Monday, February 9, 2009

Ed Baker Interview

Photo by Evie Baker

Interview with the poet and painter Ed Baker 
conducted January 31st to February 5th by Gary Parrish

Question 1


GP: How did you find yr way to New York in the late fifties, early sixties? Do you have a particular memory of poetry from this period, how did you become engaged?

EB: OK! my mother born in Manhattan in 1915!  HOA  I got stories!  I once

asked her about her dad who had a horse wagon selling cloth and needle

about Charles Reznikoff..  she knew him from the home  "Charles was

always well dressed. His family in clothing.. an he was a good dancer"

soooo  that first question... I go wayyy back into NYC / Brooklyn...

then meeeting Pauline (Fay) Chin who yet lives in Manhattan 1959  this

inter view will be phun.  one question at a time.... please

so  I was connected to NYC in 1915 and before  prior to my birth in 1941

I used to go up to may aunt an uncles  176 th and Longfellow Ave in the

early 50's  more drive-by gang shootings than "poetry"


Question 2


GP: Can you speak a little bit more about how you came into contact with poetry, perhaps an early memory of writing or reading and having some satori. 





Sure I can

Sure I can


in 6 th grade  I had a teacher...Miss Strawn

and, as I clearly recall  on Octobre 7, 1951

wrote my first poem  I guess I was about 10

Harry Truman was President (he came into my dad's grocery store (Herb's

Market) once  looking for fresh herbs!


it was for a geography class  subject: Chile


Chile is long

Chile is thin

Chile has a lot of tin


Chile is about sixty miles wide

and Mount Popocatapolt reaches from side to sid

Chile is a large producer of copper

I don't know what country can top her



oh well

:then I discovered Stefan Vincent Benet   ...

next I lept into the phray!

I discoverd Pushkin (and some othe Russian poets (in translation)

which led me directly to WCW, Pound (not so-much the cantos  except I

"really" got into The Pisan Cantos

(see my Hopkins thesis   OKEANOS RHOOS



hey, my early writing  1950's - 1965 or so...


all that "stuff" was in a trunk... when I got back from

Mexico/Greece/etc  ((((I was traveling steadily around from about

1960-1970  so out of ALL poetry scenes  then  and now  and especially

between 1078 and 1998)

                                  when I got back all my "stuff" had

been thrown out by my parents who wanted the trunk to store their tax



even when I was in The City  visiting friend  I prefered her AND thos

neat book stores   one in about 1970 carried my Butcher of Oxen..


on consignment   60/40


so I am standing there holding MY book and oogeling this cute girl just

off my left shoulder   and says: "This is my NEW book."  she replied

and one thing led to another and she said "I'll buy your book if you

sign it."  "Sure,  ($1.50 and no charge for my signature) what name?"


"just sine it 'to Hettie'"


so   early on  I came to poetry via cute girls... Pauline was my

Original Muse'


Williams, Ths Wyatt, Fenoloosa, Yeats,Olson etc etc etc I gleaned and

skimmed and seeked out a form/style to imitate


best I could do was cop an attitude or down right steal a posit

when ever I met a poet  I "laid" an ms on 'em ( I always carried some

xeroxe copies w me every where I went in Manhattan, in San

Fransico/Berkeley, Portland, Seattle, Corvallis,

so... "hey John (Cage), you got time to read this?"  and then I'd go

read everything tha John Cage had writte.published


same with countless othe writers  (HOWEVER!  in NYC  with Pauline along

side  we went int the poetry cafes/clubs   mostly The Beats  and  to me

mostly bores and not nice people


so  I pretty much did my "own thing"   (while out in Eugene  about 1973

was on that Multicolored Bus   Ken Kesey, Hunter T, Jamie Brownlow and a

dozen others:

                 mostly I listened, didn't inhale, drank a beer

                 so, Kesey tells me  "just, get-in-you-bag and do your



hey, I'm forgetting the original question!  shit.



     "how you came to poetry"


well  that is an heavy question  and deserves a straight/serious/cogent



I came naked and virginal and naive and (all) trusting

;the first time was in the back seat of a 1955 Buick Special


GAWD!  "She" yet dominates my (thinking/doing/writing/drawing)


I call her by her real names : Wild Orchid, Full Moon, Shrike, UMA,

Stone Girl, Some Flower


I just seem to be consumed!


in a way  I am just doing what comes naturally  what do those (present)

Credentialist Poets-Teachers-Experts call "it"


stream of consciousness?  lanpo? mopo, mepo etc etc


I feel very close to these poets  (and I may leave someone out  but,

pardon me,

I gotta pee and check the Silliman blog-n-roll)


WCW, Larry Eigner, Frank Samperi, John Martone, John Phillips, John

Levy, David Giannini, Thomas Wyatt the Elder ( now I REALLY got to pee!

hey, I better read one of your previously don intervies to see how I

should (fuckin) behave  and maybe spell-via-a-dictionary.


here is a little piece I wrote as a reply to something Cid (Corman)

saud-wrote to me ( I think in here



it s not so easy

being myself.


                 oppps  saud =s said


Question 3

GP: Did you experience any change in the central components of your poetry and other artistic endeavors since suffering a stroke? Or, have any new doors for the creative process been opened to you by this experience?

