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Feb 22nd
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Home People & Lifestyle Western Writers Blog The Growing Conversation About Edward Dorn

The Growing Conversation About Edward Dorn

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In April, Edward Dorn would have turned eighty-four. In today's terms, he died young, just seventy, but he left a powerful legacy behind. Gone but certainly not forgotten, as he's still taught and read and talked about by individuals and in literature and creative writing classes on both sides of the Atlantic.

Edward Dorn and his legacy have been on my mind of late because UNM Press has two books by and about Dorn slated to be released early fall 2013 as part of our new series, Recencies: Research and Recovery in Twentieth-Century American Poetics.

dorn_shoshoneans_cvrThe first book is an expanded edition of The Shoshoneans. Originally published in 1966 by William Morrow & Co., the book has been long out of print. This edition will include all of Dorn's original prose and Leroy Lucas's striking photographs of the Shoshonean people.

It will also include a great deal of other material that fans and scholars of Dorn will find fascinating, including a foreword by Simon J. Ortiz and a large appendix titled "Historical and Archival Materials," which is introduced and annotated by Recencies series editor Matthew Hofer. The appendix includes, among other items, a lecture and an unpublished essay by Dorn.

The opportunity to reprint a classic book such as this one, to make it available again to both readers familiar with an author's work and newcomers to the work, is a pleasure. I, for one, am really looking forward to holding the final book in my hands. Seeing the final product and knowing it will reintroduce this classic book reminds me of why I get up and go to work each morning!

I am equally excited about the other book UNM Press is publishing, a work of scholarly importance that should prove both a good reference for Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn scholars as well as make for good reading.

The book is titled Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn: The Collected Letters, and is edited by Claudia Moreno Pisano. Clocking in at an approximate page count of 312 pages, it will be a hefty tome that provides a unique and intimate look into the American poetry scene from the perspective of two highly regarded poets and cultural icons.

Baraka actually published Dorn's first two books of poetry, The Newly Fallen (1961) and Hands Up! (1964), through his publishing imprint Totem Press. Amiri Baraka and Edward Dorn contains a preface by Baraka, a keynote speech that Baraka gave in 2008 at the Ed Dorn Symposium hosted by the University of Colorado, Boulder, and it is a wonderful preface to the material that follows.

My point here isn't just to sing praises of our forthcoming books; rather it is to make apparent the continuing importance of Dorn's work and the burgeoning of material about his work. Along with the titles by UNM Press, I know of two titles released in the United Kingdom in late 2012 that add to this growing conversation.

Carcanet Press in the United Kingdom published Collected Poems by Edward Dorn. Talk about a hefty tome; the book consists of 1,000 pages and was edited by Jennifer Dunbar Dorn, Edward Dorn's widow. It includes all of his major works, including all four books of Gunslinger, as well as previously uncollected poems. It also contains other material, including afterwords by Amiri Baraka and J. H. Prynne and original introductions and prefaces to many of the individual collections of Dorn's poetry. It is available on Amazo
n and I have no doubt will be stocked in bookstores.

The other book is a small volume I came across when reading about Collected Poems. The book is titled, simply, Two Interviews. Published by Shearsman Books, the author is listed as Edward Dorn, but the book was edited by Gavin Selerie and Justin Katko. The interviews were conducted in 1971 in Vancouver and 1981 in London.

I haven't seen this book yet, although it's also available on Amazon, but from what I've read it seems to be another treasure trove for those interested in Dorn. Katko provides a preface that focuses on the Vancouver interview and Selerie provides an introduction to the 1981 interview in London. However, also included in the book are unpublished photographs, a bibliography of Dorn interviews, and previously uncollected extracts from Juneau in June, Day & Night Report, and three poems.

As with any author, Dorn isn't everyone's "cup of tea." But his work is of continuing importance in the study of twentieth-century poetry. For anyone interested in learning more about Dorn and his work, these books are a good place to start.

People & Lifestyle