Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Late Z.: Assgnt.

Scroggins 380–396, 442–459

The Catullus excerpts from the selected

All of 80 Flowers (copies will be available in Janet's box)


A-23 from Selected

A section of A-24 (copies will be available in Janet's box)

To get full credit you must:
Post once by the 14th and at least twice by the 21st.



  1. What intrigued me most about the Late Z. readings, especially discussed in the Scroggins selections, was how “bare bones” Z. had made his language (like his reduction of Milton’s ‘Paradise Lost’). Really, “A”-23 was a continuation of that reduction as the section is a “graph of culture.” The recognition and inclusion of thousands of years of human experience in “word making,” while further refining the associative language, recognizing cross-references and upholding his own restrictions seems a maddening endeavor, and although I personally recognize the immense effort Z. put into this practice, I can’t help but wonder how much is serendipitous. If nothing is new, how does quotation and translation result in a newness?

    Anyway…about this quotation and translation: for ‘80 flowers’ Scroggins explains that Z. went through an intense amount of research “tracking down every cross-reference and seeking out every source cited.” Z. was creating not only a reflection on the culmination of his own work, but again, like in “A”-22 and 23, a condensation of the worlds evolution of word making. The poems of ‘80 Flowers’ are watery, in a way. Their syntax, points out Scroggins, is ambiguous and beg to be examined and reexamined. What most strikes me, though, is Scroggins’ statement that every word in ‘80 Flowers’ “is either a quotation, an allusion, a transliteration, or a translation--and often several at once.” It is almost as if Z. is acting as a mechanism through which the words of all history can be funneled and purified, reduced and transcribed into a--albeit subjective--finality (Mallarmé, anyone?). This behavior triggers a distant, although I believe a relevant, activity I came across in research for a poem of my own last semester: the Surrealists had many games, one of which was called The Exquisite Corpse. This game involved several players who would add a continuation of text or image from the previous participant without knowing what had already been drawn or written. The resulting picture or body of text was an assemblage of all the participants efforts, and the poem/story/image would then be discussed and analyzed. I’m not saying that Z. had this in mind when following his reductive practices, merely acknowledging a similarity, and also perhaps inviting thoughts on the matter.

  2. I think that Brandon’s observation about the maddening effort of late Z.’s writing is right on. Really, reading it is almost as maddening. My conflict in a lot of his later work comes out of something Brandon very aptly pointed out- you have to wonder when a poem is so meticulously researched how much serendipity really exists in the work. Nothing is an accident with Z. I remember in one of my earlier art courses my professor told me not to erase all of my mistakes. Mistakes add a human and organic element to art; accidents add a sort of instinctual realism. This might also be related to the Duende Lorde mentions. Perhaps this is one of the reasons I struggle so much reading A-23, Catullus and 80 Flowers.

    I hope that I am not coming off as a traditionalist (“poems have to be about feelings”) but something about the mechanics of his late work, A-23 especially, make the poems seem in-human. Even the way Scroggins describes the process of A-22 and A-23 seems like a mathematical practice. He sorts his information on “two-page spreads, one for each century…” then it is “sifted, in roughly chronological order…” Of course, I recognize the ambition of trying to graph the whole of human history into a poem, much less a relatively short poem considering the length of time we are talking about. The project is huge. But it almost seems to me that Z addressed it as a project more than a poem. The meticulousness of it made it seem cold and dead to me.

    I come into this problem reading George Herbert as well. You can acknowledge that what he was doing was revolutionary and a historical linch pin, but that poems themselves are torture to read. Torture might not be the right word for Z’s later work, but the idea of writing a sonic translation of Catullus is much more interesting (to me…) than reading the poem that does it. Granted, Z’s Catullus makes the transition between sense and non-sense in an interesting way.

    Another thing I am curious about in terms of my frustration reading late Z. is how much we are actually privy to. It’s safe to say that most of us are not as knowledgeable as Z. I can look up the things I can recognize as references, I might even have caught on to the “cold-ridge”/Coleridge thing, but there is no way I would ever notice that “Jubilant agony” rewords Jubilate Agno. It seems that doing an accurate reading (if there is such a thing) of A-23 you would have to put forth as much time in the reading as Z did in writing. How important is it that we catch on to Z.’s references? Is it something we can quantify? Is it important that we get at least 40% of his references? 80%? Any?

