Sunday, July 26, 2015

I was not looking for a cage

I dont think anyone who matters really objected to your aside on Auden. I did, of course. The poem and not the poet so The Shield of Achilles the mid-century word on bland evil. Just that and so he is immortal. One great poem is really all that is required. If the rest is a bland muddle what care we? Poet rescue no longer my business. But then Auden has other very fine poems and the sense of meter to doze for not that evident. A great sense of fun and oh the man knew where to place an alas.

At Dirty Dick's and Sloppy Joe's 
We drank our liquor straight, 
Some went upstairs with Margery, 
And some, alas, with Kate; 
And two by two like cat and mouse 
The homeless played at keeping house. 

There Wealthy Meg, the Sailor's Friend, 
And Marion, cow-eyed, 
Opened their arms to me but I 
Refused to step inside; 
I was not looking for a cage 
In which to mope my old age. 

The nightingales are sobbing in 
The orchards of our mothers, 
And hearts that we broke long ago 
Have long been breaking others; 
Tears are round, the sea is deep: 
Roll them overboard and sleep. 

Just that in the immortal Mermaid Tavern worth more than many a long poem.

And then, those nightingales

Yes, I had a recording of Dylan Thomas reading this poem and this, played again and again, as I lolled about my squalid quarters above the Artificial Limb and Brace Company may have unduly influenced mebut, by God, the wit, the aural satisfactions (oh I am struggling to get the vile phrase mouth music out of my headand phrase blithely used by certain SOQ layabouts showing that it is not possible that they could ever have anything meaningful to say about the sameI think Donald Hall is responsible for this). 

In any case my affection for Auden is, I admit, suspect since I am taken with my late Uncle Joes claim that Audens amorous encounter with him in a tavern was responsible for Auden writing In Memory of W.B. Yeats. Yes, the ordinary reader will suppose that the death of Yeats was the occasion for this poem. However, my Uncle has persuaded me otherwise. 

But, yes, all in all if one is forced to chat about the poetry in general then Auden is the plummiest of poets. Redeemed by much else I think and you, undoubtedly, are, at some level, reacting in fastidious horror as we must love one another or die is given new life after this and that horror. Larry King perhaps uttering these words. 

But and nevertheless and all in all there is a struggle and then what at the end?

W.H. Auden
Perhaps the plummest
Said Of all major poets
Tennysons dumbest.

It was so cold outside
But cozy within.
A nice place to abide
With bitters and gin.

It was the season of hope
Hence reassuring them
That it was a dope
Who wrote In Memorium.

But Auden wasnt a dummy.
And it was Christmas eve.
Right then he felt plummy.
Very soon he would leave.


W.H. Auden
Very bad
Made a list:
Boys had:


But at sixty
He only had one
After sherbert.

Then some cigarettes
Several vodka martinis.

It was Christmas eve
For a bit he felt greenly.
Wrote several cruel verses.
Meant none of them meanly.

Then listened to funeral music from Tristan.

If there was any meaning,
It appears to have missed him.

Fans of concrete poetry will note with awe that this last poem is shaped like half a Christmas tree.

A final aside. Coincidence or Telepathy? Just yesterday after stopping at the great Midwestern University library to try to find a copy of Upton Sinclairs Mental Radio, his work on telepathy, I was in Barnes and Noble reading this and that in the Poetry section! I was thinking of Auden but ALSO thumbed through Dante translations. I heard Robert Pinsky read from his Inferno a few years back at a one of the first meetings of the Association of Literary Scholars and Critics. A nice talk afterwards and damn fine I thought but what I thought of then was just how much I would enjoy Sillimans Inferno. More likely this than The School of Quietude for Dummies. Id prefer your own version, of course. Satisfy so much just what Circle for Auden? Is that Yvor Winters groaning beneath the ice? Or, you could at least write a prose version The System of Sillimans Inferno. But Id prefer a poetic version. And dont hesitate (Dante didnt) to include the living. Is that Kirby Olsen I see skipping barefoot oer the burning sands?
# posted by Lon Silliman : July 28, 2005 

Poor Auden. Thought of as a Leftist revolutionary in the 1930's, despised Queer, penniless most of his life, an alcoholic, prematurely ugly, eccentric in a dully English manner, then later in life, despised again for being a lightweight, saddled with a temperamental minor poet partner (Chester Kallman) for 30 years.

