Charlie Vermont, Here’s The Story

vermont 2 women  harry gross 1971

Anne and little Sam Vermont, cover of Charlie Vermont’s Two Women, 1971

Dear Larry,

Thanks for remembering us by sending poems. Though I write letters to my old friends I seldom pen a poem.

We run a very busy family practice in county with 9-10,000 people and 3 docs and we all see patients from other counties as well. It’s not the land of enchantment but there is a little magic in the people. Clinton and now Huckabee whatever you think of them are from just down the road and Perot just down the road a little further. Arkansas has its poetry pockets but I’m not part of them……..and it seems that “the slam” crowd had taken over various venues, and the appreciation of the past is in steep neglect…….ie “iambic pentameter, sonnet”…..da

Pretty busy but may try to become involved in the Arkansas Literary Festival. With the Clinton library in Little Rock where we have a get away place…….culture is beginning to descend. More conservative than New Mexico…but culture spreads reasonably fast in America………and there’s an innocence about it like Albuquerque and Santa Fe in the 60’s
and 70’s. Not too long ago saw the movie The Brave Cowboy……Kirk Douglas……Abbey’s book. Albuquerque and the Sandia mountain pre-development. It’s worth seeing just for the landscape. I saw that movie in college and always wanted to go out West to some place like that and of course I did.

Here’s how it happened. Vietnam War, impending draft. Senior thesis with Alfred Dupont Chandler on Labor Unions during WW II. Despair at what was happening in the country and personally. Had no plans. While working on a paper on Lolita where the mutipule layers of irony and entendre never end……..coupled with a magic carpetride substance………found quite by accident Elie Wiesel’s concentration camp memoir “Night” and also quite by accident within a short period of time For Love by R. Creeley……..which spoke to me. Then also by accident looking for an escape …….graduate school I picked up the catalogue for the U. of New Mexico…….which was modest and slim in those days and the physical description of the Sandias rising to 10,000 feet just to east…….grabbed my attention…….then I saw Creeley was on the faculty……..

The rest of course you were there for, but when I rented the house in Placitas I didn’t know that Creeley lived across the street. At the time, the place was rented by Judy Grahn and her lover Carla Tonella. Also at the time I had no idea what homosexuality was either……..see, an innocent time……..new…….Then there was Anne and I never had a real poetic or creative thought without her…….but it took a life to know that for sure…….When I met Bob and Bobbie Creeley as well as yourself……[Keith] Wilson, [Gus] Blaidell, ]Kell] Robertson, [Steve] Rodefer [Steve] Katona, [Bill] Pearlman ……….it was a whole world that offered solution as [James] Joyce posed the problem “history is a nightmare from which I am trying to awake.” We see now that history is still a nightmare for many and America, parts of it, still remains as Lincoln said “mankind’s last best hope.” Creeley and [Ed] Dorn had vision that man could love and live ontologically free and we were able to for awhile in Placitas. Certainly there were excesses……..remember Ulysses S. Grant……..(Don Wasky)….riding around on a white horse giving out Peyote buttons and then later killing people…….probably Shorty [Gibbs]  …….or the man, who I hope had a reasonable life who after taking acid put a hunting knife into the frontal lobe of his brain……..Then there were all the creative moments.

The Thunderbird Bar really was where the cowboys and hippies met and that turned ultimately into the Austin music scene……..by some route……..Creeley and Dorn were formed in part in Placitas ……..as the rest of us. I will always think of it as a place of vision.

The subdivisions now wouldn’t get in my way……..and in the back of my brain……….I think someone introduced me to Bill Gates and Paul Allen (the microsoft people) but it’s a dim memory. There’s an Eric Clapton song………great guitar riffs…..Steve Winwood also……… the phrase was at the time “I have finally found a way to live in the presence of the Lord” If you had the recording you would know in what sense I mean it as the coming together we were part of in Placitas…….and the spiritual (non-specific) knowledge we took with us.

There’s a nice poem in my Selected Poems about Bob and Bobbie, their living in Placitas (little places) or Bolinas (whales). It was in Big Sky and the book tucked away deep my closet……so my other identity remains in the closet….however with internet………San Francisco poem………Graffitti Poem…..”All is known, Flee.”

Hope you and Lenore and Joel are doing ok, and if I take good care of someone next week, in part it’s because my life in Placitas, grounded me in the universal truths of poetry……..and perhaps without trying to sound like a grandiose asswhole…….the way the world is sun and moon and stars…….As for Colonel Katona……..wouldn’t be as successful as I am today if he had taken me on his vision quest.

The poem “Real Adobe” does capture the fact that we like the Transcendentalists of the 1840’s run in the American vein……….Hawthorne ends his novel The Blithedale Romance…..about a commune saying when mankind is more evolved he’d like to try it again. My generation en masse was the 1st to seek a way to live without war………….though it wasn’t always conscious……..we all did dive under school desks in air raids from a potential nuclear attack. (Cuban Missile Crisis) hence the prayer for Robert Oppeheimer……….who realized what he had done for mankind. If I had been up against Hitler I would have done the same thing.

