Daisy Aldan: An Appreciation of the Poet as Teacher
Her gift to me was the passing on of her own intense interest, the awareness of the need for discipline in writing (she had me write poetry every day), and an exposure to people and ideas that ordinarily would never have been offered to a 15-year-old. When I met her on the street in Greenwich Village, several years after I graduated, she asked me if I was still writing poetry. When I hesitated, she was critical. She still cared enough to verbally kick me in the butt for letting my mind wander into other areas. “You have a gift,“ I remember her saying, in the tone of someone watching something fine being trashed. She was truly the one person who got me writing and kept me writing.
In 1963, Miss Aldan published The Destruction of Cathedrals and Other Poems, with a preface by Anaïs Nin. This was followed by The Masks Are Becoming Faces (1964), Seven: Seven (Poems and Photographs) (1965), Breakthrough (1971), Love Poems of Daisy Aldan (1972), Between High Tides (1978) and In Passage (1987). She was awarded the NEA Poetry Prize in 1968 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in poetry for Between High Tides and In Passage in 1978, and again in 1991 for Day of the Wounded Eagle, a novella. Her translation of Mallarmé’s “Un Coup de dés” is a surrealist masterpiece. The Collected Poems of Daisy Aldan is in print and available through major booksellers. She also wrote The Art and Craft of Poetry in 1981.
In addition to editing Folders, Miss Aldan corresponded with a virtual who’s who of the literary world, including John Ashbery, Edward Field, Barbara Guest, Denise Levertov, Larry Rivers, Eugene Walter, Imamu Amiri Baraka, Paul Blackburn, Robert Bly, Julian Beck, Marguerite Caetani, Gregory Corso, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, Galway Kinnell, Henry Miller, Frank O’Hara, Kenneth Rexroth, May Swenson, and Alice B. Toklas, many of whom submitted work to the publications she edited.
Daisy Aldan’s papers, from 1946-1966 have been deposited with the Harry Ransom Humanities Center at the University of Texas at Austin, and include correspondence and materials collected for the Folders publications. More information on her life and work can be found in Valerie Harms, Celebration with Anaïs Nin, Riverside, CT: Magic Circle Press, 1973.
But this writer, at least, won’t remember her for her papers, or for her friends, or even for her work. For me it is much simpler; she gave the selfless gift of self, and set me on my path. I’ll never forget the Daisy Aldan who is so much a part, even now, 40 years later, of who I am; I hope she would be proud of me.