Posts Tagged ‘poet’

Retread — Burroughs Month: Thanksgiving Prayer

November 24, 2011


“To John Dillinger and hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day. November 28, 1986.”

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shat out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.


Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.


Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin’ lawmen,
feelin’ their notches.


For decent church-goin’ women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for “Kill a Queer for
Christ” stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.


Thanks for a country where
nobody’s allowed to mind their
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories — all right let’s see
your arms!


You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

I do not believe it is as hopeless as all that. This year, I am incredibly thankful to be alive at all, let alone to live where I do with the people I love. I understand Mr. Burroughs’ criticisms, I just think that we must keep caring and trying to win out against the sense of defeat and cynicism, and maybe then the dream can still be saved. I don’t believe people are inherently bad; I believe the opposite, and I won’t get discouraged and filled with bitterness toward all of humanity just because of the publicized exploits and outrages of the bad apples in our barrel. I believe that for each one of the headlines that sends people in to despair over the state of the world, there are a thousand unreported little kindnesses and gestures of love and connection.

And world peace. I know. I get cheesey. I’m just feeling very happy and free and alive.




Almost all photos via Square America.







This post originally appeared on November 26, 2010.

Flashback Friday — Just Another Auden October: Autumn Song

October 28, 2011

This entry originally appeared on October 20, 2010 at 9:19 am.


Photographed by mjagiellicz on the d.a.

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.


Photographed by bittersea on the d.a.

Whispering neighbors left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.


Photographed by leenaraven on the d.a.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.


Photographed by cookiemonstah on the d.a.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.


Photographed by redribboninyourhair on the d.a.

Clear, unscalable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold, cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

(Auden, W.H. “VI.:Autumn Song.” Twelve Songs. March 1936.)

If ever there were a view on which to turn your back à la Gertrude Stein, a sweeping vista of the Mountains of Instead would be the one. No going back. Too late. Prams rolling on. Breathtaking strong tide of inevitability that takes all the water with it and leaves you and your petty fears and dreams dragging in the dust.

Time is stolen from us in such tiny ways — although I guess it is scarcely a theft when you never lock the door or look out the window to see if there is a shadow waiting for you to turn your back, as if all you possess are invincible by dint of being yours — and we use landmark occasions to mark the loss, but we only once in a while really look at what momentous and yet totally miniscule shit comprises what is destined to be our one and only, short history.

This Autumn was already weighing as heavily on me as last year. Now all I feel like I can handle doing is to take a hot bath and climb back beneath the covers (you see what I mean about aiding in our own robbery by time?). Thanks a lot, Auden. I guess what scares me most about it is does it always steal up on you? Does it just sneak up and you turn around and cry out, “Oh, not yet. It can’t be time yet. I’m not finished. I thought I would have more time.”


Photographed by disco_ball on the d.a.

Is there any way to escape that, that moment of realization, that punch in the gut when the waste, all the time you wasted suddenly comes rushing up around you so you can’t even breathe? Your life is over and you’re not ready because you thought you could always keep backsliding, that there would be special accounting for prodigal, last minute, golden you, who always slid in under the wire, who always got a second chance if you smiled big enough when you asked. There is no talking or charming or dodging your way out of final reckoning, and no method by which I can imagine escaping the horror of that realization, and you finally turn around and see the Mountains of Instead. You made them that tall. What do you do about the regret which will follow. Is there a way to soften that blow?

I don’t think there is. I can make vows about viewing this poem as a cautionary tale, and shine you on about how I plan on avoiding such a fate by making every moment count, and on and on until the sun goes supernova, but a plucky attitude does not lower the Mountains of Instead even an inch. No changing the past. No erasing regrets. That is just some fucked up shit right there.

Just Another Auden October: A lane to the land of the dead

October 27, 2011


Photographed by Logan White.

The glacier knocks in the cupboard,
The desert sighs in the bed,
And the crack in the tea-cup opens
A lane to the land of the dead.

(W.H. Auden, “As I Walked Out One Evening.” Juvenelia, 1922-1928).

Take-two Tuesday: William Blake Month — “The Fly”

October 4, 2011

This entry originally appeared on June 22, 2010 at 1:44pm.

Late post, am I right? I’ve been invovled in some deep bookfoolery which I will explain below. The heading of each of the chapters in a book I read last night/today is followed by a quote, and one such quote was from this poem of Blake’s.


via

Little Fly,
Thy summer’s play
My thoughtless hand
Has brushed away.

Am not I
A fly like thee?
Or art not thou
A man like me?


For I dance
And drink, and sing,
Till some blind hand
Shall brush my wing.

If thought is life
And strength and breath
And the want
Of thought is death;


via

Then am I
A happy fly,
If I live,
Or if I die.

(William Blake, “The Fly.”)

So — the lateness in the day. Yes. Sorry, but I am not even firing on four let alone six cyllinders today. See, I went against all my usual instincts and quickly finished my yearly series last night wayyy ahead of time and I refuse to let that happen with my other obligations, so when I dropped the last in the series to the floor, I dug in to my pile and instead of snatching up The Tommyknockers (absolutely not touching it until July 2nd or 3rd or I will not be where I need to be for the 4th and I cannot afford any more Bad Days), I started this book my cousin Mary loaned me called The Descent.

I was initially skeptical and, at points, flirting with grogginess from the overabundance of sleep-inducing substances I pour down my throat every night in an effort to quiet the seven-headed rock dragon of my insomnia which makes the Balrog look like a Pound Puppy, but it was amazing shit, full of caves and sci-fi creatures and anthropology and linguistics and religious themes and Hell and mountaineers and Jesuits and everything else that rings my bell, and before I knew it I was completely sucked in to the throat of it. I powered through the layers of tylenol pm, Miller, and a slug of Ny-Quil I’d taken earlier, ignoring my sandy eyelids because I Couldn’t Stop Reading, and, having finally shook off any need for sleep and finished the last sentence and closed the book thoughtfully at around nine this morning, I can confidently say I’m a believer.


via

I slid it under my bed and lay reflecting on what I’d read for a few minutes, because I felt like there had been some unresolved plot points, then I suddenly did this herky jerky twitch and thought, “How many standalone science fiction novels are that long? Plus … it was set in ’99, but the cover was new. No dog-eared pages. Mary would’ve loaned it to me years ago if she hadn’t just recently bought and read it. It’s a new book.” Reprint. Why?


via

Totally excited by this chain of thought, I flipped my ass in the air, dove under my bed and grabbed the book back out of my piles and checked the front. HELL YES: among the author’s other books listed by the publisher is one titled The Ascent, which I think it is fair to conjecture can only be a sequel, so now that I’ve finished all the housework and cooking I’d planned previously to do in the hours of the morning I’d spent reading, I’m going to cruise out to the used book store by my house and see about scaring that bitch up for tonight — and see if there are more. Keep you posted. Don’t worry about the insomnia thing: I’ll get all the sleep I need when I’m dead.

