Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Creeley has a wish for the right

Sometime in 1960, Robert Creeley had three poems accepted for publication in the conservative anticommunist magazine, the National Review. I know enough about the vicissitudes of periodicals' poetry policies to resist any temptation to ascribe ideological meaning or motives for such a convergence. In fact I believe Hugh Kenner was the poetry editor of Buckley's magazine for a while--perhaps during this time (I will check the fact). While Kenner was (later certainly) infamous for his conservative political views, he was of course a great supporter of the avant-garde tradition in modernism and I'm guessing (but should know) that he admired what Creeley was doing right then in 1960. We know that Kenner admired Creeley at least later (see below).

Anyway, in the February 11, 1961 issue of National Review three Creeley verses appeared and one is:

A Wish

So much rain
to make the mud again,
trees green
and flowers also.

The water which
ran up the sun
and down again,
it is the same.

A man of supple
yielding manner
might, too, discover
ways of water. (p. 83)

In 1983, reviewing Creeley's Collected Poems 1945-75, Kenner wrote this lovely and right-on assertion: "But we take pleasure in words that tell us nothing, pleasure in their shapes and sounds, and also in recognizing that we are not alone and that someone else knows it." And added: "The philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein would have been astonished by none of this, but it nudges into terrain where he was rigorous." And finally: "The point, of course, is that the words convey no information to anyone present."

Further on Kenner-Creeley: there's a file of letters between the two in the Kenner Papers at the Harry Ransom Research Center, UT Austin.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

wind of change

On February 3, British PM Harold Macmillan gave a speech before the parliament of South Africa in Cape Town. The speech made clear that Britain intended to grant independence to many of the territories in African that were its colonies, though any specifics were lacking. The speech became famous because of this line: "The wind of change is blowing through this continent. Whether we like it or not, this growth of national consciousness is a political fact." There was also a hint--just a hint--that Britain was beginning to doubt apartheid: "As a fellow member of the Commonwealth it is our earnest desire to give South Africa our support and encouragement, but I hope you won't mind my saying frankly that there are some aspects of your policies which make it impossible for us to do this without being false to our own deep convictions about the political destinies of free men to which in our own territories we are trying to give effect."

Back in England, there was an extended backlash against the speech from the right of the Conservative Party. The speech led directly to the formation of the Conservative Monday Club pressure group.

A long extract from Macmillan's speech is here and a bit of basic analysis here.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Helen Adam

Born in Scotland, she came to the U.S. in 1939. Aside from writing her poetry, she did various odd jobs--was for a time an actress, and appeared in Death and Our Corpses Speak (both produced in Germany); these were made by experimental film-maker Rosa von Prauhnehim. Her last public appearance was in the public TV series Poetry Minute in 1988. She became a recluse after her sister died that year and herself died in '93.

Her book Ballads was published by White Rabbit in 1961.

Although her mode was the classical ballad, she was nonetheless closely associated with the Beats and others in the San Francisco school. Kristen Prevallet has written about Adams in an essay called "The Worm Queen Emerges: Helen Adam and the Forgotten Ballad Tradition" (for a book called Girls Who Wore Black: Women Writing the Beat Generation, 2002). She is also featured in several pages of Michael Davidson's The San Francisco Renaissance. "Although Adam revives a much earlier ballad tradition," Davidson writes, "she often transforms it to suit contemporary political and society reality."

I drank milk, Mother, in my sheltered home.
I drank milk, and I ate honey-comb.
Now I'm eating goof balls, drinking rum and gall,
wine, and gine, and vodka, and wood alcohol.
Give me ten Tequilas, a jigger full of stout,
And a little lap of Pepsi before I freak out
In the reeling Jericho Bar.

In its tone and in the way it manages the daring content, the poem reminds me of Elsa von Freytag Loringhoven's "A Dozen Cocktails--Please". But of course the Baroness wrote utterly in free form.

women were free

In a Newsweek "special science report" (March 7, 1960), there's this:

"Who could ask for anything more? The educated American woman has her brains, her good looks, her car, her freedom... freedom to choose a straight-from-Paris dress (original or copy), or to attend a class in ceramics or calculus; freedom to determine the timing of her next baby or who shall be the next President of the United States."

Piero Heliczer

Piero Heliczer gave a reading in London in 1960 and a recording of it survives. The recording is here.

David Lewis has written:

"Piero Heliczer was a key figure in the underground film movement in New York of the 1960s. Born in Italy, he initially broke into films after winning a talent contest at the age of four for the "most typical-looking Italian child." Heliczer played under the name of Pier Giorgio Heliczer in the two least-known commercial Italian films, typecast as the "cute fascist kid" during World War II. Tragically, when he was only seven years old, his father, a resistance fighter, was executed by Nazis allied with Mussolini. According to Heliczer's own account, he worked as an extra in Vittorio de Sica's masterwork Ladri di Biciclette (The Bicycle Thief, 1948), although this has yet to be verified. Heliczer's mother was not fond of Italian neorealism and its depiction of impoverished and dirty children, and decided to immigrate to the United States with her son sometime in the late '40s rather than attempt to further his career as a child actor. Heliczer graduated from high school in the top of his class and entered Harvard in 1955. He dropped out after two years and moved to Paris, where he established his imprint The Dead Language Press, mostly publishing his own literary works, but ultimately printing those of other authors, including Anselm Hollo, Gregory Corso, and The Beautiful Book of filmmaker Jack Smith. Heliczer's poetry was published with a fair amount of frequency in a variety of journals beside his own through about 1970."

