Friday, June 29, 2007



Making Faulkner and Rabelais my wrasslin’ kin (all summer), odd couple, trying to keep to a reading of each (finish’d Soldier’s Pay, Faulkner’s first publish’d (1926), though apparently Mosquitoes got written first: how’d he know to do all that “Voices: The Town” stuff (Greek chorus-like) in Chapter Seven, and the clockwork itinerary of the prowling about used and reject’d lover George Farr in Chapter Six—“Nine thirty. People sat on porches rocking . . . Ten. Dew on the grass, dew on small unpickable roses, making them sweeter, giving them an odor. . . . Ten thirty. Rocking blurs on porches rose and went indoors . . .”—how he know that? How’d he know to mock the tediousness of Henry James? Answer: a friend’d sent him a copy of Ulysses in 1924.) (The Rabelais stall’d at Chapter XIV: “How Gargantua Was Taught Latin by a Sophister.” Imminently plungeable into—at the scarcest moment’s notice it is. Doctor’s waiting room material, design’d for a flatulence-letting-off laugh.)

I think of all that (what I’m reading) after thumbing around (again) in Bill Berkson and Bernadette Mayer’s What’s Your Idea of a Good Time? Letters and Interviews 1977-1985 (Tuumba, 2006). Thinking, still, about second-generation New York School “characters” and the writing of criticism, that way kin-writers spell out (for one another, for the benefit of an eventual, though rightfully unanticipated “public”) the terms of reading new work. Thinking how that work—for that bunch—could’ve occur’d “privately” (today, “backchannel” is where the illimitable thrashings-out go down—no need for a public hoohah, that’s for marketeers, careerists, puffery-dogs, narcissists, and that ilk). Thinking about all that and thumbing along (I’d earlier try’d to ensconce myself in some Serge Gavronsky-initiated interviews with French writers—to no avail (I long to make that entymological kin to avaler, to swallow, rather than valoir, to be of value)—there’s something terribly, uh, banal about so much of contemporary French poetry—Claude Royet-Journoud saying, “My own work is a very platitude, a simple thing, the most banal sentence. . . . I play on minimal units of meaning . . . I work more in these minimal units of meaning than in larger elements, and that’s banal . . . I never use capital letters along the left since that’s too easy a way to make something pass for a ‘poem’ . . . the line has a number of constraints, the first and most obvious being the absence of capital letters. The other constraint, perhaps more delicate in nature, is the avoidance of assonance, alliteration, metaphor, everything that usually represents struggle within a poem.”)

Bill Berkson answering Bernadette Mayer’s question, What poet knows best how to structure lines and what prose writer sentences?
Dante’s crystalline triads look incredible to me but I can’t always hear the Italian. In English, Campion of course is an inspiration, and next comes Wyatt, and for variousness Shakespeare and Keats. In American, Frank O’Hara’s lines and some of Edwin’s seem closest to actual feeling / sensation realism, and I am often amazed at how faultless John Ashbery’s really are (what a perfect rhetorician he is). When I think of clarity of line there’s Emily Dickinson and, oddly enough, Robert Graves. Unfortunately, none of these good examples is really a help. I don’t understand the structuring of lines in principle one bit. As for prose, well, the old English stylists (Thomas Browne, Milton, Burton), they’re a riot. I like Whitman’s prose and Stein’s when she’s got her eye on the subject. I’ve been reading Ben Jonson, Timber, and love what he says about sentences, especially short ones. I think sentences are easy just like single lines but paragraphs are the real test (Kerouac). Notice I haven’t mentioned Henry James but since The Golden Bowl was dictated, it’s mainly a collection of phrases, many beautiful.
Like a little breeze amongst the succulents. Why’d anybody aim for any kind of “critical” writing besides that—personal, point’d (naming names), ranging widely. Anti-“thesis.” Sinking a nudge (nugget) in its midst: Robert Graves for clarity? The kind of thing that compels one to rush off into the Graves for a look. Or that Kerouac (I’d “of” thought Stein) about the paragraph. Or that “Herr Diktat” James story. Or what’s Timber? Maybe it’s a predilection for an “explosive” critical hitch—one that refuses a burrowing in, a gnawing away, that analytic “murder to dissect” one, or, equally stingy, one that harrows and categories, that sort of delimiting, “always putting things away, like someone just hired to tidy up”—in lieu of a move that forces one’s reach ever wider in the world, references worn lightly, shrugged off easily.

Here’s a Robert Graves of 1918:
The Patchwork Quilt

Here is this patchwork quilt I’ve made
Of patterned silks and old brocade,
Small faded rags in memory rich
Sewn each to each with feather stitch,
But if you stare aghast perhaps
At certain muddied khaki scraps
Or trophy-fragments of field grey,
Clotted and torn, a grim display
That never decked white sheets before,
Blame my dazed head, blame bloody war.
Which moves with grace, particularly in the second half, after the hiccup of “memory rich”—what I like most: that internal “aghast” / “khaki” rhyme. Fluidity, “naturalness,” clarity? Yeah, I’d say so.

Bernadette Mayer, Robert Graves, and Bill Berkson

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Light & Shade

A Window

After—in my late “pull” back into the gaudeamus igitur juvenes dum sumus’d realms of the New York School (maybe a school never exists except in the guise (guys) of its epigones—that is, its “second generation”—so that it is nonsense to talk of it before that bunch arrives, or after it’s depart’d into pure (empty) watery dispersal) scouting around (“nostalgia is a fit”) in my copy of Tom Clark’s Stones, I think to examine the 2006 Light & Shade: New and Selected Poems. (My attention to Clark & Co., post-initial gassy enamor, turn’d elsewhere—or simply went wider and shallower—though I do spot a copy of a previous “selected,” the 1984 Paradise Resisted in the shelves—point being, there’s a lot that’s new here. To me, that is, though by the heft of the final parcel mark’d “1995-2005,” I’d bet “to others,” too.) Late poems of a kind of stateliness and sure-handedness, seemingly effortless, capable of gathering in whatever’s there, and of tackling the Big Topics without undue ardor, or smarm. Here’s “Prolepsis”:
Melodious liquid warble in the plum
Tree tells the sinking year how to feel
Its recession into grief as if a thorn
Poked a nester in an old wounded heart
Of stone from which slowly drips recognition
All breathing passion far above
These days atonal as white noise
Through bare branches cotton clouds drift by
Last yellowed leaves catch lone rays of sun
Going down into the motherless ocean
A light plane buzzes off toward brown hills
As shade drops over the next urban plot
To prepare the air for what the dead don’t know
How swiftly we are coming to join them
A sonnet. I like its measured unstoppable forward thrust, “swiftly,” its momentum, and the balancing acts of its line-ending turns, that “plum” first itself, a noun, juicy, “liquid,” and only becoming a modifier, adjectival, “plum / Tree” by the occasion of the continuing—all the way to the final “join.” It’s a sort of stagger step in the anticipating, makes for a curiously wound’d kind of advance, perfectly human, with a tenderness toward our fraught, human, too short lives. (A tenderness lacking in much of today’s poetry norteamericano, too consumed as it it with eating itself out with terminal irony and showboating.) Prolepsis: (overly fond am I of this, out of a 1550 grammar: “a takynge before, or generall speakynge of those thynges which afterwardes be declared more perticulerlye”), a fine anticipatory rhetorical move to a certain finish.

Another sonnet—in a tiny string in Light & Shade—titled “Elegy”:
It’s a pity we have to suffer
The bluejay said to me with a wink
If any part of the body be cut off
No part of the soul perishes but
Is sucked into that soul that remains
In that which remains of the body
These aren’t tears anyway just eye gunk
And you’ve always taught me to be brave
As the last kindly rays of February
Sun warm bare ruined plum tree choirs
And light them up with a gaggle of buds
From which a few white blossoms are just
Starting to pop open as traffic hums
And in this moment there is nothing lost
That talking bluejay (barely cartoonish, in spite of the “wink”) could’ve stepped out of an A. R. Ammons poem with its high folksy philosophical yak about the fate of soul and body. That nod to the “bare ruin’d choirs” of Shakespeare (always, since “The Waste Land,” an Eliotic echo in there “shored against my ruins”) is put up against what sounds like a typical O’Hara line, the kindly and brave and self-deprecating, “These aren’t tears anyway just eye gunk”—that arrangement is obviously wiling to use all the tools in the kit bag available, refuses to stoop to parochialisms, schools, communities, gaggles. What “Elegy” does—in an “era” wherein one’s antennae register innumerable screechings about the “death of the lyric,” or its exhaustion, its inadmissibility, its various ruses—what it does, is flaunt its lyricism with its epiphanic proclamation of a final line: “in this moment there is nothing lost.” Epiphany being a return (“spiritual and alert”) to the present, a spike of clarity, sudden wholeness, as large a part of the processual “order” as any other. In a sense, the poem rhymes with the earliest poem in the book, “Like musical instruments . . .”: “You feel like / / You’ll never feel like touching anything or anyone / Again / And then you do.”

