Rest in peace, Simon Vinkenoog [Dutch blog w/English option], poet, friend of artists like Karel Appel, translator of Beat Generation figures like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, psychedelic enthusiast and "weed ambassador" of Amsterdam, and author of such guides to hip living as How to Enjoy Reality. One of the European jazz-loving proto-hippies who made the '60s swing and mentored several generations of culture hackers, though he was never widely known in the US.
Gary Snyder, sublime and seminal poet of ecological awareness and activism [YouTube link], Zen appreciation of "ordinary mind" and American speech, shamanistic intimacy with the natural world, and surviving member of the Beat Generation (West Coast posse) at age 78, has won the $100,000 Ruth Lilly poetry prize. "Gary Snyder is in essence a contemporary devotional poet, though he is not devoted to any one god or way of being so much as to Being itself," said Poetry magazine editor Christian Wiman. "His poetry is a testament to the sacredness of the natural world and our relation to it, and a prophecy of what we stand to lose if we forget that relation.” Previous recipients of the Lilly prize include Adrienne Rich, John Ashbery, and W.S. Merwin. [Previously mentioned here.]
"Mem, mem, mem." A fascinating memoir of global aphasia -- total language loss -- following a stroke, by British poet and novelist Paul West.
Robert Creeley, one of the most exquisite and influential poets of our era, died this morning at age 78. I'd link to a story, but it's not in the news yet. This is a note from one of Robert's friends: "American poet Robert Creeley passed away this morning at 6:15 am in Odessa, Texas, where he was fulfilling a Residency at the Lannan Foundation. (Mr. Creeley was a recipient of the Lannan Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award.) His wife of twenty-eight years, Penelope, and son Will and daughter Hannah were at his side. The cause of death was complications from respiratory disease." Though a comrade and muse for Beat Generation writers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac, Creeley was much less well-known, and had a style rather unlike theirs, distinguished by extreme economy of words and an understated approach toward emotion. Creeley was often cited as a pioneer by the so-called language poets, and his most creatively generative friendship was with another poet's poet, the late Charles Olson. Creeley's subtlety and balance will be missed.
One of the finest poets in English, Thom Gunn, has died. Along with Philip Larkin and Ted Hughes, Gunn became famous as a young poet in England in the 1950s as part of "The Movement," writing fine poems in rhyme and meter. But then he fell in love with an American soldier, Mike Kitay, and followed him to San Francisco, where he crafted one of the most daringly original voices in the 20th century, handling taboo subjects like LSD, orgiastic sex, and his 50-year relationship with Kitay with the precision of a diamond cutter. Gunn lived in my neighborhood, and was a dapper, subtle, sexy and hilariously witty man until the end. Ten years ago, when I asked him what music he was listening to he replied, "Oh, Nirvana and Social Distortion. I'm a flighty teenager that way."