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Designs For/On Ahti

When I was a graduate student in English at the University of Connecticut, I met a group of fans of the psychologist Carl Jung. The group included Charles Boer, poet and eventual literary executor of Charles Olson’s manuscripts; John Cech, who went on to write a series of wonderful children’s books; Charlie Brover, political activist; Merry Prankster; and John Lobb, a sophisticated émigré from New Zealand.

Almost by osmosis, I picked up on the importance of dreams and their meaning. One night, I had a vivid dream about being visited by a half-demonic muse figure who announced herself as Ahti. I wrote a series of poems based on the dream. One of them earned me the Wallace Stevens Poetry Award, given to me by Robert Lowell in 1967.

In a course in Greek Mythology, I soon learned that there is a figure named Até, the goddess of mischief, delusion, folly, and ruin. I wondered if I had just misspelled her name. I never was a good speller, so I tried to appease both Ahti and Até.

A few years later, Robert Stimolo, a good friend from graduate school, contacted me in Philadelphia about publishing a book of poems. He remembered “First Attempt at Invocation,” the prize-winning poem, and wondered if I had enough poems like that to make a book. Between the poems I had written in Storrs and some new ones I had been writing in Philadelphia, I put together a 30-page manuscript that was published by Stimolo’s Blanchard Press in 1971. The introduction was written by the poet James Scully, with whom I had studied at UConn.

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