“I was born in 1935. The real story is that I didn’t meet poetry till I was nineteen when my sculpture professor, Dave Hosteller, at Ohio University, played Dylan Thomas reading his poems on a Caedmon ‘LP’ record. He also gave me Under Milk Wood (Thomas’s radio play) to listen to.
During my early twenties, I made performances in New York with colleagues in the ‘downtown’ art world. My most elaborate work, called Car Crash, was a cacophony of sounds and words spoken by a great white Venus with animal grunts and howls by me. Five years later, I illustrated Ron Padgett’s translation of Apollinaire’s The Poet Assassinated. Meeting Ron introduced me to his work and the works of other poets he admired. At the same time, I met and fell in love with Robert Creeley. His was, to me, all about poetry. He was generous with his thoughts, but it was his Massachusetts-accented voice that was the poetry. I read Ted Berrigan’s The Sonnets. It was 1966, and I started to write poetry full force around then.
I went to England in 1967 and met the poet-printers Asa Benveniste and Tom Raworth. Asa wanted to publish my poems. He did. The book was called Welcome Home Lovebirds. There were a lot of letters and postcards written between me and U.S. poets. In London, there was much talk around Asa about poetry and Asa’s history as a poet and publisher of poets. He was, I guess, ten years older than me.
I started to write every day and continued till about 1972 when I stopped. I’m not clear why, but I began again around 1990 when I met Diana Michener. She is a very inspirational character, and her eccentric big soul understands all I’ve written since. We have read together in public over the past twelve years with the New York poet, Vincent Katz, who has befriended my poems. I have learned from his personal vision. Many of my poems are written first on long sheets of paper tacked to the wall. Some are eight or nine feet long, and I write in charcoal or crayon and then “white out” when I want to change a word, with a mixture of white pigment mixed with shellac. I also can cut out a line with a box cutter and lose it or use it in another place in the poem by glueing it or stapling it to the paper on the wall. This technique is a lot like the way I draw. Correcting and erasing are important tools, for my poems and my drawings.” – Jim Dine, 2014
Dorothea Lasky is the author of four books of poetry, most recently ROME. She teaches at Columbia University’s School of the Arts and lives in New York City.