20 March 2010

Jack Spicer

[from Jack Spicer's The House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack SpicerThe House That Jack Built: The Collected Lectures of Jack Spicer, ed. Peter Gizzi, Wesleyan, 1998]

ET: At what point did you allow these messages to take over or start happening in your poetry?

JS: It happened about halfway through when I was writing After Lorca, when the letters to Lorca started coming and being dictated and the poems, instead of being translations, were dictated. Then I sort of knew what was happening. And when the final thing happened, in the poem, the business of the last letter, I really knew that there was something moving it. Before, I never did. I just had the big thing of you writing poems and isn't that great, and they were sometimes great, sometimes good at least. But after that I never really had any ambitions to do anything else.

17 March 2010

Robert Duncan

[from Robert Duncan's Selected Poems: Revised and Enlarged, ed. Robert J. Bertholf, New Directions, 1997]

The Song of the Borderguard

The man with his lion under the shed of wars
sheds his belief as if he shed tears.
The sound of words waits —
a barbarian host at the borderline of sense.

The enamord guards desert their posts
harkening to the lion-smell of a poem
that rings in their ears.

       — Dreams, a certain guard said —
            were never designd so
            to re-arrange an empire.

            Along about six o’clock I take out my guitar
            and sing to a lion
            who sleeps like a line of poetry
            in the shed of wars.

The man shedding his belief
knows that the lion is not asleep,
does not dream, is never asleep,
is a wide-awake poem
waiting like a lover for the disrobing of the guard;
the beautiful boundaries of the empire
naked, rapt round in the smell of a lion.

(The barbarians have passt over the significant phrase)

       — When I was asleep,
            a certain guard says,
       a man shed his clothes as if he shed tears
       and appeard as a lonely lion
       waiting for a song under the shed-roof of wars.

I sang the song that he waited to hear,
I, the Prize-Winner, the Poet-Acclaimed.

Dear, Dear, Dear, Dear, I sang,
believe, believe, believe, believe.
The shed of wars is splendid as the sky,
houses our waiting like a pure song
housing in its words the lion-smell
         of the beloved disrobed.

I sang: believe, believe, believe.

          I the guard because of my guitar
believe. I am the certain guard,
certain of the Beloved, certain of the Lion,
certain of the Empire. I with my guitar.
Dear, Dear, Dear, Dear, I sing.
I, the Prize-Winner, the Poet on Guard.

The borderlines of sense in the morning light
are naked as a line of poetry in a war.

16 March 2010

slipper sweat

slipper sweat

       a toe

14 March 2010

Lorine Niedecker

[from Lorine Niedecker's Collected Works, University of California, 2002]

So this was I
in my framed
young aloofness
               what I filled

eager to remain
a smooth blonde cool
effect of light
an undiffused good take,
               a girl
               who couldn’t bake

How I wish
I had someone to give
this pretty thing to
who’d keep it —
               something of me
               would shape

Robert Creeley

[from an interview with Robert Creeley in David Ossman's The Sullen Art: Interviews with Modern American Poets, Corinth, 1963]

In the earlier poems . . . the emotional terms are very difficult. The poems come from a context that was difficult to live in, and so I wanted the line to be used to register that kind of problem, or that kind of content. Elsewhere I remember I did say that "Form is never more than an extension of content," and by that I meant that the thing to be said will, in that way, determine how it will be said. So that if you're saying, "Go light the fire," "fire" in that registration will have one kind of emphasis, and if you start screaming, "Fire! Fire!" of course that will have another. In other words, the content of what is semantically involved will very much function in how the statement of it occurs. Now the truncated line, or the short, seemingly broken line I was using in my first poems, comes from the somewhat broken emotions that were involved in them. Now, as I begin to relax, as I not so much grow older, but more settled, more at ease in my world, the line can not so much grow softer, but can become . . . more lyrical, less afraid of concluding. And rhyme, of course, is to me a balance not only of sounds, but a balance which implies agreement. That's why, I suppose, I'd stayed away from rhymes in the early poems except for this kind of ironic throwback on what was being said.

13 March 2010

Kedrick James

[from Kedrick James's Poet, Pirate, Netbot, Vizpo]

we acquire a new skill . . . obliteracy . . . the ability to make the apparent texts transparent to varying degrees. We disregard more assiduously than we attend . . . all information carries with it a catalytic energy, no matter how insignificant . . . The residue of excess information, its reverberations . . . add character to the gleaning of meaning . . . learning is being reinvented . . .

Knowledge is played on the hegemonica.

08 March 2010

Lorine Niedecker

[from Lorine Niedecker's Collected Works, University of California, 2002]

Will You Write Me a Christmas Poem

Will I!

The mad stimulus of Gay Gaunt Day
meet to put holly on a tree
and trim green bells
and trim green bells

Now candles come to faces.
Your are wrong to-day
you are wrong to-day,
my dear. My dear —

One translucent morning
in the development of winter
one fog to move a city backward —
Backward, backwards, backward!

You see the objects and the movable fingers,
Candy dripping from branches,
Horoscopes of summer
and you don't have Christmas ultimately —
Ultima Thule ultimately!

Spreads and whimpets
Good to the cherry drops,
Whom for a splendor
Whom for a splendor

I'm going off the paper I'm going off the pap-

Send two birds out
Send two birds out
And carol them in,
Cookies go round.

What a scandal is Christmas,
What a scandle Christmas is,
a red stick-up
to a lily.

You flagellate my woes, you flagellate,
I interpret yours,
holly is a care divine
                holly is a care divine

and where are we all from here.
Drink for there is nothing else to do
but pray,
And where are we all from here.

