Accompanied by a reading from his creative partner, Julie Rogers, David Meltzer read at City Lights on June 24th, 2011 from his new collection of poetry, When I Was A Poet. A dual milestone in City Lights history, When I Was a Poet is volume 60 of the Pocket Poets Series as well as our first book of poems by this renowned Beat author.
The title piece is an ambitious work by a master at the height of his powers, a spiritual assessment of the meaning of a lifetime spent writing poetry. Also included are portraits of key figures in the poet’s life, including Semina artist Wallace Berman, as well as “California Dreamin’,” a reminiscence of Beat-era bohemian life. Among its other highlights are the vintage, previously uncollected series, “French Broom,” a nutty homage to “Mr. Peanut,” a section of mystical “amulets,” and complete versions of “Night Reals” and “Dogma,” which appear here for the first time. With its profound meditations on love, loss, aging, and death, When I Was a Poet is a substantial contribution to American poetry by one of its foremost living practitioners.
David Meltzer is a poet associated with both the Beat Generation and the San Francisco Renaissance. A pioneer of jazz poetry readings, Meltzer also formed a psychedelic folk-rock group. He continues to perform with the music and poetry review, “Rockpile.” He has edited many anthologies, including San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets (City Lights, 2001), and has published 11 erotic novels. He also taught for many years in the poetics program at New College of California. In 2005, Penguin Books published David’s Copy: The Selected Poems of David Meltzer.