The first production of Patchen's jazz play "Don't Look Now" opened on Oct 31, 1959, at the Outside the Inside Theater in Palo Alto. It was produced by the Troupe Theatre group under the direction of Phillip Angeloff and ran for six weeks. The play was build around 7 characters interacting in an upside-down living room while a live jazz band reacted to the actions unfolding on stage. Critics labeled the play as "4th dimensional realism", "hallucinatory fantasy", "extra-sensory theater".
Poetry with Jazz
Patchen's occupation with poetry and jazz began back in April of 1957 when he met Allyn Ferguson, a jazz musician and band leader of The Chamber Jazz Sextet. The encounter ultimately led to the recording of Kenneth Patchen Reads with Allyn Ferguson and the Chamber Jazz Sextet (Cadence, 1957), multiple bookings at San Francisco's Blackhawk Club, an invitation to appear in Bobby Troup's TV show "Stars of Jazz", and tours in United States and Canada between 1957-1959. Reported in The Los Angeles Examiner on a LA performance, Dec 30, 1957.
"...not just words but phrases and thoughts so beautifully woven into the jazz background, and so expertly phrased and timed, that it is a revelation to the ear and mind."
Note: Because of Patchen's involvement in the poetry-jazz movement of the 1950's, he was, and still is, wrongly labeled as a Beat Poet. In response to the inaccurate connection, he released a statement of independence:
" What I have to say is said for the purpose of throwing light on a situation about which many people have expressed puzzlement. My name and activities have not figured in recent publication coverage of 'the San Francisco Scene' for the simple reason in so far as I could I rejected all such identifications...I am not and never have been 'a regional poet...".
He later defended his position to a friend in a letter:
"The poet should resist all efforts to categorize him as a painted monkey on a stick, not for personal reasons alone, but because it does damage to poetry itself."
Sample Track 1:
"I Went To The City"
Sample Track 2:
"The Murder of Two Men by Young Kid Wearing Lemon-Colored Gloves"
Sample Track 3:
"Do The Dead Know What Time It Is?"
Patchen began experimenting with combination of visual and written word through use of typography in his early novels and poetry. His innovations extended to hand-written pages, illustrations and abstract drawings to accompany the text.
In addition he later issued limited painted editions, books with hand-painted covers, and in the 1950's silk-screened sets of poems, which were printed on fine Japanese papers and designed to induce more personal reader experience.
Patchen's final manuscripts exclusively consist of Painted Poems, modern versions of the illuminated texts of the Middle Ages, aimed at a mystical union of word and picture. Media incorporated in the Painted Poems include torn pieces of both rare Japanese papers and common construction paper, glue (from wheat paste to Elmer's Glue), tempera, watercolors, casein, crayons, inks, pencil, Tintex cloth dyes, cloth string, coffee and tea as dyes.
Painted Book(front cover):
Hurrah for Anything: poems and drawings. Kenneth Patchen. Jonathan Williams: Highlands, 1957. Limited to 75 copies, prepared and painted by author, no. 7. Copy donated signed by Laurence Ferlinghetti.
Painted Book (colophon page):
Hurrah for Anything: poems and drawings. Kenneth Patchen. Jonathan Williams: Highlands, 1957. Limited to 75 copies, prepared and painted by author, no. 7. Copy donated and signed by Laurence Ferlinghetti.
"An old Lady named Amber Sam filtched a reverse-stripe zebra off 2 stalled Movingvan but since the zee had no built-in spoon any soup she gave him lacked all jiggable tune so she put on an old pair of baggy pants and snuck quietly out to a neighbors car and shifted both of its headlights onto the rear-bumper."
"O listen is a purple elephant/ Who comes to the woods each night/And with his mole-soft and curling trunk/ Touches all the stars with light/ And written on his blanket/ Are the names of tress and grass and men/ Of where we shall go tomorrow/ And of what it will be like then/ O of what it will be like then"
"Everyman is me, I am his brother. No man is my enemy. I am Everyman and he is in and of me. This is my faith, my strength, my deepest hope, and my only belief."