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January 14, 2018—
HAPPY, HAPPY NEW YEAR (OH YEAH) BUT WHATEVER OTHER CIRCUMSTANCES PREVAIL, CELEBRATE WITH OMERTA OUR NEW BOOK—FIRST FOR 2018—
25th ANNIVERSARY EDITION OF A REVOLUTIONARY CLASSIC, UNAVAILABLE SINCE 1993, NOW REVISED AND WITH NEW POEMS
For more information and to purchase your copy of War in America, go to William Crossman’s Page.
July 31, 2017—
Missed or not, Omerta Publications is back with a stunning new offering:
Poems by Donna de la Perrière
Donna de la Perrière’s poems are always catching up with themselves, slightly breathless, clutching the sublime artifacts of the transformations of the world destroying itself.
To order Night Calendar and other fine chapbooks, go to the Retail Pages.
March 28, 2017—
Joanne Kyger, trailblazing Beat poet, dies at 82
By John McMurtrie, SFGate.com
Updated 3:26 pm, Thursday, March 23, 2017
Joanne Kyger, a leading poet of the San Francisco Renaissance and a rare female voice of the male-dominated Beat generation, has died.
Ms. Kyger died March 23 at her home in Bolinas, in hospice care, said her husband, Donald Guravich. The cause of death was lung cancer, with complications from osteoarthritis and atrial fibrillation. She was 82.
“Joanne Kyger was a trailblazer, fearless and full of insight,” said City Lights Publisher Elaine Katzenberger. “Her poetry has influenced generations of younger poets, and there are many in the Bay Area and beyond who will be missing her fierce humor and generous mentorship.”
Ms. Kyger wrote almost 30 collections of poetry, beginning with “The Tapestry and the Web” (1965). “On Time: Poems 2005-2014,” published by City Lights Publishers, showcased themes informed by her longtime practice of Zen Buddhism and her concern for the environment. Her prose collections included “Strange Big Moon: Japan and India Journals 1960-1964” (1981).
In addition to her writing, Ms. Kyger taught at Mills College, the New College of California and Naropa University in Boulder, Colo.
Born in Vallejo in 1934, Ms. Kyger moved to San Francisco in 1957 after attending UC Santa Barbara. In San Francisco, she joined a community of poets, living in the communal East West House, where she studied Zen Buddhism.
It was during the Beat era that Ms. Kyger was given the nickname “Miss Kids” — because she called people “Kids,” she said.
Although most poets of the postwar San Francisco Renaissance movement were men, Ms. Kyger said, “I never noticed I was in ‘male-dominated’ groups.’” In a 2015 Poetry Foundation interview, she said, “There were always women I was friends with associated with these groups. But few were interested in poetry and writing to the degree I was.”
Among those in Ms. Kyger’s circle were the poets Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan and the man who would be her husband, from 1960 to 1964: Gary Snyder. The couple lived in Japan and traveled throughout India with the poets (and partners) Allen Ginsberg and Peter Orlovsky. She returned to California in 1964.
“There was something blithe about her,” fellow Beat poet Michael McClure said by phone. “She was deeply committed to Buddhism, and some of her poems were genuinely funny.”
McClure also described Ms. Kyger as full of openness and goodwill. “She was really a California person,” he said, and had an attachment to the Pacific Ocean that drew her closer to Japan and Buddhism.
In his 2002 Chronicle review of “As Ever: Selected Poems,” John Freeman wrote that Ms. Kyger’s best poetry, her “short, imagistic observations of daily life,” drew its inspiration from her Marin County surroundings. Her work, he added, “uses a reader’s breath (these poems are best read silently, then aloud) to turn poetry into a kind of prayer.”
These lines from the poem “Saturday February 4” convey as much:
White sheen on open Bolinas ridge top
Powdered white sugar
the whole long ridge
is covered with light dusting of snow
this has never happened
before in my memory
Ms. Kyger stayed true to her Buddhist beliefs long after living in Japan.
“When you die,” she wrote in the poem “Night Palace,” “you wake up from the dream.”
In addition to her husband, Ms. Kyger is survived by a nephew, Robert S. Miller III.
No memorial services have been announced.
March 27, 2017—Back by popular demand
Haiku & Co. by Bill Zavatsky, one of Omerta’s most popular books, has been reprinted and—ink still wet—copies are available now!
Get your copy of Haiku & Co. at the Bill Zavatsky page. Or browse other authors and books on the Retail Pages.
March 4, 2017
March 1, 2017—For Vladimir Mayakovsky, a monumental poem by Chinese poet Jidi Majia, new from Omerta Publications
From the Introduction to the Poem by Jack Hirschman:
A great Chinese poet has penned a truly majestic portrait in poetry of one of the great voices of modernity in any epoch, with deep humility and devotion to the meaning of the art of truth as it reflects the beauty of humanity’s soul.
For Vladimir Mayakovsky is as complete and sophisticatedly subtle a portrait of a poet written in verse as has ever been composed—considering the very tragic fact that at this very moment the complete works of Vladimir Mayakovsky still have not been published in the United States.
Order your copy of For Vladimir Mayakovsky on the Jidi Majia page, or browse the Retail Pages.