Elsewhere, what I find remarkable in thumbing around in Light & Shade is Clark’s keenness (fearlessness) to use the demotic, the occasional, the liable-to-date (an Ammonsesque trait, again, and B-side to the willingness to hunt down the Big). I think of “Superballs” (“the trademark / Gives the name of a noted maker of balls”), a poem that had to’ve been written within, oh, hours, of the marketing of the Super Ball (Wham-O, 1965, invent’d by chemist Norman Stingley). Phrases, words out of the journalese newstube youthspeak corporate-glom-TV’d wilderness: “getaway package,” “cardboard package containers,” “kissoff note,” “pyrex lid,” “chicks galore,” “bungee cable jumper,” “foodstuffs,” “uncertainty factor,” “cognitive disconnection,” “Easy Street,” “acrylic colors,” “jello mold.” It’s language that is newish, “unpoetic,” everyday, overlook’d. (Ron Silliman uses it too—and noted with approval recently how Linh Dinh’d used “scrunchie”—exactly the kind of thing I’m thinking of.) (A second train’s now pulling into the station: how non-native speakers might be more prone to use (see) such words—I think of Andrei Codrescu’s poems, I think of Nabokov’s delight in product names, signage, etc. The pencil sharpener saying Ticonderoga Ticonderoga Ticonderoga as it chews up a pencil of that brand . . .)

“In the third New Zealand Grand Prix, in 1956, Tom Clark, behind the wheel of a Maserati, lost control and slammed into some hay bales after spinning out at College Corner.”

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Painter Among Poets


Under the Pepsi- and weather-hue’d weather of the New York School (out, that is, temporarily, of the Vernor’s-color’d acid sky of Detroit et ses environs “flying like a bird”), the factoids of the tabloids prattle by with high jaunty beneficence: and there’s a certain imbecilic gustatory delight in noting that the first breeder of golden retrievers (circa 1880) was one Lord Tweedmouth. Enough materiel there for an honest-to-God poem “in some circles.” “Loaded with pure sensibility.”

(I got no credentials for writing about the New York School: it’s only today that I discover’d that George Schneeman and Carolee Schneeman were not a couple, gasping “Meat! Air! Joy!” at my deliverance from my misapprehension. A mistake of nearly forty years durance.) What plummet’d that particular enregistrement in my tow-head’dness: getting a copy of the Ron Padgett-edited Painter Among Poets: The Collaborative Art of George Schneeman (Granary Books, 2004) in my grublike fingers. The reason for the “need”—learning that Schneeman’d been a pal of Charles Wright’s (and Harold Schimmel’s) in Italy, in the Army, in the late ’fifties. Schneeman who’d been doing “graduate work in literature at the University of Minnesota” before joining up. Apparently Peter Schjeldahl met Schneeman in Italy (1965). Padgett visit’d him later, and together they encouraged him to move to New York City. (Fictioneer Steve Katz is also in Italy in the early ’sixties—friend of Schneeman, who’ll later do a cover for Katz’s Cheyenne River Wild Track (Ithaca House, 1973) , the book of marijuana-tinged poems about “making movies on the Cheyenne / River Sioux Reservation”—“each sunset is a motherfucker”). One wonders: what if Wright’d follow’d—end’d up on the Lower East Side rather than in Iowa City? Where’s the connection between Wright’s splay’d parti-splotch’d narratives, and Schneeman’s collage’d whats?

Carter Ratcliff, on Schneeman’s collaborations with writers—shortly after making the (perhaps too strident) distinction between writerly collaborations (“O’Hara, Koch, and Ashbery would begin a collaboration by stipulating rules, often a list of wildly incompatible themes that had to be worked into each line”) and the unemphatic Schneeman collaborations (“completely unregulated . . . they were carried out in free-flowing situations where art and poetry were only part of what was going on.”):
. . .it’s clear that Schneeman and his collaborators were never constrained by any standard of quality, pictorial or poetic. As for thematic coherence, they usually sought its opposite, and in matter of style they were all over the place—out in left field, up in the nickel seats, and at home on the high road of New York School refinement. Far from trying to control meaning, they encouraged it to wander in whatever direction anyone wanted to take it.
Lack of coherence and “control,” though, is not the same as making a mess. Thinking of New York School art—including Joe Brainard’s collage and drawings and layerings, too—what seems the predominant “syntax” is hard-edged, floating, word-ripe montage (as opposed to smeary indistinguishibles). Clarity—even in a drifting discourse. Object weight’d.

Which may—in its vasty wash of discrete particulars—be liken’d to Charles Wright’s longer pieces—Zone Journals, say, or the recent Littlefoot. Check off the particular points (images) in a single movement (# 32) of Littlefoot. “Backyard,” “the acid bath / —Hemlocks and hedgerows—“ “Pipistrello,” “gun of motorcycles,” “V of geese,” a Flatt & Scruggs gospel song, “the face of my saviour,” Pound’s paradise, Dante’s “real,” “a nineteenth-century negative,” a black dog with “orange, rectangular breath,” “dead deer in Montana,” “Raven meat-squawks.” That’s in a page and a half. Tight, hard-edged, syntactically abrupt. It’s not urban, it’s not “pop” (except, possibly, for the dog with orange breath)—however, one could argue its mode of “argumentation” fits Ratcliff’s of Schneeman and collaborators—a miscellany of its occasion.

Schneeman, in conversation with Padgett, strikes one as direct, sometimes tentative, a man of few words
Ron: So do you think your collaborations with poets has something to do with that literary background?

George: I suppose.
The sense of collage as the making / finding of relation (with all that that implies—metaphor, scale, juxtaposition) that Schneeman details, however, is essentially literary:
. . . the collages are in a sense found objects, and I consider myself an engineer, first finding the right materials—I’m choosy about the materials I use—and then moving those pieces of paper around in the hope that I will find two that go together and create a surprising third thing. It’s like panning for gold.
(Thinking, an Earl Scruggs song and the pipistrelle (bats) high in the night sky over Verona—right materials, unmerged, but placed next to one another with care.) Elsewhere, Schneeman talks of “juggling”—a preponderance of materials, fraught demands of a moment, moving quickly, several “works” going at once. (Thinking of seeing Charles Wright’s notebooks—lines, once “used,” cross-hatch’d out in green ink—another piece of the word-hoard glue’d down, having found its place, irretrievable.) Too, there’s Schneeman’s sharp assessment of Ted Berrigan:
. . . take Ted’s aesthetics: he bullied his way into art. At first I found him quite amazing. Everything about him didn’t fit into anything I had ever imagined! But it turned out we had a lot in common: Catholic guys, the same age, army experience, married, children. But in terms of art, he was very constructive. That is, he saw art and writing as the building of something. Also he was very good at capitalizing on his mistakes—that is, he didn’t think “mistakes” existed. I’ve tried to adopt that from him. It’s a good lesson to learn. Vapidness is the only mistake.

Off to “Moses / supposes / ’s toeses / ’re roses, / Moses / supposes / erroneously . . .”

Ron Padgett and George Schneeman, Two out of Yodeling into a Kotex, 1969

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

In France and America

Scaffold and Bucket

Why is it everywhere writ that one must shun excess? (“. . . you’ve seen a lot of anemones, too / haven’t you, Old Paint?”) Which’d only burden one with the miasmas of fleabane, even if you’re hopping mad, or madly scratching. (“Fear empty pleasure like a mousetrap bait.”) Monday evenings, Tuesday mornings—something of the falling back down into the week’s rhythm: I fret, I make it permissible to fret. Implausible songs ricochet amongst the soft petroglyph’d boulders under my skull’s cavernous vault: “a long cool vindt.”

Leafing through Tom Clark’s Stones wherein I first gander’d the word “akimbo” (I love that word) and “thunderous accordion April” (related to Ted Berrigan’s “usual aggressive / contrary”)—more of the adjectival pile-ups, rhythmic assaults, “excessive votary re-pluggable.” And how nutty it is making one—to see how riotously one clad one’s “own” “works” (“The Complete Works” Padgett or Clark?) exactly aux couleurs de l’été Indien, that pop-ironic mawkishness and goof of the “era” and its most savvy (“fun”) “personnel.” If I look at Clark’s poem titled “Going to School in France and America,” its chain of replacements, its Hoovering away at the obvious (including the obvious “moral” at the end), the way—finish’d with its entertainment “portion” (as we were beginning to learn to say, the hard implacable nose of television having finally completely pierced our national “consciousness”)—finish’d, it turns—the way a poem must!—to instructional “values,” and manages a spectacular return, a unifying roundness, “indomitable, literary and correct!” Look:
Drugs are a tuition,
and tuition is teaching,
but in French tuer is to kill,
and so in France drugs are killing

What does it mean to “make a killing”?
It means to make money,
and money is a means
to certain kinds of killing,

as for instance dropping millions of pennies
on someone from a helicopter.
Money can also be used to buy drugs, helicopters,
or to pay for your tuition,

but money, drugs, and killing
are not the sort of pursuits
a person should pursue with his tuition
if he is a student in France or America.
And look at it I do, and did, circa 1970 or so, and wrote—Clark-genuflecting rather obviously, “Basketball in France and America”:
Je suis un hôtel muttering
a steady slap through these stark,
rain-slick streets like the skin
of a giant basketball lost
years before. Some kid back home
keeps the bounce and the sphere
of air that no longer fits me
so like an innertube of dreams! In
church Sundays he practices dribbling it
between skinny legs that spraddle the pew
and tries to palm it like Wilt the Stilt
on the TV. No one sees him.

Living in New York, staying drunk
and sharp like a star
shining up out of warm beer,
I shoot and stuff ’em in off
asphalt till dark, shuffle home
against night like the shell
of some old house, every voice it
ever heard jostling about inside me
like silverware sliding across
a long drawer yanked open.

Oh this heinous retrievable chatter!
Oh forks and spoons! Oh shut up!

