Anselm Hollo (Naropa Memorial Reading)

Anselm Hollo (1934-2013)

Last week we featured a recording from the Naropa Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics – a Gertrude Stein reading. Today, we feature another – a memorial reading in celebration of the great Finnish-American poet, Anselm Hollo, in anticipation next month of the publication of his monumental Collected Poems.

This event took place in Boulder, Colorado, on July 7, 2013, (Anselm had passed away the previous January), and lasted just over two hours.

Anselm is eulogized and remembered  in a series of readings and recollections by friends, family and colleagues.  

The audio is available – here 

Reed Bye introduces the program and outlines a series of events taking place to honor Anselm (and his son Hannes who died 1999). He notes briefly Anselm’s place in world poetics and, more immediately, locally, in Boulder, on the Naropa campus:

“With the circumstances of his Finnish first linage and culture and his wide and wandering curiosity, Anselm became influential in the ways post-modern poetics developed from the mid-century…into the beginning of the twenty-first century. Some of that influence included a sense for the sound of language, that doesn’t conform to prescriptions for traditional musics of languages but that holds the phrasal energy and music of any given language, filtered through his own particular poetic keen ear and intelligence.  So this was part of the larger movement in poetics at this time. (He was) a contributor, internationally, to that, one that allowed for more idiosyncratic measures and formations to settle into contemporary verse.
At Naropa, where he taught translation and poetry workshops and courses in international poetics, Anselm was known as a teacher who gave very wide permission to his students to come up with what they come up with, and a great appreciator of that when it was innovative and fresh, but (he) also had a sharp critical cutlass that came down fairly quickly when the sound was a little… (was) veering towards the self-indulgent to self-important. And that was usually followed by chuckles or laughter, that emphasized the comment made and also contextualized it within the realm of all of it, what was being made, being both playful and serious at once.  He was a great poet of this community here, in which he lived and wrote for two-and-a-half decades, joyously expansive, and, at the same time, a very private and humble presence. The poetic intelligence that he brought..always made its mark somehow, was noticeable….and it remains here, that intelligence settled here, and we’ll hear why and some of the  reasons that takes place today.”

Jane Dalrymple-Hollo and Anselm Hollo, Penny Lane Cafe, Boulder, Colorado, July 1991 photograph by Allen Ginsberg (c. Allen Ginsberg Estate)

At approximately six-and-a-half minutes in, Jane Dalrymple-Hollo, Anselm’s widow, speaks. She shares Reed Bye’s observations about Naropa being “home”. (“I’ve given the opening remarks to memorials for Anselm three times now but this one is really different because this is home”). She apologizes for not having a “bespoke essay” completed for this occasion so instead reads “a piece that I wrote for Anselm’s memorial at the St Mark’s Poetry Project”. Jane Dalrymple-Hollo reads “In The Company of Poets” – see here 

Next up is Maureen Owen – “We’ve always been so fortunate to have Anselm’s poetry and now that we no longer have his wonderful actual presence, his works take on an even mightier significance…” – She reads five poems from Hollo’s 1977 volume, Heavy Jars, beginning with Ted Berrigan’s words on the back cover “Anselm’s poems many of them, are deceptively simple. They, like the poet himself, are exceptionally civilized.  By civilized I mean, genuinely civilized, that is with no proportionate loss of spleen. The hits in the poems take place in your head when you read them but the poems are not a head-trip. The head speaks out to the heart to the head connected to the heart. There is no bullshit in these poems. This voice we hear is Anselm Hollo speaking, gracious, courteous, tough-minded, everything else, history, culture and poetry, proceed as a matter of course. What the poems seem be about is how to live in terms of doing so.” – and Hollo’s dedication in the book – “friends/ fit/ the words to the song/the song to the words/ the words/ & the song/ the song/ & the words/ are/the world”
She then reads the poems “’slowly/the eye scans the page..”, “awkward spring..”, “Landing in the Trees”, and “Yellow Crane Pavilion” – concluding with the haiku  -“round lumps of cells grow/up to low porridge, later/ become The Supremes”.

