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Clark Coolidge

November 16, 2023 @ 6:00 pm

City Lights celebrates the publication of

The Crystal Text

by Clark Coolidge

Preface by: Peter Gizzi, Afterwords by: Jason Morris and Garrett Caples

Published by City Lights

Garrett Caples will be hosting this evening’s event

Clark Coolidge’s book-length meditation on a crystal–long considered a masterpiece of American avant-garde poetry–returns in a new edition.

“No other poet ever has so exquisitely, and sometimes also turbulently, written sheer sonic wonder into poetry.”–Lyn Hejinian, author of My Life and My Life in the Nineties

In the summer of 1982, Clark Coolidge received an unexpected gift of a crystal; small, clear, entirely unexceptional, the crystal nonetheless provoked the poet into writing what has long been considered his masterpiece, The Crystal Text (1986). A durational poem composed over the course of 10 months, in daybook-like entries of varying length, The Crystal Text is multifaceted and elusive, constantly interrogating itself. Is it a meditation on its titular object like Keats’s “Urn” or a radical investigation of the limits of language as a signifying system? Is the poet channeling the crystal to access its message or is the crystal channeling the poet, drawing language from him to fill its colorless emptiness? Is it dictation or improvisation? Is the poem a record of its own crystalline growth or does it capture the process of consciousness itself?

The Crystal Text refuses to resolve the questions it raises but rather inhabits its various possibilities simultaneously, resulting in one of the major works of late 20th century American avant-garde poetry. This new edition includes a preface by poet and scholar Peter Gizzi and an afterword in which Coolidge discusses the text with poet Jason Morris and City Lights editor Garrett Caples.

Associated with the New York School and subsequently inspiring the Language Poets, Coolidge remains one of the most singular and original American poets of our time.

Originally from Providence, Rhode Island, Clark Coolidge is the author of more than fifty books of poetry, including Space, Solution Passage, The Crystal Text, At Egypt, Now It’s Jazz: Writings on Kerouac & The Sounds, The Act of Providence, 88 Sonnets, A Book Beginning What and Ending Away, Selected Poems, 1962-1985, Life Forms Here, and Poet. In 2011 he edited Philip Guston: Collected Writings, Lectures, and Conversations for University of California Press. Initially a drummer, he was a member of David Meltzer’s Serpent Power in 1967 and Mix group in 1993–1994. More recently, Coolidge has performed duos with Thurston Moore (Among the Poetry Stricken, on Fast Speaking Music) and free improv with Ouroboros. His most recent publications include The Land of All Time and To the Cold Heart. He now lives in Petaluma, California.

Garett Caples is the poetry editor at City Lights Books where he curate the Spotlight Poetry series. He is also a published poet with numerous books to his credit. His most recent book is Lovers of Today published by Wave Books.

This event is made possible by support from the City Lights Foundation. To learn more visit: https://citylights.com/foundation/


November 16, 2023
6:00 pm


City Lights Bookstore
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