Most Read... Rebecca WattsThe Cult of the Noble Amateur
(PN Review 239)
John McAuliffeBill Manhire in Conversation with John McAuliffe
(PN Review 259)
Eavan BolandA Lyric Voice at Bay
(PN Review 121)
Patricia CraigVal Warner: A Reminiscence
(PN Review 259)
Vahni CapildeoOn Judging Prizes, & Reading More than Six Really Good Books
(PN Review 237)
Tim Parksin conversation with Natalia Ginzburg
(PN Review 49)
Next Issue Gwyneth Lewis ‘Spiderings’ Ian Thomson ‘Fires were started: Tallinn, 1944’ Adrian May ‘Traditionalism and Tradition’ Judith Herzberg ‘Poems’ translated by Margitt Helbert Horatio Morpurgo ‘What is a Book?’
Poems Articles Interviews Reports Reviews Contributors
PN Review 276
PN Review Substack

This article is taken from PN Review 228, Volume 42 Number 4, March - April 2016.

The Ephus M.G. Stephens

Whatever one thought personally of Joel Oppenheimer, an evening spent in his company was electrifying. You could see the man disintegrating before your eyes, and yet his voice was deep and resonant, filled with the gravel and experience of an urban blues singer, and he spoke so coherently about his passion for writing. His take on poetry was not as unorthodox as some might think. He was of the tradition, if by tradition one meant Williams and Pound, Olson and Creeley. But it was a proscribed poetics, even to the acolytes like myself. If you drifted beyond the precincts of Black Mountain, Joel could be as severe as the Franciscan monks of my childhood, whapping your knuckles (metaphorically speaking in Joel’s case) with the wooden triangular ruler. Joel Oppenheimer did not fancy us writing like Frank O’Hara or Ted Berrigan, though he might complement you for writing like Paul Blackburn or Ed Dorn. He was far too vulnerable to be truly macho, and yet some of the things he said could be construed as being macho, certainly words that were not sensitive to what Frank O’Hara called ‘feminine, marvelous, tough’, though Joel might sanction the last type of poem – a tough one – he didn’t seem at all inclined to see us write either the feminine or marvellous poem, even from the few women in our workshop class, many of whom were marvellous and tough.


With five relatively short poems in the Don ...

Searching, please wait... animated waiting image