She is followed by Jack Collom – “I’m going to begin with a little poem of Anselm’s that he sent me for my the late  60’s…” –  “Sunset with Blame”  (“You started it all”/ and again she said “You”/ the blame came rolling straight at him”…”..into the sunset he rode with it”) –  (“This was printed inside a poem by Vito Acconci, which was the borders of the dictionary page, and Vito was upset by this fact (and Anselm was quite happy about it)).
– plus – “a few poems from the sonnet series,  ‘Not A Form At All But A State Of Mind”,  beginning with the William Carlos Williams quote at beginning”  – “The sonnet is not a form at all but a state of mind. It is the dialogue upon which much writing is founded, a statement then a rejoinder of a sort, perhaps a reply, perhaps a variant of the original but a come-back in one sort or another.” – And so, fourteen- liners, and I’ll read six of them –  Collom does so – (“After reading the tiresome review from the school of tedious outpourings…”…”desperately singing in harm’s way”  Poppy or charms can make us sleep as well..”…”strange unrelenting world, I have woven my heart into this net of branches” – “Wipe the screen, screw wigs on tight…” ..”dream of big live teddy-bear that wants you” – “It is well known that Mary Magdalen came to Provence to live after the crucifixion..” ..“Johannes Kelpius, first American composer, founded a commune called The Woman in the Wilderness”.. “The lecturer’s heart stepped into the void…”…”Alphabet ends, Universe begin” – “Still trudges along in its big shoes….”  ” the prompter whispers left-over lines – “Vast cheering in the distance”…”So much depends on Fire Engine number 5“)

Eleni Sikelianos is next,  She reads a piece that she and Laird Hunt wrote for (the New York-based)  Lungfull! magazine” – (“They asked for a report on Boulder so this is what we wrote”) – (“Anselm Hollo: A Remembrance”) – (“This begins in Laird’s voice, I think you’ll be able to tell when it switches”) – (“Some years ago on a quiet cold winter night, Eleni and I walked with Anselm and Jane across a path covered in ice-crusted snow…”) – She/they then go on to attempt to describe Anselm’s oft-quoted laugh – ” Anselm’s voice and laugh, and varying varieties of something much like a harrumph!, which as often as not were followed by his laugh – how to describe that laugh? – a bucket of heavy liquid with gravel at its bottom?  Saint Nick playing poker with a light smoker’s cough? – and give a brief account of his final days -“He was waiting for the train that kept missing  him. With the help of Jane and his two daughters, Tamsin and Kaarina, he went out in Viking style, like a great Crow-king, (Corvus) off to translate the poems of the afterworld.”
Sikelianos concludes with a reading of  “two short poems” – “La Noche”. (“The wind  let loose in the dark/ and the lights of the city  moving..”… “See the men and women preparing themselves  for the long journey across a room”) and “Big Dog” from (Heavy Jars) – “I bring you this head full of breathtakingly beautiful images of yourself and put it in your lap.”…”In a moment or two, I’ll get up and be a man again”)
(She decides against reading  “Godlike” – (“tho’, “you should read that because it’s so funny – about when you’re remembering  what an asshole you’ve been in your life and decide to keep quiet about it”))

At approximately forty-two-and-three-quarter minutes in –  Anne Waldman begins, evoking Anselm Hollo as a “tattered bodhisattva” –  “Ted Berrigan, dear friend of Anselm Hollo, who Anselm continued to have long conversations with in his head and in his poetry long after Ted’s death, used this phrase to me once – “tattered bodhisattva’ (and also in a talk he gave at Naropa in describing in a sense what many of us were all doing circa mid ’60s-’70s)  and he said – “like Anselm Hollo” – (this is before the more secure teaching jobs, grants and the like, raised the stature of a poet’s survival – the itinerant poet singing for his or her supper – “have ticket will travel” – And this notion of bodhisattva, also infused a commitment to the role and the ethos of the poet as one benefitting other interested and curious ones on a kind of trajectory, (not exactly a “do-good mission”), “this is what we do(not about la gloire or the money) – This ethos has been a key component to this community here (Naropa)”

Anne recalls one “whisky-tattered bodhisattva moment” with Anselm, traveling in the late ’70’s, and then proceeds to read a few excerpts from his prose collection,  Caws and Causeries: Around Poetry and Poets (1999) – (“I wanted to give some context to Anselm’s teaching, thinking, commentary on his own practice”)

From a panel discussion on experimental writing, Naropa, July 1996:

Anselm:  “..Since pedagogues at all levels from grade school to PhD programs as well as your average book reviewer still tend to classify all poetry not written in textbook or old bottle structures as experimental, my own work has had that label tacked onto it. As far as technique goes, I write things I like to read, and even read again. Years ago, a very bright younger student-poet expressed surprise, tinged with some moral disapproval, at his discovery that almost none of my works bore any classifiable textbook similarity to each other.  They came in bottles of all kinds of weird shapes and sizes. The methods I use to make my poems are various. I write lines. I edit. I cut and paste. I re-arrange. I’ve incorporated into my writing, bound, appropriated, rearranged, otherwise-altered or re-contextualized, written material. I try my best to get out from under the ever-threatening specters of the obvious, the programmatic, the humorless, the this-will-make-me-cringe-a-decade-from-now. So that if there is any sure technique in my stuff, it is just survival  technique, get-it-out-there technique, (which is not to say those specters haven’t caught up with me time and again to drool and stomp on my self-esteem).”

