30 November 2010

George Albon on Daniel Davidson

My interest in revisiting Culture is a direct result of reading George Albon's moving reminiscences of Davidson's life and work in his Cafe Multiple (a book I've incorrectly referred to here as "The Slopus," Albon's pet name for the project). I've been reading (sort of obsessively) sections from this project in manuscript (Albon's, that is), and I'm desperate to see more (George: please write faster!). Anyway, Albon gave his permission to reprint a few of the sections on Davidson here, so I'll start today with a few paragraphs from the introduction. I hope to post a longer meditation down the road from a section called "Cafe Orpheus."

Here's George:

Dan Davidson would have time to write one piece on contemporary poetics. In it, he said that “with abandoning the cult of the personal has come a radically amplified referent, accessing domains better suited to qualities and designs common to the atomized, hyper-personalized/depersonalized nature of current social environments.” The adjectives on either side of Dan’s slash aren’t opposites. They describe complementary features of just that atomized nature. And as method, as a prepared medium for the writing, they constituted alternate approaches.


Through Gary [Sullivan] I met Dan Davidson, whom he’d gotten to know at San Francisco State. Dan was the first poet I’d ever met who lived his life as The Poet, with no interference from a day job or schedule, save weekly and/or monthly visits to various clinics. He had a plastic aortic valve, the result of a heart infection which his doctors insisted was a flu bug, and long before this a note from his therapist to SSI that he was psychologically incapable of employment. Dan worked very hard on his poetry—after fifteen years, some of it still searches along a hard edge. He also worked hard to develop, if I can put it this way, his deportment—his self-presentation as a professional and engaged artist. Looking at “deportment” makes me see that it could apply to Dan in more ways than one. With his uncompromising apartness he was indeed “deported” from run-of-the-mill America, taking none of its pleasantries for granted, and always at odds with those who did, or could. (“Don’t I look acculturated?” he once asked when he showed me a photo of himself and his then-girlfriend Jenny, followed by his high-pitched laugh.) And he was also “deported” from the world in which being an engaged poet could mean something, could be a fact worthy of attention, if not automatic respect—as happens (used to happen?) in the world surrounding North America. So if his deportment were also these things, they were part of the background of his active deportment—the styles he chose in facing down such a world. Much could be said about Dan, remembrances turning into anecdotes, but for now I’ll remember him in his ratty cane chair in the flat on lower Haight (gotten off the street like everything else in the flat), on the phone to poet A quietly suggesting that poet B, who was close to poet C, be included among the poets speaking at C’s memorial. Likewise the sense of company he provided, his enthusiasms and despairs, his fearsome intelligence, his pitiless debater’s will, his advice on where to send submissions, and how.

1.) Always have something in the mail.

2.) Never fold your work. The SASE should be larger than 8½ x 11, and the original mailing envelope even larger. There’s a subtle difference if it’s folded. And if you get it back it’s still uncreased and you can send it to the next place down the line.

He also wrote two computer rules for Gary on an index card, when Gary got his first PC: 1.) Turn it off before the brain melts. 2.) Think—Plan—Attack!


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