8.31.2005

I really like Graham Foust's brief essay-excerpt on a Wallace Stevens poem in Fascicle. This way of reading seems to me to be what it's all about. Rewarding exploration.

Back to my cave now.

8.16.2005

Bloggone to Mars
I've decided to take a break from the blog for a while. I can't say this is the end of HG Poetics, since I did that once already, & then changed my mind after a few weeks.

Blogging is so fun & easy. That's part of the problem for me. It's a complex of writing & work-work, which develops sort of a mundane pattern. But blogging seems to be inhibiting me from the tougher changes I need to make, in order to make any progress in writing. The fascination of the medium is making it difficult for me to focus in other ways.

I apologize for this self-centered recital. That's part of my blogging too, I guess.

I'd like to thank all the beautiful people, fellow poet-bloggers & readers & friends. I'll be listening, trying to avoid comment boxes.

Adios, amigos.

8.11.2005

AB goeth to Salem, C...
ol' Henry Thunder Winnebago, doin his Jubilee Guitar Doodle Infinity. try with headphones or speakers. bye now
old poem from Way Stations (again):

Ocean State



Here the waters gather along the shore.
They meet the land breathing in foam,
and roll the sleepy pebbles and shells
back into long sand waves as before.


Our moon, casting her antique spells.
A motionless iris in the whale’s eye
of the sea, her unspeakable name
sinks to the bottom of lonely wells.


Her low whispers frame the deserted dome.
Her light covers the circus floor.
And she lifts, with one nocturnal sigh,
the heaving swells in a silver comb.
I'll be out of town til Tuesday the 16th - & probably away from computer.

Here are some wonderful, sophisticated, clever jokes I made up myself, to keep you company while I'm away:

What did the dog say when he saw the tree? Bark.

What did the horse say when they called her a cow? Neigh.

I forget the others.
Catherine Drinker Bowen recounts the story Edward Coke told at the ceremony of his investiture as judge in 1606. From the conclusion:

"The young man... accepted the judgeship. But he told no one, and, pretending that he was about to leave the country, invited his friends to a farewell banquet. 'It is true,' he told the assembled company, 'that I purpose, as I must, to take leave of you all and to be a stranger to my dearest friends and nearest allies. Thus must I depart from you and yet continue amongst you. For I am appointed to be a judge, and in the seat of Justice I must forget the remembrance of your former friendships and acquaintance. In the person of a judge, with respect to keep my conscience clear, I must with equity and uprightness administer justice unto you all.'
'And this,' finished Coke, looking out upon his own dear friends and kinsfolk assembled in Norfolk's venerable Castle of Blancheflower, 'this is my cause also! For by the love and favor of my gracious master, King James, I am, sine precatione, vel precatio... - without price or request - freely called unto this great office and sent to be a judge amongst my kinsfolk and familiar friends, even in the bosom of my native country. I must therefore, as the young Roman did, take leave of all former acquaintance, and do that which is just unto all estates and degrees, without partiality.'"

["If justice in her equal course were stopped - Coke went on, pointing his moral - it was the poor who would be drowned and overwhelmed, 'whilst great and wealthy men, like hills and mountains, build their stations sure. Justice withheld, only the poorer sort are those who smart.'"]

- The Lion and the Throne, pp. 247-248

*

The artist is devoted to the Art as such, the good poet is devoted to the Word as such, just as the good judge is devoted to the Law and the Law alone. (Note the process of estrangement/duty/reconcilement illustrated here.)
You heard it here first : the literary health of a culture depends on the fierce struggle of the best to get itself born - to disentangle itself from the surrounding Pretense & Bluffery-Puffery : the swamp-fog of the petty, the ephemeral, the mediocre, the ersatz, the cheap.

This struggle in part depends on the kind of literary democracy (secret ballot of time) I've been talking about. Art needs the freedom to be itself, not part of somebody's program, career, stand-up caterwaul, or buddy-system.
literary democracy. little poems speaking up for themselves, making their way on their own merits. the secret ballot.

the fascicles in Emily's cupboard.

Melville, Whitman, doing their thing, & to hell with the hucksters, the flash, professional gossip-mongers, moneygrubbers, slackers & hangers-on, dilettantes, hacks.

now there's community for you!
somebody could make some money designing a Poet Group-Therapy Self-Help Support Networking Mutual-Admiration-Society Automatic Massage & Pigeonholer Multiple-Market-Resource-Branding Containment Facility. There are a lot of groups out there already ready already to sign up for the fun-filled silly-slide into the theme-park-cum-gated-community of choice.
Somebody makes a fine handpainted walnut woodpecker door-knocker.

