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This article is taken from PN Review 197, Volume 37 Number 3, January - February 2011.

The Poet Lover: R.B. Kitaj and the Post-Pound Poets Simon Eckett
In the spring of 2008, the Marlborough Gallery in New York held an exhibition to commemorate and celebrate the life of the artist R.B. Kitaj who had died in Los Angeles six months before at the age of seventy-four. Kitaj’s 1966 portrait of his close friend Robert Creeley opened the show; Ed Dorn, Hugh MacDiarmid, W.H. Auden and Michael McClure hung nearby. Portraits of Jonathan Williams, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson, John Wieners, Kenneth Rexroth, Christopher Middleton, Michael Hamburger, John Ashbery, would have joined the show if they hadn’t hung (out) elsewhere that spring. A large body of painter-poet works, book covers, ‘provocations’ or illustrations, screen- prints, oils, drawings, essays, poetry collections, correspondence might have filled the show rooms, a testament to the intense collaboration that took place between Kitaj and the post-Pound, post-modern generation of (mostly) American poets in the 1960s, 1970s and the first half of the 1980s. As Creeley wrote of Kitaj in 1991, ‘[His] friendship has been a crucial one for me.’ And Kitaj of Creeley, ‘…But you and I go onward, don’t we? We do…’ The mutual admiration of poets and painter was intense and productive.

In 1963 a thirty-year-old American artist Ron Kitaj, a student of Oxford University’s Ruskin School and graduate of London’s Royal College of Art, attended a poetry reading at The Crown & Greyhound in Dulwich, London. The pub was around the corner from where Kitaj lived with Elsi, his first wife, and Lem, their four-year-old son. Three poets were on ...

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