There's plenty more here.

Heliczer lived in London from 1960-1961 and, during that time, made his first film in collaboration with fledgling British filmmaker Jeff Keen (The Autumn Feast, 1961).

Tom Raworth wrote an article about Helizer and scanned it for the web.

interviews with WCW

Walter Sutton went to see William Carlos Williams at WCW's home in Rutherford, NJ, on October 11 and 20, and again on November 3 and 15. The recording, put together, is one hour and 59 minutes and a few seconds. The entire interview is now available in PENNsound. Here is the PENNsound Williams page. And here is the link directly to the mp3 file.

Sutton later edited American Free Verse: The Modern Revolution in Poetry.


The modular synthesizer (aka moog synthesizer), was developed in 1960 by Robert Moog and Donald Buchla, and of course this innovation marked a major change in serious music. The first Moog instruments were modular synthesizers. In 1971 Moog Music began production of the Minimoog Model D which was among the first widely available, portable and relatively affordable synthesizers. In 1953 at age 19, Moog had foundeded his first company, R.A. Moog Co., to manufacture theremin kits.
Questioner: First off: Does your name rhyme with "vogue" or is like a cow’s "moo" plus a "G" at the end?

Moog: It rhymes with vogue. That is the usual German pronunciation. My father's grandfather came from Marburg, Germany. I like the way that pronunciation sounds better than the way the cow's "moo-g" sounds.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

all jowels

October: the Kennedy-Nixon debates are televised. YouTube has a very brief clip which is nonetheless revealing. We watched these at home on our b&w TV in my parents' bedroom, although I have the dimmest memory of them (I was 4 1/2 at the time). My first vivid political memory, if that's the phrase, is of the Cuban Missile Crisis a year later. Here's the link to the video. And here's a 4-minute piece of a documentary about the debates.

Mary Ellen Solt

Forsythia, 1966. “The design of ‘Forsythia’ is made from the letters of the name of the flowering shrub and their equivalents in the Morse Code. The text is part of the design.”--Mary Ellen Solt

There are 75 unpublished items by Mary Ellen Solt at Indiana University's Lily Library. The earliest of these date from 1960. Present are letters from Robert Creeley, Denise Levertov, George Oppen, John Thirwall, and Louis Zukofsky. Also present is a notebook prepared and titled by Solt "Index to Robert Creeley Ms Material--Lilly Library"; two Christmas cards from Florence (Mrs. William Carlos Williams); a holiday card and two color transparencies from Paul Williams relating to his father, William Carlos Williams; and a file of eighteen photographs and negatives of William Carlos Williams and family members.

John ("Jack") Thirwall was supposed to be an official biographer of Williams. His book never came out, and I've for years tried to find out what happened to Thirwall and/or his project. No luck so far. I'm guessing that the Thirwall materials here are letters from him to Solt asking about WCW.

Kenny Goldsmith's UBUweb has her entire Flowers in Concrete (1966) here. UBU also has an essay by Solt on the origins of concrete poetry in Brazil.

Robert Kelly's doings

Robert Kelly co-founded Chelsea Review and edited it from 1957 to 1960. He co-edited Trobar with George Economou starting in 1960 (through '65). Kelly taught at Wagner College in 1960 and '61. His book Red Actions: Selected Poems (Black Sparrow, 1995) reaches back to 1960 for its earlier poems, ending with some poems from '93.

Kelly's papers are at the University of Connecticut but do not seem to include letters dating back to '60.

His first book, Armed Descent, was published in '61.

Landis Everson

Jacket in 2004 published six poems from 1960 by Landis Everson.

Ben Mazer added this note: "These six poems are from two sequences which Landis Everson wrote while participating in a weekly poetry group with his friends Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser in San Francisco in 1960. A mimeograph booklet of Postcard from Eden was privately circulated by James Herndon in an edition of a handful of copies, issued simultaneously with the mimeograph booklet of Spicer’s Homage to Creeley around February of 1960. John Ashbery published selections from “The Little Ghosts I Played With” in Locus Solus III–IV (winter 1962). The selections excerpted here did not appear in Locus Solus."

Each native grinned down at me, white teeth,
Black faces. “Come,” I said, “We can be friends.”
But they jabbed at me with pink fingers,
Played lovingly with my hair, caressed
My arms and my toes and stared
Excitedly at my eyes.

Everson was born in 1926. In the late 1940s he was a member of the Berkeley Renaissance along with his friends Robert Duncan, Jack Spicer and Robin Blaser. He was the inaugural recipient of the Emily Dickinson Award from the Poetry Foundation.
Everson was born and grew up in Coronado, California which at that time was still an island, connected to San Diego by a ferry. He attended the University of Redlands in Southern California. Everson, Spicer and Blaser participated in a poetry group that met on Sundays up until 1960. Duncan was excluded from this group. Around this time James Herndon published Everson's pamphlet Postcardu from Eden. His work also appeared in John Ashbery & Harry Mathews's Locus Solus in 1962. At some point Everson stopped writing poetry. The Boston poet Ben Mazer came across Everson's work while he was putting together a special feature on the Berkeley Renaissance for Fulcrum. Mazer's interest sparked Everson to start writing poetry again.

lunch-counter sit-ins

In Greensboro, on February 1, 1960, four African American college students from North Carolina A&T (an all-black college) walked into an all-white restaurant at Woolworth’s. The store was open to all customers regardless of color, but the restaurant was for whites only. They asked for food, were refused service and asked to leave. The students had done research on what they were doing and had read a handout on tactics of resistance by CORE.