Thursday, August 21, 2014

Expansive Poetics 102 - (Robert Desnos)

Robert Desnos

AG: We also have, moving on fast to Robert Desnos, who died in a concentration camp during World War II - 1900 you'll find him.. [Allen is referring here to his listing in the classroom anthology] - "The Voice of Robert Desnos" - "So much like the flower and the current of air/like the waterway like the shadows passing everywhere/like the smile glimpsed this amazing evening at midnight/so much like everything happiness and sadness/it's yesterday's midnight lifting its naked torso above/belfries and poplars./ I'm calling those lost in the countryside/the old corpses the young oaks just cut down/the shreds of fabric rotting on the ground and linen drying/in farming regions./I'n calling tornadoes and hurricanes/tempests typhoons and cyclones/riptides/earthquakes/I'm calling the smoke of volcanos and cigarettes.." - [(By that time you're into it like a riff, like a continued riff, so that if you've got a quick mind and a good mind and a creative mind, the things that you call up in your list can be uncanny, can be very witty, can be like haiku)] - "I'm calling tornadoes and hurricanes/tempests typhoons and cyclones/riptides/  earthquakes/ I'm calling the smoke of volcanos and cigarettes.." [(which is haiku-esque in its juxtaposition of dissimilars with a commo word - "smoke' - "the smoke rings of fancy cigars" - Now he's into it)] - "the smoke rings of fancy cigars" - "I'm calling loves and lovers" - [(Ah, corny!)] - "I'm calling the living and the dead/I'm calling the grave-diggers I'm calling the murderers" - [(You can hear Walt Whitman here)]. 

Actually, this all comes out of Whitman, because Whitman's catalogues and lists have the great combination of Surrealist imagination and absolute literality. Surrealist, because the jump from one line to another in, say,"Song for Occupations", or any of the long list sections in "Song of Myself", the jump from one list to another in its catalogues ("catalogue" is what he called  it, or what it's called in Whitman) the catalogue poem, or the catalogue parts. When you make a catalogue or a list, you have completely free play, and so you can jump from one thing to another fast, and, actually, the funniness, or humor, or genius, or interest, in following it is following how far you can…(shift)..from one thing to another. and where you go next. Because, once you know the rules of the game (that you're jumping, that you're letting your mind jump) then the further you jump and the more extravagent the jump (or the more homely the jump, the more ordinary the jump), the funnier it gets.

 Just like the children's games you play, when kids (go) into hysteria capping each other (laughter hysteria), saying, "If I had a million dollars, I'd buy Hawaii Moon" - and then somebody'll say, "If I had a million dollars, I'd build me a big house and put a chimney on top" - and then somebody else'll say, "If I had a million dollars, I'd buy the high school". And after a while, if you're under the covers in bed at midnight at the age of seven, it gets to be hilarious and you can't stop laughing. It's the same principle of composition and it's easy. All you've got to do is let yourself go and goof around. Very few people, when they grow up, are allowed to let themselves go like that. So Kenneth Koch's method of teaching kids poetry is (to) write down the biggest lie possible. Once you write down a lie that means your imagination is liberated to writet down anything you want, or write down a dream - "Wishes, Lies, and Dreams" - or write down a wish (with a wish your imagination is liberated) - But you can do that automatically if you're just doing an improvisation series of cadenzas like this. 

There must be obviously similar things in Eastern European poetry [addresses Nina Zivancevic, one of two Eastern European students in the class] - Do you know? Who writes like this in Yugolavia [sic - 1981]

Student (NZ): Vasko Popa

AG: Vasko?

Student (NZ): Yes

AG: Does he write big long lists?  or little shorties?

Student (NZ): Short, but a lot of these…

AG: Jumps.

