This is a love letter.
Not an exegesis. Not a manifesto. Not a new notion.
This is a thank you note.
I met Andrew Hughes in January 2002, during my final residency at the Bennington College Writing Seminars. Andy was the first editor outside of a school literary journal to accept a poem of mine for publication. He and Whit Griffin started Tight in 2001 while undergraduates at Bennington. I was fortunate enough to be included in the second issue, which also features work from Jonathan Williams, John Coletti, Russell Dillon, Stephen Sandy, Anselm Berrigan, Amy Gerstler, Pierre Joris, Thomas Sayers Ellis, and Jackson Mac Low. If you happen to find a copy, you really should buy it.
When the Vermont Studio Center restructured in 2007, my position as Writing Coordinator was eliminated. Andy, in the midst of getting his own MFA from Brooklyn College, suggested we move in together. We did, taking up residence above Kevin's Restaurant in downtown North Bennington, Vermont. Andy dubbed our apartment "Villa America" after one of Gerald Murphy's paintings, at the time (fall 2007) on exhibit at the Williams College Museum of Art. Andy, Whit, and I would resurrect Tight and put out three more issues, all of which I recommend with extreme prejudice (Tight 3, Tight 4, Tight 5).
Andy's one of my best friends. Ever encouraging, always enthusiastic, he's helped me maintain my sense of experimentation, that drive to create, which so often falters after graduate school, or after any heyday of the blood fades away. Andy is a great inventor, and he dubbed us—me, him, our friends and fellow Benningtonians Whit, Jason Myers, and Evan Kennedy—with intentional allusion to Kenneth Noland and Jules Olitski (and a thorough self-deprecation), the Green Mountain Boys.
There is properly no history, only biography, and there are innumerable projects and creations that can be attributed to our band of brothers, the ongoing, all-encompassing collaborative project of written, visual, and aural specimens called Notes Toward a Pixie Culture being just one fraction of this universe. If I said Chocolate Submarine Review (Revue) or Brothers Hernandez, if I talked about the White Goddess or backroad lifting, or said Deb, or Joyce, or Norton, or Zube, or Dawg, you might appreciate them in part, but would have no idea what I was talking about. And you'd be right. For the moment.
I'm not here to define a poetics or inaugurate the Green Mountain School. That would be impossible with five such distinct personalities and temperaments. Most of our conversations/arguments, about poetry or anything, end up as a variation of this
While we do share many attributes and loves—mystical knowledge and arcane lore, tall-tale Southern/Yankee Gothic spookiness; psychedelic sonics intended to upend syntax and thought; a neo-Romantic rural mix tape pastoralism (best illustrated, quite literally, in Andy and Whit's collaboration Rural Radio and Jason's American Mix-Tape); humor, dark, dry, deadpan, wacky; a surreality of urreality, dreamscapes of the waking world; the love of song in all its forms, from folk ballads to free jazz, including silence; gestures toward the pre-industrial, a religious love of nature—any one of us at any time can write a poem that would shatter these narrow categories.
That we can, so we will.
While I'm the most vocal proponent of Emerson and Transcendentalism, if one thing can be said about us collectively, it's that we're able to take our poetic cues from anything around us. We're as at home talking about the Song of Solomon as we are trading poop jokes. Whether it be Ezra Pound or Dock Ellis
if it speaks to us, it's ours. We can do this because we've internalized our love for those who came before us. We don't seek to rebel, but to add our own voices, carve our own space. It's precisely because we have such a respect for and thorough-going knowledge of our poetic forebears that we understand that we can't do it like they did. We can't say it the same. So we sing. Like gods tending to their garden, we take care of our own.
This is not a new concept in American poetry, or in poetry in general. Every major and minor movement has adhered to the credo of change. It's simply the enactment of Emerson's exhortation to have "no covenants but proximities." Our friends follow a similar path. What else is Joe Massey to write about but Northern California? That's where he is and that's what's in him. The tercets of Chris Martin's American Music are three sides of a city block and the space between them is "the fourth street," the connection. If he lived in Louisiana, he'd write about the cypress trees in springtime. Matt Hart hears the music and he gets (it) down. We believe in "not ideas about the thing but the thing itself," in "no ideas but in things," but also in "no things but in ideas." Ideas are things, after all.
The Green Mountain School doesn't exist. If you think you fit the description, that you've been roped into it unwittingly, don't worry, it doesn't exist. If you want to be a part of it and feel you've been left out, well, you can't, 'cause it doesn't exist.
There are some who believe we live in a late time, that we've missed something, that we're doing it wrong. I don't care what the people did before me—they had their own poets—nor what the people coming think—they can get their own poets. If you want to write poetry that touches people, you sometimes have to mention the things that are important to them, the here and now. To do that, you have to know what's important to you.
Whit Griffin. The Mayor. Andrew Hughes. The Sheriff. Jason Myers. The Count. Evan Kennedy. The Tobacconist. My friends, the Doctor says hello. You've given me inspiration for my poetry and my life. You've saved me time again through your love and humor. This isn't nearly enough to say thank you, but it's a start.
Wordsworth and Coleridge can have Kendal, Emerson and Thoreau can keep Walden.
These proximities, these covenants: that's as good a country as I could hope for.