Thursday, January 17, 2008

Vincent Ferrini, a Living Poem

Well, that's what he called himself, this poet of the people, strolling the streets of Gloucester, Mass., in his trademark braod-brimmed hat. He died during the "holidays" (December 24), so if you missed the news, that's probably why. His 2004 book was THE WHOLE SONG; still to come this year, posthumously, will be INVISIBLE SKIN. His nephew, filmmaker Henry Ferrini, counted 31 of his books, and I have a list of most of them:

No Smoke, 1941 Falmouth Publishing House, Portland Maine
No Smoke, available in braille
Injunction , 1943 Sand Piper Press, Lynn, Massachusetts
Tidal Wave, 1945 Great Concord Publishers, New York, New York
Blood of the Tenement, 1945 Sand Piper Press, Lynn, Massachusetts
Plow in the Ruins, 1948 James Decker Press, Prairie City, Illinois
Sea Sprung, 1949 Cape Ann Press, Gloucester, Massachusetts
The Infinite People, 1950 Great Concord Publishers, New York, New Your
The House of Time, 1952 Fortune Press, London, UK
In the Arriving, 1954 Heron Press, Liverpool UK
Mindscapes, 1955 Peter Pauper Press, Mt. Vernon, New York
Timeo Hominem Unius Mulieris, 1956 Heron Press, Liverpool, UK
The Garden, 1958 Heuretic Press, Gloucester, Massachusetts
The Square Root of In, 1959 Heuretic Press, Gloucester, Massachusetts
Book of One, 1960 Heuretic Press, Gloucester, Massachusetts
Mirandum, 1963 Heuretic Press, Gloucester, Massachusetts
I Have the World, 1967 Fortune Press, London, UK
The Hiding One, 1973 Me and Thee Press, Brookline, Massachusetts
Ten Pound Light , 1975 The Church Press, Gloucester, Massachusetts
Selected Poems, 1976 University of Connecticut Library, Storrs, Connecticut
Know Fish, Volumes I and II, 1979 University of Connecticut
Know Fish, Volume III, The Navigators 1984 University of Connecticut
Know Fish, Volumes IV and V, The Community of Self, 1986 University of Connecticut
Know Fish, Volumes VI and VII, This Other Ocean, 1991 University of Connecticut
A Tale of Psyche , 1991 Igneus Press, Bedford, New Hampshire
Magdalene Silences, 1992 Igneus Press, Bedford, New Hampshire
Deluxe Daring, 1994 Drawings by Jane Robbins and poetry of Vincent Ferrini, Bliss Publications, Boston, MA
The Magi Image, 1995 Igneus Press, New Hampshire
Preamble To Divinity, 1996 Published in cooperative venture by: JUXTA, Charlottesville, VA & 3300 Press, San Francisco CA

Not only was he a lifelong friend of Charles Olson, but he was the person to whom Olson addressed the "letters" of his Maximus Poems. Find him also in Larry Eigner's life. And in a sense, he was a model for the blossoming of the Beats.

I'm placing a recent photo of him here without knowing who took the picture -- everyone seems to have posted the same shot online recently -- but it's such a gem that I can't resist. (If you're the photographer, let me know please and I'll add the credit; thanks.)

Here's a taste of Ferrini's poetry from his first collection, NO SMOKE:

Tanney Bronson

Everything his protean brain touches he
breathes to life.
Rooted in the revolution of 1776.
Palms calloused by pick and shovel
On the pulse of the people
Are fists full of liberty.
Poetry spills from his lips
And his consciousness is a sleepless eye.
When he imitates people your stomach
knots with laughter.
His criticisms cut the legs under you.
Hammers the time as it happens into songs
for workers' ears.
Old clothes need him.
His head is a faun's.
Friend to square pegs in round holes.
Honest as the sting of truth
And suffers for it.
In his house there is free speech.
Wherever he is the air blossoms,
Exciting you with a drama of stories,
Unending jokes and anecdotes.
His rooms are splashed with paintings.
You are reborn when you hear him freeing music
And around his fireplace you chew a bit
of greatness.
With him you become an explorer,
The dormant universe electrified within you.
His blood throbs with the untaught American past,
Bringing it back to the people.

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