31 March 2011

Nathaniel Mackey

[from Nathaniel Mackey's Splay Anthem, New Directions, 2006]

Eye on the Scarecrow

    — “mu” twentieth part —

      The way we lay
  we mimed a body
    of water. It was
this or that way
        the dead and we
      were them. No
    worried which . . .
      Millet beer made
our legs go weak,
  our tongues. “The dead,”
          said, “are drowning
      of thirst,” gruff
        summons we muttered
    out loud in our
                             sleep . . .
      It was a journey we
  were on, drawn-out
    scrawl we made a road
of, long huthered hajj
        were on. Raw strip
      of cloth we now rode,
          wishful, letterless
            the ride we thumbed . . .
        Harp-headed ghost whose
          head we plucked incessantly.
    Bartered star.        Tethered
                                                run . . .
      It was a ride we knew we’d
    wish to return to. Every-
        thing was everything.
  nothing no less. No less
      arrived or ancestral, of
        late having to do with
    the name of parts . . .
      Rolling hills rolled
  up like a rug, raw sprawl
                                          of a
        book within a book
      without a name known as
          Namless, not to be
  arrived at again . . .
                                  It was
    the Book of No Avail we
were in did we dare name
  it, momentary kings and
    fleet kingdon. Land fell
  away on all sides.

Lag we caught ourselves,
    run weft at last
  adequate, shadowless,
      left up Atet Street,
    legs tight, hill after
          hill after hill.
        Had it been a book Book
  of Opening the Book
      would have been called,
under lock and key . . .
      arrest. Ra was on the
    It was after the end of
  the world . . . To lie on
      our backs looking
    into the dark was all
        there was worth
  each the aroused eye
one another sought,
    swore he or she
    we lay where love’s
  pharaonic torso lay
      deepest, wide-eyed
night without sleep . . .
    our heads with straw,” we
  said, half-skulls tied with
      catgut, strummed . . .
    our strummed heads, memory
made us itch. Walked out
  weightless, air what eye
      left . . .

                Someone said Rome,
    someone said destroy it.
Atlantis, a third shouted
                                       out . . .
      Low ride among ruins
  notwithstanding we flew.
    Swam, it often seemed,
underwater, oddly immersed,
          long since bid goodbye,
    lay in wait, remote muses
        kept us afloat. Something
  called pursuit had us by
      the nose. Wafted ether
low, tilted floor, splintered
        feet. Throated bone . . .
    Rickety boat we rode . . .
      though what we wanted
  was to be everywhere at
an altered life lived on an
        coast we’d lay washed up
          on, instancy and elsewhere

29 March 2011

Rainer Maria Rilke

[from Rainer Maria Rilke's Duino Elegies, 1923]

Freilich ist es seltsam, die Erde nicht mehr zu bewohnen,
kaum erlernte Gebräuche nicht mehr zu üben,
Rosen, und andern eigens versprechenden Dingen
nicht die Bedeutung menschlicher Zukunft zu geben;
das, was man war in unendlich ängstlichen Händen,
nicht mehr zu sein, und selbst den eigenen Namen
wegzulassen wie ein zerbrochenes Spielzeug.
Seltsam, die Wünsche nicht weiterzuwúnschen. Seltsam,
alles, was sich bezog, so lose im Raume
flattern zu sehen. Und das Totsein ist mühsam
und voller Nachholn, dass man allmählich ein wenig
Ewigkeit spúrt. – Aber Lebendige machen
alle den Fehler, dass sie zu stark unterscheiden.
Engel (sagt man) wüssten oft nicht, ob sie unter
Lebenden gehn oder Toten. Die ewige Strömung
reisst durch beide Bereiche alle Alter
immer mit sich und übertönt sie in beiden.

Schliesslich brauchen sie uns nicht mehr, die Früheentrückten,
man entwöhnt sich des Irdischen sanft, wie man den Brüsten
milde der Mutter entwächst. Aber wir, die so grosse
Geheimnisse brauchen, denen aus Trauer so oft
seliger Fortschritt entspringt – : könnten wir sein ohne sie?
Ist die Sage umsonst, dass einst in der Klage um Linos
wagende erste Musik dürre Erstarrung durchdrang;
dass erst im erschrockenen Raum, dem ein beinah göttlicher Jüngling
plötzlich fúr immer enttrat, das Leere in jene
Schwingung geriet, die uns jetzt hinreisst und tröstet und hilft.

28 March 2011

Vicente Huidobro

[from Vicente Huidobro's Altazor, 1931]


Al aia aia
ia ia ia aia ui
Lali lalá

Rimbibolam lam lam
Uiaya zollonario

Monlutrella monluztrella
Montresol y mandotrina
Ai ai
        Montesur en lasurido

Lusponsedo solinario
Aururaro ulisamento lalilá
Ylarca murllonía
Hormajauma marijauda


Olamina olasica lalilá
Olandera uruaro
Ia ia campanuso compasedo

Aí ai mareciente y eternauta
Redontella tallerendo lucenario
Ia ia

Ai i a

Ai ai aia
                     layu yu

                    ayu yu
Sensorida e infimento
Ululayo ululamento

Cantasorio ululaciente
Oraneva yu yu yo
Infilero e infinauta zurrosía

Jaurinario ururayú
Montañendo oraranía
Arorasía ululacente
                 ivarisa tarirá

Campanudio lalalí
          Auriciento auronida
         Io ia

Ai a i a a i i i i o ia

24 March 2011

Vicente Huidobro

[the essay "Creationism" from Vicente Huidobro's Manifestos, original published in 1925; translation by David M. Guss in The Selected Poetry of Vicente Huidobro, New Directions, 1981]

At the end of 1916 I landed in Paris, into the world of the magazine Sic. I barely knew the language, but soon realized that I was dealing with a very futurist scene and one can't forget that just two years before, in my book Pasando y pasando, I had attacked futurism as being too old-fashioned, at the exact moment the whole world was crying out for the birth of something completely new.