Throw out the ribbons
and tie your people in
All spans dissever
once the New Year opens
and snow derides
a doorway,
its spasms dissever

All spans dissever,
Wherefore we, for instance, recuperate
no grief to modulate
no grief to modulate
Wherefore we, Free instance

The Christmas cacophony
one word to another,
sound of gilt trailing the world
slippers to presume,
postludes, homicles, sweet tenses
imbecile and corrupt, —
     failing the whirled, trailing the whirled

This great eventual heyday
to plenty the hour thereof,
Heyday! Hey-day! Hey-day!

I fade the color of my wine
that an afternoon might live
foiled with shine and brittle
I fade the color of my wine

Harmony in Egypt,
representative birthday.
Christ what a destiny
What a destiny's Christ's, Christ!

07 March 2010

Robert Creeley

[from Robert Creeley's The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley: 1945-1975], University of California, 2006]

For Fear

For fear I want
to make myself again
under the thumb
of old love, old time

and pain, bent
into a nail that will
not come out.

Why, love, does it
make such a difference
not to be heard
in spite of self

or what we may feel,
one for the other,
but as a hammer
to drive again

bent nail
into old hurt?

05 March 2010

Edward Dorn

[from Edward Dorn's Way More West, Penguin, 2007]

Like a Message on Sunday

the forlorn plumber
by the river
with his daughter
       staring at the water
then, at her
his daughter closely.

Once World, he came
to our house to fix the stove
                     and couldn't
   oh, we were arrogant and talked
about him in the next room, doesn't
a man know what he is doing?

Can't it be done right,
            World of iron thorns.
Now they sit by the meagre river
by the water . . . stare
into that plumber
so that I can see a daughter in the water
she thin and silent
he wearing a baseball cap
       in a celebrating town this summer season
may they live on

on, may their failure be kindly, and come
in small pieces.

01 March 2010

John Ashbery

[from John Ashbery's Houseboat Days, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1977]


Orpheus liked the glad personal quality
Of the things beneath the sky. Of course, Eurydice was a part
Of this. Then one day, everything changed. He rends
Rocks into fissures with lament. Gullies, hummocks
Can't withstand it. The sky shudders from one horizon
To the other, almost ready to give up wholeness.
Then Apollo quietly told him: "Leave it all on earth.
Your lute, what point? Why pick at a dull pavan few care to
Follow, except a few birds of dusty feather,
Not vivid performances of the past." But why not?
All other things must change too.
The seasons are no longer what they once were,
But it is the nature of things to be seen only once,
As they happen along, bumping into other things, getting along
Somehow. That's where Orpheus made his mistake.
Of course Eurydice vanished into the shade;
She would have even if he hadn't turned around.
No use standing there like a gray stone toga as the whole wheel
Of recorded history flashes past, struck dumb, unable to utter an
Comment on the most thought-provoking element in its train.
Only love stays on the brain, and something these people,
These other ones, call life. Singing accurately
So that the notes mount straight up out of the well of
Dim noon and rival the tiny, sparkling yellow flowers
Growing around the brink of the quarry, encapsulates
The different weights of the things.
                                                      But it isn't enough
To just go on singing. Orpheus realized this
And didn't mind so much about his reward being in heaven
After the Bacchantes had torn him apart, driven
Half out of their minds by his music, what it was doing to them.
Some say it was for his treatment of Eurydice.
But probably the music had more to do with it, and
The way music passes, emblematic
Of life and how you cannot isolate a note of it
And say it is good or bad. You must
Wait till it's over. "The end crowns all,"
Meaning also that the "tableau"
Is wrong. For although memories, of a season, for example,
Melt into a single snapshot, one cannot guard, treasure
That stalled moment. It too is flowing, fleeting;
It is a picture of flowing, scenery, though living, mortal,
Over which an abstract action is laid out in blunt,
Harsh strokes. And to ask more than this
Is to become the tossing reeds of that slow,
Powerful stream, the trailing grasses
Playfully tugged at, but to participate in the action
No more than this. Then in the lowering gentian sky
Electric twitches are faintly apparent first, then burst forth
Into a shower of fixed, cream-colored flares. The horses
Have each seen a share of the truth, though each thinks,
"I'm a maverick. Nothing of this is happening to me,
Though I can understand the language of birds, and
The itinerary of lights caught in the storm is fully apparent to me.
Their jousting ends in music much
As trees move more easily in the wind after a summer storm
And is happening in lacy shadows of shore-trees, now, day after day."

But how late to be regretting all this, even
Bearing in mind that regrets are always late, too late!
To which Orpheus, a bluish cloud with white contours,
Replies that these are of course not regrets at all,
Merely a careful, scholarly setting down of
Unquestioned facts, a record of pebbles along the way.
And now matter how all this disappeared,
Or got where it was going, it is no longer
Material for a poem. Its subject
Matters too much, and not enough, standing there helplessly
While the poem streaked by, its tail afire, a bad
Comet screaming hate and disaster, but so turned inward
That the meaning, good or other, can never
Become known. The singer thinks
Constructively, builds up his chant in progressive stages
Like a skyscraper, but at the last minute turns away.
The song is engulfed in an instant in blackness
Which must in turn flood the whole continent
With blackness, for it cannot see. The singer
Must then pass out of sight, not even relieved
Of the evil burthen of the words. Stellification
Is for the few, and comes about much later
When all record of these people and their lives
Has disappeared into libraries, onto microfilm.
A few are still interested in them. "But what about
So-and-so?" is still asked on occasion. But they lie
Frozen and out of touch until an arbitrary chorus
Speaks of a totally different incident with a similar name
In whose tale are hidden syllables
Of what happened so long before that
In some small town, one indifferent summer.