Thursday, April 19, 2012

a little bit more Schuyler

So what happened is this. I have a notebook where I keep things I like from things I've read. I mean I have many notebooks. I fill one every couple of years. I can't find the most recent one where I put things, so for now I will put things here. That will solve my current indexing issues. But there is something inherently satisfying about writing out by hand the things I love. There is an intimacy to physically forming the words that is not replicated in the experience of typing.

Or maybe I just like hand cramps.

This is the rest of what I loved from James Schuyler's The Home Book.

The second of "Two Meditations" - there is something magical that happens when Schulyer boxes words into prose poems. Through compression that one doesn't generally get in his lineated poems (perhaps this is a natural inclination in prose poetry? toward compression?), the words push and shove at each other, the sounds explode. At least this is my experience.

From "Two Meditations"

Out of the gray bay gray rocks, close spaced and each a little black green north tree forest. This became denser until it was the color of a hole. The trawler anchored and they scrambled ashore in an inlet closed by a little white sand beach like a Negro's very white palm, the guide experienced and dignified last in laced boots with moccasin bottoms. The clarity of the water reelected a dead tree while he boiled great lake trout in a galvanized bucket on a resinous fire. A green flame. Everyone has planned to change his "way of life" until he tasted the fish, which was tasteless. Scales on the dull sand like garbage, or rain. It began raining, a drop at a time, big as cod liver oil capsules. The two boys' knees lichened and their shrills faded high and out into the falls of shot grouse curving into a November wet matchstick field. Burrs, unfinished houses.

Like that: ending on the parataxis of a two-item list... Burrs, unfinished houses. And the sentence before. (And not just for the use of the word "lichened.") The end seems that much more truncated by the volley of small (I would generally argue in poetry and for the sake of compression, unnecessary) words in the previous sentence. "The two boys' knees lichened and their shrills faded high and out into the falls of shot grouse curving into a November wet matchstick field." November wet matchstick field. Resinous fire. A green flame. The fish was tasteless. Out of the gray bay gray rocks. To say "gray waves" would be too much, but it's where the mind goes when presented with the triple rhyme, the mind bends naturally to the fourth slant rhyme. Or this mind does. I'm glad it didn't happen. In not happening, it happened anyway.

I should say this is a weirdly cohesive book for being a smattering of unpublished work (prose, poetry, prose poetry, drama even, a sonnet) from the 1950s and 60s.

From the title piece "The Home Book," which is unspecified prose.

"I know what troubles me. It is so simple: I don't want to give myself away. I don't want to confess, to say I am my history and it is mine, something I made, because as long as I don't I can pretend that I could change and become some other person I won't ever be. I don't want to give myself because to give is to lose and that is like dying; I don't want to lose any human love or pleasure through a deal with that which is invisible and by which I may gain nothing."

The speaker is talking about religion, but it strikes home pretty hard out of this context for me.

And then (from "Four Poems for Frank O'Hara"...

It's quarter of five
and the Fucking Tree has birds in its hair.

I wonder if I can claim influence after the fact. This happened while reading The Cantos also, that something was a nearly word-for-word echo of something in MFS.

(image "Fire Walk With Me" by Martin Wittfooth)

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Jelly Jelly - James Schuyler

Summer apples, showy and sugary, mealy and touchy
a finger bruise on the thin skin
brown and silently reproachful as your wife's black eye.

But if September apples ripen
and the sun coats the sights with crinkling sheets
of cold while the waves come yapping
something about "wine dark"
evening primroses in clefts of rocks they lap
in a space labeled, "August 27th 1965
pay on demand," why then it is
when pebbles turn, shedding a summer snow
of salt, palely glowing in the first fall beaches.

The wind is pendant-breasted as a naked Swede.
A frosted fox grape shows where a bird shat as it ate.
Blackberry canes arch and obtrude big nipped.
And the chaste tree blooms.

Back before I made the egg test
I thought the world as flat and very like an elderberry umbel
crying "Hi!" and "Meet you in the jelly!"
or "Under the lid of an elderberry pie."


A prose section ("A Home Book") follows this poem. There is a lot of the beach, some of trees, no elderberry, no naked Swede. That here Schuyler possibly makes fun of the overwrought or overused "wine dark" becomes even more tongue-in-cheek when he uses a dark wine metaphor in this next section. Though the metaphor he uses, though a little hard to see--"The sun hit the sea like a cork slipping into a dark green bottle one-quarter full of wine"--is not one overused.

I started reading this book (The Home Book) last Sunday afternoon before heading out to see Eileen Myles read. It seemed an appropriate way to start a day of words, an appropriate connection. The cover of this book is horrible. Like a drawing I might have done of someone's father when I was in middle school. My apologies to the artist. Perhaps this is why I am unable to find a decent image to include here. But the book is lovely inside.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

H.D. - from the Tribute to the Angels section of Trilogy


"What is that jewel color?"
green-white, opalescent,

with under-layer of changing blue,
with rose-vein; a white agate

with a pulse uncooled that beats yet,
faint blue-violet;

it lives, it breathes,
it gives off--fragrance?

I do not know what it gives,
a vibration that we can not name

for there is no name for it;
my patron said, "name it";

I said, I can not name it,
there is no name;

he said,
"invent it".


I can not invent it,
I said it was agate,

I said, it lived, it gave--
fragrance--was near enough

to explain that quality
for which there is no name;

I do not want to name it,
I want to watch its faint

heart-beat, pulse-beat
as it quivers, I do not want

to talk about it,
I want to minimize thought,

concentrate on it
till I shrink,

and am drawn into it.


THIS is how I feel about poetry. It's okay. I can get into breaking it down, getting to Meaning. But generally I want to minimize thought, concentrate on it till I shrink, dematerialize and am drawn into it.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Dream Song 47: April Fool's Day, or, St Mary of Egypt

—Thass a funny title, Mr Bones.

—When down she saw her feet, sweet fish, on the threshold,
she considered her fair shoulders
and all them hundreds who have them, all
the more who to her mime thickened & maled
from the supple stage,

and seeing her feet, in a visit, side by side
paused on the sill of The Tomb, she shrank: 'No.
They are not worthy,
fondled by many' and rushed from The Crucified
back through her followers out of the city ho
across the suburbs, plucky

to dare my desert in her late daylight
of animals and sands. She fall prone.
Only wind whistled.
And forty-seven years with our caps on,
whom God has not visited.

(John Berryman)