James Liddy--at center
Jack Spicer--the two of them reviving the after effects post and ghosthumous of the National Liquor Bar and Store somewhere in the radio transmitting cosmos--
DOUBLIN FOR DUBLIN
Many thanks for posting this Stephen, (see below) especially as it has news of days in SF.
I found your note just as about to post foto of James at blog and other places--Kent Johnson wrote me very early in morning James was gone.
Actually James had a poem about Silliman, but would be indiscreet to quote it!
I made a tribute at my blog with a poem and foto and some other things--Spicer--and a dedication from James--but have more to unearth--in his own hand--poems and notes--
i have been thinking much of his companion Jim Chapson, his long time companion, also, himself a very fine poet--
James was a great inspiring legendary figure in Milwaukee, holding court at Axel's and traveling about the city to readings and events accompanied by his young admirers poetic and otherwise. He was one of the rare persons with whom one could discuss Jack Spicer, Duncan, so many others--and also Burroughs, Kerouac, the Beats--
and then drink it in as he let flow the full flood of his Irish heritage in poesy and song--
He had one of the keenest rapier wits, a master of the annihilating epigram--improvised--
on the spot--shot with deadly aim--
He was an erotic poet, a gay poet, a queen, a ruminator on matter religious that turned sexual--
In person and poetry, the moods and ideas shift rapidly--lep and flow-jump like bubbles in beer--as the series of topics and moods wil be quickly by turn swwet, soft, coy, catty, caricatural, historical, rhetorical, pedagogical, blasphemous, thick with airy allusions, paaionte with rage or laughter and grief, and just as much, celbrating a giddy shallowness of surface, a delight in a knd of vernishing of a corrupted veneer--or, indeed, from time to time, of a genuine verneer--
The heroic and humorous are ever close to hand, and as ever, the sexual and erotic, the strange possibilities of a language simultaneously religious and deeply, almost obscenely blasphemous--which makes its own form of personal sacred--
Whatever room or outdoors he walked into, he warmed it with his presence, bringing with him a glow of energy, humor and a sense of poetry as both the memorializer and creator of Mythic Events. A small exchange of an evening of fading light among the bare spring trees-walking along--would become transposed into a scene presented later with the beauty , comedy, tragedy--of Myth, the kinds of Myth out of Joyce and Yeats--
James was inspiring because he'd come to America out of a deep love of jack Spicer--and had to see where Spicer had lived, know the people he had known--in as many ways as possible--to be sure--the Biblical knowing and conversational--archeological-
It hadn't mattered to him that Spicer had died a few years earlier--he told me he fully expected the presence of Spicer to be there, completely alive--and that the traces and ghosts of him --would be found walking about, or at a bar--beside a radio--not dead at all--
The idea of a pilgrimage directly into what remained of the poet's life --in the persons of his friends,--in the sites still extant in which he moved--al this was a sign to others of the making of the impossible the reality of one's life--the contact with a dead poet turning one's life around--a pivot of the hip swinging one round the corner of the bar-into the arms of a different future--
and so straddling worlds--from Ireland to SF to Milwaukee--and other realms which he would hear the voices and musics of--and the scenes appearing out of history, memory, speech--
he would present one continually with poetry as the very life within the blood of one's existence, the air one breathed and the ground one walked--
he also kept one sane, i believe--in so many ways--i know he often did so for me, as his outrageous punning and digressions, asides, comments, passing back and forth of scribbled notes on scraps of paper during readings with one--kept alive the spirit of the lunacy of language in the midst of so much humorlessness--dread tedium--
i recall the huge festival at the Irish Cultural Center when he was given an award i can't recall the name of, it has to do with the presentation of one's place in a kind of throne like chair--a very high cultural honor--and bands from Ireland were there, and some films--and dancers--and unlimited free Guinness, tons of food--and James walking about quietly stunned--or holding court--by turns--
and other times with George Stanley visiting--gathered in the German bar--around a huge table--and people passing poems about and talking--telling tales--and sharing poems, and some being written right there on the spot--
James lived being a poet as a form of rebellious royalty--an appealing charm of the punk gutter commingling itself with a sense of aristocracy--like Johnny Rotten/Lydon saying he had copied his stage act from Olivier's manic jeering, ironic and sneering portrayal of Shakespeare's Richard the Third as he had seen it in the film version--
so indeed if one juxtaposes them--it is so!--films of Olivier and Johnny--bobbing and screaming, eyes pinwheeled into the stare of amphetamine eyes--yet al done by nervous energy alone--sheer force of manic, crazed will--
James embodied these disparate energies an played them like a fiddle, creating different dances in quick succession, thrusting and parrying with his self mocking laughter as though a shadow that had gotten out of line with the music--fought back with the admonishing self that claimed to be in time with it--
rebelling against the monarch who was trying to establish his reign--and here came the outrageous upstarts--James and his sidekicks--to throw out the very king that he himself had been a moment before--
or standing before an audience and reciting his own and others' poems in a voice so close to a murmur, and almost deathly last breathing--that the audience leaned in closer and closer, became ever more quiet a possible-to catch the patterns of breath which held in their embraces the words as they faded out of distinguishable from--and joined their breathy articulation with the flows or stillness of the air--
It was always an honor and a joy to meet with James--he always made one feel immediately you had joined him in a conspiracy--a kind of ally in the general mayhem--and knowing one might have different overthrows in mind, al the same sharing the urge to overthrow--
The last time i saw him was a few weeks ago, on the bus--as he was getting on, he caught sight of me--and gesturing to the seated crowd facing him--swept an arm towards me and told everyone aboard--"You have in your presence David, the Good Black French Shepard, the Black Sheep who guides the young flocks with his Dark French kind soul of the poetes of the damned."
He sat and talked away of new poems and plans and the latest events of the morning, adventures on the way to the bus, the look of the sky--and all too soon, time for him to get off--a quick remark about the construction going on, the ruination of old bricks--and he was gone--and as always, his voice lingered in the air after him--a music and poetry and presence that keeps on playing--and always will--
An honor and a joy to know this poet who made poetry so alive, made it life--and lived it so that others would understand this--
On Fri, Nov 7, 2008 at 11:03 AM, Stephen Vincent
For those out of the Ron Silliman loop,
James Liddy, the long resident of America, Irish poet, has passed away. (1934 - 2008).
He came to teach at San Francisco State College in the late Sixties where I knew him, partly as a neighbor. He held classes at his home during the SF State Strike - in which I would occasionally sit-in. It was the place where I first met Ron Silliman, a student then.
James was totally enamored of the fresh legacy of Jack Spicer (d. 1965) while becoming good friend of Graham Mackintosh, the White Rabbit Press printer and close associate of Spicer. Sadly, or to the benefit of Milwaukee, James left the City in the 70's. A warm, lively gregarious spirit totally devoted to the realms of Poetry - much devoted to his friends - much to be missed, I am sure.