Book Pages: 280 Illustrations: Published: September 2018

American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Poetry

Fiftieth Anniversary Edition

"Gunslinger is a fundamental American masterpiece."---Thomas McGuane

This fiftieth anniversary edition commemorates Edward Dorn’s masterpiece, Gunslinger, a comic, anti-epic critique of American capitalism that still resonates today. Set in the American West, the Gunslinger, his talking horse Claude Lévi-Strauss, a saloon madam named Lil, and the narrator called “I” set out in search of the billionaire Howard Hughes. As they travel along the Rio Grande to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico, and finally on to Colorado, they are joined by a whole host of colorful characters: Dr. Jean Flamboyant, Kool Everything, and Taco Desoxin and his partner Tonto Pronto. During their adventures and hijinks, as captured in Dorn’s multilayered, absurd, and postmodern voice, they joke and smoke their way through debates about the meaning of existence. Put simply, Gunslinger is an American classic.

In a new foreword Marjorie Perloff discusses Gunslinger's continued relevance to contemporary politics. This new edition also includes a critical essay by Michael Davidson and Charles Olson’s idiosyncratic “Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn,” which he wrote to provide guidance for Dorn's study of, and writing about, the American West.


“[Gunslinger] is altogether a brilliant and strange performance, with no true parallels in American poetry, at least up until then. . . . If it's not the major 20th-century long poem a number of serious critics claim it to be . . . it's the work of a brilliant, wildly original, very funny poet firing on all cylinders.” — August Kleinzahler, New York Times Book Review

“There is nothing else like it in poetry.” — Publishers Weekly

“A dramatic poem of the first order for our day.” — Andrew Hoyem, Poetry

“One of the major North American long poems.” — Tom Raworth, The Independent

Gunslinger is perhaps the strangest long poem of the last half-century: a quest myth wrapped around an acid-inspired western comic strip adventure in which a gunslinger, astride a drug-taking, talking horse called Levi-Strauss, searches for Howard Hughes.” — Patrick McGuinness, The Guardian

“An essential piece of American literature, already, and the further we descend into an age of circuses without bread, the more poignant will be our Slinger’s aim on the true heart of the West.” — Matthew Sirois, New York Journal of Books

"If poetry is news that stays news, Gunslinger tells you what the news feels like when language has lost all grip on reality, 'like trying to read a newspaper/from nothing but the ink poured into your ear.' If poetry tends to find its own moment, then Dorn may finally be due his." — Andre Naffis-Sahely, Poetry

“This is a jokey poem, high-spirited and good-tempered, carried forward on a steadily inventive play of puns and pleasantries.” — Donald Davie

Gunslinger is perhaps the most important poem of the last half of the twentieth century.” — James K. Elmborg

Slinger is a swiftly rendered torrent of metaphors about this place. Its identity, its fakery, its malice. Slinger is a whole questioning of every part of ourselves. From that early winsome lyricism about the West, Dorn has constructed a grand anti-lyric about the West of our fantasy and of its own reality.” — Amiri Baraka

“Let me be among those who acclaim Gunslinger as one of the poems of the era, of the one we are going into, or the era Gunslinger begins to create for us.” — Robert Duncan

“An important turning point in American poetry.” — Marjorie Perloff, from the Introduction

“An immense bundle of swift-moving fun from the beginning. . . . But the underlying spirit of it is immensely entrepreneurial and buccaneering and disrespectful and altogether a kind of advanced parody of the whole business of episodic serial writing (the fabular and fabulous in the fable). The entire American adventure is laid out there with great wit and humour.” — J. H. Prynne


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Edward Dorn (1929–1999) was one of the original voices of his generation. Often associated with the Black Mountain poets, Dorn was the author of more than forty books of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Foreword. On the Fiftieth Anniversary of Ed Dorn's Gunslinger / Marjorie Perloff  viii
Introduction / Marjorie Perloff  xiii
Gunslinger / Edward Dorn
Book I  1
Book II  43
The Cycle  87
Book III 111
Book IIII  143
To Eliminate the Draw: Edward Dorn's Gunslinger / Michael Davidson  203
A Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn / Charles Olson
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Paper ISBN: 978-1-4780-0085-3 / Cloth ISBN: 978-1-4780-0063-1
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