Burroughs Month: Thanksgiving Prayer

November 25, 2010


“To John Dillinger and hope he is still alive.
Thanksgiving Day. November 28, 1986.”

Thanks for the wild turkey and
the passenger pigeons, destined
to be shat out through wholesome
American guts.

Thanks for a continent to despoil
and poison.


Thanks for Indians to provide a
modicum of challenge and
danger.

Thanks for vast herds of bison to
kill and skin leaving the
carcasses to rot.

Thanks for bounties on wolves
and coyotes.


Thanks for the American dream,
To vulgarize and to falsify until
the bare lies shine through.

Thanks for the KKK.

For nigger-killin’ lawmen,
feelin’ their notches.


For decent church-goin’ women,
with their mean, pinched, bitter,
evil faces.

Thanks for “Kill a Queer for
Christ” stickers.

Thanks for laboratory AIDS.

Thanks for Prohibition and the
war against drugs.


Thanks for a country where
nobody’s allowed to mind their
own business.

Thanks for a nation of finks.

Yes, thanks for all the
memories — all right let’s see
your arms!


You always were a headache and
you always were a bore.

Thanks for the last and greatest
betrayal of the last and greatest
of human dreams.

I do not believe it is as hopeless as all that. This year, I am incredibly thankful to be alive at all, let alone to live where I do with the people I love. I understand Mr. Burroughs’ criticisms, I just think that we must keep caring and trying to win out against the sense of defeat and cynicism, and maybe then the dream can still be saved. I don’t believe people are inherently bad; I believe the opposite, and I won’t get discouraged and filled with bitterness toward all of humanity just because of the publicized exploits and outrages of the bad apples in our barrel. I believe that for each one of the headlines that sends people in to despair over the state of the world, there are a thousand unreported little kindnesses and gestures of love and connection.

And world peace. I know. I get cheesey. I’m just feeling very happy and free and alive.




Almost all photos via Square America.

Auden October: “I was wrong.”

October 28, 2010


via.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

(W.H. Auden. “Song IX,” Twelve Songs. 1936.)

Auden October: “Autumn Song”

October 20, 2010


Photographed by mjagiellicz on the d.a.

Now the leaves are falling fast,
Nurse’s flowers will not last,
Nurses to their graves are gone,
But the prams go rolling on.


Photographed by bittersea on the d.a.

Whispering neighbors left and right
Daunt us from our true delight,
Able hands are forced to freeze
Derelict on lonely knees.


Photographed by leenaraven on the d.a.

Close behind us on our track,
Dead in hundreds cry Alack,
Arms raised stiffly to reprove
In false attitudes of love.


Photographed by cookiemonstah on the d.a.

Scrawny through a plundered wood,
Trolls run scolding for their food,
Owl and nightingale are dumb,
And the angel will not come.


Photographed by redribboninyourhair on the d.a.

Clear, unscalable, ahead
Rise the Mountains of Instead,
From whose cold, cascading streams
None may drink except in dreams.

(Auden, W.H. “VI.:Autumn Song.” Twelve Songs. March 1936.)

If ever there were a view on which to turn your back à la Gertrude Stein, a sweeping vista of the Mountains of Instead would be the one. No going back. Too late. Prams rolling on. Breathtaking strong tide of inevitability that takes all the water with it and leaves you and your petty fears and dreams dragging in the dust.

Time is stolen from us in such tiny ways — although I guess it is scarcely a theft when you never lock the door or look out the window to see if there is a shadow waiting for you to turn your back, as if all you possess are invincible by dint of being yours — and we use landmark occasions to mark the loss, but we only once in a while really look at what momentous and yet totally miniscule shit comprises what is destined to be our one and only, short history.

This Autumn was already weighing as heavily on me as last year. Now all I feel like I can handle doing is to take a hot bath and climb back beneath the covers (you see what I mean about aiding in our own robbery by time?). Thanks a lot, Auden. I guess what scares me most about it is does it always steal up on you? Does it just sneak up and you turn around and cry out, “Oh, not yet. It can’t be time yet. I’m not finished. I thought I would have more time.”


Photographed by disco_ball on the d.a.

Is there any way to escape that, that moment of realization, that punch in the gut when the waste, all the time you wasted suddenly comes rushing up around you so you can’t even breathe? Your life is over and you’re not ready because you thought you could always keep backsliding, that there would be special accounting for prodigal, last minute, golden you, who always slid in under the wire, who always got a second chance if you smiled big enough when you asked. There is no talking or charming or dodging your way out of final reckoning, and no method by which I can imagine escaping the horror of that realization, and you finally turn around and see the Mountains of Instead. You made them that tall. What do you do about the regret which will follow. Is there a way to soften that blow?

I don’t think there is. I can make vows about viewing this poem as a cautionary tale, and shine you on about how I plan on avoiding such a fate by making every moment count, and on and on until the sun goes supernova, but a plucky attitude does not lower the Mountains of Instead even an inch. No changing the past. No erasing regrets. That is just some fucked up shit right there.

Auden October: Alone about the dreadful wood

October 19, 2010


“Enchanted forest” by ostmo on the d.a.

Alone, alone, about the dreadful wood
Of conscious evil runs a lost mankind,
Dreading to find its Father.

(W.H. Auden, “For the Time Being: A Christmas Oratio.” 1942.)

Auden October: Inaugural edition, “The More Loving One”

October 6, 2010

This month will focus on W.H. Auden. Starting … now.


Looking up at the stars, I know quite well
That, for all they care, I can go to hell,
But on earth indifference is the least
We have to dread from man or beast.


How should we like it were stars to burn
With a passion for us we could not return?
If equal affection cannot be,
Let the more loving one be me.


