The other day several of us were remembering high-school typing classes. Sit at old desk. Clang away at old worn manual typewriter. Type lines your teacher tells you will enhance your fingers' sense of the full range of QWERTY. Such as "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party."
I never knew what party this was, but the article "the" made me suspect that it was the G.O.P., a hunch seemingly confirmed by a glance up at my extremely prim typing teacher. Once in a while, in a resistant mood, I would type this: "Now is the time for all good men to come to." "Mr. Filreis," Miss Prim would say, "please complete the assignment." "I didn't have time to finish" was my retort, whereupon I swung my bookbag over my shoulder, and was off, down the hall among the party-minded teenagers who wandered there during class.
To type this entry, which I did with great efficiency as always, I had once again to poke the letters forming that expression of classic American get-alongism. And I could strongly feel the body-memory, an adolescent sensory shadow.
Very soon we at PennSound will be announcing a new page of recordings: those of the poet Walter Lowenfels. We've been working with WL's daughter Judy to preserve readings and interviews that have been stored on reel-to-reel and cassette tapes. First they were digitized and put onto CDs. Then we've been selecting batches to upload, tag, name and organize on the new Lowenfels author page: here. We'll be adding more soon, but check it out now. Rare stuff there.
Lowenfels is, in a way, the Zelig of modern American poetry--part of nearly every aesthetic and political movement of his time. In the 20s he was an expatriate avant-gardist living, writing, experimenting, publishing, frolicking in Paris; toward and in the 1930s he became a political activist, and a member of the Communist Party; in the 1950s he actually went to jail after having been convicted under the anticommunist Smith Act, and wrote sonnets to love and liberty while in jail; re-emerging in the early and mid-1960s, he was taken up avidly by a new generation of readers and became a leader among the poet-activists who opposed the war in Vietnam.
For my book on the poetry of the 1950s and the way it responded to modernism in the 1930s, I spend a good deal of time tracking down Lowenfels' publications and reading among his unpublished letters and other archival materials. So this new Lowenfels PennSound gives me special pleasure.
Armand Schwerner: "Way before the sixties, Walter Lowenfels perceived the lopsided canon of our poetry; he did a great deal to change the climate, in which, as he writes, the country needed to include 'the vast emotional resources and insights that Indian, Black and Chicano people express in their poetry."
From Robert Stone’s June 2004 remembrance of Ken Kesey:
“More than the inhabitants of any other decade before us, we believed ourselves in a time of our own making.”
And: “I knew that the future lay before us and I was certain that we owned it.”
From “The Prince of Possibility,” June 14/21, 2004, p. 71.
Misha Defonseca's best-selling Holocaust memoir, a tale of a petite Jewish lass wandering around Europe and cohabitating with wolves, turns out to have been a hoax. Her confession came just yesterday. The online Boston Globe has the story.
I have mixed feelings. Oh, let me say my disgust is unambiguous. My indecision is this: do I care much about it (just another fake of our time) or do I work hard at the problem, countering such things, teaching verity as the only alternative, etc.? The latter impulse is to counter the way in which this sort of thing seems to give credence to "Holocaust revisionists" (deniers), the fabricators about an alleged fabrication who use "history" to (a) doubt the efficacy of fictive forms of representation of the genocide, and to (b) cast doubt on survivor testimony generally.
Thanks to Leslie Onkenhout, once a student in my Holocaust course, for pointing out the Globe story.
Byrd's blog is subtitled "It’s a good time to be a poet, I think, although the pay is shitty," and recently paid tribute to Keith Wilson (in poor health, at 80) and invited us to come to Placitas, New Mexico, for a tribute reading. "Welcome,"Byrd said in his talk this past Sunday, "as Jerome Rothenberg would say, to the Paradise of Poets. Welcome, as Gertrude Stein might say, to the continuous now of poetry. We are here today to honor poet Keith Wilson, and by our presence, the radiant beast of poetry survives."
Pondering further in his blog on the phrase he used from Rothenberg, "paradise of poets," Byrd writes about his connection to that generous poet about whom I've also written here a few times in recent months. Along the way, Byrd kindly mentions our recent PoemTalk show about the poem from which the generative phrase is taken.