Student: …jumps

AG: Yeah, before we leave today, I want to take up the short jump poems - little shorties, Benjamin Péret, Philippe Soupault, who else does it? - I have a bunch of them in here (Allen is referring to the classroom anthology) - (Blaise) Cendrars has a few. Then, in that same line, you'd find (Gregory) Corso has a few little short jump poems - and Anselm Hollo has a lot that are very much like Phillippe Soupault's or (Blaise) Cendrars (Cendrars has a whole book of snapshots, actually, which are like William Carlos Williams' literalities, from travels but at the same time they're so weird and extravagant, like newspaper stories, that you can't believe it, they're so goofy. So he seems to combine (them). He has that combination of literality and Surrealistic jump that CC (Allen's student, Chuck Carroll) was pining (his) book called Kodak (and another book called Postcards), where it's totally literal and at the same time totally extravagant and mad

Student (CC): What about that calligramme that we just passed out (by Apollinaire) (that) has a little jump in it - the heart, like the upside-down flame.. 
AG: Well, that's more like a visual thing
Student (CC): But, you know, the heart expires more or less..
AG: Yeah
Student (CC): ...the same way a flame does… 
AG: Yeah, Well, that's logical, sort of the old traditional metaphor - wit, logic, rather than complete nutty juxtaposition. In a haiku.. like your haiku have a lot of nutty juxtapositions, sort of.  
Student (CC): I don't think so
AG: Okay. Your haiku do not have nutty juxtapositions.

[Allen resumes reading Robert Desnos  - "I'm calling the gravediggers I'm calling the murderers/I'm calling the executioners I'm calling the pilots/I'm calling the masons the architects/the murderers" - [(He liked that one)] - "I'm calling the flesh/I'm calling the one I love/I'm calling the one I love/I'm calling the one I love/ triumphant midnight unfolds its satin wings and lands on my/bed/belfries and poplars give in to my desires/those over there collapse and those fall back/those lost in the countryside find their bearings in finding/me/the old corpses come back to life at my voice/the young oaks just cut down wrap themselves in greenery.." - [(So he's destroyed all these things and now he's putting them back together in his imagination, like the goose in the bottle - (Editorial note - via - Randy Roark - "this (here) is a logic problem that Ginsberg had used in classes before. The problem is that you have a goose in a bottle. How do you get the goose out of the bottle without breaking the bottle or injuring the goose? - The solution is by saying, "It's out" - In other words, you created the problem by creating it in words and so you can just as easily solve it on the same level)] 

- "..the shreds of fabric rotting in the ground and on the ground/flap at my voice like the flag of rebellion/the linen drying in farming regions clothes adorable women/that I don't adore/who come to me/obey my voice and adore me/the tornadoes spin around in my mouth…" - [(Well, for this poem, "the tornadoes spin around in my mouth"..

But the funny thing is, when you do the totally imaginative shot, you finally come around to an absolutely literal statement, because, quite literally, the tornadoes do spin around in his mouth, because the word "tornado" is spinning around in his mouth - the conception of "tornado", "murder" and all that - the murderers spin around in my mouth, the poplar trees spin around in my mouth.. There's a funny thing that you get in Whitman, where the subject of the poem - extravagance,  and the poem itself, and the action of the poet, are all identical, and the poem actually comes true (or the poem is a truthful statement, even though it starts with giant lies). Because, if you start a poem, "I'm going to tell you the most giant lie possible", then everything you say is true because you're supposed to be telling lies - or, if you start with the idea, "I'm going to say anything that comes into my mind", pretty soon the things that come into your mind will be actually (be) like -  he's just written a tornado, and therefore it's come out of his mouth, and therefore "tornadoes spin around in my mouth".

 I like that line "the tornadoes spin around in my mouth". Gregory (Corso) has a line like that referring to a very similar appreciation of poesis - "I wanted to drop fire-engines out of my mouth!" -  "I wanted to drop fire-engines out of my mouth!/But in ran the moonlight and grabbed the prunes." - That was his acme  poem of 1958, when he was pursuing this poetic method of discord and opposites -   "I wanted to drop fire-engines out of my mouth!" meaning " I wanted to make an image or a sound that was as wild and screamy and sudden and spontaneous and noisy and red as a fire-engine. And the way he did it was saying - "I wanted to drop fire-engines out of my mouth!" - meaning, "I wanted to write amazing poetry" - or startling poetry - and then the next line caps it - "But in ran the moonlight and grabbed the prunes". If you don't know that poem by Gregory I'd look it up, maybe it's in Gasoline or Happy Birthday Of Death [editorial note - The poem, "This Was My Meal" is in Gasoline]. It begins "In the peas.." (like the plate of peas) "..I saw Eyestares of Wine" - "Eyestares of Wine" [editorial note - the actual opening of the poem is - "In the peas I saw upsidedown letters of MONK/And beside it, the Eyestares of Wine"] - Well, where did he get that? - Then it's a whole series of yoking of opposites, juxtaposition of opposite words like, "I wanted to drop fire-engines out of my mouth!/... in ran the moonlight and grabbed the prunes." - didn't grab "the lovers", grabbed "the prunes". He put in "the prunes" because that was the most unlikely thing that the moonlight would come (and steal) - running, anyway. If the moonlight were ever to come in running, like a streaker, what would the moonlight grab? Well, you wouldn't think of the prunes, not grandma's prunes!

