(Logo by Thorpe Feidt)
(Logo by Thorpe Feidt)
Some several stray weeks back Robert Gibbons alerted me to a cyber-cache of copies of the Gloucester, Massachusetts literary magazine Bezoar (1975-1981), edited by Fred Buck, Paul Kahn and Thorpe Feidt. “Printed, folded, stapled and mailed to about 350 people.” In the premier issue, a definition, boxed:
be zoar (bē′ zôr, bē′ zōr). n. [Fr. bézoard; Sp. bezoar; Ar. bāzahr; Per. pādzahr; pād, expelling, & zahr, poison], a hard mass deposited around a foreign substance, found in the stomach or intestines of some animals and formerly thought to be a remedy for poisoning.Citing John Rowland’s translation of Thomas Muffet’s The Theater of Insects, in Edward Topsell’s 1658 History of Four-footed Beasts and Serpents* (a work full of deft nuance and brash usage—see a “body yellow, bedropt with black from the neck to the tail” or the “creature with many feet, Asse-coloured” or—of the uttermost part of the wings” of a “Day Butterfly”—“as if it were four Adamants glistering in a beazil of Hyacinth.”) For bezoar, too, the OED suggests: “A counter-poison or antidote.” Excellent name for a magazine, particularly one so adamantly (rare for the “era”) trans-Atlantic. Some of the writers: Tim Reynolds, Dennis Tedlock, Amiri Baraka, Kenneth Irby, John Yau, Robert Gibbons, John Wieners, Paul Metcalf, Peter Riley, Peter Anastas, Vincent Ferrini, Gerrit Lansing, Barry MacSweeney, Daphne Marlatt, William Corbett, Jack Collom, Lee Harwood, Harry Hoogstraten, Bernadette Mayer, Charles Reznikoff, Edward Dorn, Philip Whalen, Robert Creeley, Larry Eigner, Homer Aridjis, Eliot Weinberger, Clayton Eshleman, Jerome Rothenberg, Allen Fisher, Franco Beltrametti, George Bowering, Lyn Hejinian, Dale Herd, Artie Gold, Charles Olson, Duncan McNaughton, Douglas Woolf, Joanne Kyger, Michael McClure, John James, Norman Fischer, Janet Rodney, Nathaniel Tarn. (Assembling such a list, one inevitably recalls Marianne Moore’s simple jab: “Omissions are not accidents.”)
1658. Rowland. Mouffets Teat. Ins. 929
“A hornet is a bezoar stone for its own wound.”
I tracked all the pieces by Paul Metcalf. In Bezoar IV:2 and IV:3 (1976), a couple of large swatches of Waters of Potowmack. Out of Bezoar II:3 (1976), evidence of Metcalf’s propensity to collect place-names (pre-Zip Odes):
TravelingOut of Bezoar X:3 (1977), uncollected prose:
In Virginia, and into West Virginia:
Within easy range of Charleston, West Virginia:
From Missouri, into Illinois:
No Spikka da AnglishHilarious: Metcalf’s statement is printed just subsequent to Charles Bernstein’s “St. McC.”—a skinny effort that begins—
It occurs to me that much of what we call bad poetry suffers from the evils of translation.
There is just plain bad poetry—where neither impulse nor execution shows merit. Trivial, posturing, hustling, small. The poet is just a small soul.
But there is a great deal of what we dismiss as bad poetry where a genuine and worthy impulse lurks behind the terrible verbiage that appears on the page. And—as the saying goes—from impulse to execution something gets lost in the translation.
It is only in the poet’s own language that the thing comes true—i.e., translate it, and the reader gets second best, at best.
So the good poet who writes bad poetry is his own translator. He is putting his own best language into some sort of secondary jargon, that other people in another country will understand. It is a common transaction, normally handled by publishers, but in this case delivered by the entrepreneurial poet himself, before fingers arrive at typewriter.
Such translation is often “difficult,” i.e., language and syntax are more complex and arcane then the impulse behind them. There may also be preoccupation with the idiosyncratic, in an effort to avoid being common—with the exact reverse effect: it is just common.
Everyone else’s language seems to be better than one’s own. It is terribly difficult to write without translating. Even—translating into the language of one’s own image.
graphemicand ends—willfully prodding itself into mere cummingsesque idiosyncrasy—
connexions . . .
nOt sParTaN“Trivial, posturing, hustling, small” indeed.
: polish(s) (ed)
am (visit, subdue, impulse)
h. . .l. . .r. . .ty
Out of Bezoar XII:3.5 (1978), Metcalf clearly working up what’d become Zip Odes (1979)—names selected and arranged by state out of the U. S. Postal Service’s zip code directory, here proceeding with sonic glee (in revising, he’d push more for semantics and humor):
MississippiAnd, presumably a direct variant, a translation:
midnight bourbon battlefield
(bobo soso tippo tehula)
darling chunky Choctaw
(itta bena eastabunchie nitta yuma noxapater)
(bogue chitto d’lo)
money! rich! value!
(panther burn . . .)
MississippiBezoar: “eighty-four issues . . . once a week or once a month . . .” “Most of the printing was done using an A.B. Dick mimeograph machine. The average issue was ten pages—five pieces of paper, a staple, an address label and a piece of tape—though some issues grew a little larger . . .”
39115 38729 39204
(38728 39480 38962 39169)
38623 39323 39440
(38941 39436 38763 39346)
38945! 38662! 39178!
(38765 . . .)