Neeli Cherkovski

Thursday, June 30th, 7:00 pm

The Songs of Order / Lie In Disorder

Poet Neeli Cherkovski: a reading and a conversation with Gary Gach

Poet Neeli Cherkovski’s new book, From the Middle Woods, branches out from The Confucian Odes to espouse a renewed natural politics for the 21st century.

With this book, Neeli has blended the sacred and the profane as well as the essences of pristine nature and concrete commerce, bringing to life such landscapes and sensations as the pungent odors of ocean and pine needles along the tree-studded coast of northern California. East meets West and politics meets wilderness head on, but gently, in “Cherkovski’s capable and caring sculptor’s hands.”

In his afterword to the book, Neeli writes “These poems began as a communion with The Confucian Odes as rendered into English by Ezra Pound… (poems) ripe with the spirit of the ‘common folk,’ the world of nature, the search for inner peace, and a desire for civility and order in society…”  The brief, eloquent poems Neeli composed in response, some of which are collected in this volume, “look for serenity and call for an orderly life drawn out of the rhythms of nature, not a bad aspiration for one who has fallen under the tradition of ‘the disorderly poet.'”

Born in Santa Monica in 1945, Neeli’s literary and political leanings were nurtured in the bookshop operated by his father, Sam Cherry, in San Bernardino in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and his love of the natural world was born out of countless hikes into the mountains there.  In Los Angeles, in the ’60s, Neeli was thoroughly a denizen of its underground literary scene, and co-edited Laugh Literary and Man the Humping Guns with Charles Bukowski before moving to San Francisco in 1975 to work for then-State Senator George Moscone.

He has authored many significant volumes of poetry, biographies of Bukowski and Ferlinghetti, and a collection of critical essays, Whitman’s Wild Children, which has become a true classic, though it is sadly out of print at present. His papers are housed at UC Berkeley.

Neeli will read a portion of From the Middle Woods and then will engage in discussion with Gary Gach, noted poet, translator, editor, and teacher.  Gach was formally introduced to meditation by Paul Reps and later studied Hasidic Judaism and Kabbalah, and was introduced to shikantaza by Dainin Katagiri Roshi.

An excellent interview with the poet can be found at this link:  Redroom Interview