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Alex Gildzen

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Alex Gildzen (April 25, 1943 in Monterey, CA - ) is a poet, mail artist and blogger who is best known for his autobiography Alex in Movieland. An experiment in list poems, the work has been appearing for years in installments.

Portrait by Stathis Orphanos

Contents

Biography

Early life and education

Alex Gildzen grew up in Elyria, Ohio where he he was the teen columnist for the local newspaper. He graduated from Elyria High School in 1961. That fall he entered Kent State University. While still an undergraduate his poems began to appear in such magazines as American Weave and Snowy Egret. He studied with Jacob Leed at Kent, and briefly with Kenneth Koch at Wagner College (1963) and Gwendolyn Brooks at Indiana University (1967).

Literary career

Gildzen met d.a. levy in 1965 and appeared in his publications Marrahwannah Quarterly and Buddhist Third Class Junkmail Oracle. He was included among “the Cleveland poets” in the third issue of the British magazine Asylum and continues to be included in that circle. In 1967 he started the magazine Toucan with fellow English Department graduate student R. L. Carothers. Long after the magazine ceased to be he used the name Toucan Press to publish chapbooks.


Gildzen’s first book, Into the Sea, was published by Abraxas Press in 1969. Early titles also were published in Canada: Dolphinsong on the Nile (Orange Bear Reader, 1970) and Twenty Sonnets Bound in Gold (Killaly Press, 1972). Masters and Houston included a poem of his in Psychedelic Art (1968) and Hugh Fox included him in his 1973 anthology The Living Underground. His selected poems The Avalanche of Time was published by North Atlantic Books in 1986.


He dropped out of Kent’s graduate program to work in the University News Service where he edited Momentum and covered the university’s cultural scene. He observed Peter Voulkos throw a pot and Robert Smithson create “Partially Buried Woodshed.” Gildzen was on the Commons on May 4, 1970 when four students were killed by the National Guard during an anti-war demonstration. After that event he decided he needed a career change. He was hired by Dean Keller to assist him in the univeristy library’s Special Collections Department in 1971. Keller had built a prominent collection in contemporary poetry. Gildzen joined him as co-editor of The Serif, an important bibliographical journal. He also edited the series Occasional Papers which included "Six Poems/Seven Prints" and "A Festschrift for Djuna Barnes on Her 80th Birthday".


During his tenure in Special Collections, Gildzen acquired the archives of the Open Theater, as well as the papers of its director Joseph Chaikin and major playwright Jean-Claude van Itallie. He also acquired the papers of Group Theater member Robert Lewis, film historians Gerald Mast and James Robert Parish, and silent screen star Lois Wilson.


While maintaining his career as poet, he was obliged by his academic position to pursue scholarship as well. From this came the first bibliography of Paul Metcalf, the first Open Theater checklist, an article on the relationship between Emil Oppfer and James Broughton and editorship of Dress, journal of the Costume Society of America.


During his 30-plus years in Kent, Gildzen was a fixture on the local reading scene. He also appeared in films of Richard Myers, collaborated with choreographer Connie May and posed for artist P. Craig Russell.


Gildzen began doing mail art in the 1970s. Perhaps his best-known project to date has been Postcard Memoirs, 97 postcards mailed between 1987 and 1989. Among his conceptual pieces is “The Century Dimes,” a serial work which began in 2000. These pieces and his lists were published in Making Circles.


He visited Santa Fe for the first time at the end of 1990. He moved there four years later. In 1999 he produced the first pop music concert at Santa Fe Opera, an AIDS benefit featuring Rufus Wainwright and Amanda McBroom. His plays The New Girl and Lefthanded were produced by the local Theater Residency Company.


The internet has brought a resurgence to Gildzen’s career as both poet and mail artist. He has participated in “The Mirror Project” and “The Five Million Copies Project.” Several e-books have appeared in the past few years, as well as work in such e-zines as Shampoo, Poetry Superhighway and MiPOesias. His blog is “Arroyo Chamisa” and he appears on You Tube in videos reading his work.


Bibliography

  • Into the Sea (1969)
  • “Twenty Sonnets Bound in Gold” (1972)
  • Funny Ducks (1973)
  • The Year Book (1974)
  • Swimming (1976)
  • New Notes (1978)
  • Postcard Poems (1978)
  • Skins (1981)
  • The Avalanche of Time (1986)
  • A Gathering of Poets (1992) an anthology co-edited with Maggie Anderson
  • On the Blue Swing (1998)
  • Mail & More (2003)
  • February 03 (2003) with Todd Colby, Thurston Moore and Matthew Wascovich
  • It's All a Movie (2007)
  • Outlaw Dreams (2008)
  • Making Circles (2009)
  • Beth (2009)
  • Elyria: Point A of "Ohio Triangle" (2009)
  • Percy & Bess (2011)
  • The Arrow That Is Hollywood Pierces the Soul That Is Me (2011)
  • "Passd Ports" (2012)

Notes and references

Gildzen at 50: A Celebration (1993) edited by Dimitris Karageorgiou

Interview (with Tom Beckett), Otoliths, 13 (2009).

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