Commentaries - May 2011

New audio: William Carlos Williams offers commentary on "This Is Just to Say" (the "rape of the icebox" poem) and includes his reading of his wife's reply to the poem. This is an audio-only clip from the documentary film about WCW's life and work made as part of the "Voices & Visions" series, so you will hear the music put behind an animated recreation of the writing of the note-poem, Flossie's discovery of it and her response to it.

On Nicholas Joost

Nicholas Joost had been a Chicago-area professor and, for several years in the early 50s, was an associate editor at Poetry magazine. After a while his main interest became The Dial, the avant-garde magazine whose heyday had been the 1920s. Eventually he would write several books about the Dial but first, from 1956 through 1960, he helped prepare a major exhibit on the Dial put on at the Worcester Museum (in Massachusetts). Joost's manuscripts (at Georgetown) include correspondence of the late fifties and they seem (to judge from the finding aid) almost entirely taken up with the Dial exhibit. I haven't seen the exhibit catalogue for the show, which opened in '59 and ran through part of '60, but I'm soon going to be in touch with the folks now at Worcester, get a copy of the catalogue and find out what institutional records they have kept. I've long been curious about specific reasons why the 1920s were so much the rage in the mid and late 1950s, why specifically Fitzgerald's fiction had such a comeback, why American modernists circa 1925 was of such great interest. This Dial show and its reception will, I think, give me some further clues.

from left: Bruce Andrews, Michael Lally, Ray DiPalma

This photograph of Bruce Andrews, Michael Lally, and Ray DiPalma was taken by Elizabeth DiPalma in early September 1975, in Michael Lally's then Sullivan Street apartment. The print of the original photo, now among Ray DiPalma's papers at Yale, is 8"x10".  We at J2 are grateful to Ray DiPalma for making this reproduction available to us and our readers.

I just now listened (for what must be the third time overall) to a triple reading given by Andrews, Lally, and DiPalma together at the Ear Inn in New York on November 10, 1977. DiPalma read “Exile,” “It makes of nonsense,” and “I am in the mountains,’ and also a 4-minute section from The Birthday Notations. Andrews read mostly from Moebius (published as a chapbook much later, in 1993); one of these Moebius poems became the focus of an episode of PoemTalk ("Center").  As for what Lally read that night, I'm sorry to say that PennSound's Lally page needs work; it's not clear which recording is the November '77 reading (we'll work on fixing it).

Here is Ray DiPalma's further recollection:

We all came to NYC in 1975 — Michael in May and Bruce and I in August-September.  Michael and I had become friends in 1967 while at the Iowa Writers Workshop and been in regular touch since. I published Michael's first book What Withers in the Spring of 1970 (along with collections by Merrill Gilfillan and Robert Slater) under my Doones Press imprint. Bruce first wrote to me and sent poems in the summer of 1970. I was teaching in the MFA Poetry Program at Bowling Green University in Ohio at the time and was about to leave for a year in Europe. The arrival of Bruce's work was curiously coincidental. Michael and his family had driven up from Maryland to visit me for a few days and I showed him Bruce's work. At that point Michael hadn't met or heard of Bruce. However, he and Bruce were to meet shortly thereafter in a DC bookshop — as I remember Michael later telling me — they were both reaching for the same book at the time. Bruce and I spoke on the phone once or twice and were in touch through the mail with some regularity between 1971-75 — but didn't meet until 1975 in NYC. This photo marks the first occasion the 3 of us were in the same room together.

More on the DiPalma papers at Yale:

The Yale Collection of American Literature has acquired the papers of poet and visual artist Ray DiPalma. The author of some thirty books of poetry and visual work including Letters, Provocations, and Motion of the Cypher, DiPalma has had a rich and varied career as poet, editor, book artist, and artistic collaborator, beginning in the 1960s. He lives in New York City and teaches at the School of Visual Arts.

DiPalma’s literary archive includes correspondence, manuscripts, printed materials (largely little magazines), one of a kind book works, and documentation of collaborative projects with other writers and artists. Autograph journals and notebooks and heavily edited typescripts as well as many manuscripts of other poets and fiction writers, often with autograph corrections, are also present in the collection. Materials in the archive, such as correspondence with Charles Bernstein, Lyn Hejinian, and Ron Silliman, document the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E Writing community of the 1970s and 1980s. The archive has a significant international component, including correspondence with contemporary French poets, editors, and translators.

Bob Kaufman, “Jail Poems,” published in Beatitude Anthology (San Francisco: City Lights Books, 1960), pp. 51-56. The original Beatitude magazine was conceived by Allen Ginsberg, Bob Kaufman, and John Kelly at Cassandra's Coffee House in May 1959.

Amy Sillman is an artist living in Bro0klyn. She teaches at Bard's Milton Avery Graduate School of the Arts, where she is co-chair of Painting. She is represented by Sikkema Jenkins.