Rachel Loden: Notes from Berkeley, 1965

Rachel Loden: Notes from Berkeley, 1965

Excerpt from Kulchur Girl: 14 July to 19 July 1965

Note: this is an excerpt. The complete set of notes (June 28 thru July 24, including a week of classes with Robert Creeley and Charles Olson, Olson’s heroic and infamous reading, etc.) will be published in November 2014 in the collection Kulchur Girl: Notes from Berkeley 1965, from Vagabond Press — the ‘deciBels’ series, edited by Pam Brown, to whom thanks is due for permission to reprint here. You can check the relevant page on their site.

— PDF: You can read the A5-sized PDF format of this article here.
— Provenance: Edited by John Tranter in 2014.
— The photos of Rachel Loden are contemporary with the time, circa 1965.

Instead of a Preface


In July 1965, a few days after turning seventeen, I returned to the city in which I had spent four years of my childhood to attend the Berkeley Poetry Conference. At the offices of the University of California Extension (through which the conference had been organized) at 2223 Fulton Street, I paid the steep registration fee of $45, which covered two seminars, with money saved from hundreds of hours of babysitting.

Alternating between a brown journal I’d carried with me, and a green one purchased in Berkeley for the seminars, I took notes on whatever pleased me, occasionally leaping from the spoken words in the room to others of my own invention, with no duty (at the time) to anyone but myself.

                    — Rachel Loden

                                       … He
Encourages criticism, but he never forgives it.
You who are the class in the sky, receive him
Into where you dwell. May he rest long and well.
God help him, he invented us…

                    – Ted Berrigan, ‘The End’

14 July


Run around for absolute joy. In Berkeley.

How does anyone survive it?

I sang the Pepsi song very slowly, and then wondered aloud if you could make a thing like that into something truly beautiful. You just did, he said.

A spangled suit.

The effects have to get wilder.

Mick Jagger.

Why don’t I just get pregnant and end it all . . .

‘I want to be four years older.’ I want to be seventeen years younger.

15 July

I will my poems to whoever loves me.

We’ll keep you in clover on WMCA.

The crazy dance Barbara Parkins did on Peyton Place.

The summernight blues.

Shy. Chaste.

America’s most talked-about town.

I shoot up versions of myself


It’s hip to be born.

WMCA the sound of America.


In relation to Peter and Wendy

I’m Tinkerbell.


Tomorrow it’s California

(Goodbye green mouth)

Sand & polish the past

By God it was beautiful I want it back

16 July

In the cab stunned & upright.

I’ve done it I’m gone

World Bldg.

Keep thinking of all the reasons it wouldn’t matter if I died

To 31,000 feet

You are there.

Polkadots on the floor probably have some despicable purpose

In-flight motion pictures

Today we have Masquerade


When we drove to California the first time

we came over the Golden Gate

and then the Bay Bridge –

It was early in the morning and the city was all white


I hocked a tiny whiskey bottle off the stewardess because it was so cute.

Want to go to the City Lights Bookshop.

Univ of California NEXT RIGHT –

1.50 each reading. Fulton Street. Oxford. Extension 2223 Fulton. In the lobby.

Just missed Wieners and Spicer. I could kill myself.

But all next week two seminars – four hours a day –

two with Robt. Creeley two with Charles Olson.

Tonight, despite extreme exhaustion, I’ll go hear Robert Duncan read.

This most beautiful boy in a record store who played me John Fahey and asked me to stay ‘just a few more minutes’

Allen Ginsberg’s here. He’s talking to a child. A blonde one. He has this happiness, is it real, I don’t know but he passed some of it on to me –

There is a boy with green hair – he pushes it back with one cool swoop of his hand –


Half an hour late now.

‘How many beautiful boys have I seen on this spot’

If it’s unbearable not to applaud – I have to give you the poem and you have to give it back to me –

The loom, the forge –

Happinesses run the spectrum.

I fell in love the first day.

I saw Allen Ginsberg.

I heard Robert Duncan.

17 July


‘Well, we shall sift him’ (Hamlet)

‘Why do you collect me?’ (The Benefactor)

‘And let him ply his music’ (Hamlet)

‘I love thee best, O most best, believe it’

All pleasures are one.

Duncan was so good. I’ve always liked his work

but he is a great reader and can do more with sounds, pictures, humors –

I feel at home with these people.


O mother

what have I forgotten

O mother

what have I left out

John Wieners.

