Commentaries - May 2011
These are the opening lines of “Quand le Grand Foyer Descend Dans les Eaux”' a section of Robert Duncan's anti-war Passages. In 1982 Duncan went to Buffalo to read poems mostly from the "Regulators" sequence of Passages, published in Ground Work II: In the Dark. Duncan began with a nearly 18-minute preamble: a talk about the imagination, nationhood, Christendom and Dante's Divine Comedy, Ludwig Wittgenstein, being a “poet of the spirit,” being a “Christian non-Christian,” language mysticism, and prayer. He ended with what he called a “sermon” (21 minutes).
Someone at Buffalo had the presence of mind to record this event — and the recording has been added to PennSound — and (thanks to the amazing Jenny Lesser) it's been segmented into individual portions and poems.
A Long Island-based psychotherapist who blogs quotes Wallace Stevens out of context — as self-help gloop. Renders the partly regular iambic blank-verse couplet into hyperlineated bloggy mush and even chooses a so-you-can't-miss-it mustard font color for the key phrase but (at least by implication) seems to get it right. What does mind-body psychotherapy and meditation have to do with the poem “Man Carrying Thing”? What does that poem, a gradually intensifying wintry all-nighter pulled by the poet, have to do with any of the good doctor Crew's other entries: always shop from a list, he urges us; how to stretch your hamstring; have a clear conscience and feel good? Well, not much, but that this man would be attracted to these particular Stevensean lines did, surprsingly, get me thinking freshly about the poem, so I suppose trawling the blogosphere for 21st-century Stevens has its occasional rewards.
In the morning, we suddenly see what we had not been able to see before: “A horror of thoughts that suddenly are real.”
We must endure our thoughts all night, until
The bright obvious stands motionless in cold.
See freely beyond (or, really: after) the sight-obscuring blizzard of uncertainties, as the uncertainties themselves have kept hidden from us the terror of truth; thus see that that enactment is inescapable. This is his turn from the torment of difficulty toward lucidity. Description is revelation, yes, but better still is the poem that describes the process through which the writer can get (in the clear light of day) to the point of being able to describe with some confidence.
One day, on the street, Bruce Andrews found several thousands of pages of scripts from the soap opera, As the World Turns. He then created an untitled piece we might call “This Is the 20th Century” (using its first line). It was apparently written to serve as a preface or blurb for a book by Johanna Drucker (Dark Decade). Andrews uses phrases from the TV scripts and also some language from Drucker. He read this stray-ish piece at an Ear Inn reading in 1994. Here is the recording — from PennSound's Bruce Andrews page where this '94 reading has been segmented (thanks to the talented Jenny Lesser). The blurb did not appear on or in Drucker's Dark Decade and remains unpublished.