January 23, 2017—KRA! by Genny Lim, first Omerta chapbook of 2017
Genny Lim’s poems invoke history, myth, biography, politics, confrontation and violence—as personal experience.
She writes about fellow writers, musicians, and radical cultural activists Francisco X. Alarcon, James Baldwin, Amiri Baraka, Fred Ho, and Alfonso Texidor.
Lim dedicates “odes” to the people of Black Lives Matter, Standing Rock, and Flint, Michigan.
In their lyric fiber, the poems themselves struggle for the survival of cultures of mutual respect and solidarity in the face of rapacious capitalism.
To purchase KRA! go to Genny Lim’s page or browse the Retail Pages.
And, still available, ALL Omerta publications of 2016. Check the Retail Pages to see what’s new, what’s old, and what you MUST add to your collection of fine poetry.
January 2, 2017—David Meltzer, February 17, 1937–December 31, 2016
David Meltzer, SF Beat generation poet and musician, dies
David Meltzer, the prolific poet and musician who merged his two passions, creating work that goes back to the Beat generation and San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s and ’60s, has died. He was 79.
Mr. Meltzer died peacefully Saturday at his home in Oakland after suffering a stroke, said his daughters. He was surrounded by loved ones.
Fellow Bay Area Beat poet Diane di Prima called Mr. Meltzer “one of the secret treasures on our planet. Great poet, musician, comic; mystic unsurpassed, performer with few peers.”
His friends Greg and Keiko Levasseur wrote on the poet’s website that “We have lost a great poet, scholar, musician, and jazz historian. He was a loving husband and father, and a great soul. He was a wonderful friend whose gentle spirit, sense of humor, and astonishing capacity for sake made him a joy to be with.”
Mr. Meltzer wrote more than 40 volumes of poetry, among them “Arrows: Selected Poetry 1957-1992,” “Name: Selected Poetry, 1973-1983” and “Beat Thing” (2004). His nonfiction work includes “Reading Jazz” (1993), “Writing Jazz” (1999), “When I Was a Poet” (2011) and “Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook,” a collection of anecdotes and quotations published by Oyez Press in 1977 and rereleased by City Lights Publishers in 2015.
In praising his poetry collection “David’s Copy” (2005), Lawrence Ferlinghetti, co-founder of City Lights, wrote that Mr. Meltzer was “one of the greats of post-World War II San Francisco poets and musicians. He brought music to poetry and poetry to music!”
Raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Mr. Meltzer got an early start as an artist; he entered a competition at age 11 with a poem about the New York subway system.
“I owe my own fluency with language to Brooklyn,” Mr. Meltzer said in a 2015 interview with The Chronicle. “Everyone talked about everything, from the Dodgers to the revolution.”
Mr. Meltzer was bar mitzvahed, he added, “but the library was my real synagogue. For Jews, the book was sacred and subversive, too.”
“Pushed into exile in California,” as he put it, living “as an alienated teen in L.A.,” Mr. Meltzer met artists who fueled his creativity. By age 20, he was recording poetry with jazz musicians in Los Angeles.
According to the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University, Mr. Meltzer was the youngest poet to be featured in Donald Allen’s anthology “The New American Poetry, 1945-1960.”
He also wrote fiction.
“I wrote 10 novels for a company run by gangsters,” Mr. Meltzer told The Chronicle. “The books were pornographic and political, too. I call them ‘agit-smut.’ … I lived at the back of a repair shop for radios and worked in a warehouse for books called Paper Editions. We had ‘tea’ breaks and smoked marijuana.”
In the 1960s, having relocated to the Bay Area, Mr. Meltzer was a singer-songwriter and guitarist for Bay Area bands that included the psychedelic folk-rock group Serpent Power. He also played the piano, mandolin and harmonica, often performing at Bay Area venues with his late wife, Tina, the lead vocalist on two albums, “The Serpent Power” and “Poet Song.” Mr. Meltzer married Julie Rogers five years ago, and the couple would read together at Bird & Beckett Books and Records in San Francisco’s Glen Park neighborhood.
Mr. Meltzer also spent time as a bookseller, working at the now-defunct Discovery bookstore, and he was a longtime teacher. From 1977 to 2007, he taught in the Humanities and Graduate Poetics programs at the New College of California in San Francisco.
“The poem is perhaps the highest verbal form of communication,” Mr. Meltzer wrote in “Two-Way Mirror.” “It illuminates and it conceals. It is as precise and as vague as a mirror.”
The titular poem in Mr. Meltzer’s volume “When I Was a Poet,” published by City Lights, succinctly sums up the artist’s life in short, propulsive lines — contrasted with an awareness of his mortality:
When I was a Poet
I was an Acrobat
a Tightrope Walker
in my slippers
on a wire above
Oh I did prance the death-defying dance
death defines each second
Mr. Meltzer is survived by his wife, Julie Rogers; four children from his marriage to Tina Meltzer: Jennifer, Margaret (Maggie), Amanda and Adam; sisters, Joan Wile, Bonnie Richter and Paula Wolfe; three grandchildren; and a great-grandchild.
Donations may be made in his name to the Poetry Center at San Francisco State University.
(John McMurtrie is The San Francisco Chronicle’s book editor.)
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