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The House That Jack Built

The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer

Peter Gizzi

Publication Year: 1998

The House That Jack Built collects for the first time the four historic talks given by controversial poet Jack Spicer just before his early death in 1965. These lively and provocative lectures function as a gloss to Spicer's own poetry, a general discourse on poetics, and a cautionary handbook for young poets. This long-awaited document of Spicer's unorthodox poetic vision, what Robin Blaser has called "the practice of outside," is an authoritative edition of an underground classic.

Peter Gizzi's afterword elucidates some of the fundamental issues of Spicer's poetry and lectures, including the concept of poetic dictation, which Spicer renovates with vocabularies of popular culture: radio, Martians, and baseball; his use of the California landscape as a backdrop for his poems; and his visual imagination in relation to the aesthetics of west-coast funk assemblage. This book delivers a firsthand account of the contrary and turbulent poetics that define Spicer's ongoing contribution to an international avant-garde.

Published by: Wesleyan University Press

Title Page

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pp. xi-xvi

A special thanks to Robin Blaser for his generous support and advice, for preserving and opening Spicer's archive, and for his permission to bring this edition into print; to Donald Allen for discovering a generation and for his permission to reprint from Spicer's early poems One Night Stand; to Warren Tallman (in memoriam), without whom these lectures would ...


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pp. xvii-xviii

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pp. xix-xxiv

Although the American poet Jack Spicer was born in 1925 in Los Angeles, California, he claimed his birth year to be 1946, when he met the poets Robert Duncan and Robin Blaser at the University of California, Berkeley. Out of the intense fraternity of these three eccentric young men, dubbed the "museum poets" for their bookishness, was born the "Berkeley ...

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VANCOUVER LECTURE 1. Dictation and "A Textbook of Poetry": June 13, 1965

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pp. 1-48

Given on the hundredth anniversary of William Butler Yeats's birth, the first of the Vancouver lectures begins with a mixture of humor, tension, and seance-like charm. The structural correlation of Yeats's being visited by spooks and Spicer's being visited by Yeats takes on a magical significance in the context of a lecture about poetic sources, voices, and ...

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VANCOUVER LECTURE 2. The Serial Poem and The Holy Grail: June 15, 1965

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pp. 49-96

In Lecture 2, Spicer continues his discussion of poetic dictation, proposing that the larger scaffolding of hooks can also he dictated. Spicer uses the term "book" in this lecture to mean a measure of composition, as opposed to a "collection" of poems. The Holy Grail is an intricate assemblage of seven "books" (chapters) of seven poems each." For Spicer, the ...

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VANCOUVER LECTURE 3. Poetry in Process and Book of Magazine Verse: June 17, 1965

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pp. 97-148

The third Vancouver lecture is in many ways the most contrary and least accessible of Spicer's lectures, but it may also be the one that most repays the study it requires. On the surface, the lecture strays and rambles, but interspersed in the repartee of questions and answers are some of Spicer's most interesting and enigmatic statements on his art. ...

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CALIFORNIA LECTURE. Poetry and Politics: July 14, 1965

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pp. 149-172

The backdrop of Lecture 4, "Poetry and Politics," is the controversial and frightening reality of war and the escalation of American troops in Vietnam—two hundred thousand by the end of 1965. Spicer is addressing a student body at UC Berkeley, where one of the largest student anti-war activities in America was about to take place. In this lecture he speaks to ...

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AFTERWORD: Jack Spicer and the Practice of Reading

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pp. 173-226

In the post-Desert Storm, Deep Space, X-Filed age of human and electronic viruses, chip architecture, information webs, and ether nets in which we live in the 1990s, it may finally be possible to imagine the extent to which Jack Spicer anticipated our poetic and political worlds and the extent to which he composed beyond or "outside" his own. The future, ...

APPENDIX: Uncollected Prose and A Final Interview

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pp. 227-244


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pp. 245-250


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pp. 251-266


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p. 267-267

E-ISBN-13: 9780819569622
Print-ISBN-13: 9780819563392

Page Count: 290
Publication Year: 1998