[In advance of the forthcoming republication of ShakingthePumpkin by Station Hill Press of Barrytown I’m posting again the following selection which appeared, with accompanying commentaries, in a recent issue of PoetryInternational, San Diego State University, & as an excerpt on PoemsandPoetics. Additional excerpts from ShakingthePumpkin were posted earlier &morewillbepostedherebetweennow&theactualrepublication.]
In the aftermath of TechniciansoftheSacred (1968) the next step I took toward the construction of an experimental ethnopoetics was an assemblage of traditional works and commentaries thereon focused entirely on one of the world’s still surviving and incredibly diverse “deep cultures.” The resultant work, ShakingthePumpkin:TraditionalPoetryoftheIndianNorthAmericas, was published by Doubleday Anchor in 1972 and in revised versions by Alfred van der Marck Editions (1986) and the University of New Mexico Press (1991).
TheAndescrossingwaspartofmyreadingtripwithCeciliaVicuñathroughChile,Argentina,Uruguay,&Brazil.OurothercompanionswereDianeRothenberg,thephotographer&filmmakerFrancis(Frank)Cincotta,&ArianeBraillard.BesidesCincotta’sphotographs&films,theonlyrecordsofthecrossingaremyseriesofpoems(laterpublishedinRamDevineni’sRatapallax)&DianeRothenberg’songoingjournal, both excerpted below.
She died & from her breasts her newborn babe sucked life. Her sanctuary at the Inca’s lake still fills the flattened earth.
The two-sided collage shown here was in the possession of myself and Diane Rothenberg for something like a half-century before we sold it earlier this year with the intention of divesting ourselves of some of our accumulated art works and in this instance turning the proceeds toward the funding of a granddaughter’s college education. We had first met Jess and Robert Duncan in 1959 on what was also our first visit to fabled San Francisco. Before that Robert and I had begun a correspondence around the miniature magazine, PoemsfromtheFloatingWorld, that I was then editing, and when Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights published my first book, NewYoungGermanPoets, a trip to the Bay Area became inevitable. That was in early summer, following a crosscountry car ride with friends and a bus trip up the coast from Los Angeles. We stayed in a small hotel on Geary Street and I rented a still smaller room nearby to use as a writing studio. On our third or fourth day there we went over to City Lights to meet with Ferlinghetti and ran into a photo shoot by Harry Redl that included Philip Lamantia along with Robert and Lawrence.
[The entire poem appears in TheFirstFlag, forthcoming from Coffee House Press]
◊ I Slid Out of My Mother’s Body Of being numinous. Of drift and syringe. Of metal atonement. Of a tube-fed melancholy. Of post-terror karmic. Of a certain amount of ear. Of the smog smear around the blood hollow. Of the ossified berry like a cave cataract. Of my mind branched out through the fontanel, antlering, leaves letting go of me.
◊ Exogeny I entered air a poisonous object subtracted from a poisoned mother. Herradiance scathesme. I'm a pharmaceutical interpolator. My mother and I have the same (m)Other, man-made (m)Om. I came astride the butcher's alchemical homologue. The butcher said, we'll grow up on this street. We'll wear masks to conceal our monstrous mutual disease. He said, lookatmythrobbingmoneybags. I roam over a burial site, my cosmovisage, some myness that is not quite dead yet. A birth plan spilling cosmovergence.
◊ Doll Box Questioning began to break circuitry into the air between myself and the listening surround. At first my mouth formed only a zero and I was mistaken by some for a doll. This air shielded the world from my sound, which was clotted and seizing, a stirring interior. I only want to feel myself the mother of something. I want, and want to redeem my fire. But a menacing voice perseveres, blacks out my nomorelogos!
◊ Brain Letter One day I woke up rearranged like a sleepwalker misplaced upon a terrain of erotic grenades. Am I a manifesto? Am I cloudless, now? Little fuses sizzled and unfurled smoke signals targeting thoughtpods in outerspace. Each grenade was a tiny twin of my own brain, a memory vessel: myburiedfetalcunt,itsplasticcrust.