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Postcard from Langston Hughes to David Amram.

Rimbaud by Jack Kerouac
Arthur! On t’ appela pas Jean!Born in 1854 cursing in Charle-ville thus paving the way forthe abominable murderousnessesof Ardennes—No wonder your father left!So you entered school at 8—Proficient little Latinist you!In October of 1869Rimbaud is writing poetryin Greek French—Takes a runaway train
to Paris without a ticket,the miraculous Mexican Brakemanthrows him off the fasttrain, to Heaven, whichhe no longer travels becauseHeaven is everywhere—Nevertheless the old fagsintervene—Rimbaud nonplussed Rimbaudtrains in the green NationalGuard, proud marchingin the dust with his heroes—hoping to be buggered,dreaming of the ultimate Girl.—Cities are bombarded ashe stares & stares & chewshis degenerate lip & stareswith gray eyes atWalled France—
Andre Gill was forerunnerto Andre Gide—Long walks reading poemsin the Genet Haystacks—The Voyant is born,the deranged seer makes hisfirst Manifesto,gives vowels colors& consonants carking care,comes under the influenceof old French Fairieswho accuse him of constipationof the brain & diarrheaof the mouth—Verlaine summons him to Pariswith less aplomb than hedid banish girls toAbyssinis—
Merde! screams Rimbaudat Verlaine salons—Gossip in Paris—Verlaine Wifeis jealous of a boywith no seats to his trousers—Love sends money from Brussels—Mother Rimbaud hatesthe importunity of MadameVerlaine—Degenerate Arthur is suspectedof being a poet by now—Screaming in the barnRimbaud writes Season in Hell,his mother tremblesVerlaine sends money & bulletsinto Rimbaud—Rimbaud goes to the police& presents his innocencelike the pale innocence ofhis divine feminine Jesus—Poor Verlaine, 2 yearsin the can, but could havegot a knife in the heart
—Illuminations! Stuttgart!Study of Languages!On foot Rimbaud walks& looks thru the Alpinepasses into Italy, lookingfor clover bells, rabbits,Genie Kingdoms & aheadof his nothing but the oldCanaletto death of sunon old Venetian buildings—Rimbaud studies language—hears of the Alleghanies,of Brooklyn, of lastAmerican Plages—His angel sister dies—Vienne! He looks at pastries& pets old dogs! I hope!This mad cat joinsthe Dutch Army& sails for Javacommanding the fleetat midnighton the bow, alone,no one hears his Commandbut every fishy shining inthe sea—August isno time to stay in Java—Aiming at Egypt, he’s againhungup in Italy so he goes backhome to deep armchairbut immediately he goesagain, to Cyprus, torun a gang of quarry workers,—what did he look like now.this laterRimbaud?—Rock dust& black backs & hacksof coughers, the dream risesin the Frenchman’s Africa mind,—Invalids from the tropics are alwaysloved—The Red Seain June, the coast clanksin Arabia—Havar,Havar, the magic tradingpost—Aden, Aden,South of Bedouin—Ogaden, Ogaden, neverknown—(MeanwhileVerlaine sits in Parisover cognacs wonderingwhat Arthur looks like now,& how bleak their eyebrowsbecause they believedin earlier eyebrow beauty)—Who cares? What kindaFrenchmen are these? Rimbaud, hit meover the head with that rock!Serious Rimbaud composeselegant & learned articlesfor National GeographicSocieties, & after warscommands Harari Girl(Ha Ha!) backto Abyssinia, & shewas young, had blackeyes, thick lips, haircurled, & breasts likepolished brown withcopper teats & ringletson her arms &joined her hands upon her central loin &had shoulders as broad asArthur’s & little ears—A girl of somecaste, in Bronzeville—
Rimbaud also knewthinbonehipped Polynesianswith long tumbling hair &tiny tits & big feet
Finally he startstrading illegal gunsin Tajourariding in caravans, Mad,with a belt of goldaround his waist—Screwed by King Menelek!The Shah of Shoa!The noises of these namesin that noisyFrench mind!
Cairo for the summer,bitter lemon wind& kisses in the dusty parkwhere girls sitfolded atduskthinking nothing—
Havar! Havar!By litter to Zeylahe’s carried moaninghis birthday—the boatreturns to chalk castleMarseilles sadder thantime, than dream,sadder than water—Carcinoma, Rimbaudis eaten by the diseaseof overlife—They cut offhis beautiful leg—He dies in the armsof Ste Isabellehis sister& before rising to Heavensends his francs to Djami, Djami the Havari boyhis dody servant8 years in the AfricanFrenchman’s Hell,& it all adds upto nothing, likeDostoevsky, Beethovenor Da Vinci—
So, poets, rest awhile& shut up:Nothing ever cameof nothing.