  3. I was especially grateful to Scroggins this week as he manages to give me a few entry points into a largely dense & challenging reading:

    Of A

    “It is a continuously flowing texture of often oblique syntax, the immediate personal observation shifting to the historical or literary reference, quotations from friends and family members cheek by jowl with quotations from the newspapers and the classics, moods shifting from the somber to the whimsical, all unified by a single controlling consciousness, an “arranger” … who occasionally speaks in his own voice, but who is just as comfortable expressing himself through a collage of previous texts. Like Joyce, Zukofsky arrived at an ideal of the literary work as a pattern of cunningly worked repetitions, a maze of varied and repeated motifs.”

    Of 80 Flowers

    “Before our eyes, the words shift from pattern to pattern as we try out various possibilities.”

    Seeing this, I come to the poems with the understanding that I am missing a big part of the world of the poem unless I excavate these (fairly large) poems word by word, or phrase by phrase as I had done with the very small poem previously—and not just with the dictionary, but also with multiple academic databases & the internet & re-reviewing all of Shakespeare & literature generally & Z’s own notes, etc & so forth. Which, given the span of time I have with the material for this class…well, you know it isn’t going to happen. This, of course, forces me to consider the Reader/Writer/Text relationship—my job as a reader. How much legwork should I be expected to do to discover this world? If Zukofsky sees the poem as object, how much does that world outside of the object matter—the texts & people he quotes from? How much am I “expected” to know coming in that I may or may not & how do I know what I should be looking up? Does Z expect these poems to appear as crystalline before me? (Because they most certainly do not.)

    Or is it simply enough to know that I am missing some things, as I do with other poems & to discover & discover upon rereads… or to know, because Scroggins tells us, that in these poems he is focusing much more significantly on the personal (rather than the socio-political).

    A23 seems to open more accessibly, in a way where even in my not knowing, I find something that I can cling to, relate to, or engage with—even if it’s just the appeal of basic images or the near-narrative. But ultimately, he slips back into traditional Zukofskian syntactical & allusory strangeness. The effect of the collage for me as a reader is a sort of ADD skipping about & returning—nonlinear thinking. And due to the back & forth swagger of the piece, I do find myself coming into brief & shiny moments of clarity, an often welcome respite from the sort of continual density (which seems like the world’s most apt word for Z’s poems), & also the brief & shiny moments of recognition when I see a phrasal unit being recycled in different parts of the poem (for example “80 Flowers”).
    This of course brings me to his post-A opus. In 80 Flowers most words are separated from their parts of speech, with little to no punctuation to designate the ways phrases are functioning. I continually find myself lost in a maze of pretty words & repeated punning. It’s difficult to focus or engage—the process of reading is exceptionally slow. (This is a read one very slow, pace, read another slowly, then pace some more, & so on). This wouldn’t be problematic on a small scale, I imagine, but with a whole poem stuck in flux, in ambiguity, I struggle to touch or see or know these flowers—the cases they’re living in less like glass than like cultural quicksand. I could step in. I could drown.

  4. I know that each of these poems explores the world of a single flower, based on cultural research & in-person time with the flower (partly because of the titles, but mostly because Scroggins tells me all of this). And yet many of them manage to appear impenetrable, no matter how much I know what/how he was writing them.

