Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Notebook (A. R. Ammons, Jack Spicer, &c.)

A. R. Ammons, c. 1969
(Photograph by Jonathan Williams)

Continuing with the salient wonders of the new A. R. Ammons Chicago Review (57:1/2). In a 1973 interview, Ammons defends himself against a charge—rather widely repeated is my sense—by Jed Rasula that, in Ammons’s work, “there is a range of thematic material that persists and never seems to begin to grow fallow,” that is, a charge, at bottom, of using “the same material poem after poem.” Ammons:
I follow the impulse, when the poem is coming, and I don’t deliberately steer myself around, technically or otherwise. I have a very great esteem for an occurrence of an event. Out of all the possibilities of forces and materials and entities, something suddenly occurs. This is what happens in the mind. Out of all the perceptions, sensations, and so on, something suddenly coalesces, something rises to the surface and occurs under its own spontaneous energy. That is what I am seeking. I don’t care whether it says the same thing it said last week or not. I don’t believe it will be exactly the same, but it’s in the accuracy and the spontaneity, and the truthfulness of the occurrence that I locate the poem. I don’t believe in setting down the plan in advance, in saying, “Now I did this thing four times, what the hell’s the use of doing it five times?” If it’s just as much fun to do it the fifth time, I say do it.
Recalling somehow Jack Spicer’s sense of language itself as “part of the furniture of the room”—“furniture . . . which the spooks can move around any way they want to” (“. . . the only way to find out what furniture you need is to lack it. You go to a place, and the green Martian spook doesn’t find anything in the room he can possibly sit in. This tells the poet, for chrissakes get another chair for the room. And I certainly think that a poet ought to supply as much furniture as possible but then ought to be very careful about not saying, ‘oh please, sit down in this new armchair I’ve just gotten.’”) A direct refusal to direct. Focus pointed at the “occurrence,” that unforeseen knotting-up of particulars, the coalescent act (as opposed to any subsequent result, or any precedent intent). Earlier Ammons, noting how the “symmetry” of one’s concerns emerges out of assiduity, relentlessness, and care, and only in retrospect, summons up Emerson in defense of what amounts to “going on one’s nerve”:
It was only by not controlling it in the beginning that the symmetry emerges after a number of years, right? Emerson has a wonderful statement; he says, “In this woods-life that God allows me”—or something like that—“let me record from day to day, from day to day, my honest thought, without prospect or retrospect.” And he says, “I have no doubt that it would be found symmetrical.” Now there’s something under our conscious attention that is symmetrical, that is us, that is the way we are moving. And the poems are individual events that start to suggest that symmetry, to bring it up. Because we have no way to reach it otherwise. We can’t deliberately go after it.
Ammons repeats the Emerson formula in a 1978 interview with Cynthia Haythe—out of Contemporary Literature (21:2)—all the while insisting “I really didn’t read Emerson that much or that well before Harold Bloom started speaking of him. When Harold began to speak of my connection to Emerson, I went back myself to try and confirm or renounce this thing, and I found, in nearly every paragraph, a man speaking my central concerns more beautifully than I could say them myself. . . .” Talking of how he’d undone the imposed order of pieces in the early book Expressions of Sea Level (1964) so’s to make a chronological arrangement for Collected Poems 1951-1971 (“I went for chronology, thinking that I might misjudge the symmetries in making an individual book”), Ammons says:
I was controlled by that statement of Emerson’s—or rather, I was controlled by a sentiment in myself, expressed by Emerson when he said, “In this life that God allows me, let me record from day to day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect.” I’ve forgotten how the rest goes, but it’s something like “I have no doubt that my days will appear to have been symmetrical,” that some underlying unity will emerge if you remain loyal to the chronology and truthfulness of each day.*
The Emerson lines (out of “Self-Reliance”) read:
      I suppose no man can violate his nature. All the sallies of his will are rounded in by the law of his being, as the inequalities of Andes and Himmaleh are insignificant in the curve of the sphere. Nor does it matter how you gauge and try him. A character is like an acrostic or Alexandrian stanza; read it forward, backward, or across, it still spells the same thing. In this pleasing contrite wood-life which God allows me, let me record day by day my honest thought without prospect or retrospect, and, I cannot doubt, it will be found symmetrical, though I mean it not, and see it not.
Symmetry, not essence. Nor unity in any normal sense. Ammons’s poetic (and the “I” that inhabits it) seems so caught up in the constancy of change (“too many linking verbs”) that its only stable element is its restlessness. Therein lies the symmetry. See, say—one might dip in nearly anywhere—these lines out of “Essay on Poetics”:
                              . . . I am experiencing at the moment several

clusters of entanglement: if I took a single thread from a
single cluster, viewed it, explained it, presented it, would
I not be violating my reality into artificial clarity and my

bundles into artificial linearity: but if I broached, as I seem
to be doing, too many clusters, would I not be violating this
typewriter’s mode into nonsense: hue a middle way, the voice

replied, which is what I’m doing the best I can,
that is to say, with too many linking verbs: the grandest
clustering of aggregates permits the finest definition: so out

of that bind, I proceed a little way into similarity and
withdraw a bit into differentiae: unfortunately, man cannot
do better though it might be better done . . .
To “hue a middle way” hardly meaning any adjustment of differences, or any compromise: meaning the “both / and” of proceeding and withdrawing, that vacillatory spell: “a little way into similarity . . . a bit into differentiae.”
* Measure of the weight of Emerson’s lines. Ammons, in an interview (c. 1980) with Philip Fried, editor of The Manhattan Review (rather astoundingly summoning, too, Robert Frost, to under-prop a processual poetic—“. . . you don’t want the poem to amount to no more than what you already knew when you began to write. Whatever kind of instrument it may be, it must be one capable of churning up what you didn’t already know. That’s what creativity is, and it is to be surprised by the end of the poem as much as you expect the reader to be surprised. That’s why I think Frost is so right to say, you don’t have the prepared last line and then try to write a poem that will end there. . . .”):
If you weren’t learning something, what would be the use of doing it? So you can’t write out of just what you know. There’s no motivation for that, and so I feel always in agreement with that thing that Emerson said in the essay Nature, where he says let me record from day to day my honest thought. Today, I say exactly the way things seem to me. Tomorrow, I also say, and it may differ somewhat from what I said the day before, but the difference, while it may be interesting, is not as important as the hope, which he expresses, that if you go on doing this somehow or other you will come to know a deeper thing that unifies all these days. Whereas if you had tried to plunge towards that deeper symmetry directly, there would be no way you could get there.

A. R. Ammons, [Untitled], c. 1977-80

A. R. Ammons, [Untitled], 1980

A. R. Ammons, [Untitled], 1979

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Notebook (A. R. Ammons, Ernest Fenollosa, &c.)

A. R. Ammons, c. 1984

(Somewhat ragged, inchoate, duty-bound.) A. R. Ammons to Josephine Miles (20 May 1955), who’s asked about Ammons’s Ezra* (“is there any Pound in him?”):
      The name Ezra is one of those private associations which poets would be much kinder to leave out. I take it from the name of a classmate in elementary school. His name was Ezra Smith, like me a country boy in a wooden school. I think he was killed in the war. But, to me, anybody with the name Ezra would never do anything but wander. I think of the character as wiry, evaporated, leathern, a desert creature, much soul and bone, little flesh. Too, the word itself is just a little twisted, restless, but soft and mystical to the ear. After having used the name for awhile, I went to the Book of Ezra to see if I could find interesting parallels but found none useful. In 1951 I knew only the name of Pound and was saddened that his name might interfere with me. I know Pound better now and like him. I like to string things together too—trying for “aggregates of unity” as found in nature and event, rather than overall unity, which always seems to me imposed and too artificial. What line to take between nature and art. Because any selective unity (it’s very hard to find any other kind) is bound to be partial, to leave too many things out of account . . . and like Pound I can’t stand to leave anything out. One of my poems says:
Pray for those who have their unity by winnowing
Their even texture by the sieve
Pray for those who relent to travel east
Because they may not go all ways at once.
I stray. There is reason to think now that there is some Pound in me. . . .
Out of a lengthy letter (5 September 1962) to Denise Levertov (Chicago Review 57:1/2):
      The mind can’t perceive except by limiting, by blocking things off, by naming them. The moment the line has been drawn, fidelity to nature is impossible, because it has no sharp lines, but only the massive events of transition. This is the heart of the problem. If art is the opposite of nature, if art is the means by which wholeness can be realized in the fragment, then aren’t we making a mistake to loosen the form that is to hold the wholeness? It’s just a question, as you’ve seen from quoted fragments of my verse, I’m preaching the opposite doctrine. But, as I said, I’m beginning to feel uneasy about it. There are no ends in nature. But art has a beginning, middle, and end. I can start to work immediately on the second hundred cantos, etc. . . .
Recalling, unmistakably I’d insist, Fenollosa’s lines out of “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry”: “A true noun, an isolated thing, does not exist in nature. Things are only the terminal points, or rather the meeting points of actions, cross-sections cut through actions, snap-shots. Neither can a pure verb, an abstract motion, be possible in nature. The eye sees noun and verb as one: things in motion, motion in things . . .” The impossibility of a purely processual verse, like any force perpetuum mobile. Think of Ammons’s poem “Written Water” (out of Lake Effect Country)—with its echo of Keats’s “Here lies One whose Name was writ in Water”—how it conjures a rising out of stasis (and statement) into a purity of constant change:
I hope I will go through
the period of hunger
for immortality and be stated
so that I can rise