I live a different life now.
I grumble and fume like a plumber
who learned the trade before running
water. I begin to rise into the air
like a fish. It’s OK
being the twentieth century etc. etc.
You’re beginning to look lived in you claim.
Wherein, in royal spite of that nonsense about the plumbing, I did manage to torque (let’s just say “wrench,” shall we?) the thing back to its origin in faux-French hostelry. A clean sweep—as one says of any “series.”

Reminding me of another thing Ron Horning point’d at: a New York Times (31 March 1968) review (written by Tom Clark) of Berrigan and Padgett’s Bean Spasms, Giorno’s Poems (Mother Press), Philip Lamantia’s Selected Poems, 1943-1966 (City Lights), and Ray Bremser’s Angel (Tomkins Square Press). Horning mention’d it in remarking how he figured “the second-generation New York School poets never got the acclaim some of them deserved because they couldn’t be bothered to ‘criticize’ each other’s poetry”—pointing to the Clark piece as one exception. So I dug it out. Here’s what interest’d me in Clark’s talk about Bean Spasms (beyond comparing Berrigan and Padgett to “the Smothers Brothers and ‘It Takes Two’ by Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston”):
Collaboration is the point of the book—not so much the collaboration of the authors together as the collaboration between the authors and various language and literary forms, and other authors. What is collaborated with is the convention or model, standard in the sense a conventional model car is standard. The Italian and French languages are collaborated with, as are the sonnet form and the sestina form, the epigram, the interview, the ideogram, Richard Eberhart and Robert Frost.
(Love that paralleling collapse—“I recall well the day I wrote my first Richard Eberhart.”) After retailing out (for the Connecticut “masses,” the Times readers) the Frost chestnut about rhyme being to poetry what the net is to tennis, Clark spells it out, calling rhyme “a convention producing complexity, difficulty and consequently interest.” He continues:
Taking this ridiculous analogy to its extreme point, we see convention as pure obstacle. Bean Spasms emphasizes the formality of convention to a degree of absolute tedium, which is the same as absolute hilarity.
A terrific formulation of so much of the reckless to-the-hilt mocking energy of that bunch, to play so “exceedingly” by the rules, the rules go haywire, the piece gets going, the work catches fire. Apt explication of the intentional mock-tedium (“village explainer”-style) of “Going to School in France and America.” And of its moronic too-tidy conclusion / lesson.

Morning addenda: Horning’s probably right (“couldn’t be bothered”) about the early period of the second-generation, though later the impetus of the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics—lectures, notes, teaching—may’ve changed that somewhat. Certainly Anne Waldman and Alice Notley’ve writ worthy and pertinent critical work, and there’s Padgett & Co.’s Teachers and Writers Collaborative practicalities.

It’s all Nicolas Boileau’s fault. Or, no, Boileau’s just another (early, French, clever with a sledgehammer style) ape for the claptrap of the conventional and “commonsensical.” He writes things like “I credit clouds when wind produces rains. / A sober, sensate art provides us facts / That eyes and ears believe in, swift, untaxed.” Alexander Pope—that suspect—apparently thought “highly” of him, particularly L’Art poétique (1674). That’s what trigger’d my miasma (“remember my miasma, Larry?”), in a new Burton Raffel (who is not to be confused with Burton Watson) translation:
. . . at last, offended Reason woke,
And said, “Enough of all these ludic folk!
Worthwhile writing can’t be built on scandal.
And yet, the Epigram, though once a vandal,
Can still fit poems, if all its brilliant length
Gives off bright light, shows sense as well as strength.”
And thus a huge disorder passed away,
And garish comics knew they’d had their day,
Insipid wits, inflated stale buffoons,
Whose poems were popped like overblown balloons.
A clever pen can sometimes, with a flick
Of the wrist, seduce a simple word to quick
And nicely witty trifles—but not too much!
Too, comme on dit, much!

Tom Clark, Vence, France, 1966

Monday, June 25, 2007

Berrigan’s Ungaretti

Two Tanks

Things keep me bird-dogging the second-generation New York School coterie, Ted Berrigan in particular—snout to the breeze. Ron Horning—who used to work at the Eighth Street Bookshop and maintains a sharp critical outlook (and knowledge) about that bunch—sent me copies of the two Ted Berrigan “transliterations” of Giuseppe Ungaretti that’d got “discarded” out of Bean Spasms (Kulchur Press, 1967). Whereas in it the poems clump’d together under the title “Life of a Man” lack’d “Tonight” and “Joy of Shipwrecks,” later publications of the sequence (in In the Early Morning Rain (Cape Goliard / Grossman, 1970) and So Going Around Cities (Blue Wind Press, 1980)—though not identical themselves, the latter lacking “Tooting My Horn on Duty” and “Corporal Pellegrini” —both lack’d two short poems: “Long Time No See” and “Que Sera, Sera”). (Chiaro? —Rather lutulent.) Missing, too, out of the Collected. (Probably on the grounds that Berrigan himself’d “reject’d” them by failing to republish them.) Here’s the first:
Long Time No See

Long Time No See Old Pardner
Come over and shake
Hands, Try out my old lady
Homonymically translating (barely) off of Ungaretti’s “Lontano”:
Lontano lontano
come un cieco
m’hanno portato per mano
The veerings off the original here’re both of a cut—a kind of “cowboy” (“Old Pardner”), “one of the boys” clubbishness, that “manly” world of “here’s my shirt off my back” (“Try out my old lady”)—a common enough “stance” in the history of American poetry (not, either, today, wholly forsworn, just less visible, particularly amongst the more “heroic” members of the “avant-garde.”) “Come over and shake / Hands” coming out of a straightforward mix of visual and aural (cieco) clues. For what it’s worth, the Allen Mandelbaum translation of the poem reads:

Distantly distantly
like a blind man
by the hand they led me
Possible that Berrigan pick’d up “hands” out of it, though just as likely that hanno provided it. The other “discarded” poem’s got a smidgen of a similar boyish sexual smarminess:
Que Sera, Sera

And as you took your pants off
Her brother came in bringing some begonias
Que sera, sera
Out of the Ungaretti title’d “Stasera”:
Balaustrata di brezza
per appoggiare la mia malinconia
A looser fit—though in some ways more enticing for all that. That Stasera to “Que Sera, Sera”—is a brash sidestepping recontextualization of “sera”—the kind of gleeful thing one associates with Berrigan, and Padgett, and Clark. Didn’t Tom Clark begin “You (IV)” in Stones (1969) with “Euphoria, yes” or no, that’s how I myself—in a poem with the same name—toss’d down my youngster’d homage to what I’d learn’d off the bunch: proceed by ear, remapping context, and “sillyly.” Clark’s poem begins “the chords knotted together like insane nouns,” though “You (II)” begins “You are bright, tremendous, wow.” (How many other adjectival triumvirates emerged out of O’Hara’s impeccable timing ear? See “democratic and ordinary and tired.” See “feminine, marvelous, and tough.”) “Que Sera, Sera” being that cloying (by the late ’sixties) “hit” for Doris Day, out of Hitchcock’s remake of ’s own “Man Who Knew Too Much,” circa 1956—whatever, “the future is hard to see.”) What’s “enticing” here—in Berrigan’s re-penning of the Ungaretti ditty—is whether or not brezza led to “pants” (by means of, say, “britches”). Somehow I doubt it. It’s more a matter of clinging to the tiniest of threads—the malinconia transfer to “begonia” is “about it” in the evidence department. Mostly it’s Berrigan blasting along in Berrigansville, no? The Mandelbaum version:
This Evening

Balustrade of breeze
where leans my melancholia
this evening
No help, as the croupiers say. Although its succinct though unavailable (hardly and heartily invisible) image is itself of some interest (I am a goner for breeze refs.)

Odd: in my slow unmethodical sleuthing, one thing’d never occur’d to me: two Berrigan versions of a single Ungaretti. Look, though, at Berrigan’s “Tonight”:
Winds in the stratosphere
Apologise to the malcontents
A poem that hews closer to the same Ungaretti. Is “Tonight” a glance at “Evening”? (Disregard’d later, for the smart “Downstairs”—making of the piece a little story of daily urban mediation, space-age style.)

Is it a stretch to argue that Berrigan’s “As Usual” is Ungaretti’s “Eterno”? (Berrigan—a literalist in some sense—rarely proceeds other than line by line, meaning two lines of Ungaretti’ll likely yield two lines of Berrigan.)

Tra un fiore colto e l’altro donato
l’inesprimibile nulla
As Usual

Take off your hat & coat & give me all your money
I have to buy some pills & I’m flat broke
Something brilliant about getting “flat broke” out of nulla and to extract the indispensable “pills” out of l’inesprimibile. Causing me to wonder—it’s tiptoe’d across the brainpan before—if Ron Padgett work’d with (or alongside) Berrigan in composing some of these pieces—Ron Horning did say: “In Bean Spasms, it [“Life of a Man”] rhymes with Padgett’s translation of Reverdy’s Quelques Poemes, Some Bombs”—were they sometimes sounding the poems to one another (Padgett reading Ungaretti in Oklahoma-inflect’d halting Italian?). Something about the syllabic count in l’inesprimibile and “I have to buy some pills &” points that way. The first line seems pinned to colto equaling “coat” (and donato to “donate” or donner—if Berrigan had a little French?—to “give”), though a sequence of fiore to “fedora” to “hat” is “not impossible,” though—quoting Wittgenstein—“not likely.” (The Mandelbaum here, again, seemingly of no account:

Between one flower gathered and the other given
the inexpressible Null
Which goes theological and Big, maybe bigger ’n the original . . .)

