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Kenneth Rexroth Page; Daily Bleed Saint; Anarchist Encyclopedia: Kenneth Rexroth, anarchist, poet, social critic, translator

i am dreaming of the mountains where the children learn the stars
clouds roll in from nebraska dark chords on a big guitar
my restlessness is long gone i would stand here like an old jack pine
but I'm looking for rexroth's daughter the friend of a friend of mine....

— Songster Greg Brown

(before reading his poetry):

“Well, what would you like tonight,
sex, mysticism or revolution?”


“What’s the difference?”



December 22


California rolls into
Sleepy summer, and the air
Is full of the bitter sweet
Smoke of the grass fires burning
On the San Francisco hills.

Kenneth Rexroth

Born in 1905 & orphaned at the age of twelve, Rexroth spent most of his teenage years in Chicago, where he worked as a newspaper reporter & helped run a jazz coffee house, mingling with the musicians, artists, writers, radicals & eccentrics of the roaring twenties. Disillusioned with the Bolsheviks, he became an anarchist & was for several years an active member of the IWW. In his late teens he began hitching all over the country, working in the Far West as a cowboy cook & wrangler & at various farm & forestry jobs & camping in the mountains.

Along the way he met Emma Goldman, Eugene Debs, Louis Armstrong, Clarence Darrow, D.H. Lawrence, Alexander Berkman, Sacco & Vanzetti, & an astonishing variety of others -- anarchists, Communists, Wobblies, dadaists, surrealists, occultists, prostitutes, gangsters, cops, judges, jailers, hoboes, hillbillies, lumberjacks, cowboys, Indians...

In 1927 he moved to San Francisco, where his work in labor, civil rights & antiwar struggles, his founding of the San Francisco Libertarian Circle, & his writings, radio programs & public poetry readings helped lay the foundation for the San Francisco Renaissance of the 1950s & 1960s.

The Great Nebula of Andromeda

We get into camp after
Dark, high on an open ridge
Looking out over five thousand
Feet of mountains and mile
Beyond mile of valley and sea.
In the star-filled dark we cook
Our macaroni and eat
By lantern light. Stars cluster
Around our table like fireflies.
After our supper we go straight
To bed. The night is windy
And clear. The moon is three days
Short of full. We lie in bed
And watch the stars and the turning
Moon through our little telescope.
Late at night the horses stumble
Around the camp and I awake.
I lie on my elbow watching
Your beautiful sleeping face
Like a jewel in the moonlight.
If you are lucky and the
Nations let you, you will live
Far into the twenty-first
Century. I pick up the glass
And watch the Great Nebula
Of Andromeda swim like
A phosphorescent amoeba
Slowly around the Pole. Far
Away in distant cities
Fat-hearted men are planning
To murder you while you sleep.


— Kenneth Rexroth, from In Defense of the Earth (1956), the second stanza of "The Lights in the Sky are Stars"

Selections from Kenneth Rexroth's autobiography
can be found online at Ken Knabb's "Rexroth Archive".

See also


An academic critic once sarcastically referred to Rexroth, Gary Snyder & Philip Whalen as “members of the bear-shit-on-the-trail school of poetry.”

Rexroth, of course, took this as a compliment. He often spent months at a time in the woods and mountains, and quite a few of his poems reflect his experiences there. In one of the most beautiful he is lying beside a waterfall reading The Signature of All Things by Jakob Boehme, the visionary mystic who “saw the world as streaming in the electrolysis of love.”

Some pomes at the Stan Iverson Memorial Archives:

"From the Paris Commune to the Kronstadt Rebellion", (1936)

“August 22, 1939”
(The anniversary of Sacco & Vanzetti’s execution, actually the wee hours of the 23rd)

"Requiem for the Spanish Dead"

Some worthy links:

Revolutionary Rexroth: Poet of East West Wisdom by Morgan Gibson

Also, I have archived a variety of images & materials:

Page created May 2001; Last updated, February 2003

Kenneth Rexroth

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