David Meltzer, a Beat poet and musician who appeared in an influential anthology in his early 20s and went on to complete more than 50 books, has died. He was 79.
Meltzer died last Saturday (Jan. 7) after suffering a stroke. His wife, Julie Rogers, says he died at their home in Oakland, Calif.
The New York-native eventually settled in the San Francisco Bay Area, a mecca for Beats in the 1950s and ’60s. Meltzer had begun writing as a child and attracted wider attention when he was featured along with such acclaimed contemporaries as Allen Ginsberg and John Ashbery in The New American Poetry 1945-1960. He would publish prose and poetry steadily over the following decades, with books including Ragas and Luna and such recent works as When I Was a Poet and Two-Way-Mirror. A retrospective of his verse, David’s Copy: The Selected Poems of David Meltzer, came out in 2005.
Meltzer had many talents. He made radio and TV appearances as a boy and worked extensively in music. Like Ginsberg and other Beats, Meltzer had an affinity for jazz and collaborated with jazz musicians in the 1950s on an album released decades later, David Meltzer: Poet with Jazz 1958. He was a songwriter and guitarist himself and recorded and performed with his first wife, the singer Tina Meltzer, in the 1960s.
Meltzer taught for decades at the San Francisco-based New College of California and was on the board of the Before Columbus Foundation, which promotes multicultural literature. Rogers says he continued to write almost to the end of his life.
He is survived by Rogers and by four children from his first marriage: Amanda, Jennifer, Margaret and Adam.