I searched everywhere for this created poetry, without relation to the external world, and, when at times I believed I had found it, I soon realized that it was merely my lack of knowledge of the language which had made me see it where it was totally lacking or simply existed in small fragments, as in my earlier books of 1913 and 1915.

Have you noticed the special power, the near-creative sense that pervades the poetry written in a language you are just beginning to utter?

You find fantastic poems which just a year later make you smile.

Gathered around Apollinaire, who was such an undeniable poet, and yet apart from him, one found several earnest searchers; unfortunately, most of them lacked the holy fire, since nothing could be more false than to believe that inspiration is to be found lying in the street. True poetic inspiration is the rarest thing that exists. And I'm not using the word poet here in the intimate sense it holds for me, but rather in its habitual sense, since, for me, there has never been a single poet in the history of the planet.

Today I affirm completely, as I did ten years ago in the Atheneum in Buenos Aires: "There has never been a single poem written in the world, but only some vague essays on how to write one. Poetry is yet to be born on our globe. And its birth will be an event that will revolutionize mankind like the greatest earthquake." I sometimes wonder if it will not go by unnoticed.

Let's make it clear, then, that each time I speak of "poet" I simply use the term to be understood, like stretching a rubberband to encircle those who are nearest the importance which I assign it.

During the period of the magazine Nord-Sud, of which I was one of the founders, we all had more or less the same orientation in our outlooks, but were far enough from another at the core.

While others were making oval skylights, I was making square horizons. As all skylights are oval, poetry continues to be realist. As horizons are not square, the author offers something created by himself.

When Horizon Carré (Square Horizon) came out, here is how I explained the title in a letter to friend an critic Thomas Chazal:

Square horizon. A new fact, invented by me, created by me, which couldn't exist without me. I want, dear friend, to capture in this title the whole of my aesthetics, which you have been aware of for some time now.

This title explains the basis of my poetic theory. Condensed within it is the essence of my principles.

1. To humanize the object. Everything that passes through the body of the poet must be subjected to the greatest possible amount of his heat. Here something as vast and enormous as the horizon is humanized; it becomes intimate, thanks to the adjective SQUARE. The infinite nests in our heart.

2. The indefinite becomes precise. In shutting the windows of our soul, whatever was able to escape, gasify, and unravel, remains enclosed and is solidified.

3. The abstract becomes concrete and the concrete abstract. This means the perfect balance, since if the abstract leaned toward the more abstract, it would dissolve in your hands or filter through your fingers. And if you made the concrete even more concrete, it would help you drink wine or furnish your home, but it would never furnish your soul.

4. Whatever is too poetic to be created is transformed into something created by changing its common value, so that if horizon was poetic in itself, if horizon was poetry in life, by qualifying it with square, it stops being poetry in art. From dead poetry it becomes living poetry.

The few words explaining my concept of poetry on the first page of the book we are speaking of, tells you what I wanted to accomplish in those poems. It said:

To create a poem by taking the elements of life and transforming them to give them a new and independent life of their own.

Nothing descriptive or anecdotal. Emotion must be born from the creative strength alone.

Make a POEM like nature makes a tree.

In the end, it was my exact concept before arriving in Paris: the act of pure creation which you will find, as a true obsession, in every aspect of my work from 1925 on. And this is still my concept of poetry. The poem created in all its parts, as a new object.

I will repeat here the axiom I gave in my talk at the Atheneum in Madrid in 1921, and finally in Paris, in my speech at the Sorbonne, an axiom which sums up my aesthetic principles: "Art is one thing and Nature another. I love Art very much and Nature very much. And if I accept the representations that a man makes from Nature, it proves I love neither Nature or Art."

In two words and to conclude: the creationists are the first poets who have brought to art a poem invented in all parts by the author.

Here, in these pages about creationism, is my poetic testament. I bequeath it to the poets of tomorrow, to those who will be the first of this new species being, the poet, this new species to be born soon; I can feel it. There are signs in the sky.

The near-poets of today are very interesting, but their interests do not interest me.

The wind points my flute toward the future.

01 March 2011

Paul Harding

[from Paul Harding's Tinkers, Bellevue Literary, 2009]

Buy the pendant, sneak it into your hand from the folds of your dress and let the low light of the fire lap at it late at night as you wait for the roof to give out or your will to snap and the ice to be too thick to chop through with the ax as you stand in your husband's boots on the frozen lake at midnight, the dry hack of the blade on ice so tiny under the wheeling and frozen stars, the soundproof lid of heaven, that your husband would never stir from his sleep in the cabin across the ice, would never hear and come running, half-frozen, in only his union suit, to save you from chopping a hole in the ice and sliding into it as if it were a blue vein, sliding down into the black, silty bottom of the lake, where you would see nothing, would perhaps feel only the stir of some somnolent fish in the murk as the plunge of you in your wool dress and the big boots disturbed it from its sluggish winter dreams of ancient seas. Maybe you would not even feel that, as you struggled in clothes that felt like cooling tar, and as you slowed, calmed, even, and opened your eyes and looked for a pulse of silver, an imbrication of scales, and as you closed your eyes again and felt their lids turn to slippery, ichthyic skin, the blood behind them suddenly cold, and as you found yourself not caring, wanting, finally to rest, finally wanting nothing more than the sudden, new, simple hum threading between your eyes. The ice is far too thick to chop through. You will never do it. You could never do it. So buy the gold, warm it with your skin, slip it onto your lap when you are sitting by the fire and all you will otherwise have to look at is your splintery husband gumming chew or the craquelure of your own chapped hands.