San Francisco poetry scene first organized by Kenneth Rexroth and Madeline Gleason which by the mid 1950's had extended to the work and teaching of Duncan, Robin Blaser, and Jack Spicer.  In 1957 at age 20, he moved to San Francisco and became one of the youngest writers associated with the Renaissance.  Perhaps the volumes of his work which present the most comprehensive view of his career are Arrows: Selected Poetry, 1957-1992 (Black Sparrow Press, 1994), No Eyes: Lester Young (Black Sparrow, 2000), his cycle of poems about the legendary jazz tenor saxophonist, and David's Copy: The Selected Poems of David Meltzer (Penguin Group Press, 2005).
 
Joining Meltzer on Thursday will be Michael Rothenberg--a poet, songwriter, environmental activist, and editor of several prominent collections of Beat generation and post-Beat writing (including David's Copy) as well as the co-founder of Big Bridge Press and Big Bridge.org, a web based venue for innovative and environmentally-conscious poetics--and Terri Carrión, a poet and photographer of Cuban-Gallacian heritage who is Assistant Editor and Visual Designer of Big Bridge.  Rothenberg's most recent publication is Choose: Selected Poems (Big Bridge Press), while Carrión's latest chapbook is Lazy Tongue (D Press).  Profiles of Night, her forthcoming bilingual anthology of Venezuelan women writers, will appear shortly on the Big Bridge web site.
 
As with all "Big Nights," there will be additional entertainments, including music by the jazz trio Other Side, featuring Kelly Bucheger (sax), John Werick (bass), and Albright-Knox curator Doug Dreishpoon (drums), and food by Gulf War veteran, BlazeVox Books publisher, and C.I.A. (that's Culinary Institute of America) trained chef Geoffrey Gatza.  
 
--R.D. Pohl
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