Written in 1958 and published as a City Lights broadside in 1960.

Rimbaud by Jack Kerouac

Arthur! On t’ appela pas Jean!
Born in 1854 cursing in Charle-
ville thus paving the way for
the abominable murderousnesses
of Ardennes—No wonder your father left!
So you entered school at 8
—Proficient little Latinist you!
In October of 1869
Rimbaud is writing poetry
in Greek French—
Takes a runaway train

to Paris without a ticket,
the miraculous Mexican Brakeman
throws him off the fast
train, to Heaven, which
he no longer travels because
Heaven is everywhere—
Nevertheless the old fags
intervene—
Rimbaud nonplussed Rimbaud
trains in the green National
Guard, proud marching
in the dust with his heroes—
hoping to be buggered,
dreaming of the ultimate Girl.
—Cities are bombarded as
he stares & stares & chews
his degenerate lip & stares
with gray eyes at
Walled France—

Andre Gill was forerunner
to Andre Gide—
Long walks reading poems
in the Genet Haystacks—
The Voyant is born,
the deranged seer makes his
first Manifesto,
gives vowels colors
& consonants carking care,
comes under the influence
of old French Fairies
who accuse him of constipation
of the brain & diarrhea
of the mouth—
Verlaine summons him to Paris
with less aplomb than he
did banish girls to
Abyssinis—

Merde! screams Rimbaud
at Verlaine salons—
Gossip in Paris—Verlaine Wife
is jealous of a boy
with no seats to his trousers
—Love sends money from Brussels
—Mother Rimbaud hates
the importunity of Madame
Verlaine—Degenerate Arthur is suspected
of being a poet by now—
Screaming in the barn
Rimbaud writes Season in Hell,
his mother trembles
Verlaine sends money & bullets
into Rimbaud—
Rimbaud goes to the police
& presents his innocence
like the pale innocence of
his divine feminine Jesus
—Poor Verlaine, 2 years
in the can, but could have
got a knife in the heart

—Illuminations! Stuttgart!
Study of Languages!
On foot Rimbaud walks
& looks thru the Alpine
passes into Italy, looking
for clover bells, rabbits,
Genie Kingdoms & ahead
of his nothing but the old
Canaletto death of sun
on old Venetian buildings
—Rimbaud studies language
—hears of the Alleghanies,
of Brooklyn, of last
American Plages—
His angel sister dies—
Vienne! He looks at pastries
& pets old dogs! I hope!
This mad cat joins
the Dutch Army
& sails for Java
commanding the fleet
at midnight
on the bow, alone,
no one hears his Command
but every fishy shining in
the sea—August is
no time to stay in Java—
Aiming at Egypt, he’s again
hungup in Italy so he goes back
home to deep armchair
but immediately he goes
again, to Cyprus, to
run a gang of quarry workers,—
what did he look like now.this later
Rimbaud?—Rock dust
& black backs & hacks
of coughers, the dream rises
in the Frenchman’s Africa mind,—
Invalids from the tropics are always
loved—The Red Sea
in June, the coast clanks
in Arabia—Havar,
Havar, the magic trading
post—Aden, Aden,
South of Bedouin—
Ogaden, Ogaden, never
known—(Meanwhile
Verlaine sits in Paris
over cognacs wondering
what Arthur looks like now,
& how bleak their eyebrows
because they believed
in earlier eyebrow beauty)—
Who cares? What kinda
Frenchmen are these? Rimbaud, hit me
over the head with that rock!
Serious Rimbaud composes
elegant & learned articles
for National Geographic
Societies, & after wars
commands Harari Girl
(Ha Ha!) back
to Abyssinia, & she
was young, had black
eyes, thick lips, hair
curled, & breasts like
polished brown with
copper teats & ringlets
on her arms &
joined her hands upon her central loin &
had shoulders as broad as
Arthur’s & little ears
—A girl of some
caste, in Bronzeville—

Rimbaud also knew
thinbonehipped Polynesians
with long tumbling hair &
tiny tits & big feet

Finally he starts
trading illegal guns
in Tajoura
riding in caravans, Mad,
with a belt of gold
around his waist—
Screwed by King Menelek!
The Shah of Shoa!
The noises of these names
in that noisy
French mind!

