'After Language: Letters to Jack Spicer' by Stephen Vincent
The test of a true poem, Stephen Vincent writes, is how not to die for it. How can a book that chills you to the bone — As Jack Spicer’s Language surely does — become a structuring, challenging, politicizing and even comforting recurring presence through forty years of a life lived under its spell? With a hard-won, contrarian patience, Vincent applies the test, and the hope he finds at the end is all the more convincing for the precarious-ness of the path it takes through the silent gap between No and One listens to poetry.
Stephen Vincent's engagement with Jack Spicer's poetry goes arguably farther back than anyone who wasn't a friend or acquaintance. What is not arguable is the generative richness of that engagement. Having been sent Spicer's Language by a friend while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in a Nigeria poised on the brink of civil war, he finds in its "uncomfortable music" a poetry uncannily expanding the borders of meaning. Cast in the creative-epistolary form of Spicer's own After Lorca, this book is a tactful searching: it respects the intransigence of the poems, and tries, in the gentlest of ways, to understand the man who wrote them. After Language is a meditation on interpretive migration, on the troubled paths of poetic inheritance, and on the tangled, fraught (and yes, magical) ways that poetry survives it makers.
Stephen Vincent lives in San Francisco where he is a poet, writer and visual artist. Some of his previous books include: Piece by Piece (Okike + Redberry Publications, 1967); White Lights & Whale Hearts (The Crossing Press, 1971); The Ballad of Artie Bremer (Momo's Press, 1974); Walking (Junction Press, 1993); Sleeping With Sappho (faux ebook, 2004);Triggers (Shearsman ebook, 2005); Walking Theory (Junction Press, 2007); The First 100 Days of Obama (Steven Wolf Fine Arts, 2009). Vincent’s haptic drawings and unique accordion fold books have been featured in gallery exhibits at Braunsein-Quay (2009) and Steven Wolf Fine Arts (2009), San Francisco, and Jack Hanley Gallery (2011), New York City. In 2012, the Logan Gallery, Legion Museum of Art (San Francisco Fine Arts Museums) is planning a one-person exhibit of the drawings and books.