The poet JACK SPICER was born in Hollywood, California. Most often identified with “the San Francisco Renaissance,” he is associated with other poets of the era like Robin Blaser and Robert Duncan.and studied Old Norse, Anglo-Saxon, and German to prepare for a career in linguistics. This putative career was blighted by Spicer’s refusal to sign the ‘Loyalty Oath’, a legal provision that required all California state employees (including graduate teaching assistants at Berkeley) to swear loyalty to the United States.
Although writing and living in the middle of the Beat movement, Spicer and Duncan stood oddly set apart from it, maintaining an approach to poetry and art that wedded aesthetics to intellect. Spicer’s relations with his Gay contemporaries Allen Ginsberg and Frank O’Hara remained antagonistic: Ginsberg was too ‘populist’; O’Hara a superficial versifier.
The lyric beauty, intellectual power, and formal invention of Spicer’s poetry attracted a core of disciples who met in the North Beach bars and the San Francisco parks he favored. The open homosexuality of his core group, the ‘Spicer Circle’, resulted in the marginalization of some of the most moving love poetry produced in this century.