at last from that death into communion with
things, the flowing free of
grave trenches in rain, the
indifferent and suitable toppling

of stones, the wiping out of
borders and prints, stains, inks;
so that I can abide the
rinse of change as the fountainhead’s

coolest, freshest drink, the
immortality likeliest to last, the clarity
whose clarion no decay smuts,
change’s pure arising in constant souls
As Ammons put it early (in the “Foreword” to the 1955 Ommateum): “While maintaining a perspective from the hub, the poet ventures out in each poem to explore one of the numberless radii of experience. The poems suggest a many-sided view of reality; an adoption of tentative, provisional attitudes, replacing the partial, unified, prejudicial, and rigid; a belief that forms of thought, like physical forms, are, in so far as they resist it, susceptible to change, increasingly costly and violent.”
* Of the initial piece in Ammons’s Collected Poems 1951-1971 “So I Said I Am Ezra”:
So I said I am Ezra
and the wind whipped my throat
gaming for the sounds of my voice
      I listened to the wind
go over my head and up into the night
Turning to the sea I said
I am Ezra
but there were no echoes from the waves
The words were swallowed up
      in the voice of the surf
or leaping over the swells
lost themselves oceanward
      Over the bleached and broken fields
I moved my feet and turning from the wind
      that ripped sheets of sand
      from the beach and threw them
      like seamists across the dunes
swayed as if the wind were taking me away
and said
                  I am Ezra As a word too much repeated
falls out of being
so I Ezra went out into the night
like a drift of sand
and splashed among the windy oats
that clutch the dunes
of unremembered seas

A. R. Ammons, “Success Story,” 1976
(“I never got on good / relations with the world // first I had nothing / the world wanted // then the world had / nothing I wanted”)

Monday, October 29, 2012

Notebook (A. R. Ammons, Hugh Kenner, &c.)

Advertising Card for A. R. Ammons’s Ommateum (1955), Dorrance & Company, Publishers

Gusts of the obligatory. Kept by the body’s demands, its hoof-flail and bucking, its fevers and spittles, the self ties itself to its pommel, and rides what’s uncontainable out. Hither and thither skittering, random access, the largesse of simple mayhem, matutinal dismay. Taut focus whilst, Sunday, the blow begins. Thus the weekend. The paraphrase is the poem. There’s that terrific thing A. R. Ammons quotes to Denise Levertov in a letter (2 September 1963) found in the new Chicago Review 57:1/2, Hugh Kenner talking about Yvor Winters’s “Fallacy of Expressive or Imitative Form”*:
Re Winters, I think he’s simply rationalizing his distress at non-reusable forms. His mind runs toward packaging, and a “form,” to his way of thinking, comes from Container Corp. All ad hoc formalities are Imitative and therefore Fallacious. Look up Williams’ poem about the cat stepping among the jamjars; and note that it contains, exactly, a single declarative sentence, which printed as prose would serve as its paraphrase; but that the poem, despite the fact that it contains the same words in the same order as its paraphrase is not identical with its paraphrase; and the difference between the two is what I call the poem’s form. Nothing to do with stanza pattern or lineation, though these serve as indications that one doesn’t look at the sentence but at the poem. Difference rather of direction. The sentence records information; the poem on the contrary enacts, i.e. gets from its own beginning to its own ending with the same gingerly efficiency as that cat dislodging nothing. . . .
Lovely. (In The Pound Era (1971), Kenner says of the poem: “It is one sinuous suspended sentence, feeling its way and never fumbling. Its gestures raise anticipatory tensions, its economy dislodges nothing.”) Pertinent, too, is Ammons’s “canto”—later called “Identity”—that he quotes and writes of (5 September 1962) to Levertov (who’s beginning to accumulate and arrange lines for the 1965 essay “Some Notes on Organic Form”—“I see craftsmanship not as an ability to plan campaigns but as being able to jump the right way in all the unguessable emergencies of writing”). Ammons, of “Identity”:
One of the submerged metaphors in the poem applies to writing poet, though the poem is really about any form of knowledge, experience, or existence. Texture, though, fits nicely in the texture of the web: the problem of pre-setting order is mentioned, and whether order shouldn’t be realized from the surroundings, the freest medium accepting the firmest order. . . .
        1)   an individual spider web
               identifies a species:

an order of instinct prevails
        through all accidents of circumstance,

                though possibility is
high along the peripheries of
                        you can go all
                around the fringing attachments

                and find
disorder ripe,
entropy rich, high levels of random,
        occasions of accident:

        2)   the possible settings
                of a web are infinite:

                        if the web were perfectly pre-set,
                        the spider could
        never find
        a perfect place to set it in: and

                        if the web were
perfectly adaptable,
if freedom and possibility were without limit,
                        the web would
lose its special identity:

        the row-strung garden web

keeps order at the center
where space is freest (interesting that the freest
                “medium” should
                accept the firmest order)

and that
                        diminishes toward the
        allowing at the points of contact
                        entropy equal to entropy:
      I think the web here is the constellation you mention. I call it a “field” as Olson, I think, does—using the scientific meaning of classical vs quantum fields. Fields of order occur out of random: it’s the freedom to occur from disorder that makes possible new fields, new things in new fields. If we imposed upon random a classical field then we would violate to some extent the actual, total operation of the field. This is an old, old problem, and it applies to so many areas, and is actually the central problem of my cantos. . . .
(Ammons redacts a lyrical midriff’s—between “the possible settings / of a web are infinite” and “if the web were perfectly pre-set”—including the somewhat mystical tag “I will show you / the underlying that takes no image to itself, / cannot be shown or said, / but weaves in and out of moons and bladderweeds, / is all and / beyond destruction / because created fully in no / particular form . . .”) Nearly all of Ammons’s recurrent motifs there in “Identity” in nuce: center : periphery, one : many, the uneasy arc of the salient unraveling.**
* Winters, in “Poetic Convention” (Primitivism and Decadence, 1937) put it thus:
To say that a poet is justified in employing a disintegrating form in order to express a feeling of disintegration, is merely a sophistical justification for bad poetry, akin to the Whitmanian notion that one must write loose and sprawling poetry to “express” the loose and sprawling American continent. In fact, all feeling, if one gives oneself (that is, one’s form) up to it, is a way of disintegration; poetic form is by definition a means to arrest the disintegration and order the feeling; and in so far as any poetry tends toward the formless, it fails to be expressive of anything.
A sort of “contained wholes” “shored against my ruins” approach. Writing to R. P. Blackmur (27 September 1933), Winters called “the fallacy of expressive form”:
. . . the notion that the form should express the quality of the material, that the rhythm should follow the mood, or what-not. This boils down to the Whitmanian trick of writing loose poetry about a loose country, or the Joycian trick of going crazy to express madness. One writes well, not in so far as one acquiesces in one’s matter (which is by nature formless) but in so far as one resists and reforms it.

** Even in Ammons’s 1960 review of Robert Duncan’s City Lights Selected Poems (in Poetry)—topic, partly, of the initial Levertov / Ammons exchange (Ammons: “I had no background material on Duncan . . . I couldn’t feel much lovingkindness, innocence or sense of wonder in the man behind the work—and I like to see that, reserving the fact, of course, that an innocent man who can’t write poetry doesn’t help poetry either. . .”), the preponderant concerns are much the same:
      Mr. Duncan has taken up the central order-disorder position from which he can regard all being, if he likes, or only selected, representative parts of being. His poems are illustrations, objectifications of the interchange between order and disorder, accompanied by the appropriate emotions, which are more nearly suggested than realized, of amazement and love at the sight of perfect order, awe and fear at the possibilities of new forms (sometimes monstrous) arising from disorder, and grief at the processes of decay, disintegration, and return. Art—specifically, poetry—is a part of this large concern, and references to poetry or to the poet occur in nearly every poem. Duncan’s relationship to poetry, to the creation of form, becomes the symbol of order and change operating in all aspects of reality.
      What that relationship is can best be suggested by thinking of Mr. Duncan as a ballet teacher. He stands at the bar, before a wall-size mirror, assumes a stance, and explains both his image and the emotions that should be evoked: “Note the configuration of that hand. That means disdain. Now, this thigh-line, on stage, will suggest emotional agility.” Etc. The imaginative students probably get through the machinery of the emotion occasionally to the actual, on-stage emotion. But Mr. Duncan never goes on stage. He analyzes and reports the materials of the experience as well as the reactions to the materials.

