|He is 29 in this image with Fox, the border collie, a ewe approaching.|
The Texas hills were a haven for red birds. Erik the Red flying around obviously sticks out against the green, but the red bird is a symbol and a bandage. You can mimic its call which is not as offensive as calling elk. Nobody thinks you're going to shoot the bird, unless they're twelve. What's for dinner dear? Did you get any cardinals? Instead rather, the houses scoot over the hill and come down its nose like carbuncles. "Where America, the Indies? Oh sir, upon her nose, all o'er embellished...whole armadoes of carracks at her nose" (Comedy of Errors), the tree trunks snorted, shorted, cut to the knee. Once upon a time we would invoke France to mourn the aching loss of skies and brown furze nobody is supposed to mourn without deprecating the hill. "Snort out terra incognita?" (Th. Randolph, Hey For Honesty). In the long while after Erik the Red, Sir Walter Raleigh joined the new world folly for gold in Guiana, resulting in the death of his son, piracy and his Raleigh's own beheading. He like Erik the Red buried his son in the new world. They went pathetically hand in hand. Raleigh says You rose into the mountain air and nevermore were seen. So the poem asks what children lifting pretty heads from pillowed beds were doing at the tops of mountains, but right up until Sons of the discoverers came to that end. In 1522 Columbus' son, Diego, Viceroy of the Indies, crippled by discoveries with his son Luis, brought slaves together with sugar, worse than death, provoking the first slave rising on his plantation that spread to Santo Domingo and all the Caribbean sugar lands (Opening the Vein, 96). So children born with the reason of being true love, kiss and fly, wake and die. Ophelia, what is it about? Once upon a time when it was dead and gone, when one was enough and too much to be alive and well in Ameryca, the new found land, a glory rose up into the head and it was dead, a poem that somehow got completely left out but was primary in the manuscript. Where my Freudian rabbi "in a pitiless world and a technological civilization that eludes" (Löwy of Kafka's Amerika), does naked force and arbitrary power not police?
Settling in this unreconstructed Hungry Hill, a home of stills, dogs, ex-cons with guns, I would drive the ten miles into town along Balcones or Lamar, streets and places presumed long gone, covered with apartment buildings, banks and divided highways. If the Faerie Queene started the Renaissance in my imagination, what started this thing about Ameryca? It was the land itself, the brown cedar needles on the ground. When I lay in a hammock between oleanders, the smell of dry earth when it rained, sheep and the retama thorn tree with its yellow blossoms, and white lilies that came up from the rock,
Fire broke out.
Sheets of flame shot up from my hands.How can the green know the red? I am what he was, within. It wouldn't change anything he did, not a certainty to be within what he was without, visible from the interior but not from the exterior. That's the play. The moon has opened up her eyes, like summer stars so soon they rise. Thirty years of absolute sobriety, with love. Of course these things are saying so that my ears hast Thou pierced, as Messiah said. Listening, hearing the revelation, he wakens me morning by morning to listen as one being taught, as when a slave in Israel, offered freedom after seven years, to continue in that service put an ear against a board where the owner pierced the lobe to symbolize his listening to him alone. The sublime writer carries this along from Psalm 40. Lo I come...I delight to do Thy will, O my Elohim: yea, the law is written in my heart, no certainty, and he knows nothing of the future, only the moment and past revised, amid all failures and regret. Prophetic and at the same time impossible, nobody picking Calendar up forty years later would see anything symbolic in "A Conjunction of Planets," What lovers' open lips we are tonight in time the endless world, our minds unfurled. Symbol is defeated by propaganda, but propaganda cannot eradicate, only neutralize by saying it cannot be understood. These texts prepared the y to overcome the i, a reversal to which we all now have our attention drawn. I think Goya or El Greco said that. Souls in the egg, so all right world, Hatch and hatch.
In those days I burned the trash outside on top of the rock. The flames would jet up in the wind, but it was all rock and rocks, rocks and sky. There were no apartments. Gradually I watched them come over the ridge, first one or two roofs, then whole houses. But before that, the landlord, inspecting the rolled roofing on the flat surface one time, alerted me to the fact of the roof. Soon I had a lawn chair up there and was lying naked in the morning sun. Even when it was cold it was warm where the bare Chinaberry limbs held only manila fruit. Pretty soon I was up there at night, which is where I first heard the cry of "The World's Body," eclipses so far out of town at first that were only faint echoes. There was no gunfire like where I live now, but moans and cries of the earth. But those red lanterns were shining through the fog. "Oh wretched land that I am who shall deliver me from this body of death," more obvious now, much more. Sundays, Christmas, while the rest of the states suffered their winter pain, we would take friends and picnic down the valley below, followed the whole way by the cat Mummz. Come February the giant robin migration would begin and with cedar waxwings cheeing everywhere, the ewes were about to lamb. But January was the cruelest month. London, New York, Tokyo, Geneva, Darjeeling describe the stress lines of the new earth skin. I would lay on the couch and read Icelandic sagas and Eddas, cold choice in the cold. But living that close to the elements, March made its mystical rebirth, and all the soldiers of life that clung to the bare retama waiting with the redbud were reborn. The land, the cry of life in early pieces, Alchemycal Rose, "once upon a time when it was dead and gone," worked into colored pictures in the text, a kind of calligram with a musical note, "when your father grows up and your mother grows up...when you love the world."
"The Uniped shot an arrow into my groin,' Thorvald said, then he died." So Erik the Red lost his son. No word about what the harpázō, collateral damage, fog of war?.Even though written long before Wat's death in 1618 Sir Walter Raleigh seems to fore-write it to Queen Elizabeth in poems of 1596: Raleigh's oldest son Walter is killed in a final abortive assault in on Spanish garrisons in Guiana that year. Raleigh, called the marigold in the sun's eye writes, "first-born love...Restless desire from my love that proceeded / leave to be and seek heaven by dying, since you, oh you, your own hope have exceeded by too high flying." Sons follow their fathers and nation. But in Ameryca sons turn from birth rites of war and domination. It hurts domination the most to cast lots with Unipeds, no doubt brutal as any other, as in Apocalypto, underdogs who in the midst of their passions fall to the knee before Spanish ships to receive brutality and extinction many levels advanced from their own. The Uniped native is like national citizen in advance of the global. Billed as the last day, the end of days, it is too late for those who come to a world that reveres its own fall. National or global, native or personal, the status of empire is unchanged.
|Do you understand what I’m saying? That when the robin migration is over and the waxwings begin the ewes are about to lamb!|
The beings, elfs, faeries appear in the wood as literal photosynthesizes of sun and the memories of water. Those little peaks and valleys array their growth. Here is a solution to a problem you never thought existed in the wood grain, counter tops and doors. Nature is always saying things we don't want to hear. The roots of plants are analogous to the head in animals. Wood and stone cry out, triangulating says Bucky Fuller, always triangulating. As support I offer the only visit I ever made in those years to a psychologist, at the request of another person. When he asked his trick dilemma question he said of my answer, you may be the healthiest person I ever interviewed. Pataphysical enough? So to further compare the sound of helicopters and planes to the wounds of that symbol the rose that are gliding to the lump of a beating heart, the refineries and factories paving a way to our own coming to pass, there was no need to consider it poetry, or even a vision of the future. It was aforegone conclusion. Even if they say it is upon us we still do not know.
Suppose you had some people inside an iron room with no windows or doors who would all suffocate in their sleep asks Lu Xun? Ruben Dario calls that picture of Washington from the south "Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar," Alejandro-Nabucodonosor! An international war waged and funded by proxy groups against any that resist Washington hegemony to spawn an intellectual terrorism and crack down on dissidents, a low intensity civil war with coercive engineered immigration (K. M. Greenhill). Civil war is the natural result of globalization which leads to breakdown of nations. U.S. and Turkey destabilize the Balkans and Hungary and Germany, to divide the world island, the Eurasian peninsula from the Baltic sea to the Black, to create that Intermarium preventing German and Russian unity. So Germany is overrun by Arab victims of globalization, now instrumentalized and used as weapons of globalization. Ophelia is silent about this. It makes you wonder who to talk to. Seeds that grow in the rain and sun are plucked up by the roots to breathe the heavens.
Believe or die. We grew up in the ruling class and were ruled by accident and purpose of birth. All pass, eyes right, for empire. Feeling I was not born to join a system of exploitation and slavery 500 years old, one thing was sure, the ruling class taught that it was the oppressed of its own system, so all arguments to the contrary were greeted with, if it's so bad why does everyone want to come here? The basis of ruling power is to redistribute largess from exploitation and slavery, from maquiladora cheap labor and rape of resources to establish a base to exploit the world. That which is is not. The divine gates of the rulers are beautiful, corrupt, powerful, grotesque and everything that can be said of Cormac McCarthy's The Orchard Keeper, “bobbling on one foot like some ungainly bird.” The gates like McCrowley are overcome with epithets, eat adjectives alive.
That's the plain fact, you turn the book over and the cover on the back is the front reversed. Does it mean, "life is backwards, fly birds, sail ships, shine sun?" Exterminators at the D.C. Lawn and Extermination Service bait every trap the child is taught to love and respect, all culture, all leaders, all art, all science to mirror the good in reverse, with disfiguration and counterfeit. The two a's in Ameryca connote romance, openness, innocence like the innocence of Blake's lamb until later America becomes his Tyger-Orc. Romance balanced by terror is fearful symmetry. We remember the romance in dreams where the double a shines in our openness of desire for the unseen but felt garden of ourselves, so it seems natural to begin a voyage to the new world with St Brendan, then Erik the Red, Columbus and Raleigh even if tragedy celebrates the natural in the human. The many who participated in this novel of Amerycan dream-making are remembered in its dissolution.
So Brendan asks, "What do they do at the tops of mountains?" because when Erik the Red fulfilled his quest for fire in the red gold ring of the North and the red man danced in the sun, the new was a year of blood. The field of battle was wet with blood, from the hour of dawn and the shining sun, quoting the Battle of Brunanburh. The old year hardly ended before this new began.
[Maybe such knowledge in these poems emerged from living in Latin America in 1963, seeing, and hearing voices of Indian peoples over two continents, but it had already begun in the devastation witnessed in strip mine in Thornburg and effluent runoffs of factories into the Allegheny, Clarion, Upper Susquehanna rivers.]
Edwardo Galeano's Opening the Vein had not appeared then. It was given as a present to Barack Obama by Hugo Chavez, not a kindred spirit to the native. Chavez was dismissed as a mere Marxist by American authorities, but Galeano dismissed himself when he disavowed The Vein as the leaden prose of the left, a testament of his humanity. But Chavez says he is first a Christian. The Americas inundated Indian peoples with blood and destruction. Booty fueled the surge of corporate capital for sugar as it had for gold. The folk were called subhuman. It justified their murder. That is full circle.
Philosophers of this world are offended at the native, offended at the thought that the impotent, and the weak are the truly good. This is pure Nietzsche, muse of the AI, offended that the "noble aristocrat," the fruit of empire is displaced, that "the word 'world' [is used] as an opprobrium." Nietzsche's distaste at this inversion of valuing the weak above the strong (Beyond Good and Evil) fuels empire as much as it did the Third Reich, but for the transhuman not gold or sugar, but science becomes the justification of all victim-experiment animals and men (Nick Bostrom, Future of Humanity Institute, et. al). So Nietzsche, inspiration of Artificial Intelligence, thought without feeling, says, "It was the Jews who, with awe-inspiring consistency, dared to invert the aristocratic value-equation (good = noble = powerful = beautiful = happy = beloved of God) and to hang on to this inversion with their teeth of the most abysmal hatred (the hatred of impotence), saying 'the wretched alone are good; the poor, impotence, lowly alone are good...and you, the powerful and noble are, on the contrary, the evil" (On the Genealogy of Morals). Empire cannot stand the humbled, the children, the Uniped along with those
“stationed in segregated barracks and commandos… the Jewish prisoner who suddenly rediscovers his Jewish identity.” Indeed, celebrating Rosh Hashanah with his among previously assimilated and unobservant fellow Jewish ex-soldiers, Emmanuel Levinas notes: “A few years ago, these prayers would be interpreted as offering derisory hope. Nice little old outmoded things; now it is all interpreted as reality. The Last Judgment has become reality. Good becomes good again and evil, evil, and quite shatteringly so.”
Nietzsche hatred of the Jews includes us all. I took off from this intuitively when I lived on the Balcones Fault Line. There is no reason to say any of it except that on the other side of opprobrium the habit of doing, not doing, thinking, not thinking, urges a zen prerogative. "Quickly aboard bestow you" (Drayton, Ode to Virginian Voyage).
Distinguish the y from the i. The Ameryca I write mourns its loss, that it never came to be, which failure has nothing to do with America save as idyllic dissent. I'm trying to explain a fixation from nature, of melons and corn that grew in the six inch deep soil. Preceded by the March death of the old year, from St. Branden getting caught in his curragh to put out into the light. Did it begin in the poems he speaks, "I come from a land in the far away...where all the ages I have been waiting to be Amerycan?" It was all wrapped in these children being born and flying around, "what do they do at the tops of mountains, children lifting pretty heads from pillowed beds?" So they are all children of St Branden who turn the cheek, spiritual children shall we say, who seek another country, full of the mishap called justice. You see how fruitful the allegory is by result, even if there is so much effort in the history of America, the outer one, to find the inner. All the little pretty ones, utopias, Oneidas, so many more in two hundred years than all the world produced in its entirety, transplant American Essenes didn't last long; they went through variety after variety like rabbits, but we see how it is. If Charlie Rose is for it, who cannot be against it in the nation of abortion, Sodom and the drones. Like they now ask you as you drive to Las Cruces, "are you an American citizen?"
