You don't want to miss the new version of Robin Blaser's lifework THE HOLY FOREST, now considerably larger than the version I remember when Talon Books put it out back in 1993, by maybe another hundred pages or so. He, Blaser, is one of the poets the USA lost to Canada during a time of international turmoil, a time when crossing borders might have been a little bit easier than today and escape was still possible. He had been a slow starter, perhaps, in the days of the Berkeley Renaissance of the 1940s, and it might be that not until he moved to Boston to work in Harvard's Widener Library, and met Charles Olson and the US poets of the East Coast, could his particular genius truly blossom. (More than any other contemporary poet, it is Blaser who needs a proper biography written about him, and yet what a daunting challenge to try to tell the story of a life spent nosing down so many divagations and turning up so many splendors.) On his return to the Bay Area in the very late 1950s, he became an integral part of a then-lively San Francisco poetry scene, his friendships with the California poets Robert Duncan and Jack Spicer then productive to overflowing. In THE HOLY FOREST you can see these concentric circles of poetic influence and Rauschenbergian "combine" expand and contract, expand and contract, within the first hundred pages of the book, like the movement of the glaciers that produced our islands and outcroppings. After that, and his move to Canada, a certain perfection is reached that never really drops off.
Underlying this achievement, Blaser moved in opposite directions at once, perhaps trusting his muse more than ever, a contradictory one for sure, one that was leading him to go more and more slangy, colloquial, partial, aphoristic and playful; and then on what in a lesser poet you might call an opposite direction, he became the poet of lengthening odes and longer forms. You would ask him how a particular poem was shaping up, and with a mixture of marvel and abasement he might whisper, "It's now over fifteen pages--just grew," he would add. And so we have the "Great Companions," and "Exody," and the rest, these intricate, phenomenal structures. If you could visualize the poems in THE HOLY FOREST as real trees, spreading in visual space as they have in time, you might see towards the end of the range huge redwoods, where before you had had mere groves of oak, maple, and cherry. In our time he has been all things together the best kept secret of postmodern poetry; it's just fantastic that Cal has seen fit to issue this book--not only this, but a companion volume of collected essays ("The Fire"). May the saints preserve him, as my mother used to say, when she wanted to make sure someone most dear would stay safe and unafraid.