Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Catullus 10, Man

I find it interesting that the Zukofskys use the word "man" in a sort of Beat fashion in their version of Catullus 10.  The Finnegans Wake listserv has had a discussion lately about whether Joyce would have known about zoot suits.  Now, the Zukofskys worked on their Catullus translations beginning in 1958, so they would have heard and read Beat use of language.  I remember a poem by Bob Creeley written in the 1980's which used some Beat-type language, and then he had a line like, "Man, I don't even talk like that any more."  (I think I gave that book away.  I couldn't find the poem online.)

I think I may reread The Cantos in 2018.  If I keep of my habit of rereading "A" every December, which I plan to do, I will read it for the fifth time this December and for the eighth time in 2017.  Now, I've read The Cantos eight times, and I suspect Mr. Zukofsky would want to me reread The Cantos for the ninth time before I read "A" for the ninth time.  Of course, I never met Mr. Z, so perhaps I don't understand him much at all.  Ah, vain repetitions.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Lovecraftmas and/or Catullus 9

Lovecraft would have turned 124 today.

I just read a few pages of Zukofsky's fiction.  It features a similar delight in rhyme as does his poetry.

I haven't read much Lovecraft in recent years, but he certainly has shaped my reality.  One of my high school students read At the Mountains of Madness over the summer.  I read that back in the 1980's.  I love how Shea and Wilson use Lovecraft as a character in Illuminatus!  In that novel Lovecraft took particular pride in At the Mountains of Madness which led me to read that Lovecraft novel.

Catullus 9 seems to deal with friendship between Catullus and another man.  The translation at Wikisource has the line, "I shall kiss your beloved face and eyes."  The commentaries I looked at did not suggest a homoerotic meaning.

Buster Keaton loved bridge.

Boris Karloff loved cricket.

Make of it what you will.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Catullus 8

Well, sometimes I read the week's Catullus poem in German, such as this one:

Armer Catull, hör auf ein Narr zu sein,
und was du verloren siehst, das sollst du verloren geben.
Einst leuchteten dir strahlende Sonnen,
als du häufig kamst, wohin dich das (dein) Mädchen führte,
die von uns geliebt wurde, wie keine geliebt werden wird.
Als da so manches Scherzhafte geschah,
was dir willkommen war und dem Mädchen nicht unwillkommen,
damals leuchteten dir wahrhaft strahlende Sonnen.
Nun aber will jene nicht mehr: du auch, Schwächling, sollst nicht 
wollen und jage der nicht nach, die entflieht, und lebe nicht elend,
sondern ertrage es mit festem Sinn, bleibe hart.
Lebe wohl, Mädchen. Schon ist Catull hart
und wird dich weder suchen, noch gegen deinen Willen werben:
aber du wirst leiden, wenn dich keiner umwerben wird.
Ruchlose, wehe dir! Welches Leben bleibt dir?
Wer wird sich nun um dich bemühen? Wem wirst du schon erscheinen?
Wen wirst du nun lieben? Wessen wirst du genannt werden?
Wen wirst du küssen? Wem wirst du die Lippen beißen?
Aber du, Catull, sei entschlossen, bleibe hart.

It helps my German to read these, plus it gives me another perspective on the poem.  Edgar Pangborn said of playing Bach on harpsichord vs. piano, "Who want to look at only one facet of a diamond?"  (Actually, I don't remember the exact quote.  I think it comes from The Trial of Callista Blakewhich I read in the 1980's.  Man, I used to love Pangborn.)  (What do you know, Kindle has it for free.  I just downloaded it to my iPad.  Darn, I can't find the quote.  I likely have the quote wrong, or maybe I got it from another one of E. P.'s books.)  (No, not that E. P., not Ezra Pound, Edgar Pangborn.)

Catullus 8 made me think of that 1980's song"Drive" buy the Cars.  It has the line "Who's gonna drive you home tonight?"  I didn't know the Cars did this song, and I didn't remember the title.  Thanks, Google.  (The Wodehouse lover in me still wants to Ask Jeeves.)

Catullus 8 also reminds me of Pablo Neruda's "Love Poem #20," especially the English version by Christopher Logue in Red Bird.  Man, that takes me back.  In the summer of 1983 I started getting into poetry.  I read Guide to Kulchur by Uncle Ezra.  Rafi Zabor wrote an article in Musician about Mike Westbrook's version of Blake, which led me to buy William Blake's Collected Poems. (My copy has begun to fall apart.)  Then I got Keats's Collected Poems.  I still read a lot of science fiction back then (um, "speculative fiction" as I think Harlan would prefer).  In an intro by Harlan Ellison, he mentioned that Ted Sturgeon called Logue's translation of Neruda's "Love Poem #20" "the saddest poem in the English language."  (I think I have that quote write.  Please correct me at any time.)  I went looking for it, but I couldn't find it.  I did read all the Christopher Logue I could find and a lot of Neruda.  I lived in Tempe at the time, but visiting my parents in Tucson I went down to the U of A library, and they had a Chris Logue book which included Red Bird.  Hot dog!  However, someone had torn those pages out of the book.  I didn't find the poem for a few years.