All the pieces of this contradiction, some stated and open, as in Costa Rica, Fayetteville, and some not, as in Boy Scouts, baseball, grammar school, neighbors, cops and high school - where not? nobody's heard - where my Freudian, are you? - the Amerycan Calendar ends in Summer. In the end of the native Amerycan spring and summer, "The Snake," ought to tell us what we have in store in the coming mist and fogbound bush, allegories submerged. I call it Paragory. The trouble is that the contradictions are so deep and repressed, memories national as much as personal, that the snake is squeezing, his eye is teasing. Not really kundalini, more a deceit of the rush of dreams, nightmares. Run snake run. If somehow these relations were shown we would see what has been projected upon us in the making of the new world. Ameryca and America were always in conflict. One was a dream the other a nightmare of the other. America won. At least until the reversal comes. Don't you wait for it? In England the natives mock the standing stones. In Texas they bury them. It's all the same as blowing the tops off mountains in West Virginia, part of the America vision too, especially the last six months, September to February, 1950 to 2000. After 2000 the thing is an academic chemtrail, like peppermint jelly exploding at night. The news media advertise bodies found in the north, bodies on the beach, but no bees, and they continually promise that science just about fixed it all. In William Carlos Williams Invention of America Raleigh and Eric the Red raise an early propitiation for sins and for the Edda gold and blood. War and the primitive native state confront the mind of the foreigner, put your mind at ease, call up on the American phone, ring and see, even more profound among the digitals, the call of the land to the blood changed to ride the hills. Artist primitive.
Sheep Paragory to Here
Once on the way to market Old MacDonald
Sang the sheep into freight-trains,
The head ram into Crash, the Red-Ding bullet,
And as the trains rolled past at night,
Red dingies really going out of sight,
He sang the sheep into thorn bushes,
The grass into rock. Snakes crawled out.
Here a tarantula, there a scorpion,
And wasps bigger than logs, as Old MacDonald
Strung out in his pickup, sped down a back road,
Pastoral bubbles popping everywhere.
But now on return he is untying himself
And gassing the snakes like a regular free-wheeling freak,
Singing, Eiy-eiy-o, all the way home.
grown among the leaves of earth
hang down in air.
All the ages I have been
waiting to be Amerycan.
|Yeats, Poems 1901 3rd Ed.|
I gave open invitation to people to visit this place when they wanted, to just show up, which happened often enough to be a bother. It wasn't something I was constituted for but no need to entertain. There was a lot of walking down the hills into the watershed that fed Bull Creek. I must have felt the privilege to live there entailed sharing it this way, for a lot of people took advantage. The brow of this hill called Hungry Hill looked down on the traces of stills in the tributaries of Bull creek, forgotten as much as Hungry Hill is forgotten with all the hard edged characters that inhabited it. We used to drive by the shallow glacial pools below the cliffs where the water was toe deep in summer and the air smelled of rock and algae. I fantasized taking a sexy fellow linguistics student, a woman, to walk naked up those pools in the heat of the day. Ann and I did something like this once, not at Comanche Trail, but up Pedernales country Bob Northcott knew, bare naked except for tennis shoes, miles and miles up the glacial rip to Hamilton pool with its huge waterfall above. We walked naked from the River up the Creek and back again. Only a rancher across the divide too big to cross was irate at the five nakeds walking. The appeal of walking naked in washes, especially the cliffs against Bull Creek, was the sensory absorption of the sun on skin nearly the same color as stone, the feel of water on feet, slippery steps careful of algae, the smell of dry earth, dust like none other and sun on skin enveloping. In the slow moving trickles of water you never know what the dangers are, or whether your own fears are a greater danger than the world. The world, the world. Amniotic bliss is part of the world. The desire for the golden age is part.
That big hill where Old Spicewood Springs descends to the creek provided sledding in both car and sled a few winters. We had a VW bug which revved at the top of the hill and then braked went just like a toboggan. At the bottom of the hill below the state has now put a nature park, St. Edwards Park along Bull creek where we went a hundred times. Lawrence E. Warren (1922-2013) and his wife Helen owned that four acre strip along the breast of the hill looking down toward the park. They owned from the precipice to the road, a good quarter mile along the western crest of Spicewood Springs, but the houses were set down so could not be seen from the road. Nobody had rented the vacant house half way to the end of property when I arrived in '68 and saw their ad in the paper . I called and was invited to see it, but when the longhair got out of the MGB, even with a pretty wife he was told the property was rented. The theory among folk is that if you have a beautiful wife you are a citizen. The good has many trials. So women dignify and ennoble, which goes for children too, at least when they're young. Later when Cleo and I had three children, people would seek us out because they liked their looks. We could have given our newborn crawling on the carpet under chairs at Eagle's Nest business cards to hand out, but we had no business, and you can judge whether we had religion. One ennobling of the other is true also of poems. A good poem justifies a book. After Edwin Muir's, "The Horses," I keep reading to find another, but one is enough. I sell failed ceramic sculptures and stretched pots for ten bucks at sales. Decorators buy them to resell! It's either that or the bone yard strewn with almosts and "one good thing" before they go to the hammer and the heap. But the good ones with traction pull up the boners. Autopsies later can name the date on the bottom. Then it's off to some high style auction like Brunks! The good is hard to find, and then it has to compete with all the other stars of its genre. This being the general understanding of art and people, Helen Warren said the house was already rented (in the half hour between calling and our arrival), but I was already in love with the air and the hills and the rock, the cedar and the pickle pear. The scorpions were just punch in the bowl. So we left, went back to where we were staying on Guadalupe and I called again, asked if it was rented. She said no, so I confessed who I was and went back. They were good folk and glad to rent nearly five years to me, but were a little embarrassed at their deception! The best parts of a Calendar of Poems were written there.
A weedy retama grew to the south of the back. I offended Helen one time by pruning it hard. Lawrence told her it would grow back even more, which shows his wisdom, because it got twice as big. He had a mind to develop the living space and knew excavations that needed a place to dump. Piles and piles of rock and dirt got added on top of the limestone in the vacant part of the escarpment down from the road, which did no harm. He had piles also dumped below where I helped him put new journal lines in for the septic and planted hokkaido pumpkins. I left there from a combination of factors, one being the houses coming over the adjacent hill whose roofs I could see. Many years later I kept dreaming of the site except that large modern structures had been built on it. Once I went back while living in Dallas and saw someone had finished rocking the house, continued where I'd left off. That was in the real, but in the unreal dream scenario there were two and three story redwood and stone, chrome and steel structures extended over three times the original site of the house. Only now do I realize I was seeing the development of the three story homes on half acre plots that exist there now, but before they were built, which I saw in the real in 2008 on the last visit in '08 when Andrew played the Waco Open and I took him for a tour of the U and the old place. I have other scenarios of dreams, some of which have ceased, that I never figured out, never thought they could be figured out, but others continue frequently, some recognized and noted in journals, continuing relationships when I have not seen the person in 40 years These raise questions of seed time and harvest impossible to answer, whether the people dreamed about dream back, whether the relationship is mutual, which depends on their memory and dream state, clarity, sobriety. Such things only become clearer after thirty years of absolute sobriety.
People in the presence of contradiction act strange, behavior evident in producing the Calendar itself, laying out pages in the night in that garret on Pearl St I occupied with Cleo, gone to Wales. Bruce Moses did the cover and Victoria Donner the photographs. Five hundred copies were printed at Express Press, received in two big boxes about Dec 5, 1973 to celebrate the arrival of Kohoutek, about as big a bust as ISON-Niburu in Oct of 2013. Wikipedia says kindly it was fairly bright as comets go and put on a respectable show in the evenings shortly after perihelion. My respectable show, said Stephen Spender to Mike Adams, was "almost there." This is the last hexagram of the I Ching where the fox gets his tail wet. Strange secretive behavior, producing Ameryca spelled with a Y, as off putting as the next years not telling anyone I was taking my orals, only after passing announcing it. Ill starred relations with fate came from the overthrow of my marriage, pointless to explore, except for the social shock. So while the writing of Calendar was an enjoyment encompassing experiences in Iowa, Fayetteville and Austin, the production was stressed. I sold it for two bucks each.
Three or four dislocations of venue in those nine years, described at the end of Methane Intoxication Sutra. The fault is not in the stars. Starting with the sudden end to my time in Costa Rica at the death of my brother, then the sudden marriage the next year in which, while she wanted to live together, did not want to marry, acquiesced to what I thought were the obligations. Marriage, drive to Iowa, Fall of '66, after the M.A., waiting to see about a job, traveling up the beaches to Maine, Providence, Boston, New Hampshire, visiting Matt Pacillo; summer of '67 in D.C. at NASA-Folger; summer of '68, looking for a grad school again after getting axed, she going to art school in Philly while I had an operation and convalesced, then the long drive to Austin were background to the idyl on Spicewood Springs. In the end I lost every social network, every friend, from my own estrangement, but that's the way it played. Events were complicated even before I was 17, beginning with my father's job transfer to Philadelphia after 10 years in Pittsburgh, my senior year of high school, which continued to prepare sucha strange complex of attitudes that I need a Freudian rabbi to take me through. We are onion skins. It does show why the intervention by destiny was so welcome and complete in its embrace of the biblical. All that stuff about Goya, tauromachies, heads, Kubler-Ross, Little Boy Bomb, chemtrails, Borges, Colossi in The War On Neptune and writings of Paragorie, have to stem from these dislocations.
I don’t remember any particular prayer, any formula. In fact there is no explanation at all for what happened. It took years to say this much. Every day electricity fills the cortex. Up on my feet again in the back of that tent with no explanation, I floated, walked out after maybe ten minutes changed, inside and out. My hosts must have seen somebody stoned out of his gourd, as when the last Neptune is sunk in a fiery lake and Jesus is king.
Johoutek was not a good inspiration for Calendar, but those years were contradicted. In the middle of publishing Calendar and writing a dissertation I wrote the dream princess poem of fifty Spenserian stanzas, Nightingale, but did not show it to anybody except Cleo, to whom I mailed installments. The ideas of Calendar grew in the Hill Country outside Austin on a sheep ranch where even today, among the condos, there remains a park of glacial limestone pools along the seeps. But such perceptions began in the little town outside Pittsburgh where I lived from 5 to 17 and continued with even more vast experience in the Hill Country of the Edwards, further in, further up in experience among the creeks there, the escarpments, washes over grazed, flint middens left by tribes, stage stops along cattle trails, original stone walls from the 19th century. I built dams to save washes from further erosion, cut cedar, planted liatras, sophora, a great success, among many. The land itself is the value, not what to do with it. Restorations of natives exist more in not doing than doing, not mowing, not cutting agarita, tolerating drought of walnut trees which seem hardly alive. There was not much to be done about the live oak decline. That amounts to three different ecologies before the wild of Arizona.
Joseph had his destiny imposed “in a dream” that his brothers would bow to him. He names his son Manasseh, “for God has prospered me in the land of my affliction.” The difference between Joseph and any other reckless spirit is his notability, his success, but the ordinary is destined, the unsuccessful may play a role among the less, for it was Pharaoh who dreamed of plenty and famine and Joseph who interpreted. Calendar is an interpretation of famine and plenty. Administering plenty is the sense of the reckless who live beyond ignosia. Rimbaud is always the anti- Joseph, which implies that the whole review board and planning before life is not what it seems, unless he planed to fail. After ignosia wears off we all deserved what we got and if it was given to call it grace and leave off we know nothing more. The upshot is that the Castle of the Spirit, an obvious metaphor, may be more metaphor. The design of a life depends on elements that go back and forth in time in an unimaginable plot of destinies. At the end agnosia is restored and spirit, whoever it is, knows as little of itself as it did when it was born.
