Barbara Moraff

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Barbara Moraff (born 1939 Paterson, New Jersey) is an American poet of the Beat generation living in Vermont. She continues to write, and also creates pottery and cooks.[1]

Life[edit]

Jack Kerouac called Moraff "the baby of the Beat generation" [2] because she was just 18 when they met but was already being published by Leroi Jones and in Evergreen Review. She was reading in various NYC coffeehouses when she was able to get out of a very restrictive home environment—complicated by plastic surgery needed to repair her face after a mutilation. In a 1964 interview with Paideuma (University of Maine), Kerouac called Moraff "the best girl poet writing in America". "[2]

Moraff and her lover moved to Vermont in late 1961, where they built a small one-room cabin on land belonging to a former Black Mountain College student with whom they exchanged work for rent. At that time Barbara was experimenting writing SOUND poetry.[3] Robert Duncan sent a poem by her to Denise Levertov.[4]

Moraff's first child, Alesia, was born in 1966, and shortly afterward Moraff bought a remote hilltop farm in Strafford, Vermont. She taught herself organic farming practices and for many years raised the family's food and kept a cow and two goats. She made cheese and studied medicinal herbs. Her son Marco was born in 1971. In 1972 he was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis.

In 1973, Moraff founded Vermont Artisans,[1] Vermont's first craft sales and educational cooperative. She studied human nutrition and after 3 years of research devised a nutritional plan for Marco, which resulted in the writing of The Cookbook/Handbook to Nutrition for Kids Who Have Cystic Fibrosis. It was considered crazy to even discuss nutritional problems, let alone write a cookbook for children who required enzymes at every meal in order to metabolize food nutrients. Moraff self-published the book; it can be found in the CF Foundation's library, and is used by physicians who agree with her commonsense approach of telling one's child that it is his/her body that is ill, not the child-as-person.

Marco grew healthy and ran long-distance track in high school. He became an artist, and many of his works are now in private collections. He also designed and built furniture using driftwood, branchwood, marble, and slate. He died in April 2007 as a result of his cystic fibrosis.

Moraff met Chogyam Trungpa in 1974 through Allen Ginsberg. She thought she could learn Tibetan Buddhist breathing methods to help Marco develop lungs strong enough to resist the early ravages of CF.

Moraff continued her Buddhist practice and study, attending the last seminary at which Trungpa was present, and later, ngedon school.

Moraff began writing poetry again in 1976 when asked by a feminist lesbian press to sit on its editorial board. There she edited the magazine CONCH and co-edited an anthology of local women's writings and art. This included the first published work of Louise Erdrich.

In 2007, Moraff was editing and collating a collection of previously published and unpublished work and was also working on a new collection (tentative title Machig Labdron Songs). Forthcoming in late spring 2007 is a booklet from Longhouse Publishers, FOOTPRINT.

Although partially disabled, Moraff is still able to produce some pottery, mostly commissioned dinner sets. In the summer, she bakes wholegrain sourdough bread and sells it at local farmers' markets.

Poem[edit]

Here is one of the Machig poems: Machigma to Chundrak Dorje (Steven Seagal)

Well, I've given up on time
It's overrated
& simplicity? a few wild
with domesticated
flowers in a simpatico vase.

A letter arrives postmarked April
in July, my month. Got lost. Got found. Found
my box. Well, it's about Stanley. Stanley died.
Of a self-inflicted life.
& someone shot his Beagle. That dog was his
life.
Petra says she finds traces he left
in the woods he loved but wonders why
he drug a wagonwheel upside Boomer Mountain
& left it leaning on his mother's grace
stone instead of flowers even plastic & why he left
backseat of the old blue Valiant
just inside the line of balsams facing
my old house. Well, he had to keep
an eye on the hippies
he believed we were because only crazy hippies
would hv come on purpose to thse woods
back of nowhere. I think I left
someething there also, like a poem about Stan
& his Percherons sugaring in the cathedral
of the cold Spring trees. oh it was real

Copyright Barbara Moraff 2006

Publishers[edit]

Barbara's publishers: Toothpaste Press, Potes & Poets Press, Longhouse, Coffeehouse Press, White Pine Press, O'Leary Family, Nomad London, Totem-Corinth (4 Young Lady Poets), Snakestail/High risk (A Different Beat), and the usual "many magazines & journals" & anthologies including Evergreen Review, Yögen, Trobar, Kauri, Femora, Fuckyou, Beatitude, Bluebeat, Beat Scene, The Nation, Yale Penny Poems, Virginia Quarterly, Origin, Longhouse, Wormwood Review, Rosebud, Cedar Rock, Plucked Chicken, Wildflower, Van Gogh's Ear, Valley News, L.A. Weekly, Vajradhaty Sun, Sulfur, Cipher Journal, Abraxas, Bloodroot, et. Barbara also appears in two movies: an anti-war film Button, Button (aired on CBS) and Enlightened Society (Vajradhatu Films).

Works[edit]

Poetry[edit]

  • Deadly Nightshade. Coffee House Press. 1989. ISBN 978-0-918273-61-1.  (Morning Coffee Chapbook),
  • You've got me. Longhouse. 1987.  (Scout)
  • Contra La Violencia. White Pine Press. 1985. ISBN 978-0-934834-56-8. 
  • Telephone company repairman poems. Toothpaste Press. 1983. ISBN 978-0-915124-75-6. 
  • Mister. Penny poems. 1959. 
  • Learning to Move. Potes & Poets Press. 1982. ISBN 978-0-937013-11-3. 
  • Open to the Other
  • Potterwoman. Pentagram. 1984. 
  • Potterwoman Book 2. Longhouse. 1993. 
  • A Single Branch, A Single Flower Enough. Tel-let. 1993. 
  • Lotus Petals
  • Ahh, Shadowplay, 1992

Anthologies[edit]

  • Leroi Jones, ed. (1962). Four Young Lady Poets: Carol Bergé, Barbara Moraff, Rochelle Owens, Diane Wakoski. Totem-Corinth Press. 
  • Richard Peabody (1997). A Different beat: writings by women of the Beat generation. Serpent's Tail. ISBN 1-85242-431-1. 
  • Lawrence Ferlinghetti, ed. (c. 1960). Beatitude Anthology. San Francisco: City Lights Books. [5]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Daniel Kane (2003). All Poets Welcome: the Lower East Side poetry scene in the 1960s. University of California Press. ISBN 0-520-23384-0. 
  2. ^ a b A Robert Lee (1996). The Beat Generations Writers. 
  3. ^ Denise Levertov article, Virginia Quarterly Review, aligning Moraff, Duncan, Creeley, Olson
  4. ^ Robert J. Bertholf, Albert Gelpi, ed. (2004). The letters of Robert Duncan and Denise Levertov. Stanford University Press. ISBN 978-0-8047-4569-7. 
  5. ^ http://courtney.org/colophon/#kandel