Cairo for the summer,
bitter lemon wind
& kisses in the dusty park
where girls sit
folded at
dusk
thinking nothing—

Havar! Havar!
By litter to Zeyla
he’s carried moaning
his birthday—the boat
returns to chalk castle
Marseilles sadder than
time, than dream,
sadder than water
—Carcinoma, Rimbaud
is eaten by the disease
of overlife—They cut off
his beautiful leg—
He dies in the arms
of Ste Isabelle
his sister
& before rising to Heaven
sends his francs to Djami, Djami the Havari boy
his dody servant
8 years in the African
Frenchman’s Hell,
& it all adds up
to nothing, like
Dostoevsky, Beethoven
or Da Vinci—

So, poets, rest awhile
& shut up:
Nothing ever came
of nothing.


Written in 1958 and published as a City Lights broadside in 1960.

(Source: vagobond.com)

Jorge Luis Borges & James Tate

Jorge Luis Borges & James Tate

Happy Birthday, Uncle . I wonder if there’s a sale at the mall.

(Source: poets.org)

poetrysociety:

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore. This city will always pursue you. You’ll walk the same streets, grow old in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses. You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere: there’s no ship for you, there’s no road. Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner, you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.C. P Cavafy, from The City, translated by Edmund KeeleyCavafy etching by David Hockney, 1967

poetrysociety:

You won’t find a new country, won’t find another shore.
This city will always pursue you.
You’ll walk the same streets, grow old
in the same neighborhoods, turn gray in these same houses.
You’ll always end up in this city. Don’t hope for things elsewhere:
there’s no ship for you, there’s no road.
Now that you’ve wasted your life here, in this small corner,
you’ve destroyed it everywhere in the world.