Long before I was aware of the connection between Rome and America I puzzled why the Calendar broke in two parts. Spring and Summer celebrated the primitive, Fall and Winter a demented social politic, of which Bulldozer was a judgement. The whole of January was. Nuclear warfare, earth in its own night bloom, collapsing ecologies implying scalar wars of were-weather, rain of no ordinary element, plutonium snow falling over the desert, of which the next sunrise will reveal the new hell, where the wounds of that symbol the rose are gliding to the lump of a beating heart. The heart does not fare well if here a lump and there an aging sack. These effects preoccupied the second half of Calendar, but I never understood the Rome connect, Virgil aside. Rome is America. Who can? Reading Suetonius on Caligula doesn't do justice to empire. America behemoth worse seemed impossible to get. Sure a Hometown blew up here and there. Somebody burned down the A&P. Violence was explicit, the last militia heard as Dixie drove her eyelids together. That and some others came from Fayetteville NC, home of Fort Bragg, where I lived two haboobs, the neck of the goose, I cut off here. Savages in the sanctum of commercialism, heart of the Reader's Digest Playboy Girl. It sounds like television, the digital wrapped in one, the world's largest most experienced erogenous zone, more exciting than life itself. The digital became the mind numbing drug. Which surely has come to pass, with the roaring trees and the rushing grass. I'm skipping back and forth among the last six months to get the drift of Americans [who] pursue happiness in the skirts of their liberty. I think the sunkist hair gives it away, that being an ad for orange juice. Orange juice was what the golden age became, a concentrate at that, synthetic, so that when the people said, I love you Democracy, it reeked. That indeed was the purpose of juxtaposing the renaissance, Elizabethan and Jacobean plays and poems against these months. America was embellished with carbuncles in the Comedy of Errors, dragged with the golden fleece from Dr Faustus. As I say it distressed me to recognize the underlying shadow government that permeates the body, the digest and purpose of the diaries of Kurk Wold, renegade scientist, but that, believe me, was forty years later, long after the Calendar was forgotten. It would be like Kouhetek come round again, this time brilliant, tail overwhelming the moon, subject of the evening news, like bad weather. We live in a time when Noah makes a comeback.
I absorbed a lot of these antagonisms outside the U.S. in 1963, in Costa Rica. Specifically and generally got the feeling from Nicaraguans that America backed the Somozas, from Panamanians that canal was a worst insult, from San Blas Indians that I was the one to be feared. When the repute of a nation is visited upon its citizens later captured and tortured by Taliban it makes the citizen know the apple pie. Not to speak of what the Bolivians, or those from Spanish Harlem had to say. Oddly, to me, I was as large or larger in size that all of them, not six feet, but better dressed, with two! suitcoats, "Andres, tu tienes mucho sacko!" Puerto Ricans were the most virulent against the Exceptional, yet at the same time the national oppositions that visited these privileges could not be denied. As I learned to spread the wealth a little people saw more the heart. Still in the world today, which I know from having taught scores of Jordanians, Kenyans, Nigerians at Bishop, and add Israelis, Koreans at Texas - would you believe I taught there Technical Writing for Foreign Students at least twice because they heard I had taught blacks in the American south - Is that profiling?- or at Bishop College where the utmost moral authority came about 1982, give or take a year, when Maya Angelou and another poet spoke in the auditorium at Bishop College where we held faculty meetings and Dr. Lassiter would stand on stage and rub his belly as he spoke our responsibilities. I was happily at the back. Maya Angelou was no less outspoken as anytime and had a lot to say about the male white made class of oppressors of women and blacks. The only one represented that day to feel her arraignment, felix culpa, me, did not disagree in the slightest with anything she said, but bore it then as much as 20 years before what those Latin American students thought of their American oppressors. I have no doubt her moral suasion and authority of life came from that time when she was raped at seven and after telling her uncle and the man was put to death, she did not speak for five years. She did not speak from the power of her words, so that when she did, it was with this great authority. I did not stay for the Q and A. Hearing her frank obsequies today at her passing, I ask anybody to understand the discomfort of representing the enemy.
There is a heavy sex to colonialism, to the army, navy and air force, and later the drones, a digital sex, plastic USAs...on Army wheels...out west producing sex organs. The image withers like a Cialis commercial, snozzled, in pyknic profile, as if America were a plastic statue on the dashboard of some spaceship held on with suction cups that listen in to the beats of a heart. So when you travel outside the country stay away from the natives or it will spoil your trip. I picked all this up by osmosis. It didn't help that I was reading the Grand Inquisitor at the same time. I would not have survived these disquisitions without the prior years of allowing the true leaven access to heart and mind. Not enough, never enough. So it was American light, American phone, American freedom, not light and freedom in themselves, the one species of white man decreasing. Ruben Dario made that impression, peppermint jelly exploding at night, Alexander, Alexander, Alexander-Nebuchadnezzar is white. Of course that was naive, since the imperial has visited most of the kingdoms, states and nations of the world. But are we too harshly judged by the light of our worst acts? Presidents added up to conspiracy. This Calendar wouldn't cross the water any more than the later book sent to outer space embossed in asbestos on the outer shell of some spacecraft would be grokked by the Albigensian on Betelgeuse. Little still life bookmarks were paged into these satires, a 1584 London maple chest saying, GIVE THE GLORIE TO GOD ALLONNE, a phrase carved into a sideboard at the Folger, but the context sullied and doubted, when the enemies of GLORIE took over. This is civilization. Be glad and walk ye in it. American light, liberty, the chest which is really mocked in the portmanteau of the fictional Orcs while Hesper is singing I love you, I love you, a little like the dream princess, except merchants dream of new Americas...nose the Bermudas, ravish Virginia, as Thomas Randolph says. This cover, off, reveals nothing at all, stolen from Allen Ginsburg on a boxcar somewhere pressing nudely on the honey tube. When I read that one for the radio station the tech was so convinced he bought the book, but the Christian values are two edged in the context of everything else. Would that they produced a falling off of stretch on the stalk of sexual colonialism. Spring to the arms of burlap, poke a stitching, jam a smock. Nothing must be covered up. Not that these cannot be as vulgar as a Volkswagen Puppy in prodction, or corpses sprouting out in the snow in winter that come up with crocuses. So it says among the vulgar, this rose gives many a care of its dying.
Why should I be surprised if words meet friends. Now they are second nature on those nights when spraying is light or the wind blows the chemicals away for a while. Calendar was published without ISBN number, and horrors, without external referees, publishers, editors, reviewers! Can't have the grassroots interfering with commerce. A few friends in high places....like the Precedent, a later take in a Danse Macabre pub on Amazon, dubbed onto expired archives... but the real president... not the Manchurian candidate... I mean the real LBJ, Roosevelt, Nixon, Eisenhower is assumed. JFK is the rose that gives many a care of its dying. How can he be considered innocent among wolves? MacNamara, Rusk, Bundy, as Donald Justice said, all depend on whether you view them in the bubble or out. Then the invasion of Kiev, Panama, Managua, or where ever takes an adversary tone, not one that makes the city lights. Ferlinghetti sent the plastic LBJs back, with thanks, but could have printed it as much as the New Yorker could have printed Expressway to the Prickly Pear. They kept it six months. It had no return postage or SASE, but they returned it a mere two weeks before before the Kennedy assassination, which what it portrayed in symbolic form. It now lives as Nabu, Nabu and etc. but the suggestion that symbolic speech means anything, is controlled by the powers even while they laud it, and JFK was killed by the backfire of his own strategy. Which choose?
The Art of Translation
We cannot know ourselves without the knowledge of others, which addresses our experienced vanity. Put another way innocence is not the rhyme or the changes, it is the picture in our heads that matters, beyond the alphabet, primordial feeling evoked by the flower. Even If we say if brass not stone nor earth nor boundless seas, but sad mortality o'er sways their power, it is not the wit that remains, or the letter. What remains is the memory of the moment that evoked. Even more than Shakespeare, Hopkins did not change the world, and if not he then who? It will flame out, like shining from shook foil. The poet becomes a translator of the light beyond the image, before, during and after the poem. It is not a literal translation. Nobody can say what it is because no original text compares. The translation is the only text. I heard a fly buzz when I died we don't know. Irish poets learn your trade, sing whatever is well made. Well made, not perfect. Beauty in ugliness finds rest in the peace of the world. All kinds of sayings call them sulphur flowers in chemistry, fleurs du mal. This trial goes on carnivorously in des Esseintes' laboratory. Beauty is not truth, nor truth beautiful. Illusions of innocence. We have to suspend belief, or is that disbelief? before the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowel be broken. The poets are wrestling with codes of outer expression against inspiration. Eventually beyond their making, the thing, the poem, is not. What now to do with their own annihilation when they look back at their lives and see nothing they recognize. Well there is one moment repeated every day since, whether in the belly of death, especially there, or in bed.The trouble is, having said this, I wrote on a card and taped it to the wall:
In fact there is no explanation at all for what happened. It took years to say this much. Every day electricity fills the cortex. Up on my feet again in the back of that tent with no explanation, I floated, walked out after maybe ten minutes changed, inside and out.Another inmate of that time, John Cullen, became a translator. Spender says nobody can understand the chat he and Auden had "with their mixture of sense and nonsense, fun and portentousness, malice and generosity, compose a secret language among a circle" (World 57), which is what the poems of this Calendar are, addressed to intimates, confidants who get it and don't but are amused by it, a mumbling argot-here-like the one, "Cullen's Company," who to someone who knew the translator himself would seem completely contradictory, if true. Easily the best intellectual I ever had was with John Cullen at his bungalow fireplace into the wee hours smoking.That's what experience gets us, or innocence. Is it not innocence that longs to be made whole? So against the background of Vietnam, c. 1970 the militaristic conceit wrenches the unconscious. They meet in this boot camp of dreams, for basic training is implied, which both had seriously avoided, by different paths, his scandalous perhaps, but funny -- mine a product of what time and the age would allow, the old meniscus maneuver--but had known each other before it seems, for he recognizes him there: "That is Cullen. Diddley-bop" which signifies some statement of joy. They meet for a moment in the center of an apparition of friendship so fleeting they barely wave going past, even if their Gemütlichkeit surpassed what either had known. Of course the poem written before denouement, properly forespeaks as poems do. Can they enter by the strait gate of the poem into innocence or must they go by experience the great broad way? If the rites of this dream princess smack of the white goddess, an intimacy too great to share, or speak of, in a flash the moment passes, prophetic itself of our lives, taken at large. Right away the camp telescopes to graduation. They get their stripes. The thing is organized. It has Officers and Review. Structure! No wonder he suddenly wakes up, discharged, but the thing is that the memory of the dream continues in the poem and when he reads it he remembers the feeling of the dream in the first place. It revives its innocence there. No you don't have to believe this. All of these poems are riddles to remember the moment. What they have to do for another remains to be seen. Idiots on the street however say they have miles to go before they sleep. So there are many kinds of translation, one with another, by which Enoch was not found, because Yahweh had translated him. We suppose that translation yet to come.
Drafted into Cullen's Company
when he didn't serve either
was no reason for dreams.
But when off to camp on my back
I go, he is already there,
"that is Cullen, Diddley-bop."
And there with him was the Dream-
Princess giving up her rites,
And then passing in review
The officers of Cullen's Company,
And finally discharge today.To get the argot a little, in the middle to transpose a true insight, for these matter in the human, John had done a diss on Charles Williams of all people. Nobody more arcane could be found in 20th century lit. I was later charged with association with Williams (Taliessin Through Logres) because of my Taliessin, changed the spelling to avoid this, but while mine had nothing to do with Williams any more than it did with Frank Lloyd Wright, who planted his Taliesin in the desert, merely cruising around his fireplace about this, his diss and whatever, up came Netzach from the Williams and the Tree of Life, which of course had fallen on the path and I had marked it down. Nowadays you can google it, for all the good it will do. Holding the Hebrew letters in your hand is not the point. So ibe datum out of this and more, John said in a confidential moment that he wished I would write more out the biblical experience I had had, which may be the most profound thing ever said to me, not that it was ever a direct subject of conversation and not that anyone would do differently from what they have done anyway. I mark it as a true insight against the very different and valuable counsel from Jack Minnis, my Tesla-Drexel friend, who wrote to me to doubt faith in order to strengthen it.
The Biblical experience is coitus. Kiss me with the kisses of your mouth, Song begins. I take it he meant the biblical poetic and prophetic my speech echoed. Biblical folk, theologians, may not take the biblical as intercourse, as the letter next from Ricardo Foulkes makes plain, but poets are not vexed with theology or practice. They are incompetent to judge between. Auden tells Spender, "because you are so infinitely capable of being humiliated. Art is born of humiliation" (World, 47). The same with the observations of Ruth Lehmann, superfluous advice. Say to the mountain move. I had got wrapped in those texts of revelation impossible for scholars to believe, as impossible as revolution. When the rabbi says Bereshith is the first word of Genesis because the people did not want the Egyptians to know the name Elohim, I thought about that for a couple of decades. Being incompetent and humiliated, I moved on to the haShamayim, the heavens, concluding after another decade that this central conflict of ancienty worlds, Israel in all its forms opposed by Egypt-Babylon in all its forms, was over the substitution of haShamayim for Elohim. It took thirty years to get that, but everything provocative follows,
the eater and the eaten dispute the gates of mind
swift as evening wolves and sand.
To substitute creation for the creator is fundamental to all the horrors of world bank and war, which sacrifice to pray a gun to the power of mind I might call myself a scribe of, the biblical text opposed to critic:
antennas, grey dawn, chains long, cast lots to own
the honorable men No-Cleveland and No-York that bought and sold.I don't mean this opposition as a hermeneutics of the body, but a complete demolition of authorship across the ancient world, so that Homer, Lao Tzu, David never wrote a word, hardly existed at all. The "evidence" critics relate in proof of this concludes that "editors' made the word. No other text is known of Lish's revised Carver text or Pound's Eliot, unless there is some law suit. Graduate programs call this the Editorial Process where they teach their candidates to reduce to sense. These are not the minds that made such texts as said
Ohio lost! Shaker Heights fell and out land toward the sea titanium!