Last year a college student of mine read the original Spanish in class, and his dramatic reading blew us away, even those of us like me who don't understand Spanish.

I found this English translation of "Love Poem #20".  I don't know who did it.

Tonight I can write the saddest lines tonight.

Write for example: ‘The night is fractured
and they shiver, blue, those stars, in the distance’

The night wind turns in the sky and sings.
I can write the saddest lines tonight.
I loved her, sometimes she loved me too.

On nights like these I held her in my arms.
I kissed her greatly under the infinite sky.

She loved me, sometimes I loved her too.
How could I not have loved her huge, still eyes.

I can write the saddest lines tonight.
To think I don’t have her, to feel I have lost her.

Hear the vast night, vaster without her.
Lines fall on the soul like dew on the grass.

What does it matter that I couldn’t keep her.
The night is fractured and she is not with me.

That is all. Someone sings far off. Far off,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

As though to reach her, my sight looks for her.
My heart looks for her: she is not with me

The same night whitens, in the same branches.
We, from that time, we are not the same.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but how I loved her.
My voice tried to find the breeze to reach her.

Another’s kisses on her, like my kisses.
Her voice, her bright body, infinite eyes.

I don’t love her, that’s certain, but perhaps I love her.
Love is brief: forgetting lasts so long.

Since, on these nights, I held her in my arms,
my soul is not content to have lost her.

Though this is the last pain she will make me suffer,
and these are the last lines I will write for her. 
I wonder if Catullus influenced Neruda?

Friday, August 8, 2014

Catullus 7

I've recently become interested in the word "middlebrow."  According to Wikipedia, Virginia Woolf  said middlebrows, "select and read what they are told is best."  I certainly do that a lot of the time.  I respect my own opinion, but I have accepted the guidance of those whose recommendations have worked well for me in the past.  In junior high school I read Phil Farmer's Doc Savage: His Apocalyptic Life which included a lot of information on Phil's Wold-Newton Family Tree.  Phil hypothesized links between characters in a lot of (mostly adventure) fiction.  I loved that book and the Doc Savage and Sherlock Holmes books, so I read a lot of the books relating to that family tree.  In junior high I also started reading Galaxy magazine.  If I believed in fate, I might see its hand in the fact that my first issue of Galaxy included columns by Spider Robinson, Richard Geis, and Jerry Pournelle, all three of whom would have a massive influence on me.  Spider (Ghod bless Spider Robinson!) wrote the book review column, and I learned that if Spider said he loved a book, I usually loved it.  That led me down several wonderful paths over the ensuing decades.

At seventeen I started reading Musician magazine, and similarly I discovered that if Rafi Zabor said he loved an album, I usually loved it.   (Remember albums?)  In a few years I started reading Ezra Pound (because Bob Wilson recommended him).   (And I started reading Wilson largely because Spider recommended him.)  Now, I didn't necessarily love what Ez recommended, but his overview of world poetry made sense to me, and I wanted to understand it, so I kept reading.

I also started reading Louis Zukofsky (largely because Bob Creeley recommended him), and Zukofsky's recommendations often echoed Ezra's.  Both of them loved Gavin Douglas's translation of the Aeneid (although Basil Bunting finds him overrated by his two friends).  The ASU library had a copy, and I checked it out a number of times, but I never made it very far into Douglas's blend of Scots and English.  As I've gotten more into Zukofsky in the last 17 years, I've desired to give Douglas another try, but none of my local libraries had a copy.  Well, it came back into print, and I got my copy this week.  I have not put a bookmark into it, however.  I've mentioned before that a few years ago I decided that I had started too many books of poetry and not finished them.  I took the bookmarks out of a number of the volumes in the Empress.  (I decided to name my poetry bookshelf the Empress back in the 80's after the prize winning giant pig in Wodehouse's Blandings novels, as well as the tarot trump.  Ishmael Reed advises readers to "Feed the loss," and he often uses the number 22,  inspired in part by his February 22 birthday.  Well, 22 suggests the tarot trumps, and reading poetry seemed one way to feed the Empress.)

Anyway, I decided I only wanted to only have as many active poetry books as the given year: nine in 2009, 10 in 2010, etc.  I got back down to 14 a few months ago, but I found myself in a doctor's waiting room without a book for a few hours, and I gave in and started The Collected Poems of Robert Herrick on my wife's iPhone.  And today I put a bookmark in The Norton Shakespeare: Comedies since I start teaching my Shakespeare Comedies class on Monday.  And I plan to start "A" again on December 1, 2014.  Perhaps I will finish my Anne Sexton book and/or my Ed Dorn book and get down to my arbitrary limit again.

Catullus 7?  It discusses the importance of kissing, of which I approve.