Flipping through a dense stack of auction catalogs I came across this oddity – an unassuming, glossy softcover book with a cheap, haphazardly typeset title, The Adventures of Mr and Mrs Jim and Ron. It’s a 1970 collaboration between poet Ron Padgett and pop expressionist artist Jim Dine.
The poems are just fantastic – prime specimens of a sort I’m a helpless sucker for. They’re short dreamy little narratives, shot through with strange shifts, breaks and fissures amongst the phrases. Odd juxtapositions emerge, only to be smoothed together by easy grammatical connections. It’s like a slow pan across a radio dial tuned to the psychic landscape of America – pocket dramas, aspirations, product instructions, laconic observations, snippets of philosophy, fragment of bracing truths. They evoke, at times, Lydia Davis’ flash fiction, Ann Magnuson and Laurie Anderson’s brainy free associative monologues, Eve Babitz’s LA stories. Silver Jew David Berman’s poems too, here and there. Based on this book, this Padgett cat should be a joy to explore.
Jim Dine’s artwork is ok. I like Dine fine, and some of it’s sharp and smart (like the excerpts above), but the bulk of it is a too doodle-y and dashed off compared to the well turned poems they accompany. Still, the whole book is well worth tracking down.