Rainy muggy day here. Started reading Weldon Kees, Collected Poems. At first glance, he seems powerfully talented... & very very gloomy. Not in a boring way, though. Not at all.
Back in the late 70s I was living in a communal house. There was a quiet blonde-haired guy there, with what I now recognize as a Weldon Kees moustache. I can't recall his name, or any of our conversations... except that we had a mutual interest in poetry, and that he asked me once if I'd read Weldon Kees. (Never heard of him.)
When the mysterious housemate moved out, he did a generous thing - gave me his personal, hardbound edition of Whitman's poems & prose. A very nice rust-covered book, which I've never stopped reading.
So I open the Kees, & the first poem is called "Statement with Rhymes", which begins : "Plurality is all." A sort of despair-ody of Whitman.
In this week's New Yorker essay, Anthony Lane tries to figure out if there isn't a literary genealogy or factual background to the sort of Everyman character, who appears in a number of the poems, whom Kees calls "Robinson". Is it a reference to one of Celine's characters of that name? He mentions a couple of other possibilities, which I don't recall. But my guess is, the main allusion (with the caveat that I don't think allusions have much importance in his work) is to another poet, whom Kees seems to resemble in a number of ways : E.A. Robinson.
Lane plays up the image of Kees as kind of a shadowy, spectral figure, an outline, a ghost, almost not there. Robinson is his alter ego, the shadow of the shadow.
Kees apparently committed suicide off the GG Bridge. Somewhat mysterious circumstances, body never found. He had talked about going to Mexico. There have been legends, sightings, speculation that he vanished, went incognito. All baloney, apparently. Then again, that quiet, reserved housemate... back in the 70s... (dyed his hair...?)