People say he was very ill at ease

(‘I come to the last defense’)

Will you sign this? Sure, I sign everything!


very close up at City Lights just now;

they were making a movie of him

and he was singing and playing a tiny bell-like instrument

‘which we used in the pot marches in New York last fall’;

talking, laughing,

saying he made it with these Indian boys –

we have to keep up our image, you know,

like we are Time Magazine or any other business.

I’ve seen him twice in 15 hours, and that included sleep –

Will you come to claim the sweet fuselage.

Any idea you had of me.

I drop my pen and the beautiful boy picks it up and hands it to me and smiles.

I’m part of what happens

18 July

Robin Blaser in Berkeley

Robin Blaser in Berkeley, 1965. Photo reproduced by permission of David Farwell.

‘Is the queen and…’

His poem.

Robin Blaser the best of three last night (George Stanley, Richard Duerden).

Very classical but moving, a master imagist and a sneering sort of reader, very emphatic

where the other two were shy – a blessing and a relief and a discovery.

I’m tired of the whole man, I’m tired of loving the whole man.

At City Lights all the beautiful little magazines and books

things you would not find

even in Eighth Street Bookshop because these are mostly the SF scene –

which I’m educating myself on –

LeRoi Jones was supposed to be here but he may not come.

Headline on the Realist:

‘You Don’t Have to be Jewish to Love LeRoi Jones’


I have always liked polite crime.

Fuck You, A Magazine of the Arts.

It averaged out. Poor Napoleon.

Changing sexes. The lies burn her.

The Lord scratches those (who scratch themselves)

Soldier on a hill with sign My Darling.

The statue wants the sculptor.

I’m not the man she needs. A queen. Neuter.

The pain I like is – my moral vulnerability.

Have you got a child?

Have you got a cigarette?

I am writing when the lights go on.

You can’t see the woman for the machinery

19 July



Roundly innocent.

Blonde with a poor boy sandwich.

The kulchur word is got round.

Me in my mind.

He lights the cigarette in his mouth & leaves it in hers.

They go to school here. I don’t.

Creeley’s late.

A clue.

A shy smile accomplishes what one hoped the sadness would, & didn’t.

Where are the boys of yesteryear?

An extremely beautiful woman here. The bones of her face –

Duerden’s here.

Creeley. I recognized. He was in City Lights.



Vancouver, Canada, 1963, photo reproduced with the generous permission of the Allen Ginsberg Estate. From Ginsberg’s later notes: L to R: back row: Dan McLeod (later editor of Georgia Straight underground paper), Allen Ginsberg, Bobbie Louise Hawkins (Creeley), the host Professor Warren Tallman, Robert Creeley, next row down: Philip Whalen, Don Allen (Don Allen the anthologist of The New American Poetry), Charles Olson, photo taken outside Professor Tallman’s home at 2527 W. 37th Ave., Kerrisdale, Vancouver, copyright © the Allen Ginsberg Estate at http://allenginsberg.org. Excluded from the left-hand side of the original photo by the cropping process: Jerry Heiserman (later Sufi ‘Hassan’), Thomas Jackrell.
2014 note from Rachel Loden: ‘The cast of characters in Berkeley two years later was somewhat different, but this 1963 photo includes in large measure the group I encountered, with Bobbie Louise Hawkins (then Bobbie Creeley) at its center.’

The beautiful woman is – his wife?

You’ve got to insist those things we want – are there.

Ashamed contempt for my position.

Stevens Room. Student Union Bldg. Robert’s. Telegraph.

Her head up & down slightly as he finishes & looks into her eyes.

A poem in 2 minutes. Unthought of.

I’m here by an act of God.

To see if they’re ringing the right way.

Actuality & possibility of language.


Photo: Robert Creeley, photo courtesy Poetry Foundation

What has he to say.

The poet’s memory is of words, not ideas.

The language environment.

Look at what passes for the new.

Political reality.

Personal power more exciting.

The object of poetry. The naked man.

Is it content? Is it ever content?

Distinction can’t be made. All is activity.

Description is an embarrassment of the occasion.

To pose. Affectual evidences.

‘We must have what we need now.’ Chas.

Language has not patience.

The poet as object.

Poet as means.

‘All art is quite useless.’

Egocentric? Poets are useless & egocentric.

The poet as totalitarian. The force that you must see this.

Then how is the poet to live as not manipulator, not totalitarian.

How am I to love you as other than object.


To occupy the intelligence.

I’ve justified another day –

There’s only one poem.

What the moment finds.

Define your awareness of order

As possible. Light confusion. Light decadence.