It's not fine because Narcissism-Affinity Group 2005 suffers it to be so.

It is what it is.
I won a few little contests at the very start of my jaunt with poerrtry, & they were very important to me. Encouragement.

all the high school literary contests

"The Rose Low Rome Prize For Poetry", 1971 (Brown U.)

"The Charles Philbrick Memorial Prize" (same)

"Academy of American Poets something something Hon. Mention" (that's me : Hiz Hon. Men. Henry Gould)

(all judged via anonymous submissions.)
A lot of discussion about poetry contests in blogworld (these are indeed the dog days).

Ron & Jonathan (unless J. was being tongue-in-cheek) appear not to comprehend the interrelations, the basic "mosaic" (as Paul Anka(!) put it on the radio interview ye'day) between the notions of the contest, anonymity/fairness, and literature as a discrete, distinct, somewhat free-standing entity.

There's a certain amount of trust involved, obviously. With that, there's some excitement in connecting seasoned poets with a first impression of new, "unspoken-for" poetry. Letting the work speak for itself.

Letting the work speak for itself : this is a very basic element of critical disinterestedness & objectivity. I think it's essential to the whole game.

I mean, what are we making art for, fellas & gals? To impress our friends & win flattery points? Begad.

We make art out of our own disinterested apprehension of disinterested Beauty, in all its mysterio-magnanimous variety.

Poetry has its inherent rigorous scales of aesthetic value. These themselves are what guide poets (& good contest judges), not communities of interest & all that political baloney.

The group-glutenized ego-trips can all go fry. They are irrelevant to what it's about. They are dead air from birth. They are the substance of a puffball o'nada.

But in the new doggy-dog world of tribal mini-compounds, this notion of art which transcends "administration" and "community" seems to be hard to grasp for some "folks". What say, "folks"? (God, I'm sick of that word. It's so... faux-folksy. Unless used by real folks.)
The Hotel may be closing? J'espere que ce n'est pas vrai - mais je comprenais.

8.10.2005

Two Martians Jam on the Porch of the Spaceship
back to when I must have lost that book in a field somewhere.

August flowers, going dry & spindly. crickets & cicadas.

evening sneaks up, unnoticed, on the late afternoon.
but I want to go back to when neither I nor War & Peace (over in the hammock, there) were done with yet.

You were a work-in-progress. she, a story you had just begun to read.

longing & suspense.
unfinished life, inchoate experiment - finished by the written word.

the book is both lock & key.
everyone is too literalist, serious, ponderous, explicit, competitive.

art is not sports. we run too fast & slow for sports - the umpires get befuddled.

I want to go back to my reading habits of, say, age 14-18.

I want to shuffle off the coils of anxiety & trouble, toil & stress. back to when reading & daydreaming were one.

art is not sports, but it's sort of a game - how to express things... pleasing, penetrating...

what I write is not me; furthermore, it's only an approximation. (see Nicholas of Cusa on that)

an equilibrium (the inner Law) lies behind good literature. implicit rightness. le mot juste.

a portion of sanity & civilization. salted with spiritual rigor (the steep).

don't jade your appetite with excess. don't tyrannize your own climate.

don't harp on what you like, because then I won't like it. Just leave the book lying around : maybe I'll pick it up.

8.09.2005


Catherine Drinker Bowen (drinking tea, apparently)

Sir Edward Coke
I'm reading one of the best-written books I've ever read :

The Lion and the Throne : the Life & Times of Sir Edward Coke, 1552-1764

by Catherine Drinker Bowen (author also of Miracle At Philadelphia, about the Constitutional Convention)

Coke was the young Roger Williams' employer & mentor. Basically a master & saint of the Law (vs. tyranny). A key element of English legal tradition : right of accused to fair trial, no matter who, no matter what.

Here are some interesting Bowen quotes about writing.

& how did I get to this? Thanks to ol' Ez, whose Cantos extoll Coke as one of the wisest of men. Highly ironic, since Pound's whole temper & personality (violent, arrogant, irascible, contemptuous, brave, foolhardy) would have set him amongst those noblemen full of contumely whom Coke, time & again, excellent legal hound that he was, sent to the scaffold.
oh... & Forth of July was finished on 5.28 (2000).

5.28 (as again I repeat myself) : the day William Blackstone was buried in Cumberland RI, on Study Hill, 1675. Also St. William's Day (the day Guillem de Gellone - crusader turned monk made saint - died).

5.29 : The day Study Hill was burned to the ground by a Narragansett raiding party (all W. Blackstone's books & notebooks vanished). My birthday. RI Statehood Day.

