Friday, October 02, 2009

“Whoso Hammereth”



The solidity of number
‘with inconsistency whoso hammereth’
dick at a portal
resignedly consonant Æolian alert.

A taut rope stretch’d
Milano Sankt Gotthard Parigi
giddy bejeezus harmonics woo
even the basic schlub.

Vigor and celestial recompense
equilibrium blackball’d the sky-
flank turn’d against splendour
tense particulars in grasses.

Hill scree’s lengthy rock-
knocking screed unleash’d lashes
the external heap adds
veracity in the undoing.

Distractedly in pouring rain. High fatigue front moving in. Hoofing it in umbrella’d. Four crows pecking at a pizza slice. Unpreparedness liable to become a habit. “Things are lousy. The avant-garde is arrears.” (That’s Ad Reinhardt again.) He continues (“[The Present Situation in Art],” “unpublished notes, 1966,” out of Art-as-Art (originally 1975, title dogma thrust: “¶ The next revolution in art will be the same, old, one revolution. ¶ Every revolution in art turns over art from art-as-also-something-else into art-as-only-itself. ¶ The one, eternal, permanent revolution in art is always a negation of the use of art for some purpose other than its own. All progress and change in art is toward the one end of art as art-as-art. ¶ An avant-garde in art advances art-as-art or it isn’t an avant-garde.”):
Artists are selling themselves like hot cakes. Art is a good thing. Art education is a holy-schmo business. Artists are jobbing. The lousy government is in this dirty war. One doesn’t know what one can do about it. The art critics are all corrupt. The art critics are the art curators and they’re also the art collectors a and assistant art dealers too. The good old art words are dead. Things are awful. Artists don’t know what to do, they’re repeating themselves, they’re making movies. Artists make telephone directions for making art instead of making it themselves. Some people still think the mass media can explain things. Artists are like businessmen.

Things are great. The avant-garde is behind us. Artists are making out. Lots of money around. Art is a good thing, everywhere. You can do anything you want. Artists are free of expressionism. The old rackets, scumbling, fumbling, staining, straining, striping, stripping are all gone. The art critics are all corrupt. Artists are freer than they’ve ever been. There are bigger and nicer art books than ever before. Artists are working more and bigger and faster. Telephones have never been so busy. The mass media give more space to artists who are working that gap between technology and life.
Insert, certes, “poet” and “poetry,” or whoso one pleases. “Bourdieuvian cultural capital accrual is a holy-schmo business.” “Poets don’t know who to do, they’re repeating themselves, they’re making movies.” In a kind of glum-bucket mopery that serves to shill for the way dour-countenanced Time inevitably turns its conjunctivitis-bit “ojo rojo” at one, hearing no special-pleading, I turn to Marguerite Young’s Angel in the Forest: A Fairy Tale of Two Utopias (Dalkey Archive, 1994), though Reynal & Hitchcock print’d it on newsprint “in full compliance with the government’s regulations for conserving paper and other essential materials” in 1945. I love Young’s ariatic (“The aria is to music nigh what the column is to architecture”) splendours, outbursts of golden-throat’d prose (see, in particular, Harp Song for a Radical: The Life and Times of Eugene Victor Debs, the book that Young left unfinish’d after thirty years of work). So that:
You come to old New Harmony by a creaking ferry. It has been operating for fifty years, according to the sign on the iron bell at the Wabash shore. This is a land of rolling hills on either side of the river. Sandpipers are continual migrants between two shores—primitive, they build no nests but holes in mudbanks, so that the hills seem coated with golden birds. Likely enough, there are two blind mules as other passengers on the ferry, and, tied to them like a cart behind them, translucent logs of the fallen birch. Likely enough, the ferryman will never speak a word. Far down the river, a barge turns toward the bend of the hills, the bargeman standing with his legs spread wide against a cloudless sky. Time passes, as the ferry creaks beneath a superfluous toll bridge, the government's extravagance, for few cross it. Ascending a path that seems to lead nowhere, you come at last to New Harmony, a disappointment. The past is an intangible in Indiana, you find, as in other parts of these abstract United States—a filling station where there were two Utopias, Mr. Babbitt where there was an angel. Surely, a Mexican town would be more flagrant in its tragic beauty, but this is a grayness, and the people are not picturesquely blind, standing outside golden-domed cathedrals or kneeling before a Christ with Indian hair. Our ancestors, always hurried, left little evidence of their existence, if one discounts intangibles, a sundial, an apple a day, an angel in the forest.
The beginning (“New Harmony Today—A Glimpse in Summer, 1940”) of the book. Martin Lebowitz in The Nation in 1945: “Marguerite Young’s first prose volume is repetitive, obscure, diffuse, overwritten, tiresomely obsessed with copulation and with analogical images of flowers, insects, and birds, scornful at many points of coherence, continuity, and form; yet it is a book of astonishing subtlety and brilliance, a genuine work of art . . .” “High fatigue front moving in. Hoofing it in umbrella’d. Four crows pecking at a pizza slice. Make the impieties of alignment all.”

Marguerite Young, 1908-1995
(With compleat’d manuscript of
Miss Macintosh, My Darling c. 1964)