A. R. Ammons, [Untitled], 1979

Friday, October 26, 2012

Lisa Jarnot’s Robert Duncan (Stray Notes)

Robert Duncan, c. 1962
(Photograph by LaVerne Harrell Clark)

Jack Spicer, out of a 1958 letter to Robin Blaser (quoted in Lisa Jarnot’s biography Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus):
The trick naturally is what Duncan learned years ago and tried to teach us—not to search for the perfect poem but to let your way of writing of the moment go along its own paths, explore and retreat but never be fully realized (confined) within the boundaries of one poem.
Continuing (made parcel of Spicer’s Admonitions): “This is where we were wrong and he was right, but he complicated things for us by saying that there is no such thing as good or bad poetry. There is—but not in relation to a single poem. There is really no single poem. . . . Poems should echo and reecho against each other. They should create resonances. They cannot live alone any more than we can.” And Duncan, out of the unpublished “Introduction to a Bibliography of the Works of Jack Spicer,” a work instigated in 1973 by Andreas Brown of the Gotham Book Mart, and pursued by Duncan for several months in 1974 “producing,” according to Jarnot, “pages of criticism and memoir as well as the poem ‘Over There’”:
I had led the way toward the serial poem that was to be the governing concept of Spicer’s and Blaser’s later work with Medieval Scenes in 1946, which I wrote, making like my parents, who in their Hermetic mysteries had received messages at their séance table, setting up now a table where I proposed in ten consecutive nights to receive ten consecutive visions that were also messages in Poetry.
(Is there an ongoing quarrel regarding the origin of seriality cached in “Over There”? “In one / imagination     there is a bond     secret to my understanding     that fate the structure of rime imitates commands.     Beyond my Medieval Scenes you went to distil from the sensual ripening the poison of an alcohol whose fumes have toucht poetry with rages and hallucinations I but refer to you ate. At the bile of Narcissus you croucht to rework his mirror as if to prove a window or renew the useable surface.” Is right acknowledgment for the initial reconnaissance of the serial work the source of the later Spicer / Duncan battles?)* Duncan in the “Introduction to a Bibliography. . .,” notes, too, the impermeability of the two’s research and study in that early period:
For the next two years, Spicer and I all but saw each other every day, days of intensive talk and study and writing toward what we thought of as a “Berkeley Renaissance.” We wanted a learned poetry, learned not in the terms of the literary world but in the lore of a magic tradition and of a spiritual experience we believed to be the key to the art. This was the period of Spicer’s elegies of a black Calvinism, the beginning of his life long contention with God, the Father, and of my orphic “Heavenly City, Earthly City” and of my “Medieval Scenes.”
And, in the 1980 Preface to Spicer’s One Night Stand & Other Poems, Duncan quotes parts of a piece Spicer wrote “in a symposium on “The Poet and Poetry” in Occident in 1949”:
The proudest boast made about Orpheus was not that his poems were beautiful in and of themselves. There were no New Critics then. The proudest boast was that he, the singer with the songs, moved impossible audiences—trees, wild animals, the king of hell himself.
And comments: “the Spicer of these early poems was at war with the doctrines of the New Critics that would see the poem as a thing in itself”—seeing in that refusal of the “thing in itself” (“the well wrought urn”) seriality broached. (Spicer, out of the same Occident statement: “The truth is that pure poetry bores everybody. It is a bore even to the poet. The only real contribution of the New Critics is that they have demonstrated this so well. They have taken poetry (already removed from its main source of human interest—the human voice) and have completed the job of denuding it of any remaining connection with person, place, and time. What is left is proudly exhibited in their essays—the dull horror of naked, pure poetry.” It’s that refusal of “the human voice” that makes the New Critics plausible kin (denied) to the Language poets.)
* Talking of the extent of the feud between Spicer and Duncan, Jarnot quotes an anecdote (dated 25 August 1997) by Spicer circle poet Harris Schiff, nineteen years old and attending the 1963 Vancouver Conference:
So, Jack [Spicer], for one reason or another—I think he thought it was quite a joke— . . . told me to stay with Creeley and have him take me around to go to the festival. And then he said, “I’d like you to look up Robert Duncan and ask him a question for me.” So I said, sure. . . . I was really a very innocent young man. I had no idea about poetry feuds. . . . There was a big . . . Saturday night party, and I told Creeley that Jack had asked me to deliver a message to Robert Duncan. . . . I’m pretty sure I had some drinks, and . . . I’m sure everyone else there was blasted. So Creeley introduced me to Duncan and said, “This is a young friend of Jack Spicer’s from San Francisco.” And I said hi, and I said “Jack asked me to ask you a question,” and he said, . . . “Oh yeah, what might that be?” And I said, “Well he wanted you to tell him if you could tell the difference between poetry and cable cars,” and Duncan said—I don’t remember his exact words, but what comes to me is “Why you little son of bitch, get the fuck out of my face. How can you come here and do that?” I had no idea what had just transpired. I never saw Robert Duncan again. And Jack wrote . . . to apologize for the poor manners of the poets in Vancouver.
Jarnot remarks: “Spicer, who had once said ‘Poetry is only for poets. Cable cars are for tourists,’ proved again that he could raise Duncan’s hackles, even for a distance.” Jarnot is likely referring to a letter Spicer wrote to Foot magazine (quoted in Ellingham and Killian’s Poet Be Like God), refusing to submit poems because one of its editors—Philip Whalen—was receiving ten dollars to read at the San Francisco State College Poetry Festival. That editor, Spicer writes:
. . . is as aware as I am or you are that 1) SF State College would like to turn all poets into cable cars. 2) A poet is not a cable car. 3) If a poet is gradually becoming a cable car he is gradually ceasing to be a poet. 4) He is telling others, who are too young to know better, that there is no difference between cable cars and poetry. 5) Poetry in a funny and metaphysical sense of the word is a Union and making it or yourself (which happens first) into a cable car is scabbing on the Union which can’t be broken but sure as hell can be scabbed upon . . .
A slightly different version—“And Duncan really got really pissed off and just said, ‘Fuck you. Get out of here, you little creep.’ And Jack just thought it was a funny thing to do. Which it was, you know?”—of Schiff’s story (“interviewed by Kevin Killian, May 6, 1991”) is found in Poet Be Like God.
      Another report (see Jarnot’s Robert Duncan) of “the fireworks between Duncan and Spicer” is George Stanley’s (18 February 2006):
It was a grand feud—a transcendent feud—ultimate issues were at stake. It was conducted at a distance . . . —Duncan never came to Gino and Carlo’s, where the Spicer circle met, and I think Jack was persona non grata at 20th Street—not that he would have wanted to attend anyway—so the ripostes were carried back and forth by the young—like me. I recall something like this: someone told Jack that Robert had recently written a great poem. Jack said, sarcastically, “How many Egyptian gods are there in it?” That set the tone. But the great exchange was this. Jack accused Robert of having “broken the vow he had made to poetry”—this refers back to Berkeley in the 40s, I guess. I remember Robert’s reply exactly: “I never made any vow to poetry except to cut its throat, if i could make somebody laugh.”
Duncan’s reply ending up in “Pub Night,” a Stanley poem recording what sounds precisely as if it comes out of North Beach Spicer circle doings:
            This i record
that listening to you talk, my mind half on you
& half on the variousness of what you were saying
      it struck me
that love is true, not just real, not just a

I was afraid i might forget this, so i grabbed
      a cigarette pack that was lying on the table,
tore off the top, & wrote:
      “Truth has a double
value: obverse / reverse”

(A couple of days later i find it
      in my pocket
& i tape it in my writing book, under this
      quotation from Duncan:
      “I never made any vow to poetry
      except to cut its throat, if i could
      make somebody laugh.”
Putting the two—Spicer and Duncan—next one another, a just referendum. Stanley, toward the end of the poem:
& by “obverse / reverse” i mean
one Truth, i hope, not two,
not a scattered, shattered love
falling through endless darkness
but a mystery, plain & simple . . .

Thursday, October 25, 2012


Antoine Vollon, “Mound of Butter,” 1875/1885

what’s become of art? here is my chain
do with it as you’d like, ms. hierholzer.
i’m down in the dumps with my germanic ancestors
that guy, uncle george, who used to say
come sit on my lap & aunt eleanor who made
chocolate cake with oranges, jello with fruit
from canned fruit salad, this was not joy
no wonder i feel like a fly, not butter either

          erase your personal history
          is a good idea

        —Bernadette Mayer, out of “Don’t Avoid Disappearance a Sonnet”
        (Poetry State Forest, 2008)

                                                    . . . The casual intelligence
we are the sensorium of breeds a disparity
so georgic are the bells that fill the skies
burned clear like stubble fields with fireworks.
& if all it takes is for words to turn to perfume,
butter-, fire-, & damsel-flies to move
their hemistiches in tandem round
the cognates whirling in our fiery lobes,
one of these mornings, rising up singing etc.
it is to be sovereign without imprint of
a particular day . . .

        —Ange Mlinko, out of “Rusticity” (Starred Wire, 2005)

Jo scribbled her dairy diary accounting
butter and egg men small loss. Toted colonial
nights, taxis, taxes, lilies begetting rain.
“Fagin initiates Oliver to crime-life: me.”
At home, in bed, alone, scrawled, Fagin day.

        —James Schuyler, out of “Dreams, Anniversaries” (Other Flowers, 2010)

                                                                                                And if
she turns your head around
                                                      like any other man,
                                                                                            go home
and make yourself a sandwich
                                                          of toasted bread, & ham
                                                                                                        with butter
lots of it
                & have a diet cola,
                                                    & sit down
& write this,
                        because you can.

        —Ted Berrigan, out of “Peace” (In the Early Morning Rain, 1970)

Like statues of milk in the creamery cemetery as a leather skirt
pulls up, we went up in a hill that day and got as if the haul of
the elevator turned cold black beyond us. The butter a mere
likeness, the strawberry denim going sour over the wire of the
lingerie’s forgotten repetitions. But it will boil down to fall later
like grammar.

        —Clark Coolidge, out of The Book of During (1991)

    . . . the cherry-bark,
and the sticky pine-bark,
and sassafras-bark that we bit on,

and some dusty butter-and-eggs
(wild snap-dragon)
in a hot lane . . .

        —H. D., out of Hermetic Definition (1972)

Words can drop as my hand drops (hawk
          on wing
          weight and
to conquer inarticulate love
          leaving articulate

          the actual mountain.

This is the bunch of ranunculus,
          rose, butter, orange crowfoot
          profuse bouquet in its white china pitcher . . .