On 5.28 ('35?) the Golden Gate Bridge opened for traffic.
from toward the very end of Forth of July. The "W" that Bluejay & Henry's wanderings etched on the Providence East Side ridge, took some odd turns.

 6

The scene, refreshed, reroused, was never to be forgotten,
the hen and crusader ever intermutuomergent...

Finnegans Wake


A cask of negus went barreling down the rhode
whorled in a victory-fin into the foretimes
buried in the midnight garden one St. William's
Day where he rose (our W) and rows and rowed


his henpicked galley through gales of galloping
gallic ages alone, Gellone (with 28 oarsmen
and a red coxcomb for a bully steersman)
it was a barging line or ink-can sunship


filled to the midnight brim with Orange or
honeyed yellow sweetings for the Bethel brew
it was a skeevy chicken key V shield anew
down the rustling river toward a dey of fire


on Study Hill or in Byzantium an axe
set to the roots of Oak Tree Day
Newport summons wedding for old El Rey
old Johnny Atahualpa Hamlet's summery X


the omelet ovum all at last of everywombin' man
incalculate and calculate with little pebbles
small gray veterans from Black Sea pledge
unto out of the Son of Man (here back to then)


and like a hand-sprung iron spring by
golly Moses there it goes an able nef
into the winestained cupola's deep
arrak barrel diving for the ring


of south-north stars' lamb-lamp
beeW your myrrh, my Magdalen
gleams in those double-emerald
ships (aye-aye me dewfall-camp)


5.25.2000
Link between Ariosto & ancient chansons de geste. Cinque Canti ends with disaster for Charlemagne. Echoes that ur-chanson, the Chanson de Roland (many of Ariosto's characters - in both Cinque Canti & Orlando Furioso - are drawn from the geste-legends around Charlemagne).

Mandelstam, in Voronezh, was reading Old French epics about Guillaume d'Orange (ie. Guillem de Gellone), one of Charlemagne's officers.

What does all this have to do with anything?

Good question. I dunno.

The atmosphere in some of these poems is one of anxiety & dread. One of their pervasive themes is the conflict (& the interrelations) between Islam & Christendom. Very old things & very new things - & old threads taken up from poet to poet.

Plus reading this kind of thing helps me avoid my contemporaries & the youngsters.

[Plus - & I'm sorry to repeat myself - I can trace my ancestry through my maternal grandmother's family back to Guillem de Gellone.]
from the long poem somewhere...

 9

we never step outside the portals



Now if a six
turn out to be nine
I don't mind
...
Let's play pick-up-sticks,


kids – bones.
Because it's really
early-late, see. And
I'm no yesman


or gnomon –
I'm a soul man.
(Not really certain,
understand...)


Here's the black
bare cueball.
Duck. Rabbit.
Here's the trick:


square two thumbers
like so, behind a curtain
and then wave your ten
clay beachcombers...


gradually... See?
It's a live butterfly!
It's a handmade moth!
Will you marry me?


I'm only ten.
I'm eleven.
I'm Hen –
I'm your cousin!


3.28.99
a "9" is an upside-down "J". both are spirals. fascinating, isn't it?

I'm looking at various emanations of "9" in relation to the Siena poems. "The Nine" was the name for the commune governors during one period (when Lorenzetti's murals were done). Siena has 9 gates.

I'm thinking of the nine circles in Nicholas of Cusa's "Game of Spheres", too.

"J", of course, is very important in Stubborn & other places.

I'm looking at the spirit/nature, divine/human, substance/image, nature/art dichotomies... in terms of number & geometry.

Duccio's (& many other medieval & renaissance painters') designs were based on ratios having to do with the square & its diagonal (an irrational number, the square root of 2).

N. of Cusa, I'm sure found this of interest. Creation/incarnation (or Cusa's "infinite", for that matter) can only be analyzed by means of "irrationality" or immeasurability.

does a J reflect 9, or vice versa?

Dante, somewhere in the Commedia, writes: "Beatrice is a 9". (Beatrice, of course, was a sort of avatar of/from that other "J")

Holy Roman Emp. Henry VII, Dante's messianic Arrigo, died near Siena on a Friday in 1313.

I gotta finish muh poem.

8.08.2005

"Beatrice is a Nine"

waiting hand & foot
there are some strange & secret paths in Stubborn Grew. This afternoon I was reading Ariosto again, in the backyard (Cinque Canti) - as when Bluejay dropped in (see p. 22 of Stubborn) & the poem got rolling.

Ariosto left Cinque Canti unfinished, like one of his models (Lucan's Pharsalia), like one of his models, perhaps (the Aeneid)... poems cut short, like the (un)Holy Roman Empire... unfinished long poems...