So that way you also get humor when the poet is acquiescent and aware and has available to him common sense, and indicates his common sense by writing something that has uncommon sense, or opposite of common sense. It's (a) total sanity, that he's conscious of writing something that's the opposite of common sense, because actually it gives you the humor of actual common sense sanity. If you're really serious about the moonlight running in and grabbing the prunes, and have some long theory about it, you might not be able to write an interesting line. You'd just have this long explanation of moonlit prunes with all the attributes of Jesus Christ and other dimensions - Martian moonlit prunes!  

[Allen continues reading Desnos] - "the hurricanes redden my lips if they can do it/the tempests snarl at my feet/the typhoons rumple my hair if they can do it/I accept the kisses of cyclone drunkenness" - [( of mind - "cyclone drunkenness of mind" - or of life itself - "I accept the kisses of cyclone drunkennness" - it's a very good description of life)] - "the riptides come to die at my feet/the earthquakes don't shake me but make everything totter/ at my command/the smoke of volcanoes attires me in ts vapors/and cigarette smoke perfumes me/and the smoke rings of fancy cigars crown me/the loved ones and the love pursued for so long find shelter in me/the lovers hear my voice.." - [(Well, lovers who attempt the impossible, which is to maintain their love, "hear my voice" - certainly - because he's maintained the impossible in this poem)] - "the living and the dead give in and wave to me/the former cooly the latter intimately/the gravediggers abandon partly-dug graves and announce that/ I am the only one who can direct their nighttime labors/the murderers greet me/ the executioners invoke the revolution/invoke my voice/invoke my name/the pilots use my eyes to navigate/the masons are seized with vertigo hearing me/the architects leave for the desert/the murderers bless me/the flesh quivers at my call / the one I love does not listen to me/the one I love does not hear me/the one I love does not answer me." -

 [(He reversed it. He made all the impossible possible, and he made the possible impossible, at the end (or, apparently, this is a grand extravagance to express his desires, which he then announced, at the very end, (that) he couldn't even get his girlfriend to listen to..  It's actually an interesting poem with an amazing structure of total freedom, total flight of (the) imagination, total improvisation, total exercise, go anywhere you want, take it as far out as you want - and then come - back - bam! - like a brick-wall - to reality. So quite (em)pathetic in a way, as a poem…]  

Well, you know (Walt) Whitman had catalogues. So I'll just remind you that you get that strain (in Whitman). And a lot of these poets (the Surrealists) were influenced by Whitman.

(In more recent times…) - Anne Waldman's "Fast Speaking Woman" and "Skin Meat Bones" (if you know those poems - "Fast Speaking Woman" falls into this category of live improvisation) -  (My own) "Howl" is of the same nature, taking off from this old Surrealist method, very consciously (because the models for "Howl", aside from Christopher Smart, were not so much Whitman as (Andre) Breton's "L'Union Libre" (and) the Dadaist manifestoes (the absurdity of the Dadaist manifestoes, like "who plunged themselves under meat trucks looking for an egg" was just practically an ideological steal from Tristan Tzara (I didn't know Desnos at the time -  in fact, I hardly know him now, except I'm just reading a few things).  This translation I read is - the poem is 1926 -  is by Bill Zavatsky, who's been translating a great deal of Desnos. [to Student]  - You've got anything to add about Desnos?

