When you have circled the sun more than eighty times, mourning has become deeply folded into your daily life and memories are apt to make an unexpected appearance. (“I am a child with red ears”). There are many more dots to connect. (“My thoughts/go back to/ Jules Ferry Square/ where I was given/the secrets of/unhappiness.) And yet, despite the death of many close friends and colleagues, Jim Dine continues to be a purposeful and enthusiastic peripatetic celebrating the commonplace, often with a sweet humor (“Return to the Metro!/all the Alsatian ‘crybabies’/are our cousins,/ (the little elves)”). Dine’s perceptions are a torrent that he shapes. The music animating the poems is all his. Whether short or long and skinny on the pages, the poems are constellations of light brimming with declarations of love, sad and happy memories, of being alive to the tremors and aftershocks of the world. Through it all Dine remains full of wonder and in pursuit of joy.
— John Yau
Paperback. 94 pages.
photograph by Daniel Clarke
Málaga, Spain June 2019
I was born in 1935. The real story is that I didn’t meet poetry till I was nineteen when my sculpture professor, Dave Hosteller, at Ohio University, played Dylan Thomas reading his poems an a Caedmon ‘LP’ record. He also gave me Under Milk Wood (Thomas’ radio play) to listen to.
During my early twenties, I made performances in New York with colleagues in the ‘downtown’ art world. My most elaborate work, called Car Crash, was a cacophony of sounds and words spoken by a great white Venus with animal grunts and howls by me. Five years later, I illustrated Ron Padgett’s translation of Apollinaire’s The Poet Assassinated. Meeting Ron introduced me to his work and the works of other poets he admired. At the same time, I met and fell in love with Robert Creeley. He was, to me, all about poetry. He was generous with his thoughts, but it was his Massachusetts-accented voice that was the poetry. I read Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets. It was 1966, and I started to write poetry full force around then.
I went to England in 1967 and met the poet-printers Asa Benveniste and Tom Raworth. Asa wanted to publish my poems. He did. The book was called Welcome Home Lovebirds. There were a lot of letters and postcards written between me and U.S. poets. In London, there was much talk around Asa about poetry and Asa’s history as a poet and publisher of poets. He was, I guess, ten years older than me.
I started to write every day and continued till about 1972 when I stopped. I’m not clear why, but I began again around 1990 when I met Diana Michener. She is a very inspirational character, and her eccentric big soul understands all I’ve written since. We have read together in public with the New York poet, Vincent Katz, who has befriended my poems. I have learned from his personal vision.
Many of my poems are written first on long sheets of paper tacked to the wall. Some are eight or nine feet long, and I write in charcoal or crayon and then ‘white out’ when I want to change a word, with a mixture of white pigment mixed with shellac. I also can cut out a line with a box cutter and lose it or use it in another place in the poem by gluing it or stapling it to the paper on the wall. This technique is a lot like the way I draw. Correcting and erasing are important tools, for my poems and my drawings.