Rome, Italy, America... Dante, Pound...

like autumn, like Lazarus, like Every-body...






"the ant's a centaur in his dragon world"

8.05.2005

In the Summertime
have a good weekend in Costaguana
from Joseph Conrad's Nostromo :

Charles Gould walked rapidly round the table, and, seizing her hands, 
bent down, pressing them both to his lips. Before he straightened himself
up again to his full height she had disengaged one to smooth his cheek with
a light touch, as if he were a little boy.


"Try to get some rest for a couple of hours," she murmured, with a glance
at a hammock stretched in a distant part of the room. Her long train swished
softly after her on the red tiles. At the door she looked back.


Two big lamps with unpolished glass globes bathed in a soft and abundant light
the four white walls of the room, with a glass case of arms, the brass hilt of
Henry Gould's cavalry sabre on its square of velvet, and the water-colour sketch
of the San Tome gorge. And Mrs. Gould, gazing at the last in its black wooden
frame, sighed out--


"Ah, if we had left it alone, Charley!"


"No," Charles Gould said, moodily; "it was impossible to leave it alone."


"Perhaps it was impossible," Mrs. Gould admitted, slowly. Her lips quivered a
little, but she smiled with an air of dainty bravado. "We have disturbed a good
many snakes in that Paradise, Charley, haven't we?"
lotsa pinblog pinging about Auden today, here &.

I like much about Auden's poetry & criticism. Brilliant in the extreme, engaged. I'm bored sometimes by the Average Man approach. Auden had science/engineering background, & it shows, in that reflexive lot measurement. The rhetoric of the 18th-cent. Restoration : always calculating toward the statistical mean. It gets depressing, like row houses, PBS series, (some of) Larkin... Probably has (ironically) a class basis : in order to address the Common Man, the genteel Oxbridgian scholar feels compelled to apply the dumbed-down statistical patter of the poll-taker, the survey man...

sociological, analytical... doesn't grip down to the coils of individual experience, but puts same in context of the Average. definitely disenchanting, in ways good & bad.

some might want to let the sociologists & novelists carry that load.
when you feel the difference between an image and gab-gab, cussedly discursive. The trickling boredom of the imprisoning sentences of somebody's strung-out & hoily vain blahbiddy-blahblah...

vs. that aerial lift, that buoyancy, that flotation, that winged flexi-carapace, the flesh-flash of the swish of the glittering smile-sword... the light image grounded in its sound-tones... you want to get up & dance...

pome vs. talk-talk
images... a small cuppa. from toward the end of July:

 11


It’s a narrow ford across the Jordan
a small cupola of water-light
and all our knowledge but a pond
a snoring frogpond madjayanine


when I go kigamanin I will give you
gocu surely gabizikamun what
you will wear widjiwiyun my courting
child if you go with me (the intervals


were sung glissando the metric is slow
and not rigidly maintained all the
Chippewa love songs somewhat rubato)
your little cuppa midway drum-waltz


to the clouds your mighty copper penny
is bronze s.o.s. unfolding as the bent
pole-stirrer of the clay my wee tugboat
alight musters that Julian draconian


taconite turning to caritas seed-jewel
before our eyes and if the bluish cloud
palm-shade Elijah’s ravine-dulcimer
or Ezekiel’s exact X-catenary wheels


are reels ambitious mother
then lucky Sophie dance!
And do a handstand
now with theremin


and soda (Scotch)
through golden Appalachia
flying the sunny disarray
(a coupla stingy wasps


are fighting bumblebees) (the bee
already master) where the yawning
oreship spreads dove-wings (yon Noah-
Jonah-craft) pshmwly (buzzing in Siberia)


2.8.2000
Here's this again:

 Hart Crane


1


Above checkered flickering of late
coffeehouse generations, light pricks
tap out a dim, midnight tattoo.


Is it the underbelly of a whale,
unfurling a turbid Mardi Gras? Slow
motion horns dilate for one liquid eye.


Answered by silence. Orisons
babble, fitful reeds rehearse,
recount your rendezvous


with a perfidious bark, while calipers
compress the extant manuscripts
(flagrant gulf no hands could span).


It was a weatherbeaten, Southern face
below the embroidered wash and spume
whispered the one word –


"follow." Upward, through vertiginous
mirror gardens – dangling fluted
routes of a sunken – forsaken Babylon.


2


Spinning, restless, coaxial, cued
to firewater, pried from pueblo
gaol, a primeval kachina leaping
into the blaze – out of time.


Hidden underfoot, to be quarried
from the subway, the broken stone
wheel of a ruptured earth mother
revolves with disjointed orbit.


