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