Commentaries - December 2008
Rod Blagojevich, in a speech for the annals of political bluster, quoted a dozen or so lines from Rudyard Kipling’s ubiquitous, stalwart, quoted-on-all-occasions “If.” About a half dozen bloggers and journalists asked me to comment on this. Not sure why. I assume it’s this: I’ve been on the web so long (since ’94) posting pages and writing commentary on poetry that I tend to come up early in web searches. I’m not a Kipling guy, for sure. Am interested in but finally indifferent to the fiction, and am absolutely tired of “If,” recited either as evidence of personal triumph or as pep talk for bedraggled groups (employees, students, summer campers). Bill Lucey of The Morning Delivery quotes me in today’s entry: here. There are minor inaccuracies in the quote, but he gets the gist of my view.
Louis Zukofsky’s poem “Xenophanes,” which begins —
Water, cold, and sweet, and pure
And yellow loaves are near at hand,
Wine that makes a rosy hand
Fire in winter, the little pulse.
— was not apparently a poem that Zukofsky liked to read aloud or indeed ever read while a recorder’s reels were turning, so far as we knew from the readings we have on Zukofsky’s PennSound page. I had gone looking for it there, but no luck.
But wait a moment. It’s there. The poet created a home-made tape recording for the Library of Congress on November 3, 1960. He read thirty-nine poems. The sixteenth was “So That Even a Lover.” He hardly paused after reading that short poem and then read “Xenophanes.” We missed it when segmenting the mp3 we made from the reel-to-reel tape. If you listen to “So That Even a Lover” long enough you’ll hear “Xenophanes.”
We’ll resegment and add the link to “Xenophanes,” but enjoy it in the meantime as an encore, a bonus track.