Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Kenneth Rexroth was known mostly as a poet. He was more the literary "Godfather to the Beats" than Burroughs. But he was actually a much better essayist, and probably made a far greater lasting contribution as a translator of Japanese and Chinese poetry. His essays reflected an encyclopedic base of knowledge and experience (he was also a painter, naturalist/mystic and political activist/anarchist who learned about all sorts of political tendencies by age 14 from hanging out and listening to the outdoor soapboxers in Hyde Park, Chicago). But most importantly, he never lost the ability to communicate directly, without affecting some kind of academic attitude. If you want a recommendation, I'd say read either his collected essays (World Outside the Window, 1987) or Classics, Revisited.