Spicer: Elegy for psychoanalysis

One of my favorite early poems of Jack Spicer is “Psychnoanalysis: An Elegy.” Check it out in Peter Gizzi’s and Kevin Killian’s edition of the The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (subtitled “my vocabulary did this to me”), on pages 31–33. (Wesleyan published this fine book. Get thyself a copy soon.)

After reading around in the Collected, I decided to go back to our PennSound Spicer page, and listened again to this remarkably confident, resonant and yet slightly weird baritone voice. A radio voice, was the phrase we used to use for such a person. Yes, Jack Spicer had a radio voice. Which is unrelated — or, then again, perhaps entirely related — to the poet’s penchant for using the radio as a conceit in his digressive commentary. See, at the bottom of this entry, my favorite Spicerian comment the wanders into radio.

So I listened to Spicer again. I noticed that we at PennSound have made available an undated four-minute, fifty-two-second recording of his reading of “The Song of the Bird in the Loins.” Nearly five minutes to read that short poem. Hmm, too much time for that piece. Perhaps, I thought, he reads the poem and then offers some commentary. So I listened, eager to hear more than that one poem. Lo and behold: the recording is not just that poem but three early works. The other two are “The Dancing Ape” and ... “Psychoanalysis: An Elegy.” So there’s my poem! Now we’ve unpacked the three, made separate mp3 recordings for each, and now I’ll recommend that everyone reading this blog have a listen to this “elegy,” a smart, luminous, and slightly unhinged rejoinder to the triumph of the therapeutic.

Q: Are you actually going through a transition in your writing?

Jack Spicer: I’m going through a transition. In fact, I don’t have no job, and I ...

Q: No, I mean in your actual writing.

Jack Spicer: Well, if the radio set has three batteries which are gone and one that’s still left, that isn’t a transition in the radio broadcast. It’s a transition in the radio set, namely that you don’t have very much power. And these things that happen to you in life are like that. If you’re only going on one transistor and you’re a four-transistor radio, you’re not going to be able to get in the outlying stations very easy. KFI doesn’t come in.