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This review is taken from PN Review 225, Volume 42 Number 1, September - October 2015.

Poems Retrieved Edward Dorn, Derelict Air: From Collected Out
Ed. Justin Katko & Kyle Waugh
Enitharmon Press, 2015 (584pp, £15)

Supplementing his Collected Poems, the posthumous legend of the Black Mountain gunslinger has been further extended by this meticulous and extensive volume of his outtakes and poems retrieved, like Frank O’Hara’s Poems Retrieved, an assemblage of the New York poet’s work that followed in the wake of his official Collected Poems, edited by Donald Allen. Like that volume, Derelict Air reveals the extent of Dorn’s productivity as a writer, and shows him to be worth reading now, by readers beyond his own contemporary audience, who will recognise the violent and contradictory world we all inhabit in the work of this brave, prescient writer. It also brings into focus his late adoption of the role of  ‘American Heretic’ and his exploration of the underside of official ideologies of ethnicity and religion is documented here in draft form: the thorns surrounding the ‘white rose’ and the ‘tribe’ of his moving final poems.

Give them the statistics of death
so that the remembrance may
always stick in the charred throat
and lie there throbbing the disaster of a
too barren beginning.
But do not cast me into the dark
closet again or
beat me for running nude down
the black oil road that first time
of passion.    

(‘Give Them the Statistics of Death’, p. 29)

Sent to his boyhood friend Gordon Taylor while he was in the US army, in 1953, this poem pleads for clemency in ...


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