I hate ‘poetry,’ ‘poets,’ – not ‘poems.’



What’s poetry?

What we think of it as?

What activity is it?

What are its effects?

What is our relation to it?

What is our concern?

Taking everything & discarding the useless.


Sound is round.

The sounds not the words that refer to the emotions.

What came first: the sound that is the word or the word that is the sound.

Tightrope he walks. To feel the possibility as it occurs.

The qualification of no qualifications.

He delights in embarrassing the expected response.

Everything you say is true.

It is impossible to lie.

Zukofsky’s lovely sense.

Something is being said at each interstice.

Intimately responsive to each interval, he said –

Not being able to anticipate

You can do anything you want.

Creeley is possible for me. I wonder will Olson be.

People sitting in the windows.

Nuns. In Olson’s class.



Photo: Charles Olson and unknown woman, photographer unknown.


Brody’s nose.

To be thought of as Charles Olson.

My name is Ed Dorn. I can’t lose anything.

True facts.

Intimate period. Interim.

The windows were too high.

Albers at Black Mountain. Dramatic turn of mind.

His emotion in the dramatic arts. Disciplinarian. Rector.

The lovely cooing of the baby behind him.

The school was never endowed.

That it came – to an end –

They were all there because they wanted to be there.

Olson himself.

I don’t feel free . . .

Medieval background – wandering faculty –

It’s been abrupted.

A life that is a cliché. California – we still go to California.

They get into their delusions.

National busywork.

I have to believe there’s a reason why they’re building these roads…

Waiting for Olson –

We all meet somewhere – it would be so much better if we all went somewhere –

We listen. We cut out for ourselves. We do not get ‘educated.’ There is no education for us.

Midwestern mysticism. Metaphysics of corn. A sort of continuing vagueness.


Photo of Ed Dorn, right, courtesy of
Jennifer Dunbar Dorn.

Get something out – of the earth.

Allow these things to be as complicated as they are.

He can reach what’s in you that’s yours and allow you to be with that.

Throwing out what impinges.

I doubt if anyone can educate a Midwesterner.

Weird cosmopolitanism of the West.

In Reno one has the sense of women.


Loneliness – not knowing how normal they were –

Call me on that.

Call those people & they’ll react –

Lacking the possibility of choice.

A whole attention.

There is a mythology everywhere: in everything.

Everyone Else That Lives.

A shine off reality. They’re trying to get there quick.

Corny cute sense.

A boy from Hailey, Idaho.

The new cemetery.

You can’t miss it.

This terrible wry humor.

The biggest guns in America.

Preoccupied with what it is. The Midwest. Not Pound.

That is descriptive of almost anything.

This was straight.

We – I was with someone else –

Indeed that’s true.


Rather a nice gravestone.

What’s back of that is a world –

It doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t really matter.

Subtle mocking of us.

As a place in the world.

I had nothing in mind.

He came to stay.

The special kulchur kind of cuteness.

Classes all night.

The guidance corrupted.

OPEN structure.

The working teacher is the better one. Part of the proposition.

Influence in the best sense.

The most persuasive man I had come across to my mind.

Open influence.

International & modified & peripheral.

You can’t teach how to write a poem.

How to write a line.

Aroused. Arose. Happened.

Well shall we close it then.

Pound & Williams roommates.

To educate generations.

How is this a seminar.

Black Mountain’s closing made a religious event

& now one listens to the disciplines of dead men.

What we’re waiting on.


Love & Work: Tell Them

Antonioni bores me out of my mind.

Liked Jules & Jim.

Fine Fine Day

Antonioni is so cute.

JELL-O is divine love

but who can make it right with ice cubes?

The house that Jack built (JFK)

Strawberries are possible.

To have Creeley talking and reacting to me?!

He wrote what I said on the board – said it was important, said he

believed me, he agreed. God.

It is power and yet not that, something much more beautiful at work.

Olson didn’t show; will tomorrow; Dorn spoke.

Photo: Charles Olson at the blackboard; courtesy PennSound at UPenn

4 hours listening to them – five days –

And now I’m starting to talk like Creeley.

I guess I’ll have to fight it –

work out of it – again

But I can feel his spirit informing me – oh no – even if I can’t learn in the ‘usual’ ways –

and who does learn from them.

My God, does anyone expect me to be taught by him and then go ‘learn’ from somebody named Archeola who is 40 and lives with his mother?

These people live with their mothers too but not at home. Ginsberg.

(Kerouac – thank God he’s not here.)

