Homage to poet James Koller on the Web site of the
Regional Nature Park of Monti Lucretti (Italy), where James had
frequently visited since 2002 and shared his poetry with students from
local schools. A heartfelt thanks to Stefano Panzarasa and Mariagrazia
Pelaia for their years of working with Dad in sharing poems about nature
with those children. This work meant a great deal to him.
The homage includes videos and translations in Italian.
I came to know
James Koller thanks to Gary Lawless, who told me “you must know this guy” and he
gave me his email address. I wrote him and he answered sending me The Bone Show
text, one of his masterpieces. I answered back “whow, this is good medicine!”.
And there it started our friendship which lasted till the day of his passing
away. Before that I knew him through occasional reports from the Sixties &
Seventies’ counterculture press (he had a few of his things published in Italy,
thanks to his friend Franco Beltrametti, in the rather famous Fernanda Pivano’s
anthology “L’altra America degli Anni Sessanta”) and the perception I had of him
was of a man hard to locate, perpetually on the move.
Eventually we met,
during one of his frequent visit to Europe, and we started journeying through
the Italian watersheds for poetry readings and talks. He has been very
instrumental and supportive to our work of promoting the bioregional vision in
Italy and I owe him lots of discussions and deepening on the concept. His points
were always acute and accurate as they reflected years of study on culture and
nature. Although at ease in every context he was perfectly comfortable when he
was on the road (a pleasant anecdote: every time we were about to leave, we
approached the road singing “On the road again / just can’t wait to get on the
road again…” of Willie Nelson), I would say the road was his daily bread, an open door to new
possibilities, alliances and new territories. His bioregion reflects the map of
his travelling and spoke in terms of poems, landscapes and stories around the
fire. Over the years he build up an extensive network of people and situations
over which he could count for hospitality and a chance for sharing poems and
thoughts, and I’m very proud to have been a little nod in his
Thanks Jim for
your art, your exquisite poems, for the little Coyote book of mine “Watersheds
of the Mind” you did (in three languages!!), for hosting me in your home in
Georgetown and for the walk in the Maine woods to see the beaver dams and later
along the shore of Walden Pond in Concord, Massachussetts, to visit Thoreaus’
cabin site. For the journey along the northern coast of California to see Mount
Tamalpais, Bolinas, Point Reyes and up to Mendocino County, and before that the
ride to Kitkitdizze where I attended to a memorable conversation between you and
Gary Snyder on the good old days, and thanks very much for offering your time to
edit the translation in English of my writings. This is the first without you…
and the difference is evident.
"I met Jim, after many years, at the 70’s event at Orono
several years ago. His attention and energy seemed still as he had been in the
early 60’s when he and I, at Robert Duncan’s suggestion, talked of publishing a
book of his poetry as a SUMbook. We were living in Albuquerque and had just published
Duncan’s Writing Writing. Though Jim and I explored the possibility of doing his
book, it didn’t happen. It was published as Two Hands in Seattle in
1965. I was attracted to Jim’s poetry in pretty much the same way I had
taken to Snyder’s: northwest, mountains, rivers, trees, animal spirits, etc., a
poetics of place I felt aligned with. We published Jim in SUM #2 (February,
1964) and in the final issue (#7, 1965). I’d like to honour Jim’s poetic
presence through the years by offering these pages of his from SUM #2."
... Thanks Jim, for all the journey through the Italian
watersheds we had together. For all the books and booklets we did together, for
all the poems shared and the readings you generously gave for us all. You’ve
been such a good friend and a great poet.
Supenova edizioni in Venezia (John Gian who organised Jim's very first
reading in Europe, Armando Pajalich, Rita Degli Esposti) published
"Fortune", by Jim, in 1987,( translated by Franco Beltrametti) and this
iconic poem was in it.
Jim strode towards me the first time we met,
holding a creased sheet of paper bearing my picture. I’d sent him the
image by email, so we’d recognize one another, and he’d printed it out. I
stood at the head of the train in the Cologne station, where I said I
would, and he came right on, and held the sheet up next to my head to
compare. Then he extended a hand. We’d been exchanging emails for some
through Coyote Books—had been one of Philip Whalen’s principle
publishers, and I was at work on Philip’s biography. Jim had also served
as one of Philip’s editors, especially on the large compilation On Bear’s Head.
Philip was grateful for all of Jim’s efforts, but beyond that, he also
admired Jim’s poetry a great deal, and he enjoyed Jim’s company. He said
this repeated. Philip also often leaned on Jim for transport—of himself
and of many assorted belongings—because Jim usually had a truck, and
Philip usually needed a ride.
the day we met, Jim had taken a slightly longer route to Germany,
kindly coming through Cologne, so I could interview him. We had lunch
first, at a brewery close to the station. After I translated pretty much
all the menu items, he said, “If they really have a liver-dumpling
soup…well, I haven’t had that in a while.” As a source, Jim was precise,
and when he couldn’t be, he restrained himself from speculation. He was
surprisingly talkative about what he knew, and he knew an awful lot.