        —Robert Duncan, out of “Upon Taking Hold” (Letters: Poems 1953-1956, 1958)

                  . . . the edges of
the wings, ruffling the surface where it seemed
      light from another century
beat against those black bars—yellow, yellow, gorgeous, in-

      bells, chimes, flutes, strings—wind seized and blown
open—butter yellow, fever yellow,
      yellow of acid and flax,
lemon and chrome,
      madder, mikado, justic, canary—

yellow the singers exhale that rises, fanged, laughing,
      up through the architraves and out (slow) . . .

        —Jorie Graham, out of “Subjectivity” (Materialism, 1993)

Butter. Lotions. Cries. A glass of ice. Aldebaran and Mizar,
a guitar of toothpaste tubes and fingernails, trembling spear.
Balustrade, tensile, enclosing the surging waters of my heart
in a laughing collapse where the natives tint urine their hair:
trolley cars find cat-eyes in New Guinea where Mozart died,
on the beach fraught with emotion and rotting elephants,
that elephant of a smile which lingers when I lean over and throw.

        —Frank O’Hara, out of “Second Avenue” (The Collected Poems of Frank O’Hara, 1971)

So bring the scenery with you.
Midwife to gargoyles, as if all or something
were appropriate, you circle the time inside you,
plant an asterisk next to a kiss,
and it was going to be okay again, and the love
of which much was made settles closer, is a paw
against a wrist. Hasn’t finished yet,

though the bread-and-butter machine continues to churn out
faxes, each grisette has something different
about her forehead, is as a poinsettia
in the breeze of Rockefeller Center. I don’t like
a glacier telling me to hurry up, the ride down is precipitous.

        —John Ashbery, out of “And the Stars Were Shining” (And the Stars Were Shining, 1995)


      Boom in boom in, butter. Leave a grain and show it, show it. I spy.
      It is a need it is a need that a flower a state flower. It is a need that a state rubber. It is a need that a state rubber is sweet and sight and a swelled stretch. It is a need. It is a need that state rubber.
      Wood a supply. Clean little keep a strange, estrange on it.
      Make a little white, no and not with pit, pit on in within.

        —Gertude Stein, out of Tender Buttons (1914)

                                                                Memory Injury—
how does that velocity butter lumens ditty go?—

        —Bruce Andrews, out of Tizzy Boost (1993)

No one listens to poetry. The ocean
Does not mean to be listened to. A drop
Or crash of water. It means
Is bread and butter
Pepper and salt. The death
That young men hope for. Aimlessly
It pounds the shore. White and aimless signals. No
One listens to poetry.

        —Jack Spicer, out of “Thing Language” (Language, 1965)

And not all birds sing cuck
Sing coo, sing cuck, cuckoo.

Oh! Sal, the butcher’s wife ate clams
And died amid uproarious damns.
And mother nature sick of silk
Shot lightning at the kind cow’s milk.

And father nature, full of butter
Made the maelstrom oceans mutter . . .

        —Wallace Stevens, out of “Lulu Morose” (Opus Posthumous: Poems, Plays, Prose, 1957)

                                              . . . one day the weight

whomps down and you jack-spring onto a
different floe or the road you were doing seventy

on rumbles or runs out of road:
meanwhile, baked potatoes are still fine,

split down the middle, buttered up, the two white
cakes steaming, the butter (or sour cream) oozing

down and sex is, if any, good, and there’s that time
between dawn and day when idle birds assert song

whereas a little while later they’re quiet . . .

        —A. R. Ammons, out of Garbage (1993)

Up in that gaudy space’s
upper section a buttercup is blooming
                (high-class buttercup it is but
                rather than butter, from sulphur and honey)
below that, wild parsley and clover
and a dragonfly of worked tinplate.

        —Gary Snyder, out of “A Break” (The Back Country, 1968)

Dogs skulk, clouds moil and froth, humans
begin to cook—butter, a blue waver of flame,
chopped onions. A styptic rain stings grit and soot

from the noon air . . .

        —William Matthews, out of “April in the Berkshires” (Foreseeable Futures, 1987)

            Or, to make altogether evident his femininities, this,
from his Sea-Grammar, 1626:

            “For when a man is ill sicke,
or at the point of death, I would know
whether a dish of buttered Rice,
with a little Cinnamon and Sugar,
a can of fresh water brewed of these,
a little minced meate, or roast Beefe,
a few stewed Prunes, a race of greene-ginger,
a flap Jacke,

be not better than a little poore John,
or salt fish
with oil and mustard,
or brisket, butter cheese or oatmeale pottage
on fish days,
salt beefe, porke and pease,
sixe shillings beare.
is your ordinary ships allowance.”

        —Charles Olson, out of “Maximus, to Gloucester, Letter II,” (The Maximus Poems, 1960)

Years to sustain
A tone, not butter
      —I meant to mention there’s a facsimile of
      The First Quarto of Pericles
      With a preface by Mr. P. Z. Round.

        —Louis Zukofsky, out of “A”-13 (“A” 13-21, 1969)

      Senator Wise:
What you want is an aria from that famous classic “The Longhorns of Poker Flat,” or a yodeler from the oleo lobby. [He yodels.] Oleo lobby! Oleo lobby!

      Senator Pipeline:
I hope they never get it, just the same.

      Senator Wise:
O.K. Butter fat, fat, fat, fat, fat!

        —William Carlos William, out of “Tituba’s Children” (Many Loves, and Other Plays, 1961)

You have lost the original which was perhaps
better but the boys did their best lying on the

Mowed grass whispering butter as a matter of fact

        —Barbara Guest, out of “Egypt,” (Moscow Mansions, 1973)

Many major things are not interesting. Things perhaps not interesting
                include the drugs that we take, the decade
That we live in, & current political crises—they are X the Boring,
                to deal with
Them constantly mentally is to dry-fuck or is it dry-hump?
                not that
They have to do with sex. Everyone knows a recipe for something,
                for example,
A peanut butter sandwich.

        —Alice Notley, out of “The Prophet” (How Spring Comes, 1971)

                                                        The tedium
of all this struck a new high in feedback
whine; that tunnel was jammed with in-
sults inside and bardic butter overall.

        —J. H. Prynne, out of News of Warring Clans (1977)

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Lisa Jarnot’s Robert Duncan (Stray Notes)

Robert Duncan, c. 1947

Continuing with Lisa Jarnot’s biography Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus. A kind of doggedness, begun in the late ’sixties: Duncan’s life seemingly become a constant round of lectures and readings, and reported thus. Regarding Duncan’s rather bruited-about vow to forego doing another book for fifteen years after Bending the Bow (1968)—a refusal I recall’s being a kind of (possibly deemed narcissist) protest against the war in Vietnam—Jarnot quotes a 1971 document called “A Prospectus for the Prepublication Issue of Ground Work to Certain Friends of the Poet”:
I want a time and space to work in that will be, as time and space were only in the years before others were interested in publishing me, the time and space of a life of the work itself.
(Recalling, under its ingenuous fretting about the demands of success, Bernadette Mayer’s rather more defiant “work yr ass off and don’t ever get famous.”)

Out of the 1968 Fulcrum Press Derivations: Selected Poems, 1950-1956—good biography serving to point the reader “back” (or “onwards”) into the corpus—a document that is printed, too, in the Robert J. Bertholf-edited A Selected Prose (1995), there made part of “Pages from a Notebook”:

          Where giant wordlings interrupt the stuttering machine-gun wit; the pale insensible bland body phrases loom, as islands in the line of fire. Not targets, but meaningless casualties. Luminous blobs in a splattered nightscene; too accidental for inspiration, too clumsy for lyric.

          Regular straining.
          Great rips in the febrile
          Gapes. A leftover intending.

          My god, we thot after four minutes, how much more of this can there be? O a pure tedium. With and without ideas. A pure tedium.

          The poet can barely lift these words. Not because they are heavy, but because he is so weak.

          Unfolding phrases, like chairs closing into themselves. Furnitures walking, shifting sides over legs, backs. A gate closed in order to open. Irregular measures of meaning. The words, all cream and curds, all slick and sheen.
          Drop and drop of acid. To permeate each custard area. A bitter cool smooth move ball bearing. A heavy wooden convertible structure.

          A field of targets and archers. Bright black red and white concentric circles the bullseyes. Looking not watching. Sing sting sing slings of fortune. Birds fly far afield in far off sky. A shout arises. Almost. Haloo! Elegiac victories.
          And all this refers to one’s extreme of youth. How extreme youth is.