I am of that age if not of that station. (high school student)

No player – I’m a poet – I don’t live here –

So many other things endlessly harped on – it’s disappointing –

No one but Blaser truly impresses me – as a presence –

Kenneth Anger 10:00 20th Wheeler.

I see a boy who is too much like you.

Robin Blaser

is picking him up –

Have a cigarette. A Kool.

Rick Duerden is in the seat in front of Blaser.

Just heard John Sinclair & Lenore Kandel. Her best line on the elephant

(‘love me love my elephant’) is

exhausted with the smell of popcorn

Blaser just looked at me.

Duncan down front.

The New York School.

‘Counter-reaction to bullshit romanticism –

weepy sincerity of my own style’ Ginsberg on Berrigan.

And as you took your pants off

Your brother came in bringing some begonias


Photo: Robert Duncan at a garden party, Berkeley, 1962.


Que sera, sera

A transliteration from the Italian of _____ ______

Hannibal the Alp.

‘She sends her driver home and she stays with me.’

‘The struggles of babies’ T.B.

The big lugubrious.

Blue roses.

There’s no meaning in that, he says.

The one poem for you.


More less than more. More or less, but . . .



The Sonnets, 1964, Ted Berrigan, cover by Joe Brainard;
first published by “C” Press.

‘Badly loved.’

‘Library of dreams’

‘vast apple strides towards the poems’

‘stir inside the poems’

‘crystal library of tears’

A White Tree

Wait . Wait . Wait .

Act #2 is what I meant

‘wed to’ wakefulness

‘Fifteen pieces of glass on my tree’

‘Some people prefer the interior monologue. I like to beat people up.’ T.B.

Berrigan’s best – and Blaser.

‘we fondle their snatches’

The studs in the streets.

You have kept up with the times.

‘Everyone’s suddenly pregnant & no one’s glad.’

No to it later.

The make-believe bed.

Teeth we never dreamed could bite.

‘There is no such thing as a breakdown’

‘Bathing in the poem’

Where once.

‘I wonder if people talk about me secretly’

‘The academy of my dreams’

Except at night.

Cold black pond.

The code of the west.

Girl’s ‘apples’

Beware of Benjamin Franklin

The most elegant present I could get.

Editor of Fuck You Press.

Forthcoming. Forthcoming.


Turned on poets older than him.

‘Irma la Douche’

Hustle cigars.

Bring down the Fugs.

What you don’t know you old fascist

is that 50 cents of this goes for – peace – Ed Sanders.

‘I am the mad cock of 42nd Street’

Blaser’s laugh.

The board has voted.

He clutches the podium & screams.



All out all out

Image credits:

01: Rachel Loden, Admission card, Berkeley Poetry Conference, 1965.
02: Rachel Loden, photo booth photograph, New York City, circa 1965.
03: Rachel Loden, California, circa 1965.
04: Robin Blaser in Berkeley, 1965. Photo reproduced by permission of David Farwell.
05: Rachel Loden, California, circa 1965.
06: Allen Ginsberg group photo, Vancouver 1963, reproduced with the generous permission of the Allen Ginsberg Estate.
07: Robert Creeley, photo courtesy US Poetry Foundation.
08: Rachel Loden, California, circa 1965.
09: Charles Olson and unidentified woman, unknown photographer.
10: Ed Dorn, photo courtesy Jennifer Dunbar Dorn.
11: Gravestone of Ezra Pound, Venice. Photographer unknown, photo courtesy of Wikipedia Commons.
12: Charles Olson at the blackboard; courtesy PennSound at UPenn
13: Robert Duncan at a garden party, Berkeley, 1962, photographer unknown.
14: Cover of The Sonnets, 1964, Ted Berrigan, cover by Joe Brainard; first published by “C” Press.

Bio Note

Rachel Loden’s book Kulchur Girl: Notes from Berkeley 1965 will be published in November 2014 from Vagabond Press (in the ‘deciBels’ series, edited by Pam Brown). You can check the relevant page on their site. Her last collection Dick of the Dead was shortlisted for the PEN USA Literary Award for Poetry and the California Book Award. Loden’s first book, Hotel Imperium, won the Contemporary Poetry Series and was selected as one of the ten best poetry books of the year by the San Francisco Chronicle, which called it ‘quirky and beguiling.’ Her work has appeared in Lana Turner, VOLT, the Paris Review, the Best American Poetry series, the Washington Post’s ‘Poet’s Choice’ column and many other magazines and anthologies. She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, an &NOW Award, and a grant from the Fund for Poetry.

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