Artists at Black Mountain

For years, Christopher Wagstaff has been interviewing San Francisco artists and writers about the Renaissance and beyond. Rose Books has published three of the interviews with Black Mountian artists Tom Field, Harry Jacobus and Paul Alexander. Jeff Maser is distributing the interviews and they are great. Check them out if you have a mind.

Field, Jacobus and Alexander all studied at Black Mountain during the College's last years and they give a great account of just how disorganized the College was yet there was still a magic to the learning atmosphere. The isolation proved beneficial for a complete immersion in the arts.

Creeley was of course a major figure at Black Mountain in these dying days. The Tom Field interview has some interesting info on Creeley as teacher at Black Mountain. Field famously drove Creeley and Dan Rice into a building, breaking Rice's back, a moment that symbolized the desperation and self-destructive nature of late Black Mountain.

Here is Field on Creeley as a teacher:

Yeah. He had a difficult time with it at first, because it was hard for him to find out what he was supposed to be like as a teacher, especially since the people he was teaching he had to see every day outside of class. I thought he was a good teacher. He was completely the opposite of Olson as far as - if anything Olson would tend to pontificate sometimes and bombast, whereas Creeley would get into a rage but not in teaching. Creeley hung out with jazz musicians before he got to Black Mountain andn picked up alot of hip talk; he brought the word "dig," but he never used it exclusively as Olson, who used that language almost more than anyone. He'd say "Dig this," and "Dig that," and pretty soon everybody was saying, "Can you dig this Coca Cola?" It was really that absurd, you know. I felt the worst thing that could happen was to get caught up in some kind of faddish language which was limiting. Olson believed that too, although he used the word "dig" alot. Later the hippies were all saying "far out!" which I never could accept because it seemed ridiculous. They were going as fast as they could toward that 800-word vocabulary which all linguists knew would stilt everybody. Anyway when Creeley opened his class, he gave me a reading program, mainly in the early and later collected poems of William Carlos Williams, the Cantos and the early poems of Pound, and Hart Crane. Olson never really gave me anything to read, but I decided that if I was going to get by there I would have to read Moby Dick and Charles' Call Me Ishmael."



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