Fruit of the two Berrigans out of one Ungaretti—I note now that “Allegria di Naufragi”—source of “Joy of Shipwrecks”—is, too, the basis for Berrigan’s “A Reply to the Fragile”:
If he bites you he’s friendly
If it hurts you
Go away
Don’t give him a fresh try
Unless you have titties
Like a fast horse
Now the come that metamorphosed into “Mayday!” becomes—typical sly joke—“Go away”—and the subito / “torpedo” aural move goes visual subito / “he bites,” while the previously overlook’d superstite provides fodder for the “titties / Like a fast horse.”

I had no intention of being a manic compleatist about Berrigan’s “Life of a Man.” I see now though where two short pieces are versions of Ungaretti poems provided before, and I mention’d earlier the connection between the longer “On the Road Again” and “In Memoria.” So: Berrigan’s “After Breakfast” (I wager) is another version of Ungaretti’s “Eterno” (and puts the kibosh on my claim for Berrigan’s match’d lineation):
Flame & Fury
The colt and the dolt became outlaws

The automobile slew them
Fiore slipping into “Fury,” colto becoming (with obvious satisfaction) “colt,” “dolt” emerging out of a scramble of l’altro donato, “outlaws” part of Berrigan’s personal-use arsenal, and Colt (the gun) and Fury (the horse), “automobile” viddy’d in the bile part of l’inesprimibile, the rest of the word suppress’d, nulla still nothing, a termination (and what happens to “outlaws”): “slew them.” (One tries to imagine—in the cases of two, or several, versions—what’s the order of composition. The difficulty of rejecting (ignoring) one’s own previous decisions, making space for something different.)

The other little one, Berrigan’s “December”:
Brother and sister departed
With apologies to the mother for intercourse
In their hearts.
A stretch based mostly on appoggiare becoming “apologies”: apparently another version (along with “Que Sera Sera” and “Tonight”) of Ungaretti’s “Stasera.” (What’s “December”’s source? “November”: “I will sleep / in my little cup.” Padgett or Clark?)

Here’s Berrigan’s “On the Road Again” with Ungaretti’s “In Memoria”:
He called his Mama
Mohammed Scee-ab

He put his hand on
Her rear to be funny
She killed herself
You can bet no one ever told
His father

He made love to Frances
The talking mule

He’s no sap either
He chopped her head off
So she can’t yell and
He’s plumb vanished

Let’s go with him to Naples
To insult the old priest whose belly
Bulges over his belly-button
Like a piggy
And at number 5 Subnormal Street
We’ll see his sad Victrola

You sap!
If you aren’t turned on by now
It’s your earache!
Out of:
Si chiamava
Moammed Sceab

di emiri di nomadi
perché non aveva più

Amò la Francia
e mutò nome

Fu Marcel
ma non era Francese
e non sapeva più
nella tenda dei suoi
dove si ascolta la cantilena
del Corano
gustando un caffè

E no sapeva
il canto
del suo abbandono

L’ho accompagnato
insieme alla padrona dell’albergo
dove abitavamo
a Parigi
dal numero 5 della rue des Carmes
appassito vicolo in discesa

nel camposanto d’Ivry
sobborgo che pare
in una giornata
di una
decomposta fiera

E forse io solo
so ancora
che visse

fino al mio turno
di morire
Sizeable chunks reject’d by Berrigan, though whether he did so in the midst of the translating—no immediate fire in the paws, move to the next stanza—or in a “revision”—removing what didn’t “fit”—who knows. I like to think the former, processual mewler that I be. So: the fourth, seventh and eighth stanza boot’d. Again, the outlaw lingo (two-cent hoods: “sap,” “He’s plumb vanished”). Prefer’d translations (think of Ezra Pound staring into the interstices of Chinese characters, making out roots, inventing pictures): Parigi (Paris) become “piggy,” sciogliere (its momentary mouth-visciousness) yielding “He chopped her head off,” and di nomadi (of nomads) “to be funny” (whether through “mad” or mere tempo, one cannot say.)

The mystery: where’s the Ungaretti for Berrigan’s “Tobacco”?

A regret: that Berrigan never hunker’d down over Ungaretti’s “Levante” with its lines Picchi di tacchi picchi di mani / e il clarino ghirigori striduli.

Pertinent Faulkner quote (out of Soldier’s Pay): “like Henry James, he attained verisimilitude by means of tediousness.”

Ted Berrigan

Friday, June 22, 2007

Ted Berrigan’s Ear

“Big Head Mode”

I put down Ted Berrigan’s “ear”—though the eye havocs around equally in (what’s loosely call’d) “homophonic” translation—the “beanery” row I be poised to hoe. (I say “beanery” in deference to Mr. Pound—not because I am about to count anything, I am, though, about to get down in the fescue of “the scholarly.” I went off “into the stacks” looking for the mirth-cache’d and plausible minimalism of Signor Ungaretti, particularly Vita d’un uomo, with the aim of outing the particular pieces Berrigan trampoline’d off of in writing some of the smarm-booty in the sequence call’d “Life of a Man” (in the 1970 In the Early Morning Rain, with a hasty sketch by George Schneeman—radiator with steam rising—kicking off the section). (Also in the Collected. According to a note therein, two other pieces in the sequence appear’d originally in Bean Spasms (1967)—“Long Time No See,” and “Que Sera Sera”—“discarded from this second version.” No “collected” ever collects completely.)

Scouting around. Here’s what I decided, probably too quickly. I find no Vita d’un uomo except for a 1969 collected works publish’d by Mondadori under that title. Subtitled Tutte le poesie. (Though, “big” though—I do find evidence of a 1939 French translation (Gallimard) of Vie d’un homme: somewhere—early—Ungaretti must’ve clump’d together a batch under the Vita d’un uomo title.) In 1958, a loose collective of publishers (Hamish Hamilton, New Directions, and Scheiwiller [Milan]) publish’d a (bilingual) book titled Life of a Man, “a version with introduction” by Allen Mandelbaum (subsequently known for ’s Dante translations). I suspect Berrigan cribbed out of a copy of that.

Here’s what I found. Out of Ungaretti’s “Allegria di Naufragi”—
E subito riprende
il viaggio
dopo il naufragio
un superstite
lupo di mare
Berrigan makes “Joy of Shipwrecks”:
The torpedo was friendly
it buggered us


The climax came later
In the water
Near a sea-horse
Come (“like” or “as”) becomes “Come!” becomes “Mayday!” (distress signal international). Subito to “torpedo” and riprende to “friendly”—broker’d by a slant ear. Viaggio to “buggered”—viddying the double gg’s. How much cross-glancing is going down? —Lots. (Though post-“buggered” and comic “Mayday!” Berrigan “goes off by himself”—indelicate phrase—and is almost obliged to pull “climax” out of a hat. The sappy-pathos of “Near a sea-horse” is undoubtedly then just commonsensical, postlude to comedy. Here’s the facing page translation by Mandelbaum:
Joy of Shipwrecks

And instantly resumes
the voyage
after the shipwreck
a surviving
sea wolf
Another. Ungaretti’s “Tutto Ho Perduto”:
Tutto ho perduto dell’infanzia
E non potrò mai più
Smemorarmi in un grido.

L’infanzia ho sotterrato
Nel fondo delle notti
E ora, spada invisibile,
Mi separa da tutto.

Di me rammento che esultavo amadnote,
Ed eccomi perduto
In infinito delle notti.

Disperazione che incessante aumenta
La vita non mi è più,
Arrestata in fondo alla gola,
Che una roccia di gridi.
Tooting My Horn on Duty

Tooting my horn on duty in the infantry
Made my name mud           PU
In the army I had nosebleeds

The Infantry was so distracting
It kindled up in my nose
An invisible odor
That hindered my toots

One day while on duty
I rammed into a chestnut
And got blood all over my flute
Not to mention this nosebleed

I spat out so many teeth I knew it was an omen
The vitamins I had to take made me ill
Ten blood transfusions           It was almost all over
When two big rocks stopped the bleeding

This was my unhappy childhood
What begins in a “straight” homonyming manner (in the title and first line) veers off inexplicably. (How’s “Made my name mud” render’d out of E non potrò mai?) The “nose” motif gets its direction finally with “PU” (you stink), unmusicking “Tooting” and “horn” in retrospect. “Nosebleed” for grido is aural and visual nonsense, however the poem itself’s now calling the shots here. Thus notti becomes “nose” and—later—“nosebleed.” I like how “rammed into a chestnut” come up out of me rammento che esultavo amandoti, seeing “almond” in amandoti, close enough to chestnut. (Though, mid-typing: che esultavo pronounced under English rules gets one to “chestnut” quicker.) “Vitamins” out of vita non mi—another delight, a mostly visual giddy traducement. The final line—“unhappy childhood”—Berrigan sneaking a look again at the facing page. Here’s the Mandelbaum version (what looks to reach back a century, searching for sonic substitutes):
All Have I Lost

All have I lost of childhood:
Never more in an outcry
Can I disremember me.

I have buried childhood
In the nights’ profundity
And now, a sword invisible,
It sunders me from all.

Of me do I recall that I exulted loving thee,
And behold me lost
In the nights’ infinity.