Admirer as I think I am
Of stars that do not give a damn,
I cannot, now I see them, say
I missed one terribly all day.


Were all stars to disappear or die,
I should learn to look at an empty sky
And feel its total dark sublime,
Though this might take me a little time.

(Auden, W.H. “The More Loving One.” Homage to Clio. New York: Random House. 1960.)


via rimbaud-was-a-rolling-stone on the tumblr.

It seems to me, I suppose unfairly, that in a pair there is always a lover and a lovee. My nearly lifelong preference for the safely sheltered harbor of being a lovee has made me deliberately pass over and miss crucial opportunities, not to mention made a secret hypocrite and liar of me many times over, while allowing me never to really share all of myself.


Masculin Féminin (Godard, 1966).

It’s a journey that lacks the thrill of a rocky climb or winding bridge over water where your hands are clasped and you jump together over giant roots; it’s a dry, smooth, straight path that lacks all scenery and leaves you feeling more alone with someone else than by yourself. To consciously choose to change this behavior (which of course is a shield I long ago threw up to defend against pain down the road and have never fallen out of the habit) is one of my many resolves, but one that I don’t know when I will possibly be ready to put in to practice.


via bleedtoblack on the tumblr.

Oh — I’m coming at this poem from the perspective that it’s about more than stars. But even just the stars layer of meaning is cool, too, I guess.

Movie Moment: Bonnie and Clyde

September 30, 2010

Promised a Movie Moment yesterday on Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967), and here it is. The night that I first saw this film is one of those instances that really stands, clear, head and shoulders above others in my mind. I was a sophomore in high school and my father and I had got takeout Chinese food and rented Bonnie and Clyde some weekend when my mother was doing some church lady thing (now I’m a church lady, too … time marches on). As an already solid gold Daddy’s Girl, when my father told me it was “a very important movie,” and that “you will love it,” I was set with anticipation. Also, I really like Chinese food.


I had already read, a few years earlier, a good-sized, detailed book about Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker that I’d picked up at a thrift store. Lots of pictures, reprints of Bonnie’s poems, the whole nine. But what I saw was not what I remembered reading. I was surprised at the many deviations in the screenplay from the true accounts of their partnership and crimes that I’d read, yet I found the movie so absorbing and excellent, such a blend of glamour and grit, that I didn’t mind the liberties at all. I was totally taken with it — especially Faye Dunaway and her costumes and styling. Dad warned me to look away at the end, but of course I didn’t, and I gaped at the dancing corpses. This, I knew, was accurate, but to see it on the screen brought the unbelievably vivid violence of it to a shocking level that my imagination had not reached when I only read about their deaths. I thought then, and think now, that it’s one of the best movies ever made.

But not everyone shares my view. Especially initially, some critics outspokenly hated Bonnie and Clyde:

It is a cheap piece of bald-faced slapstick comedy that treats the hideous depredations of that sleazy, moronic pair as though they were as full of fun and frolic as the jazz-age cutups in Thoroughly Modern Millie.

(“Movie Review: Bonnie and Clyde.” Crowther, Bosley. The New York Times. 14 April 1967.)



Such ridiculous, camp-tinctured travesties of the kind of people these desperados were and of the way people lived in the dusty Southwest back in those barren years might be passed off as candidly commercial movie comedy, nothing more, if the film weren’t reddened with blotches of violence of the most grisly sort.

(Ibid.)

Oh, noes. Violence. That has no place in a movie.


Arthur Penn, the aggressive director, has evidently gone out of his way to splash the comedy holdups with smears of vivid blood as astonished people are machine-gunned. And he has staged the terminal scene of the ambuscading and killing of Barrow and Bonnie by a posse of policemen with as much noise and gore as is in the climax of The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre.

This blending of farce with brutal killings is as pointless as it is lacking in taste, since it makes no valid commentary upon the already travestied truth.

(Ibid.)


“As pointless as it is lacking in taste because it makes no valid commentary on the already travestied truth.” Let’s explore that criticism, shall we?

According to statements made by [posse members] Ted Hinton and Bob Alcorn:
“Each of us six officers had a shotgun and an automatic rifle and pistols. We opened fire with the automatic rifles. They were emptied before the car got even with us. Then we used shotguns … There was smoke coming from the car, and it looked like it was on fire. After shooting the shotguns, we emptied the pistols at the car, which had passed us and ran into a ditch about 50 yards on down the road. It almost turned over. We kept shooting at the car even after it stopped. We weren’t taking any chances.”

(the wiki.)




The lawmen then opened fire, killing Barrow and Parker while shooting a combined total of approximately 130 rounds. Barrow was killed instantly by [an] initial head shot, but Parker had a moment to reflect; Hinton reported hearing her scream as she realized Barrow was dead before the shooting at her began in earnest. The officers emptied the specially ordered automatic rifles, as well as other rifles, shotguns and pistols at the car, and any one of many wounds would have been fatal to either of the fugitives.

(Ibid.)



Officially, the tally in Parish coroner Dr. J. L. Wade’s 1934 report listed seventeen separate entrance wounds on Barrow’s body and twenty-six on Parker’s, including several headshots on each, and one that had snapped Barrow’s spinal column. So numerous were the bullet holes that undertaker C. F. “Boots” Bailey would have difficulty embalming the bodies because they wouldn’t contain the embalming fluid.

(Ibid.)

So … maybe that outburst of unthinkable retributive violence on the side of the law had a little something to do with the film’s objectionably grisly ending? Just a very, very belated thought for the late Mr. Crowther, who I must add with real respect was an esteemed and important critic in his time — pretty much until this review. All the cool kids stopped listening to him and assumed he was part of the stuffy establishment, and his reputation suffered. I think he really was not ready for this picture, is all.

Contrary to how he comes off in the review owing to our modern hindsight, Bosley Crowther had a very open mind, wrote against HUAC as curtailing art and freethinking, a brave and dangerous thing to do in the 1950s, and praised films with strong social content while disdaining jingoism and oversimplification of political ideas. Mr. Crowther insisted on the relevancy of foreign film to English-speaking audiences and did great things for the careers of some of my favorite overseas directors, including Fellini, Bergman, and Roberto Rossellini. That — to me — pitch-perfect mix of braggadocio and embellishment, expositorily satirical idealism, and vérité in Bonnie and Clyde, together with the innovative cinematic discourse which has been cited as ushering in a new era in Hollywood, just seems to have put him over the edge.