          Wide awake confusions.
          Then drowsy illness. Ill, at ease.
Then—deep imageless sequence of words as blackout.
          Confused, aroused;
          two words startled like deep sleeping deer started up from deep thicket of words
aroused, confusion, like the breaking and smashing and trampling of a thicket of words. A weary after statement of wide awake confused aroused.

          two or three occasional
          endearing clear
          statement of a tea pot, a
          sculptural head, a cat asleep.
Stein-inflected, I suppose (induced sopor in the “weary after statement”). I admit it: Duncan often makes me exceedingly impatient, vitreously numb, “glazed.” The constant sense of agon, the mythic perturbatory, the excess and gush. Little or no humor. (See, for example, in a note written for a 17 March 1957 Jack Spicer reading at the Poetry Center, the complete failure to see Spicer’s humor:
Spicer disturbs. That he continues to do so is his vitality. The abortive, the solitary, the blasphemous, when they are not facetious, produce upheavals in the real. Life throws up the disturbing demand “All is not well”—sign after sign generated of accusation manifest—which it is the daring of Spicer . . . to mimic. If you do not allow that life vomits; that the cosmos with its swollen and shrunken stars, its irruptions, vomits—you can refuse to allow only by denying fact. And, in the fullness—the image of God must contain the grotesque.
A note that continues (only to voice belief in a kind of irremediable cosmic rut): “The Creator accuses as he blesses His creation. That God contains more, that God “contains” is an aesthetic that defines my critical departure from delight in Spicer’s work where the uncontaind, the isolate, appears and accuses the Creator. All partial voice screams out of very hell, divorced from the Good, truths that we can afford neither to deny nor to embrace.” Whew.) So that: reading Duncan’s earnest notes regarding “imaginary poetries” I can only turn (for relief) to something like the following—it, too, a set of “descriptions of imaginary poetries”—out of a late number (c. 1971) of the William Matthews and Russell Banks-edited Lillabulero:
        A Transistorized Survey of Current American Poetry*

1. Confessional Poetry

I love you.
It’s difficult.
I fail.

2. Irony

You know what I mean.

3. The New York School

Zowie! This Tristan Tzara
is fantastic! Like Ron
Padgett but older.

4. The Black Mountain Alumni Association Picnic

Surf’s / up.

5. The Last Humanists

Suffering, how they were right about it
at the workshop.

6. Zen Little Indians

Up the coast, down the coast.
Blood of the Snail, Brother
moonlight on my roach clip.

7. The Image

It is like a mammoth hair
that has melted a whole rutabaga!
Opening the doors of ice,
there you are in the freezer.

8. One Preview Line from James Dickey’s Inaugural Ode for
            President Nixon, January, 1973

Not     and tries     less     once     tries     tries     AH, GOD—

9. The Burning Bush

It’s warm.
It gives a lovely light.
We’re needed a recreation center.

10. Praise to the Lonely

The tongue inert, burnt
thong, detached
arm of a starfish . . . .
Death, song without
music, where have you been
all my life?

* Note: The above survey was transcriber from a cassette recording left in a basket on the doorstep of Lillabulero’s New Hampshire office.
A foundling. Apt. “To permeate the custard area.”

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Frank O’Hara’s “Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets”

Aimé Césaire, 1913-2008

It’s entirely likely that Frank O’Hara found the story* of Picasso’s telling Max Jacob “There is no style” in Yale French Studies No. 21, an issue titled “Poetry since the Liberation,” and dated “Spring-Summer 1958.” Therein, L. C. Breunig writes, in an essay called “Picasso’s Poets”:
According to one biographer Picasso after a strenuous evening of work would occasionally pass in front of Max Jacob’s window on Montmartre around two o’clock in the morning and call in, “Hey, Max, what are you doing?” and Jacob, sitting at his table with its oil lamp, would answer, “I am looking for a style!” Picasso would walk on, shouting over his shoulder, “There is no style!”
(And, too, quotes Pierre Reverdy—sounding rather like Ezra Pound—writing of Picasso in 1924: “Genius . . . is creation in its most absolute, its purest form: the act of gushing forth. All else in all branches where the highest qualities of mind enter into play is only arrangement, clarity of ideas, development and organization of means, faculty of production, talent and craftsmanship. It is the difference that exists between inventors who supply the first word of great discoveries, the germ of the most important inventions, and the ingenious adapters who perfect them.”) Of note in “Poetry since the Liberation”: an essay by François Hoffmann called “French Negro Poetry.” Is it likely that O’Hara, writing “Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets”** (dated “July 9, 1958” in manuscript, with the original title “Ode en salute aux poètes nègres françaises”), had recently read the essay, perused the number? Hoffman quotes the Martiniquais Aimé Césaire thus (out of “Les armes miraculeuses”):
Le grand coup de machete du plaisir rouge en plein front il y avait du sang et cet arbre qui s’appelle flamboyant et qui ne mérite jamais mieux ce nom-là que les veilles de cyclone et de villes mises à sac le nouveau sang la raison rouge tous les mots de toutes les langues qui signifient mourir de soif et seul quand mourir avait le goût du pain et la terre et la mer un goût d’ancêtre et cet oiseau qui me crie de ne pas me rendre et la patience des hurlements à chaque detour de ma langue

The great machete slash of red pleasure right in the forehead there was blood and this tree which is called flamboyant and which bears that name never more deservedly than on the eve of cyclones and sacked cities the new blood red blood and all the words in every tongue that mean to die of thirst and alone when dying had the taste of bread and the earth and sea a taste of ancestor and this bird which screams to me not to yield and the patience of bellowings at every deviation of my tongue
The sort of full-blown breathless assault I see echoed in O’Hara’s poem. Possibly pertinent, too, to O’Hara’s “Ode”: Hoffman’s quoting of Césaire’s lines (out of “Cahier d’un retour au pays natal”) “Sang! Sang! tout notre sang emu par le coeur male du soleil” (“Blood! Blood! All our blood stirred by the sun's male heart”) and (out of “Ex-voto pour un naufrage”) “Roi nos montagnes sont des cavales en rut saisies en pleine convulsion de mauvais sang” (“King our mountains are mares in heat seized in the full convulsion of bad blood”)—see O’Hara’s odd “blood! blood that we have mountains in our veins to stand off jackals . . .” Hoffman, too, quotes Césaire’s refusal of what Hoffman calls any attempt “to codify laws for writing politically efficient and esthetically successful poems.” Césaire:
. . . Je pense que si le poète s’engage de manière véritablement totale dans le poème, je pense que sa poésie, s’il est africain, ne pourra pas ne pas être une poésie africaine; que si le poème est bon (. . .) [il] ne pourra pas ne pas porter la marque du poète (. . .) c’est à dire la marque nationale.

. . . I believe that, if the poet gives himself in a truly total way to the poem, his poetry, if he is African, cannot fail to be African poetry; and that if the poem is good . . . [he] cannot fail to bear the insigne of the poet . . . that is to say, the national insigne.
Thus O’Hara’s “for if there is fortuity it’s in the love we bear each other’s differences / in race” and the terribly fierce final line “and dying in black and white we fight for what we love, not are.” O’Hara’s solidarity with Césaire (“the darkness I inhabit in the midst of sterile millions”) akin to Césaire’s own (quoted by Hoffman out of “Et les chiens se taisaient”): “Il n’y a pas dans le monde un pauvre type lynché, un pauvre homme torturé, en qui je ne sois assassiné et humilié.” (“I am assassinated and humiliated in every single man who is lynched, in every poor victim who is tortured.”)

Final note. I wonder if O’Hara’s evoking of Whitman (“my great predecessor”—somewhat coincidentally, Breunig’s piece includes the phrase “the great 19th-century precursors”) and something of the form*** of “Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets” didn’t arrive out of Hoffman’s quoting of the Whitmanesqueries of the Sénégalese poet Léopold Sédar-Senghor (out of “Chant de printemps”):
Ecoute le bruissement blanc et noir des cigognes horizontales à l’extrème
      de leurs voiles déployées
Ecoute le message du printemps d’un autre âge, d’un autre continent
Ecoute le message de l’Afrique lointaine et le chant de ton sang!

Hear the white and black rustling of the horizontal storks at the extremity of their unfolded sails / Hear the message from the springtime of another age, another continent / Hear the message from distant Africa and the song of your blood!
O’Hara’s “to make fecund my existence / do not spare your wrath upon our shores” a furious call. Jean-Paul Sartre, quoted in Hoffman’s epigraph: “La poésie noire de langue française est de nos jours la seule grande poésie révolutionnaire.”
* Related to Edward Lucie-Smith in an interview in 1965. See.

** O’Hara:
Ode: Salute to the French Negro Poets

From near the sea, like Whitman my great predecessor, I call
to the spirits of other lands to make fecund my existence

do not spare your wrath upon our shores, that trees may grow
upon the sea, mirror of our total mankind in the weather

one who no longer remembers dancing in the heat of the moon may call
across the shifting sands, trying to live in the terrible western world

here where to love at all’s to be a politician, as to love a poem
is pretentious, this may sound tendentious but it’s lyrical

which shows what lyricism has been brought to by our fabled times
where cowards are shibboleths and one specific love’s traduced

by shame for what you love more generally and never would avoid
where reticence is paid for by a poet in his blood or ceasing to be

blood! blood that we have mountains in our veins to stand off jackals
in the pillaging of our desires and allegiances, Aimé Césaire

for if there is fortuity it’s in the love we bear each other’s differences
in race which is the poetic ground on which we rear our smiles

standing in the sun of marshes as we wade slowly toward the culmination
of a gift which is categorically the most difficult relationship

and should be sought as such because it is our nature, nothing
inspires us but the love we want upon the frozen face of earth

and utter disparagement turns into praise as generations read the message
of our hearts in adolescent closets who once shot at us in doorways

or kept us from living freely because they were too young then to know
what they would ultimately need from a barren and heart-sore life

the beauty of America, neither cool jazz nor devoured Egyptian heroes, lies in
lives in the darkness I inhabit in the midst of sterile millions

the only truth is face to face, the poem whose words become your mouth
and dying in black and white we fight for what we love, not are

*** Hoffman writes: “Senghor composes in long, full, majestic verses where intensity of sentiment is enhanced by dignity of form.”

