Remembrance and Ongoing Love for Auerhahn Press

by Daniel Abdal-Hayy Moore

Back in the 60s we were all Buddhists. Well, so it seems. Due to Ginsberg and Kerouac’s pervasive influence, Buddhist teachings in small and large things was definitely in the air. Allen even confided to me once in a van on our way to Ferlinghetti’s cabin that it was actually Neal Cassidy who brought Buddhism to our shores, writing him from overseas of this wisdom practice he’d discovered and wanted Allen to know about it. Though, in retrospect I think Alan Watts and D.T. Suzuki of the East Coast were also major forerunners. I sat for a couple of years with Shunryu Suzuki in his first San Francisco Zendo, and it really did change my life, forming a deep basis for my spiritual practice to come as a Muslim Sufi. But among the San Francisco poets, closely aligned with the Dharma or only accessorizing it in atmospheric ways (it was California, after all), we were all Buddhists.

In around 1964 or so, I had my first book of poems, largely written in Mexico after I dropped out of UC Berkeley, Dawn Visions, published by City Lights, and through my friendship with Ruth Weiss I met Philip Lamantia, who mantically described the beginning of a movie I have never seen except still memorable through the intensely fascinating cinema of his words. Dave Haselwood had published Ekstasis, and later Destroyed Works, a cherished copy of which I still have in my library, and whose poem, Morning Light Song (“the heavens proclaim you, Absolute God”) has proven a durable and influential impetus of my own poetry. I can’t now remember how I first found myself in the Auerhahn Press office itself, one bright San Francisco day, with Andrew Hoyem and Glenn Todd running the great clanking letterpress machines as if the Technological Revolution hadn’t yet (and it hadn’t quite) arrived. Old fashioned in the best sense, high art was being practiced and Dave was its High Priest, its sweet promulgator of fineness even then. I remember also noting his casual remarks, never that casual, that often were spot on target critiques or facet analysis of a line of a poem, or an often slightly arch comment on a particular poet which was never mean but often slicing close to the bone. And the books being produced!  Only the Patchen painted originals, of which there was a bin still at City Lights in about 1958 or 9 when I visited the store in my last year of Oakland High School, had that original and somehow raw quality of true beauty. The Auerhahn books so lovingly designed, not in a standard format but matching each book of poems in its particulars, were portals into the poems inside and then out through the poetry into the world.

That Dave Haselwood is now Joko, and dispensing Zen wisdom wedded with wisdom poetry of all kinds, is no surprise.