In any case, Bosley Crowther was not the only reviewer who found himself initially less than thrilled by Bonnie and Clyde.

Beatty, playing the lead, does a capable job, within the limits of his familiar, insolent, couldn’t-care-less manner, of making Barrow the amiable varmint he thought himself to be. Barrow fancied himself something of a latterday Robin Hood, robbing only banks that were foreclosing on poor farmers and eventually turning into a kind of folk hero. But Faye Dunaway’s Sunday-social prettiness is at variance with any known information about Bonnie Parker.

(“Cinema: Low-Down Hoedown.” Time. 25 August 1967.)


Variety disagreed with Time‘s slight of Faye Dunaway, saying

Like the film itself, the performances are mostly erratic. Beatty is believable at times, but his characterization lacks any consistency. Miss Dunaway is a knockout as Bonnie Parker, registers with deep sensitivity in the love scenes, and conveys believability to her role.

(“Film: Bonnie and Clyde.” Kaufman, David. Variety. 9 Aug 1967.)


Overall, however, Mr. Kaufman pans the film, saying,

Warren Beatty’s initial effort as a producer incongruously couples comedy with crime … Conceptually, the film leaves much to be desired, because killings and the backdrop of the Depression are scarcely material for a bundle of laughs. … This inconsistency of direction is the most obvious fault of Bonnie and Clyde, which has some good ingredients, although they are not meshed together well. … Arthur Penn’s direction is uneven, at times catching a brooding, arresting quality, but often changing pace at a tempo that is jarring.

(Ibid.)

Fortunately, not everyone agreed, and more and more people began to “get” the picture. By the time Oscar season rolled around, Bonnie and Clyde received an impressive ten Academy Award nominations and secured two wins. Burnett Guffey received the Oscar for Best Cinematography and Estelle Parsons won Best Supporting Actress for her portrayal of Blanche, Clyde’s sister-in-law. The other nominations included Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress (Dunaway), Best Actor (Beatty), Best Supprting Actor (both Gene Hackman and Michael J. Pollard), Best Original Story and Screenplay, and Best Costume Design.


1967 was a banner year for films — some of the movies to which Bonnie and Clyde lost the Oscar were Coolhand Luke, Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner?, The Graduate, and In the Heat of the Night. I said goddamn; what a year.

Modern critical reception of Bonnie and Clyde places it in the category of top films in Hollywood history, a landmark picture not only in the business and art of making movies, but also in the career of director Arthur Penn, whose death yesterday prompted this Movie Moment.



Bonnie and Clyde developed the aesthetic that marked Penn’s high-visibility period: slyly accented, harmonica-hootin’, harvest-gold-patchwork Americana; ever-poised violence; and an open invitation to apply the story as a flexible allegory for the issues of the day.

(“Anthology takes a tour of the Bonnie and Clyde director’s America.” Pinkerton, Nick. The Village Voice. 12 Nov 2008.)


Going back to my own reflections at the beginning of this entry, when I saw the film again in college (after which I regularly re-watch it now), I was able to crystallize exactly why the changes in the screenplay from how the real-life story played out so imperturbed me.

The accuracy of the facts being related is not as important as the yarn being spun, and that yarn needs to be by turns a little soft-focus with family, a little jump the crick in a jalopy while banjos play, a little sexy and simultaneously innocent, teeming with tinfoil chicken and mishaps and stolen laughs besides stolen money, in order for the juxtaposition with the sharp reality of the consequences of that story’s heroes’ actions. Not just at the end, but throughout the film there are these jarring standoffs and murders that shoot the child’s balloon of the idea of what’s happening right out of the sky and back in to the reality of what is happening — and its inevitable conclusion.


Besides that most of the changes between the real story and the script make the tale tighter and better solidify characterization, the embellishments and inflated sense of ego in the main characters and in the cinematic discourse with which we are presented are important to the overall type of story being told. The grand Depression-era myth of the infamous lovers, robbers, and murderers Bonnie and Clyde, as Beatty and Penn have conceived and shot it, is more like the story that Clyde Barrow would have told to cellmates in prison. This is Bonnie and Clyde, so far as we can tell, as they saw themselves, something like folk heroes flying by the seat of their pants, living a ruthless dream and getting real scars from it. This version is a compelling and archetypal campfire story, like the epic outlaw poem that Bonnie Parker wrote about them while they were on the road, “The Trail’s End” (later renamed “The Story of Bonnie and Clyde” by the press), excerpts from which I’d like to use to end this very long — but I think justly so — entry.



They don’t think they’re too smart or desperate,
They know that the law always wins;
They’ve been shot at before,
But they do not ignore
That death is the wages of sin.



Some day they'll go down together;
They'll bury them side by side;
To few it'll be grief —
To the law a relief —
But it's death for Bonnie and Clyde.

(“The Trail’s End.” Parker, Bonnie. April 1933.)

R.I.P. again to Arthur Penn, who had the courage to make this fantastic piece of cinema his way and received just due for it within his lifetime. May we all be so brave, visionary, and fortunate.

All screencaps via the wonderful screenmusings collection.

Burroughs Month: Fear and the Monkey

September 27, 2010

Holy shit, have I ever inadvertently shortchanged the month that was supposed to belong to William S. Burroughs. And myself, because I wanted to know more about him and his work. He is going to have to get another month since September went to pieces. Let’s say November so I can put up his famously controversial Thanksgiving poem. So this’ll be the last Burroughs entry ’til November, when I positively absolutely will not allow myself to forget.


Author’s Note: This text arranged in my New York loft, which is the converted locker room of an old YMCA. Guests have reported the presence of a ghost boy. So this is a Oui-Ja board poem taken from Dumb Instrument, a book of poems by Denton Welch, and spells and invocations from the Necronomicon, a highly secret magical text released in paperback. There is a pinch of Rimbaud, a dash of St-John Perse, an oblique reference to Toby Tyler with the Circus, and the death of his pet monkey.


Photographed by Logan White.

Turgid itch and the perfume of death
On a whispering south wind
A smell of abyss and of nothingness
Dark Angel of the wanderers howls through the loft
With sick smelling sleep
Morning dream of a lost monkey
Born and muffled under old whimsies
With rose leaves in closed jars


Photographed by Alexander Bergström.

