The Howl obscenity trial is happening, spring 1957. I visit City Lights Bookstore and buy a copy an dfall in love with the writing, the tone, the truth. I read On the Road while a friend drives me in his car out of San Francisco up to the Russian River into the redwoods. I look out the window occasionally but I am too busy reading this wild adventure to notice much my first trip north.
The Beat Generation, the San Francisco Renaissance, is dramatically in the air, most especially in North Beach, which I visit every night in my red Capezio slippers with silver buckles. I have them reheeled every two weeks. I drink devastating martinis and hear Kenneth Rexroth and Lawrence Ferlinghetti read oietrt with jazz at The Cellar. My friend Nemi Frost has moved up fom Santa Barbara. Nemi has lived i Mallorca and met Robert Creeley and the painter John Altoon, and tells me mad stories of her adventures there. I am starting to get a picture of a certain kind of world.
A friend from The City of Paris, a young painter named Jerome Mallman, takes me to The Place, a famous writer and poets' bar run by Leo Kikorian, fromerly a student a Black Mountain College. Thi si where it's really happening. Champagne $4 a fifth and beer 25 cents a glass. Black Mountain College in North Carolina had closed the year before, which brought a group of young writers to form a group around Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer: John Wieners, Joe Dunn, Michael Rumaker, Ebbe Borregaard. And Paul Alexander and Tom Field, painters. Also George Stanley from San Francisco, Russell Fitzgerald from Pennsylvania, Harold and Dora Dull from the northwest, and DAvid Meltzer from Venice, California.
Joe Dunn and John Wieners nickname me "Miss Kids" because I call everyone "Kids" and invite me to the Sunday afternoon poetry group that Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan were "teaching." They usually went like this: Jack and Robert would read whatever current work they were writing. Sometimes Robert would be writing a poem while Jack was reading. Most often, Jack's poems would be addressed to someone there in the group, some of whom had been in his Magic Workshop class earlier that spring. Then the young writers would read whatever they had written. Jack was a serious listener and the poem would be read two or three times. Does it sound "true"?
David Meltzer, who was involved in the poetry and jazz scene at The Cellar, wrote rather long and somewhat undisciplined pieces at that time. One was so long he had to stand on a chair to read it. When he turned it over to read the other side, Jack and Robert rushed forward and set the bottom of the page on fire. These meetings were very lively, with large amounts of red wine being consumed in whatever containers were available - jars, suacepans, etc. The I was told by George Stanley that "some people are just coming here and treating this like a party." That was me and my friend Nemi Frost. "You can take a girl out of Santa Barbara, but you can't take Santa Barbara out of a girl," Jack was always saying. These poetry occasions were not to be considered frivolously. If I was to participate, I would have to read my poems.
I had been hesitantly writing the past nine months, simple pieces, childhood memories. The reading was at Ebbe Borregaard's the Sunday afternoon I read. I remember James Broughton was there and, when I finished reading, said, "Wonderful." Spicer said, "What are your plans for poetry?" Harold Dull said, "Shh, leave her alone." One of the most important initiations I ever had. AFter that I wrote "The Maze," the first poem in my book The Tapestry and The Web. I had attained a "voice."