Student: No, not really. I mean, this poem was written in a period where he was writing one poem a day for a year… 
AG: Uh-huh
Student: That's all. And, you know, it was some (kind of) experiment and it was around, also, this time that, on leave from the military, he met both Breton and Tristan Tzara
AG: Before this poem?
Student: Yeah, yeah..
AG: So then this is..
Student: Yeah
AG: ..influenced directly... 
Student: Yeah, absolutely
AG: …by his theories. This is a really successful poem of that nature. It's one of the few irresponsible poems that's totally responsible - it comes back at the end with this slam into the brick-wall of he can't get what he wants - no satisfaction. With all that power  ("tornadoes spin around in my mouth"), "the one I love doesn't answer me". 

[Audio for the above can be heard herebeginning at approximately forty-three-and-a-half minutes in and continuing until approximately fifty-nine-and-a-quarter minutes in] 

Addenda: The actual voice of Robert Desnos (reading "Relation d'un Reve" ("Description of a Dream") recorded for a radio broadcast in 1938)

et aussi 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 101 (John Ashbery & Purposeful Disjunction)

[Jackson Pollock - Number 8  (1949)]

The climax of that method (applying Abstract Expressionist techniques to poetics) is a poem called "Europe" by John Ashbery, which was published in Big Table in 1961 or so, and then reprinted often, because it was his attempt completely to dissociate the language from representation, and to make something like (Willem) de Kooning, or Jackson Pollock, Jackson Pollock more, with a scattering of words on the page arranged in an odd way, floating around on the page, so that you would not be able to join the words. You'd have to go from one word to another with whatever spark the word had ignited as you read it. Are you familiar with that poem.. "Europe" by (John) Ashbery?

[John Ashbery - Water Mill, Long Island, NY, 1963 - Photo by John Gruen]

[John Ashbery - Villa Madama. Rome. 1963]

[Arshile Gorky - Study For "The Liver Is The Cock's Comb", 1943, crayon and pencil on paper, 19 x 24 3/4 ins - The Museum of Contemporary Art. Los Angeles]

That was the big transitional poem. About the same time (William) Burroughs was going into "cut-ups", Ashbery is in Paris writing this poem, "Europe". It's in one of his books [editorial note - it's in  The Tennis Court Oath (1962)]. And it was his vortex transition - going from one mode - as "The Instruction Manual", which is a kind of literal description of a mind/mental trip down to Guadalajara and back to his office, starting in his office, going to Guadalajara, and coming back, but still literal, except a literal description of a daydream - this was eliminating even daydream, and just looking at words as objects and putting them on the page, without attempting to do anything more. Of course, it comes out of Surrealism - and Dadaism - and Futurism - and the early, almost-scientific, experiments with language at the beginning of the century


And, actually, to the extent here that this school - the Kerouac School (Naropa) is taught by (includes teaching by) Dick Gallup, and, somewhat, by Michael Brownstein, and Anne Waldman and Ted Berrigan, (John) AshberyRon Padgett, and others, that influence (of complete freedom and liberty of words) is a main teaching here, including (the) "list poems" that Anne (Waldman) makes up, or "cut-ups" that are assigned for homework. It's a very good method of pump-priming, for people who feel that they are so serious that the poems must have prophetic historic importance and actually make heavy sense to President (Ronald) Reagan, that (a) method of irresponsibility is a very liberating exercise and practice, because it allows you to do anything you want and it also allows much more open sensibility and free play of your unconscious and quixoticism and whimsy and imagination.

A lot of people arrive at in in different ways. In a way, Helen Luster [sic - one of the students in attendance] arrives at it through synchronicity, (or, via) observation of synchronicity, or crystal-gazing. (William) Burroughs arrives at it, sometimes, through cut-up. (Jack) Kerouac arrived at it through the fast speedy rush of his composition , accepting anything that came into his mind  (so he'd get things like "seizures of tarpaulin power"). I rely on the awkward accidents of writing down my mind to get weirdo phrasing, kind of a raw, clunky phrasing that's strange. Gregory (Corso) attempts purposely always to seize the opportunity in the next thought (he has one thought, (say) - "I pump him full of lost time"- he'll immediately (then) try and get something that doesn't fit right, like "I pump him full of lost watches", [Allen is quoting from Corso's poem "Birthplace Revisited"] that 'll turn out to fit right. 