Weft of vertigo, carbonized. Exploded.
Pronounced from wincing salt, faltering,
slagged... flower names. Fertile
reproof. Slanting, bedecked at last.


Volcano, livid, fluent, enlists
the police. Magnified chevrons.
Pulques Finos. Skulls look up,
fed your tangled battering ram.



3


Ironclad northern city in your nightmare,
and the sound of the sea, too familiar,
eager to lock you in a wavy ooze,
forlorn foghorn... such was Death's only ruse.


Who waits by the pier to feel your taunts
will always wait now. You waited once
for shoulders tensely spare, the tide's advance;
reposeful strength was gateway – into trance.


The bridge you strung beneath your bones
still rises, harbored, iridescent, out
of your twenties and the century's, still
delicately rides the storm. And Ariel
holds his song... and now Atlantis groans! –
surfacing with your ascending steep descant.
The Crane thing, I know, seems a trifle obsessive or recherche. In the panoptic view, hey, look at all them poets! But I don't have a panoptical. "My Hart" is a part of my own program.

It began, it seems, with that chance find of Mandelstam in the bookstore back in '77 or so (David McDuff translation). Leibnizian monad of verbal image, detaching itself... (see OM's "Conv. About Dante" - where he talks about images in terms of aeronautics - images flying off from other images).

Strongly ecphrastic imagination. Verbal icon. The compact elegant phrase - like those Ecuadoran birds that sing with their wings. Nucleus of poems. "The Bridge" as exponential expansion of this process - the free-floating resonant image. Atlantis - hold thy floating singer late!

This image-making power in conjunction with epic scope & national ambition. How it cross-cuts the other & contemporary long poem projects. This I find fascinating. This I've built on in my Crane-Mandelstam US-RUS amalgam (Forth of July).
Mark, with more give-back on the question of Crane et seq.

That it comes down to an unresolved divide between remnants of the Romantic and the new strictures of the Modern.

Wasn't it coming from Pound (with Stephen Crane, Whitman, Poe in the background, mocking, in their different ways, the enfeebled denatured exhalations of Victorian poetry) - the notion that poetry should be as exact and exacting as prose, as science? Wasn't this part of a general trend toward hardness & toughness & clear-eyed objectivity throughout 1st half of 20th cent.?

Scientific perception grounding the autonomy of the art object. Eliot's strictures : "the classic". (Stevens & Crane is a diffun't animal.)

Unable & unwilling to go too far into that huge issue. But again, it seems like Crane was working from a different basis. I think he was looking at Joyce's Ulysses as an objective correlative to the spiritual or intellectual substance - the quiddity - of Ireland & Dublin in the modern world.

The Bridge would do something similar for the aura and spiritual destiny of America. Once he found the accurate form - that is, the plot of his poem : a dawn epiphany leading through a sequence of dream-panels of American history, & through the hell-gate (Poe in the subway) to achieved affirmation (the final panel, which he actually wrote first) - once he had recognized this inner plot or structure, the specific materials fit into place. It seems important that he composed the last section first : this underlines how the methodology differs from that of Pound, WCW, Olson (stemming perhaps from The Prelude) - their long-poems-as-autobiographical-diaries, as Ulyssean nosti, as record of the poet's ongoing struggle with "the facts" & with him's artistic soul.

I understand Mark's reservations about the hifalutin' & artificial diction of some passages in The Bridge. For me these serve merely to accent the visionary strangeness, the otherness, of the whole. There are other weaknesses which are probably much more damaging (sort of a faded 20s hyperbole, a kind of febrile gusto). But again, in the several re-readings I've given the poem, there was sheer enjoyment, stimulated by the shifting forms & voicings of the sequence of panels, the melodic force of the diction, the way the two threads of "plot" (the narrator's dream-day and the flow of American history) mingled & spread, like the river at the poem's center. The pleasure of aesthetic finish, the sense of rounded completion, is a powerful effect, which should not be discounted - and which is missing from the endless ongoingness of some of the other looooong poems.
He rolls the musty-dainty table-talk around in the swamp, on his wheelbarrow.
...some interesting sidelines on the plongevity dialogue with Mark Scroggins, from Eric Selinger.

8.04.2005

"and then the death car came for him"
I guess there is something similar between my "tuning fork" & Kasey's idea of "gateway poets".
This is a "glose" (from Way Stations). (A Portuguese poetic form. Sylvia Petrie is a Rhode Island artist of Portuguese descent. Her husband Paul Petrie's book, Rooms of Grace : New and Selected Poems, just published, by New Orleans Poetry Journal Press.)

