It has become a commonplace that Edward Marshall is a forgotten poet. Canonized in Don Allen's New American Poetry anthology with the printing of the single longest poem included, "Leave the Word Alone," which was earlier published in Black Mountain Review, Marshall was then cast out in The Postmoderns: The New American Poetry Revised). Marshall has generally been left alone, fading out of view since the heady days of the 1960 anthology, and now remembered primarily because the poet and his work have slipped out of memory.
His Nowhere Man status may be because he was seemingly everywhere. At the time of his inclusion in the Allen anthology, Marshall had ties with the Boston Renaissance, the San Francisco Renaissance, the Beats (Ginsberg stated he relied on "Leave the Word Alone" as a source for the structure of "Kaddish") the New York scene, and Black Mountain. He is included in the catch-all fifth category in the anthology with those poets of "no geographical defintion." One of the easiest ways to get yourself lost in the shuffle is to be tough to label and pin down. Marshall is a mercurial poet in that sense.
Hellan Hellan, Marshall's first slim book of nine poems, links Marshall with yet another geographical hotspot: Kansas. Robert Ronnie Branaman did the cover art. The poem on the Auerhahn flyer does not appear in the collection, so the flyer is a separate publication as well as an announcement.
A must for Edward Marshall collectors. There is not much to collect. Marshall appeared sporadically in periodicals: Black Mountain Review, Measure, Yugen, and The Great Society. Seven poems appeared in Mulch in 1971, which was his last appearence in print according to George Butterick's biography of Marshall in 1983. Marshall read with Michael Rumaker at the Poetry Project at St. Mark's in 1975. Jargon 31 includes Marshall in a collection of 14 poets and 1 artist from 1958.
A second book of poems, Transit Glory, appeared in 1967 from Carp & Whitefish. This was a short-lived printing venture by Irving Rosenthal, who edited Buroughs in Chicago Review and wrote Sheeper. The only other book of the Press is Philip Whalen's Invention of the Letter. Here is Rosenthal: "The Marshall book was a fancy little contraption with a drawstring that pulled the pages up from a pocket. It was to sell for a dollar, and I was hoping to distribute fifty or a hundred copies to each of the half-dozen or so bookstores in New York City that specialized in modern poetry. As I was planning to move to San Francisco, either temporarily or permanently, I was eager to unload as many books as possible in the East before I left. But the first (supposedly hip) bookstore I approached placed so miniscule an order, that I resolved to sell the book on the streets myself, and bought a two-dollar City of New York Peddler's License. But I was too busy collating and binding the Whalen book to sell the Marshall book." Marshall's second book has completed disappeared. No copies on Abebooks. The usual suspects like Buffalo, of course have a copy. Charles Olson possessed a copy in his library (Maud calls it Transit Gloria). Olson greatly admired "Leave the Word Alone," particularly its form. The Pequod Press reissued "Leave the Word Alone" in 1979, with an introduction by Ginsberg.
Hellan, Hellan is a good starter for an Auerhahn collection. Mainly because it is one of the cheapest of the entire Press, but again, like Marshall, Hellan Hellan is a bit out of place. The book has that early Auerhahn feel, but Branaman's comix cover art is a bit ahead of its time. To my mind, that alone makes the book visually interesting but it is not a defining or classic Auerhahn design, maybe in part because Branaman's infernos were printed in the purgatory marking the transition from the McIlroy to the Hoyem period of the Press.
Marshall is a religious poet, a man of "psychoreligious fevor," as described by Butterick. Butterick continues on "Leave the Word Alone, "In structure and style, the poem itself is like preaching on Boston Commons." Marshall from that poem: "Leave the Bible alone it is dangerous."