Wednesday, March 28, 2012

"Visions and Affiliations" chronicles 65 years of Bay Area poetry, 1940-2005





At the San Francisco Chronicle, Evan Karp writes about a new book covering sixty-five years of Bay Area poets and poetry. The resulting lavish and entertaining two-volume chronology is just part one of a continuing timeline being compiled by Jack Foley, who in the article says he and his wife Adelle struggled to find the right way to tell the history.


As he told Karp about fashioning history from so many creative strands, "That's the problem with multiplicity: How do you find a form that will express it, but which is not totally chaotic. The right kind of chaos rather than the wrong kind."


The force of creative chaos that runs through the Bay Area history from 1940 to 2005 is less an organizing principle than, in Foley's words, a human response that defined character: "As circumstances arise we discover/invent selves to deal with them. In story, our lives tend to take on a coherence and purpose which they may well have lacked in actuality." Here's a brief excerpt from Karp's SF Gate article:



Jack Foley, 71, took a decade to write his 1,300-page book, Visions and Affiliations, which offers a timeline of poetic and social events from the years .


If Jack Foley were a book, he’d be a 1,300-page chrono-encyclopedia of Bay Area poets and poetry that spans 65 years and is written in the present tense. But that’s just the latest chapter in the rich and ongoing story of the Oakland poet and critic.


Foley, 71, describes both himself and the book, “Visions and Affiliations” (Pantograph Press), which he has spent over a decade composing, with the same statement: “In story, our lives tend to take on a coherence and purpose which they may well have lacked in actuality. As circumstances arise we discover/invent selves to deal with them. And the circumstances change in response to those selves.”


In the house in the Maxwell Park neighborhood that he has occupied with his wife, Adelle, since 1974, Foley laughs, “That means I’m crazy, right?”


“The problem with unity,” he continues, “is that in order to achieve it, you leave all these things out that might glitter around it and contradict it. So you don’t want unity, because it simplifies. What you want is to have something like the feeling of the complexity of life as it is.” ...


As Adelle Foley noted in a follow-up letter to the SF Gate article further explaining the book's wide focus: while Bay Area poetry is covered extensively the book is broadly about California poetry and features, among many others, such Angelean luminaries as “Tommy the Commie” (Thomas McGrath), Philomene Long, William Pillen, Amy Gerstler, and David St. John.


For an excerpt from Visions and Affiliations: A California Literary Timeline 1940-2005 there is more at Jack and Adelle Foley's web page.


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