Fear and the monkey
Sour taste of green fruit in the dawn
The air milky and spiced with the trade winds
White flesh was showing
His jeans were so old
Leg shadows by the sea


Photographed by Anna Morosini, via feaverish.

Morning light
On the sky light of a little shop
On the odor of cheap wine in the sailors’ quarter
On the fountain sobbing in the police courtyards
On the statue of moldy stone
On the little boy whistling to stray dogs.


Photographed by Kelsey Reckling, via feaverish.

Wanderers cling to their fading home
A lost train whistle wan and muffled
In the loft night taste of water
Morning light on milky flesh


Light as a feather, stiff as a board.

Turgid itch ghost hand
Sad as the death of monkeys
Thy father a falling star
Crystal bone into thin air
Night sky
Dispersal and emptiness.

— August 1978.

(William S. Burroughs, “Fear and the Monkey,” Pearl 6 (Odense, Denmark: Fall/Winter 1978). Collected in The Burroughs File, City Lights, 1984. Published by the extraordinary RealityStudio in August 2010. Retrieved 27 Sept 2010.)


Henry Fuesli, “Nightmare.”

Okay, first of all, wow.

Second. “Fear and the Monkey” is done in the cut-up style which Burroughs pioneered with his friend Brion Gysin. A lot of short-entry, quick explanations of cut-up technique will solely list Burroughs and his Dadaist inspirations as the origin of the style, but I think it’s important to mention the painter and musician Mr. Gysin because Mr. Burroughs (I think very honorably) always cites Mr. Gysin as an influence and co-creator of cut-up when asked about his use of the technique in literature. If it is important to him to insistently give co-credit, then it is important to me.


Burroughs and Gysin.

Cut-up is an example of aleatoricism, in which art is randomly created from other sources or by means of automatic generation. You know, found sounds, collage from old grocery lists, even the paintings Mr. Burroughs himself liked to do by firing a gun full of paint at the canvas (oh, him and his guns) — all of these fall beneath the aegis of aleatory techniques. I gave aleatoric poetry a try a few years back when I collected the subject lines of the emails in my spam box for about a year. I was not so strict that I kept in nonsense letter combinations nor drug names with 0’s and x’s, etc.; just actual phrases. It was an experiment from which I did not expect much but what emerged was a genuinely interesting collection of wordplay. I wanted badly to break from the lack of form and arrange the lines in a way that would be even more effective (some of the lines juxtaposed with surprising impact) but I felt like within the parameters of the project I’d set down that would be breaking my rules and making the work too deliberate. In any case, it was all lost in the Great Crash of 2009, which I deeply regret. Perhaps I’ll try again soon.


via stupidandcontagious right here on the wordpress. Girls like a boy who reads.

Anyway, that’s not cut-up. Sorry for the sidetrack. Cut-up is where you take a complete, “linear” text, and literally cut it up into short phrases, then re-arrange it. In placing and rearranging the original linear narrative into this new context, deeper messages can emerge. Form and content, langue and parole, deconstruction — etc. Pretty rad shit, in my book.

In the 1950s, painter and writer Brion Gysin more fully developed the cut-up method after accidentally discovering it. He had placed layers of newspapers as a mat to protect a tabletop from being scratched while he cut papers with a razor blade. Upon cutting through the newspapers, Gysin noticed that the sliced layers offered interesting juxtapositions of text and image. He began deliberately cutting newspaper articles into sections, which he randomly rearranged.

(the wiki)


Isn’t it just?

Gysin introduced Burroughs to the technique at the Beat Hotel. The pair later applied the technique to printed media and audio recordings in an effort to decode the material’s implicit content, hypothesizing that such a technique could be used to discover the true meaning of a given text. Burroughs also suggested cut-ups may be effective as a form of divination saying, “When you cut into the present the future leaks out.”

(Ibid.)

After cut-up, Burroughs started doing fold-in, but that’s for another day. A day in the lonesome November.


Photographed by Logan White.

“When you cut into the present the future leaks out.” I really grok that. I do believe that is my Idea For Today. Beautiful.

Daily Batman: Heroes and Villains

September 26, 2010


by celphaneflwer on the deviantart.

Life is not simple, and people can’t be boxed into being either heroes or villains.

(Jessica Tarahata Hagedorn.)

E.E. Cummings Month: “All in green went my love riding”

August 25, 2010

The following Cummings poem is not much like his usual at first blush, but is really full of simple wordplay and tricksy manipulation of conventions that conceals a more complex meaning than simple medieval ballad — which is much more in keeping with what you’d expect, yes? “All in green went my love riding” has been set to music and sung by, among many, Warren Kinsella and one of my patronessiest of patron saints, Joan Baez. The most widely accepted meaning of the poem is that it is a subtle retelling of the myth of Artemis and Actaeon. (Variations of the myth here.)


Modesty Blaise.

As far as I can tell, in the version on which Cummings has based “All in green went my love riding,” Actaeon is a merciless hunter who desires to marry Artemis after he sees her bathing. The virgin warrior goddess is furious at this cheek, particularly that he would spy on her and then imply she owes him marriage (she fiercely protected her physical privacy and chastity).


The lovely and talented Marguerite Empey.

Artemis punishes Actaeon by warning him that, if he ever speaks, he will be transformed in to a stag and devoured by his own bitches, which is where it seems Cummings picks up the thread. Here it is.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the merry deer ran before.


Fleeter be they than dappled dreams
the swift sweet deer
the red rare deer.

Four red roebuck at a white water
the cruel bugle sang before.


Horn at hip went my love riding
riding the echo down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the level meadows ran before.


via sabino on the tumblr.

Softer be they than slippered sleep
the lean lithe deer
the fleet flown deer.

Four fleet does at a gold valley
the famished arrow sang before.


Photographed by Neil Krug.

Bow at belt went my love riding
riding the mountain down
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
the sheer peaks ran before.


Paler be they than daunting death
the sleek slim deer
the tall tense deer.

Four tell stags at a green mountain
the lucky hunter sang before.


Amber Weber for I.D., September 2008.

All in green went my love riding
on a great horse of gold
into the silver dawn.

four lean hounds crouched low and smiling
my heart fell dead before.

(E.E. Cummings, “All in green went my love riding.” Tulips and Chimneys. 1923.)