Akron rooted up and drawn like simple water! Strongholds fell like figs!To show how far the rabbinical reach, I take it that when Messiah entered a more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, to perform the sacrifice of his blood, as that sublime writer says, that that tabernacle was the heaven itself. When I sang Psalm 8 over my daughter hundreds of times, walking in the alleys of Austin, I understood that when dominion over the works of those hands was given, that that meant the heavens, that the work of the fingers were included in the hand. These heavens, the tabernacle of sacrifice and those works of hands, as he says again, were all put in subjection to Yahshua made a little lower than the angels crowned with glory and honor so that he should taste death for every man...that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified, for Messiah entered into heaven itself. This cosmic aesthetic is not understood as a matter of comprehension. This is the biblical experience.
Incomprehensibility comes from contact with ancient text, follows from it. Kerouac and the sutras, singing the diamond Sutra in the watchtowers as a mook lookout, a good metaphor for a watchaman outside civilization, not to guard it, but for the solitude, to hear the mind wind and go hungry, like methane intoxication which happens around the big manure piles as fifteen cubic yard scoops unload. After loading you drive like your tires are squashed. Unloading, the methane is all over you and you wake up at night with its undefinable sense. That's what its like to be born of the spirit, not a nice thing at all, but encompassing, enveloping and inexplicable to tell, methane in hair, on skin. It's not a perfume anyone can smell, but it does make peculiar. The methane comes and then others feel the need to help you find your way, get back on the road. It colors everything this guy oms. Then he comes to the ancient text in a biblical experience. He wouldn't be there but for the methane, forgive my French, but since the methane, he devours it fifty years. Each text is surrounded with bullies. His effects don't measure up to the expectations of bullies. Van de Wetering writes of the Zen bullies in Afterzen. Kerouac got disillusioned with buddhist bullies and disillusion runs among Unitarian, evangelical, Presbyterian, academic Errands into the Wilderness. Academic errand boys for their higher power of sensation-emotion control and tenure, easily bully among the seminarians asleep on cots, in robes, but look out for their hands, look out for their tongues, the gifted tonsures to convince you riches to be poorer. Sure they sound like pedophiles. Can you believe Yeats pushed Crowley down the steps of the temple? He says he did, but it's the other way round. Powerman, antimessiah, surrounds all the texts, not just in religion, reviewers with two hands consume enough alcohol and drug to for[e]get what words are, or woods. Translations of the self we know, but the ancient texts are something more than the power mad ecclesiastics around Homer can spare, and tear him limbs. There is a tearing and the torn. It sounds like Bowden in Juarez and is no less. It is more. Better to study in the 2AM, being driven. Only the wind is blowing. Intensification falls into the text and finds its confirmation of word not translated. This is more than you bargain for. Bullies make claim for themselves. Methane makes claim for revelation. Any meth head knows. A different meth. There are many meths but only one. No need to justify devotion to revelation if it's like meth, either you have it or you don't, but in this case the bullies are busy turning civilization. Of course revelation has found them out, celebrated so long it swims around like fish in a Breughel painting. Fall of the Rebel Angels, Breughel, Rubens....
I'm translating the text I'm quoting into some context of life. If maybe the text informs my thought, hard to say. Translation is subjective for sure, but based on something. What a fake translation is doesn't confuse the matter really. Taliessin is a translation or it isn't. Translators are scribes at different ends, little credit, not top billing, room and board, live like monks. The lottery may reward them. All those heroic tales of wards passed to gain the inner sanctum? You think you're coming in, but you're not. Maybe indoctrination wears off, but the Graf Wellhausen critic dragons and flames must be passed. Bullies are all over the Odyssey to prevent apprehension. Beauty surrounded by counterfeit, danger. Blessing and danger walk, their hands knit. It's hard to believe the highest and best are corrupt. So the sword of the spirit pierces to the joints and marrow, but choose between the bishops as merciless as Daniel or Abraham in the furnace. Learn to walk in kilns. Dragons and the giants want to know by what right a breech translation is skewed, depending on whether he lays on his right side or his left, or his back, which of course is backward from the intention of his thoughts. Do not disbelieve he sees through a glass so darkly.
|JC and AE after piling stone|
Cliff Street, at the end of 22nd St. further up toward town, had been the residence of Tom Goar who with his wife Suzie and Tyler their young son often hosted a group of friends, Ann Oppenlander, myself, John Cullen. We once semi seriously talked about getting a big place and living together! What dismal times the 60s. One night there was to be a block party on Cliff St. The street blocked off. Crowds of more than a hundred, the usual carousing. The night was young, maybe 9 or 10 when a car with three occupants wanted to drive through the center of the party, which resulted in the car getting roughed up, rocked, pounded on. It drove to the end of the street, a dead end, turned around and accelerated into the crowd. There were so many bodies though that it stalled out. Maybe the driver lost his nerve. But he hit a lot of people. Nobody however died. The curbs were high on one side of the street. I remember the guy backing up one last time to get out of his fix before the engine died. There was a kid just in his taillights who I grabbed and fell against the curb with, then it was over. Well partly. Now a serious demo of that car began. All the windows were broken out. The occupants had gone catatonic, were frozen motionless, glassy eyed. They were about to be torn limb from limb when John Cullen asserted himself and required everybody near him to join hands around the car, even while the bottles were still raining down and the glass flying. This bought a moment respite. He was very insistent. There was one guy who would not release his bottle to me and let fly. But it was the last one. After than it was all clean up and we disappeared from the scene.
So the nearest a poet comes to sense the intentions coming from another, communicating through an alphabet language that reveals the truth already communicated in pictures of information, is the same for all sensory-life-forms. Talk about whether animals feel only occurs in the private pirate labs.The pictures carry more than a letter or word or sentence can convey, a kind of telepathy except it is not thought but whole being between the y and the i, Ameryca and America, the little orphans flying around in the water and fire who later construct post war America in its behemoth form. Sail away! as Drayton sails: you stay too long; Quickly aboard bestow you... before the planetary bulldozers. But experience is comfortable enough, it rests me, it calms me to sleep. Why does the spirit that lives in the soul not know what to do? Another, when has good earth joyed in mirth more? Aside from Aristotle, comedy is contradiction, celebration of defect, moral turpitude. Let it be well made, but judged according to the conventions and the public agreement about value. If you are not of the convention and do not belong to the social, an unknown, then you will sell one painting and be dismissed as mad Blake, conflicted Hopkins. The tension is still between innocence and experience but the conventions that wrap them switch. Innocence must be the highest intelligence but it is changed into what it's not, taken by some priest of the intellect into the casuistry. That code is the first to be break, to stop denying that this is being done, driving witless machines into unconscious beds of streams, yes, it is profoundly disturbing to oppose peace. That code is the one first broken, to stop denying that this is being done.
So after sitting across from your self designing a life, one goes before a review board for advice, or consent, to argue the position, difficulties and purpose while the board seeks to poke holes in the what ifs, so to speak. If the spirit is reckless this is more important. If the purpose is to do the impossible, which the spirit doesn’t know is possible, the board has to help design. Only the interplay of blessing and danger, positive and negative difficulties can make the thing worth it. What’s the point of a gimme? So the difficulties provoke the spirit to its work, but the problem is always the spirit itself, for once it enters life prone to its own bias it needs counterweight, balance from people and situations. The board must design these people in a web of relation that catch the spirit and give it a chance to be reckless, but if not caught it will perish immediately, reckless from the moment its feet hit the ground. But the spirit is further prone to itself; its biggest danger is itself, a waywardness to follow paths outside its design, just because it is reckless. From these avenues it needs rescue, which is the purpose of those people in place to catch it before it goes too far.
America spelled with a Y was not the only whole preoccupation. This included also, poetically, Nightingale simultaneously, and The Taliessin Poems, written before and after trips to Wales at Christmas 1973 and summer 1974, The Nightingale, written immediately before. These however were not formally published and hardly even announced. It's a lot like a guy concussed, returned from the wars, who knows nothing of himself and has to suffer through the thoughts, the memories, the acts he committed. The WWII vets first make this evident, but every war contributes. They come back, they're solid citizens. They never say a word, even to their wives in bed of what they did. With good reason. Charles Bowden tells of an uncle after the Pacific War who "pretty well said nothing and then twelve years later in one twenty-second break in his silence he told me of cutting off the heads of Japanese soldiers, boiling them down and mounting the skulls on his jeep" (Trinity, 207). The shame and terror is that great, but they relive it being prickly at moments, difficult, to be tiptoed around. The saving grace for these is their buddies with whom they share the bond. Cleo's father was just this way, parachuted out of B17 at 21 and was a POW in a couple of Stalags for about a year, so she, without knowing, was groomed to care for this situation in much the way her mother had. Except the war I returned from is the first one, old as history, one I conceive as against humanity. Along the way I have no problem visiting its victims where I find them, Karl Hillie before, in the asylum in NC, Cryil Nweke later, at Terrell outside Dallas, the shelter people, the foreigners, the immigrants I live among. It is an honor to be associated with Cleo as she lays hands on the wounds of these, in which I play a minor role. It was always the entitled I abhorred. The thing we should all hold against the entitled is their value added improvements which are none at all.
When I sat down in the spiritual to design this reckless life I suppose I took counsel and got permission to try, but that spirit of recklessness had only itself to blame, or nurture, not that anybody recognizes such a place in the Sky, the name invented, where one designs a life before it is lived. I saw the moment before waking and recognized immediately this as not only possible but as unbelievable, amorphous and dissolving as waking took hold. So life is but a sleep and a forgetting…. Back to the planning, I imagine I took the line that the mission was pointless if easy, and further, that it had promise if what was achieved was, and here the words stumble, for how to give expression to the difficulty sought, the impact of forces, the provision of allies, the wiggling, the pains, wrestling odds, the conspiracy, self designed to give or get no breaks in order to bake chemical water out of the clay, the water and chemical of that mighty coalition of blessing and danger. That phrase, blessing and danger, written on the walls at Glastonbury.
Spiritual enlightenment could be had in those years in Austin if you believed in it. Raja Rao with his gold nimbus thought it was because the Quads, especially the philosophy bldg, were built on top of Indian burial mounds. There were extensive steam tunnels under the campus. Desani took disciples, but you had to sit on your feet. An easier form of Tibetan insight meditation could be had if you would not verbalize the think, think not Cardinal, think Bird, Comanche. At Hare Krishna you could dance and eat sugar but should not engage in sex. Tarot and Golden Dawn were available for a song, not the song of deliverance of David, but the astral battery power shrug that comes with controlling the universe, as one who said, "you're not Christ? I'm sorry to hear that, because I am." People were going around glowing from the mushrooms in the cow patties of Bastrop. A botany student way ahead of his time was growing salvia divinorum in the department's greenhouse, all leggy though. One of the employees I had at the drug garden brought in his banisteropsis to take the air and sun for the time he worked. He wanted to keep his lunch in the refrigerator but I wouldn't let him. I had a fear of radioactivity from the radioactive frig at the Clayton Foundation Labs nobody would open. We did have a good supply of rats in the attic that went for the seedlings though not the ayahusca. To keep current I read the Mckenna book along with Schultes. Datura and aminta however were not allowed on campus - enemies of communal living, but Sophora, mescal bean was planted everywhere. You could experience big brother for a song if you inclined to mere sensuality and had the connections. You could sail with professors on their yachts. Three different people in those years, I don't like to call them men, offered me their wives, but since I never accepted, don't know in exchange for what. Doing by not doing, thinking by not thinking, for no reason other than somebody knew somebody, with no preparation of the study of language than this, I became a writer. How that works as an unconscious method in art and lit might be sought in some circles today, if one can find them, but in that time and place no such conversation occurred. The fingers reached to touch each other like the sides of the brain.
It goes without saying that the spirit, reckless or not, suffers from significant agnosia as it enters life. I prefer to spell it ignosia. Just as if it is a miracle that the bones grow within the body producing the skeleton of maturity, the change the spirit has, to emerge from its ignosia into consciousness is its doing and undoing. This however does not happen without a certain age in the body, age and health, free of dementia, delusion, self infatuation. Seventy is offered by the Chuang Tzu. Before that, careening is as good a word as any, self directed also, with little notion of the consequence. But as ignosia wears off, which is not inevitable if addictions occur, austerity brings the removing cowl to conclude the spirit knows more of its purpose and can cooperate with it, however at that point it also knows the folly of what it attempted and can wonder what the sky castle was thinking, how the Board allowed attempt against odds.