Monday, October 22, 2012

Lisa Jarnot’s Robert Duncan (Stray Notes)

Robert Duncan, c. 1984
(Photograph by Jonathan Williams)

Robert Duncan, out of a Black Mountain notebook (c. 1956), quoted in Lisa Jarnot’s biography Robert Duncan: The Ambassador from Venus (University of California Press, 2012):
Dante in De Vulgare Eloquentia writes: “what we call the vernacular speech is that which children are accustomed by those who are about them when they first begin to distinguish words . . .”* In search of the makings of poetry we are going to turn back to the very seeds of language, back to that first beginning to distinguish words which is a beginning of newly distinguishing the world.
Speech indomitably poised at the fons et origo of poetry. Stories of working with “the materials of poetry”—“vowel sounds . . . consonant clusters . . . syllables.” “We will be detectives not judges . . . Elements of movement, what is often calld ‘metrics.’ The syllable, the word the phrase, the line, the paragraph, and the sentence.” Sense of a glottal workout, a tangibility of voice. How odd, in retrospect, that there’d be any commerce between Duncan and the dumb (“naturally incapable of speech”) cerebral upstarts of the “I HATE SPEECH” juggernaut. Upshot of the difference: Duncan’s interrupting Barrett Watten’s 1978 (apparently somewhat “labored”**) talk about Zukofsky at the San Francisco Art Institute. One measure of the difference between the two poetics: Watten’s baffled (or obtuse) comment (drawing Duncan’s anger) in talking about Zukofsky’s statement concerning “A”—“In a sense the poem is an autobiography: the words are my life”—: “This was an incredibly difficult thing for me to understand—how are the words your life? Your words are one thing. Your life is another.” As if one’s own particular lingo were but a shabbily constructed backlot movie set, erected and struck at will at the director’s behest . . . or refusal.

O’Hara’s Duncan. Jarnot:
Intrigued by Frank O’Hara’s “In Memory of My Feelings,” published in the autumn 1958 issue of the Evergreen Review, Duncan wrote to the New York poet suggesting that he and O’Hara might share some common ground. Irritated with Duncan’s affected tone, O’Hara returned the letter via Donald Allen without a response. Duncan’s miscommunications with the writers of the New York school—tempered by a friendship with John Ashbery—were never to be resolved. O’Hara expressed his view of Duncan to Jasper Johns in 1959: “Among those poets of the West Coast Robert Duncan seems to have the esthetic position that Kenneth Rexroth occupies in the press and there are several books of his poetry around which might be interesting to go into—I can’t stand him myself, but he is their Charles Olson—to me his is quite flabby by comparison, but maybe because I’m on the East Coast.”
Dated 15 July 1959. Recall O’Hara’s deft assessment of Olson in the interview with Edward Lucie-Smith (Standing Still and Walking in New York). Replying to a query about the “usual dichotomy . . . between the raw and the cooked or between the academic and the Black Mountain, or between Lowell and Olson,” O’Hara refuses both***:
Actually I don’t really see what my relation is to them one way or the other except that we all live in the same time. I think that Olson is—a great spirit. I don’t think he is willing to be as delicate as his sensibility may be emotionally and he’s extremely conscious of the Pound heritage and of saying the important utterance, which one cannot always summon up and indeed is not particularly desirable most of the time.
I love the casually perfect weightedness of that “great spirit”—“spirit” summoning up Olson’s insistently breath-determined poetic (“And the line comes (I swear it) from the breath, from the breathing of the man who writes, at the moment that he writes, and thus is, it is here that, the daily work, the WORK, gets in, for only he, the man who writes, can declare, at every moment, the line its metric and its ending—where its breathing, shall come to, termination”) with a slight vengeance (almost as if O’Hara might’ve rather sassily said “a great blowhard”).
* Louis Zukofsky, similarly, out of the 1946 “Poetry / For My Son When He Can Read” (Prepositions), after quoting Gower’s “Be attent, / And time that is so briefly spent / With your fine fancies quaintly eche: / What’s dumb in show I’ll plain with speech”:
      How much what is sounded by words has to do with what is seen by them—and how much what is at once sounded and seen by them crosscuts an interplay among themselves—will naturally sustain the scientific definition of poetry we are looking for. . . .
      Moreover: granted that ‘the business of every science is not to prove but to explain its subject, in order that men may know what it is with which the science is concerned’; and that the ‘common speech’ is that to which ‘children are accustomed by those who are about them when they first begin to distinguish words’; and that, therefore, grammar which springs from this is but a ‘secondary speech’;—those like us, son, ‘to whom the world is our native country’ (as it was to Dante and Shakespeare) will declare (in substance with Gower’s lines in Pericles that have been quoted here) with Dante writing of the common speech, that ‘the exercise of discernment as to words involves by no means the smallest labor of our reason.’ ‘Since we see that a great many sorts of them can be found,’ and that (anti-climactically) what he said ‘on the pre-eminent nature of the words to be used may suffice for everyone of inborn discernment.’ For starting, simply, with Dante’s intent to explain and make plain—with ‘combed-out’ and ‘shaggy’ words, or as when breathing the new life he warned against metaphor whose discernment is lost in the making—it appears that the scientific definition of poetry can be based on nothing less than the world, the entire humanly known world.

** Hard to know. In spite of there being two recordings of the event in public archives, Watten, Jarnot notes, refused permission for any quoting of the talk. The Watten lines included are derived from a 1984 Poetry Flash piece by David Levi Strauss, “On Duncan & Zukofsky on Film: Traces Now and Then.”

*** O’Hara, out of the same Lucie-Smith interview:
I would rather be the sort of poet who would do, you know, the great thing of, you know the story about Max Jacob leaning out his window when Picasso is passing by the Bateau-Lavoir and Picasso calls up and says “Max, come out.” And he says “I won’t.” He says, “Why won’t you?” And he says, “Because I’m in search of a style.” And Picasso walks down the hill and, as Max Jacob pulls his head back, says, “There is no style.” That is the sort of thing that is, you know, like living and interesting.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Catullus’s Carmen XLIII

Anne Carson

Friday arrives trailing its anticipatory attendants Saturday and Sunday, the heart seeking its unplumbed bender, yea, to be “destraught by sodein chaunce.” In order to waylay the sodden youth within, regale it with mock fancy, inert and incautious rinses of everything protracted, perpetual, mired. (See Clark Coolidge—out of Alien Tatters (2000)—“A neoprene pry-ball was handed to me. And at a neoprene height, mister. If I could put these breaks together I would have to stop thinking.”) Nothing for it—whatever it is—beyond a plausibly aimless and untramelled assembling, random and incompleat. How wondrous the reports fired of a single gun. Catullus, the original:

Salve, nec minimo puella naso
nec bello pede nec nigris ocellis
nec longis digitis nec ore sicco
nec sane nimis elegante lingua,
decoctoris amica Formiani.
ten Provincia narrat esse bellam?
tecum Lesbia nostra comparatur?
o saeclum insapiens et infacetum!
Louis Zukofsky, out of the 1969 Catullus (Gai Valeri Catulli Veronensis Liber), phonetically (with numerous punches pulled, or leanings abetted, inconsistently mimicking the Latin sounds, slipping between the taut guy-wires of music and speech):

Salvé, next, minimal, poor little nosey,
next below, padded foot, no grace of black eyes,
next longish digitals, next aura, sick o
not synonymous with an elegant tongue,
decocted mistress of a weak Formiani.
In the Province they think—now rate—you a belle?
Take you for Lesbia, compare you to her?
O cycles of fashions, yet the facts hate them!
Horace Gregory, out of The Poems of Catullus (1931), guided by “Ben Jonson, poet and matchless Latinist” and by “Ezra Pound’s Homage to Sextus Propertius” and “stray writings of D. H. Lawrence” (“neither leatherbound Latinists nor scholars in the conventional meanings of those terms”):

Listen, girl: your nose is not too small and
your foot somehow lacks shapeliness, your eyes
are not so bright, your fingers though they should be
are neither long nor graceful, nor can your lips
(mouth dripping) be kissed for love, nor is your speech
soft music.
And this girl is the lady friend
of that debauched citizen Mamurra.
They say that you are lovely (rumours from
            the provinces)
comparing you with Lesbia.

The times are bad
and this an ignorant generation.
Sir Richard Burton, out of The Carmina of Gaius Valerius Catullus (1894):
Carmen 43

To Mamurra’s Mistress

Hail, girl who neither nose of minim size
Owns, nor a pretty foot, nor jetty eyes,
Nor thin long fingers, nor mouth dry of slaver,
Nor yet too graceful tongue of pleasant flavor,
Leman to Formian that rake-a-hell.
What, can the Province boast of thee as belle?
Thee with my Lesbia durst it make compare?
O Age insipid, of all humour bare!
A prose rendering by pornographer and Decadent Leonard Smithers accompanies each Burton Catullus (wife Isabel Burton, addressing Smithers in a letter appended to the edition, notes how Burton’s “notes, which are mostly like pencilled cobwebs, strewn all over his Latin edition, were headed, ‘NEVER SHEW HALF-FINISHED WORK TO WOMEN OR FOOLS.’” And adds—pace Allen Ginsberg—“The reason of this remark was, that in all his writings, his first copy, his first thought, was always the best and the most powerful.”) Smithers:
      Hail, O maiden with nose not of the tiniest, with foot lacking shape and eyes lacking darkness, with fingers scant of length, and mouth not dry and tongue scant enough of elegance, chère amie of Formianus the wildling. And thee the province declares to be lovely! With you our Lesbia is to be compared? O generation witless and unmannerly!
Arthur Symons, out of Knave of Hearts: 1894-1908:

