Review of Rachel Loden’s KULCHUR GIRL

Kulchur Girl
Rachel Loden. Vagabond Press, $15 AUS (88p) ISBN 978-1-922181-21-3

Instead of a Preface

In July 1965, a few days after turning seventeen, I returned to the city in which I had spent four years of my childhood to attend the Berkeley Poetry Conference. At the offices of the University of California Extension (through which the conference had been organized) at 2223 Fulton Street, I paid the steep registration fee of $45, which covered two seminars, with money saved from hundreds of hours of babysitting.

Alternating between a brown journal I’d carried with me, and a green one purchased in Berkeley for the seminars, I took notes on whatever pleased me, occasionally leaping from the spoken words in the room to others of my own invention, with no duty (at the time) to anyone but myself.

On the Poetry Foundation website, the biography for American poet Rachel Loden includes: “As a teenager, she discovered Donald Allen’s influential anthology The New American Poetry (1945–1960), and from there began to immerse herself in poetry, finding influences in Emily Dickinson, Franz Kafka, and John Ashbery, and attending seminal events like the Berkeley Poetry Conference in 1965.” The Berkeley Poetry Conference of 1965 was considered a follow-up to the infamous 1963 Vancouver Poetry Conference, and included a number of the same participating American poets, including Robin Blaser, Robert Duncan, Charles Olson and Robert Creeley. Given its status in American poetry generally and Loden’s own development as a poet, it is interesting to see the publication of Kulchur Girl (2014), a sketchbook of notes the author made while attending those Berkeley sessions. As the press description reads:

A girl just seventeen, high school dropout, travels to the July 1965 Berkeley Poetry Conference to encounter some of the giants of The New American Poetry 1945-1960 and after (Creeley, Olson, Duncan, Blaser, Ginsberg, Dorn, Sanders, Berrigan, &c.). These notes from her surviving diary show her longing to be taught, but also fiercely teenage, perversely independent and contradictory.

Rachel Loden is the author of a small handful of poetry books and chapbooks, including The Last Campaign (Slapering Hol Press, 1998), Hotel Imperium (University of Georgia Press, 1999), My Domain (Grove Avenue Press, 2000), Affidavit (Pomegranate Press, 2001), The Richard Nixon Snow Globe (Wild Honey Press, 2005) and Dick of the Dead (Ahsahta Press, 2009). Part of what is interesting about this small book – the first of a set of ten small books edited by Pam Brown and published by Sydney, Australian publisher Vagabond Press for 2014 – is in how Loden has presented her notes here without any context or editorial interruption, but for those original notes by that seventeen year old self, absorbing and attempting to articulate some of the ideas being presented during the conference. The notes run from attempting to capture quotes, book titles and page numbers, sketching descriptions of events and lectures, to the occasional charming and sweet note by a seventeen year old poet set loose in Berkeley: “Run around for absolute joy. In Berkeley. // How does anyone survive it?” As an addendum to this small volume, I would be interested in hearing some of Loden’s thoughts on the text and the conference now, after such a distance of years, what she thinks the experience might have allowed her to explore in her own writing, and what some of those original notes might have sparked, possible memories that fell outside of the text of her notebook.


You know.

Inverted Hippies. Infirm hippies.

Frank O’Hara’s Lunch Poems. Page 12-13.

Someone says there’s supposed to be an earthquake tomorrow – all of the California coast – into the sea. God is angry at poets.


Olson Big Fire-Source (Duncan).

Strange & nice to be in Berkeley this morning.

Fierceness of Pound. Almost catatonic. Never speaks.

A 1 only so if it produces a 1.

A knowable seizable thing & your thing – the world.

And then it jives.

Meeting Pound – as meeting an angel –

The world familiar as the smallest thing I know.

Mythology – possible activeness & personalness of the earth.

The connectivity (of same).

(November 2014)

Purchase Kulchur Girl HERE.

Reviewer bio: Born in Ottawa, Canada’s glorious capital city, rob mclennan currently lives in Ottawa. The author of nearly thirty trade books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, he won the John Newlove Poetry Award in 2010, the Council for the Arts in Ottawa Mid-Career Award in 2014, and was longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize in 2012. His most recent titles include notes and dispatches: essays (Insomniac press, 2014, The Uncertainty Principle: stories, (Chaudiere Books, 2014) and the poetry collection If suppose we are a fragment (BuschekBooks, 2014). An editor and publisher, he runs above/ground press, Chaudiere Books, The Garneau Review (, seventeen seconds: a journal of poetry and poetics (, Touch the Donkey ( and the Ottawa poetry pdf annual ottawater ( He spent the 2007-8 academic year in Edmonton as writer-in-residence at the University of Alberta, and regularly posts reviews, essays, interviews and other notices at