    But, much as in A, not all of them are so difficult to get into without this prior knowledge. Take, for example, the poem “Lilac:”

    “Sere ring a pipe wood
    lodging sweet by tempest lodged
    nose knows two colors pale
    and deep lilac blossom breezed
    pruned some red fall-scattered bloom
    hesperis purple mother-of-evening gone spring
    angels in bustles deep lilac
    pales lilac angels for white”

    Not only can a person follow the language & syntax, but it’s also rather pretty. In this case, I don’t necessarily need to excavate to enjoy the poem. And even some of the internal stuff going on isn’t so rough—flowers & noses knowing? This is even a bit funny. Some of the stuff I don’t know I even know I don’t know it and to look it up—“Hesperis purple mother-of-evening”, for example, I have learned is a flower in the mustard family. It’s purple colored & smellier in the evening. I may not have yet gathered its relationship to the lilac (aside from color) but I can see relationships building internal to the poem—it makes the reading rewarding. It allows me to feel a part of it. And there are several others in 80 Flowers that I feel as though I’ve been granted access, & some of his other work also. Mostly, however, in late Zukofsky, I feel excluded from it.

    Which I guess relates to Genna… who just posted right as I was about to…

  5. I would also like to jump on this Genna human bandwagon-- I think it's perhaps a large part of my struggle with the work. And I think it's especially interesting because I believe that Z would call these poems, esp A 23 & 80 Flowers, particularly personal.

  6. Brandon: Regarding the “reduction” in language of Z’s later poetry and its serendipitous nature, I have a few points to pick at. I think there’s a major conceptual difference between the kinds of reduction and parataxis that “A”-23 begins to exhibit and the juxtaposition of dissonant ideas and images that emerges in the Exquisite Corpse exercise you mentioned. There may be coincidental similarities to the way both projects appear, but the exercises themselves have very different intents. The idea behind the Exquisite corpse exercise is one of random chance from the beginning of the writing process (with each participant contributing an image without knowing what’s come before or what will come after, how could the exercise be seen as anything but an attempt at arbitrary connection?). However, Z’s stratification of meaning (in the way that every word he chooses can be interpreted by wildly varying etymological denotations and connotations) creates a poem which exhibits a strange tension between craftsmanship and providence or accident. Zukofsky may indeed have specific “harmonizing” (I’m requisitioning the term from our conversation last week, where Kate made mention of how Z’s word choices tend to create “chords” of resonant meaning) effects in mind when he crafts his poems, but no matter the care and control he enacts over the writing process, he can’t predict how a reader will approach the poem in its final form. As Genna says, “nothing is an accident with Z,” but as much as I agree with that statement in addressing Zukofsky’s poetic concerns, I also think that his approach has to be seen as having implications of accident for the reader—after all, anyone having just picked up “A-23” or 80 Flowers will inevitably miss at least some of the carefully plotted allusions, references, even straight up quotations from other authors that Z weaves into his texts. I, for one, know that I miss almost all of them (even the Shakespearean ones, for which I constantly kick myself). So even though extreme care has gone into the crafting of these poems, the way that a reader digests the work is then left to chance, depending on a number of factors—his or her literary background, life experience, poetic aesthetic, and overall interest in trying to figure out what Zukofsky is saying.

    Though I think I have less to say about the concept of “newness” in poetry that you bring up, I have to say that to assume that “nothing is new” in poetry can be a very contentious stance if not elaborated. I’d like to talk more about this to hash out exactly what we mean (hopefully both in this discussion and in class next week). Does your comment refer to the newness of a concept or simply the approach with which we access that concept? If we agree then that nothing in poetry can be considered “new,” then what exactly are we here for?

  7. I agree with you G—I think the idea of writing Catallus as a sonic translation is more appealing than the actual reading of the poem.

    One of the thoughts on your seeing it as inhuman, does it surprise you then, when A-24 feels so personal, to embrace it as a piece not composed by him? (annoy you, do anything?) I feel disconnected from 80 Flowers—he is purposefully doing things that I feel complete the object (in theory) and disconnect me (personally ? or the reader ?) from ever embracing it. To that extent his indexes produced by himself and Celia seem strange—and a bit wrong. I can see the grace of being able to follow the path that he took, but it also grabs hold of the Wasteland feeling in a different sense—rather than embracing and creating a synthesis between self and a piece of old literature, to some extent it feels like Z is instead creating a dissonance between the two. In any case, he obscures the allusion from X to Y creating his own version of what he is reading. In theory I can embrace this as something that is very personal.