Your old General friend [Kenner Hertford] also had a conscience……..a military man with warm greetings for poets and hippies. He knew what the alternative might be far more than we.

yours for the duration

Charlie (end of email)

This email letter is from Charlie Vermont, 2008, when the duende poetry series was putting together a program about poets who’ve lived in Placitas, New Mexico . . . thanks Charlie, for this. I can’t find my Charlie’s Laughing which I think was Pat Bolles’ Grasshopper Press, darn! I’ll look again tomorrow. Two Women is from Angel Hair Books.

A bit about Charlie before he came to New Mexico: “Before I was 20 I was involved in anti-war politics. If fact, it was me who was chosen by the national SDS in 1964 to request the policepermit for the first large demonstration against the war in Vietnam. I was at that demonstration and spent a little time in a court room for my activities there. That was 3 or 4 years before I met you. I was also a history major and knew people like Steve Ambrose and Alfred Dupont Chandler who taught history at Johns Hopkins. So when you asked for my artistic statement about Placitas I did mention Wiesel’s concentration camp memoir. I still am a student of history perhaps more so than a student of poetry.”

Many thanks to Charlie Vermont for his telling us about his years here in Placitas.

Vermont slected poems alice notley 1980

Selected Poems cover is by Alice Notley, United Artists Book 1980

oriental blue streak at door rodin b & w

Charlie Vermont 2nd from right . . . from left it’s Joe & Olivia Bottone, Steve Rodefer, Bill Pearlman, Beverly & Mel Buffington, Lora Linsley at door, Gene Frumkin, Amy the baby with Kell and Betsy Robertson, then Charlie and me. Photo by Karl Michener Rodin for the duende press publication Oriental Blue Streak 1968 (but we used the Oriental Blue Streak gas station photo).

Here are three of the poems Charlie talks about:

real adobe

unconscious of
the shadows thereof
naked
“hippies”
prayerwheel
in the pool
at sport
in sun
gloriously
the mountains
ascend northwest
over a hundred miles
to the Los Alamos vista
looking back

Oppenheimer quoting the
Bagavagita “I have become death, destroyer of worlds”

the hippies cavort
in athletic innoncence
naked in the sun

transcendental
wanting to live in fun
on earth in real adobe

not knowing they pray
for Oppenheimer who met
his vision coming the other way
trying to defeat a madman.

charlie vermont June 1, 2005

Charlie adds, “The madman by the way . . . was Hitler. I once had nice poem you published about the General who was head of Atomic Energy Commission who’s house you lived in. He was very proud of the house, he built it with his own hands……..he and ‘an old Mexican.'”

The Inzorbital Pearl of Placitas 
for Bill [Pearlman]

the fastest pair of hands
on the beach
volleyball all
american polyglottal surging
armies forming in
the lysergic sky
hybrid vigorously
celtic gloriously
framed and nazarene
hebraic dream altar
boy
imploding surfing
indistinguishable
cathode diode
kabbalah baseball
from the warm california sun

Charlie Vermont

Note: Bill Pearlman’s Inzorbital, a novel of high research, the penultimate novel of the 60’s in New Mexico, was printed and publisher here in 1971.
Among the boys at the Thunderbird Bar
for Colonel Katona

was a sailor with tattooes
“hate” on one hand
“love” on the other
a confederate flag nearby

he hired Waylon and Willie
for $125 a night at the briefly
famous place where the cowboys
and the hippies met
and the Bandidos gang were
afraid to act out

he wanted a son
when the miscarriage came he
walk away from this orgiastic
life and from the bar
something about every substance
known to man
in large amounts

his vision then to become a doctor
went back to school
applied but couldn’t
get past the interview with his tattooes

he fasted and ran long distances
and from potential burley brawler
became slight
became ill
inflammation around the heart

surgery was done the cover
of the heart removed

in the Bible we are asked
to have a circumsized heart
before God

this sailor went on to an important
health care career rather than live
as he could have as a local myth
in his own time

When going gets tough and the sun
is coming up I recall Colonel Katona’s words:

Dawn
runners
never
quit.

Charlie Vermont

“I hope Steve likes this poem and Bill too. I’ve got a couple for Creeley but they’re hid away.
Charlie”

placitas lierary heritage flyer2008 I talked about Latif Harris, Charlie Vermont, David Harris, Ann Quin and many others, John Macker and Todd Moore about Ed Dorn, Jeff Bryan about Robert Creeley, Lisa Gill about Bobbie Louise Hawkins.

Thank you Charlie and Anne Vermont. Memory dreams. Anne I will never forget your Paella, and your phenomenal frozen lemon dessert, and Charlie I’ll always remember the bees you kept and some of them on the dashboard of your car when I got a ride with you to work: “Don’t worry they won’t wake up till after we’re there.”

Larry Goodell, 2014

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About larry goodell

Poet exploring his viable extensions - publisher, performer, playwright - hand to hand help in creating spaces for poetry to be live in - reading events, recordings, online and tangible publications in the vocal spirit of his New Mexico.
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One Response to Charlie Vermont, Here’s The Story

  1. Pingback: Poets In Placitas – links – March 12, 2016 | lotsa, larry goodell

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