C. P Cavafy, from The City, translated by Edmund Keeley
Cavafy etching by David Hockney, 1967

Interview with Tracy K. Smith – “Poets are Lucky”
by Michael Klein

I met Tracy K. Smith a couple of weeks before she won the Pulitzer Prize for her terrific and completely ravishing new book, Life on Mars.  We were at a book party for Stephen Motika and his lovely new book, Western Practice – a loft somewhere downtown, in the rain, owned by people I didn’t know.  Tracy came over to tell me what a great speaking voice I had (aside from being raspy and constantly compared to Harvey Fierstein and Wolfman Jack, it is also pretty loud) which is not always the best opening line – except that in Tracy’s case, the speaking voice at large was a subject quickly abandoned for the more important subjects of writing, teaching and other poets we both know and love.
Life on Mars is a book about a world real and a world imagined and, at times, a kind of world ecstatically hoped for.  And so, my questions for Tracy really had to do with how she managed to take on those worlds in such a simple and intimate way and how, in the end, such a balancing act is a vocation the poet is – when the wind is right – uniquely qualified for.
Michael Klein:  Firstly, Mazel Tov! on your fantastic Pulitzer news.  I e-mailed you the other day about this panel that Jan Clausen is proposing for the AWP Conference next year, which I think is terrific and immediately made me think of you and your wonderful Life on Mars – the book, that is.  Jan’s panel is called “Late Word: Imagination on the Brink” which is about how the collective consciousness has been trying to define itself since the 1950’s – the nuclear imagination, let’s call it – as something that either lets the world go, or holds the world, i.e., prevents it from blowing up.  You wrote me back to say that you were thinking a lot about these kinds of things and wondering how your poems might begin to address them.  And I think Life on Mars is actually the start of that thinking.  Can you tell me more about you approach the subject of – let’s call it, life here – on the brink, on earth?
Tracy K. Smith:  Well, I think that believing in language – in the ability of words to bring even an imagined reality into being – is a big part of what it means to write poetry.  If something like an idea or a belief is capable of being imagined or even described, then the possibility that it will be acted upon becomes much more likely.  I think that many of my poems are attempts to take myself up on that premise, to step into conversation with voices and events that require me to decide something:  what do I believe is right?   What is the more subtle or subjective view of this situation?  What must I challenge myself to understand?  And what, if spoken, will require me to hold myself to a better standard of being or believing?  In terms of wanting to hold the world or letting it go, I personally am earnest enough to want to hold it. And I think most people who aren’t radical fundamentalists of one variety or another feel the same way.  I’d even wager that the radicals believe they are trying to save the world for something.
MK:  Of course, what I love about Life On Mars is how otherworldly it is and yet how direct it is, too, about life on earth.  You make the universe as intimate as love for a father.  Everyday life, common knowledge, aside for a moment, where do you think your attraction come from to those things we can’t see, something like God, and the imaginary life?
TKS:  I wrote the bulk of the book in the wake of my father’s death, and while I was pregnant with my daughter.  So those unknowns felt very present and very urgent for me.  I needed to figure out where I believed my father had gone and what he had become a part of, and so approaching the page really became a matter of attempting to describe or create a version of that world that would allow me to move through my private grief to something else.  But even beyond my own private experience, I think it’s quite natural to use versions of what we know or have experienced as the framework for imagining what we cannot know, and what we have not yet experienced.  That’s why metaphor exists.
MK:  The book also is full of sweeping gestures but it’s also smaller, meditative.  And it feels metaphysical as well.  You can write a poem like “Life on Mars” and then something pared down like “The Good Life”.  Is there such a thing as something too big to write about?  Too small?
TKS:  Well, I obviously don’t think so!  I hope that in both cases, concrete particulars save the poem from feeling too abstract and too inconsequential.  My belief is that they create the sense of a real space or a real encounter to be entered into and felt.  And I think that the desire for feeling is a large part of what attracts many of us to poems.
MK:  The tone of the book is so sweet – and I don’t mean that in a syrupy or condescending way at all – but I was struck by how instead of dread about the contemporary human condition, you seem to have a shining hopefulness about it all.  It made me think that writing – even if the going is dark – is actually a joyful act for you.  Is it?
TKS:  I don’t know how hopeful I feel in real life.  And I think that some of the poems linger in a dark or unresolved place.  “Ransom” is an example of a brief poem that doesn’t try to fix anything, and that registers dissatisfaction with the kind of pat solution that has been posited for a complex problem like that of piracy.  And “Life on Mars” doesn’t really emerge into the light, though perhaps it implies that there is agency at the root of conflict, and therefore the possibility for something better to characterize the ways we as humans relate to one another.  But I will agree that there is also a sense of compassion that the book is trying to envision.  It was very important for me to step outside of my own sense of right and wrong in the poem “They May Love All the He Has Chosen and Hate All that He Has Rejected” and test out a perspective that felt more distant and comprehending, characterized by the kind of understanding I imagine the dead come into.  It was a very uncomfortable thing to do, but I felt that the poem required it, and I think it taught me something about how I as a citizen might attempt to look at the world.  Joy is a part of my process.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that poetry, as a practice, necessitates a sense of joy.  It’s exhilarating to come into contact with the things we write into being.  And a real sense of play and abandon – even when we are relying on hard-won technique, and even when the aim is deadly serious.  How often do we get the excuse to stop, think, and then stop thinking altogether and try to listen to what sits behind our outside of our thoughts?  Poets are lucky.

Interview with Tracy K. Smith – “Poets are Lucky”

I met Tracy K. Smith a couple of weeks before she won the Pulitzer Prize for her terrific and completely ravishing new book, Life on Mars.  We were at a book party for Stephen Motika and his lovely new book, Western Practice – a loft somewhere downtown, in the rain, owned by people I didn’t know.  Tracy came over to tell me what a great speaking voice I had (aside from being raspy and constantly compared to Harvey Fierstein and Wolfman Jack, it is also pretty loud) which is not always the best opening line – except that in Tracy’s case, the speaking voice at large was a subject quickly abandoned for the more important subjects of writing, teaching and other poets we both know and love.

Life on Mars is a book about a world real and a world imagined and, at times, a kind of world ecstatically hoped for.  And so, my questions for Tracy really had to do with how she managed to take on those worlds in such a simple and intimate way and how, in the end, such a balancing act is a vocation the poet is – when the wind is right – uniquely qualified for.

Michael Klein:  Firstly, Mazel Tov! on your fantastic Pulitzer news.  I e-mailed you the other day about this panel that Jan Clausen is proposing for the AWP Conference next year, which I think is terrific and immediately made me think of you and your wonderful Life on Mars – the book, that is.  Jan’s panel is called “Late Word: Imagination on the Brink” which is about how the collective consciousness has been trying to define itself since the 1950’s – the nuclear imagination, let’s call it – as something that either lets the world go, or holds the world, i.e., prevents it from blowing up.  You wrote me back to say that you were thinking a lot about these kinds of things and wondering how your poems might begin to address them.  And I think Life on Mars is actually the start of that thinking.  Can you tell me more about you approach the subject of – let’s call it, life here – on the brink, on earth?