Hail, although of nose not neat,
Black of eyes nor trim of feet,
Long of fingers, dry of mouth,
Nor too dainty-tongued, forsooth,
Mistress of no better man
Than a bankrupt Formian.
Does your province not declare you
Beautiful? and even compare you
With my Lesbia? O disgraced
Age, incapable of taste!
Ezra Pound, who says pointblank in “How to Read” (1931) “There is no useful English version of Catullus.” And, in a letter to The Little Review-editor Margaret C. Anderson: “You read Catullus to prevent yourself from being poisoned by the lies of pundits,” adding “you read Propertius to purge yourself of the greasy sediments of lecture courses on ‘American Literature,’ on ‘English Literature from Dryden to Addison,’ you (in extreme cases) read Arnaut Daniel so as not to be over-awed by a local editor who faces you with a condemnation in the phrase ‘paucity of rhyme.’” And, in a letter to Harriet Monroe: “Even Landor turned back from an attempt to translate Catullus. I have failed forty times myself so I do know the matter.” Pound:
Carmen 43

To Formianus’ Young Lady Friend
After Valerius Catullus

All Hail; young lady with a nose
            by no means too small,
With a foot unbeautiful,
            and with eyes that are not black,
With fingers that are not long, and with a mouth undry,
And with a tongue by no means too elegant,
You are the friend of Formianus, the vendor of cosmetics,
And they call you beautiful in the province,
And you are even compared to Lesbia.

O most unfortunate age!
In the aftermath of Pound’s liberties with Propertius, burgeoning freshets of slang and vernacular (soon to go stale). Frank O. Copley, out of Gaius Valerius Catullus: The Complete Poetry (1957), who, ironically enough, points to Catullus’s own taste as being “nearly infallible”:

Hi there, sweetheart!
that nose of yours is not too small
your feet—well, hardly pretty
your eyes—well, hardly snappy
your fingers—not too long
your lips—you wiped your mouth yet?
your tongue—well, shall we say
            not the most elegant
aren’t you Dickie-boy’s girl—that chiseler from Formiae?
you mean to say that out in the sticks
they call you pretty?
you mean to say they’ve been comparing you
to Lesbia—my Lesbia?
O what a tasteless witless age!
I recall Pound writing to Harriet Monroe regarding some other Catullus: “Not much Catullus and a lot of muck added.” Anne Carson, who offered a passle of Catullus translations in a 1992 issue of The American Poetry Review with the sly disclaimer “The following bear about the same relation to translation as Francis Bacon’s paintings do to mug shots. He says they are very close”:
Carmen 43

Salve Nec Minimo Puella Naso:
Hello Not Very Small Nosed Girl

Here Catullus compares an unnamed girl to his own love

Your nose is wrong.
Your feet are wrong.
Your eyes are wrong your mouth is wrong.
Your pimp is wrong even his name is wrong.
Who cares what they say, you’re not—
Why can’t I
Live in the nineteenth century.
Concluding aimlessly with the Alien Tatters Coolidge again: “Goofs as part of a tuckered but elegant structure.” Longing to add: C’est moi!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Notebook (Ted Berrigan, Ron Padgett, Pierre Reverdy, &c.)

Juan Gris, “Portrait of Pierre Reverdy,” c. 1918

Ted Berrigan talking in 1973 with George Oppen about the source of a kind of resistance to Oppen’s works (“I never saw anything wrong with them, but somehow my attention wasn’t being gathered enough”)—out of Talking in Tranquility: Interviews with Ted Berrigan (1991):
TB:   You know, there’s another thing about your works with me; it’s that in the early sixties in New York, the young guys had Louis Zukofsky jammed down their throats. . . . And I reacted very strongly to that; and I was determined not to like any Zukofsky works unless I really liked them. And at that stage of the game, vast amounts of Zukofsky works were being unearthed and presented—for example, the Catullus, which I have to say that I do not like one bit, much as I thought it was a great idea, what he was doing with them; but I didn’t think they were funny enough . . . because, I mean, it’s a funny idea, and I figure if you’re going to use a funny idea, it should be funny!
(To which Oppen demurs: “Well, Louis does usually think things are funny in his own way.”)

Zukofsky’s Catullus (and a short history of translating “phonetically”) comes up in Berrigan’s 1972 Vort interview, too, in talk (with Barry Alpert) of Ron Padgett’s “Some Bombs” (Bean Spasms):
BA:   “Some Bombs” is Ron's work.

TB:   “Some Bombs” is all Ron’s, although I have a work called “The Secret Life of Ford Madox Ford” which is written exactly the same way Ron wrote “Some Bombs.”

BA:   How is that?

TB:   He took six poems by Reverdy from a book called Some Poems, that’s where he got the title “Some Bombs.” And that gives an illustration of how he translated; he translated them phonetically. Ron’s French is pretty good whereas my French is quite low, not very good at all. So when I went through and did the same thing Ron did, my poems are slower and heavier than Ron’s. They have a lot more direct highly conscious meaning relating to the specific circumstances I was in—which is all obscured in the versions themselves but you can get the feeling, the feeling is very heavy. They were very negative poems; I was very angry.

BA:   Louis Zukofsky does translations like that too.

TB:   Louis Zukofsky has done them exactly like that. I tried reading the ones he did of Catullus, but I thought they were sort of despicable. He got lost in a trap somewhere in between accuracy and in working the way he was working. All his high seriousness is in the middle between the two poles of accuracy and playing, and it seems to me that all the high seriousness should be in the playing. He should play as seriously as a little child does, and the accuracy should fall in very light and naturally. It seems to me that his poems are like gallstones or rocks in your kidneys.

BA:   There wasn’t any deliberate parody of him in your work?

TB:   We never heard of those. We did ours back around 1960, 1961, 1962 maybe. I’m not sure exactly when we did them, but I know that there was no deliberate take-off on Zukofsky. In fact at the time we had a great contempt for Zukofsky. It was impersonal. We had Frank O’Hara and a tradition on back through Apollinaire, and we thought that Zukofsky and all the people that were talking about Zukofsky were rock-heads. We were sort of enlightened later by Aram Saroyan and Clark Coolidge who all came out of Zukofsky in a certain way, and who had a lot to show us when they came out. We were the rock-heads in a way but we didn’t have much to take from Zukofsky. We were a little too flippant for that. No, I think the man is very respectable, a very respectable poet, but I think he’s dull and a sort of nit-picker in a way that Aram Saroyan isn’t, although everybody accuses him of being one. Maybe I’m too close to Zukofsky in one way, and a little young on the other hand to really get him. I get it out of Aram Saroyan and Bob Creeley.

Number one “bomb” (out of “Some Bombs”) by Ron Padgett, “after Reverdy”:
One goes by like some oafs
On the K way the laminators along gents and lays you
The wagon turns on the roulette melee

Hair knights dress themselves in night
Moats which go by fount brutes

I ray you stop me pour the garter outdoors
Aw fond eel you all a quill train which darts
I ray you whar's sedans
Latrine key imports news and is Mobile in the vent

On intends
On Intends Creek
-cest a “whyso?” of the newt
The montage swallows a toot
Twos “suh” key oinks purrs the butt
Gene Autry sleeps

I’ll send the Lautréamont coat, “Do, Monday
Awnglish Dan’s a true key at the frond paws
One east tents with sin alley-oop
The sill is fond

And a pea-tit galosh dresses itself oh bored Walter by the sea
One recalls, too late, Berrigan’s reproof of “if you’re going to use a funny idea, it should be funny!” The source of Padgett’s piece seems to be Pierre Reverdy’s “P. O. Midi”—out of Quelques poèmes (1916), collected, too, in the 1945 Gallimard Plupart du temps: 1915-1922. Some few of the “bombs” muster some laugh-credence put next to the French original (I like particularly “Gene Autry sleeps” for “Les autres dorment” and “a ‘whyso?’ of the newt” for “un oiseau de nuit”):
P. O. Midi

On passe comme des bœufs
Sur le quai les lumières s’allongent et les yeux
Le wagon tourne sur la roue du milieu

Les chevelures se dressent dans la nuit
Les mots qui passent font du bruit

Je voudrais m’arrêter pour regarder dehors
Au fond il y a un homme tranquille qui s’endort
Je voudrais voir dedans
Le train qui nous emporte est immobile dans le vent

On entend

On entend crier
C’est un oiseau de nuit
La montagne avale tout
Tous ceux qui ont peur sont debout
Les autres dorment
On descend l’autre côté du monde

On glisse dans un trou qui n’a pas de fond
On est content de s’en aller
Le ciel se fond

Et un petit clocher se dresse au bord de la mer
Oddly enough, Padgett’s stanza breaks, assuming he’s strictly adhering to Reverdy’s, mimic those in a 1967 Flammarion edition of Reverdy’s works—it called, too, Plupart du temps—wherein a page break occurs after “Les autres dorment” (in the Gallimard it occurs after “On descend l’autre côté du monde”). Is it conceivable that Padgett and Berrigan’s experiments in translating phonetically took place later that Berrigan’s “around 1960, 1961, 1962 maybe”? I doubt it. Bean Spasms is dated, too, 1967. And Alice Notley records that
      On the manuscript of “The Secret Life of Ford Madox Ford” Ted scrawled “1963? or 4?” The first version of the sequence was published in two issues of Ted’s magazine, “C” (A Journal of Poetry), in 1964.
(Considering Berrigan’s animus toward Zukofsky, is “C” a slightly taunting mockery of Zukofsky’s “A”? I doubt it.)

