Poet Latif Harris’ new collection, Barter Within the Bark of Trees, is just published by Duende Press, Placitas, New Mexico. It was exactly 50 years ago that Duende published Harris’ first book, Selected Poems 1965 (duende 12).
Barter Within the Bark of Trees examines aging and the tricks memory plays on the instrument of the mind. It is the culmination of both a richly blessed life as well as one of terrible losses and tragedies. The poems sequentially lead to a final, new piece written over the span of just a few months. According to Harris, by far the most profound, essential influence on this work has been his nearly four-decade practice of Vajrayana Buddhism.
Harris grew up in Los Angeles but relocated to San Francisco in 1958 where he joined the Beat scene in North Beach. After studying with Robert Creeley in New Mexico and traveling extensively abroad, Harris returned to Northern California where he collaborated with jazz poet Howard Hart and founded the Bannam Place Reading Series in North Beach in 1983. During the past 20 years he has continued to perform his work at many literary events in the San Francisco Bay Area and beyond. Most recently, he co-edited and published Beatitude Golden Anniversary 1959 – 2009, a comprehensive volume spanning 50 years of Beat literature and poets of the San Francisco Renaissance, as well as those who were influenced by these movements internationally.
In his forward to the new collection, Jack Hirschman, San Francisco Poet Laureate Emeritus, says: “The poetry of Latif Harris contains his lifelong serious involvement with Buddhism and death as the heart of the art of the transient journey to the beginning, where the end has already been outlived. This makes for a very mortal work, both confessional and consoling. And in measures that are various, but always with a strong feel for structure and, in that sense, faithful to the classics, no matter the surface ease of his ‘californial texturing’. There is hardly a single poem in his work that is not a praise-song received from his wisdom-school studies on the path.”
For the reissue of Harris’ previous book, A Bodhisattva’s Busted Truth (now in its second printing), Beat poet David Meltzer wrote: “The poems herein express an amazing range of spiritual searching, a journey articulated with deep precision and heart. Harris joins a lineage of American poet seekers like Whitman, Thomas Merton, and Gary Snyder.”
Latif Harris is available for interview by phone or in person upon request.
Erin Messer, Editor/Archivist / firstname.lastname@example.org There are review copies. larry goodell / placitas, new mexico / email@example.com / http://www.larrygoodell.com/