[Gregory Corso]

(but) Gregory (Corso), originally, way back in (19)59, wrote a tiny essay, which we put at the beginning of Gasoline, where he mentioned that his method was discord - that is, if he finds himself going in one direction in a thought, rather than get corny and obvious and venal, or prosaic, or literal, or unpoetic, he'd actually try and turn it inside out and get the opposite, and yoke the opposite together). I think I was talking about this (while talking) about haiku, in the Spring - that it's, also, the relation between disparate objects (dissimilar objects) juxtaposed without comment for the mind to make the connection. And that led to a little conversation about some interesting wild phrasing.. like Gregory (Corso) used opposites, like a line of (W.B.) Yeats that I've mentioned - "out of the murderous innocence of the sea" [from "A Prayer For My Daughter"], when you put "murderous" and "innocence" together. Of course, that's, philosophically, quite literal - that's to say, the sea doesn't intend to kill anybody, it's quite innocent. And (then) it turns out it'll murder you if it puts its paw over your head when you're dunking it in a typhoon - "out of the murderous innocence of the sea". 

And my own example, from my own work, was "hydrogen jukebox".  And Gregory (Corso)'s motto or slogan for freedom of poetic imagination was, (in) 1959, "fried shoes", or "lost watches", or "penguin dust", or "pie glue", or "radiator soup", (which you can find in his poem, "Marriage") - (Andre) Breton (from "Free Union") - "My wife with the sex of an iris/A mine and a platypus/With the sex of an alga and old--fashioned candies/My wife with the sex of a mirror/My wife with eyes full of tears" -  I don't know if you noticed but I got the line for "Kaddish" from this method, for the part IV of "Kaddish" which is - "O Mother/What have I left out/O mother/what have I forgotten/O mother/farewell/with…a long black beard around the vagina/farewell.../with your fingers of rotten mandolins/with your arms of fat Paterson porches…" - Then I got a great line (the others are just sort of routine wooden Surrealism) - "with your belly of strikes and smokestacks" (because my mother has a background in radical movements, Communism, Paterson, New Jersey, and took part in general strikes there, so "with your belly of strikes and smokestacks"), and when I wrote that I cried because I realized there was an intersection of unconscious Surrealist method and completely literal historical accounting. So I thought that was maybe the best line in that whole section of "Kaddish" -  "with your belly of strikes and smokestacks."

 And then it ends, "with your eyes/with your Death Full of Flowers"  - "With eyes that are purple armor and a magnetized needle" [(that's Breton) - Imagine, with magnetized needle eyes)] - "With eyes of savannas/With eyes full of water to drink in prisons/My wife with eyes that are forests forever under the ax" -  [(and that's kind of traically beautiful - describing the aging of his wife's flesh)] - "My wife with eyes that are the equal of water and air and earth and fire" - [(And that gets hermetical. And of course those eyes are composed of earth, air, water, and fire. So it's literal, philosophically)] -  So that's quite an amazing poem and turned on many poets. 

Juxtaposing Smith and Pollock.

[Audio for the above can be heard herebeginning at approximately twenty-five and three-quarter minutes in, and continuing to approximately forty-three-and-a-half minutes in] 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Expansive Poetics 100 - (Andre Breton 5 - Andre Breton's Poetry of the Marvelous)

Andre Breton

AG: So (Philip Lamantia),  (Andre) Breton and the Surrealist school wanted a poetry of marvelousness, not any old plodding (like) the plums (that) you left in the ice-box (“This Is Just To Say”)  – (“I have eaten/the plums/that were in/the icebox/ and which/ you were probably/ saving/for breakfast/ Forgive me/they were delicious/so sweet/and so cold.” – which is (William Carlos) Williams), or the chewing-gum – (the little black mushrooms growing on the subway platform when I looked at them they were used chewing-gum) – [Allen is quoting from (Charles Reznikoff here – “Walk about a subway station/in a grove of steel pillars/ how their knobs,  the rivet-heads - /unlike those of oaks -/are regularly placed/ how barren the ground is/ except here and there on the platform/a flat black fungus/that was chewing- gum]   Occasionally, Reznikoff and the Imagists will get something marvelous out of the direct view of reality - like I always thought that the mushroom chewing-gum idea of Reznikoff’s was magical transformation, actually.

