Thursday, July 5, 2012


Found this photo the other day and scanned it. It's Jim Haining and me in Portland, Oregon, when I was visiting him there during their Artquake festival in 1994, I'd been thinking about Jim a lot lately. He passed several years ago and never got the recognition I believe he deserved.  Originally from Texas, I met him when he was a college student in Quincey, Illinois, on the Mississippi River. He was starting a magazine called Salt Lick, which turned out to be one of the most original "little magazines" during their heyday in the last half of the 20th century.

His poetry was finally getting out a bit before he died, but it was never recognized widely. And his A QUINCY HISTORY, one of my favorite books [and yes, full disclosure, I'm mentioned quite a bit in it, but it's not the real me, it's Jim's version of what he was observing and deducing during a period that was confusing for a lot of us]. It tells the story of what it was like to be a small press poet and publisher (mostly in the early 1970s) in a way that no documentary film or outsider take, if there even were any, could ever come close to.

Jim got MS when he was still pretty young (note the cane in the photo and the fact he's sitting in a wheel chair) and it slowly took its toll. One of the most compelling things about his passing, according to Texas poet and old friend Robert Trammel, who himself has passed on, was that Jim was lying in his hospital bed at the end in a kind of coma state when suddenly he sat straight up in bed and said: "I have known happiness," and then laid back down and seemed out of it again but then just as suddenly he sat up in bed again and said: "I have known happiness."  And then he died. Kind of gives me comfort.

[I'm up in The Berkshires and don't have his books here so can't quote from anything, but maybe when I return to Jersey in a few days I'll add a few lines from one of his poems or from A QUINCY HISTORY.]

[PPS: JenW informs me that when I wrote about this in one of my books I recorded that Jim's final words were "I have seen happiness" not "known happiness" and now I don't remember which is correct (I assume "seen" since it was written closer to when Trammel told me). I'll look into it when I return to Jersey.]

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