  8. Also—Genna, I think this arbitrary % of how much do we need to ‘get’ in order to ‘get’ Zukofsky, or be able to engage the poem successfully is interesting. Seems like in most of his writings, what he has embedded in is as much for himself (if not more) than anyone else. It feels like all allusions are to some degree more or less graspable. (Ignoring that I don’t think Scroggins would have caught the mathematical subtleties of earlier works without Z. posting an essay about it himself). More I think it is a further embrace of this project that he aims at. He works toward creating more and more guidelines for himself so that he can find an exactness to it all, a conclusion (possible? Or could Z have finished A24?).

    Also this interests me: “If we agree then that nothing in poetry can be considered “new,” then what exactly are we here for?”—echoes of what Scroggins said in class though may be to some degree out of context—that in the end we are all fundamentalists(?) Or possibly that we are just doing something while we anticipate our own death; possible new isn’t as important as personal now. Maybe it is—there aren’t really exact answers. Your question I read two ways: either you are wondering what are we here (in class) for or what are we here (in life) for. I propose that we are simply trying to be real and genuine in both cases—is that new? No, but MAYBE it’s rare (I suspect not). Tom McCarthy’s Remainder, anyone?

  9. Also: different note. Did anyone watch the figure skating pairs of the olympics? Some of it was beautiful. Very genuine movements--mostly it amazed me.

  10. Brandon, I really like what you said about Z being a mechanism through which all this "stuff" (history, allusion, translation, etc) is being filtered and rendered into compact, almost indecipherable poetry. Or, perhaps infinitely decipherable poetry? Because Z is so careful about his research and his awareness of connections, I don't think you can ever come to one final explication of his poetry. 80 Flowers and "Gamut" are perfect examples of this. Instead I feel it has more to do with the reader than it does with the poet, and perhaps Z has anticipated the ultimate audience with his poetry? Perhaps he has managed to anticipate everybody? To build off the music/chords idea that I mentioned in last week's class, where each word has its different meanings, constructed in a sort of chord, and all the notes have to harmonize in some way - music ultimately depends on the ear of its listener. Yeah, the composer might think his or her work is fantastic, but if the audience doesn't like it, the work doesn't get performed again and the piece is lost, or at the least made obscure. Zukofsky manages to make his music/poetry communicate with his readers. In each word there is a note/definition that resonates with the reader and these definitions resonate with the others in syntax/meaning/melody to form cohesive musical phrases or meaning in the poem. (This is getting convoluted, sorry).

    Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to get at: I agree that Zukofsky is this sort of sponge of a poet, absorbing and reproducing all the cultural detritus with which he comes in contact, but he does it in such a way that it becomes personal, he filters out all the garbage he doesn't want and keeps only the richest and most prime material for his poems. Thus we get a series like 80 Flowers that is so carefully crafted and so complicated in its depth of meaning.

  11. After a euphoric evening reading 80 Flowers, I thought I'd try a version of Z's redistribution of etymology and playful use of double meanings, etc. on the statement "Nothing in poetry can be considered new."

    Zero in composition of verse or some comparable patterned arrangement of language in which the expression of feelings and ideas is given intensity by the use of distinctive style and rhythm now generally restricted to vessels of tin or other metal, mostly larger than a drinking-vessel, and usually cylindrical in form, with a handle over the top a colony-type insect which collects honey and other products scrutinized not old.

    I find the whole late series irresistible, like one of those "Where's Waldo" type of games - and I completely understand if some people look at one or two and think "clever" and wish to move on. For me, it's a game, a treasure hunt. I like the idea that poetry can be more than a catalog of feelings and direct experiences, it can stretch our thinking muscles, not just as writers but as readers, too.

  12. The density of sense in '80 Flowers' give the poems a depth that always exist in the words of a poem but that few are inclined to take a hold of a craft through. While a poem of traditional syntax might be mapped like a plane, these poems are like field lines that pass through each word and compel movement inward/outward rather than across the page.

