Berkeley Poetry Conference
In July 1965 The University of California Extension Programs presented what would become a legendary poetry conference in California Hall. It was recorded for the UC Speech Department archives and for broadcast by the local listener supported FM station KPFA. †The advisory committee consisted of Thomas Parkinson, Professor of English at U.C. Berkeley, Donald M. Allen, West Coast Editor of Grove Press, Robert Duncan, Poet, and Richard Baker, Program Coordinator. Tom Parkinson was the English Departmentís principal liaison with the Bay Area poetry scene and a frequent KPFA broadcaster; Donald Allen had edited the ground-breaking The New American Poetry in 1960.
Robert Duncan was a leader of the San Francisco Renaissance, both as a poet and as an organizer and inspiration to his fellow poets. When I came to England as Pacifica Radio's London Correspondent, I discovered that he was also a close friend of Eric Mottram, who would be my M.A. thesis adviser and guru. Small world! I still remember the excitement of being in charge when many of these talks and readings went out over the air.
All these recordings were once available for purchase from the UC Speech Department archives, but no longer. By another of life's serendipidies, Eric Mottram had purchased open reel tapes of most of the major events and lent them to me for copying. That was some half a century ago. Thus, these recordings are only two analog generations away from the original masters. I've digitized them from the Revox on which I copied them all those years ago, which I've just had totally overhauled to its original specs.
I have left the tapes exactly as they came from the Speech Department archives, with frequent long pauses between poems; for instance, the recording of the Charles Olson reading runs its full alcoholic three hours and nineteen minutes. History lives!
During this event, Charles Olson was designated President of Poets, and Allen Ginsberg, Secretary of State of Poetry. Robert Creeley remarked, "There will never be another poetry conference in Berkeley; Berkeley is too bizarre." In fact, a rerun was attempted in 2015 but it fell apart.