Student (CC): Well, can’t.. I think everyday ordinary existence..can be.. can strike awe.. whether it be, you know, with Williams, some young sick woman, or nature.. viewing nature... (even) looking at a painting of a mountain.

AG: Well, the Surrealists spit on it all. They say “A Slap in the Face of Public Taste” there. They really want..

Student (CC): I think there’s two sides of the same image

AG: No, I think you’re confusing the issue (and maybe confusing the class). It’s not two sides of the same image and not intended by the Surrealists to be, nor intended by Williams, though you may have the opinion that it is the same thing. The method is a little different.

Student (CC): Right

AG: Because, really, there’s a motif and a sketch from a physical view, like you do a sketch, and then, with the Surrealists, there’s really the intention to draw from the imagination, not knowing what the subject is, but allowing the subject to form itself from the unconscious. At least in Williams you begin with a fixed epiphany of a moment in time and its physical forms. With Williams (and, especially with (Jack) Kerouac, and with Walt Whitman), the unconscious comes into play in the associative description. So that you do get Surrealist touches in almost any literalist writing (or any literal writer, if he’s any good at all), especially with the Objectivist school, which said that the thoughts in the mind are also furniture (just like the wheel barrow and the ice-box). You could also describe your thoughts in your mind as if looking at them from the outside, objectively. You could get it combined that way, in the practice of the Objectivists. But they were really two different distinct schools and different practices, and both are really interesting. And if you can have practice in both of them and combine both, then, when you get around to writing when you want on any subject, you have a whole spectrum of inspirations to draw from.

Student (Helen Luster): Well, Allen, when they’d do this in automatic writing, did they ever get the idea that it was not just dictated from the unconscious but…

AG: Yes, from other spheres – the sphere of the marvelous

Student (Helen Luster): No, I mean like some from other spirit energies or something?

AG: Yeah, they had all sorts of that, but they felt that that was also too limiting.. that human imagination has complete freedom not to depend on the spirits from other dimensions - that we were the other dimension. Either we created another dimension with our imagination or that our imagination really has its dwelling place in other super-reality. If any of you have seen (Jean) Cocteau’s (movie), “Orpheus”, you remember the poet was taking dictation from a radio in his limousine, which would have a set of numbers “un, sept, trois huit, douze…" "les oiseaux un les doigts avec qui est chante”, no, "les oiseaux chante avec les doigts"  (the birds sing with their fingers)  [editorial note - the line is a line from Guillaume Apollinaire]-  So these were the news broadcasts coming over the radio of his unconscious. And there’s this recurrent theme in the movie by Cocteau (who was a friend to the Surrealists) . So, dig Breton’s“Free Union”, which is his most successful experiment – “…whose waist is an hourglass” (A la taille de sablier)...

– well, that’s somewhat… that could be eighteenth-century – “Whose waist is the waist of an otter caught in the teeth of a tiger/Whose mouth is a bright cockade with the fragrance of a star of the first magnitude/Whose teeth leave prints like the tracks of white mice over snow/Whose tongue is made of amber and polished glass" /Whose tongue is a stabbed wafer/(".. à la taille de loutre entre les dents du tigre/... à la bouche de cocarde et de bouquets d’étoiles de dernière grandeur/Aux dents d’empreinte de souris blanche sur la terre blanche/A la langue d’ambre  et de verre frottés/Ma femme à la langue d’hostie poignardée.") - The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut." ("A la langue de poupée qui ouvre et ferme les yeux")

"My wife whose hair is a brush fire/Whose thoughts are summer lightning..”Ma femme à la chevelure de feu de bois/Aux pensées d’éclairs de chaleur" – And, actually, you begin to get some uncanny images coming up now. It’s like Surrealist movies, if you’ve ever seen them (and Surrealist movies do have that odor or strangeness of a silent dream). – [Allen continues his reading of Andre Breton’s “Free Union”] – “The tongue of a doll with eyes that open and shut/Whose tongue is an incredible stone/ My wife whose eyelashes are strokes in the handwriting of a child/Whose eyebrows are nests of swallows…” ("A la langue de poupée qui ouvre et ferme les yeux/A la langue de pierre incroyable/Ma femme aux cils de bâton d’écriture d’enfant/Aux sourcils de bord de nid d’hirondelle")