EB: well; that's a deep subject (old child hood joke  get it? deep dark

well)  dig it!


there is now a hole in my mind


(actually it is the back  as you are looking forward  in the back lower

right quadrant  now, if you look in The Mirror  thing reverse and get

turned "upside down)


 through which things


just come and go


well, sometimes after going and "they" come back


so that 'every thing depends'  'nothing is permanent'



the morphine was great! In it, I discovered my other country     and the

attention that cute nurse paid to me showed me "herself" as more than




as far as 'experience"


I can truthfully say that, all of a sudden, I realized!

I realized that I am nothing more that the sum of my own


        e x p e r i e n c e s


and that I (can) extend those experiences via my written pieces and my

visual pieces

               which,  are  in themselves as what they become  adequate


just as they are

 and I seem to have returned to embrace those "things" that I hate.


so  I do what they ask me to do... mostly "goddesses" I just gotta get

things out of mind and into some kind of a

viewable form..


the form depends on the needs the thinking brings to a certain kind of

"reality"   or should that be a question


three things The Goddess has taught/thought me:


1. every time something good comes in, the shit gets there before it.

almost immediately.


2. it's not the words that tell us. It is the experience of the thing.


3. if I am teaching someone through something that I've done (created)

THROUGH MY EYES, then it is wrong.


4.  kiss kiss kiss  kiss-kiss all you think about is sex. what kind of a

koan IS t h a t?



you following this line of thinking?  hell, I'm not answering your

question.  Shit!    I'm "doing" it!  regardless of the con:see:quences


any other need/want/desire   or any other ersatz political/religious

dogmatic drivel

                  I got my own drool to use/clean-up

Question 4


GP: The "be here now" quality of yr work and life suggest that you have a

relationship Buddhism, not dogmatic but filtered through your own

experiences. Can you speak about yr own enlightenment during this

lifetime, art or otherwise.


not really. oh, I suppose


I could invent something specific to this....


however:  I just don't know!


I mean,


it's like playing with no thought, it's near-on to impossible to


w out thinking


so, if you want to say

some thing

just  say something

and, maybe  go with


Walking Mind   (my Japanese name I gave to myself)


something like  "kokoroarunite"wher I now can accompany Stone Girl


wherever thinking/mind/heart takes us...



this is  now practice zen  not Buddhism as thought at, say Nairopa


              or that mass-movement  BeatZen


I do read lots of "stuff"   S Suzuki, Thick Knot Hands, Seung Sahn,

Dogen, etc


also,  Reid's book, The Tao of Health,Sex, & Longevity


      My Husband the Poet  then, The Unknown Craftsman, Brush Mind


heck, in the tradition of many of those GREAT zen-monk poets I've even


The Comma Sutra for Idiots (yeah, I know  KARMA SUTRA)  but

I only read the good parts!


Philip Sudo's little book  also "big"


so, as far as "enlightenment" goes:


just  switch on the light!     or switch off the light(I wrote a poem in

1969 or so  "Ode to Ths A. Edison:  Switch off the Light"  it's around

here some where.




I practice my own brand of "zen/religion"  which "means"  soething or



         I just don't know


if this sounds crazy  well, we can call "it" Crazy Buddhism/zen  and

progress to a posture of


Crazy Learning/Crazy Teaching







I suppose I got "enlightenment" first time I saw Victor Borge do that

Punctuation bit...

                   or was it when Milton Berl   ?


does this answer the question... or beg it?

what Cid wrote me stands:  "do not beg what you have yet to give.".



Question 5

GP: Ed can you talk about the projects that you have going on now or on

the horizon, writing or otherwise?



Projects?  let me see...


just last week "completed"  Hexapoems ll, Asherah, and Ratula  and got

them into the computer



thinking of scanning ALL of my 8 1/2 X 11 paintings  watercolores and

sumi-ink things  and the little sketches and crayons-ed things   and the

"doodles (vispo?) things-things  must be about 3216 of these in plastic

(acid-free) sleves in binders

-  a daunting task


then there are piles of half-started or half-finished or half-abandoned

(real-lized and released),or half-ass-ed "books" to work  to frewition


then there are   lets see  approximately 143times60 (8580) pages of my

emails that I printed out  cause of the veryEEus and sundry possible

"stash" of poems there-n  to make... I mean  on every page! countless

twists and turns of/ my 'sent' emails..


well  "everybody" 's got their "The Collected Letters of {put your own

name here}


mine will be:  The Collected E-mails of Ed Baker


projects completed when they get "published


like Neighbors  (first of the six books just last week "put up' on New

Mystics  (at the bottom of)  here:


some of G OO DNIGHT done by/in/on Sketchbook Journal


as a matter of fact I am in  as far as I know) every issue of sketch



HERE I found it:


then I wrote!   STONE GIRL E-pic


I got it somewhere in my computer as I scanned ALL SIX BOOKS  in  all

525 pages


so, not much to do  and I spend all of my time doing it..


everyday I write a book

everyday I do some art


a photo attached and also one on the New Mystics site.


well, I am very hungry!  think I'll go eat two poems today!  I mean,

with the economy

the way it is  and it's effect on Poetry, what's a boddhi to do?

but, Eat their own poems?


                        and try to maintain

1 comment:

Ficus strangulensis said...

Hey, Ed! Marvelosity abounding!

I'm reading this and will 'print' it on the linux box as a pdf and read it again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again and again

Y'r ol' Bud, Fike