Thursday, December 26, 2013

"A" for Atomic

Happy Wren Day!

At one point in "A" Zukofsky mentions Hiroshima and suggests "A" can stand for Atomic.  Back in the 80's it struck me that many authors who interested me had what seemed to me difficult styles:  Bucky Fuller, Ezra Pound, the Leary of Exo-Psychology, James Joyce, etc.  Thinking of the Jumping Jesus phenomena, these people lived through information doublings for the first time in human history.  They lived through more radical change than did earlier authors, so they developed idiosyncratic styles to attempt to communicate their experiences and models of this change.  Zukofsky's "A" deals with the changes he experienced in the world, from the steam age to the space age.  When he write about the sound Sputnik makes, it made me think of the song "What Does the Fox Say."

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Gracie Allen

Well, I finished reading "A" 18 today, and I listened to a bit of "A" 24.  So far I noticed two mentions of Gracie Allen in the poem but no references to her husband George Burns.  I love Burns and Allen, but I don't quite understand her importance to Zukofsky.  It reminds me of the reference to "Disney against the metaphysicals" in The Cantos.

I must admit I don't know the point of much of the poetry in "A".  The last time I read it I read Barry Ahern's guide at the same time, and that helped to give me some context for the poetry.  Perhaps next December I will reread Ahearn while rereading "A".

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Overweening Generalists

On rereading "A" this Advent, the poem seems a celebration of overweening generalists.  Zukofsky includes details about famous men I had forgotten: J. S. Bach worked as a Latin teacher, Karl Marx read calculus to relax, etc.  Of course Zukofsky's friend William Carlos Williams worked as a doctor and a poet, and his friend Ezra Pound seems one of the most overweening of generalists.  (Please check out my friend Mike Johnson's blog .)

I read "A" - 11 this morning, and I found it very beautiful.  Zukofsky dedicated it to his wife and son.  This marks a turning point in the poem.  I look forward to trying to understand Zukofsky's writings more deeply.  I sit here right now while a community college class finishes a final.  I spent much of today grading, and I feel very burnt out.  Nonetheless, thinking of Zukofsky's poetry brings a smile to my face.  I read "A" 1 - 23 once in my thirties and once in my forties.  At the age of fifty I had the idea to read "A" 1 - 23 during the first 23 days of December.  I decided to repeat it this year at the age of 51.  I look forward to doing this for many Decembers to come.  (I may change my mind; we will see.)

Reading Zukofsky has led me to listen to lots of Bach lately.  I also started reading Goedel Escher Bach.  I read the first 200 or so pages about thirty years ago and returned it to the library.  I hope to finish it this time.  I find it interesting that both Zukofsky and Ezra Pound preferred Bach to Beethoven.  I don't encounter that attitude much these days.  I will attempt to grok it in the coming weeks.  (Of course, I plan to listen to Beethoven next Monday for his birthday.  Years of reading Peanuts has programmed me to reverence that day.)

Thank you for reading.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Prepositions +

Well, I finished reading Bottom: On Shakespeare, and I began my Advent reading of "A" 1 - 23.  I've read a section a day for the first four days of December, and I began rereading Zukfosky's Prepositions +: The Collected Critical Essays.  I just finished the essay on Wallace Stevens.  I few years ago on Christmas or a day or two afterwards I had a dream about reading Wallace Stevens.  That led me to reread Zukofsky's essay on Stevens.  I had just received a Barnes and Noble giftcard from kind hearted family members, so I used it to purchase Stevens' Collected Poems.  I've since finished that book, and I found it interesting to reread Zukofsky's essay again today.

I just started the essay on William Carlos Williams.  I recently reread Williams' Paterson, and I've made it up to 1940 in Williams' Collected Poems.  

"I have nothing to say and I am saying it." - John Cage

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Bottoms Up

Well, I've almost finished rereading Bottom: On Shakespeare.  I think I understand it a little better than I did the last time I read it.  I've read a lot more Shakespeare since then.  Of course, reading this book makes me want to reread all of Shakespeare.  I wonder if anyone has ever performed Celia Zukofsky's Pericles.  If find it interesting that both Bottom: On Shakespeare and "A" conclude with massive constructions by Celia.  Of course, the Zukofsky's marriage and their family unit with their son Paul seems central to Zukofsky's writing.  I particularly love the dialogue between father and son about all of Shakespeare's works which appears in the center of Bottom.

I look forward to reading "A" 1 on December 1.  Man, Mr. Zukofsky sure knows a lot of languages.  Reading him makes me want to work on my Latin, etc.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Well, I finally listened to "A" 24 all the way through - .  I've read "A" 1 - 23 three times, but I've only made it through 24 once so far.  I found it interesting, but I don't claim to understand it.

I thought of checking out Pound/Zukofsky from the Riverside Library, but they no longer have it.  Did someone steal it?  Did it get damaged from overreading by the many Zukofsky fans in Riverside?  Did they simply get rid of it?

I've reread a chunk of Bottom: On Shakespeare.  Once again, I enjoy it but I can't make it cohere.  I get lost in all the quotes from philosophers like Aristotle and Spinoza.  (Nov. 24 marks Spinoza's birthday.)  I do look forward to beginning "A" on Dec. 1.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Before "A"

I first fell in love with Ezra Pound's writing when I read Guide to Kulchur in the summer of 1983.  Pound dedicated that work to Louis Zukofsky and Basil Bunting.  Over the next two years I read a bunch of Pound and Robert Creeley, and Creeley frequently referred to Mr. Zukofsky.  In June of  1985 I attended the Ezra Pound Centennial at the University of Maine, Orano.  I met Bob Creeley there, and we became friends.  I talked with him about coming to study with him at SUNY, Buffalo, but he told me not to.  He said one of his students wanted to do his thesis on Zukofsky, and they wouldn't let him; they considered Zukofsky too minor.  At this point I hadn't read any Zukofsky.

Later in the 80's my mom asked me what I wanted for Christmas one year.  I gave her the names of a few poets recommended by Creeley including Zukofsky and asked for some of their books.  She got me A Test of Poetry and All: The Collected Shorter Poems.  As with Ezra Pound, Zukofsky's criticism hooked me before his poetry did.  I loved A Test of Poetry, and I've read it over and over again.  I tried teaching it once to a tenth grade honors English class, but they didn't seem to respond well to it.  I particularly love the edition with the cool introduction by Bob Creeley.  (One reason Zukofsky seems so special to me seems thaefact that I don't tend to teach him.  Reading him seems separate from my school reading, although he certainly influences my teaching.)

I gradually finished All, and I checked "A" and Bottom out of the library, but I didn't finish either of them.  Finally in 1997 my future wife bought me a copy "A", and I've read it ever since.  She got it for me a few weeks before my father died, and I guess Pound, Creeley, and Zukofsky have played sort of poetic father roles for me.  Pound pisses me off more that the other two.

In November of 2012 I found Barry Ahearn's guide to "A" inside an old briefcase of my father's in the garage.  I'd forgotten I'd bought it.  I bought it the last time my dad and visited a bookstore.  That inspired me to reread "A" 1-23 last December and read the Ahearn book for the first time.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Howdy.  I've taught high school over the past fifteen years, and I've found that during holidays (summer, Christmas, etc.) I find myself enjoying Louis Zukofsky's writing more and more.  Last December it occurred to me to reread "A" 1 - 23 during December, reading one section of the poem each day during the first 23 days of the month.  Now, it may seem odd to focus on a Jewish poet during Advent, but I enjoyed it, I think I will repeat the experiment this year.  Feel free to join me.