Berrigan’s version of Reverdy’s “P. O. Midi” (being the second part of “The Secret Life of Ford Madox Ford”):
Reeling Midnight

Impasses come, dear beasts
Who require these looney airs so long gone from you all
O all gone to one surly, rude, humiliated

Let’s shovel out a song and dance       all knew it
Let’s mosey past them fondled brutes

Shove a dream of it up our regular day devourings
I’ll fondle you on home and hang a kiss on yours
Shall we raise our dead hams
(Her tranquil nose is a noble dancing vine)

Don’t hurt it

Don’t hit it either
Saying what’s so damn sweet
I am on trains       they’re all choo-choos
Ack! The Vampire! Some debut!
Lower your dress dammit!

In this tent I’ll untrack or take down some undies
Anguish I’ll sink thru key naps       a defense
To be learned one essential day
Like seals I’m indifferent

Eat a potato she said you sober All-American
A giddy indifference, ripping through the Reverdy for what’s there to be gleaned. Though with a slyly impeccable ear (and what Notley, pointing to the final line, calls “an occasional vicious literalness.”) I particularly like how “sur la roue du milieu” rather effortlessly becomes “surly, rude, humiliated”—a terribly “Berriganesque” adjectival pile-up akin to “feminine marvelous and tough.” And how, again, Reverdy’s seemingly innocuous line “Les autres dorment” triggers—through faulty pronunciation, providing two dorment with two syllables—the rather funny outburst “Lower your dress dammit!”

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Notebook (Edwin Denby, Ted Berrigan, Clark Coolidge, &c.)

Edwin Denby, 1903–1983

Edwin Denby, out of the 1957 essay “The Thirties” (collected in Dance Writings and Poetry), talking about Willem de Kooning:
He was likely to join in the talk by vehemently embracing a suggestion or vehemently rejecting it. Right off he imagined what it would be like to act on it and go on acting on it. He didn’t, like a wit, imitate the appearance of acting on it; he committed himself full force to what he was imagining. As he went on, characteristic situations in his life or those of friends came back to him as vividly as if they had just happened. He invented others. Objections he accepted, or circumvented, or shouted his opposition to. He kept heading for the image in which a spontaneous action had the force of the general ideas involved. And there he found the energy of contradictory actions. The laugh wasn’t ridiculousness, but the fun of being committed to the contrary. He was just as interested in the contrary energy. Self protection bored him.
      In the talk then about painting, no doctrine of style was settled at Bill’s. He belligerently brought out the mysterious paradoxes left over. In any style he kept watching the action of the visual paradoxes of painting—the opposition of interchangeable centers, or a volume continued as a space, a value balancing a color. He seemed to consider in them a craft by which the picture seen as an image unpredictably came loose, moved forward and spread. On the other hand, his working idea at the time was to master the plainest problems of painting. I often heard him say that he was beating his brains out about connecting a figure and a background. The basic connection he meant seemed to me a motion from inside them that they interchanged and that continued throughout. He insisted on it during those years stroke by stroke and gained a virtuoso’s eye and hand. But he wanted everything in the picture out of equilibrium except spontaneously all of it. That to him was one objective professional standard. That was form the way the standard masterpieces had form—a miraculous force and weight of presence moving from all over the canvas at once.
      Later, I saw in some Greek temples contradictory forces operating publicly at full speed. Reading the Iliad, the poem at the height of reason presented the irrational and subjective, self-contradictory sweep of action under inspiration. I had missed the point in the talks in 22nd Street. The question Bill was keeping open with an enduring impatience had been that of professional responsibility toward the force of inspiration. That force or scale is there every day here where everybody is. Whose responsibility is it, if not your own? What he said, was “All an artist has left to work with is his self-consciousness.”
      From such a point of view the Marxist talk of the thirties was one-track. The generous feeling in it was stopped by a rigid perspective, a single center of action, and by jokes with only one side to them. If one overlooked that, what was interesting was the peremptoriness and the paranoia of Marxism as a ferment or method of rhetoric. But artists who looked at painting were used to a brilliance in such a method on the part of the Paris surrealists and to a surrealist humor that the political talk did not have. Politically everybody downtown was anti-fascist, and the talk went on peacefully. Then when friends who had fought in Spain returned, their silence made an impression so direct that the subject was dropped. Against everybody’s intention it had become shameless.
      In the presence of New York at the end of the thirties, the paranoia of surrealism looked parlor-sized or arch. But during the war Bill told me he had been walking uptown one afternoon and at the corner of 53rd and 7th he had noticed a man across the street who was making peculiar gestures in front of his face. It was Breton and he was fighting off a butterfly. A butterfly had attacked the Parisian poet in the middle of New York. So hospitable nature is to a man of genius.
Astounding is Denby’s rendering of a poetics of “the energy of contradictory actions”: “everything in the picture out of equilibrium except spontaneously all of it.” How pertinent the necessary reminder (countering the lofty and distant “Greek temples” with their “contradictory forces operating publicly at full speed”) that such “force or scale is there every day here where everybody is.” I went looking for the story of André Breton and the butterfly, a thing Clark Coolidge and Ted Berrigan banter about in a 1970 interview (Talking in Tranquility):
CC:   Did you see that thing, it was up on my desk but probably illegible because it’s in my handwriting, where I was rewriting “Tambourine Life?”

TB:   You told me about part of it, yeah. But, you know that part you rewrote about the man attacked by a butterfly?

CC:   Oh, the other thing, yeah.

TB:   Well, isn’t that from “Tambourine Life?”

CC:   Yes, both of those things are.

TB:   Well, I had an idea that the next time I published “Tambourine Life” that I would put those two things in as just parts of “Tambourine Life.”

CC:   Terrific.

TB:   Because they would fit in there beautifully, and add something to it in a way that I wasn’t doing.

CC:   Right. Did you get that from Edwin Denby? Who got it from . . . I dunno. I remember one of Edwin Denby’s prose pieces talks about Breton being . . .

TB:   No. I got it from . . .

CC:   I know it’s been around.

TB:   I just got it from some . . . I got it out of my head, and I read it somewhere a long time ago.

CC:   Because somebody asked me, when they saw that. They said, Did you get that from Edwin Denby? And I said, No.

TB:   I read just about everthing that’s been written in English about the surrealists and the dadaists, and so . . .

CC:   So it’s all in there somewhere.

TB:   So it’s all in there, yeah. And it may be from Edwin. I dunno. I mean, I get everything wherever I can.
“I get everything wherever I can.” And isn’t “Tambourine Life” a terrific and unparalleled example of the everyday’s “contradictory forces operating publicly at full speed”? Though I find no evidence of the Breton story therein. Only:

Only a monkey would read this

                                        THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF FLIES
                                                                      over 250 flies
                                in living color

These 250 flies were tied “up”
by hand
                                Not my hand

                                                                                          The Little Sisters


                                            There are no flies on me, New York City

And, under number 41: “That Spring of ’65 / that was / That was my best year // that was also a good year for // Dancers / Buildings and / People in the Street . . .” Referencing the 1965 Denby book of essays, it, too, reprinting “The Thirties.” No sign of the butterfly story in what little of Coolidge’s I can examine. No sign of a Coolidge rewrite of “Tambourine Life.” (Later in the interview Coolidge talks of the rewriting in terms of “just using the words that were there”: “I wasn’t putting any new words in. But I discovered that most of the time it was the same feeling . . . Regardless of what I did with it. And that’s what interested me, that there could be these two arrangements of these words that would have the same feeling, nearly. I mean, they might say slightly different things but there you would have that double take, you know, the two parts.”)
* Jim Carroll, out of Forced Entries: The Downtown Diaries 1971-1973, talking about Edwin Denby:
      I saw him the other night at one of Anne Waldman’s gatherings and asked him about the story concerning the time he and Willem de Kooning were attacked by a butterfly in broad daylight on the streets of New York City. He explained that yes, the attack had in fact taken place. He had even written about it in one of his books. It seems this disoriented rogue butterfly, a rather large one, kept nipping at de Kooning’s eyes. It was on Seventh Avenue and 20th Street, right across from the building where Edwin and de Kooning were neighbors in adjacent lofts.
      “It would have been a strange ending to de Kooning’s career,” I said, sort of giggling, “being blinded by a vicious butterfly.”
      “It would have been a horrible tragedy!” Edwin spoke solemnly in his slightly clipped European accent. It was obvious he loved de Kooning as a painter and a friend. “Such a great painter as he. But let me tell you something, it was not so unexplainable an occurrence. You see, there are certain species of butterflies which thrive on saline. It is to them a great delicacy, as caviar to a man, or honey to a bear. And where is there saline? In the eye, be it human or animal. In South America, there is a species of crocodile known as the Cayman. Perhaps you have heard of the Cayman Islands? Well, wherever there are Caymans basking in the sun, on the bank of a river or swamp, there are invariably hordes of butterflies flitting about the beasts’ eyes attempting to suck up the salty fluid. Sometimes the Caymans are so dazed by the sun that they are oblivious, and the butterflies feast. Others move back into the water, where they are still pursued by their winged parasites because they must keep their eyes and snout above the waterline. Eventually they are driven, these huge monsters which man so fears, into their only sanctuary, the reeds and eel grass growing out of the water. So you see, if these butterflies can take on a crocodile, then why not a poor poet and a painter on Seventh Avenue?”
Evidence of the contrary ways story works: it, too, liable to “unpredictably come loose, move, and spread.”