Tracy K. Smith:  Well, I think that believing in language – in the ability of words to bring even an imagined reality into being – is a big part of what it means to write poetry.  If something like an idea or a belief is capable of being imagined or even described, then the possibility that it will be acted upon becomes much more likely.  I think that many of my poems are attempts to take myself up on that premise, to step into conversation with voices and events that require me to decide something:  what do I believe is right?   What is the more subtle or subjective view of this situation?  What must I challenge myself to understand?  And what, if spoken, will require me to hold myself to a better standard of being or believing?  In terms of wanting to hold the world or letting it go, I personally am earnest enough to want to hold it. And I think most people who aren’t radical fundamentalists of one variety or another feel the same way.  I’d even wager that the radicals believe they are trying to save the world for something.

MK:  Of course, what I love about Life On Mars is how otherworldly it is and yet how direct it is, too, about life on earth.  You make the universe as intimate as love for a father.  Everyday life, common knowledge, aside for a moment, where do you think your attraction come from to those things we can’t see, something like God, and the imaginary life?

TKS:  I wrote the bulk of the book in the wake of my father’s death, and while I was pregnant with my daughter.  So those unknowns felt very present and very urgent for me.  I needed to figure out where I believed my father had gone and what he had become a part of, and so approaching the page really became a matter of attempting to describe or create a version of that world that would allow me to move through my private grief to something else.  But even beyond my own private experience, I think it’s quite natural to use versions of what we know or have experienced as the framework for imagining what we cannot know, and what we have not yet experienced.  That’s why metaphor exists.

MK:  The book also is full of sweeping gestures but it’s also smaller, meditative.  And it feels metaphysical as well.  You can write a poem like “Life on Mars” and then something pared down like “The Good Life”.  Is there such a thing as something too big to write about?  Too small?

TKS:  Well, I obviously don’t think so!  I hope that in both cases, concrete particulars save the poem from feeling too abstract and too inconsequential.  My belief is that they create the sense of a real space or a real encounter to be entered into and felt.  And I think that the desire for feeling is a large part of what attracts many of us to poems.

MK:  The tone of the book is so sweet – and I don’t mean that in a syrupy or condescending way at all – but I was struck by how instead of dread about the contemporary human condition, you seem to have a shining hopefulness about it all.  It made me think that writing – even if the going is dark – is actually a joyful act for you.  Is it?

TKS:  I don’t know how hopeful I feel in real life.  And I think that some of the poems linger in a dark or unresolved place.  “Ransom” is an example of a brief poem that doesn’t try to fix anything, and that registers dissatisfaction with the kind of pat solution that has been posited for a complex problem like that of piracy.  And “Life on Mars” doesn’t really emerge into the light, though perhaps it implies that there is agency at the root of conflict, and therefore the possibility for something better to characterize the ways we as humans relate to one another.  But I will agree that there is also a sense of compassion that the book is trying to envision.  It was very important for me to step outside of my own sense of right and wrong in the poem “They May Love All the He Has Chosen and Hate All that He Has Rejected” and test out a perspective that felt more distant and comprehending, characterized by the kind of understanding I imagine the dead come into.  It was a very uncomfortable thing to do, but I felt that the poem required it, and I think it taught me something about how I as a citizen might attempt to look at the world.  Joy is a part of my process.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say that poetry, as a practice, necessitates a sense of joy.  It’s exhilarating to come into contact with the things we write into being.  And a real sense of play and abandon – even when we are relying on hard-won technique, and even when the aim is deadly serious.  How often do we get the excuse to stop, think, and then stop thinking altogether and try to listen to what sits behind our outside of our thoughts?  Poets are lucky.

Yes, that’s Mark Strand.
Photo © Adam Fitzgerald.

Yes, that’s Mark Strand.

Photo © Adam Fitzgerald.

(Source: thethepoetry.com)


vintageanchor:

President Obama chats in the Blue Room of the White House with author Toni Morrison, who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday.

Look at her!

vintageanchor:

President Obama chats in the Blue Room of the White House with author Toni Morrison, who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom yesterday.

Look at her!

(via livefromthenypl)

Some Time by Louis Zukofsky

Some Time by Louis Zukofsky