Julian Beck: the state will be served even by poets

[Reposted here as a follow-up to recent discussions of the use of Ezra Pound’s name by the neofascist Casa Pound party in Italy, as a reminder of the larger problem that confronts us, even today, even as poets. In memory, too, of Julian Beck and Judith Malina. (J.R.)]


the breasts of all the women crumpled like gas bags when neruda wrote his hymn celebrating the explosion of a hydrogen bomb by soviet authorities


children died of the blisters of ignorance for a century more when siqueiros tried to assassinate trotsky himself a killer with gun and ice


pound shimmering his incantations to adams benito and kung prolonging the state with great translation cut in crystal


claudel slaying tupí guaraní as he flourished cultured documents and pearls in rio de janeiro when he served france as ambassador to brazil


melville served by looking for contraband as he worked in the customs house how many taxes did he requite how many pillars of the state did he cement in place tell me tell me tell me stone


spenser serving the faerie queene as a colonial secretary in ireland sinking the irish back for ten times forty years no less under the beau monde’s brack


seneca served by advising nero on how to strengthen the state with philosophy’s accomplishments


aeschylus served slaying persians at marathon and salamis


aristotle served as tutor putting visions of trigonometrics in alexander’s head


dali and eliot served crowning monarchs with their gold


wallace stevens served as insurance company executive making poems out of profits


euclides da cunha served as army captain baritoning troops


and even d h lawrence served praising the unique potential of a king


these are the epics of western culture

these are the flutes of china and the east


everything must be rewritten then


goethe served as a member of the weimar council of state and condemned even to death even to death


this is the saga of the state which is served


even to death


pinerolo to faenza palma de mallorca paris roma

november 1976  august 1979


Poet, painter, actor, and director, Julian Beck (1925–1985) was the cofounder with Judith Mailina of the Living Theater. Their influence and dedication to a liberatory poetics has continued into the present, and the Living Theater in its most recent incarnations has continued to remind us of what poetry at its most extreme and experimental still has to offer: “an archimedean point of imaginative / construction, / in which we can be energized, our resourses shored” (C. Bernstein). For all of that, the poem above is a kind of countermanifesto, a warning of our susceptibilities, the temptations to act against our better nature. [Reprinted from semi-perishable membranes: twenty songs of the revolution, as it appeared also in the “Art of the Manifesto” section of Poems for the Millennium,volume two.]