David Meltzer was angelic. His eyes sparkled with merriment his laughter confirmed as ever genuine and straight from the heart. His creative output as poet editor teacher visual artist scholar and musician is massive in scale. A figure often associated with the Beats, in the classroom and on the stage, he regularly skirted the mantle with witty self-putdowns and generous takedowns of goateed turtle-necked coffee house would-be cool hangers on. After he passed away on New Year’s Eve 2016 a small group of us raised straight-from-the-bottle gin martinis in his honor. This gathering of material offers indication of the breadth and cumulative force of his life work.

The POEMSCROLL is as massive a missive as was possible to assemble over the last few months. The call for work was widely sent out along with an urgent plea to pass it on to anybody who might also be interested in contributing. The responses did not disappoint expectations. There’s everything from poems to anecdotal tales and personal tributes, from contributors who are poets as well as those who are not, those with fairly little published appearing alongside those who are widely published. Entries appear alphabetically Z-A by last name of contributor and then after an honorary appearance by Kenneth Rexroth entries unroll again A-Z. The POEMSCROLL is offered as a blessing and communal shout out by peers, students, friends, and affiliate accomplices: David, you are missed.

The additional writings presented here provide three varied takes on David’s work: Nicholas James Whittington delivers an intimate and comprehensive consideration of David’s oeuvre, including mention of unpublished material excerpted and published here for the first time, confronting many of the difficulties encountered when critically approaching the work. Garrett Caples offers an informative and informed reader’s take on one sideline of David’s, what he referred to as “agit-smut” porn, a must-read for those unaware of /unfamiliar with these works. Finally, Micah Ballard’s previously unpublished review of David’s Copy (2005) recounts a celebratory reading from the book at New College where David was joined by a number of his compatriots at the time of the book’s publication.

Of course the real treats here are the four excerpts from David’s unpublished manuscripts. Each has its own short Editorial note introducing the material. These snapshots represent a small fraction of the hundreds of pages which were handed over to the Bancroft library for preservation in the collection of David’s papers held there. They appear here courtesy of the David Meltzer Estate and should not be reproduced without the Estate’s permission.

The video of David reading “The Red Shoes” at Bird and Beckett Books in San Francisco is courtesy of Gene Berson. This video is endearing for its up close intimacy, as it includes David’s casual banter with Gene (and Gene’s back), along with having been filmed at Bird and Beckett, proprietor Eric Whittington being an indefatigable supporter of David in all ways over the years. David’s readings at the store were numerous and memorable for all who were lucky enough to attend them.

Photo credits: Meltzer’s widow Julie Rogers, with the exception of “David-LA Jazz gig”, Chuck Koton.


~Patrick James Dunagan

A Poemscroll for David Meltzer


Nicholas James Whittington

Not Words on a Page

David Meltzer

from Rock Tao

David Meltzer


David Meltzer