Edward Dorn. Courtesy Limberlost Press.

Edward Merton Dorn (April 2, 1929 - December 10, 1999) was an American poet and teacher often associated with the Black Mountain poets.

Life[edit | edit source]

Dorn was born in Villa Grove, Illinois. He grew up in rural poverty during the Great Depression. He attended a one-room schoolhouse for his 1st 8 grades.

He later studied at the University of Illinois and at Black Mountain College (1950-1955). At Black Mountain he came into contact with Charles Olson, who greatly influenced his literary worldview and his sense of himself as a poet. Dorn's final examiner at Black Mountain was Robert Creeley, with whom, along with the poet Robert Duncan, Dorn became included as one of a trio of younger poets later associated with Black Mountain and with Charles Olson.[1]

In 1951, Dorn left Black Mountain and traveled to the Pacific northwest, where he did manual labor and met his 1st wife, Helene; they returned to the school in late 1954. After graduation and 2 years of travel, Dorn's family settled in Washington state, the setting for his autobiographical novel By the Sound (originally published as Rites of Passage), which describes the grinding poverty of life in "the basement stratum of society." In 1961 he accepted his 1st teaching job at the University of Idaho, where he published the magazine Wild Dog. His 1st book of poetry, The Newly Fallen, was published by LeRoi Jones's Totem Press in 1961.

In 1965, with photographer Leroy Lucas, Dorn spent the summer visiting Indian reservations for a book commissioned by William Morrow & Co, The Shoshoneans. That fall, British poet and scholar Donald Davie invited him to join the faculty at the Literature Department he was creating at the new University of Essex. He spent most of the next 5 years in England, where he published several collections of poems and wrote Book 1 of Gunslinger. He also started working with Gordon Brotherston on translations from Latin American texts, solidified his close friendship with British poet J.H. Prynne, and met Jennifer Dunbar, who became his 2nd wife.

On returning to the United States, Dorn spent the 1970s as an academic migrant, teaching at over half a dozen universities across the country. In San Francisco, he collaborated with the printer and artist team Holbrook Teter and Michael Myers on a number of projects, including the newspaper Bean News, the comic book format of Recollections of Gran Apachería, and the typsetting of the complete Gunslinger in 1974.

In 1977 Dorn accepted a professorship at the University of Colorado, Boulder, where he taught for the rest of his life, directing the Creative Writing Program and editing the literary newspaper Rolling Stock (motto: “If It Moves Print It”) with Jennifer Dunbar Dorn. During the '90s, after a teaching exchange visit to Paul Valery University in Montpellier inspired an interest in the Cathars of Southern France, he started working on Languedoc Variorum: A Defense of Heresy and Heretics. He was also writing another long narrative poem Westward Haut. During the last two and a half years of his life, he wrote the poems for the posthumously published Chemo Sabe, reporting on his cancer treatments.

In the early 1970s, as a visiting poet at Kent State University, Dorn, along with British poet and editor Eric Mottram, was a mentor and supporter of the musical group Devo, and its founders Gerald Casale and Bob Lewis.

Dorn died of pancreatic cancer in Denver, Colorado. His papers are collected at the University of Connecticut as well as at Indiana University at Bloomington.

Writing[edit | edit source]

Dorn's magnum opus is Gunslinger. Gunslinger is a long poem in 5 sections. Part 1 was published in 1968, and the final complete text appeared in 1974. Other important publications include The Collected Poems: 1956-1974 (1975), Recollections of Gran Apacheria (1975), Abhorrences (1989), High West Rendezvous: A Sampler (1997), and Way More West: New and selected poems] (2007).

Recognition[edit | edit source]

Popular horror novelist Stephen King admired Dorn, describing his poetry as "talismans of perfect writing" and even naming the 1st novel of The Dark Tower series, "The Gunslinger," in honor of Dorn's poem.[2] King also opened both the prologue and epilogue of "The Stand" with Dorn's line, "We need help, the Poet reckoned."[3]

Publications[edit | edit source]

Poetry[edit | edit source]

