Thursday, July 26, 2007


I've been very lucky, having lived in Washington since April 4th, 1973 to the present (aside from six months spent in the bay area in 1974). In that time, I've enjoyed the many benefits and pleasures of having been associated with a vital, ever-changing community of poets* and writers. The idea of community is somewhat subjective, I will admit, but I think that it might be argued that a group of poets, centered in one location for more than thirty years in some cases, and with much shared experience, could be regarded as such. The DC “alternative poetry” scene has never been big enough to break into factions, but has enjoyed a steady infusion of newcomers over the last three and a half decades. The exception in the case of factions is the existence of a robust African-American poetry community that has really been separate from the one to which I belong, although there was a good deal of overlap in the 1970s.

"poets" replaced typo "pets"

I am very possessive, and still regard poets who’ve been here a while and departed as DC poets still, most recently Mark Wallace and K. Lorraine Graham. There are other poets, too, whom I regard as honorary DC poets, such as Tom Raworth, Ted Greenwald and Anselm Berrigan, just because of their close connections and regular visits. Of course, the honor is ours.

What “alternative poetry” means to me is that line which extends from the poetics represented in Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry, and goes back to Stein, Pound, Williams and Zukofsky.

The DC poetry homepage has some excellent documentation -- see the History Project at:

What I hope to do with this blog is pay tribute to those who have created and maintained this scene, and to document more of its history, albeit in my own sweet way.

The photograph above shows Becky Levenson, Jack Inman, Peter Inman, Phyllis Rosenzweig and Tina Darragh, back in the day.


Ryan W. said...

good of you to acknowledge the role of pets

douglang said...


tmorange said...

what a great photo! more, please...

Anonymous said...

DL--Mike Lally's blog directed me to your blog, and I'm glad he did so. Loved your history of the DC poetry scene back in the 70s. Hope it's as vital and interesting now as it was then.
Andrea Wyatt's "Right Of Return" knocks me out.
Keep on keepin' on,


douglang said...

Tom, the photograph is by Michael Corcoran, Corcoran College of Art + Design Alumnus. US Marine (photographer) veteran, who served in Afghanistan.

Bob, Thanks. DC is as vital and interesting now as it was back then in terms of poetry, but the (social)context is very different.

Adair said...

Whatever happened to poet Gretchen Johansen? She was a major presence in DC literary life from the late 70s through the 80s. She wrote some very fine language poetry, as I recall.

I remember the Folio Bookshop fondly. It was located where Second Story is today. It was the only place in those days to find things like Breton's Nadja, or the poems of Laura Riding. It made DC feel like Paris! It was the perfect haven for a sixteen year old just discovering modern literature. I even attended several of the evening readings. A history of the Folio Bookshop would be an important chapter in the history of DC creative life.

Adair said...

My apologies---I meant Gretchen Johnsen!