Booksmith is proud to host the San Francisco launch for Jason Morris' first full-length collection of poetry, Levon Helm. Reading with Jason is the poet Nicholas James Whittington. Please join us!
Levon Helm is Jason Morris’ first full-length collection, a picaresque situated in the drum and voice of mind. Like the drummer-singer with whom it shares a name, its influences are broad but firmly American. Along with bits torn from the edges of Moby-Dick and The Maltese Falcon, it mines the margins of Sonic Youth’s Daydream Nation. As it takes stock of the immediacy and scale of places in the American West like Pinnacles and the Puget Sound, its psychic roots dig a haunted, old New England. These lyric poems are takes on human memory in geological time, as interested in their own asides and parentheticals as they are in the elements.
An excerpt, courtesy Ugly Duckling Presse:
Thin newsprint, a little ripped
on which you wrote
LANGUAGE IS THE THRONE OF THE OTHER
I was able to get inside of the building
but I’d lost the piece of paper
on which I’d written all of the codes
outside the day’s grays and greens
a fluid human movement we slipped into
I grew confused & trusted in you
your honesty formed the spine
of my mysterious neutrality
There are no vipers in this poem
we continued walking until
we were way out in the cuts, collecting
wildflowers by the highway abutment
I’d gotten stuff for sandwiches
you were talking about feeling like
you should want something beyond
even poetry or love, can you
name what that something is
wanting to not want is more accurately
religious, how now we’re where we were
“With the publication of Levon Helm, San Francisco poet Jason Morris’ long-awaited full length debut, Ugly Duckling Presse has gifted clamoring fans and soon-to-be-fans a keen, generous artifact of the life of a poet in the 21st century. A voracious reader of his daily surroundings and of the life of the mind, Morris attends to landscapes both urban and wild with a relaxed yet exacting eye. These poems display a flowering generosity of attention very much in the present (“looking directly – / as poets often are – at what you name”). Each poem is a kind of gemlike honing amidst the “perpetual and beautifully obscene continuance” we call living, now. It is a pleasure to be with Jason Morris “in this looking”. As the book itself astutely warns, “You only get to read it / for the first time once: Slow down.” – Alli Warren
“Why didn't I think of writing a book called Levon Helm? Go, Jason! And thanks.” – Clark Coolidge
“Levon Helm reminds me of late Holderlin sculpture – its compact images, spiritual fragments, and shimmed, crisp wording speak of an attainable fluidity between heartbeat and carved page, where its map legends and state lines describe a divine closeness and granularity of detail, all heart and repair. Humble, gracious, Morris knows that “wanting to not want is more accurately / religious, how now we’re where we were.” This book is jagged and smooth, its endurance, overdue. I’ve often endeavored to see myself through Morris’ poems, in its decades, page by page; his is a truth I’ve craved and always known – applied for selfish purposes as a double to compare my own lines, mind, and heart. Spread across pages, huddled in spots of crisp fuzz and harmony, lumps taken, his voice, I know: “a kid // of crickets & lightning” “as ridiculous as me / welding my desire to your hair.” – John Coletti
Jason Morris was born and raised in Vermont and now lives in San Francisco. His chapbooks are Spirits & Anchors (Auguste Press, 2010), From the Golden West Notebooks (Allone Co., 2011), Local News (Bird & Beckett Books, 2013), Takes (Bootstrap Press, 2015), and Late to Practice (Dirty Swan, 2017). For seven years, he was the editor of Big Bell magazine; with J Grabowski, he founded the small press PUSH.
Nicholas James Whittington is a poet, scholar, educator, editor, printer, and publisher born and raised in San Francisco. He now lives in Oakland, but continues to edit and publish the roughly annual AMERARCANA along with the occasional small book under the auspices of his family bookshop, Bird & Beckett, here in the city, and does letterpress printing and design work at Impart Ink, an errant studio. His first full-length collection of poetry, Creances, is due out this year from Bootstrap Press. Recent chapbooks include Provisions (2017, from PUSH Press) and Indefinite Sessions (2016, from Gas Meter Books).
If you cannot attend the event but would like to request a signed copy of Levon Helm, order below and put your request in the comments field.