by Landis Everson (30 pp. Saddle-Stitched.) 28 poems written afterEverything Preserved: Poems 1955-2005. Edited by Ben Mazer. $8 ppd.
Landis Everson was born in 1926 in Coronado, California. When he got to Berkeley in the late 1940s he met Jack Spicer, Robert Duncan, and Robin Blaser and they called themselves The Berkeley Renaissance. Landis studied with Josephine Miles and was the editor of the Berkeley student literary magazine, Occident. Miles called Landis and his friends The Museum School of poetry. Duncan was influenced by Landis and called him The Poet King in letters to Spicer. Spicer admired the ease with which Landis wrote poetry, and wrote to Robin Blaser that Landis was a god for each member of the group. In 1951, while finishing a Master's at Columbia, Landis met John Ashbery who admired his poems and would later print selections from "The Little Ghosts I Played With" in Locus Solus. The subject of Landis's Master's thesis was an imaginary seventeenth century poet called Sir William Bargoth, for which Landis concocted both the poems and the commentary upon them. In 1955, while Karl Shapiro's teaching assistant at Berkeley, Landis had the first of six appearances in Poetry, two appearances in the mid-Fifties, followed by four appearances five decades later. In the late 1950s he was introduced to a younger generation of poets that included Joanne Kyger and John Wieners. In 1960, Landis replaced Robert Duncan as the third member of a Sunday poetry group that was run by Jack Spicer and met in Robin Blaser's apartment in San Francisco. Dictated serial poetry was the order of the day. Landis wrote the sequences "Postcard from Eden" and "The Little Ghosts I Played With," a few months too late to be considered for Don Allen's anthology The New American Poetry. Then the group stopped meeting, and Landis, who was only writing for his friends, turned to painting, and renovating houses. He didn't write anything for 43 years, during which time none of his poetry appeared in print. Then in the fall of 2003, Ben Mazer contacted Landis to inquire about Landis's poems, which Mazer planned to include in a feature on the Berkeley Renaissance for Fulcrum. Over the next three years, the last of his life, Landis would compose over 300 poems, comprising the book Everything Preserved, which won the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Foundation, and Book of Valentines, still in manuscript form. In the spring of 2006 Landis had the first in a series of strokes, which left him incapable of writing any more poems. He took his life on November 17th, 2007.
YOUNG GOODMAN BROWN
by Landis Everson
Young Goodman Brown was a window shade.
One side faced Paradise and Hell outdoors
the other furniture, food and shelter in.
But when Faith rolled him up
he saw himself no more.
A spider squeezed out the center and
threaded down. It yawned and opened
its eyes from sleep. All six legs flexed
wide, and like rust it farted spider dust,
which filled the house. We came in
with mops, hexes and vacuum cleaners,
until the house looked clean. But
how to kill a spider, which wasn’t ours?
It was masturbating like hell with every leg. Did
Young Goodman teach him that? Or Nathaniel?.