  13. An aspect that I think comes out very potently in '80 Flowers' is the purely physical act of speaking words. I read several of the poems, 'Hyacinth', 'Honesty', and 'Queen Anne's Lace', to repeat the way my mouth has to move to produce the sounds, which in itself is pleasurable and in keeping with some of Z.'s interest in body mechanics in poetry.

  14. I think this is a nice segue into why Jason's interest in ice skating isn't entirely irrelevant - it isn't the newness of a human body on skates, but our surprise at the skaters' invention of new combinations, set rhythmically and gracefully, which give us pleasure. While all English speakers have some access to Z.'s poems, those with agility will have a special experience.

  15. Zach: First off I want to say that I completely agree about your observation that Z's work and the results of the Exquisite Corpse are completely different; however, one, I think, must have prior knowledge of the processes both products were conceived by. I believe that if a person, say the janitor we were so fond of talking about during Z's earlier period, were to pick up an Exquisite Corpse poem and a Z poem, they would likely differ they would likely differ stylistically, but to our janitor friend, would there be a noticeable difference? Surrealism is inherently geared to exploring the subconscious connections as associations humans produce and live with, and in a way, Z requires his readers (for is this not why we are all here) to do a very similar if not identical exploration of his own work. A Corpse poem is in itself an accumulation of several contributors’ efforts, and so are Z’s, as much of his work is quotation, acquisition, translation, etc.. One difference is in that Z stepped in as the “arranger” while the Corpse is more barren, more raw. But to the janitor, who has now decided to explore the connections available in each, is one any less important? Any less an artwork?

    I think those last few thoughts are better explored through yet another question (of course), also addressed by Genna and Amber: how much are we supposed to “know” or “excavate” with Z’s poetry to get it, to appreciate it? Are his years of research for ‘80 Flowers’ reflective of the time we are expected to take unpacking the poems? I don’t think so. This is only speculation, mind you, but I feel it warrants exploration: perhaps in his later, more “personal” work, Z’s elaborate research was for himself, and damn the rest. Did he really expect a student in Idaho 50 years later to go through the annals of history to discover every reference and association with the word “lilac?” Perhaps this was, not merely, an exercise of his own compulsion. For myself, when writing (fiction is my home-base), I revel in making reference to other work, appropriating what strikes me and fashioning these extra-textual connotations into my own work. I couldn’t give two shits if anyone catches them, but I’m satisfied that I know they’re there. It provides a certain solidarity for me, makes the piece rooted someplace, like it has a lineage, a heritage of some kind. However, I’m also satisfied that should anyone be bored enough to examine my work, it’ll hold up. References, connections and appropriations will be discovered to be accurate, correctly used and stable. Could this not be at least a part of Z’s process while serving his more “personal” work?

  16. Additionally, I wanted to clear up what I was implying when saying “nothing is new.” Perhaps this was just a sloppy piece of word-vomit, but it comes from a certain sincerity. The more and more I am exposed to art (and life for that matter, but I’ll use art as a foci of sorts), be it visual, written, musical, performance, etc… the more I understand that every work has been influenced and shaped by the presence and culminated erosive/constructive power of infinite others. Granted, I’m not expert on ANYTHING, and I don’t mean to imply that I’m prodigal in any way, but while I was taking a painting course, for example, I thought I was being really clever when I inserted the reed of a pipe into one of my still life arrangements. My instructor then informed me that whenever a pipe or piece of a pipe is present in an image, it’s an inherent reference to some painter (whose name escapes me) from the 18th century or something who only painted pipes, and if you paint a pipe, your work is given an immediate tie to his, and you had better at least be aware of that link. It’s was a small example, but I think you get what I mean. By saying that nothing is new, I only mean to emphasize the fact that everything is so enmeshed in everything else. That’s also perhaps why I’m a bit hesitant to fully throw myself into adulation of Z’s extensive research. Yes, it’s admirable, but what makes “sere ring a pipe wood” from “Lilac” any more canonical than a line equally as sonically pleasing, but more “coherent?”

