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Rene Ricard [see all titles]
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Rachel Valinsky
(excerpt, p. 13-15)

In 1980, the Dia Art Foundation, founded six years prior by Philippa de Menil, Heiner Friedrich, and Helen Winkler, published its first volume of poetry. The “poetry series” saw its rise and fall with Rene Ricard's provocative collection, Rene Ricard, 1979–1980. The book—this book—is a testament to that moment of intersection between a young arts institution and the flaming poems of a young Rene, making his way through the social, literary, and art worlds of New York. The singularity of his voice—the voice of a vigorous and vulnerable author, writing with raw energy of his lovers, enemies, and desire for revenge, of his fatigue of the rich, his sorrows, his social woes, and his absolute presence of being—resounds forcefully today still.

The story is often recounted that Rene left a more than troubled family upbringing and a sexually and socially exhausted Boston behind to make his way to the doorstep of Andy Warhol's Factory in New York. The press release disseminated when the book was published repeats this narrative, emphasizing the precarity of these poems and their emergence in the world: “It is very easy to think that Rene Ricard might have been lost to us, that the depths of an amphetamine culture or the heights of pop art society might have all missed him had he not thrown himself forward in our time—in 1965 to be exact—a young, very lean, very shy teenager who hitchhiked from Boston to New York wanting to meet with all the beautiful people he had read about in the newspapers and art magazines.”

He developed a close friendship with the poet, editor, photographer, and Warhol Screen Test collaborator Gerard Malanga, who would ultimately be engaged by the Dia Foundation to steward the editorial process of Rene's publication. This process, as a conversation with Malanga, and research in his papers at the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University reveal, would prove trying, even painstaking at times. Rene's famously itinerant and lively social life (he often stayed at friends' houses, while later in his life, his Chelsea Hotel room largely served as storage) incurred delays in editing and design at key stages. He tended to scatter and lose poems, for instance, making Malanga's work of collecting, safeguarding, and editing them essential (in this task, over the years, he has not been alone). Rene was uncompromising on the book's design. Recall that iconic Tiffany blue cover, perfectly analogous to the jeweler's catalogue, down to the lamination: “Any departure from the Tiffany catalogue prototype would be a liability” instructs Malanga to the designer, Bruce Chandler, in a letter dated March 27, 1979. Rene was unreachable when needed. Writes Malanga, in an urgent February 17, 1979 letter to the author: “Rene: This is a last-ditch effort by Eileen [Bresnahan, a friend] and myself to connect with you somehow to give you the last galley-sheets to your mss… Since I am the one with a phone it is your responsibility to put yourself in touch with me… WHERE ARE YOU!!!!?”