”Whose fingers are fresh-cut hay/My wife with the armpits of martens and beech fruit” (Aux doigts de foin coupé/Ma femme aux aisselles de martre et de fênes") – Actually, that’s probably a bit literal – the featheriness of the marten and the odor of beech fruit – “And Midsummer Night/That are hedges of privet and nesting places for sea snails/ Whose arms are of sea foam and a landlocked sea…” (De nuit de la Saint Jean/De troène et de nids de scalares/Aux bras d’écume de mer et d’écluse")

”My wife whose breasts are of the night/And are undersea molehills/And crucibles of rubies..” ("Ma femme aux seins de taupinière marine/Ma femme aux seins de creuset du rubis") – [(There’s a certain literality to that, like,  (the) metaphor – “My wife whose nipples are crucibles of rubies” – I suppose you could pass that (off) as euphemistic poetry, that is, poetry of exaggeration, hyperbolic floweriness)] – “My wife whose breasts are haunted by the ghosts of dew-moistened roses/Whose belly is a fan unfolded in the sunlight/Is a giant talon…” ("Aux seins de spectre de la rose sous la rosée/Ma femme au ventre de dépliement d’éventail des jours/Au ventre de griffe géante") – [(My wife whose belly is a giant talon? – It’s a very odd excruciating image, actually] –

 “My wife with the back of a bird in vertical flight/With a back of quicksilver/And bright lights/My wife whose nape is of smooth worn stone and wet chalk..”("Ma femme au dos d’oiseau qui fuit vertical/Au dos de vif argent/Au dos de lumière/A la nuque de pierre roulée et de craie mouillée – [(William Carlos) Williams would hardly ever have written anything like that – “My wife hose nape is..of wet chalk.”] – “And of a glass slipped through the fingers of someone who has just drunk/ My wife with the thighs of a skiff..” – [(a little canoe, or a little  sailboat)] ("Et de chute d’un verre dans lequel on vient de boire/Ma femme aux hanches de nacelle")

 – “That are lustrous and feathered like arrows/Stemmed with the light tailbones of a white peacock/And imperceptible balance/ My wife whose rump is sandstone and flax/Whose rump is the back of a swan and the spring/My wife with the sex of an iris/A mine and a platypus/With the sex of an algae and old-fashioned candles” –("Aux hanches de lustre et de pennes de flèche/Et de tiges de plumes de paon blanc  De balance insensible/Ma femme aux fesses de grès et d’amiante/Ma femme aux fesses de dos de cygne/Ma femme aux fesses de printemps/Au sexe de glaïeul/Ma femme au sexe de placer et d’ornithorynque/Ma femme au sexe d’algue et de bonbons anciens") - that’s the best lines in it, I think – “My wife with the sex of an iris/A mine and a platypus/With the sex of an algae and old-fashioned candles” ("Ma femme .../Au sexe de glaïeul/Ma femme au sexe de placer et d’ornithorynque/Ma femme au sexe d’algue et de bonbons anciens") – [(Well, they’re all true in a funny way – the platypussy aspect, the iris aspect, the mine, depth, algae, old-fashioned candles. So there’s a strange literalism to the Surrealism. Although it doesn’t look so at first, it’s actually, what Aristotle called, describing metaphor,(as) "the apt relation of dissimilars" (which is actually, what Surrealism occasionally touches on, and then, at other times, I guess, it’s the contrary, contrariness relation, just for the sensation of putting together opposites and shocking the mind out of its normal range and reach of association.

Actually, when you break up the mind’s associations you create a little gap. This kind of stuff .. and certainly the mind does create that gap so that you actually begin to see words as words in themselves (rather than as references to the icebox or wheelbarrow).And so emerges a modern theory of poetry, very similar to modern theories of painting – that is, as the subject of the panting is the paint on the canvas, rather than the object which the painting represents, which leads to the Abstract Expressionist school, so the subject of poetry may be the arrangement of words on the page and the effects you get out of those words, independent of any associations or connotations or denotations, that you have with the words. Let us say, aside from any representational intention of the words, you might have a series of words just for the colors of the words, or the sound of the words, or, perhaps, say, subliminal associations between them, or contrasts between the words.

to be continued..

