Revolutionary Rexroth: Poet of East West Wisdom
by Morgan Gibson


The original Archon edition of this book in 1986 was the first to offer an interpretation of Rexroth's entire lifework. This expanded internet version offers the only coherent, systematic, philosophical and aesthetic interpretation of his lifework as a whole, with the inclusion of evaluations by many critics.

I am most grateful for friendships with Kenneth Rexroth and his widow Carol Tinker, and for conversations with his daughters Mariana (Mary) and Katherine. I appreciate critiques of an early version of this book by Geoffrey Gardner, Ben Hansen, Antler, Jeff Poniewaz; and especially James Laughlin, Rexroth's chief publisher and closest literary friend. Also helpful were Allen Ginsberg, Gary Snyder, Robert Bly, Sam Hamill, Bonnie R. Crown, Marjorie Perloff, Ihab Hassan and other former colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Brooke Whiting, Curator of Rare Books and Literary Manuscripts at the University of California at Los Angeles, and William Janko, Curator at the University of Southern California, helped me search through their Rexroth collections. Thanks to the Comparative Literature Program and the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois, I wrote a draft of this book with the help of a Visiting Associate Professorship during the Fall of 1982; and thanks to the Department of Comparative Literature at Indiana University, I completed the original volume during 1983-85 as a Research Associate there. I thank James Thorpe III for publishing this book in the Archon Series of Shoe String Press in 1986. I am deeply grateful to my devoted friend and indispensable cyberspace poetry guru Karl Young for editing and posting this expanded version on his Light & Dust Books webpage. I also appreciate insightful correspondence concerning Rexroth with Ken Knabb, Rachelle K. Lerner, Phil Woods, Donald Gutierrez, and Joél Cornuault, who has sent me his and other valuable French publications concerning Rexroth.

Though learning from books on Rexroth appearing after the first edition of this book was published, my general understanding of Rexroth and his work has remained basically the same since 1986. So I have not tried to reorganize this work by incorporating much new information, valuable though it may be. But I have added a final chapter, "In and Out of the Academy" in which I evaluate books by Ken Knabb, Linda Hamilian, and Donald Gutierrez, contrasting their work with my philosophical/aesthetic interpretation that emphsizes the Asian influence.

Friends in Japan to whom I am most grateful for an understanding of Rexroth are Sanehide Kodama, Yuzuru Katagiri, John Solt, Kazuko Shiraishi, and Ikuko Atsumi. The United States Information Service arranged lecture tours in Japan that facilitated some relevant research. Masao Abe was especially helpful in relating Buddhism to western philosophy in ways that illuminated this study. I have written Japanese names in the English order.

A most valuable resource is the Kenneth Rexroth East-West Collection (13,000 volumes from the poet's personal library) shelved and catalogued at Kanda University of International Studies (1-4-1 Wakaba, Mihama-ku, Chiba-shi, Chiba-ken 261-0014 Japan. For more information about the Library and Rexroth Collection see

the university homepage

My wife, Professor Keiko Matsui Gibson, Ph. D., and I have been teaching there. I dedicate this book to her, with eternal gratitude for her help in understanding Japanese culture and for translating some material for this book. Having won a Kenneth Rexroth Award for Poetry, she has offered many valuable insights.

Twayne Publishers, G. K. Hall & Company, gave me the copyright of my Kenneth Rexroth, published in the United States Authors Series in 1972. Grateful acknowledgments were made in the Archon edition to the following for permission to reprint material from various books: Bradford Morrow (Rexroth's Literary Executor) of the The Kenneth Rexroth Trust for passages from the following books copyrighted by Kenneth Rexroth in the years cited: Beyond the Mountains 1951. An Autobiographical Novel 1964, 1966. Pierre Reverdy's Selected Poems 1955, 1969. The Morning Star 1974, 1976, 1978, 1979. The Art of Worldly Wisdom 1953. American Poetry in the Twentieth Century © 1971 by Herder and Herder. The Elastic Retort © 1973 Continuum/Seabury Press. Excerpts from a Life © 1981 by Kenneth Rexroth and Conjunctions. I also thank Brad Morrow for permission to quote in the Archon edition Kenneth Rexroth's letters to myself, 1957-79, in my possession, and to use my collection of them in a small press edition that did not, in fact, materialize. I am similarly grateful to James Laughlin and New Directions Publishing Corporation for passages with their copyright: The Phoenix and the Tortoise 1944. The New British Poets: an Anthology 1948. The Signature of All Things 1950. One Hundred Poems from the Japanese 1955. One Hundred Poems from the Chinese 1956. Bird in the Bush: Obvious Essays 1947, 1955 (also © 1959 by Kenneth Rexroth). Assays (also © 1961 by Kenneth Rexroth). The Collected Shorter Poems 1956, 1951, 1950, 1944 (also © 1966, 1963, 1962, 1952, 1949, 1940 by Kenneth Rexroth). The Collected Longer Poems 1944, 1950, 1951, 1968 (also © 1952, 1953, 1957, 1967, 1968 by Kenneth Rexroth). A line from William Carlos Williamsí Collected Later Poems 1944, 1948, 1949, and 1950, © 1963 by The Estate of William Carlos Willams, © 1967 by Mrs. William Carlos Williams, used by permission of James Laughlin for New Directions Publishing Company. Marjorie Perloff for permission to quote from her letter to me of 11 December 1982. And Father Alberto Huerta, S. J., of the University of San Francisco, for information in his letter to me of 29 July 1985, and permission to include a passage from his unpublished eulogy, "In What Hour," read at Rexroth's funeral on 11 June 1982. I also thank many editors and publishers for bringing out my essays and reviews of Rexroth's work, as listed in the Bibliography. "Fair use" has been made herein of passages from the above.

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Copyright © 2000 by Morgan Gibson

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