Desperation that augments incessant,
Life is nothing more to me,
In the depth of the throat arrested,
Than a rock of outcries.
One more, though I’ve track’d down some others—the longer “On the Road Again” with its dedication to Guiseppe Ungaretti (d. 1970, later than I’d imagined) out of In Memoria. Is it possible to look at the poems “outside” of the occasion of their making? With the “original” Italian trappings shuck’d off, left in a heap? (Is such a thing possible for any poem—there’s that Olson again, with the irresistible (because impossible) admonition: “whatever you have to say, / leave the roots on. / Let them dangle. / / And the dirt. / / Just to make sure / where they come from”) First—in an attempt to see it unmuss’d by source—the Berrigan:
Corporal Pellegrini

He was ugly

She kissed the poor fellow
On his belly


Wild horses couldn’t hold him

He snaked her carcass
Around a finger
Like a bowling ball

Come and get it!

They threw him in the pen
And busted his illusions
On the fires of Corregidor

His rifle slowly
Better and better

Killing the idiot
Which doesn’t muster up a whole lot of “fun”—I don’t think. Is that a troublesome mite of misogyny in the “carcass” image?—saved by the snake to “bowling ball” transmogrifying? The “Corregidor” I entirely miss—Philippines island, Spanish magistrate, “out of my cultural kingdom.” Against the original:

In agguato
in queste budella
di macerie
ore e ore
ho strascicato
la mia carcassa
usata dal fango
come una suola
o come un seme
di spinalba

uomo di pena
ti basta un’illusione
per farti coraggio

Un riflettore
di là
mette un mare
nella nebbia
Wherein one sees how fango deliver’d “snake” and the now brilliant “bowling ball” emerged out of spinalba. Among other things: ore e ore equals “ai yai yai.” “Idiot” perfect for nebbia. One difference: here it seems unlikely that Berrigan attend’d to the Mandelbaum (presuming that’s the source) at all. For “completion” only, here it is:

In ambush
in these rubble
hour on hour
I have dragged
my carcass
worn by mud
as a sole
or as a seed
of hawthorn

man of pain
you need but an illusion
to give you courage

a searchlight
sets a sea
into the fog
(I do like how that “sets” posits the sea—as if it were a gem into the annular fog.) “Writers, you need but another text / to give you courage . . .”

Ted Berrigan

Thursday, June 21, 2007


A Train

Late: the dog’s philosopher-king inspect of the immobile air, the pre-thundershower leaf-droop, the parcel of books unread stack’d up everywhere. A mostly pleasant muddle of the half-finish’d, the partial, the inchoate: I am in my element!

Loud coursing greenbottle stirring the air, alighting in the lamp’s innards. When it buzzes up and out again, bouncing against the ceiling, the dog snaps. Goes aimless, nonchalant-perplex’d.

Lazy reading: thinking, after a whole novel (The Wild Palms) of Faulkner’s tagged “jonquil sky”—what color is that?

Two days running: bumping into Boileau! (On the second occasion: with Tynianov.) Who’s Boileau? The seventeenth century sheriff of Parnassus! (Who’s the sheriff of Parnassus aujourd’hui?)

For hands (yesterday, Frank O’Hara’s stubby fingers), go to a dancer (Carolyn Brown, in Chance and Circumstance: Twenty Years with Cage and Cunningham). Talking about a painter (Rauschenberg)’s hands: “. . . almost awkward in repose, they were eloquent, masterful hands, agile and cunning as a cat whether hammering a nail, opening a can of chili, clutching a double Jack Daniel’s, gripping a paintbrush, or leafing through a magazine. They’re all fingers—extremely long, slender, bony fingers—and thumbs, widely flaring double-jointed thumbs bespeaking (truthfully) his outrageously generous nature.”

Carolyn Brown’s precise limning of Merce Cunningham: “He was slender and tall, with a long spine, long neck, and sloping shoulders; a bit pigeon-breasted. There was a lightness of the upper body which contrasted with the solid legs, so beautifully shaped, and the heavy, massive feet. The body was a blue-period Picasso saltimbanque . . .”

Theory of how one’s body mimics the art one loves. The heroically abstract body. The Kirchner body.

Andrea Zanzotto (who, under the word “January” writes “Now brutalized by the industry of the snow”) talking about writing, and writing a book: “It is not that I write every day; on the contrary, I go for long periods without writing anything, in the dullest wretchedness. And yet I “ponder”; when verses, words—individually or in little clusters—begin to hatch and “grow fond of each other,” I transcribe them, always by hand, using pens that give me the sensation of almost designing on paper, or even of perforating it, traversing it. I then accumulate this material in drawers, not even clearly knowing what it is. When there passes that period that roughly corresponds to a “grande mese” [literally, “big month”] of life, I conduct a sort of examination, a reconnaissance of this material, and suddenly the outline of a book appears to me. Then the title emerges, which for me has great importance; the semantics of the title are telling and decisive. The title is born for me as the singling out of structure in the midst of a vast assemblage.” Which comes close to my experience, that sense of being “took up” by the “unbidden activity” of words coalescing, clumping up—riding that for whatever measure one can—“big month”—and, later, in the doldrums again, pawing at the satchel-full of “completely foreign” material—“I wrote that?”—and seeing how it “fits.”

Love for the idea of the box of scraps, tidbits, materiel for “the joinery”—Wittgenstein’s Zettel, Duchamp’s Boîte Verte, even something so scrappish and unintentional as Scott Fitzgerald’s The Crack-Up.

Writing which escapes (in order to escape) “intention”: that is all. Wittgenstein: “I tell someone: ‘I’m going to whistle you the theme . . .,’ it is my intention to whistle it, and I already know what I am going to whistle.
      It is my intention to whistle this theme: have I then already, in some sense, whistled it in thought?”

Lazy writing: whistling the theme already whistled “in thought.” (Ask the sheriff.)

Ernst Kirchner, “Artillery Men in the Shower,” 1915

Ernst Kirchner, “Self-Portrait with Model,” 1910/1926

Wednesday, June 20, 2007


“Lingerie in the Grass, Alas”

Does literary existence, apart from one, the real one, which is spent in awakening the inner presence of harmonies and significations, take place, in the world, otherwise than as an inconvenience—
So, Stéphane Mallarmé, in Divagations: the author’s 1897 arrangement, together with “Music and letters,” translated by Barbara Johnson (Harvard University Press, 2007). In a sassy tout court “Preface,” Mallarmé calls the writings “journalism,” (wherein, though, one “can’t help throwing toward the light, over the heads of the multitudes, some truths”) and insists: “This is a book just the way I don’t like them: scattered and with no architecture.” And, perpetually dodging: “One always has the excuse, through all this chance, that any coherence found in the book was aided by its assembly, and perhaps, too, by always saying the same thing.” I like that. I like that nonchalance kowtowing to genius.

I must’ve dawdled a little with Mallarmé’s prose—whatever I found—in my mingy incorporal nether-history somewheres, and Olson too. (One pleasant task is constructing sentences—and if, a tail be needed for a dog-shaped horse, I supply it pronto, even though it make the horse bark.) (Now I need a minute to fossick in the Olson indexes: the man, accordingly, never breath’d a whit of Mallarmé.) It’s the chop—I admit it—in the water here (end of “Crisis of Verse”) that made me think of Olson (I keep thinking about Olson, he’s “nearby”):
Verse, which, out of several vocables, makes a total word, entirely new, foreign to the language, and almost incantatory, achieves that isolation of speech; negating, with a sovereign blow, despite their repeated reformulations between sound and sense, the arbitrariness that remains in the terms, and gives you the surprise of never having heard that fragment of ordinary eloquence before, while the object named is bathed in a brand new atmosphere.
Okay, I admit it, it’s only the preponderance of virgules that Olson’d it. Tempt’d I am, to do it up like an exegete with half-bracket’d lexia and ponderous citations, wha? And then, thinking about lexia versus the exegetical phrase—I’m coasting here—going along with mere brash in my engine—I recall how Barthes admitted it (parenthetically, sotto voce, in Balzac’s hearing, that social climber!): “Literature is an intentional cacography.” (Where’d my Urquhart Rabelais go anyhow?)

The Mallarmé: “Verse” (in French) is always the line. Mallarmé’s seeing the “unit” as the line—“incantatory” (music) and “speech” (speech)—he’s the French Zukofsky—poignant, absolute, avant la lettre. (Note for investigators: What did Zukofsky say about Mallarmé?) Every line is a neologism, or a universe, one-line’d. Mallarmé didn’t cotton to no “poèmes en prose” though he admired nutty William Beckford’s Vathek and he of the “vision of untroubled uprightness” Charles Baudelaire (who “contemplates, alone, in the proud billowing fold of consequences, the Monster-Who-Cannot-Be! Fixing on its flanks the wound of a look both affirmative and pure.”) (Mallarmé also admired nutty Loie Fuller—“insofar as she spreads around her the fabrics she then brings back to her person, through the actions of dance, everything has been said, in articles, some of which are poems.”) And then there’s the matter of the pieces (in prose) collect’d here under the title “Anecdotes or Poems.” Which not infrequently erupt oddly enough, tossing out M.’s own lyrical nuttiness: “—You meanie, you often say naughty things.” Or, “The full stop is measured by the cadence of my determination.” Or, “I am racked with contradictory states, pointless, distorted, and affected by the contagion, the shiver, of some imbecilic ebriety.” (Rhymes with yesterday’s Dawn Powell (nutty Dawn): “I like the way everything looks so crazy when you aren’t drinking.”)

Point is, the talk about “negating . . . the arbitrariness” in that “several vocable’d word” (or “total word’d line”) is posit’d against itself—the “brand new” (the new is always arbitrary). Even Mallarmé’s lingo betrays the clash: “surprise” versus “ordinary.” Upper limit, lower limit. We bathe still in that exact fuddled atmosphere. Musicking the colloquy.