Why and how I came to translating Taliesin stemmed from that same time as publication of Calendar. In preparations for my first trip to the British Museum, London and Wales I came on the Four Ancient Books of Wales and conceived a kind of road map tracing sites of those poems to Merlin, multipled all over Britain, but especially in the north. This led to many standing stones, forts, Stonehenge three times in the rain with rainbows, it was not fenced at all then, Old Sarum, Bath, dozens of sites in Carnarvonshire and Angelsey. I didn't take notes so much as receive impressions that carried along for two years until about1976 while I was driving from Bandera to Austin and began to compose Song, a villanelle that appeared in TQ: "Only three have returned from the battle's rage." I composed it in my head as I drove. It folded into the three themes of the four books, the agony of war, the love of woman, the worship of God. Takes of these had begun a few years before and continued or adapted with work in progress. One, "Long the days and long the nights I held this image in my mind of red on gold" had to do in my mind with the last bushman of van der Post, introduced to me by Bill Lee. Five of the battle poems saw daylight in Austin in print in Latitude 30° 18' (Winter 1985), but the love poems and the divine sonnets attributed to Taliesin were no more his than the battle poems, all foisted upon after the manner of mask, conceived from Shakespeare perhaps, so sometimes I called them Poems of the Unknown Soldier buried in the Welsh countryside, to consecrate the connection between Taliesin’s meditations and the entire Welsh nation, entirely fabricated.
The Unknown Soldier came mythically to every country and each person. Pretending to be written in the mystical tradition at the battle sites of Britain, Merlin, Aneirin, the sea, the Poems were accompanied in the manuscript by the medieval Hanes Taliesin, properly understood as transformations of the living into the praises of Jesus, full of craving for God. This kind of rough-hewn worship, like Old Testament battle songs where they go out praising, and among them also songs of love, suits Hugo Chavez. It’s a little amazing how far fancy will go. It was claimed that these poems took after the dozen historical elegies of the Sixth century in traditions Caesar wrote of in the conquest of Britain, tales of transformation that anonymous writers in the mask of Taliesin added later to mystical religious work of Biblical and prophetic subjects. Myrddin, said to have died after the Battle of Arfderydd (573 AD), and source of our modern “Merlin” out of Nennius (9th century), is there made the historical counterpart with Taliesin, and words ascribed to him in the 10th century Historia Britonnum flit about in the battles. So the spirit of the four Welsh bards, Taliesin, Aneirin, Myrddin and Llywarch Hen, who survive in the fourteenth century Red Book of Hergest, are implicated in the fifty-eight poems attributed to Taliesin.
To show how far this went two anagrams were composed according to the spelling of the Taliesin's name, for at first, the old spelling, Taliessin prevailed, which was conflated with Charles Williams (as above).
Taliessin, bard countenance,
All of your fame has not been lost.
Long did you serve a king, Urien Rheged,
Inside a bag among bull rushes
Elphin the prince took up this gift;
Somber the bards of the Isle of Britain,
So long without peer in the eye of the west
In praising the God of creation.Nine are the letters in the name of Taliessin.
Now time ends, Taliesin,
Illustrates the heaven,
Silent the storms of blood,
Eight times the letter proved.
Intent on it he stands,
Listening to his God,
As lost men stop for towns,
Throats clearing, tongues kindling flame.
The Bodhisattva twice returned,
Above heaven learned,
Love's sacrifice saves men,
Jesus, creation's Lord, and heaven's.
Every people, lands and men
Shall look on him they pierced,
Irate behold rejected come,
Neighbors and saints judge all earth.
Letters and memoirs fit poetics because all of us are alone and who less or more than another? Engaged thinks the text counts. But we already see it doesn't. The text does not exist. Everything is translation. Who can read under the words what's written? The reason such counsel to live out the biblical resonantes is that after all the foils are still, three important advises from well meaning people are here cited. What's the point? When you get beyond 70 and all the previous points have been erased you are standing naked and pointless. So says Chuang Tzu. If one fit into some puzzle and played a role in continuity, that would be a point, when the sound of the grinding is getting low, but you never see what it amounted to, are lucky to know where it came from, if you do, but I do know, of this tenth generation, but that's all when he goes to the long home. What's the point, what mattered at all? Sir Stephen in his Journals of 1985 is not as supple or interesting as in his World of 1951. Were that reversed it were something, but in age the soul is less believing of its haps and mishaps. So childhood and youth are vanity.
Faith and continuity of life connect the parts. Coming before the board to design a life the plan is too daring. The board has to assert itself, add some helps. The chief help added to my life was Cleopatra, who I finally married after seven years. This whimsical name for her occured on a recent bus trip to visit the last unloading of the Don Reitz wood kiln. The last because thereafter he died. Not that these contradictions do not go on and on, but taking her to med school is one mishap not regretted.
These may not exactly be the things William Arrowsmith had in mind when he argued for "a free and unindoctrinated habit of mind." There are however undeniable political and social dimensions to poetry and art. They exist cheek and jowl with the “timid, unimaginative, debased, inefficient, [and] futile”...humanists who “had betrayed the humanities.” Humanists become the drones, but Arrowsmith thought the central “enabling principle” of the humanities was “the principle of personal influence and personal example.” Exactly what this is in greater and lesser contexts, other than magnaminity, is and was not so clear. Within the bounds of the discipline it is one thing, in the department even less. You after all are chosen to be professor on the unstated basis that you fit in. But the higher up they are authority drives them mad. Joe Moldenhauer declared that year, 1980, that no member of the English department could talk to the press. He ate this decision every day for lunch in the next weeks. That was for the tenured. Nobody could imagine the untenured could talk. Arrowsmith called for “visible embodiments of the realized humanity of our aspirations, intelligence, skill, scholarship; men ripened or ripening into realization." No doubt today he would say men and women or would have no pie. But the gender wars that rage among the elite are further blind to the "“timid, unimaginative, debased, inefficient, [and] futile” humanists who “had betrayed the humanities.”
The meaning of visible embodiment of realized humanity is a much more common thing than the superman, the Nietzschean ideal in the background of science and the humanities. Realized humanity lies in devotion and self sacrifice, hard work, the earth, family, children, fidelity, prayer, participation in the community, planting trees and controlling those urges toward denigration and anger that decompose the human fabric. The only error in Arrowsmith's call for reform for realized humanity is the sample he is studying. Only when sanitized did it achieve a level of being worth emulating. Otherwise dogmatism, drugs, hallucinations and rejection are its paradigm. If it is realized humanity it can't be Nietzsche, but it might be some dock worker. To think these cannot have the inner life of Rimbaud might be a prejudice as important as racism to examine, as important as gender is a prejudice. Do we really think that the greatest among us are the ones off center who do not live long who achieve diseased greatness? Maybe that paradox is error, but nature includes failure and these, the academic, to use the political metaphor, are failed states. Failed states fall. A state is measured on a social scale, but a state of being is personal. Poet's failed states have often been celebrated with external and internal contaminants, alcohol or depression basically, or if you like, inebriants or depressives.
In "The Shame of the Graduate Schools: A Plea for a New American Scholar,” in Harper’s, that the American Council on Education published as “The Future of Teaching,” together with other pieces like “Arts and Education” and “Graduate Study and Emulation,” educational life in America was concluded “timid, unimaginative, debased, inefficient, [and] futile” because the humanists “had betrayed the humanities.” Graduate schools had grown indifferent to teaching and adopted a doubtful scientism intended merely to inculcate information (footnotes). Arrowsmith held that a mastery of scientific method “cannot help man live or die well.” Only the humanities could do that, but how if corrupt? Graduate educators had therefore, for him, betrayed the central “enabling principle” of the humanities: “the principle of personal influence and personal example.” He called for Socratic teachers who were “visible embodiments of the realized humanity of our aspirations, intelligence, skill, scholarship; men ripened or ripening into realization, as Socrates at the close of the Symposium comes to be.” I was fired three times from this behemoth, twice itself from this Texas U.
"...Blackmur defined for Arrowsmith a pedagogical ideal to which he afterward became devoted: “the formal discourse of the amateur” who visibly lives by his convictions. And Blackmur’s formalism, so different from the “mere philology” of the dry-as-dust classicists, fixed Arrowsmith’s mature critical method, “a free and unindoctrinated habit of mind, provisional and complex according to the nature of its subject, a habit of mind based on knowledge and love. A criticism, in short, adapted to the nature of the work of art.” ...As a classicist he did not accord pre-eminence to the Greek Apollonian vision of reason or to the lumen siccum, the dry light of clarity and lucidity, of Latin rationalism. The idea of reason controlling the self, the body, and the passions was to him quite arid and implied merely the techné of science. Nietzsche the classicist and the genealogist of tragic drama was one of his masters, and from Nietzsche and the Greek tragedians he derived the very distinctive worldview outlined in his essay “Turbulence in the Humanities.” There he proposed that
the humanities are largely Dionysiac or Titanic; they cannot be wholly grasped by the intellect; they must be suffered, felt, seen. This inexpressible turmoil of our animal emotional life is an experience of other chaos matched by our own chaos. We see the form and order not as pure and abstract but as something emerged from chaos, something which has suffered into being. The humanities are always caught up in the actual chaos of living, and they also emerge from that chaos. If they touch us at all, they touch us totally, for they speak to what we are too. ...He saw moral and social values as originating in the Titanic struggle of man to become his fate and to transcend his animality. Heracles in Sophocles’ Women of Trachis was a like exemplum. Afflicted by the love potion mixed of the Centaur’s gore, Heracles chooses to die by his own hand rather than be mastered by the beast within. He will die by his own blaze, the inward god triumphant over the beast. He will burn the beast out of himself, even though it is the beast that has made him the hero he is. For it is Titanic, animal, energy—pure hybris—that makes great men do great things and achieve god. All order worth having, Sophocles says, is born of the effort of turbulent men—men who do not know themselves—to surpass the animal turbulence that drives them to violate their limits and break down the barriers between man and god."
"Arrowsmith wanted teachers of the humanities to be equals of the heroes or great men of Classical epic and drama, men of areté, worthy of emulation; or, failing that, men who at least knew what greatness was and desired it for themselves and their students. Bill always denied that he was “a latter-day priest of Dionysus,” disowned the Sixties “‘apocalyptic’ faction against the exponents of order and reason,” and affirmed controlled passion. But the merit Arrowsmith ascribed to Titanic animal energy in conflict with the world and the role he assigned it in the origination or transvaluation of values, while reason or the Apollonian vision was relegated to a secondary position, made it plain to me that there was much of the Nietzschean romantic in Bill’s intellectual makeup. It was this readiness to allow Titanic animal energy its explosive moment in the streets that doubtless made him resistant to the appeal of The New Criterion, which meant—as I understood it—to bring under the scrutiny of reason all modes of cultural expression demanding immediate alterations. Still, what was fascinating for me was to see—once I had met him—how richly Arrowsmith embodied in himself the passionate intellectual intensity and headlong appetite for life of the heroes of Classical antiquity whom he so much admired for challenging the limits of fate."
Arion: A Journal of Humanities and the Classics, Spring/Fall 1993; Boston University, 312 pages, $7. This issue includes tributes to Arrowsmith by some two dozen of his colleagues and admirers and also reprints three of his essays: “The Shame of the Graduate Schools,” “The Future of Teaching,” and “Turbulence in the Humanities.” Go back to the text.
"Paradoxically, Arrowsmith took umbrage at the first issue of the magazine. He condemned the editor’s introductory “Note,” called Kramer’s description of the aesthetic purpose of the journal a defense of capitalism, and sought to withdraw the Eliot article, but it was too late, as the piece had already been set in type. Some of us thought this aversion to capitalism rather odd, given Arrowsmith’s expensive tastes, but were prepared to understand intellectual consistency as the hobgoblin of little minds. Arrowsmith’s only other appearance in The New Criterion was a spirited exchange of letters in June of 1987 with William Jay Smith, who had had the temerity to challenge Arrowsmith’s translation of Montale and who even called him, of all things, a pedant. Why Arrowsmith might have disagreed with the founding idea of The New Criterion is a matter to which I shall return in a moment.
From The New Criterion Vol. 12, No. 10, June 1994
©1994 The New Criterion Back to the top http://www.newcriterion.com/
* As a footnote to academic freedom of the humanities, this anecdote from c. Texas, 1970:
John Silbur is quoted extensively in Radical Evil about the Willkür and will, which leads to my memory of an audience with him in 1969 when he was Dean of Arts and Sciences at UT. Maybe he made it the Athens it was (Ameryca With a Y, Part II) for that decade. He notably wanted the best teachers and was definite about it. I had been fired as a TA in English for being in Linguistics, but this masked the real reasons. Riding a wave of two years in North Carolina teaching at FSC and getting fired, ending up at Texas that fall, I continued teaching enthusiastically with wild assignments and classes, unchecked because there were after all 600 TAs. I took an interpretation of teaching composition that was mildly gnostic with Christian beliefs underlying everything about the expansiveness possible to the individual if constraints and restraints were thrown off. At Bishop one college year, assigned remedial English, I immediately began to generate a grammar on the board with the students, merely from the way they spoke. The college reassigned me in a few weeks to another class. I guess the difference between reassignment and reprimand were the new letters after my name. I thought and expressly said that all human beings are geniuses in the expression of their thought streams. You can see Blake. This kind of teaching cannot be tolerated and is a threat to every control. If it isn't clear who was going to win this battle you can guess. At that time though I was only on my second firing, had more left, along with more natural disturbances to walk, the workman's comp against the Clayton Foundation over radioactive zylene, the destruction of the drug garden. It took many decades to purge these impulses from me, to redirect them.