He just had to sing all triumphantly, didn’t he, in front of the green mountain? Heart = hart. A synonym for stag. Pretty sure that between the line about stags and the repetition of “all in green,” Artemis changed him in to one of the “Four tell stags” and his own dogs ripped him to pieces.


Liv Tyler.

Also I noticed on this re-read that she dwells longer than I remembered over her four dead does. This makes sense because besides being the ruler of nature and the hunt, she held deer and cypress as her closest animal and plant brethren. The victims of Actaeon’s arrow and his ravaging dogs, those four deer emerge in her description unquestionably as females: they are slender, pale, lithe, slippered — red and rare. Virginal language, am I right? That purity and feminity gives the “Four” power and deserves honor, just as does Artemis’s own virginity, which bathtime-peeping Actaeon and his sleazy, brutish hounds do not seem to understand or respect.


via thechocobrig on the tumblr. fabulous photojournal.

By contrast, in all of the lines which describe his four animals, Actaeon’s “four” appears in lowercase letters — the only Cummingsish punctuation-play in the poem, as the four remain in lowercase despite following periods, which Cummings otherwise obeys with great restraint for the rest of the poem. Actaeon’s four are the four hounds; the miniscule rather than majuscal “f” usage denotes the speaker’s low opinion of them and bodes very badly for them, considering Artemis’s usual respect for nature. The number four, besides paralleling the count of her lost deer, is suggestive of pursuit of living creatures in all four of the cardinal directions, a kind of inescapable squared threat in terms of the swath a disrespectful hunter might cut through the planet of a goddess who considers herself the mother of nature — because of its relationship to “four corners,” “four winds,” etc, the total of four hounds is exactly the right number to appear confounding and problematic. An unignorable affront which must be dealt with.


Abbey Lee Kershaw for Dazed and Confused.

The four hounds may also perhaps be a reference to the Horsemen of the Apocalypse who accompany Death in the Revelation of St. John: the hunter brings destruction to what Artemis is sworn to protect; she is the patroness of life on earth, a mother-warrior figure who gives her attention to springs and deer, and Actaeon is that life’s death, a sanguine, horn-blowing archer with attendantly destructive hell hounds that tear her living creatures apart. An essentially unforgivable encroachment on all that Artemis stands for. Those four lean crouching motherfuckers act as a smirking antithesis to her binding and symbiotic method of mothering the earth, by dismantling and devouring everything they encounter, famished agents of a chaos she is sworn to repel. They tear things up.

In this case, their master, too. Does the punishment fit the crime?

I’ve read that there are allusions here to “The Knight’s Tale” in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. I never make it far through those. I know as a happy medievalist I’m supposed to read and adore them and that what I’m about to tell you could get me yelled at and kicked out of the society of nerds who read material that predates van Leeuwenhoek, the inventor of the very lenses the best of the best wear to strain our eyes over the stuff we love, but I feel that poring over Chaucer is something akin to people in a thousand years venerating the script of Rat Race. Great movie, solidly entertaining, good cast with varied backstories, but, like, how dire is reading it to the quest of accurately intrepreting society in this era? Not much. (Commence lambasting, Chaucer-lovers. Change my mind?)


Journey Into Perplexity right here on the wordpress.

Anyway. If you follow that link to the wiki list of variations on the Artemis and Actaeon story, you can see that different authors have spent time cataloguing the precise names of the up-to-fifty hounds involved in Actaeon’s punishment.

I guess the lesson here is that, if you want even a chance with Artemis, you need to be green in deed as well as dress. Keep your elbows out and for god’s sake recycle, dudes.

E.E. Cummings Month: “i like my body when it is with your”

August 24, 2010

I’ve had a lot of friends celebrating romantic occasions recently. This is for them, and for hope.



i like my body when it is with your
body. It is so quite a new thing.
Muscles better and nerves more.
i like your body. i like what it does,


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004).

i like its hows. i like to feel the spine
of your body and its bones, and the trembling
-firm-smooth ness and which i will
again and again and again
kiss, i like kissing this and that of you,



i like, slowly stroking the, shocking fuzz
of your electric fur, and what-is-it comes
over parting flesh . . . . And eyes big love-crumbs,



and possibly i like the thrill

of under me you quite so new


(E.E. Cummings, “i like my body when it is with your.” Written for Elaine Thayer. They divorced in December of 1924. The poem was published Valentine’s Day, 1925.)


Jean Seberg, À bout de souffle/Breathless (Godard, 1960).

If you feel often like me then these Cummings love poems might make us lost ones a little lonely, but if I can glean a positive from it, they are written with such passion that you cannot help, with some surprise, hoping to find a fraction of that abandon and joy, whether again or for the first time. And believing such a thing is possible to find even after you’ve experienecd deep pain or felt yourself set always apart from the crowd of the easily popular, incomprehensible, “normal” socializing world, the idea that you might still connect with someone in a deep, resonantly real way, one that isn’t predicated on current conventions of date-marking-success like alcohol or knowing lines from an eighties sitcom, is something that is never bad. I think too that stripping away all the trappings that surround a date or relationship, and seeing how well the vibe between you stands up absent of distraction, mood-altering substances, and the intervention of entertainment technology is maybe a good idea, too.


Katharine Hepburn, Woman of the Year (George Stevens, 1942).

Maybe it’s even vital and something you should do right out of the gate instead of triking along together parallel-playing in front of the television at being in touch when really you are still little materialistic children faking love for someone else in a thousand ways while you prevent yourself from really loving anyone by putting up these walls of text messages and reality shows you have to watch and social networking and earbuds and booze and — hey-hey-hey — blogging. We make ourselves alone even when we’re together, and then we can’t understand why we can’t form connections… I am totally depressing myself. This was supposed to be about hope and it still is. Maybe I’m just whittling away the non-reality of all the malarkey that’s kept my hope from fulfillment in the past.

E.E Cummings Month: “i carry your heart with me”

August 13, 2010

Something a little more romantic and dear after the weight of yesterday’s scathing and shocking, though tremendously effective, “kitty” piece. Like “in spite of everything,” which was highlighted earlier this month, “i carry your heart with me” is one of Cummings’ love poems.


i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear; and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)



i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you


here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

(E.E. Cummings. “i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart).” 95 Poems. 1958.)

