Poet, author and performer PETER RABBIT passed away peacefully at his home in Taos, New Mexico, on Saturday morning, October 27, 2012.
Writing and performing since his teens, Rabbit’s voice was heard in American poetry and communitarian movements for over six decades. He performed and lectured at universities, museums, bars, strip clubs, coffee shops and bookstores all over the U.S. and Canada, including the Corcoran National Gallery, Chicago Art Institute, Colombia University, University of Massachusetts, University of Toronto, Cooper Union, Peoples Poetry Gathering, Bumbershoot Festival, Colorado College, Southern Illinois University, Colorado College, Oklahoma State University, University of Kansas, Washington University, Cranbrook Academy, Missouri State University, Western Michigan University, Ft. Worth Art Museum, Albuquerque Art Museum, University of New Mexico and others.
As a founding light of the commune movement in the mid-60s, he was instrumental in the establishment of the intentional communities of New Buffalo, Drop City South, Tawapa and the Lama Foundation, and co-founded Libre, the artists’ commune in Colorado.
He authored six books of poetry and nonfiction and numerous essays. His memoir Drop City (Olympia Press 1971), styled as a folktale, is an underground classic. It covers his participation in the Southwest’s first commune, the art colony located outside of Trinidad, Colorado, that received Bucky Fuller’s Dymaxion Award in 1966 “for poetically economic structural achievement.”
Rabbit wanted to be remembered as the Don King of poetry. Relentlessly promoting poets and their work since the 1950s, he co-founded the Taos Poetry Circus, S.O.M.O.S., Minor Heron and the World Poetry Bout Association. He was involved with Grouper Press, the International Poetry Bout Association, Lucid Performance and the creation of numerous “poetry bouts.”
Born Peter Lawton Douthit on October 8, 1936, in Bradford, near the oil region of Pennsylvania at the end of the Great Depression, he attended high school in Owensboro, Kentucky, on the Ohio River. He took courses in numerous colleges including Wabash College, University of Kentucky, Texas Wesleyan College and North Texas State University, studying writing and literature, but never completed a degree.
He studied poetry with Charles Olson at Black Mountain College, performed at the legendary Five Spot in New York and continued a poetry/jazz tradition that began in the 1940s and flourished in the Beat era of the ‘50s. Rabbit first lived in Taos in 1954 along with poets and writers of that time, Ed Abbey, Frank Waters, Judson Crews, Richard Duerden, and Max Finstein.
With his wife and partner, poet and performer Anne MacNaughton, he founded the jazz/poetry ensemble The Luminous Animal in the early 80s and could be seen in his role as Master of Ceremonies at World Heavyweight Championship Poetry Bouts during that event’s two-decade run.
Over the years he lectured and published on alternate lifestyles, expanded states of consciousness, and appropriate technology and architecture. In 1972 he served as a technical advisor to Congress’ National Commission on Marihuana and Drug Abuse.
He worked as book review editor for the Ft Worth Star Telegram, travel writer for the St. Petersburg Times, and hosted a poetry show on local radio. His work has appeared in numerous anthologies, periodicals and small magazines, including The Olympia Reader, Thus Spake the Corpse, City Lights Journal, Art in America, Architectural Design, Shelter, The Whole Earth Catalogue, Foot, Wordworks, The Exquisite Corpse and many more.
In addition to his work as a poet, author and community innovator, he was a was a merchant seaman, commercial fisherman, head chef, food and beverage manager, fundraiser, teacher, tutor, substance abuse counselor, house parent, census enumerator, organic farmer, bartender, book store clerk, motel desk clerk, pig farmer, horticulturist, an ordained bishop in the Universal Life Church, and much more. He had lived in the rural Southwest a long time and knew well how to do whatever it took to make a living.
Taos Poetry Circus: The Nineties (essay) (Pennywhistle, 2001) prose
Ornithology (Minor Heron Press, 1984) poetry
Drop City (Olympia Press, 1971) prose
Recognitions (Grouper Press, 1965) poetry
Dance Sequences (Grouper Press, 1964) poetry, fine art print series
With a Bone in Her Teeth (chapbook, Iceman's Press, 1963) poetry
Mastodon (Jargon, 1955) poetry