Give credit to our masters, they know what they're doing. I never taught again after 1986, but those efforts from the balaclava bakery, the fiction since 2005, along with Histopossum and Opiomes since 2011, were equally adjusted. As one dissenting student said in an evaluation, "will they let just anybody teach?" Students used to leave me little tokens of their affection and encouragement all the time, cones of incense, notes, cards. It makes a big difference not to be bored out of your skull in English class.
These student comments are from Fayetteville, immediately before arriving in Tejas:
--This letter's sole purpose is to introduce you to one......and to inform you about his ability as an English instructor. Being in the same room with this man for four months has played a greater effect on my whole life than the 14 years of schooling which I have had previously. His wonderful ability to make you think is something only experience can tell. The method he uses is not a "do or else" but of a desire to learn as much as possible in a short time.
--The mere idea of a young man his age having the intellectual abilities which he possesses is almost frightening. his style and his ideas can only be compared to those of an intellectual genius. There isn't any way to describe this man's talents in a letter or a book, one would have to come in contact with this man in order to believe that person like this really exists.
--He is a teacher who will make the black student wonder about. he does not speak too highly of his own race, but seems to enjoy working with the blacks. Questions enter the student's mind which take a long time to answer. I am still puzzled about his concern for the blacks.
--Being a white man in a black school, he shows no sign of prejudice towards the black student.
It is true that he is a white man, but what negro man or woman could you go to and tell him your problems and ask for help? Not one! The negro man will give some smart remarks and try to get fresh, which the negro woman doesn't like you because you look better than she does.
--He is different from other instructors I have had in his grotesque ideas. His ideas are not really grotesque but they seem so different from any other instructors. He wanted to make us think and there is no better way than to look at happenings from a mixed up point of view.
I retained these attitudes throughout, avoiding the admissions of weariness celebrated by Garrison Keillor and Billy Collins in their interview [31:00f] whose intellect must enturd their life of mind. As Ambrose Gordon says, "Supposedly correcting all these papers which tell me / of sin, and of Melville/ ...I turn a blank page / to confront a still blanker mind." Taking the view that literature is misery Keillor says "almost everyone I know who taught college English wound up exhausted, burnt out, bitter, tired of reading more term papers about Huck Finn. Collins (ambivalent, sardonic): "That's me. How did you know? Reading student writing is spiritually bad for you...reading bad writing is not good for your soul...has deeply damaging effects over the years." I just could not get back into the game after 1986. An interviewer of Grand Canyon decided I would leave Phoenix after our residency was up, etc. Don't be sad, if you are inclined. The audacity of thinking and being astonishes more in this age of crowd wisdom than it did then. I might be pushing double the number of firings.
In the one effort made at governance my fellow participants facetiously blamed my wild assignments for its disbanding. These were to be shared by TAs around a table, but after three meetings Maureen McElroy was flummoxed and the thing ended. That was Fall '68. By Spring '69 things had progressed well beyond. I held all night evening classes on the Colorado River, began classes with each member of a traveling trio of actors I was associated with coming in and introducing themselves as the teacher. This went to the point in fact where the radio station in 1970 had called the English department for permission to attend one, the one where, while I was reading Blake one stormy morning about thunder and lightning, just at the appearance of those words there was intense thunder and lightning. There were other effects too so that one student had called the Ultimate Authority, the Radio. We all know what that will lead to. Good teachers get fired. So instead of a reporter the department sent the assistant head of Freshman English, a retired Baptist minister, to listen (surreptitiously) outside the door.The theme of the class was psychological games, according to the syllabus, Youth and Identity in Crisis by Erikson etc. So we had done transactional analysis with Eric Berne and so on, but the night before my wife and I had accepted an invite by a fellow grad student and his wife for dinner at their place, which I allowed because the guy had a lion in Phlugerville I had visited. As the evening progressed they asked if we wanted to play a game. They called it a marriage game. It had a board and dice and places to land. Maybe they made it themselves. Maybe such things are marketed. So as the game progressed with little touchie feelie things, gently escalating toward its main intent, they suggested bringing out the hookah, or maybe it was a board move, which they did and passed around. Some hours later I realized it was spiked with meth. As the game progressed I started saying no. Of course my wife agreed. You can be sure of one thing, those who want to seduce you do not attract but repel. Saying no went further until they said the game didn't like us anymore, as if that hurt! So after a decent interval we left. That morning in that class I had put this game up on the board, except instead of calling it a marriage game I called it what it was, a fuck game, and was analyzing with the class its techniques of seduction, all to the unseen audience of the assistant chair outside the door. I had an audience with him myself after this where he told me about the radio station and etc. but didn't think too much of it until I got the letter from English saying that since I was in linguistics that was intolerable and I had to be expunged. This happened before semester's end so I got myself evaluated by the students according to due process and took the evaluations to John Silbur on appeal, since I both wanted and needed a job. He sized me up quick. I didn't realize then how much I had in common with him, except I was a poet and he a philosopher, but he must have seen it. German Presbyterian educators of the underdog, let us say. He did ask about the difference between the two sections. I could have deliberated with him about Donald Barnhouse. I replied that every class is different, such a normal response he passed it. The evaluations themselves were so far off the charts that you'd think they were reviewing a standup night club act. Maybe part tent meeting, part.... I'm embarrassed by it now, (see Ameryca With a Y, IV.1) but at the time was compelled. Silbur wrote to English and said that while it was theirs to decide he wanted the best people on the job. If you knew the Dean and the department, that was an ultimatum which English post haste obeyed and rehired. I then decided that I didn't belong in linguistics anyway and transferred to English, which Dr. Lehmann regretted, as he was recruiting me for an NDEA grant. Imagine. In all fairness I was also thought to have been involved in an attempt to unionize the 600 English TAs at that time, which did not happen. The department started its own AGSE and I was elected to its board, was co-chair (briefly). So when I think of John Silbur and Willkür and will, his best work, although interested in Architecture of the Absurd obviously, and his 15 million foot build out at Boston U, failing to be elected gov of Mass by a last second interview in which he would not say what his bad points were, his 41 year old son dying at home, his childhood in SA having to fight for respect because of his arm, not being told his aunt died in Auschwitz, or even that his father's family were Jews, I recognize his full fledged humanity, but, as with us all, it is a vanity of our time. It didn't matter he wasn't elected gov, or that he saved BU. All that matters is that he was a philosopher who ruled his Republic. In the end what lasts is his example.
Reluctant to give detail lest it be mistaken for something else, I went to Tesla Tech and failed accounting, math, and logarithms. However a deep drink of the Bible and what that implies of Torah and the much sought fellowship of the Holy Spirit compensated. My acquiescence to a business degree was superseded by poetry, which found me in Costa Rica where I went as part of that college's coop program. I obtained a job there much as I would do dissertation research later, intuitively, just as I divined Blake's Tyger for Geoffrey Hartman in a first semester of graduate school in English after a degree in business. As such I stumbled upon Rhodes Dunlap and Donald Justice and on John Huntley who taught Milton, but was involved with SNCC and mentioned a clearing house that recruited teachers for southern Black colleges. I took his reference and a job at Fayetteville State College, which I never mentioned to Huntley who would have been glad. I lasted there, a shock to the system, until the assassination of Dr. King, when, urged to move on, I applied at UT-Austin because the application was free. Arriving there during the Democratic convention of Chicago of '68, I lived on a sheep ranch outside town and pursued contradiction avidly. I finished a dissertation, Restorations of the Golden Age in New World Discoveries in time for graduation in '75, but conceiving somehow that I owed an MFA thesis to myself, a poetic version of Restorations in that vision of the time where Ameryca was conceived as a mystical transcendence of children, A Calendar of Poems: Encouragements for Such as Shall Have Intention to be Undertakers in the Planting of the NewFoundLand appeared slightly before Restorations (December, 1973).
[John Huntley: When some of us faculty and students created ‘The Mississippi Support Program’ in 1963, Lane [Davis professor Political Science] was among the first to come forward. We began backing the white kids from Iowa who’d worked in Mississippi that summer registering disenfranchised voters. Later the group collected books, clothing, and food, shipping stuff down to Holly Springs, Mississippi, for distribution by locals. Lane’s energy and strong belief in civil rights for all fired much of this activity. MSP (as the program got to be called) also established liaison with Rust College, a black college in Holly Springs. Faculty and administrators from Iowa went down; others came up. For 2 summers, the program brought Rust College students to Iowa for specially designed courses. UI Sailing Club Minutes, 3 Nov 2004.]
Unable to enjoy the Modern Language Association variety of varsity players of the profession, I washed bottles in a biochemical lab for five years after that, and grew herbs for three years as horticulturist of the College of Pharmacy's Experimental Drug and Herb Garden. These herb gardens also happened by accident, important because the dream it implied was as real as that previous contemplation of Ameryca. I had seen jars of herbs in a window sill in Chicago ten years before, whose vision and fragrance were so convincing I began cultivation and operated multiple greenhouses. Riding a bike in central Austin I happened on the Drug Garden on its last legs, which eventually I tended before it was bulldozed then by the U for an archery range.
In the midst of these events I met the girl I was to marry and take a place in genealogy. Herbs of yellow flowered aesclepias and zanthoxylum, hedeoma and live oaks grew on a plot her grandmother had in the Texas Hill Country. I planted thyme and lavender in Indian country filled with flint springs, middens, limestone, persimmons, old stage stops. Hill country and herbs together were the motive of Native Texans (1984) which was accepted and reneged upon by two successive Texas publishers, then issued privately in three small printings.
The next event, the birth of our first child, coincided with my wife qualifying for Med school and a move to Dallas to pursue this. I was happy to teach at Bishop College there, another Black college and did for five years, which flew by considering all the activities. Many notable events at Bishop College were active with writing. Two book length manuscripts saw daylight by rising early, sometimes three AM, writing and then typing the day's work before the family rose. One semester the lit texts didn't come on time, so since it was a Baptist related institution with a religion major, and most students had a Bible, and as the Norton Anthology of World Lit began with some Psalms, we started there and when the books still did not show expanded to a conversation with the Messianic Psalms. Having learned to prepare ahead of time, I began to write essays to base the discussions, so it was no stretch to continue at home when the books finally did arrive. In about three months this produced a manuscript of Psalms 1-41 taken from a "poetic" point of view which read the psalms as poems and not theology, issued as A Poetical Reading of the Psalms of David (1985), finished the day our second child was born, and made available in proof.
Around this time quasi scholarly articles, sometimes called poetic research by McCaffery and others, as opposed to scholarly, were circulated. Psalm 1 appeared in Epiphany and a spin off from Isaiah in Conoscenza Religiosa. This had been sent to Mystical Studies where it was rejected, but Elemire Zolla, a reader, translated it into Italian and published it in Rome. I later sent a consideration of Psalm 8 and 16 to Mystical Studies which was accepted, but the journal ceased publication the following year. About that time I completed the Taliesin Poems, pseudo translations from travels in Wales before we married. There was an exhibit at Bishop College of thirty acrylic canvases and elsewhere in the city of stained glass panels done in that time. Such things resulted, along with editing a literary mag at Bishop, The Red Rose, in being offered promotion and tenure, astonishing since the college was in fact to close within two years and none of the faculty would be paid. My wife being ready for her residency we interviewed in major cities of the southwest and could not bear to have not lived in Arizona where the wilderness was so close, so after one year of tenure at Bishop she took a residency in Phoenix and I resigned, avoiding the last gasp of that school's demise after 105 years.
That year, 1985 ended my teaching career which had never been among the entitled. I had no desire to contribute to the status quo. In Phoenix, a wife in residency and two small children, it was fortunate I didn't teach. Many mornings saw the one year old and six year old with their father in the Four Peaks wilderness where he sketched pastels of the rocks on back roads until noon. I joined two different groups of artists who hired models to do life drawings together.
A major attraction of this residency was that residents of the hospital helped staff a medical clinic at the south rim of the Grand Canyon and could also elect to live a month there, in addition to many weekends moonlighting. While she worked the clinic the children and I walked the Bright Angel and Kaibab trails over and over. In her month there we learned our third child had been conceived, and his brother to be, four years old, did an immediate backward somersault, landing on his feet, the only one of his life. Those years are filled with images of red rock and sandstone, red shadows, ravens, Japanese tourists, snow bows, for it snowed when the sun was out, and other snows too, with long walks down into warmer weather along mule trails, climbing up on the sides when the mule train passed. This was as good or better than all the mornings spend in the lower deserts where we took extensive hikes too, once doing 22 miles in the Mazatals one long day with creosote, yellow rattlers and waterfalls, which is what we came to Arizona for. In Texas you can hardly leave the road for barbed wire.These things obviously preoccupy both the foreground and background of later fiction.
Almost anybody can have children, but the rest is harder. At a certain age ironies are everywhere. Maybe you don't want to admit that they are doing to you what you did, in spades. Nobody knows either before or after. Our daughter found her wavelength early, but adversities and her own predilections prevailed, even as she was indelibly baptized in the constant word and works of experience, knowledge, art, nature, travel. Her mother read continuously to her and them all, acting out the parts in various dialects. The bath of puns, images and ideas made pathways in their brains as significant as their personalities. Her brother, an RN, photographer, athlete, sculptor, musician is diverse enough, and the youngest took up such things as effortlessly as his athletic prowess, which he then exchanged for a girl and a baby. Preventing any of this was the last thing on our minds since we were so busy nurturing it. All the while the imagination spins and saves until after it is all fiction of that post idyllic age. It would be nice to circle and be a child again, but children become adults and may forget everything their lovers, fathers and mothers, hold dear. Everything you remember of their lives they do not.