(I was mistaken about the provenance of the image. It was taken from the frontispiece of an old edition of Piers Plowman.)

 On an Untitled Print

for Sylvia Petrie


The work is finished in the dark.
The world's invisible, unknown.
A night of snowfall leaves its mark.
It will remain, when we are gone
.


Inside the silver picture frame
frozen winter night has come.
An image like a negative.
Black ink feathered off, by hand,
imprints a landscape (winter gloom).
The traces of your handiwork
are what gives light – the glowing land
flows down (from hills to scattered sand)
in random touches... flick and fleck.
The work is finished in the dark.


This labor scatters into day
like Monday mornings – who can say
what these wayward shapes contrive?
Triangular, amid uncertainties,
one tiny house (snowbound, lonely)
gleams (nestled, shrunken)
between the looming cedar trees
and those unclear interstices
which could be universe – or none.
The world's invisible, unknown.


The picture hangs against a wall
where afternoon light sometimes falls,
and sometimes (strangely) time will give
instead of take... and I can see
what you were doing, after all.
Through curving space, look
back... into reclusive memory.
This house, this hill, this endless sea
were yours. Engrav├Ęd. Cold and stark.
A night of snowfall leaves its mark.


We grow away from home forever.
Epitaphs for each survivor
elevate the long perspective.
Parallels we harvested
return. As in a childhood fever
everything we once disowned
(what seemed frivolous, detested
chaos) now coheres. Nested
on a hillside, sloping down...
it will remain, when we are gone.


3.23.97
Just one more thought on this for today. This contrast noted earlier between Crane's finish and the others' various ongoing (quasi-narrative, Wordsworthian) agons : how key this is to 20th-cent. aesthetics! (All the debates about "process", the autonomy (or lack thereof) of the art-object, etc.)

And I am reminded again of a remark made to me at a Russ-Amer poetry conference many years ago by Elena Shvarts (we were talking about how the Russians memorized their poems for recital) : "Russian poets compose the poem in their heads, then write it all down. Americans start writing, and it takes them a long time to finish, if they do."

And this notion of finish can perhaps be linked with the notions of the self-sustaining, free-standing image in Crane & Mandelstam et al. Which leads back, ultimately, perhaps, to the Byzantine tradition of the magnetic, charismatic icon.

Sailin' to Byzantium.
... Because, and this gets to the root of it, what appeals to me in Crane above all is that intrepid, improvisational, brave, audacious, crazy, ecstatic spirit of affirmation - the bell rings out - that "exultance", which he flung in the face of Eliot, Yvor Winters, Allen Tate... (& paid for it in their dismissals). This for me is the authenticity of the authentic, the true insignia, the mark of the poet. Crane said he was aiming to be the "Pindar of his age" - the great praise-poet. He was drawing on Whitman for that. & there is some validity to the claim that his aim was true.
I wouldn't want to be stuck with the unwinnable argument that Crane is a greater poet than Pound, etc. My thought, however, is, that Crane's sense of, feel for, the image acts as a kind of tuning-fork (in relation to what's beautiful in Pound et al.). (Just as, for me, Mandelstam acted as a tuning-fork for Crane.)

Hast 'ou seen boat's wake on sea wall,
how crests it?
What panache?
paw-flap, wave-tap,
that is gaiety,
Toba Sojo,
toward limpidity,
that is exultance,
here the crest runs on the wall
(Canto CX)

(note the Yeats in the background)
I should say (tho' I've said it before), that I was able to get into what Crane was doing by way of Mandelstam. I latched onto something distinctive in Mandelstam - something about the emotive-evocative integrity of the image, the way the image emerges from the poem as a kind of free-floating, self-sustaining entity. A lyrical salience or monad. Free-standing beauty. & then I noticed the same thing in some of Crane's short poems.

It is the imaged Word, that holds
Hushed willows anchored in its glow


- that's it all right, exactly. Crane built on that to make a whole, integral long poem - a bridge-span.

(Curiously parallel to Pound's attempted extension of the Imagist photo into ideogram-montage.)
Mark also makes some astute observations on Hart Crane (btw I'm 53, Mark - y'gads!).

Just got in to work, & want very much to respond carefully to this (want to give Crane his due), but will probably just go on off the top of my head as usual.

There are stretches of bombast & sentimentality in The Bridge. There are also lines & passages of overstuffed diction which are hard to pronounce, much less swallow.

Yet I think the poem succeeds as a distinct long poem despite its weaknesses. It succeeds as a sustained reading experience, as a lyrical plot, as a continuous reading pleasure - in ways that the efforts by Pound, WCW, Olson & Zukofsky do not.

