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Gunslinger

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4.11 of 5 stars 4.11  ·  rating details  ·  168 ratings  ·  19 reviews
Dorn’s high-spirited, crazy-quilt, complex anti-epic is a masterful critique of late twentieth-century capitalism and is one of the great comic poems of American literature. Dorn is one of the few political poets in America; this fantasy about a demigod cowboy, a saloon madam, and a talking horse named Claude Levi-Strauss, who travel the Southwest in search of Ho ...more
Paperback, 223 pages
Published August 22nd 1989 by Duke University Press Books (first published 1975)
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Community Reviews

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Ted Burke
There comes the occasional need to clear the poetry that becomes a wax sediment in one's ear by returning to an old standby, a dependable set of poems that fired an imagination decades ago that can still inspire one to think imaginative writing is indeed the method with which one can "break on through". This isn't a slight against anyone I've been reading, though there are hills and dales in the perpetual reading list I keep; it's just that I want the gravity and grit of sentences that distingui ...more
Edmund
Oct 13, 2013 Edmund rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: laboring minions of doom
I found this book to be utterly baffling, honestly. Until I got to a couple unexpected velvet underground references. I read it in tandom with Ed Dorn Live, which is a new book of interviews, etc., and it cleared up alot about the guy for me. I never really knew him, but did sit at the dinner table with him once or twice and saw what some of his manners were like.
At his best I'd say he is a great rhapsodic intellect--not like the subsequent boring majoroity generation of poets of whom a great ma
...more
Mitch
Brilliant epic poem, a faux-western complete with talking horse rolling massive joints and playing poker, a character named i who dies, and lots of psychedelic ontology. One of a handful of long poems post-Maximus that matter, Gunslinger establishes Dorn as a 60's icon, a pedastal that he never got used to being on. If you haven't read it, you've missed out on one of the most enjoyable works of poetry of our time. Simply a masterpiece!
Dawn
Oh Eddie YOU ARE the bossiest. You are the catchiest scroll of yarn. You are atangling into genflection, the post script, the making of a building with little windows and little doors. Billions and Billions. As I was saying at the Odium, a homeless preist wheeled by. You are so out loud, Eddie. So utterly and plowing and as you were saying Saying takes a breath. He replied. He echoed. He yelped. Yuckyuckyuck you American. You Eddie the Watcher, you Orange Yarn, you outline in the coolness, day b ...more
Pete
Art poetry is not entirely my bag but I checked this out because I dig the mythology of the American West, especially the bent versions of it. This is a picaresque epic poem about a gunslinger, a talking horse, a girl, a few other people who honestly I stopped paying enough attention to keep apart. It's surprisingly silly and outright funny in parts -- lots and lots of puns, some great, some ... not really worth recording for posterity. Like if my friend said some of these things while stoned (e ...more
Wendy
um, yeah mind blow-r. to call this an epic poem is an understatement. this is an epic unconventional braided tale(s) of glorious proportions. the wild west circa the 60's (makes me think of w. s. burroughs' use of 'the west'). undeniable word choice, unexplainable concepts. endless avenues of divine chaos that i could never, in a lifetime, explain. the poem is about Everything. edward dorn where have you been all my life, really?
Adam
For the most part psychedelic drug-influenced epic poems are more fun to write than read, but this feller did make me chuckle a lot with really obscure puns, most of which over my head. A spaced-out 60s take on the Wild West. The poem set in the middle (Book II) was just too too difficult but the dialog that frames it in the other books is funtastic.
Anthony
A druggy mock-Western pop art Epic that follows characters with names like Kool Everything and Dr. Flamboyant... and, um, there's a talking horse... and it, um, rolls joints. I read this book online because I didn't want it sleeping on my couch.
Isaac
So rich. Pairs nicely with either scholarly glee or a couple grams of white widow. Or both. Digressive, entertaining, madcap, cartoonish, brilliant.
Bret
One of the most amazing books of poetry. Dorn's use of the pastich, kitsch, and theory create a pscyodelic hodgepodge of stragne imagery.
Charles
The funniest, most mind-expanding, most challenging, poetic epic of the last fifty years, or more. Read it!
Melissa
How to hear the many voices of time...
Abraham
Oct 14, 2007 Abraham rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: GK
Shelves: poetry
At first this book is a bit impenetrable and fantastical - you don't know where it's going and you spend a dozen pages or so getting accustomed to the rules of the game and the writing style. Then it gets fun - all the wordplay and characters with names like Kool Everything, and i, and Gunslinger, and Claude (to which other characters always reply: Levi-Strauss?) But as you dig deeper into the story the plot begins to seem random and unimportant, and you get to feeling that the whole thing is an ...more
Dominick
We'll, it's contemporary poetry, so I guess I should have known to expect some clever language play, a lot of self-consciousness and no small amount of incomprehensible self indulgence. Even the title is not really clear, appearing differently in various places (e.g. Either as slinger or gunslinger, depending on whether you're looking at the cover, spine, title page, etc.). There are some witty sections and some nice turns of phrase, and a fair bit of rocky verse (contemporary poets really have ...more
TK421
I can appreciate the cleverness behind this poem. Unfortunately, after about a 100 pages, the cleverness was not enough to sustain me. It soon became clear that Dorn had created a world that only he could truly penetrate. I wave the white flag.
Doug Hart
Jokey, trippy 60s prose poem dedicated to the adventures of the mythical Gunslinger and his merry band of chemically imbalanced comrades as they travel the American west in search of love and product. A little like the Road meets Gravity's Rainbow meets Ashbery meets Crumb meets Clint Black at his most opaque.
James Grinwis

In the early 70s, when a book length poem riding a trail of of drug references and oddball jammying with a predominantly incomprehensible narrative was most likely revolutionary, and that is great, I didn't find it so. But for sure, I appreciate the book's existence and impetus.
Ania
a great book to read in morocco where the air is scented with hash.honestly incomprehensible but ever beautifully turned out.made me want to write my mind inside out in the sun.
Josephine
I don't even like poetry but this is one of the most clever and entertaining things I've ever read. Read it.
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  • Radi OS
  • The Opening of the Field
  • The Maximus Poems
  • Collected Poems of George Oppen
  • "A"
  • Imaginations
  • Collected Works
  • The Pisan Cantos
  • The Sonnets
  • Veil: New and Selected Poems
  • Rivers and Mountains
  • My Life
  • Complete Poems
  • The Weather
  • The Selected Poems
  • Mysteries of Small Houses
  • The Collected Poems, 1945-1975
  • The Outernationale
The 39 Clues slipcase 2 (#4-6) Way More West: New and Selected Poems Way West By the Sound Ed Dorn Live: Lectures, Interviews, and Outtakes

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