The poem almost takes a sonnet form in its lines and meter, but Cummings plays with the form, of course, while still keeping true to a traditional theme of sonnets: love. It’s secret and touching. I like especially the way that this love echoes for Cummings the shapes of nature and takes the form of every aspect of his world. It’s a beautiful idea. A love that brings us to a greater oneness with the universe instead of making us feel crushed and lonely: that is a thing to strive for.

E.E. Cummings Month: “‘kitty’. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.”

August 12, 2010

— Sorry for the sparseness and lateness of posts today, dudes, but my grandmother is having a really Bad Day. The human brain can be such a bastard. —



“kitty”. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.

ducking always the touch of must and shall,
whose slippery body is Death’s littlest pal,

skilled in quick softness. Unspontaneous. cute.

the signal perfume of whose unrepute
focusses in the sweet slow animal
bottomless eyes importantly banal,


Kitty. a whore. Sixteen
                                                   you corking brute
amused from time to time by clever drolls
fearsomely who do keep their sunday flower.
The babybreasted broad “kitty” twice eight

— beer nothing,the lady’ll have a whiskey-sour —
whose least amazing smile is the most great
common divisor of unequal souls.

(E.E. Cummings, “‘kitty’. sixteen,5’1″,white,prostitute.” 1923.)

“Whose slippery body is death’s littlest pal.” God.

The poem is designed to shock and it is shocking — not so much her age of 16, which was consenting in most states at that time, and there is no harm in a consenting human exploring their own sexuality, but the idea that Kitty is such an old and careful but hopeless hand at the sex trade that it is her sole living and she has abandoned her childhood likely earlier than she would have liked, implying her experiences began at a far more tender age — as well as containing a moral without being overly pedantic about it: my interpretation is that Mr. Cummings finds the youth of this prostitute, Kitty, sad and abhorrent, and is taking to task the entire trade, together with its purveyors, its proponents, and its “banal” and wicked pervasiveness, which can crush the spirit of a child and that can drive the spark and spontaneity out of the eyes of a “cute,” young girl. He is disgusted that a young woman’s agency has been foreclosed to a system that allows her no real freedom. That is my take and I stand by it staunchly. If you take the poem to mean that Mr. Cummings is fine with teen prostitutes, I’m interested to hear your argument.


Girl sold by her family in Thailand. Please only follow this link if you are not the weepy kind. (I am.)

In a lot of Eastern European and developing Asian countries, this problem is so nauseatingly endemic that its only solution is harsh, swift, Actually ENFORCED sanctions from other countries.

For those in more “developed” nations (raise your pinky, okay, cause we are sooo evolved with our computers and cell phones), I think the greatest way to prevent a sad poem like this from becoming the reality for that sullen girl-woman you see with her arms folded in front of the cosmetics display at the grocery while her mother fills the cart with gin and baby formula is to start coaching early and hard in strategies for self-esteem and success the likely victims of the child prostitution trade. I take no such high road as Mr. Cummings about obliquely non-pedantic “you should stop this,” methods: he is far more subtle and poetic than I, obviously. With protection of those vulnerable targets in mind, here is a short and very hastily-assembled list of groups that I think do that. If you have any to add, please, please do.



Organizations for child advocacy


— In the U.S. (all of these non-profits have been rated A or higher by charitywatch.org; do not leave home without it … wish they would start tackling and rating more international non-profits) —

  • National Alliance to End Homelessness. Common factors in teen prostitution: runaways; homelessness. Donate time or money.
  • Save the Children. Mainly focused on the United States, but also offers opportunities to better the lives of children in other countries
  • — In the U.K./Europe —

  • STOP (Trafficking UK). In support of the Sexual Offences Act of 2003 and the sanctions established against the trafficking of humans, espeically women and children, by the U.N. in Palermo in 2000, STOP (Trafficking UK) is an advocacy group for helping those who have come to the U.K. via the channels of the illegal sex trade — women and children — to find jobs, parents as need be, literacy coaches, counseling, and any other support they need. A new but excellent group.
  • UN.GIFT (the United Nations Global Initiative to Stop Human Trafficking). “UN.GIFT works with all stakeholders – governments, business, academia, civil society and the media – to support each other’s work, create new partnerships and develop effective tools to fight human trafficking.” UN.GIFT is a great jumping-off point for finding ways to help in your specific country.
  • — Other efforts abroad to advocate for disadvantaged youth and stem child prostitution —

  • Pearl S. Buck International: founded by the author of The Good Earth. Through PSBI you can arrange an inter-racial adoption via Welcome House or you may choose to sponsor a child. Special program for children in Asia, where many countries’ lax laws governing prostitution make it a viable and thriving trade, via Opportunity House.
  • The Global Fund for Children. Well-rated, takes your money and spreads it around well-researched country-based special needs groups.
  • And of course, UNICEF, the United Nations International Childrens’ Emergency Fund. I don’t want to tell you how to live your life, but it’s what Audrey would want.


  • Photo credits, top to bottom: Jodie Foster as Iris “Easy” Steensman, Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976); Brooke Shields as Violet in Pretty Baby (Lois Malle, 1978); Iris and Travis Bickle dine out in Taxi Driver — Jodie again with Robert De Niro; I credited the center one below the picture itself and I again find it flabbergasting and horrifying; Brooke on the cover of People in May 1978; Jodie again from TD, heartbreakingly young in the green sunglasses — to me this has become an iconic outfit, summing up totally her character and Iris’s backstory and motivations; Brooke again out of costume on set for Pretty Baby, a surprising addition to the so-called “Raider Nation.” I assume the Raiders were still in their brief stationing at Los Angeles at this point.

    E.E. Cummings Month: Manunkind — there’s a hell of a good universe next door; let’s go

    August 11, 2010


    via defacedbooks on the tumblr.

    pity this busy monster,manunkind,

    not. Progress is a comfortable disease:
    your victim(death and life safely beyond)

    plays with the bigness of his littleness


    A hardworking Man of Science.

    –electrons deify one razorblade
    into a mountainrange;lenses extend

    unwish through curving wherewhen until unwish
    returns on its unself.
                                                              A world of made
    is not a world of born-pity poor flesh


    12 Monkeys still via the mental shed.

    and trees,poor stars and stones,but never this
    fine specimen of hypermagical

    ultraomnipotence. We doctors know

    a hopeless case if-listen:there’s a hell
    of a good universe next door;let’s go

    (E.E. Cummings, “XIV.” 1944.)

