The newly published novel by Clarence Major is a straightforward narrative from the point of view of its protagonist, James Eric Lowell, a studious young poet of the 1960s. As I read this plain spoken and gentle portrait of the Love Era and how Beats and Bohemians morphed into the hippy movement with its profound activism for civil rights, I noticed how I felt right at home with the sensibilities and customs of that world. Why? Because The Lurking Place portrays exactly the lifestyle of many iconic writers and artists. While cultural eras cannot be broken up into neat decades, at the same time I find that The Lurking Place shows us the early beginnings of academic programs in a way that is organic and appealing.
Now here we were, the bohemians, the artists, and the poets—the new tenants—taking up residence in these dilapidated apartments.
Many “whys” get attention in The Lurking Place:
Why? Because we were not rich, and they were affordable. Being here together also gave us a community, one held together by the idea of creativity and intellectual pursuit.
In mid-June, I was invited up to Harlem to read my poems to a group that turned out to be composed mostly of young militant black 17 men and women who were, like me, aspiring poets.
What is stark in this is how poets and artists run around with their good intentions and before the world of digital instantaneousness, running around was physical and included a lot of exploration of the world in a physical way and of course interaction with other people. This, the world of writing via pen, paper, envelopes, typewriters, is represented by objects of solid weight instead of being “typed by thumbs, ugh” and we can read about that world here.
The Lurking Place by Clarence Major. Manic D Press, 2021.
Reviewer bio: Susan Kay Anderson is the author of Please Plant This Book Coast To Coast, Virginia Brautigan Aste’s memoir, and Mezzanine (poems) both by Finishing Line Press. She has poems forthcoming in Barrow Street Journal, Heron Tree, and Wild Roof Journal.
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