  17. I don't believe that Z expects me to excavate each poem or to have access to every reference that he makes (especially since, according to Scroggins, a significant chunk are bits from conversations with friends, etc). However, I wonder what the expectation of reader experience is to be... as in, I don't know this stuff & I'm not making a lot of these connections within.

    So, should I treat it like music? I just finished listening to A24-- it was stunning, really. I mean, obviously the music is, but the "intertextual" relationships between music & voice is also quite compelling. I get glimpses of words, but really, the voices change the "experience" of the music into its own thing. And the experience of words suddenly isn't focused on language, but on the sound of them-- they BECOME music. Should I then consider Zukofsky one to be "heard" first? As in, without the rhetorical ability to make many of the connections that exist in his poems, nor connect often as a person to the material when reading silently, should I consider it simply the experience that washes over a person like music does? I mean, when you listen to Bach or Chopin or Rachmaninoff... sincerely different experiences, but an experience, an emotional experience, often even a storied experience, takes place. And is this, then, what gives the poem its objectness? That while the words themselves may connect & have denotative "meanings," these "meanings" are not central to the reader's experience of the poem? If you catch them, it can add to the experience, but otherwise...

    I expect that is the intention. And it's even something I can get behind. Each word as chord, with different resonances on the reader/listener.

    I would also like to address the idea of surrealism brought into the discussion. I'm not sure that the experience of Z is quite like the experience of surrealism. And I'm not sure I can quite articulate why. I think, maybe, it has something to do with control. Z is sooo controlled-- & I think it reduces the feeling of the personal. Maybe because it removes any sense of the chaos that human beings are. While with surrealism, it seems less controlled, more intuitive-- & somehow this makes it feel more personal, more emotionally based. Less brain, more "feeling." (Not to suggest that poems should be one or the other... only that I feel like this is my experience.) But the age-old surrealist example of an umbrella & a sewing machine... I've heard it frequently, & still it's evocative. Still, just the image of the two together makes me feel something in my stomach, under my skin. I can't often say that when reading 80 Flowers... I want to, but I can't.

  18. I don't mean to derail the conversation into one about the Surrealist movement, but I can't help but see connections between Z's work and Surrealism. This is not to say in any way that I think Z is a closeted Surrealist, only that there are ties, especially when considering Z's early theories. I'm using wikipedia here only to paraphrase what I've come to understand over my years of interest in Surrealism, and from several art and art history classes (i know "wiki" is a bad word in the academic world but i'm certain it's accurate). From wikipedia:

    "Surrealist works feature the element of surprise, unexpected juxtapositions and non sequitur; however, many Surrealist artists and writers regard their work as an expression of the philosophical movement first and foremost, with the works being an artifact." An artifact? Could this be similar to the work of Z as an object?

    " As they developed their philosophy they felt that while Dada rejected categories and labels, Surrealism would advocate the idea that ordinary and depictive expressions are vital and important, but that the sense of their arrangement must be open to the full range of imagination according to the Hegelian Dialectic. They also looked to the Marxist dialectic and the work of such theorists as Walter Benjamin and Herbert Marcuse." Marxist?

    "[Sigmund] Freud's work with free association, dream analysis and the hidden unconscious was of the utmost importance to the Surrealists in developing methods to liberate imagination. However, they embraced idiosyncrasy, while rejecting the idea of an underlying madness or darkness of the mind."

    Indeed the Surrealists could easily be seen as just, well, the hippies of the 20s and 30s, however their manifesto was very articulate concerning philosophy and theory, methodology and purpose. There were not merely writing and painting dream scenes, but rather exploring the intricate connections and associations gestated by our subconcious. Is this exploration not too dissimilar to that of Z? Again, I'm not implying Z was a clost Surrealist, but I can't help but defend the similarities.

  19. I'm not suggesting that there aren't similarities, only that the experience of reading Z is different than reading surrealists.

