David Meltzer

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This article is about the poet. For the professional wrestling/MMA writer, see Dave Meltzer. For the sports executive, see David Meltzer (sports executive).
David Meltzer
David Meltzer.jpg
David Meltzer speaking at Beyond Baroque Literary Arts Center, Venice, California in 2007
Born (1937-02-17)February 17, 1937
Rochester, New York, United States
Died December 31, 2016(2016-12-31) (aged 79)
Oakland, California, United States
Occupation Poet, writer, musician
Citizenship United States
Genre San Francisco Renaissance
Notable awards Foundation for Contemporary Arts Grants to Artists Award, 2008
Spouse Tina (her death), Julie Rogers
Children Jennifer, Margaret (Maggie), Amanda, Adam

David Meltzer (February 17, 1937 – December 31, 2016) was an American poet and musician of the Beat Generation and San Francisco Renaissance. Lawrence Ferlinghetti described him as "one of the greats of post-World-War-Two San Francisco poets and musicians."[1] Meltzer came to prominence with inclusion of his work in the anthology, The New American Poetry 1945-1960.


Early life[edit]

Meltzer was born in Rochester, New York, the son of a cellist and a harpist. In 1940, the family moved to Brooklyn. At the age of 11, he wrote his first poem, on the topic of the New York City subway system. He performed on radio and TV in The Horn and Hardart Children's Hour. The family moved once again to Rockville Centre. His parents separated, and he accompanied his father to Los Angeles in 1954. In 1957, he moved to San Francisco and became part of a circle of writers based around Jack Spicer and Robert Duncan.

In 1958, he recorded an album of his poems with a jazz combo for Jim Dickson on Dickson's Vaja label. The album was not released but finally saw the light of day in 2006 on Sierra Records titled "David Meltzer: Poet with Jazz 1958." Jim Dickson had earlier recorded Lord Buckley, Lenny Bruce and the Page Cavanaugh Trio. Later Jim would be A&R producer for World Pacific and Elektra Records as well as discovering and producing the rock group, The Byrds.

In 1968, Meltzer signed the “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” pledge, vowing to refuse tax payments in protest against the Vietnam War.[2]


One of the key poets of the Beat generation, Meltzer was also a jazz guitarist, Kabbalist scholar, and the author of more than 50 books of poetry and prose. 2005 saw the publication of David's Copy: The Selected Poems of David Meltzer (edited by Michael Rothenberg and with an introduction by Jerome Rothenberg), which provides a current overview of Meltzer's work.

Meltzer's Beat Thing (La Alameda Press) is his epic poem on the Beat generation. Jack Hirschman said of it:

Meltzer's other books include, No Eyes, poems on Lester Young, and a book of interviews, San Francisco Beat: Talking with the Poets (City Lights Books).[3]

Meltzer taught at the New College of California in the Poetics Program,[4] which was originally founded by Robert Duncan.

With his singer-musician wife Tina, David recorded as a duo and with their group Serpent Power.


He spent most of his life in the San Francisco Bay Area. Meltzer died on December 31, 2016, after suffering a stroke at his home in Oakland.[5][6]

Published works[edit]


  • Ragas (Discovery, 1959)
  • The Clown (Semina, 1960)
  • The Process (Oyez, 1965)
  • The Dark Continent (1967)
  • Round the Poem Box (1969)
  • From Eden Book (1969)
  • Yesod (Trigram, 1969)
  • Greenspeech (1970)
  • Luna (Black Sparrow, 1970)
  • Hero/Lil (Black Sparrow, 1973)
  • Blue Rags (Oyez, 1974)
  • Harps (Oyez, 1975)
  • Six (Black Sparrow, 1976)
  • Arrows: Selected Poetry, 1957-1992 (Black Sparrow Press, 1994)
  • No Eyes: Lester Young, (Black Sparrow, 2000)
  • David's Copy, (Penguin Group Press, 2005)
  • When I Was a Poet," (City Lights, June 2011) ISBN 978-0-87286-516-7
  • Two-Way Mirror City Lights ISBN 0872866505


  • The Agency Trilogy (Brandon House, 1968; reprinted by Richard Kasak, 1994)
  • Orf (Brandon House, 1968; reprinted by Masquerade Books, 1995),
  • Lovely (Essex House, 1969)
  • The Martyr (Essex House, 1969)
  • Under (Rhinoceros Books, 1997)


  • Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook (Oyez, 1977).
  • Two-Way Mirror: A Poetry Notebook (City Lights, 2015)


  • The Secret Garden: An Anthology in the Kabbalah (Continuum Press, 1976; reprinted, Station Hill Press, 1998)
  • Birth: Anthology of Ancients Texts, Songs, Prayers, and Stories (North Point Press, 1981)
  • Death: Anthology of Texts, Songs, Charms, Prayers, and Tales (North Point Press, 1984)
  • Reading Jazz (Mercury House, 1996)
  • Writing Jazz (Mercury House, 1999)
  • San Francisco Beat: Talking With the Poets (City Lights, 2001)


The Serpent Power

  • Serpent Power (Vanguard Records, 1968)

Tina & David Meltzer

  • Poet Song (Vanguard Records, 1969).
  • Green Morning (RD Records, 1998 (recorded c1970)).[7]

The Serpent Power/Tina & David Meltzer

  • Serpent Power/Poet Song (reissue, Comet/Akarma Records, 1996).

Melzer, Rogers & Stewart (David Meltzer, Julie Rogers and Zan Stewart)

  • Two Tone (Poetry and Jazz) (self pressing, 2016).[8]


  1. ^ quoted in the back-cover blurb in the Penguin Selected Poems from 2005, David's Copy
  2. ^ “Writers and Editors War Tax Protest” January 30, 1968 New York Post
  3. ^ "Poetry Flash Reading Series". Poetry Flash. [permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Biography of David Meltzer". City Lights. Retrieved 2017-01-02. 
  5. ^ "David Meltzer". Poetry Foundation. January 1, 2017. Retrieved 2017-01-02. 
  6. ^ McMurtrie, John (January 2, 2017). "David Meltzer, Beat Generation poet and musician, dies at 79". San Francisco Chronicle. Retrieved 2017-01-02. 
  7. ^ "Tina and David - Green Morning". meltzerville.com. Retrieved 2017-01-02. 
  8. ^ "Here's how to get your very own copy of "Two-Tone - Poetry & Jazz"". meltzerville.com. Retrieved 2017-01-02. 

External links[edit]