Last night’s falling-back-to-sleep list had me thinking about Eileen Myles’s COOL FOR YOU, which I recently posted about and which is now one of my favorite books.
It’s a “novel” according to her and the title page, but it’s also obviously a memoir, a very poetic and unique one. Which got me thinking about books by poets that are autobiographical and unique and are favorites of mine, including my own OF.
There are certainly more I didn’t think of, but these are the ones that came to mind last night. The criterion being they’re basically autobiographical, even if they only address one year in the life of the poet (Harry E. Northup’s REUNIONS) or even one day (Bernadette Mayer’s MIDWINTER DAY) or address more than just the poet’s own life or part of it (Michael McClure’s SCRATCHING THE BEAT SURFACE) or are small or tiny or what’s known as “chapbooks” (Geoff Young’s THE DUMP) and later included in larger collections.
There are plenty of poems that are autobiographical I can think of by many poets I dig, including friends, but if the only way I know the poem is in the context of a collection of poems which aren’t necessarily autobiographical I didn’t include those collections.
So I just listed books by poets that struck me as autobiographical in an original way. Here’s what I came up with, and might I add, all highly recommended tomes if you can get your hands on ones you haven’t already read:
THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS, AT BAOSHAN by Simon Schuchat
THE BASKETBALL DIARIES by Jim Carroll, BANGALORE BLUE by Terry Kennedy, BREAD & FISH by Mark Terrill, BOY DRINKERS by Terence Winch
COOL FOR YOU by Eileen Myles, CROSSING THREE WILDERNESSES by U Sam Oeur
DAKOTA by Kathleen Norris, THE DUMP by Geoffrey Young
THE ENORMOUS ROOM by e. e. cummings, EIMI by e. e. cummings, EARTH HOUSEHOLD by Gary Snyder, ETHIOPIA by Eric Torgersen, ELM by Nick Muska
FRIENDS IN THE WORLD by Aram Saroyan, A FAST LIFE by Tim Dlugos, FAIT ACCOMPLI by Nick Piombino
HOLLYWOOD by Blaise Cendrars, HARMATAN by Paul Violi
I REMEMBER by Joe Brainard
JANUARY ZERO by Ray DiPalma
LINE CAUGHT by Brooks Rodden, THE LONG EXPERIENCE OF LOVE by Jim Moore, LATE SHOW by David Trinidad, LUNCH. A POEM by Nathan Kernan
MOMENTS OF THE ITALIAN SUN, by James Wright, MY LIFE by Michael Lally (originally published as a “chapbook” by Wyrd Press), MAGPIE RISING by Merrill Gilfillan, MIDWINTER DAY by Berndaette Mayer, MEMOIRS OF A STREET POET by Frank T. Rios
THE NOTEBOOKS OF MALTE LAURIDS BRIGGE by Rainer Maria Rilke
OF by Michael Lally, OBSIDIAN POINT by Ken McCullough
THE PISAN CANTOS by Ezra Pound
A QUINCY HISTORY by James Haining
RUNNING by Nathan Whiting, REUNIONS by Harry E. Northup, RECOLLECTIONS OF MY LIFE AS A WOMAN by Diane di Prima
SPECIMEN DAYS by Walt Whitman, SKY by Blaise Cendrars, A SERIAL BIOGRAPHY by Tom Raworth, THE STREET by Aram Saroyan, SCRATCHING THE BEAT SURFACE by Michael McClure
TRAIN RIDE by Ted Berrigan, THAT SPECIAL PLACE by Terence Winch
THE UFOs OF OCTOBER by Robert Bove
LA VITA NUOVA by Dante, THE VERMONT NOTEBOOK by John Ashbery, THE VIRGIN OF BENNINGTON by Kathleen Norris
WORLD WITHIN WORLD by Stephen Spender, WAKE UP CALLS by Wanda Phipps. WHERE X MARKS THE SPOT by Bill Zavatsky
[Just read this on poet Tom Clark's poetry (and art) blog—"Beyond the Pale"—which made me think maybe in the future a lot of this great poet autbio writing will only be accessible on the web]