What is the secret of difference here? It may have something to do with Crane's continued use of metrical lines - tetrameter[tks E.S.] & pentameter iambics. The metric offered a bass line, a foundation, for a very crucial extension of the lyric poem into the longer sequence, and the sequence into a sequence-of-sequences, to make up the whole.

What Crane's method does is stimulate a sort of "lyric objectivity". In Cantos, Paterson, "A", Maximus - by contrast - the poet is always in the foreground - maddeningly, ironically - despite the poet-histor's best efforts to import tons of supposedly objective, historical, documentary matter. (Zukofsky is probably a special case - ie. he worked his way out of this situation. But what laborious effort shows!)

Pound, if you listen to his recordings, really aimed for the ancient-Yeatsian vatic chant. But oddly I think Crane is more successful at melding antiquity & modernity, by sticking closer to the orotund pentameter of Shakespeare & Marlowe. (He practiced this beforehand, very effectively, in "For the Marriage of Faustus & Helen".) This vatic manner bore fruit - because, astonishingly, the little frisson of beautifully-made small lyric poems was extended & expanded into an epic-odic manner, the grand & ecstatic singing of many sections of The Bridge.

Finally, there is humor in Crane - but it's subversive & veiled. See Paul Giles, Hart Crane : the contexts of The Bridge on his multivalent puns. Other essential studies:

Lee Edelman, Transmemberment of Song
and especially : Werner Berthoff, Hart Crane, a re-introduction

Crane's letters to Yvor Winters (before Winters repudiated him) are terrific technical shop talk.

But perhaps Mark & others remain unmoved for reasons other than technical & musical. Mark mentions something about the authoritarianism implicit in Crane's mode of Platonic idealism. I don't see it. What I see instead is a certain vulnerability in Crane's faith in the capability of poetic vision to offer a finished image of Eden or Paradise. The stock-in-trade of Pound, Olson & WCW is to invite the reader into the poet's unfinished struggle with the unfinished project of world-renewal. (Zukofsky, again, is a different case.) One participates in the poet's heroic though necessarily incomplete agon.

Crane's whole approach is different. He offers the image of the Brooklyn Bridge as a kind of analogical token or icon - the "Ever-Presence", the earthly, human gateway into paradisal reality. The equilibrium of the poem depends from (I should say "suspends" from), & partakes in, this glimpsed sphere of perfection. The bridge was the summa of the whole effort of American 20th-cent. writing, epitomized by Waldo Frank's paeans to Our America, etc.

It may be this Platonic-national idealism - the substance of Crane's argument, which rhymes with his notion of aesthetic beauty - that postmodern readers find hard to accept.
Mark Scroggins, so much better acquainted with Zukofsky's poetry than I am, responds.

Zukofsky's turn, as Mark describes it, will probably (hopefully) be understood & appreciated more in future.

Odd juxtaposition, for me, between these poet issues, & the essay by Louis Menand on Edmund Wilson in NYorker this week. Menand describes with what brilliance & acumen Wilson understood & loved the Big Moderns like Joyce & Proust - & yet felt they had taken a wrong turn, into aesthetic narcissism, art for art's sake.

Raises a lot of questions which I can't formulate right now.

8.03.2005

In the Red Zone. This blogging journalist was just murdered in Basra.
& why was Crane so completely different? Well, for one thing, he started from Joyce. Anti-Pound, anti-Eliot, almost as much as Stevens was. His Bridge is a pun-soaked "day in the life".

Zuk set himself up as Pound's dialectical flipside (Pound/Zuk, not Olson/Zuk is the real antinomy). But the Mallarmean extremism is not that different from Pound's aesthetic liminality. Wanting to be like Shakespeare : but being a sweet Shakespeare in a kind of muted Joseph Cornell music-box.

Paterson : too much the willed effort? A rush job. Didn't soak the guitar wood long enough. Plays on the surface - drab, prosaic.
Mark Scroggins more on polonggevity.

Obviously I'm more caught up in the megalomania of it than some.

That modulated-defensive note from LZ which Mark quotes : understandable, but not an explanation for the phenomenon. There are a lot of interesting technical problems with the 20th-cent. long poem. If the ambition & the desire outruns the supporting framework (plot, thematic development, argument, stylistic variation, etc.) the poem becomes a kind of sponge.

Trouble is, sponges are endearing. Walt Whitman wrote a sponge. There is a tremendous pressure to integrate & unify the process into a life-work.

Some lazy heat-wave thoughts: vertical/horizontal = height/breadth = refinement/capaciousness = Zuk/Olson = Dante/Shakespeare...