Too, there’s the “Capsule Sketches and Full-Length Portraits.” Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, Verlaine, Rimbaud, “Tennyson Viewed from Here,” Poe, Whistler, Edouard Manet, Berthe Morisot. In the piece about Rimbaud, written in April 1896 for one Harrison Rhodes, editor of a North American journal call’d The Chap Book Mallarmé point’d to “a mysterious something about him either proudly or meanly flaunted, that recalled a daughter of the people, and his laundrywoman appearance, because of his enormous hands, reddened with chilblains resulting from rapid changes of temperature, which might have indicated even more terrible jobs, since they belonged to a boy” and chided purveyors of “cheap anecdotes.” Hands: how disappointingly chubby Frank O’Hara’s look. How Malcolm Lowry hated (and hid) his. Isn’t there a whole missing history of writers’ hands? “Signifying monstrances.”

Gobs of Spicer in the choosing, “nul ptyx” in the means, that rockin’ “Insolite vaisseau d’inanité sonore,” yo: “. . . following the same instinct for rhythm that chose him, the poet doesn’t forbid himself from seeing a lack of proportion between the means unleashed and the result.” And, one adds, prodding that lack up into a fury, an exult, an insobriety, a flood! (In “The Demon of Analogy” Mallarmé notes how he’s assault’d one day by “haunting and accursed fragments of an absurd sentence”:
                        The Penultimate

                Is dead
Like that. And bravely, heroically, futilely, fights it—“I took a few steps down the street and recognized in the “nul” sound the tight string of a forgotten musical instrument, which glorious Memory had just revisited with its wing or its palm, and, putting my finger on the secret behind the mystery’s artifice, I smiled and pleaded, with all my intellectual wishes, for a different speculation”—to no good end. “Then I fled, strange person, probably condemned forever to wear mourning for the inexplicable Penultimate.”) Strange person. Aboli bibelot.

Faulkner, in 1926 (Soldiers’ Pay): “Only the ageing need conventions and laws to aggregate to them-selves some of the beauty of this world. Without laws the young would rieve us of it as corsairs of old combed the blue seas.”

Loie Fuller, “La danse blanche”

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

“Metaphor, metaphor, metaphor . . .”

Lichen and Plank

I note that I ’s so “took” by the Merce Cunningham line about movement that I bleat’d it forth double-entry style, one credit, one debit, spanning two days. Which being which, aucune idée. Damnably hot hereabouts, as if to say That explains it. Nothing is ever explain’d—it is only ever “related.”

I see that Charles Wright’s Littlefoot is out, a single poem in thirty-five parts—the final excursion an unmusick’d iteration of Alvin Pleasant “A. P.” Carter’s terrific song “Will You Miss Me When I’m Gone.” (I hear Wright saying, “I’d never seen anybody do that before, so I thought I’d see what it look’d like”—or some such—what he reply’d to a query about using one singly Italo Calvino Invisible Cities quote twice, for two parts of China Trace.) Carter:
Perhaps you’ll plant a flower
On my poor, unworthy grave,
Come and sit alone beside me
When the roses nod and wave.
I love to see “Notes”—who’s reading what, what the triggers be. (Habitual with Wright, I think, starting with Bloodlines? Full steam, certes, by The Southern Cross, and in what book the lovely photograph of all the postcards—mostly paintings—tack’d in the gazing space above a desk, Sudek, Morandi, Twombly, Blake.) Here, The Nag Hammadi Library, Wang Wei, Wallace Stevens, Guiseppe Ungaretti, Bob Dylan, W. G. Sebald. The Ungaretti I know: Wright mark’d it (cherish’d it, talk’d it up) for difficulty of translation:

And Wright, towards the end of Littlefoot, after noting “Shadows like Franz Kline from the spruce trees” (a “relating”: Elaine Equi’s line about Martha Graham—“With your spooky / Franz Kline make-up”) and picturing a late Orpheus “blue-tongued and pale head behind on the slow Rivanna, / Bumping from snag to sandbar, but singing, still singing”—after that and a whole blast’d ache of slowly expell’d inevitable ceasing—writes:
I empty myself with light
Until I become morning.
A full circle, plain and empty. I love to think, too, how for years now (source completely gone) I’ve protect’d my belief that the Ted Berrigan poem call’d “Matinee” in the Collected is Berrigan’s version of Ungaretti’s “Mattina”:
                (ripped out of my mind again!)
An intelligencer’s impetus for it being so add’d by the placing (in “Life of a Man”) of a poemlet, “On the Road Again,” dedicated to Ungaretti. I did, I recall, make a stab at translating the thing myself—something like:

Out of here, big light—
I’m an incendiary device!
I did pull out an paper acids-burnt manila folder of old drafts and rustle about in it for some shuddery moments. I got skeert off by my own dull obsessing (“Death is something of an undertaking . . .” and talk of “something momentous—impinging marriage or squamous death” and “clipped static that sounds like Seurat” and a poem call’d “Putain Kleenex,” ugh.) I did uncover a couple of dandy epigraphs, though: Nabokov’s “The old, old question of Who are you? to one’s own self grown strangely evasive in the gloaming, and to God’s world around to which one has never been really introduced.” And the Dawn Powell thing: “I like the way everything looks so crazy when you aren’t drinking.”

I recall—mid-’eighties—when Charles Wright (b. 1935) went off to China, some bunch of writers, the way they go off in national packs. Wright return’d talking about Jay Wright, also in the group, how they’d hung together. Now winding down, or the Littlefoot author is—“half in love with easeful sleep”—or whatev, is that how it goes? Says, talking about Tao-chi:
                                                          . . . old age
Just recompense for what was not found,
Awaiting the great wash, a “final crash of thunder.”
Says, about writing, words “fixed to music”:
Or so we flatter ourselves,
                                                  sunset cloud tufts briquettes
Going ash in the ash-going sky.
We never look hard enough.
The grasses go back and forth, up and down, for thousands of miles,
But we don’t look hard enough.
I find myself counting syllables, Wright’s admitted propensity for odd number’d syllabic lines, the off-beat hard density of the sole even number’d one here: sunset cloud tufts briquettes, it’s slurry “wash” of sounds.

I recall going up Cayuga Lake in a snowstorm for a Wright reading—someone inexpertly (loudly) popped a beer after we’d arrived, late, spray’d some pedant, got toss’d out, though Wright seem’d happy enough to see us. I recall how, after a reading in the Andrew Dickson White house in Ithaca, early ’eighties, some vaguely punk girl—upstart MFA—on the porch with the smokers, mock’d Wright: doing up a litany of southern highways and rivers. And how first I hated her for it (never hate the young) and next got a whiff of the way aesthetics budge and heave in the sorting. Which is ceaseless, and how dull if everything weren’t up for our moony, misbegotten and wrong’d contention? A little “whole” movement out of the midriff of it:
I love the lethargy of the single cloud,
                                                                      the stillness of the sky
On winter afternoons, late on winter afternoons,
A little fan of light on the tips of the white pines.

I love the winter light, so thin, so unbuttery,
Transparent as plastic wrap
Clinging so effortlessly
                                          to whatever it skins over.

—The language of nature, we know, is mathematics.
The language of landscape is language,
Metaphor, metaphor, metaphor,
                                                            all down the line.

The sweet-breath baby light of a winter afternoon,
Boy-light, half-covered in blue,
                                                          almost invisible as breath,
So still in the flower beds, so pale.
And, next page, talking about a “Chinese principle” of composition, brushwork:
Competent, marvelous, and divine
Were the three degrees of accomplishment.
                                                                               And still, it cannot be done.
How closely the movement—“Metaphor, metaphor, metaphor” to “And still, it cannot be done” mimics what Jay Wright says: how apprehension must needs be “relational,” and how it “has nothing to do with the world.”

Giuseppe Ungaretti and Ted Berrigan

Monday, June 18, 2007

Jay Wright’s Music’s Mask and Measure

Fence and Ribbon

Music’s Mask and Measure, by Jay Wright (Flood Editions, 2007)

I like how—in Jay Wright’s biographical note in Music’s Mask and Measure—he writes that, just after high-school, he “played for two minor-league ball clubs—Mexicali and Fresno—and spent a minute in spring training with the San Diego Padres of the old Pacific Coast League.” It’s that “minute” that thrills me (though the mention of Mexicali, that border town, twinned with Calexico, where I first enter’d Mexico, aimlessly driving the dry hills adds a pleasant memory-smudge). “Minute” is precise with a knowing imprecision, it’s calculatedly inexact in order to draw down the imaginary into it (here, all the lost baseball possibilities—in retrospect, rather laughable, or accept’d—gone in a “minute”)—the word fills up with information a more serviceably “precise” “lexical substitution” (“a few days,” say, or, “one afternoon”) would not allow. My reading of Music’s Mask and Measure is that it is (partially) “about” exactly that kind of substitution.

The book is divided into five parts—titled “Equation One,” “Equation Two,” and so forth. Each part consists of a handful to a dozen short—five or six lines—pieces, untitled, spare, “slant,” often near-aphoristic. The pieces in “Equation Five” are longer, though of similar ilk, and concern. Here, the final two:
All song is bent
by a silent measure;
a dancer’s foot
is a luminous disk in flight.
This song is an open field,
and a fibrous exploration
                where the voice feels braced
by its own fluidity.
We will hope
that this dancer’s body flows
with the expansive ambiguity,
all substance safe, all passion tempered.


