Thursday, January 8, 2009


On this day in 1972 poet and painter Kenneth Patchen died.

Patchen was born in 1911, and despite a life collaborating with some of the century's best known poets, musicians and playwrights, Patchen never enjoyed much popular success. Part of this was due to his ever changing writing style, which varied from his early books of political poetry to his "jazz poems" written with Langston Hughes and Kenneth Rexroth, to his child-like "painted poems" that occupied much of his later career. The rest is most likely due to his fervent pacifism, which included loud and persistent resistance to U.S. involvement in World War II.

On top of all that, and despite a crippling spinal injury that kept him bed ridden for many years, Patchen also wrote a series of wildly experimental novels such as "The Journal of Albion Moonlight" and "Memoirs of A Shy Pornographer," and collaborated with composer John Cage on the radio play "The City Wears A Slouch Hat." Patchen had a life-long friendship with e.e. cummings, and in the 1950's he collaborated with jazz giant Charles Mingus, reading his poetry along with original compositions by Mingus' jazz combo. Unfortunately, no known recording of their collaboration exists.

Hayden Carruth wrote that Patchen survived the way an old nail survives, rusty and forgotten.


There's a place the man always say
Come in here, child
No cause you should weep
Wolf never catch such a rabbit
Golden hair never turn white with grief
Come in here, child
No cause you should moan
Brother never hurt his brother
Nobody here ever wander without a home
There must be some such place somewhere
But I never heard of it


Bureau of Public Secrets said...

Rexroth's superb essay "Kenneth Patchen, Naturalist of the Public Nightmare" is online at


Gurldoggie said...

Thanks for the tip. Great website too, a real wealth of resources. I'm adding you to my blogroll.