  • The Newly Fallen,. New York: Totem Press, 1961.
  • Hands Up!. New York: Totem Press, 1964.
  • From Gloucester Out. London: Matrix Press, 1964.
  • Idaho Out. London: Fulcrum Press, 1965.
  • Geography, Fulcrum Press, London, 1965.
  • The North Atlantic Turbine. London: Fulcrum Press, 1967.
  • Gunslinger. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1968.
  • Gunslinger: Book II. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1969.
  • The Midwest Is That Space Between the Buffalo Statler and the Lawrence Eldridge. T. Williams, 1969.
  • The Cosmology of Finding Your Spot. Cottonwood, 1969.
  • Twenty-four Love Songs. Frontier Press, 1969.
  • Gunslinger I & II.London: Fulcrum Press, 1970.
  • Songs Set Two: A Short Count. Frontier Press, 1970. ISBN 978-0686050520
  • The Cycle. Frontier Press, 1971.
  • A Poem Called Alexander Hamilton, Tansy/Peg Leg Press, 1971.
  • Spectrum Breakdown: A Microbook. Athanor Books, 1971.
  • The Hamadryas Baboon at the Lincoln Park Zoo. Wine Press, 1972.
  • Gunslinger, Book III: The Winterbook, Prologue to the Great Book IV Kornerstone Frontier Press, 1972.
  • Recollections of Gran Apacheria, Turtle Island, 1974.
  • Slinger (contains Gunslinger, Books I-IV and The Cycle). Wingbow Press, 1975.
  • Manchester Square (ith Jennifer Dunbar). Permanent Press, 1975.
  • Collected Poems: 1956-1974, Four Seasons Foundation, 1975.
  • Hello, La Jolla. Wingbow Press, 1978.
  • Selected Poems (edited by Donald Allen). Grey Fox Press, 1978.
  • Abhorrences. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1989.
  • High West Rendezvous. 1996.
  • Way More West: New and selected poems (edited by Michael Rothenberg). New York: Penguin, 2007.[4]

Short fiction[edit | edit source]

  • Some Business Recently Transacted in the White World. Frontier Press, 1971.

Non-fiction[edit | edit source]

  • What I See in the Maximum Poems. Migrant Press, 1960.
  • Prose 1 (with Michael Rumaker and Warren Tallman). Four Seasons Foundation, 1964.
  • The Rites of Passage: A Brief History. Frontier Press, 1965.
  • The Shoshoneans: The People of the Basin-Plateau. Morrow, 1966.
  • Daniel Drew, The Book of Daniel Drew (author of introduction). Frontier Press, 1969.

Collected editions[edit | edit source]

  • Way West: Stories, essays, and verse accounts, 1963-1993. Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 1993.

Translated[edit | edit source]

  • Our Word: Guerilla Poems From Latin America (with Gordon Brotherston). Grossman, 1968.
  • Jose Emilio Pacheco, Tree Between Two Walls (with Gordon Brotherston). Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1969.
  • Cesar Abraham Vallejo, Selected Poems. Penguin, 1976.

Edited[edit | edit source]

  • The Sun Unwound: Original texts from occupied America (translated with G. Brotherston). North Atlantic Books, 1999.


Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy the Poetry Foundation.[5]

See also[edit | edit source]

Edward_Dorn_-_Wait_till_the_Christians_Hear_About_This

Edward Dorn - Wait till the Christians Hear About This

5_Poems_by_Edward_Dorn

5 Poems by Edward Dorn

Elliston_Shorts_Ed_Dorn,_from_"Gunslinger"

Elliston Shorts Ed Dorn, from "Gunslinger"

References[edit | edit source]

  • Beach, Christopher (1992) ABC of Influence: Ezra Pound and the remaking of American poetic tradition, University of California Press.
  • Clark Tom (2002) Edward Dorn: A World of Difference. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books.
  • Elmborg, James K (1998) A Pageant of Its Time: Edward Dorn's Slinger and the Sixties. Studies in Modern Poetry, Vol. 6, Peter Lang Publishing, New York.
  • Levy, William (20 January 2000) "Death of a Gunslinger: An Obituary on Ed Dorn for America." Exquisite Corpse, Issue 4.
  • McPheron, William (1989) Edward Dorn. Western Writers Series #85, Boise State University.
  • Paul, Sherman (1981) The Lost America of Love: Rereading Robert Creeley, Edward Dorn, and Robert Duncan. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press.
  • Spitzer, Mark (1996) Dinner with Slinger, in Thus Spake the Corpse, An Exquisite Corpse Reader 1988-1998, Vol. 2 - Fictions, Travels & Translations (Codrescu, A and Rosenthal, L, eds.) Santa Rosa: Black Sparrow Press.
  • Spitzer, Mark (1999) "Transcript of an Ed Dorn Rant" Jack Magazine, Issue 4.
  • Streeter, David ed. (1973) A Bibliography of Ed Dorn. New York: The Phoenix Bookshop.
  • Wesling, Donald, ed. (1985)Internal Resistances: The Poetry of Ed Dorn. University of California Press

Notes[edit | edit source]

  1. The book The Lost America of Love, by Sherman Paul, celebrates this relationship, as did the Charles Olson conference held under Paul's direction at the University of Iowa in 1978, in which Dorn, Duncan, and Creeley were the only poets participating among a flurry of academic literary scholars. Dorn is now considered by some commentators to be the inheritor of Olson's bardic mantle, the transmittee of the lamp.
  2. http://jacketmagazine.com/32/fredman-dorn.shtml
  3. King, Stephen. The Stand. New York; New American Library Publishing, 1990 Unabridged Paperback Edition. pp xix, 1136.
  4. Search results = Edward Dorn Way West, WorldCat, OCLC Online Computer Library Center Inc. Web, July 12, 2014.
  5. Edward Dorn 1929-1999, Poetry Foundation, Web, Sep. 4, 2012.

External links[edit | edit source]

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