I recently came across an old copy of On the Mesa: An Anthology of Bolinas Writing on Adobe’s shelves. Published in 1971 by the venerable City Lights Books, the collection is a cool snapshot of the back-to-the-garden existence led by a bunch of transplanted city poets in the late 1960s near a lagoon 30 miles north of San Francisco. You’ll find Robert Creeley, Bill Berkson, Tom Clark (RIP) and others represented.
Joanne Kyger, who passed away last year, became a pillar of the Bolinas scene, a feature of which was non-male exploratory spaces that were harder to come by in San Francisco and created by single mothers and women artists. In a 2013 interview in the Jung Journal, Kyger recalled “women’s peyote meetings” where “all these women came and took peyote, in this big open-air house. It was kind of a funny experience. I don't think anybody knew what 'ceremony' to follow. Someone [a man] asked, 'What should I do? There's all these women.' And someone answered, 'Well just pretend half of them are men.’”
It also reminded me of Dreaming As One: Poetry, Poets and Community in Bolinas, California 1967 - 1980 by Kevin Opstedal, which is an evocative, digitally available account of this Bolinas scene.
Engaging even for the unfamiliar, Dreaming As One contains tasty details and ridiculous anecdotes that reveal the minutia of how an artists’ retreat organically sprouted up in Bolinas: the boat builder that in a former life introduced Kerouac to Cassady; the rise and fall of local publications like The Paper and The Bolinas Hit, which included DIY LSD recipes in an early issue; the major oil spill that imperiled the Bolinas Lagoon, and had poets and Standard Oil workers teaming up to try and dam the mouth of the lagoon with hay. Crazy stuff! Highly recommended, and the chapters are short—easy to just dip in and out at your leisure.
From the introduction:
// jamie a.