A Poem from the Late 20th Century

The poet Nanos Valaoritis and I were good friends many years ago, in San Francisco. Here’s a poem of his, which I published in 1970, in a broadside edition of 500 or 1,000 copies — I can’t recall exactly. “Endless Crucifixion” is a collector’s item now. Jed Birmingham, who writes the RealityStudio column the Bibliographic Bunker, managed to snag one for me from a rare books dealer out in California.

Click for a legible version that enlarges.

Re-reading the poem today, I like it as much as I did 41 years ago.

Nanos used to come by my flat at 29-b Guy Place several times a week on his way home to Oakland from San Francisco State University, where he was a professor of comparative literature and creative writing.

Andrei Codrescu used to show up, too, though less predictably. From the moment I introduced them, it was clear they would hit it off.

Here’s Andrei’s description of us, from his memoir An Involuntary Genius in America’s Shoes: (And What Happened Afterwards):

Well, I was paranoid, probably from smoking so much dope. Andrei was beyond paranoid, probably from taking too much speed.

Postscript: Nanos will be 91 this summer. Have a look at this memoir of his, about his years in London in the 1940s. The stories he tells of his meetings with Stephen Spender, T.S. Eliot, Louis MacNeice, W.H. Auden, Cyril Connolly, and many other writers of that period and later, are a pleasure to read … and typical of Nanos’s cosmopolitan brilliance.

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