  20. I think that this idea Brandon and Amber have been tossing about is interesting, regarding what we’re supposed to “get” out of Z’s poetry in terms of etymologies, allusions, personal references, etc. I might have to partially disagree with Brandon’s assertion: “Are his years of research for ‘80 Flowers’ reflective of the time we are expected to take unpacking the poems? I don’t think so.” I don’t doubt that many of the references in Z’s poetry (especially the familial anecdotes to which a vast majority of readers wouldn’t be privy) can be attributed to what Brandon describes as the poet’s “own compulsion”-- that is to say, Z’s desire to include details that satisfy him personally, without care that others won’t clue in. I do similar things in my own work, but I justify myself by saying that without these sometimes enigmatic references, a poem can be detrimentally simplified—in other words, if we all knew exactly what Z’s intentions were in including every detail, all of the fun of coming to one’s own understanding of the poems would be lost. Katherine relates Z’s late poems to a game, and in some sense I agree with that, because there is a definite sense of play involved in diving into ‘80 Flowers’ and trying to figure those poems out—but the word ‘game’ carries with it connotations of a beginning and an end, of winners and losers. The game one plays with poetry isn’t one with a definite start or ending point—hopefully we won’t read “Lilac” the same way in 20, 30, 40 years as we do today. Brandon asks, “Did he really expect a student in Idaho 50 years later to go through the annals of history to discover every reference and association with the word ‘lilac’?” This question, posed in terms of what Z (or any other poet, for that matter) "expects" from us, misses the point. Brandon's description of the careful reading of a poem makes the process sound like a chore, not to be bothered with, but I think this kind of attention to detail is something to strive for. As poets, shouldn’t this be something we want to do?

  21. Oh, so many things to say…

    I think Kate hit on a really interesting question when she said: “Yeah, the composer might think his or her work is fantastic, but if the audience doesn't like it, the work doesn't get performed again and the piece is lost, or at the least made obscure.” In so many words, a lot of us have brought up the sound issue, and in listening to “A”-24 and reading Catullus I wonder what Z imagined as the location of the poem.

    Is the poem in the creation of the work? The amount of research and painstaking amount of time it took for him to write a poem suggests this. Is the poem on the actual page, is it the artifact? Z’s thoughts on the poem as an object would suggest this. Is the poem in the act of reading? I think Z’s later work, like 80 Flowers and Gamut would suggest this, where some much of the meaning making is in the hands of the reader. Or is the poem in the performance? Here we can see Catullus and “A”-24. This is where Kate’s early comment is so interesting to me- if the poem is not performed (or read- if you decided that is where poem-ness is) or read, is the poem then a lost object?

    Speaking of objective- Brandon said “one, I think, must have prior knowledge of the processes both products were conceived by.” How does this fit with Z’s idea of poetry as objective? If we have to know the project before we can know the poem, how do we address the poem as a complete object?

    Brandon- I can see where you see the connection between Z and the surrealists. Granted, my knowledge of the surrealists is pretty limited, so if this is complete bollocks just let me know. Formally, I think they have some pretty strong similarities in terms of placing seeming unrelated objects/ideas in proximity. I think the difference lies in intention. The surrealists brought these things into relation so we would question relation. It is mean to surprise and (in Charles’ words) break-open our ideas of relation. I think Z’s work does a very different thing. It seems like his work assumes these strange relationships are nothing shocking, have been and always will be present.

    Another, pretty much unrelated question I have- I am curious if Z’s relative obscurity contributed to the latter obscurity in his work. At a certain point, did Z’s stop envisioning a reader? Would this be a factor in his choice to include so many references that would also be relevant to him? Perhaps Z is the one poet to ever (at that point) write poems just for himself.

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  23. Genna: I just want to clear up what i meant in saying "one, I think, must have prior knowledge of the processes both products were conceived by." I didn't imply this is true in the general study of poetry, only in the consideration of a Z poem and a Corpse poem. I would assert that if our metaphoric janitor were given a sheet of paper with a Z poem on it, and another sheet with a Corpse poem on it, one would likely require knowledge of each poems conception to tell them apart. This certainly won't be true with every Corpse poem and Z poem, but an interesting mental experiment.