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-five and three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-five-and-three-quarter minutes in]

Addenda: (en francais)  Andre Breton Interview (from 1961):

Monday, August 18, 2014

Expansive Poetics - 99 - (Andre Breton - 4 - Andre Breton's Surrealist Precursors)

AG: Let's see what else he (Andre Breton) says (in his first Surrealist Manifesto) - "…(the) omnipotence of the dream, in the disinterested play of thought. It tends definitivly to ruin all the old psychic mechanisms and to take their place in the solution to the principal problems of life" - [(In other words, inspired automatonism as a response to a burglar or policeman or war) - After remarking that a number of poets from Dante to Shakespeare 'in his best-days" (sic) might be looked on as "super-realists" (Surrealists), on genius, he says] -  "In the course of the various attempts which I have made to reduce and explain what is overconfidently known as genius, I have found nothing which could not in the end be attributed to some other process" - [(And then he gives a list of what his favorite precursors of Surrrealism are and what particular characteristics or qualities they have - and it's like a little Surrealist poem, that list, so that's why I put it in as a poem)] - "(Jonathan) Swift, a super-realist in his maliciousness,/(The Marquis de) Sade, a super-realist in his sadism./(François-René, de) Chateaubriand, a super-realist in his exoticism./(Benjamin) Constant, a super-realist in politics/ (Victor) Hugo is a super-realist when he's not stupid -

[Jonathan Swift ( 1667-1745)]

Marquis de Sade portrait.jpg

[Marquis de Sade (1740-1814]

François-René de Chateaubriand by Anne-Louis Girodet de Roucy Trioson.jpg

[François-René, vicomte de Chateaubriand (1768-1848)]


[Benjamin Constant (1767-1830)]

 [These (next) are minor French poets] - "(Marceline) Desbordes-Valmore is a super-realist in love./(Aloysius Bertrand, a super-realist in the past./(Alphonse) Rabbe, a super-realist in death,/(Edgar Allan) Poe is a super-realist in adventure./ (Charles) Baudelaire is a super-realist in morality, (Arthur) Rimbaud) is a super-realist in the practice of life and otherwise" - [(All the laurel wreaths go to Rimbaud)] - 

[Marceline Desbordes-Valmore (1786-1859)


[Aloysius Bertrand  (1807-1841)]

[Alphonse Rabbe (1784-1829)]

Edgar Allan Poe daguerreotype crop.png

[Edgar Allan Poe (1809-1849)]

[Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867)]

[Arthur Rimbaud ( 1854-1891)]

"Stéphane Mallarmé is a super-realist in confidence" - [Because  Mallarmé wrote huge empty poems which only he could understand the associations of - supreme self-confidence.]

[Stéphane Mallarmé  (1842-1898)

 - "Alfred Jarry is a super-realist in absinthe./(Germain) Nouveau is a super-realist in the kiss./ Saint-Pol-Roux is a super-realist in the symbol./ Léon-Paul Fargue is a super-realist  in atmosphere./(Jacques) Vaché is a super-realist in ego." - [(Vaché, we have a little text of his (in our anthology) - he committed suicide)]

Alfred Jarry.jpg

[Alfred Jarry (1873-1907)] 

Germain Nouveau

[Germain Nouveau ( 1851-1920)]

saintpol roux

[Saint-Pol-Roux (1861-1940)]

Artwork by Man Ray, Leon Paul Fargue, Made of Gelatin silver print

[Léon-Paul Fargue (1876-1947)]

[Jacques Vaché (1895-1919)]

 "Pierre Reverdy is a super-realist at home./ St.John Perse is a super-realist at a distance" - [(We had "Anabasis" to show the distance in St John Perse)] - "(Raymond) Roussel is a super-realist  in anecdote."

[Pierre Reverdy (1889-1960)] 

[Saint-John Perse (1887-1975)]

[Raymond Roussel (1877-1933)]

 "Let us cut the question short - The marvelous is always beautiful, anything that is marvelous is beautiful and only the marvelous is beautiful." 

[Audio for the above can be heard here, beginning at approximately twenty-three-and-a-quarter minutes in and concluding at twenty-five-and-three-quarters]