Pound's mania linked to Dante's altitude, the view of experience as an embattled uphill climb, the exile's sense that the world-economy is skewed & inimical.

Shakespeare, on the other hand, speaks from a dramaturgically-realized inner equilibrium (rooted in poetic number). Order is the norm : tragedy & comedy are interrogations of social anomaly - disturbances of an ultimate calm. The fact that he was part of an authorized royal-aristocratic theatrical pageant meant that his ironies are always couched in, moderated by, a conservative assent to traditional order.

Pound's attitude stemmed from a decisive technical problem or contradiction. His classicism/archaism, Nietzschean/pagan power-worship was applied as a literary weapon to chastise & excoriate failed (European) civilization. But the role of the Nietzschean avenger-prophet was deracinating : it uprooted Pound from his own American background. He was unable to draw on or benefit from the liberal-democratic alternative to the wasteland of decadent & war-ravaged Europe. So he ended up as zoo exhibit in Pisan cage & Washington nuthouse : fighting a war with the new democratic power which had already rendered his authoritarian allegiances irrelevant.

But then, where does that leave the "long poem"?

Olson, Zuk & WCW came up with their alternatives. Crane had already done something completely different.

We have to look long & carefully at the underlying conceptual choices, literary allegiances & attitudes of these different American writers (& others!), to even begin to consider how the "long poem" or the culture-epic could be re-designed.

Mandelstam toward the end of his life began to formulate notions of poetic practice as "journey" and "kinship" (see Mandelshtam's Poetics by Elena Corrigan). The Dante that emerges from his "Conversation About Dante" is a very different practitioner and a different personality from the Dante of Pound & Eliot. Dante emerges, not surprisingly, as a kind of Ital-Ren. Mandelstam : a wandering, uncertain bird-man, a Chaplinesque-ecstatic Acmeist-Futurist.

The shadow of the poet (Pound's shadow, Olson's Maximus, Wordsworth's ego) is identified with the filtering mask. The mask shades and patterns the experiential universe. Whose world do we inhabit now? The world of the mask of Mandelstam's Dante?

The shape of future poems might depend on some such thing.

8.02.2005

A blown husk that is finished
but the light sings eternal
a pale flare over marshes
where the salt hay whispers to tide's change.


- famous late Cantos lines. faintly, New Englandly. I can identify with the sentiment. can't get no traction these years. but maybe My Siena be another start. (the motion toward Siena has many sources, some which I don't feel like mentioning at the moment)

Ol Ez, the long poems... guys talking about Olson & Zuk again... Olson, Zuk... then another 40 years? (per M. Scroggini). ya missed sumpin' there, boys.

This long poem thing, the whole grandeurosity... kind of a throwback to an archaic sort of poet's Authority. Has its authoritarian aspect. which is part of the reason I tried to throw Hart Crane & Mandelstam & thems two's inimitable negative capabilities into the mix.

Mandelstam had that old birch cane kind of old-poet mana. Me-ums vs. Stalin. & boy he done it too, in 12 rounds. but he & Crane had such utterly different personality-atmospherics from Pound Ol'Wmszuk.

The only real authority is that "light sings eternal". Granted to the poet who penetrates to it & lets it shine.

I'm looking at Pound's search, search... & at what he missed (hidden in plainest sight).

& here I am, & I gets no respeck, not from the flitterati, nor the scholastic ham-jambons.
Found some of Joseph Rock's books here in the Rock (source for Pound's "Na-Khi" imagery in late Cantos). Reading some of his late fragments (Pound's), note the New Englandy, genealogical trend (the bits about the colonial charter of Connecticut, which one of his maternal ancestors had something to do with - a Joseph Wadsworth).

Reminds me of Olson a little.

Mark Scroggins in interesting thread.
Interesting (though rather abbreviated) feature on August Kleinzahler in NY Times today. I always thought he was some kind of transplanted German.

Tune in here for the latest info on contemporary pottery.

8.01.2005

Reading Hall of Mirrors, by Peter Stoicheff. Monograph on Pound's last cantos (Drafts & Fragments).

Struck by the repeated word in Canto 116:

Many errors,
a little rightness,
to excuse his hell
and my paradiso.
And as to why they go wrong,
thinking of rightness
*
To confess wrong without losing rightness:
Charity I have had sometimes,
I cannot make it flow thru.


(thinking of Mandelstam's (1930s) off-the-cuff, defensive "definition" of poetry : "the poet's sense of being right".)

Stoicheff's discussion of Pound's focus on the Confucian link between inner rightness, personal integrity, and general social reform. How the melodrama, the tragicomedy of his own life & actions forced him to confront this issue in a way he hadn't expected.