by J. Drucker
Fragile was printed as a protest and assertion. I had begun working at the West Coast Print Center in the winter 1975-76 and had met an enormous number of young writers, poets, and publishers. My sense of myself as a writer changed dramatically in that environment. The poets around me challenged me to define the project of my work, and to position myself within a lineage of poets. I had always been more of a prose writer, and my sense of literary identity and history were far more clear to me within those traditions, but I had written poems quite extensively in the early 1970s, finding the condensed form, shorter lines, deliberate form of their structures conducive to a certain discipline. This book was published on my birthday in 1977, at least, it was printed all on that day, out of a desire to show that I had a history to my own writing. At that time, to be able to point to work that was five years old or more seemed a measure of maturity and development. I distributed the book among the poets I knew, to make them aware of that history. Did it make any difference? Not really, not to their perception of me. I was hard at work on From A to Z in that summer, and that work was so completely, obsessively focused on exposing aspects of that scene that Fragile felt like a small thing, which it was, even to me. No one much knew that I was working on A to Z, and that, after all, is another story and belongs in another file. I certainly felt the poems in Fragile demonstrated my relation to language poetry, even written as they were before I had met any of the poets so intent on defining themselves and their work under that rubric.
title note: A heading on the inside of the front cover reads: "Selected writing: 1971." [A. Schutte]
born: United States
active: United States
citizenship: United States
publisher: Chased Press
publication history: This book was printed in a single edition, all at once, and none of the work in the book was printed in any other form or published elsewhere. [J. Drucker]
language poetry (local)
artists' books (LCSH)
themes: The poems do have a theme, which is shyness and the edges of sexual awareness, dream life and sensitivity, a certain fear and withdrawn-ness that was still the residue of teen traumas. [J.Drucker]
artists' book (local)
inspiration: These poems were written when I first arrived in California and was living at the Hillegass house with a group of students from Berkeley. They introduced me to many things, and the California life of the early 1970s -- drugs, rock and roll, sybaritic indulgence, all filled with expansive, exuberant promise and possibility -- was a revelation and inspiration. [J.Drucker]
related works: Very little of my other work is like this, since that period of my writing life was characterized by a peculiar combination of self-consciousness, awareness, and naivete. I don't think I ever wrote anything so personal again ever, having moved quickly away from such expressions of interiority and into the other strains of writing that characterize the bulk of my work -- news fictions, dark comic commentary, studies of narrative, and works about language through visuality. This book is related to none of these, though the voice and style of composition obviously have continuities with other works. [J. Drucker]
other influences: I had read the entire work of Karl Jung when I arrived in California, all nineteen or whatever volumes. These had an enormous effect on my interior life, particularly the imagery of dream life and drug life. Lingering effects of Edna St. Vincent Millay (awful, but true, in the sentimental tone), a bit of Sylvia Plath (all that personal interiority), some Colette in the details and sensuality of observation. [J. Drucker]
community: other The community for the writing of this work was twofold: the group house I lived in and the creative writing classes at CCAC in the early 1970s. Betsy Davids was an important figure in my life, and showing her this work and having her respond to it was a major affirmation that I was a writer. The community for publishing this work as a book was the West Coast Print Center and a broad group of poets in the Bay Area in the later 1970s. [J. Drucker]
exhibition history: Only with other books, though I think this was first shown in a book exhibit at the North Berkeley Art Center in the summer or fall of 1977.
reception history: None, really.
manuscript type: texts
location: artist's archive
note: The poems were taken from a much longer manuscript, all of which I still have, that was filled with drug images, ramblings, dreams, and these curiously cryptic personal poems.