Jack Spicer Analysis

Other literary forms

(Poets and Poetry in America)

Although Jack Spicer often employed prose in his works, the results were more poetic than otherwise, yielding short prose poems that he linked together in series. Spicer stretched literary boundaries by giving poems names normally reserved for prose works, as he did in calling one poem series a “novel.” Spicer also employed letters, drawn from either imaginary or real correspondence, as a means of literary expression and included them in his first poetry book, After Lorca, as well as in other collections. He did publish some nonfiction, such as notes and reviews for the Boston Public Library Quarterly.


(Poets and Poetry in America)

Jack Spicer exerted a major influence on West Coast Beat poetry in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s, initially as a teacher and workshop-leader and subsequently as a poet whose books influenced countless others, especially after his death. His interactions with other poets helped galvanize the poetry scene in San Francisco, especially from 1957 to 1964, while his poems reached their greatest audiences in two posthumous collections, The Collected Books of Jack Spicer and My Vocabulary Did This to Me. In 2009, Spicer was awarded the American Book Award by the Before Columbus Foundation for My Vocabulary Did This to Me.


(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Duncan, Robert. Preface to One-Night Stand, and Other Poems, by Jack Spicer. San Francisco: Grey Fox Press, 1980. In his lengthy preface, Duncan discusses his relationship with Spicer, points to Spicer’s poetic influences, and analyzes his poetic career. In a note to this volume, the poet and editor Donald Allen surveys Spicer’s poetic theory, technique, and publishing history.

Ellingham, Lewis. Poet Be Like God: Jack Spicer and the San Francisco Renaissance. Hanover, N.H.: University Press of New England for Wesleyan University Press, 1998. Describes how Spicer spent most of his time disdaining the publishing world and making enemies. This portrait depicts a brilliant, difficult, and largely unlikable man whose talent for writing equaled his inability to function in the world.

Foster, Edward Halsey. Jack Spicer. Boise, Idaho: Boise State University Press, 1991. A short critical biography juxtaposing Spicer with poets in the Walt Whitman tradition.

Herndon, James. Everything as Expected. San Francisco: Author, 1973. Published by a friend of his, this short personal reminiscence of Spicer includes some photographs by Isadore Klein.

Johnston, Alastair. A Bibliography of the White Rabbit Press. Berkeley, Calif.: Poltroon Press in association with Anacapa Books, 1985. Gives the history of Bay Area publishing and discusses Spicer’s contributions to publishing history.

Spicer, Jack. The Collected Books of Jack Spicer. Edited by Robin Blaser. Los Angeles: Black Sparrow, 1975. Blaser’s commentary provides valuable insights.