Wednesday, July 04, 2007

Orr Books and Beat Poetry

Orr Books closed two weeks ago. It was a small, independent bookstore in Uptown in Minneapolis. Charlie Orr ran it for almost 40 years, scraping by until recently. His new landlord raised the rent, and he decided he'd sooner retire than find a new place and move and maybe go out of business in the process.

Ruth says she and I went to high school with Charlie. I remember a Chuck Orr, but I can't connect him with Charlie. I never would have thought Chuck Orr would open a bookstore. I'm not sure what high school tells us about people.

In any case, K and I went to the closing party, which was sad. I bought four books, so Charlie would have a bit more money and bit less stuff. Two were mistakes. I got rid of one and will get rid of the other.

(My unwanted books either go in the nearest library book drop, as a gift to the Friends of the St.Paul or Minneapolis Library, or I hand them on to friends to read. Sometimes a book I don't want to keep will be just fine for friends.)

One of the keepers is a collection of Minnesota poetry, starting with Frances Densmore's translations of Ojibwa and Dakota poems. It includes work by three people I know or have known: John Rezmerski, Bill Holm and Tom McGrath.

The other keeper is a collection of Beat Poetry. It's very much a mixed bag. The Beats took a lot of risks in their writing and made a lot of mistakes, but I like them for their risk taking and their anger at white bread America. I especially like the poems by Diane di Prima. I am going to have to get a collection of her work.

I want to use their example to loosen up my own work, to get me to take risks. Of course, most of the Beats were men and a lot of their risk taking was the kind of thing guys do. Diane di Prima writes about how hard it is to get her poetry done, when the men around her won't shut up and help with the dishes.

So what I need is a kind of art that takes risks and gets the dishes done.


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