I worked at writing the book, Jim would graciously look over chapters,
query some things, point out others I hadn’t seen. He and Maggie Brown
published one long chapter about Philip and Gary Snyder in the online
Coyote’s Journal. Jim was a tremendous help and friendly, generous,
I attach two pictures:
— one the day we spoke, at a cafe near the Cologne main station;
— one of Jim’s name, copied out in a formal hand.
because Philip Whalen was a buddhist, because I am, and because Jim
seemed at least respectful of buddhism, the card will sit on my shrine
until the traditional seven weeks have elapsed since his passing.
Crossing the corner,the shop where we used to laugh and watch the
window , those clothes " for retired people"...no you were too young to
die, your soul was young your poetry your heart your pure
presence...maybe those who die so young, like you, never die
the sense of love and sobriety you took into my life
I had hoped to post this on the blog for Jim.
It took me awhile to put my thoughts into words, so here is a
weeks worth of thoughts.
I send you all my best energy to deal with this difficult time.
Such an incredible loss.
Please keep me updated and let me know if there is any way I can
be of help or support to you.
Judy Goldhaft (Judy Berg)
San Francisco 12/11/14
So good to see so many of your friends writing on the blog.
Brilliant silver sky full of rain. Thinking of you water dripping from my eyes too.
Thanks for the twinkle in your eye. Loved your conversations with Peter Garland. Loved even more our conversations together with Peter Berg – us three rolling in the grass at night, drinking Old Overholt, howling at the moon.
Many thanks for WIND, Fragments for a Beginning. We’ll sing it when we give Peter’s ashes to the fire and the sky on the beach.
Loved your response to my pointing out how many wives you’ve had. Ingenuously, “Well, it wasn’t my fault.” You are such a lover. I love you Jim.
Driving out to Pt. Reyes predawn
Your presence is with me
& smiling eyes
The sun’s orange glow warms the fog at the rise into Olema. Ravens take flight.
The shimmering water on the road reflecting brilliant winter light recalls wet and snowy streets in Bath
We visited in the nowever as I drove through fog mists along wet highways.
Recalling other times, another trips, some poemized by you – captured moments in time.
.… Dreamtime visitin’
In the dark
You transport me
Wrap me in your reality
I breathe with you
In questa città dove tutto fluttua, dove siamo stati vivendo, come hai fatto notare, in cerchi concentrici, sono andato a letto tardi stanotte e come poche altre volte ho sentito dentro il cielo grigio una stella respirare alta nel suo pianto. Una nuvola a forma di lupo poi è corsa qui sopra ad essa vicina, libera, in questa città dove come scrivesti la gente non vive la vita in linea retta. Un' ultima cosa, si procedeva lenti, girando per strade d'acqua nella sera improvvisa. Non c'era per forza qualcosa da fare.
AMARE'A DADE'A Amare la dade lu, kai san and-o ćèros! Te sfintzil pes tirro anav! Te avel tirri ïmpäräcìa! Te kerel pes tirri vòia, Sar si and-o ćèros kadiă, vi p-i phuv! Amaro děsutno manro De les amen aděs! Thai iertisar amenghe amare bezeha Sar vi amen iertisaras äl bezeha e amare bezăhalenghe. I Thai na ingăr amen and-i ispita, Thai skäpisar amen e nasulestar! Amin!
few months ago, I was skyping with Dad and he read me this poem. He
teared up in the middle of it and his voice cracked. Thinking back on
that, it falls in place that we are now in the MidWest, and that all of
this happened while he was on a road trip with those engines running.
Untitled - 1987
The real world stretches between mountains.
Big rivers run through it.
On summer nights it is lighted by fireflies.
In the real world
small towns are filled with kids eating icecream.
Their moms wear cotton dresses
and talk of the children to come.
(I hear laughter as the sun goes down)
Late at night after the kids are asleep
there is cold apple pie and hot black coffee.
(I smell the gasoline - hear the engines running
engines that never stop
that run from mountains to mountains
out over the flat land
through the dark nights
over the steel big river bridges
through the blinking fireflies)
The real world is one I've carried within me -
forty years gone by and the engines still turn
and the wheels they drive still turn and drive me
and carry me through these summer nights
(I hear the women in their cotton dresses laughing)
Dad always loved this photo of the Sami, since it reflects family. It
reminds me a bit of us here in Joplin. It also reminds me of all of you -
his blood family and his wider family - connected online. What a family