Walking on East Palace,
those who sing find themselves oppressed
by juniper’s shadow.
That sentence is logically true,
if, and only if,
the inoffensive crocodile remains
                a lexical substitution.
The answer lies in carbon-rich clay
and the thin significance
                of the insignificant body.
Say that this relational apprehension
has nothing to do with the world,
or the molecular complexity
of juniper’s shadow,
and that the inoffensive crocodile swims
toward its lexical disaster.
Rife the ambiguities: it’s a poetry that proceeds by churning up possibilities, working the ear for material, or clothing things differently—making stabs at a “relational apprehension” of the world, all the whilst fully acknowledging the impossibility of any complete apprehending. I love the “bent” song “where the voice feels braced / by its own fluidity”—“braced” meaning strengthened, held in, girded up, buttressed, embracing, exhortatory, made brash, all of that—and all of that by “fluidity.” The range of semantic flowering in the relational positing of the three words, voice, braced, and fluidity, is extraordinary, as if the tiniest monocotyledonous grass flower suddenly blowz’d up big as a peony. One is in a world of immeasurable dimensions, with shifts of scale apt to occur with the mere substitution of a word: out of the molecular handiwork of a shadow, all the way out to the “disastrous” stars.

The poems in Music’s Mask and Measure read like distillations, won out of long study, buoy’d up by casual arcana: “tau,” “the attributes of lotus,” Nicholas of Cusa, Seneca, “thermal equilibrium.” The first book of Wright’s (b. 1934) I ever encounter’d (early ’seventies) had to’ve been The Homecoming Singer (Corinth Books, 1971). (“The tart sun, / like a pink six o’clock grapefruit, / bursts over Guadalajara.”) And I’ve kept a ragged lookout over the years—curious about Wright’s reaches down into the belly of esoterica. (And been somewhat overwhelm’d, too, by it.) Here—in the condensare—what Wright calls in the first piece “that stable density of one / and one, the urgent displacement / that nurtures light”—I see a way back, the way late stripped-down works so often point.

Here’s a final three, out of “Equation Two”:
The oriole has established
an evasive coherence,
      infinite, exact
with its place, there where
the day seems set to honor
the bird’s expressive deceit.

Logic always
fails that Carolina wren.
The propositional
of a certain absence
draws fire upon its wings.

The bird knows itself a strict
proposal of faith, a ground
state that moves without
an absolute space.
Grammatical bird, attuned
to roots and implication.
Which reminds one of, say, Duncan’s “radicals” or—just encounter’d—Olson’s “roots” in a letter (1954) to Irving Layton, relating how he’d sent some lines to “Bill”—Williams, it seems—about the attributes of what Olson calls “messiness,” though in conjoining it to a notion of Merce Cunningham’s (“the meaning of movement is inherent in its own nature”), it seems to point equally toward “faith,” “origin,” “a ground / state.” Olson:

                                these days

                                                whatever you have to say,
                                leave the roots on.
                                Let them dangle.

                                And the dirt.

                                                Just to make sure
                                                where they come from.


The sun hung up there too long, getting the look of a dingy slug, something stamp’d out with a punch and pocket’d, carry’d about slapping against a pocket’s truck, jackknife, wingnut, screw. It’s an ancient delivery system—pocketa pocketa—a dynamo, gearings a little rust-encrudded, putting a lopsided throb into its light. Meaning, one thinks, that a large part of the pleasure of reading Faulkner is how it inhabits you, how cleanly it slices in next to the inculpable bone to direct the musculature in its own borrow’d rhythms and sighs. Just to note a concluding—how memory goes with the meat:
But after all memory could lie in the old wheezing entrails: and now it did stand to his hand, incontrovertible and plain, serene, the palms clashing and murmuring, dry and wild and faint and in the night, but he could face it, thinking, Not could. Will. I want to. So it is the old meat after all, no matter how old. Because if memory exists outside of the flesh it won’t be memory because it won’t know what it remembers so when she became not then half of memory became not and if I become not then all of remembering will cease to be.—Yes, he thought, between grief and nothing I will take grief.

Jay Wright

Friday, June 15, 2007

“Gone amoong . . .”


I went to Olson’s letters to Frances Boldereff looking for Hart Crane—a hunch thwart’d: nothing. And then, the way one puzzles around, scraping little cheek samples here and there, gummy swabs for a “culture”—found Boldereff saying “I love very deeply—the lines at the opening of Call me Ishmael. Are they early Swedish?” Oddly rhyming (to the point of the mimick’d lack of majescules in the titular me) with Susan Howe’s query to George Butterick (in Stephen Collis’s Through Words of Others):
Someday I would like to know where he got the epigraph to Call me Ishmael
O fahter, fahter,
gone amoong

O ees that loke

Loke, fahter:
Your sone!
It haunts me.
(The original’s got “O eeys that loke” . . .) And Olson’s offhand’d reply (to Boldereff):
They are Early olson
                                        Do you know V Bérard on the Ody-
                                        ssey?           is the frobenius of same
Referring to Victor Bérard’s Did Homer Live? (English’d in 1931), a book the original pissaint scrapper (and eye-scratcher) Edward Dahlberg’d recommended to Olson. So: Olson “sone” to “fahter” Melville, that’s one thing. Another is, what plethora (or essais manqués) of epigraphs be gingerly dandled inventions? I recall William Matthews explaining how he “just knew” that somewhere someone’d written something “like that,” and so invent’d one Jean-Philippe Butron, and had him write an epigraph to Matthews’s poem “Becoming a Woman”:
A man writing a poem is speaking to a woman inside him. That explains the common notion that a male poet is lecherous, homosexual or both. Why not say it this way: he wants to be whatever is other: a frog’s tongue, an island formed by a volcano, the opposite sex, someone who loves him, the universe.                                                                                                                                                                        Jean-Philippe Butron
The poem itself is rather negligible: “I feel like / a moon in a sack, a bass / bent against the current like a leer / a dog with a cold rope.” Always loved the Butron though.

My strong sense of copycatting thereat proves a dud (I leaf my pages). Though I do come up with the unattributed, italick’d kicker to my longish “For Katherine Yih” (in Rubbing Torsos):
Two plums ripening in a dark room
Or two clouds making galactic noise—any duality beyond
A mere numeral contrapuntal, any complaint
Of this universe.
Though, frankly, typing it—I think its “original” is the five italick’d lines of O’Hara’s “Two Variations”:
Suddenly that body appears: in my smoke
while someone’s heavily describing Greece,
that famous monotonous line feels white
against the tensile gloom of life
and I seem intimate with what I merely touch.
Earlier title: “To Edwin,” dated New York, February 1953. The five lines exist under the title “Poem” a few pages previous to “Two Variations” in the Collected. There’s something thrilling (if fastidious, if “liable to short the circuitry”) about “talking back” to one’s own epigraph. (A variation: the circuitry available for frying a red hot synaptic wire or two by writing a poem call’d “A Poem Beginning with a Line by John Latta.”) (I mean if you be me.)

One obvious volume to examine: Doubled Flowering: From the Notebooks of Araki Yasusada, edited and translated by Tosa Motokiyu, Ojiu Norinaga and Okura Kyojin. I clap my hands—three thunderous blows—and it slides out of my bookshelf (it’s misfiled in the J’s for reasons unbeknownst, right next to Laura Jensen’s Bad Boats) and, vertically and noiselessly flying to within inches of my opticks and, with something like a Jane Avril skirt-hiked leg-kick, saucily opens to its epigraph. What is there: an “undated entry, in looseleaf, found inserted into a copy of Origuchi Shinobu’s Book of the Dead,” by Araki Yasusada himself:
In this novel before me there is a painting in a book the protagonist is reading, in which a woman holds a mirror. Behind the reflection of her face is the reflection of a mountain, made tiny by the distance. I wonder what she could be thinking, thinks the protagonist, looking up from the book. I wonder what is happening on the hidden face of that mountain in the mirror . . .
A sort of rogue Borges engorged. Juggling forks. (Is it of any import to know that Book of the Dead is Shisha no sho in Japanese? Sheesh, is something “hiding” there?

I’d intend’d something completely different. A kind of squalid wail about Olson, the morass of Olson. Because looking into the letters that’s how it seem’d, as if I were being pull’d down into a suckhole, entrant to a fiery cave of capital dimensions, throwing off sparks into tinder ungatherable. One supposes it’s simply the tender heart of the “archive” beckoning, all the ways that the “chase” is never linear, always a spheroidal explosion, continuous, with each particle thrown off exploding ad perpetuum. Victor Bérard (in 1929) retracing proposed routes of Ulysses in The Odyssey, identifying the fictional stops. Another morass. Olson saying Merce Cunningham’s saying “the meaning of movement is inherent in its own nature”—that’s the archive too.

Jane Avril

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Partial, Vaporous

Bank, Abandon’d

No incompetent misreading contretemps, “pal.” Any mention of competence assumes dynamics operable only in a groupuscule; an isolated competence is, by definition, meaningless. Of course one slings it negatively (insert obligatory “duh” for the comedic “set”); to sling it at all reeks of “standards”—toeing the line, or not toeing the line, same diff (which does not mean même combat).

