Vincent Ferrini and the poet Charles Olson engaged in a love-hate tango for years. Vincent’s poetry was strong but nuanced, able to evoke both the physical and divine worlds with ease.
In 1981, I met Vincent at the Poetry Festival at St. Clement’s Church on West 46th Street. With his co-poet for the evening, Ed Kaplan, I waited on the sidewalk. Ed’s hair flared away, singed, crinkled like blown-out electrical wires. A breeze sprang up, blowing from the east off the ocean, as if from the rocky coasts and gray-green waves of Gloucester, Massachusetts, with its salt-strong sea-scent.
The Village Voice notice had read: “Vincent Ferrini, the Gloucester poet who weaves in and out of Charles Olson’s Maximus poems, arrives to give his first ever New York City reading. Author of Know Fish and 27 other volumes of poetry, Ferrini writes a strong and direct and lovely line.”
The Voice said Ed Kaplan’s books, Pancratium and Zero Station, moved in an “Olsonesque verbal labyrinth assessing the nature of existence.”
Ed said, “He’ll be here any minute.”
We stamped our feet on the sidewalk in the still chill (with a note of first warmth) of late March.
Vincent Ferrini came quickly down the street in a walk-sprint like a sprite, full of enthusiasm. I had a vision of a bonfire on the beach, a beacon, a light that gathered people in. I laughed as he spoke: we were word-surfers.
On the flyer, Vincent Ferrini’s words:
do you think this moment
after reading this
you will be the same again
Ed smiled as Vincent gave me a copy of Know Fish. Cornelius Eady and Shelley Messing came from WBAI and taped the reading, but later Cornelius told me the tape did not turn out well. These moments cannot be recreated, maybe they cannot be adequately recorded.
A short time afterward, I gave Bob Holman of the Poetry Project at St. Marks the copy of Vincent Ferrini’s Know Fish. For several years Vincent and I stayed in touch. About three years later, he wrote to me: “Sleep with one eye open all of 1984.”