Roots and Routes: Poetics at New College of California

Patrick James Dunagan, Marina Lazzara, Nicholas James Whittington (Eds.)

by Stephanie Baker , Micah Ballard , Todd Baron , Dawn-Michelle Baude , Noam Birnbaum , Noel Black , Steve Carll , Tom Clark , John Clarke , Norma Cole , Jeff Conant , Adam Cornford , Patrick James Dunagan , Robert Duncan , Allen Ensign , Christina Fisher , Fitz Fitzgerald , Gloria Frym , M.C. Fujiwara , Christopher Gaynor , Tinker Greene , Carl Grundberg , Dave Hayman , Anselm Hollo , Carrie Hunter , Joanne Kyger , Marina Lazzara , Jean-Vi Lenthe , Charles S. Maden , Michael McClure , Duncan McNaughton , David Meltzer , Sarah Menefee , Hoa Nguyen , Ron Padgett , Louis Patler , Eugenia Hepworth Petty , Judith Roche , Michael Rothenberg , David Samas , Aaron Shurin , giovanni singleton , Will Skinker , Dale Smith , David Levi Strauss , Susan Thackrey , John Thorpe , Justin Tisdale , Christopher Winks

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"Roots and Routes: Poetics at New College of California" is an invaluable contribution to our understanding of a vital time and place in the development of American poetry in the last decades of the last century. [...] a much-needed and major contribution to the history of American experimental poetry at the end of the last millennium, and it provides evidence for hope as the next takes hold. [...]
The intelligence and care and high seriousness of the students at the New College, the imaginative range of what instructors there presented as fundamental to the art of making, well, is flat-out inspiring. "Roots and Routes" shows what language art is about. It is a high example of how the teaching of literature, and yes, even of creative writing, can offer a true and vital initiation into the Imagination, which, as Blake reminds us, is life itself.

[Extract from book review appearing at the journal 'Pacific Coast Philology', Volume 57, Issue 1, 2022, pp. 83-86 (Article). Reviewer: Joseph Donahue]

'Roots and Routes' gathers essays, talks, interviews, statements, notes, and other prose writings by poets who studied and/or taught at the New College of California’s Masters in Poetics program over the course of its nearly 30-year existence. The collection evokes a much-needed anti-hierarchical, even anarchic, pedagogy in poetry, poetics, and the literary arts, and is part of a general reevaluation of standard higher education models on Creative Writing. As such it will appeal to a wide range of students and scholars interested in America’s recent literary history, as well as to poets outside the academy and the general reader interested in US poetry and poetics.

Introduction: Source. Structure. Line. Rime.

Basic Elements, part 1
Robert Duncan

I. First Period: circa 1980-1987

1. Perspective
Duncan McNaughton
2. A Word / An Introduction
Louis Patler
3. Symposium On Persons In Poetics
Susan Thackrey, et al.
4. Myrrh: A Study of Persona in H.D.'s Trilogy
Judith Roche
5. La Bela Semblansa: Bernart de Ventadorn and the Troubadour Moment
Carl Grundberg
6. On Shakespeare’s Sonnets
Sarah Menefee
7. A momentary (not necessarily brief) inner-lute: lecture notes
David Meltzer
8. An Other Language/Another Language: Beyond and Into Saussure, Freud and Lacan
Susan Thackrey
9. Boundary – Horizon – Landscape – Field (or The End of the World)
Norma Cole
10. Speculations Through The Mirror: Silence
Christopher Gaynor
11. Approaching 80 Flowers
David Levi Strauss
12. “Regionalism”: All Chiefs & No Indians?
John Thorpe
13. Congratulatory Poetics
Joanne Kyger interviewed by John Thorpe
14. “Everything in Between can Obviously Happen”
Anselm Hollo talking with Tinker Greene and Noreen Norton
15. The Grammar of Dictation: an informal survey of Jack Spicer’s Collected Books
Dawn-Michelle Baude (Dawn Kolokithas)
16. Out of Me: Whitman and The Projective
Aaron Shurin
17. Signing for Soul and Body: Walt Whitman & the Physical
Todd Baron
18. Life’s Triumph: A Lecture on Shelley
Michael McClure
19. Feathers to Iron: A Concourse on World Poetics
John Clarke

