A very rich passage I used for an epigraph for July :
I had come to hear that great things might be true. This I was told on the Christopher Street ferry. Marvelous gestures had to be made and Humboldt made them. He told me that poets ought to figure out how to get around pragmatic America. He poured it on for me that day. And there I was, having raptures, gotten up as a Fuller Brush salesman in a smothering wool suit, a hand-me down from Julius. The pants were big in the waist and the shirt ballooned out, for my brother Julius had a fat chest. I wiped my sweat with a handkerchief stitched with a J.
- Saul Bellow, Humboldt's Gift
- Humboldt, Bellow's fictional version of Delmore Schwartz (& paradigmatic American poet), tells Citrine (the narrator) "that poets ought to figure out how to get around pragmatic America". Isn't this - hasn't it always been - the crux of the American poet's ridiculous situation? And isn't it - at some level - a spiritual problem? Not just a problem for the poet - but a problem which poets in particular represent and act out? The poet as unworldly St.Francis/Hobo figure, who dramatizes the conflict between spirit and flesh, worldliness and spiritual poverty (although Francis - unlike earlier ascetics - has always also represented the integration of humanity and nature - beauty, creation, love).