Richard DennerRichard Denner is an American poet associated with the Berkeley Street Poets of the Pacific Northwest.
Collected Works and Poetry
Richard Denner (born November 21, 1941) in Santa Clara, CA is an American poet associated with the Berkeley Street Poets and the Poets of the Pacific Northwest. Richard is the founder and operator of dPress, which has published over two hundred titles, mostly of poetry and most in chapbook format.
Collected Poems: 1961-2000 was published by Comrades Press in 2001. The Collected Books of Richard Denner: Volumes 1-12 are published by dPress. Berkeley Daze: Profiles of Berkeley Poets of the 60s edited by Richard Denner, published by dPress, 2008.
Raised in Oakland Hills, Richard Denner was born in Santa Clara, California. In 1959, Denner enrolled in the University of California, Berkeley in 1959. Infact he dropped out of school the following year, initially Denner worked in Moe’s Books and for The Berkeley Barb. “I was trying to be like a street poet,” Richard recalled later, “using magic markers to write on napkins at Cafe Med for espressos, on girls’ arms and feet.” Soon after, Denner founded the one-man printing operation, dPress, the backlists of which now contain some two hundred titles.
In 1965, Richard Denner attended the Berkeley Poetry Conference, what John Bennett, in ‘Air Guitar’ (an Ellensberg Daily Record column), has called , “an event creating white light intensity that rivaled any drug high and had more staying power.” This convergence of the Black Mountain, San Francisco Renaissance, Beat and Northwest Schools gave Denner the pivotal opportunity to study under such avant-garde poets as Charles Olson, Ed Dorn, Robert Creeley, Allen Ginsberg, Joanne Kyger, Lew Welch, and Jack Spicer. Later he would study with Robert Bly, Gary Snyder, Philip Whalen, Denise Levertov and Carolyn Kizer at Fort Worden Center for the Arts in Port Townsend, Washington. But it was Jack Spicer’s molding of series poetry into little books that had the most singular effect.
In 1972, Denner went back to college and received a BA in English and Philosophy from the University of Alaska in Fairbanks.
The former proprietor of the Four Winds Bookstore in Ellensburg, Washington, Denner took up the practice of Vajrayana Buddhism. His most recent major work is a long series of cantos in collaboration with David Bromige.
Richard used to say to me, “Don’t follow the muse over the edge!” I have a drawerful of writings about Richard, including the period when he did just that. Perhaps all the great poets of any legitimacy spent some time in the psych ward. They are busy finding the edge of existence of words and experience. Beyond a certain point there are dragons.
If you want to follow the muse, but have no desire to go over the edge, Richard’s poems are sonorous, evocative, rebellious. There is a touch of Bukowski, a foundation of Borges, and more than a hint of anarchist Pound. It might be cold, like the Alaska years, or intellectual, as Berkeley in 1964. But ultimately the voice is Richard’s own. If you want to say tortured genius you can, though Richard might guffaw and say, “More rectal than cerebral.” The poems are the words, the words: at once earthy and delicate.
Dante’s Beatrice lingers in these pages, unattainable love and beauty. New Gravity evokes “Cheri” whose Siamese cat I took on, in friend fashion, after she abruptly disappeared from Richard’s life one day. Nobody said that having chased the muse you got to keep her.
Richard Denner is one of the post – Beats of the San Francisco Bay area, influenced by Kerouac and Ginsberg (who he regarded as a father). If he comes off his self imposed silent three-year retreat on a mountain in Colorado, I’ll attend his next reading.