Funny how what’s pertinent arrives (a gratuity, a fortuity) to plug the breach (to patch the britches). Scoop’d up today (out of the ragman’s rabble of archives freshly trundled forth) a book by Stephen Collis, Through Words of Others: Susan Howe and Anarcho-Scholasticism (ELS Editions, 2006). Mark Scroggins’d gone to bat for it a couple months back, so I field’d it, a one-hopper. Second laugh-blast in’s many days seeing the cover-image: detail out of a page of Charles Olson’s “annotated copy of Letters of Emily Dickinson, ed. Mabel Loomis Todd.” Scraggly underline to Scholar Dickinson’s line (in a letter to Col. T. W. Higginson), “Meeting a bird this morning, I begun to flee.” With Olson’s scrawl’d comment: “She fled a bird.” The note’s tone a complete mystery—disgust’d, amazed, chiding?—as is its foreseeable use to Olson. Though, in a letter Susan Howe writes to George Butterick, included in a “selected correspondence”—she says of Dickinson: “Olson disliked her.” Butterick’s reply:
Emily Dickinson. I don’t think Olson despised ED. She was just hardly in his ken; not his kin; irrelevant, in important senses, to a young man who had no father’s garden, whose houses were always rented houses. There was something for a young man, an immigrant’s son, coming of age in Depression America, that required a larger life-form than she was able to give, obviously enough. In my own growth, she was something exquisite—but I also needed the thunder and sprawl and rambunctiousness of Hopkins and Christopher Smart. “There is no frigate like a book” is simply not the same as the spermaceti blood-streaked slimy workingman decks of the Pequod. The distillation of ED, no matter it was dew and sparkling and heady as vaporous wine, was insufficient as a role-model.
Butterick broaching class amongst other things. Everywhere a manner’d quietness about class in norteamericano poetry. How’d a cross-map of class distinctions display overlaid against, say, Ron Silliman’s dodgy Manichean categorying? What class is Susan Howe? What class is John Ashbery? Is it arguable that the nineteenth c. hoity-toit New England transcendentalists versus the hoi polloi rabble “elsewhere” continues “even today”—is the unsung story of “our” writing? (Thumbing, I see Collis troubles—in a part of the book titled “A Lexicon”—notions of poetry, property, possession, things approximating, one thinks, class attitudes. He quotes Howe saying “Poetry is never a personal possession” and “Categories and hierarchies suggest property. My voice formed from my life belongs to no one else. What I put into words is no longer my possession.” A slim book liable to point one off dashing—in countless directions. Hauling down—just this morning—the Boldereff / Olson correspondence to see if the big O.’d writ anything therein about Dickinson . . .)

And the breech-plug? the pertinency? Collis, pointing to the ways “American anarchism has tended toward the individualist (as opposed to collectivist) end of its ideological spectrum” quotes Melville’s Moby-Dick:
They were nearly all Islanders on the Pequod, Isolatoes too, I call such, not acknowledging the common continent of men, but each Isolato living on a separate continent of his own. Yet now, federated along one keel, what a set these Isolatoes were!
And puts against it “Thoreau’s even slimmer imagination of the possibility of collectivity” (out of Walden):
But for my part, I preferred the solitary dwelling. Moreover, it will commonly be cheaper to build the whole yourself than to convince another of the advantage of the common wall; and when you have done this, the common partition, to be much cheaper, must be a thin one, and that other may prove a bad neighbor, and also not keep his part in repair. The only cooperation which is commonly possible is exceedingly partial and superficial.
“Exceedingly partial,” c’est moi.

Charles Olsion and George F. Butterick, Gloucester, c. 1968
(Photograph by Ann Charters)

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Flood


Out briefly into the suburb-encroach’d fields, and back in plenty of sunlight. Trying to find a Hart Crane line about “action,” I stumble over: “I think that the artist more and more licks his own vomit, mistaking it for the common diet. He amuses himself that way in a culture without faith and convictions . . .”

How easily and completely I get blown off course—looking for a line about “a dog eating its own vomit” in Charles Wright’s notebooks (found, though not “usable,” not so succinct, nor apt as I’d recall’d), I end up with: “One of the differences between poetry and prose is that—good or bad—lines are final. Sentences are never final, but ceaselessly rearrangeable.”

So I fetch The Grave of the Right Hand, wherein one locates a few Wright prose poems, the only ones I know. Intending to study one, rearrange it, only to note (with a brainpan-rearranging snort) that it’s one sentence long:

And when, that night, the unseasonable rain (the hail a shredding sound in the lemon trees) thudded against the lumbering of the bay, in August, haunting the dark with a querulous whiteness, he retired to the basement room under the house to study the various aspects of water, the ships in sudden counterpoint on the rising scales of the sea, and to wait for the breakthrough, across the barren hills of his brain, of the bronze soldiers, for the swelling flash of their knives.
Backlit by the Rimbaudesque “savage parade,” methinks: it’s the soldiery that does it.

Okay, for “scientific” purposes (“so I contradict myself”)—three rearrangements of sentences within a paragraph (out of Ron Silliman’s Paradise):
Remember the days when Bob smoked dope all the time? Big slow jet, low over the horizon. I’m impatient that each word takes so long to write. All cotton pleated chino twills. You’re a commie, too. As when, in the newspaper, an article on how to ride a camel brings tears. Her eyes on me wide and brown. Well, Masanori Murakami has been released. Aka will, verb transitive. There is no pain equal to the memory of pain. My life is not your symbol. Historians eke rhyme from fact.

Big slow jet, low over the horizon. Her eyes on me wide and brown. There is no pain equal to the memory of pain. I’m impatient that each word takes so long to write. As when, in the newspaper, an article on how to ride a camel brings tears. All cotton pleated chino twills. My life is not your symbol. Historians eke rhyme from fact. Aka will, verb transitive. Remember the days when Bob smoked dope all the time? Well, Masanori Murakami has been released. You’re a commie, too.

Well, Masanori Murakami has been released. Big slow jet, low over the horizon. My life is not your symbol. Her eyes on me wide and brown. You’re a commie, too. There is no pain equal to the memory of pain. As when, in the newspaper, an article on how to ride a camel brings tears. Aka will, verb transitive. Historians eke rhyme from fact. All cotton pleated chino twills. Remember the days when Bob smoked dope all the time? I’m impatient that each word takes so long to write.
Effects of rearrangement mostly local. The tiny twitters of the (various) affect-inducements of (various) juxtapositions differ (variously, locally) in kind, not in degree. The overall disjunct-patter pattern—picture an array of points, comic-tragic along the x-axis, human-inhuman along the y-axis, spattering out into the four quadrants—is going to elicit (generate) a similar line (hyperboloidal or whatnot) no matter how the sentences are arranged. With a bigger sample, it’s likely one could imbue an arrangement with elements of conventional narrative. (Here’s where, as in that “little screen” production of the ’fifties or ’sixties—what’s it call’d, You Be Somebody?—the emcee asks for the real Ron Silliman poem to please stand up and, amidst highly-coach’d feints and pauses and g-g-good-humor’d tomfoolery, one of the contestants finally (almost bashfully) does so. “Number two? oh, I was absolutely positive it was number one.” Who turns out to be a laundress in Teaneck.)

Hart Crane writing to Waldo Frank (1926):
The validity of a work of art is situated in contemporary reality to the extent that the artist must honestly anticipate the realization of this vision in “action” (as an actively operating principle of communal works and faith), and I don’t mean by this that his procedure requires any bona fide evidences directly and personally signaled, nor even any physical signs or portents. The darkness is part of his business. It has always been taken for granted, however, that his intuitions were salutary and that his vision either sowed or epitomized “experience” (in the Blakian sense). Even the rapturous and explosive destructivism of Rimbaud presupposes this, even his lonely hauteur demands it for any estimate or appreciation. (The romantic attitude must at least have the background of an age of faith, whether approved or disproved no matter.)
Typing that, I begin to suspect that there’s some Christian meaning to “action” (good works) that is slapping at Crane’s fanny (and “unavailable” to me). I am trying to correlate “action” here to Jackson Pollock’s “procedural” term, working in the painting. Pollock:
When I am in my painting, I’m not aware of what I’m doing. It is only after a sort of “get acquainted” period that I see what I have been about. I have no fear of making changes, destroying the image, etc., because the painting has a life of its own. I try to let it come through. It is only when I lose contact with the painting that the result is a mess. Otherwise there is pure harmony, an easy give and take, and the painting comes.
Which, in counterpoint, to the Crane, suddenly betrays a similar “religious” thrust, a submerging of self in the demands of “works and faith.” Less a procedural commitment than a tenacious human drive to subsume oneself in something larger—“experience” (of whatever sort). Is that “available” through unfinal “ceaselessly rearrangeable” sentences? It may well be. (My sense is that Crane’s “The darkness is part of [the artist’s] business” and Pollock’s “I’m not aware of what I’m doing” are absolutely key to the activity—that “submergence” again.) Subjectivism: the human being subject of the work through being subject’d to by the work. (How much is the reading of Faulkner’s unbelievably powerful manhandling prose—about the “tall convict” swept along for days in a skiff in a flood—in The Wild Palms pushing me into the morning’s “do me, Lord” version of art, I do not know . . .) Think I’ll jump ship with a critic—Harold Rosenberg’s assessment of “Action Painting” (with bonus words for “our” groupuscules):
In that it dared to be subjective, to affirm the artist as an active self, Action Painting was the last “moment” in art on the plane of dramatic and intellectual seriousness. The painters in this current have kept to the tradition of the human being as the ultimate subject of painting. All art movements are movements toward mediocrity for those who are content to be carried by them. The premises of Action Painting, however, are still valid for individual beginnings.
Out of the essay “Action Painting: Crisis and Distortion” (The Anxious Object).

Ron Silliman and Charles Wright