I studied the renaissance because the 20th century seemed too obvious. This had started with Bill Ingram, a Shakespearean scholar who held classes in his apartment in Powelton Village, a doctoral student from Penn who later taught at Michigan. About a dozen or so students would read and discuss the plays in his garret with another teacher, Bill Hollis. Ideal as this was it got better the night I wondered if by then I had not read about everything there was, so he asked, have you read the Faerie Queene? The goose bumps rise together at the mention of so much of justice, Elizabeth, the stellium of minds, the kingdom of myth, allegory. So I said, what's that? JD Beatty asked me later in the first semester at Iowa, Andy, what happened to the other six books! So Bill Ingram assigned me a paper on the allegory of evil in Book I, not knowing of the Big Drink referenced above. It got the highest grade I ever got. Due to that Drink Rhodes Dunlap the next year, reading another paper on the FQ in graduate school at Iowa, but filled with spelling errors, recognized the analysis and identifications of Spenser's biblicism were my own citations, not something I read. Beginning with Spenser, I fell into and out of grace, as with Warner Barnes, teacher of the required bibliography class at Iowa, for whom I did an annotated C.S. Lewis bibliography at around 50 pages, which he rewarded with a job on the Mark Twain Project, collating text. He had sponsored a book collector club I disdained at the time, but I used to go through boxcar loads of books at the Salvation Army of Cedar Rapids, all unknowing that I started to do then what I did in the 90's with rare books, to capture the 20th century before it passed. Of course I read Donne at length, Wyatt and Sidney, but worked hard on Henry Vaughan for some reason and on the plays of Marston and Italian precursors, with everyday thoughts of Urn Burial and quincunxes, Euphues and Deloney, sonnets all round, culminating in Milton, not to say Hawthorne. In the wind I picked up Emily Dickinson on my own and Blake from Geoffrey Hartman, who was really consumed with Wordsworth's cannibalism of little Lucy. Other than the glowering of Donald Justice, playing football with Jim Heynen and Gary Sange at different times, hosting lit discussions along the railroad tracks in Coralville next to the cement plant, across from the Iowa river, one of the big events was one morning at 22 below when I got the car to start, a little NSU Prinz, and went out saving lives of the stranded. It was incredible fun to go to Hartman's class in parkas and boots, a life that ended for the real for which there is no stopping.
I wanted to teach at a black college. At Fayetteville State College, Dean Malvin E. Moore wanted us to apply for a NASA summer hiring program, which I did, and ended up with a secret clearance to examine the last decade of NASA contracts. Shall one say this revealed the hosts of Operation Paperclip and counter NASA superstructure, or that I lasted 5 days and went over to the Folger Shakespeare Library and sought admission? Rhodes Dunlap's name got me in and I shared a desk with Charles Mish and learned of all seamy fiction of the 18th century. Roy Flannigan of the Milton Newsletter was there. I smoked a pipe for the sake of ambiance, went to coffee with the Boswells of Georgetown, bounced up and down on the humanists leather cushions, read Elizabethan grammars and the Martin Marprelate Tracts, did a propaganda analysis. I lived with my dog and companion at 1800 R, walked to Dupont Circle in the evenings among the crowd of narcs, provocateurs, hippies, dealers, congo drums and salesmen. I was once asked if I knew where to buy some lettuce.
The faith that extended best from Iowa to Fayetteville, Washington DC to Texas was Friendly, a very long brown and white basset hound with an attitude, who joined me in the Iowa winter after I gave him some roast beef. A little protective, he bit a number of people he didn't like. How's that for freedom from inhibition? Bloods would cross to the other side of the street in DC when they saw Friendly coming. Dogs can see the human spirit, the naked intent? Friendly and I had an intuitive link. Somebody at a catfish fry in Coralville said that he wouldn't have minded being a dog under me! When I moved to the sheep ranch outside Austin, the rancher, Lawrence Warren, had his own dogs and there were packs of dogs all around. Lawrence's two dogs joined up with three of the neighbor's dogs and came for Friendly that first night. I had left him outside. He knew what to do. Those dogs attacked about three AM. By the time I got out the door two of them were down and the other three were leaving. The next day Charlie Black, the rancher's everyday small dog, brought down Charlie Brown, usually aloof from it all, a husky-shepherd mix, large, tall and near 150 pounds. He and Friendly met halfway, circled and sniffed in respect. Friendly was a quarter his size, but they reached detente. He used to take week long forays into the hills in season, but was shot by a rancher, which it took me some weeks to understand. I saw him dead in the back of a pickup in a dream.
After the summer at the Folger I went back to FSC, but was joined then by other enlistees, for Fayetteville had found government money to finance expansion: Barbara Meyerson, Karl Hillie in English, Penelope Slacum and Paul Roberts in history and Guy Jacobson a Parisian Judokan, to teach French. Guy, a third degree, had competed all over Europe and later organized classes. Dr. Moore had said to us on our first interview the year before that he wanted us to teach the students to be just like us. This was a misunderstanding of who we were. Dr. Jones, the president, said we shouldn't teach 'em, we should learn 'em. But the influx of white M.A.'s combined with an influx of northern students on athletic and other scholarships from Bed/Sty, Newark, anything but naive, contributed to radicalizing the campus. In this mix students from the islands off SC, Gullah people, and from the pine flats of NC and Virginia came. There were some outstanding faculty and staff. Harvey Jenkins, the art teacher, affable and creative, was maybe the best athlete in the area. He took the judo class. In exhibition Guy had a really hard time throwing him, but in an earlier match Harvey stayed up five times in succession against a Fort Bragg club, after three months of instruction. Ollie Cox in English was editor of the school paper and gave freedom to New Yorkers Bill Halsey and Bernard Pearson to express their notions of liberation. He printed a sheaf of my poems and Gershon B. Fiawoo's which provoked the response, "he's against football!" I knew a student who had been in Stanleyville with the air force, Archie Johnson. We made a deal that he would teach me chess, he had been a champion in the air force, and I would get him over the grammatical hump. He became a radical too, didn't eat for weeks and weeks, published an underground newsletter, facetiously called, "Uncle Tom Speaks." In the end his diction became Shakespearean. But the pressures in the cooker were rising. Mr. C. I. Brown, Charlie, was assistant to the president and liaison for all kinds of faculty interests, but also a tennis player so he and I played twice a week. He would always warm up carefully in his sweats. He had a son my age. I showed him things I was writing and he stimulated some publications. Along about March or April of 1968 the pot boiled over and the students took over the school for different demands. One of them was to get more black teachers, which contributed to the nonrenewal of contracts a week before graduation that year.
All my freshmen classes kept a journal with the promise that up to five points would be added to their final grade according to how much they wrote. Their frankness and interest much exceeded the norm so Ollie and I printed excerpts from their journals anonymously in the school paper, although I would ask their permission. Remnant responses to what I taught in those years remain, as below, because Charlie Brown insisted I have the students evaluate my teaching. [The excerpts following the assignment in Austin, given below, are from those.] Even before the spring of '67 the ladies of the department, including the President's wife, who taught reading, were affronted by the black power boys, as they called them, who they seemed instinctively to fail. In the Lit II class these young men would sit dispersed about the room, feet up on the chair in front, shades over the eyes, hands on their crotch. I took it up, except for the last, wore shades, but got the better of them because the term paper was a journal of their thoughts modeled after Notes from the Underground, which we had read. Some of the papers submitted were way above average and given high grades, which produced A's and B's for them, giving evidence of themselves as thinkers and writers, especially Gregory Savoy who I remember the ladies wanting to humble. I visited him the next year at his home in D.C. when I was at the Folger, met his family and the promise he gave of a bright future. I visited Archie Johnson the next year, driving to Lumberton from Austin and stayed with him. The mother of his child was just sure I would not show. I stopped in then also to see President Jones too, even after all that water under the bridge with an AAUP censure. He had liked my enthusiasm, used to come into the buildings on Saturday to see who was there and he usually found me. It was a good place to work. He said, "I wish you hadn't done the things you did," referring I guess to the AAUP. I said the same thing back to him, but it was amicable. That is the saying isn't it, "love covers a multitude of sins." Also on that last visit I went to see Karl Hillie who was in the asylum for a nervous breakdown which you could see coming. He is the only one I have been in contact in these long years after. I had a long talk with him then. He said he found out that his wife could tell him "everything" if he asked correctly, not far off the mark with that. He thought I was William Blake he said. We played checkers behind the barbed wire. It gave a new understanding and passion to my public readings of Howl in the next years. I have two letters from him of that time addressed to "William." He recovered and taught there the next five years, the only one in the end not fired.
1. This document on onion skin was part of a graduate application to the University of Chicago and Johns Hopkins before I went to Texas. A Statement of MetaPataAesthetaphysics:
"Excluding the period from 1945 to the present, my interest is 16th century England and particularly the "neo-elizabethan" prose meaning wit, inventive ellipse, mimetic words, macro-phonetic overlaps, metonymy, malaprops, partials, etc,--trying to create language that fit a time instead of appearing as it does to be a hyperbolic, glossolic misfit. I imply that the styles of modern Ciceronia reinforce a view of the world that is 200 years anachronistic, language being the last to advance and the least understood. By language I mean the language of Art, discovering kinds of v=erbal formulations I think that the concerns for story, linear plot--even flashbacks, and characterization are not the chief strengths of the verbal medium but are secondary to idiolect-symbolism. I judge that the growth of verbal English art must be in directing The Naked Lunch to run a non-picaresque course without sacrificing the nonverbal devices of kinesics; the writing must be both vocal and intellectual, appealing to sense and mind. The vocal-sense expression which Michael McClure calls "body metaphor" attempts to incorporate sounds, mimetic words, mock-forms to find linguistic structures of universal significance, the cries of beasts. What remains is rhythm, tone, diction and I think these should be of quality caresses, the very sound of each word and each cluster of words appealing immediately to sight and mind where they strike sense impression. McClure has done this by encoding presymbolic sounds without involving cognitive processes. I want to join presymbolic sounds into notional levels so that body and mind are together engaged. This is a form of comedy. Guntar Grass's comedy when John Barth talks about the death of the novel ultimately addresses himself to the failure of Aristotelian apparatus. Whether the best direction is McClure's physiophonetics or something deeper than the impression of heard sounds may have to wait on information about brain physiology. When it comes to intellectual meaning from such a style, if you destroy space and time or confuse them completely, what kind of meaning can be said to exist? But because the cognitive process does exist I think it important to engage the mind centrifugally."
It was only later that I was told about the bloodthirsty central Texas landscape. At the time I thought it genial and compatible. Does that mean I am dumbthirsty? Probably. I used to walk naked there. When I told this to my friend he never talked to me again. It makes my blood run cold, he said. But instead of the U of Chicago, I ended up on the sheep ranch outside Austin but did not pursue the English renaissance with the seriousness of a footnote eater. It depends on how you define the scientific parody of solutions to nonexistent problems, the Pataphysical. In graduate study the pataphysicist issued a flow chart on the prologue to Crane's Bridge, with diagrams, argued that Lowell discovered Pluto in Japan, proposed poems be sent into space as a corrective of Carl Sagan. Other than Tom Cranfill's Shakespeare class and Tom Whitbread's Stevens and Crane there was not much of interest in English, it being the second choice, for I had enrolled in linguistics. Proposals toward a universal model of language to Johns Hopkins and Chicago were turned down, but Texas, did not know better. But I would not accept the government fellowship that W. P. Lehmann proposed and anyway, descriptive linguistics, Swahili and acoustics aside, how would a failed logartharim student take mathematical linguistics? That was actually the name of the thing. Diligent hours of study by day saw the rest of the class escape over the horizon. At this time however the English department, which had given me a job right away because of Warner Barnes, began to question its judgment. Initially TAs were to attend a seminar led by Maureen McElroy in how to teach, to turn in their assignments and discuss them for mutual instruction. Friends in the class, John Cullen and Tom Goar insisted later that my assignments led to the seminar's demise. Pataphysics again. Dada for sure.
Warner Barnes was down from Iowa by the time I got to Texas. I showed my letter of application to him. With some diplomacy he said to let him write a letter in its place and he took it himself to James Ayers who was an under dean and told him the story, which he says Ayers responded that "we must cover these people" meaning I guess the black college expatriates. So I was on the payroll and paying instate tuition. But further, coming as I had out of the South, there was an interest in organizing the 600 English TAs in a union, along with SDS Howard Hertz and Ian Munroe, which made them and their associates seem rather a threat to the status quo, especially when it was rumored that Howard had taken a gun to class. Who knows?Here some reviews at hand given at FSC before Texas, the Texas ones are even more embarrassing:
To whom it may concern:
REFERENCE SYSTEM SEMANTICS: the classification of meaning by Cumulative factor: with class system analysis.
