Alan DeNiro’s Taverner’s Koans, “a one-room schoolhouse of experimental poetics,” has a Gallery of Underrated Poets that’s well worth exploring (as I could tell instantly from the fact that it included Lorine Niedecker). I’m not sure John Clare and Stephen Crane can be considered underrated, but I’m not going to quibble, since I’ve already discovered the wonderful Melvin Tolson and I’ve barely begun digging. Here’s a snippet from Tolson’s The Harlem Gallery (1965):

The Harlem Gallery, an Afric pepper bird,
awakes me at a people’s dusk of dawn.
The age altars its image, a dog’s hind leg,
and hazards the moment of truth in pawn.
The Lord of the House of Flies,
jaundiced-eyed, synapses purled,
writes before the tumultuous canvas,
The Second of May—
by Goya:
the dagger of Madrid
the scimitar of Murat.
In Africa, in Asia, on the Day
of Barricades, alarm birds bedevil the Great White World,
a Buridan’s ass—not Balaam’s—between no oats and hay.
Sometimes a Roscius as tragedian,
sometimes a Kean as clown,
without Sir Henry’s flap to shield my neck,
I travel, from oasis to oasis, man’s Saharic up-and-down.
(Via wood s lot.)


  1. Melvin B. Tolson was a big favorite of my mentor in poetry (himself an unknown, Jack McManis), so I have fond memories of reading Tolson at an early age and feeling my mind wonderfully expanded as a result.

  2. LH–you’re right about Lorine Niedecker: I’m currently of the opinion that when you’ve said every good thing you can say about her, you haven’t yet said too much. I spent two weeks going through her library, recording her marginalia, and felt she was looking over my shoulder the whole time, shaking her head at me….

  3. Oh–she was shaking her head at me because she was VERY private; I’m not sure she’d approve of me going through her books that way.

  4. I envy you the chance to go through her marginalia — what a fragrant garden that must be!

  5. My presentation of the results of my persual was made to the Wisconsin Writers Conference this past June, and – if you’re interested – I posted the text of my remarks at: http://middlewesterner.blogspot.com/2004_06_07_middlewesterner_archive.html

  6. Underrated? Experimental? Have at the Electronic Poetry Center where you’ll find literally 100s of contemporary writers by that description.
    As for underrated experimental dead poets my favorite since I was a kid is Abraham Lincoln Gillespie. His work is collected in “The Syntactic Revolution” (New York: Out of London Press, 1980)

  7. At your EPC link I find Zukofsky/100, The Louis Zukofsky Centennial Conference at Columbia University & Barnard College, this very weekend (Friday, Sept. 17 to Sunday, Sept. 19, 2004). Damn, I wish the timing were better; I’d like to have checked it out.

  8. Belatedly–just to let you know, I’ve overhauled the site:
    With some new essays as well. Hope you enjoy.

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