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This is a great book! Here are the poets, the great modern poets who have given us our language, our imagery, our style—plunging us into their theater: John Ashbery’s The Heroes, with its classical echo in Ashbery’s singular idiom, which The Living Theatre produced in 1952; Bunny Lang’s marvelous re-invention of English phrases, which The Poets Theatre at Cambridge so boldly produced; Frank O’Hara’s The Houses at Falling Hanging, which inspired a whole generation of poet-playwrights; the stylist Schuyler, our blustering hero Corso, the magical Duncan; their names themselves are poetry. Michael McClure read me his poem play The Feast with vocalizations beyond words—in the sense of outstripping them. The Living Theatre produced VKTMS, McClure’s Oedipal drama in 1988, a highpoint in poetical theatre. Kenneth Koch, magisterial leader of the new poetry and teacher of the art; Diane di Prima, the legendary strong woman’s voice among the poets; Jackson Mac Low, whose The Marrying Maiden, at The Living Theater in 1960, overthrew all the rules of theatre, playing Cagean chance against the hexagrams of the I Ching, with a pair of dice ordering the action; Amiri Baraka, world famous Revolutionary playwright, author of the masterpiece, Dutchman; Anne Waldman, beloved high priestess of Poetry, who is here represented by The Stoop, a poem of the 60’s, and who now carries forward the banner of poetic theatre in her new play, Red/Noir, to open in The Living Theatre in December 2009.

So many more are contained in this treasure of a book. For these are the very creators of our art—and though the fickle theater has sometimes betrayed them, they remain the foundation of our hope that the theatre of poetry lives today—and will flourish tomorrow if our planet is to be saved from oblivion.

—Judith Malina

The Kenning Anthology of Poets Theater: 1945-1985, edited by Kevin Killian and David Brazil, is forthcoming in early 2010. Including Killian and Brazil’s extensive notes on the plays (even those for which reprint licenses could not be secured) as well as their substantial preface, “Why Poets Theater?”, the anthology brings together fugitive texts, classics of the genre, and several unpublished works. Here is the table of contents:

Jack Spicer / Young Goodman Brown (1946)

Charles Olson / The Fiery Hunt (1948)

John Ashbery / The Heroes (1950)

V.R. “Bunny” Lang / At Battle’s End: A Verse in the Manner of Noh (1952)

James Schuyler / The Mystery Chef Mystery (1953)

Frank O’Hara / The Houses at Falling Hanging (1953)

Russell Atkins / The Corpse (1954)

Gregory Corso / In This Hung-Up Age (1954)

Robert Duncan / The Origins of Old Son (1956)

Helen Adam / Initiation to the Magic Workshop (1957)

James Broughton / Mission to Gomorrah (1958)

Michael McClure / ! The Feast ! (1960)

Madeline Gleason / The Dreaming Bed (1961)

Diane di Prima / Rain Fur (1961)

Kenneth Koch / The Construction of Boston (1962)

Jackson Mac Low / The Twin Plays (1962)

Lorenzo Thomas / Two One-Act Plays (1964)

Anne Waldman / The Stoop (1964)

LeRoi Jones / Dutchman (1964)

ruth weiss / m & m (1965)

Ron Padgett / The Kiss Behind the Smile (1966)

Hannah Weiner / RJ (Romeo & Juliet) (1966)

Lew Welch / Abner Won’t Be Home for Dinner (1966)

Barbara Guest / The Chinese Ghost Restaurant (1967)

Sonia Sanchez / Sister Son/ji (1969)

James Keilty / Jahkh (1970)

Joe Brainard / The Gay Way (1972)

Bruce Andrews / Song No. 3 (1973)

Keith Waldrop / The Same Sensation (1974)

Rosmarie Waldrop / Remember Gasoline? (1975)

Theresa Hak Kyung Cha / From Vampyr (1976) and Reveille Dans la Brume (1977)

Bob Holman and Bob Rosenthal / Ted Berrigan’s Clear the Range (1977)

Steve Benson / Views of Communist China (1977)

Ted Greenwald / The Coast (1978)

Carla Harryman / Third Man (1978)

Ntozake Shange / Spell #7 (1979)

Bob Perelman / The Alps (1980)

Kit Robinson / Collateral (1981)

Bertolt Brecht & Bob Grenier / from The Baden-Baden Instructional Play Concerning Understanding (1981)

Alan Bernheimer / Particle Arms (1982)

Charles Bernstein / Entitlement (1982)

Fiona Templeton / Against Agreement (1982)

Stephen Rodefer / A & C (1983)

Johanna Drucker / Through the Dark End of Daylight (1984)

Kenward Elmslie / Quarks Report (1984)

Leslie Scalapino / Leg (1985)

Nada Gordon / Distraction (1985)

Kathy Acker / The Birth of the Poet (1985)

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