She concludes by reading a text written especially for the memorial by Anselm’s Finnish friend, Kai Nieminen prefaced with the line of Hollo  -“The cricket you hear is not the cricket you heard when and when and when.. “Anne delivers a moving heart-felt farewell-note –  “Dear Anselm, much was left unfinished, much more was achieved..”

From Nieminen’s eulogy:
“..We speak a common language, not English not Finnish, not just poetry, a lingua paragate   It took a while to learn it, to fine adjust it, so that both, in an immediate way, understood what the other was  meaning, but then which language would not need learning and effort? Translating your poems I knew what you thought and translating mine you knew what I did think, and not only what, but also how, so what could prevent me from conversing with you now? We have had longer pauses than this. Silence has a vocabulary too and I know what you say, think, right now, looking into my memory and your books…”
Nieminen echoes Anselm’s prefatory quote in his conclusion:  “Until when and when and when…”

Next is poet  Mark DuCharme.  DuCharme reads “Dedication: A Toke for Li Po” ) (“Born in Jiangyou province in Szechuan…”…”one of those of whom it is said he took the charge well”) and an untitled poem of his own in six parts – (“it doesn’t have a title except the title of the work which is  “here”, which is also a place”) – (“So now you’ll be returned to Earth…”… “stolen in night air”)
He concludes with a poem from the sequence “Blue Ceiling” (1992)  (“Raccoon sees cat go in and out small door..”… “you won’t be able to verify any of this”)

Anselm’s first wife, Josephine Clare speaks (at the approximately sixty-one minute mark).   (“At this time I feel more drawn to the more lyrical, gentle poems of Anselm and I’ll be reading from Tumbleweed. that was published in 1969 by Weed/Flower Press”) – She notes and interprets the book’s “very British” dedication – “No end to troubles, he said, gave me heart” – She reads contrasting (Anton) Webern poems – hers, “1945, Es ist aus” (1945.It’s over, (or “That’s it”)  (“Now that the Pope has questioned God…”…”Es ist aus“) – and Anselm’s “Webern” (“Switch off the lights…”…”Who will have mercy on us if we have none”…”still moving”)

She concludes with his  “Chanson after Pierre Reverdy– (“When she wouldn’t be there, when he would be gone from that place..”..” “all alone by itself”)

Anselm Berrigan is next.  He recalls “the one time we read together at Bridge Street Books in Washington DC and in the run up to reading for several weeks I’d get these emails from Anselm and he’d always in the middle somewhere say, “Are you ready for the reading of “los dos Anselmos“?” – He begins with a poem written by his father, Ted Berrigan, one of several Ted wrote for Anselm – “In Anselm Hollo’s Poems” – (“the goddess stands off in front of her cave…”..”being the claim of the dimensions of the world”) – Berrigan then reads Hollo’s four-part piece, “Small Door at Far End” (“Time for your take, you assholes..”…”ask any intelligent slave” – “always but not unpleasantly torn between transparent intelligence saying itself..but they have devastated our great cities and the poets left there must wear the star of the marginal”)
He concludes with  “Anselm’s Dreams”  – (“he wrote the poem and dedicated it to me when I was born so this is a circle with a black shirt on it”   (“saint anselm of asota, le bec & canterbury…”…,”..anselm awoke & knew that his friend was saved, & that the angels do keep off our foes in the beyond, as the bearwards keep off the bears.”)

