“Palimpsest, i.e., a parchment from which one writing has been erased to make room for another.” H. D.
“It was a magic process.” Fran Herndon
San Francisco, 1959 to ’60, it was a most exciting time for the pair. Spicer was working on “Homage to Creeley,” an amazing series of poems that became a sequence in Heads of the Town up to the Aether. Jack would come over to Fran and Jim Herndon’s place in the evening and read the new poems to them. During the day Fran would walk up to the San Francisco Art Institute and create the beautiful, mysterious lithographs that would be in the book with the poems. Here’s what she says about their work together in the (fantastic!) Spicer biography, Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance (Lewis Ellingham & Kevin Killian).
“Sometimes it was reaching, but he knew that there was some connection in [my] work and what he was writing. It was as if at times it was prophetic (I mean he would never have expected that to happen) — and he was just ecstatic when he could see that connection. At times it surprised me, because I had no inkling of the poems that were preceding or coming after those lithos. He saw it as not in any way illustrating the poems, but just an interaction of some kind.”
I’d read the astonishing “Homage to Creeley” in Spicer’s Collected Books but hadn’t seen the set with Fran’s lithos. By chance, I found Heads of the Town up to the Aether in a used bookstore in San Francisco. It had been published by the Auerhahn Press in 1962. On the fly leaf, written in ink, was the name of its first owner, John Allen Ryan, dated San Francisco 1962 and, penciled in by hand, “founder 6 Gallery, close friends with Spicer & RD, poet & artist, White Rabbit author.”
All of them,
That wear beards on the soles of their feet
That ride cars
It comes with a rush
And a gush
Everything is in the street
Then they meet
It with their automobiles.
Cegeste comes back to a big meeting with his personal fate. He lacks knowledge of the driver’s seat as did Cegeste, Creeley, and all of us. He intends to spend his fortune in banks, on the banks of some rivers. He will wreck their cars if he can have to. He.
From pages 42–43, Heads of the Town