  24. The fact that Zukofsky used many reference books in the creation of 80 Flowers suggest to me that his intention is not to have a reader come to these poems with only the meanings based on their limited knowledge come through. I can't say what his intentions would be, but if that was his intention, he would only need to consider the meanings a general readership would be aware of. Instead, he chose to consider as many meanings of his words as possible.

    That excites me for these poems, and excites me for the possibility for writing poems. Pun walks amongst these poems, which means that a seemingly incidental sound between the words might inform the sequence of words coming at the end. An obscure usage of a word might be the key to every other word in the poem. And at the same time, they may not. Each word is given this great potential force which, as you study and cross-reference them, you collect all of those meanings into a single word that you read in a sequence of similarly high-charge words. Each word unleashes its meaning in a moment, followed by further and further releases of meaning until the very end, when all the meanings culminate in the silence of a completed poem.

    It's an intellectually lush texture to match the sonicly lush act of reading.

  25. I don't know if people have the time to read aloud the Catullus, if you haven't looked at the original Latin it's such a fun treat to see the language play. Here's my favorite: (76)

    Si qua recordanti benefacta priora uoluptas
    Est homini, cum se cogitat esse pium,
    Nec sanctam uiolasse fidem, nec foedere in ullo
    Diuum ad fallendos numine abusum homines,
    Multa parata manent in longa aetate, Catulle,
    Ex hoc ingrato gaudia amore tibi.
    Nam quaecumque homines bene cuiquam aut dicere possunt
    Aut facere, haec a te dictaque factaque sunt:
    Omnia quae ingratae perierunt credita menti.
    Quare cur tu te iam amplius excrucies?
    Quin tu animo offirmas atque istinc teque reducis
    Et dis inuitis desinis esse miser?
    Difficile est longum subito deponere amorem;
    Difficile est, uerum hoc qua libet efficias.
    Vna salus haec est, hoc est tibi peruincendum;
    Hoc facias, siue id non pote siue pote.
    O di, si uestrum est misereri, aut si quibus unquam
    Extremam iam ipsa in morte tulistis opem,
    Me miserum aspicite et, si vitam puriter egi,
    Eripite hanc pestem perniciemque mihi!
    Hei mihi subrepens imos ut torpor in artus
    Expulit ex omni pectore laetitias.
    Non iam illud quaero, contra me ut diligat illa,
    Aut, quod non potis est, esse pudica uelit:
    Ipse ualere opto et taetrum hunc deponere morbum.
    O di, reddite mi hoc pro pietate mea.

  26. I was reminded to enjoy the OED.

    Here, re: Catullus 112.


    1. A man or boy who is the passive partner in homosexual anal intercourse.
    1605 B. JONSON Sejanus I. i. 216 He..was the noted Pathike of the time. 1609 J. HEALEY tr. Bp. J. Hall Discov. New World II. vi. 111 The Pathiques of old Rome were faine to vse forced meanes for that which wee haue giuen vs by nature. a1661 B. HOLYDAY tr. Juvenal Satires (1673) 20, O, there's a monstrous league between these soft And slack-ham'd pathicks! 1718 H. PRIDEAUX Connect. O. & N. Test. II. II. 101 The first was his pathic, the second his concubine. 1795 J. MACKNIGHT Apost. Epist. (1820) I. 495 The persons who suffered this abuse were called pathics, and affected the dress and behaviour of women. 1810 BYRON Let. 3 May (1973) I. 238 We prefer a girl and a bottle, they [sc. the Turks] a pipe and pathic. 1895 W. E. HENLEY Let. in J. H. Robertson W. E. Henley (1949) 299 Bot is scandalized by the ingratitude of Oscar's pathics. 1927 Enemy No. 2. p. xxii, Spunging and superannuated pathics, who have lost their last pair of professional pyjamas in their last moonlight flit. 2001 Irish Times (Nexis) 12 Sept. 19 Those who prosecuted him..claimed he was a paedophilic pathic.


    1. The soil used to fill a grave; (in pl.) grave-clods; (by metonymy) the grave.

    3. intr. To associate intimately with.

    Fascinating, eh? I think the argument could be made that 112 really was "about" homosexuality. Risque, Z! Risque!