Jennifer Dunbar is next. She reads two poems from Hollo’s Guests of Space (2007) – “a couple of sonnets or states of mind from Guests of Space (that just jumped out)” –  “things people say”. (“I think you’re a very lonely man said one/Another one said her friend said, He’s just a sentimental lumberjack… “..can’t believe I’m saying these things, people say these things, these things”) –  and “the human being talks it talks” (“the human being talks it talks…”…”with the windows rolled down”). Dunbar notes the additional commentary by Anselm – (“so, “hating speech”, a reference to Robert Greniers notorious statement, “I hate speech.” – “driving somewhere fast” – my daughter Tamsin’s memory of Edward Dorn, from when she was five years old”)

Laura Wright reads (also from Guests of Space) – “When you’re feeling” – (When you’re feeling about as bad as your average English translation of Goethe…”…. “there’s never been any way around it.”, followed by two translations  (“These are some translations  that Anselm and I did together years ago from a book by Henri Michaux, the Belgian poet.  (La vie dans les plis  (Life in the folds)). This section is called “The Old Age of Pythagoras”, and it starts with an epitaph – “I would like to know why I always follow the horse that I hold by the reins” – Wright reads from “The Old Age of Pythagoras” – (“With age, says Pythagoras, I have become like a field..” … “the stingy old man attached to life”)  – and, finally, from an earlier section, “The Overloaded Horse”.  (“When I am alone for an hour or two a horse often appears to me..”…”In the past, need I say, this was not the kind of horse that appeared to me”)

Kaarina Hollo, Anselm’s daughter is the next to speak. She reads “one from Tumbleweed, two from Heavy Jars, then finish with a translation I made of one of Anselm’s poems into a language that he didn’t work with himself”. She begins with “Finnish Folk (For & From Osip Mandelstam) (after Pentti Saarkikoski) – ” a  hard poem to read if you think about what it means but an easy poem to read if you think about the sounds.. It’s a water-worn pebble in terms of sound -(“Go to the lake shore.   it is the day your son comes home”)
Next, from Heavy Jars – “the first poem I’m going to read is the “heavy jar” of the title and it’s a block, a block of writing, a square of words and I’ll just read them as they come along” .  (“given the heavy jar full of all..”…”the ones that no-one could say anything but the dramatically obvious about”)
and, then –  “Helsinki 1940”  (“my mind always thinks of it as Anselm’s Blitz poem, the blitz, the term that’s normally applied to the London Blitz, this is of course the Helsinki blitz,(the) bombing of Helsinki in 1940“) –  (“Exploding, shattering, burning, big light in the sky../” ..”surrounded by many, all of whom really felt like living”)

She follows this with a reading of the poem “Late – the Aspen Hour”  (“Oh, oh,/ we/ are/ worn out.. “I can see leaves”,/ you said/ “they’re everywhere”/  I saw/your nerves/ veins/] in a talking leaf” ) (“published in 1965, I believe”) in the original and then, in her Irish translation – (“I started working on it when I came over at the end of January…Anselm’s last days, I didn’t finish it then but I finished it later.. I had issues. . It’s in Munster Irish, the Irish of Kerry Dingle peninsula which a place I spent quite a lot of time..’)

Anselm Hollo, Anne Waldman, Bobbie-Louise Hawkins and Jack Collom, Naropa date – photo by Jane Daltymple-Hollo

Bobbie Louise Hawkins  is next (approximately ninety-four-and-a-quarter minutes in). – She begins by quoting Ron Padgett on Anselm Hollo –   “lovely, deep, funny, angular, brainy, conversational, literary, goofy, elegaic, agile – and all at the same time, how does the great Anselm Hollo do it?”.  At one point I had a conversation with Anselm when all of the news was filled with the extraordinary fact that male politicians were screwing females and that was when wars were going on, hurricanes were going on, major news was going on but what we constantly being subjected to was politicians sex lives and I got exasperated and I started raging at there dilemmas of living in a country that had been settled by the Puritans and I decided that I was absolutely and thoroughly against the Puritans. At which point Anselm said,  “Yess,  and on the other hand..  and then he proceeded to give me a sense of what those people had done to straighten up social reality in the country, what books had been written by whom, all of that stuff. When Anselm died and a little time went by. I found myself thinking “I don’t have anyone else who can just lay that flat kind of educated information on me, you know. People who are educated take it for granted that they know things. People like myself who was badly educated, I adore it when people know things and when thy say them, I’m just delighted… oh, incidentally, flies buzz in the key of F – that’s true! –  So then when I was looking in this book (you know, those of you who don’t know this book, it’s a poem and then after-thoughts, done as footnotes, so that you get Anselm coming in on it. Anselm had a very lovely and personal sense of humor.I take a sense of humor to be an extension, a further width of an act of intelligence and with Anselm I think that was patent . Then I read this poem , (“63” -“has he returned with outrageous opinions?”).  This is about Anselm going to Salem  (“has he returned with outrageous opinions?/ oh no, I find the place as beautiful as ever..”….”last one out turns off the lights”).  And then, looking at these footnotes – he says,  “Salem’s grim offspring”  –  “the bafflingly resistant vicious strain of narrow-minded Calvinism that still afflicts US-American political discourse” –  and I thought, ha!  he was so busy straightening up the conversation that we were having that he didn’t mention that he agreed with me!

