KPFA is a listener-supported radio station broadcast from Berkeley. They are currently running a fund drive, which is the only way you can get a limited edition copy of Jack Foley‘s collaboration with Helen Breger, a longtime illustrator for The San Francisco Chronicle. You see, back before photography became the norm for newspapers, illustrators supplied images to go with the articles. In this fashion, Breger has illustrated the portraits of 30 writers, each accompanied by an original poem/poetic commentary written by Foley. In characteristic fashion, the book includes a CD with audio recordings of Foley reading each poem.
“Sketches Poetical” is, Foley says, “a play upon the title of William Blake’s first book, Poetical Sketches.” Authors include Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, E.E. Cummings, Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Neal Cassady, Kenneth Rexroth, Kenneth Patchen, Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, James Broughton, Al Young, Josephine Miles, Kay Boyle, Shirley Kauffman, Amiri Baraka, and many others.
“The poems written for these sketches match the diversity of the sketches themselves,” Foley says. “They are written in a Joycean variety of styles, at times mirroring the style of the author sketched. The book should appeal to lovers of contemporary poetry as well as to lovers of caricature—the art of making a “portrait,” which is also a kind of comic revelation. Writing is a form of drawing,” he says, and asks of his subjects: “What do their looks/ tell of their books?”
Poet Jake Berry writes of Sketches Poetical: “Historical, descriptive, playful, lyrical, cubistic, animal noise pure, eloquent and sublime. The collection is a splendid example of multiple selves—not only because of the many actual people, but of the way a poet can become so many things other than one’s self, one self. This is a clinic in the art of ek-stasis. Beside, outside, in constant motion becoming, slipping away, becoming something else. The poem is not a made thing any more than a person is merely what you see. What a sketch can do is reveal to our eyes, ears and mind what we cannot see and perhaps cannot know in the conventional sense. It can transform us toward all the possibilities of the subject.”
A few pages from the book have been published in the Spring/Summer 2011 issue of The Tower Journal, from which the above two sketches are taken. Follow this link to see more and to read—and hear Foley read—the poems.
You can get Sketches Poetical—and support KPFA—for a $50 premium on Jack’s show Cover to Cover every Wednesday at 3pm, where you can also get his 1,300 page chronoencyclopedia of California poets and poetry Visions and Affiliations.
And here’s one of Jack’s “morning ditties,” which you can get fresh to your inbox if you send him a line:
Ok for fine folks
Ok for wretches
To the homeless it will not
Give any homes
You only will get
What you can get from pomes
It isn’t heretical
(Nor is it medical!):
The book’s only sketches
With added poetical