Giddy stuff, this, but Dorn is brilliant at the stretch. He gets it done. One finds solace too in is shorter poems. Some are plain-spoken knockouts:
IN MY YOUTH I WAS A TIRELESS DANCERBut now I passgraveyards in a car.The dead lie,unsuperstitiously,with their feet toward me--please forgive me forsaying the tombstones would notfancy their faces turned from the highway.Oh perish the thoughtI was thinking in that momentNewman Illinoisthe Saturday night dance--what a life? Would I like it again?No. Once I returned late summerfrom California thin from journeyingand the girls were not the same.You'll say that's naturalthey had been dancing all the time.
Tom Robbins' wrote a blurb for one of Dorn's books (Hello LaJolla), "Ed Dorn is a can opener in the supermarket of life." He was one of the great masters of the Western Voice in the 20th century, a voice maintaining rural accents and wanderlust that has been subdivided with Eastern conceits and European irony; his epic poem Gunslinger is something of a post-modern masterpiece after the pomp of Whitman and Charles Olson have worn away; the student has an expansive persona as well, but it is zany, frantic, engaged in constant conversation with the variant dictions he contains within himself. Moving on to the next thing, as you say, is what is always required in this personality; there's always something else to learn, emotions to feel anew, a new dance step to absorb, a new direction to take over all. I like this because Dorn has a way of interrupting himself and getting to what it was he really wanted to say without the initial lines being a waste; one appreciates the mastery of the bold strokes, the odd alignments. One appreciates, as well, his relative brevity. Ed Dorn could take you a journey in a poem and leave you at the side of the interstate in the middle of nowhere, wondering what just happened. I mean that as a compliment.
If anyone cares to read it, a poem I wrote for Ed Dorn can be seen here.