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4.1  ·  Rating details ·  241 Ratings  ·  24 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 Howard Hughe ...more
Paperback, 224 pages
Published August 22nd 1989 by Duke University Press Books (first published 1975)
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Ted Burke
Jan 14, 2011 rated it really liked it
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
Nov 20, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Jun 15, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
Gunslinger combines the four books previously published by Edward Dorn (a sort of serial approach to the epic poem, which is appropriate given the pulp elements throughout)

I rate the books as follows:
Gunslinger Book I - 5 Stars
Gunslinger Book II - 4 Stars
Gunslinger Book III - 4 Stars
Gunslinger Book IV - 3 Stars

Note the gradual decline. I read the first two books effortlessly, the third book with a little effort, and the fourth book with a lot of effort. Dorn, it seemed, lost his direction; he be
Jun 08, 2008 rated it it was amazing
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
Aug 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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!
Aug 23, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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?
Jul 05, 2007 rated it liked it
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.
Aug 08, 2008 rated it really liked it
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.
Aug 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
Shelves: poetry-drama
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.
Nov 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
How to hear the many voices of time...
Feb 18, 2013 rated it it was amazing
So rich. Pairs nicely with either scholarly glee or a couple grams of white widow. Or both. Digressive, entertaining, madcap, cartoonish, brilliant.
Apr 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing
One of the most amazing books of poetry. Dorn's use of the pastich, kitsch, and theory create a pscyodelic hodgepodge of stragne imagery.
Jul 14, 2007 rated it it was amazing
The funniest, most mind-expanding, most challenging, poetic epic of the last fifty years, or more. Read it!
Morgan Podraza
Oct 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
GUNSLINGER is a funny, wild ride through language and philosophy. There is no other direct way to describe the long-form poem other than this: it's a narrative about an alien turned cowboy traveling through the Southwest with a bizarre cast of characters.
Jan 08, 2015 rated it it was ok
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
Sep 30, 2007 rated it liked it
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
Ben Pieper
Aug 18, 2016 rated it it was ok
Not quite what I expected from this. I thought like a pop art pastiche of Sergio Leone westerns but it ended up being an occasionally existential sixties/seventies drug romp (and not in the more entertaining Fear and Loathing way). However, this is poetry. So the next time I read it I might appreciate it a bit more. I should also read a little more about/of Ed Dorn and his work. Right now I feel the urge to make an abridged version of this poem to capture the best moments and philosophical musin ...more
Jun 26, 2014 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: poetry
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
Doug Hart
Jan 07, 2009 rated it really liked it
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.
May 02, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Fantastically weird in the best sense, and made me laugh out loud at several points. Some of the structure in the middle was convoluted enough that I'll need to go back and read it again, but even if one can't quite unpack all of the imagery in a single reading, this is a very fun and undeniably epic poem.
James Grinwis
May 09, 2011 rated it it was ok

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.
Apr 06, 2010 rated it really liked it
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.
Jul 27, 2007 rated it it was amazing
I don't even like poetry but this is one of the most clever and entertaining things I've ever read. Read it.
Lee Sharks
rated it really liked it
Mar 14, 2015
Rebecca Hampton
rated it it was amazing
Sep 27, 2016
rated it really liked it
Nov 23, 2008
Gillian Yates
rated it it was amazing
Feb 04, 2018
rated it liked it
Oct 13, 2017
John  Ervin
rated it it was amazing
Oct 31, 2009
David Eves
rated it it was amazing
May 16, 2015
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Edward Merton Dorn was born in Villa Grove, Illinois. He grew up in rural poverty during the Great Depression. He attended a one-room schoolhouse for his first eight grades. He later studied at the University of Illinois and at Black Mountain College (1950-55). At Black Mountain he came into contact with Charles Olson, who greatly influenced his literary worldview and his sense of himself as poet. ...more
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