Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Because we had an hour between the end of breakfast on Saturday morning & when we needed to be back at the inn to gussy ourselves up for the wedding later that afternoon, Krishna & I strolled up & down Main Street in Gloucester & I managed to search through the poetry sections of the Bookstore of Gloucester & Dogtown Book Shop. This part of Gloucester has definitely moved well into the weekend resort town chi-chi look, antique shops & boutiques, tho it is a far cry from the hell that is Rockport just five miles away. And the sad reality of it is that if the “historic West End” ever takes hold, the genuine thrift shops & bookstores would be doomed.

The Bookstore of Gloucester is an indie new-book emporium, with a decent poetry section overall, not as far back as it could be and twice the size of the selection at your typical Barnes & Noble. They only had one Charles Olson volume – the paperback Collected Poems – but they had a half dozen Vincent Ferrini titles and even carry chapbooks. I picked up two Ferrini books I’d not seen before: Magdalene Silences (Igneus Press, Bedford, NH 1992) and The Indweller / Emperor of Mars (Igneus Press again, 2000). “We miss Vincent,” said the woman who took my money, who also made a point of telling me that there is a new Ferrini volume coming out quite soon & that they would be having a reading for it later in July.

Dogtown Book Shop is across the street & up the block, which means of course that it’s nowhere near Dogtown – and a good thing too, given that commerce in those environs that were taken back over by brambles & “open space” ages ago would not be possible. Mostly it’s a used bookshop, tho there were multiple copies of a big coffee table book on the antique homes of Gloucester and some pamphlets on Dogtown itself up front, along with a DVD for Polis is This, marked at $30. “Henry Ferrini’s film,” the guy behind the counter called it.

Dogtown Books otherwise is your standard used book shop. Not a lot of poetry, but at least not in the furthest back corner. “Turn left at Robert Frost” is literally the way the fellow at the register pointed me toward it. Not a lot of books there either, tho I did find two gems, an early Stephen Ratcliffe volume that somehow escaped me 22 years ago, Distance (Avenue B, Bolinas 1986). Since Ratcliffe is one of the poets I think everybody needs to own all of – the scope of his project is spectacular, especially when you consider his fidelity to detail – this is a serious find.

The other volume is the Random House gathering of works by V.R. “Bunny” Lang that includes Alison Lurie’s 70-page memoir of Lang to give the book a very modest collected works heft. Lang died very young, just 32, in 1956, and her absence in The New American Poetry is to this day legitimately a scandal – Lang’s poetry was so much a piece of the New York scene that one of her poems ended up in Frank O’Hara’s Collected mislabeled as his work.

Otherwise, the most notable thing about the store’s selection was a considerable collection of older critical books about Ezra Pound – somebody had obviously dumped his or her collection – many of them hardback review copies.

Walking around reminded me that Polis is This turned up a lot of people who still remembered Charles Olson, tho he’s been gone now over three dozen years. That’s the sort of continuity one associates with small town life. Gloucester the fishing village is a manifestation of that perspective & most any turn into the neighborhoods has that look to it. But Olson’s own introduction to the town, as the summer get-away for his postal worker father to take the family from Worcester, 77 miles inland, already reveals Gloucester to adapting to a second function – that of regional tourism. The Ocean View Inn, where we stayed – and which bills itself as a convention center – is on Atlantic Road, a strip right on the ocean that consists of one motel or inn after another. Not one of them is new construction.


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