And then, of course, a poet whose poems live on and for good reasons. And the Poor Auden just presumes that his cultured despisers had an effect on him. He didnt really give a damn that he was despised by the almost weightless for being a lightweight. Proofs in the pudding as he might have remarked in his eccentric and dull English fashion and the fact is, and this is a great comfort to most poets any damn good, unless you are considered a lightweight by a peer why should you give a damn? And then really so what? The truth is there is endless talk and gossip and etcetera but this is all easy and trivial under the aspect of semi-Eternity. 

Now the life. Auden enjoyed being seen as a leftist revolutionary and, unlike so very many, actually did something as far as being where the bullets fly. Somewhat. Changed his mind a bit while there. But from Spain went then to China. 

Penniless? Well, that never bothered him.

Alcoholic? Oh what worlds of love and meaning were denied him because of his craving for a cocktail! Still great wit, some fun and, in any case, the disapproval only has force if, on the whole, it wasnt better that way. 

Queer? Yes, but he had fun and really didnt suffer from the disapproval of the many. He didnt care. And he knew early, was happy with it very early.

Prematurely ugly? Oh, why would anyone care? Well, no leading man roles for him. 
Didnt seem to affect him much.

And I think he loved Chester. Any love sustained over thirty years in spite of it all is willed and wanted.

And, really, what is bourgeois or shopkeeperish about Robert Pinsky the poet/poems or the man? I listened to him talk for a half hour about Dante and his translation of the Inferno problems with translation, attempts to understand the sensibility, losses, damnation and so on. Really, the assumptions made from his Washington Post articles on poetry quite over the top. Does anyone think really that he is nave/unknowing about the distinction Ron made between plot and narrative, so unaware as to assume what you assume he assumes without nuance and so on? Those assumptions might be a good starting point for listening to what he would reply and then dealing with that. 

The remarks anent Auden above much more riddled with bourgeois assumptions than anything Pinsky would write. Saved somewhat by the thought that between 1935 and 1960, it's hard to imagine what "British" poetry would have been without him. 

The truth is and I say this having uttered many a cry of horror at the loose baggy monsters of literary theory from Winters to Derrida and ever on and on the discussions here are fairly innocent of theory. A good philosopher duelist of the old sort such as Michael Zeleny would find the theory here as easy to eliminate as the Martians found New Jersey. He would suffer the same fate as the Martians ultimately, however. Ron discusses a movie and finds this or that the key. Fine by me but there are intelligences out there vast, alien, indifferent You wouldnt know what hit you.
# posted by Lon Silliman : July 28, 2005 

". . . the other, equally in love with beauty and the romance of the difficult"

How much more virtually real can one be? 

This doesn't bode well for my new CD "The Dark Bark: Poems and Song of Rin Tin Tin." Available just be asking me and a source of endless delight. 

At a reading -- wondered why I was told to "Sit."

How is it that multiple levels of language can be enjoyed yet a simple pseudonym with backstory can be a source of such confusion?

I lived -- until 1966 -- right up the road from Ron -- 19 Remington Avenue, South Coatesville, Pa. 19320. Dudley 4 9237. Check me out with Mr. Pulinka up the street. He still kind of remembers me. And a big shout out to Bishop Shanahan High School Class of 66. I hope that this is explicit enough and the level of distress caused by a pseudonym is somewhat lowered.

Lon Silliman = Joe Green. Not the Northwestern Poet. Proprietor of Owl Oak Press. My picture at my blog. My service record available. (US Army). Transcripts from Universtity of Minnesota available. For anecdotes about my relationship with the writings of James Joyce contact Chester Anderson Professor Emeritus University of Minnesota by going to the University web site and finding his e-mail. Wondering about me and Shakespeare and my little role in establishing that he did NOT write the Funeral Ode?
Contact Thomas Clayton, Regents Professor, University of Minnesota. Curious about my appearance in Time magazine? Google Phillip Elmer Dewit "Bards of the Internet" "Joe Green." Want to hear more about the legendary poetry reading to assembled FBI agents and read once again that John Perry Barlow was a lyricist for the Grateful Dead contact me at the above e-mail since I have repressed most of it but will do what I can to be of assistance.


Joseph Michael Green, son of Jean Green (nee O'Brien) and James Lenard green (I don't know why the hell he spelled it that way) who owned the Green's News Agency in Coatesville, Pa and then worked selling "Bedroom "soots" and color TV's at Chertok's Furniture for years and years then "retired" but continued to be part of the American Business Community by selling Harley Davison Gee Gaws from a booth in the Downington Farmer's Market. That Jim Green.

I take the 134 bus from the corner of Jefferson and St Clair (St Paul, Minnesota) to work at 6:15 each morning.
# posted by Lon Silliman : July 29, 2005