1. Nirvana means "blowing out."
2. Man does not have entire control over his world.
3. It follows from this that the most workable attitude about life is to realize this and stop fearing sneak attacks, replacing a frenzied with a relaxed deafness.
4. The only alternative to allowing the exercise of murder is to kill everyone else first.
5. This is the western way. Socrates is widely known for blowing out words, protesting he knows nothing and meaning that he knows everything. He breathes with Alcibiades all night and with the public forum all day.
6. Rangoon has no public forum, or baths, or the leisure to dispute.
7. Socrates man is manic, Rangoon man is depressive.
8. Socrates man is an intellect-abstractor. Rangoon man is an emotion-actor.
9. Black radicals are 60% emotion-abstractors. White radicals are 60% intellect-actors.
10. Everyone else is a fox or a mouse. The fox becomes an owl, the mouse becomes a cat.
11. It is obvious that Emotion-Action and Intellect-Abstraction are capable of relating to each other on multiple levels:
Black vs. White
East vs. West
Depressive vs. Manic
Buddha vs. Christ
Poor vs. Rich
Asian, African, Eskimo, Pygmy, Arab, Jew, Indian vs. Caucasian
12. Oh to be Caucasian,
White, and pure from sin.
Oh to be Caucasian,
White and always win.
Oh to be Caucasian,
We control your minds,
We won't ever leave you,
Stay and you'll be ours.
13. Nirvana means "blowing out," but not in the sense of great rational defenses against feeling-being.
14. To feel is to be more essentially human.
15. Moral rectitude is anal fixation.
16. The Hebrews thought the center of man was his bowels. The Christians thought the center of man was his heart. The Caucasians made the logical extension and utilize the heart and bowels for the same function. Having one more vestigial organ than the rest of the world, they thought they were further evolved and puffed up their single function as being superior. Their ancestors had divided the whole world into gods, devils, male, female, emotion, intellect, abstraction, action, black, white, west, east, rich, poor.
17. White and Black radicals have begun to make the world whole with chemicals.
18. When they get intellect, emotion, action and abstraction together they're going to take over America and do away with rich, poor, west, east, gods, devils. Male, female will remain separate forms except that they will be put together all the time.
18. If you want the future now, you can have a love-in. If you want America now, you can have a revolution. Oppression has taught them that in a really free society the many rule the few at the worst (not the few ruling the many as it now is), and at the best everybody is of equal value. The rich western whites will not be enslaved, but they will be made equal to everyone else. The ranks of power in the new world will be designated according to the amount of brotherhood practiced. They won't be exploited, they will be loved.
19. Since law and order is a necessity, it is best that they join the majority and not resist.
Assume you have taken this paper and other assignments home with you over Thanksgiving. Since they are interested in your academic progress, your parents read the assignments to see what they are missing.
1. What will be their response? (Explain the causes of it.) What kind of language (give examples) will they use to characterize the above statements.
Since an alternative to the present society has been proposed, write a defense of either the new proposal or the old proposal, realizing that your assumption is that this is the final communication before war. The stakes are that unless you persuade them or they persuade you, you will kill each other.
Not all the teacher evaluations were benign. One fellow said, "will they let just anybody teach English?"
Freshmen English had a designated curriculum, the first semester as Classical Rhetoric, with Corbett as a text, second semester as Identity, with Erik Erikson as a text. Halsey and Pearson from FSC were visiting in Austin to perform their plays, with also a female player that spring of '69, and each of us went in sequence to the class, announcing that he or she was the teacher, Then the students were to vote on who the real one was. That began the ride. The semester project was to invent a game, but the English department got a call from the radio station asking if they could send a reporter to a class, but the Department sent instead the assistant director, an ex preacher, to its eight AM offering to listen on the QT outside the door. He could have come on a more propitious day, but what he heard was enough to call a conference where he delivered the opinion that the TA was young. How could he be wrong, but I was teaching in the envelop of the moment, so... but the related outcome later that spring dictated that since that TA was in linguistics and these treasured spots should be first reserved for true English majors, he should be let go. That was the famous James Sledd speaking. I got evaluated real quick then, having learned from the previous occasion at Fayetteville, and on the basis of those evaluations, "Thank you Andy! He gave us life!" and other missives taken personally to the Dean, John T. Silber, who minceth not, wrote to English, but said the ball was now back in the court of the English department, which however backed down. Being out of the linguistiche a little anyway by then, the TA became an English major again. What rejoicing occurred then in those dharma halls. A bigger factor may have been John Cullen, who had gone to Sledd and said that if they didn't rehire me he would quit. Surely he would deny this now. The best things at UT however were across the way anyway in philosophy and classics, in Jung, para-geography, Rao, Desani, Shattuck, Arrowsmith (by extension) Stanley Hall (ballet). I cultivated Willis Pratt in English because I wanted copies of his Blake slides, managed this by submitting Blake's Tyger, for the third time in three years, A plus each time. I sat in on Ambrose Gordon's Aiken Lit because I wanted him too for my committee, and gave him a piece of octopus meat in class to illustrate Aiken's notion of corpuscular consciousness. Mostly the best of Texas Ed was the appearance of Borges, Ginsburg and Bly for readings, and the library.
2. It seems to me that these are worth quoting at length because they provide a context for our much more desperate state after the turn of the millennium. Since I never stop writing of this, and the complete index of that from 2005 to the present is online at EncouragementsforSuch, no need to rehearse it here. But to pick up the narrative post humanist as it were, after finishing the PhD, refusing the profession and living for its own sake, always in search of art, at a festival in Hyde Park I met Jim Bowman, traded him a large mint for a print. He was a part time bottle washer for the Clayton Foundation for Biochemical Research, but broke his leg and came to my door on one foot for me to sub for him. So I went to lab but he never came back, so I did five years. But the post docs, like the English teachers, were worried I was ruining their experiments with unclean dishes. There were two tubs, one of suds and one to rinse, lots of brushes, rubber gloves and beakers, flasks, test tubes, petri dishes and such. It was a 19 hour a week job, but I was saved by their getting a power electric washer that really got the stuff clean. Then however the penny pinching post docs decided that the bottles in which they mixed their litmus paper with radioactive zylene should also be washed too, it could save pennies a bottle, so Bill Lee, foreman of the lab, it not being his idea, took me into another lab, opened a window twenty feet away and showed me how to pour the bottles down the drain into Barton Creek. A little after this began I started having nosebleeds, figured it was the zylene, duh, filed a workman's comp case and got a liver bilirubin test. They were all upset, but then I learned there was a refrigerator in Dennis' lab that was so radioactive they couldn't open it. Dennis one time was going away for the weekend and asked me to feed his experimental rabbit kept in the basement, its cage was turned away from the light against the wall. This is the fate of all those human subjects also that we will never hear about. Appalled, I call that rabbit Pity and turned his cage to the light, but Dennis changed it back. http://www.sundress.net/21stars/issue03/reiff.htm
Dr. Reed, head of the biochem research, had a Christmas party each year. The post docs were upset when Bill instigated Dr. Reed to invite me, the dishwasher with a Ph.D. I took a giant aloe vera to the Reeds and met at the punchbowl a visiting Hungarian quantum chemist who loved poetry, so I performed an array of Shakespeare sonnets for him. Ilya Prigogene was the UT Nobel winner who said poetry and physics are the same. Born the same day and year, different cities though, Chicago and Philadelphia, Bill Lee taught me haikido, which accounts for something, and introduced me to Van de Wetering's work. He was the teacher in Austin and the fixer in the lab, since honored with remarks indicating he was a very good teacher. Despite the bilirubin test I became his demo for the class. Wearing the judo gi I used in Fayetteville he threw me around the mat. The room was huge, a gym, covered with mat. We would all roll around the walls for hours. The thing he seemed to like the least I liked the most, sitting on legs in meditation at the end of the class. He admitted the bulk of practitioners had excess libido.
Bill lived in Elgin among cotton farms. It was where my wife's father was born to sharecroppers, a place of cisterns and abandoned homes we explored, poverty too, for her father left school to work the fields in the sixth grade, exactly like my grandmother Anna. At 19 he enlisted and was shot down in 1944 during a mission over France, the 25th, to spend a year in Nazi camps. That gets as close to revealing what the black soils tell as anything, for these people never spoke of what lay in the ground. There are pictures of Carl's father, Ossian, plowing the fields with mules in 1920. I not only like these people but feel an identity with them. The railway depot still stands from which they came, for at that time a train ran from New York to Elgin. Ossian's wife came on that train nine years after he arrived, as did her cousins. Many houses on these farms in 1970 were just left open and deserted, belongings scattered on the floors. We found a Bible on a table in the living room, pages blowing open to this verse...but the verse is immaterial compared to the life and the soil, all so much more real than the humanists whose towers in Austin can nearly be seen from Ossian's field. The trees they used to fence their fields are gone too, along with everything else, for the condos were coming, the fence rows planted with osage orange, boie d'arc trees, hills silent against black earth. It says on the three legged table, "He dealt to every one of Israel, both man and woman, to every one a loaf of bread, and a good piece of flesh and a flagon of wine." In this Ecclesiastes of field and weather Elgin grew four times larger since those Sunday visits, deafening into silence lives, homes, ways of Swedish pioneers who settled there, the Swedish also being the first to settle Philadelphia.
I had been a semi pro dish washer, thus suited to serve five years in the Clayton labs. I had washed the letters off of tombstones at 15 and 16 at J. H. Matthews Co. in Pittsburgh, a foundry and factory. This recommendation I once gave as bio to a magazine that solicited, but then rejected a fictional work of Ben Gurions' on the intervention of angels in Israel. But there were angels in Elgin and in foundries, angels whose faces and hands, like cogwheels in the sky, held open gold flares. All experience being simultaneous with these visions of foundry, factory, field and heart do not equally transfer one to another. The Bible verse written over them is not ecclesiastical but prophetic, as if Elijah wore rubber gloves and labored over the tub, but at least nobody complained that I stacked the tombstones wrong or that the letters weren't clean as they had in the labs. A third time I did dishes at a nursing home, met the personnel director at the Arco gas pumps. She needed a dishwasher. What's a PhD for anyway? So I turned up the next day but the inmates like feedlot cattle didn't eat, but made mounds of garbage. Their food was taken to the "kitchen" and blasted off of plates by astronauts with a hose. That was my last dish job, except of course now as an amateur.
Amateur status is what Arrowsmith recommends for teachers of the humanities. “the formal discourse of the amateur” who visibly lives by his convictions...“a free and unindoctrinated habit of mind, provisional and complex according to the nature of its subject, a habit of mind based on knowledge and love. http://newcriterion.com:81/archive/12/jun94/tutu.htm
In perusing these memories I came on essays submitted for review to the journals, dismal responses of the closed shop, filled with anger and rejection and only infrequently any grace. The life of the intellect produces such impotence. They think the artist and poet must have their help to succeed. Grants, fellowships, contracts, appearances, prizes all help ensure that the right things are being done according to their light. This is not however how Whitman and Poe, Dickinson heard that fly in her house and knew right away to call the department. I had been in and out of my amateur status, dishwashing and gardening, but in 1980 an overwhelming need for cash, the coming birth of our daughter, required a re-up. That previous summer I canvassed the executive committee at UT with my intent. It was not an automatic hire because five years before, as Maureen McElroy explained, remembering me from that disrupted seminar previously, there just were not any jobs in the night school, the polite way of saying, take a hike. This was to avoid being actionable even if fraudulent. So at .500, with two hirings, and two firings, and that from the same university--why can't they make up their minds, the issue was in doubt--but they had instituted a grade inflation index by then, being concerned with such crimes, and maybe thought they wanted austerity in the department. If you got a 1 than you graded the student just like anybody else. Less than a 1 and you were tougher. Greater than a 1 and your student evaluations were in doubt. Everything was run on gossip and control. They forgot my earlier incarnation in linguistics and the union for which Neil McGaw started the Association of Graduate Students in English to forestall unionization and the enthusiasms of my teaching. I had been elected co-chair of the AGSE event, ran on the platform that gave cash to readers of poetry, a half dozen of which appeared. Happily I quit this farce and didn't finish that august term. Oh Ubu! All forgot. Hired thrice but fired only twice. At least I never won a teaching award. In those years that was the kiss and automatic loss of the down and the game. Texas was the place.
A better version of the Golden Age came out in elimae in early 2007 and other parts are of it as still stewing, but of course the whole idea that America was a golden age was superceded by the eco-feminist criticism that saw the masculine take on the feminine as war and destruction and not at all innocent. This aspect of post modern is pretty welcome if you want to account a sense of justice to events, justice being the true realization of the golden age. Then of course instantly, all such naive historical reconstructions and retakes were superseded by the mind-forged manacles of novus ordo which had already been in place, the trance broadcast by referees and soldiers of the Mount Ord. See HistoPossum. I left all this to be a gardener of plants, to see them in the context of immigrant waves, the degradation of the land, the plants themselves a kind of ultimate revenge in the datura, mescal bean, mushroom cults their children reaped as new, but fake, like cell phones, natives. Since, they traded it for banks. Many people never escaped Austin. I got out but held the keys of five university buildings in my hands: Parlin, Calhoun, Experimental Science, Drug Garden, Pharmacy, and another one they tore down I can't remember.