Basic Elements, part 2
Robert Duncan

II. Second Period: circa 1988-1999

1. Cosmology: Intelligence and Infinity in Language
Adam Cornford
2. An Alchemical Analysis of Nine Sketches from Blake’s Vala, The Four Zoas
Allen Ensign
3. Eternity in William Blake
Dave Hayman
4. The Paradoxical Flower
Hoa Nguyen
5. The Poetics of Voudoun
Jean-Vi Lenthe
6. Patti Smith: Woolgatherer
Eugenia Hepworth Petty
7. A Poetics of Resistance
Jeff Conant
8. One Word (UP): LISTEN!
Christopher Winks
9. Langston Hughes as Songwriter: “Poetry and Popular Song”
Michael Rothenberg
10. Still Life With Trees: A Statement on Poetics
giovanni singleton
11. Kenneth Patchen
Charles S. Maden
12. The Being of the Poem of Being: Heidegger, Cummings, and Language
Steve Carll
13. The Negative Eschatology of Maurice Blanchot
Fitz Fitzgerald
14. “Native Speech”: The Poetry of Philip Whalen
Dale Smith
15. Poetics Statement
Stephanie Baker
16. The Ear Is The Last Face: the Epistolary Poems of Emily Dickinson
Marina Lazzara
17. Recombinatory Poetics: The Poem in Prose
Gloria Frym

Basic Elements, part 3
Robert Duncan

III. Third Period: circa 2000-2008

1. Teaching Sheets for Keats classes
Tom Clark
2. Negative Capability in the Verse of John Wieners
Micah Ballard
3. Jack Spicer’s Poetry & Poetics In The High School Classroom
M.C. Fujiwara
4. The Dualities of Elizabeth Bishop
Justin Tisdale
5. White and Night: A Questioning Piece Exploring Issues of Race, Marginality, and Unconscious Imagery of White Supremacy in H.D.
Carrie Hunter
6. Narrative Incongruity in Stardust Memories
Noam Birnbaum
7. An Interview With Ron Padgett
Noel Black
8. Lineage – Linkage – Legacy: Conversations with Lawrence Fixel
Christina Fisher
9. A Certain Kind: Ed Dorn, Charles Olson, and the Poetics of Influence
Will Skinker
10. “The Dutiful Son”: Joel Oppenheimer’s Poetic Allegiance to the Poetics of William Carlos Williams
Patrick James Dunagan
11. Birdsong
David Samas

Basic Elements, part 4
Robert Duncan

Patrick James Dunagan lives in San Francisco and works at Gleeson Library for the University of San Francisco. He received his MA/MFA in Poetics from New College in 2001. His books include the critical study The Duncan Era: One Poet’s Cosmology (Spuyten Duyvil) along with volumes of poetry: Sketch of the Artist (fsmbw), Drops of Wine / Drops of Rain (Spuyten Duyvil); from Book of Kings (Bird and Beckett Books); Das Gedichtete (Ugly Duckling); and "There Are People Who Think That Painters Shouldn't Talk": A GUSTONBOOK (Post-Apollo).

Marina Lazzara received an MA in Poetics from New College of California and has published in various literary magazines and with Two Way Mirror Books. She is a vocalist and guitarist for the San Francisco band, The Rabbles. Teaching Creative Writing and Health Education to seniors by day, she can otherwise be found hosting salons at her home where for over three decades she has supported the literary and music underground of the Bay Area.

Nicholas James Whittington is a poet, scholar, educator, editor, printer, and publisher living in Oakland, CA since 2012. Born and raised in San Francisco, he continues to edit and publish the roughly annual AMERARCANA along with the occasional small book under the auspices of his family bookshop, Bird & Beckett Books, in the city, while completing his dissertation at the University of California, Santa Cruz, on the original incarnation of the Masters in Poetics Program at New College of California. At Impart Ink, an errant studio, he designs, typesets, and prints books both digitally and via letterpress – Recent chapbooks include Provisions (2017, PUSH Press) and Indefinite Sessions (2016, Gas Meter Books). His first full-length collection is Resolution of the West (2020, Bootstrap Press).

San Francisco Renaissance, Bay Area Poetry and Literary Scene, Poetry, Poetics, Twentieth Century Literature

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Bibliographic Information

Book Title

Roots and Routes: Poetics at New College of California





Number of pages


Physical size

236mm x 160mm


21 B&W

Publication date

April 2021