Hawkins reads a further poem from rue Wilson Monday  (“now this is getting a bit noir is it not/back here in the sauvage West..”…” Cassandra? remember her little Cassandra /her wail doth echo in these open spaces”)

Reed Bye recalls Anselm at Naropa –  “One direction of his poetry moved towards the domestic…and he became something of a master in his own semi-sardonic and loving way” –  reads “Born Today” –  (“To be one to the one closest to you…”…”he looks up, she looks up from piano keys/hold that frame”)

Bill Berkson, the penultimate reader, notes the company of Hollo in shared 1934 birthdays, and, like Laird Hunt, highlights the unforgettable sound of Anselm’s voice – (“The first thing that comes to mind about Anselm is his sound, that – and everyone’s gone after the voice – that honey-tinged lions roar of a voice, vividly analogous to the sound his poems make when you read then to yourself. As he wrote of (fellow Finnish poet) Paavo Haavikko – “The voice is a speaking voice, moving in slow careful cadences sometimes quietly incantatory but not striving for cheap hypnotic effect”.  Cosmopolitan, Anselm was a great cosmopolite. His poems, including his translations from several languages, his teachings and talkativeness reflect his being smilingly at home in what might be called “the larger world..” – “As it happened”, Berkson points out, “long before I met him,  I wrote about two of his books”.  (see here –  Poetry July 1969 – “Hollo has written an interesting introduction to the Finnish poet Haavikko” ) – Berkson reads Haavikko’s “One thing at a time” . (“One thing at a time/ it is Spring..”… “Autumn/ is autumn, /nails/ are nails, Spring passes, Autumn passes, hair is gone, it is Spring”)

He then reads an excerpt from his response (“a view of Anselm, a vision of Anselm”), an extended blurb that was commissioned and that he’d prepared for rue Wilson Monday  –  (“Now in France our hero, having retrieved the Queen’s diamond studs, sweeps into the ballroom through a high window…”…”Anselm Hollo this era’s most clear-sighted, uncommonly cosmopolite cosmopolitan upholder of diurnal poetry’s cardinal rule – wax observant and follow the bouncing song..”)  –  followed by three poems from that book – (“Beautiful thoughts/ beware of those who write to write beautiful thoughts..”…”bits of rough back fall off trunk”) – (“Pasquinade publicly posted lampoon satire..” … ” evening’ grace and a cup of coffee”) –  (“You’re born and you grow and as you’re growing up, things never quite happen in the right way…”…”rain makes us sad because it reminds us of the time when we were fish”)

Tamsin Hollo, Anselm’ daughter, concludes the evening with a final, very late poem (“something that Anselm wrote in 2012 between his two surgeries.. this he wrote, actually as part of his rehab, as part of his speech therapy. When I was staying with him I couldn’t help but have a quick peek over his shoulder to see how the writing was going and to see if he got his words back and was incredibly pleased to see that he was writing his memory of what had happened to him in poetry form…

She reads “Wild Dreams”  (“getting dressed  in odd tweed suit/to catch train in helsinki.  call up papa mama/to hurry up..:…”…and “i” had been so enthusiastic about this trip with my dead mother and father and sister”.. (Dreamt while imprisoned for circa 2-1/2 months in otherwise quite congenial rehab home, an expression of wanting to go elsewhere)….. – “I a stall not unlike one you keep your horses at night/there is a challenger next door….” (“I never was any good at athletics/dsports. It swelled my chest with pride)… – “I get up and get dressed in order to catch/an airplane to Bucharest/because I have received an invitation.fro the press attache of Romania/to go there…”…“and so I wake up in the morning    still alone/ then there’s a jump-cut and I’m with Jane and Tamsin. (Who totally pooh-pooh the whole wide, attributing it to Andrei C.”  

The event ends with the playing of a brief video recording of Anselm speaking/reading, Anne Waldman says farewell to “our beloved Anselm” and leads the audience in a group evocation (“caw! caw! caw! “)   (Corvus, the crow, Anselm’s “spirit symbol”). Sending his spirit on. Rest in peace, Anselm. 


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *