Cairn for Janine Pommy-Vega
I’ve said this before but, since I’m getting old, it’s okay to repeat myself. Jerome Rothenberg (I think it was him) called poetry “a luminous beast.” Some sort of mythological animal that embodied the words and poems and ideas of all poets. The tail of this beast stretches back into pre-literate times when history was story and poetry was spoken language that had the power to shape the natural world. And it still survives in our language in these digitized bits of information on a computer screen. In poems we all provide sustenance to the beast as it squirms its way into the 21st Century. Like the Tao, it knows its way. I’ve come to trust the beast’s instincts explicitly.
The beast rumbled in my imagination when I saw this photograph of Bob Arnold’s cairn dedicated to the memory of Janine Pommy-Vega (more here and here). It's on his land in rural Vermont. The stone was harvested right there. It would be a nice place for Janine to rattle her gourd, to beat on a drum, the chant her poems. She would love to dance on a cairn.
Janine was a good friend and I came to know her poetry way back when through Longhouse Publishers and Booksellers. Longhouse is the collaborative project of Bob and Susan Arnold. The cairn for Janine is on their property. The poetry and the publishing and work of chainsaws and stone and cooking and eating food and the warmth of burning wood is all part of their one life.
I’ve never met Bob or Susan. Yet I’ve known of their work—Bob’s poems and prose, their Longhouse venture and their backwoods lifestyle in Vermont—and I’ve fitfully corresponded with them for most of my adult life. They’ve even been generous enough to publish my work in their magazine and in their delicious Longhouse libritos (little books). As I’ve said in a recent letter to Bob, they feel like intimate friends. That’s because we share a common bond with the Luminous Beast.
Please read the Kent Johnson interview of Bob that appeared in Jacket Magazine. It’s important stuff, and it documents a way to live one’s life fully engaged but doing the work of one’s essence. An ancient way to dance. Visit the Longhouse website and buy books there. Read Bob’s work and the poets that he and Susan especially support. Now, I see from the website, Bob has become the literary executor for Janine, Cid Corman and Lorrine Neidecker and he’s constructing websites to celebrate their work. I’m sure Susan is doing at least half the work. Wow.
Bob and Susan Arnold understand.
Bob and Susan Arnold at work in Bearsville, NY.
2005 photo by Janine Pommy Vega