    Let’s.

    This poem resonates with deeply effective wordplay and metaphor that are still just exactly what. “Man-unkind.” “Electrons deify one razor blade in to a mountain range.” “A world of made is not a world of born.” “Hyper-magical ultra-omnipotence.” Just exactly. I respond strongly to it because for me it’s a true intersection of my sci-fi geek self and my literary interests. But it also rings bigger bells for me.


    via nevver on the tumblr.

    I think I will put together a Movie Moment soon relating this to the documentary Koyaanisqatsi (Godfrey Reggio, 1983). “Koyaanisqatsi” means an imbalanced world, or a world and life that call for another way of life. It speaks to straying so far from any possible Creator’s vision for our selves and our planet that we must change everything about all of it, and it’s something I’ve found myself thinking about a lot in the last few years.




    * “The Freedom for Animals Association on Second Avenue is the secret headquarters of the Army of the Twelve Monkeys. They’re the ones who are going to do it. Have a merry Christmas!”

    E.E. Cummings Month: “Buffalo Bill’s”

    August 2, 2010



    Buffalo Bill’s
    defunct
                 who used to
                  ride a watersmooth-silver
                                                              stallion
    and break onetwothreefourfive pigeonsjustlikethat
                                                                                         Jesus
    he was a handsome man
                                              and what i want to know is
    how do you like your blueeyed boy
    Mister Death

    (E.E. Cummings, “Buffalo Bill’s,” 1920.)


    via

    Well, how do you, Mr. Death.

    This is one of several Cummings poems first published in The Dial in 1920. A very early example of his fascination with unusual forms, “Buffalo Bill’s” use of whitespace in the poem is in part influenced by Pablo Picasso, who Cummings met in Paris after serving time in France on a trumped up charge of being a spy during the Great War (total folklore — he was a volunteer ambulance driver and was guilty of nothing more than being an outspoken critic of war, violence, and suffering in general). Cummings was also a painter and was inspired by Picasso’s formalistic experiments in cubism: he carried the philosophy forward in to his writing as well.

    E.E. Cummings Month: Inaugural Edition and an explanation

    July 31, 2010

    Welcome to E.E. Cummings* month.


    via.

    somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
    any experience,your eyes have their silence:
    in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
    or which i cannot touch because they are too near


    your slightest look easily will unclose me
    though i have closed myself as fingers,
    you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
    (touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose


    via.

    or if your wish be to close me, i and
    my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
    as when the heart of this flower imagines
    the snow carefully everywhere descending;


    nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
    the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
    compels me with the color of its countries,
    rendering death and forever with each breathing


    (i do not know what it is about you that closes
    and opens;only something in me understands
    the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
    nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands

    (E.E. Cummings, “somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond.” ** 1931.)

    The last line is my favorite. It is sort of aching and bittersweet because I find it beautiful but also sad in that I’m lonely. But here is why I like it. Drops of rain themselves are so small and simple and ought change nothing but in numbers and with insistence they can unstoppably drench everything around them and produce a deluge: that’s a great metaphor for love, which starts with such a small thing like a smile or a handshake and then increases itself even within minutes to become this powerful force that changes what your world was up until that point. Like rain. Does this make sense? I feel like I might have stopped making sense.

    *I had always been put off by the lowercase “e.e. cummings” that you encounter in anthologies and the like because it seemed a little dramatic and juvenile, kind of put-on, but I’ve recently found that Cummings signed all his work “E.E. Cummings,” and used the capitalized form professionally and with his peers, and that the lowercase with which we are familiar was a result of several misconceptions at the publishing level which were given shockingly wide dissemination even after having been proven false.


    Example of his signature.

    There is a good and thorough story about it here, written by Norman Friedman, a writer, critic, and close friend of Cummings and his common-law wife, Marion Morehouse, which includes specific comments from Ms. Morehouse indicating her opinion that the widespread use of her deceased’s husband’s name in lowercase was inaccurate idiocy and asking her friend to intercede with the publishers to remove factual errors from the preface about him having legally changed his name to “e.e. cummings” and have it capitalized on the spine and jacket as well as within. Mr. Friedman wrote a follow-up article three years later, voicing his distress that the error has not been widely corrected and calling the inaccurate lowercase usage “cutesy-pooh” and “pure nonsense.”


    Does this look like a dude who would go in for “cutesy-pooh” nonsense? No.

    Mr. Friedman also uncovered in the years between the two articles a request from an editor while Cummings was alive asking in what case to set Cummings’ name on a book cover: how should it appear? because he understood the poet to prefer a lack of capitals. Cummings replied, quote, “E.E. Cummings.” Done deal in my book.

    At any rate, I’m so glad to shake off of him the dust of what I had always feared was pretentiousness! So I’m capping his name all month and have retconned*** past lowercase usage into uppercase, is the main thing.

    **Untitled works — and Cummings seldom used titles — are referred to by their opening line.

    ***Retcon: retroactive continuity, a term used mainly in comics and speculative fiction which I explained in better detail in my Music Moment entry on Julie Nunes.

    Goethe Month: The in-between places

    July 11, 2010


    Photographed by Jim Furness at the Pinncales in CA.

    Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach! in meiner Brust,
    Die eine will sich von der andern trennen;
    Die eine hält, in derber Liebeslust,
    Sich an die Welt, mit klammernden Organen;
    Die andre hebt gewaltsam sich vom Dust,
    Zu den Gefilden hoher Ahnen.
    O giebt es Geister in der Luft,
    Die zwischen Erd’ und Himmel herrschend weben


    Two souls dwell, alas, in my breast and their
    Division tears my life in two.
    One loves the world, it clutches her, it binds
    Itself to her, clinging with furious lust;
    The other desires to fly beyond the dust
    Into the realm of high ancestral minds.
    Are there no spirits moving in the air,
    Ruling the region between earth and sky?


    So steiget nieder aus dem goldnen Duft
    Und führt mich weg, zu neuem buntem Leben!
    Ja, wäre nur ein Zaubermantel mein!
    Und trüg’ er mich in fremde Länder

    Come down then to me from your golden mists on high,
    Give me a magic cloak to carry me
    Away to some far place, some land untold,

    (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Faust, Act 1: Scene 5, 1110-1125.)