Friday, December 28, 2012

Louis Zukofsky, etc.

Michael Johnson asks, "Did RAW mention Louis Zukofsky? If he did I missed it. Anyway, I know you enjoy LZ's _A_ and I've noticed the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets see Zukofsky as one of their gods. Do you also like the Language Poets? And if so, who/what books?"

I don't recall Bob every mentioning Zukofsky.  Something tugs at my memory about Pound's dedication of Guide to Kultur, but I don't think it marks a real memory of Bob.

I don't know anything about the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets.  I scanned a copy of articles about them after I read your question, and I haven't even heard of any of them except for Bob Perelman, and I only know his name because of his interest in Louis Zukofsky.  I enjoyed this piece about LZ by BP - .  I particularly liked these lines:

"14. There’s also the progression of his last planned projects: at the beginning of his 8th decade he begins /80 Flowers/ with /Gamut: 90 Trees/ planned for the decade after that. Isn’t 100 the teleological goal there?

"15. (At this point, it’s hard to resist Ron Silliman’s prediction for the next project: /101 Dalmations/.).

"57. Pound remained the model of the poet for Zukofsky.

"58. /Prepositions/ was on Zukofsky’s desk when he died, open to his essay on Pound.

"61. Zukofsky carries Pound on his back, like Aeneas carrying Anchises out of burning Troy."

If I live  to 101 I may write a series of poems about dogs called 101 Dalmatians.

Did you know Zukofsky mentions Vico a few times in "A"?

On another note, there seems so much to read.  Reading about Samuel Johnson's friends in the eighteenth century, it seemed as though most of them had read many of the same books.  In the inverveening centuries, so many more books have become available that we have such a huge variety of texts to choose from.  I think again about Paul Schrader's essay on the film canon ( ).  I find it fascinating how we choose what to read.  It can take a lifetime to start to understand some writers (Pound, Joyce, etc.).  Over the years I've encountered various ideas of the literary canon.  I've spent a lot of time reading books perceived as canonical by Bob Wilson and Ezra Pound, but when I became friends with Rafi Zabor a few years ago, I found a whole new canon I had not read (Chekhov, Tolstoy, Proust, etc.).  I always feel humbled reading your terrific blog ( ) because you have so many books you regard highly which I haven't read, and you've read so many of the books which I value highly.

Robert Heinlein, discussing the difficulties he had in keeping up with advances in the sciences, quoted Alice, "The faster I go, the behinder I get."

Thanks for the stimulating question.


  1. Hagbard Celine visited Pound in Rapallo, as you well know. (IllTri:776)

    Re: "canon": mine seems all balled up. I like mine to grow...organically seems pretentious, but I have had more fun with one book leading me to another than a Set List for the Next Three to 18 Months, or whateff.

    I'll second Heinlein, but I do think it's not how many books we read, but what we DO with our reading, how we make it and allow it to shape our ideas for action and/or imagination.

    I'm amazed I've now read so much that I can take a book off a shelf, knowing I've read the thing before, 15 yrs ago, and enjoyed it...and damn if it doesn't seem new _enough_ to me, now. And I'd like to think the main reason for this: I have changed. I'd like to not think: my memory is dwindling.

    re: Dr. Johnson and friends and reading-in-common: that was a major actuating force for the canonical Great Books mvmt. And I have that set and love it. But I do not consider it the best canon. And I love disagreeing with those Western authors. (Most of 'em. Ain't got no beefs with Billy Shakes, Melville, Montaigne, Lucretius, Homer, Wm James, or Herodotus...)

    Let us make out own canons! (And share what we came up with?)

    The making of The canon seems an intellectual's opiate. I will take a hit, and probably enjoy it. But then I find I will slowly ease away as they tell me WHY theirs is THE one. I just can't buy it. Like RAW's attack on Mortimer Adler in Illuminatus!...

    There's quite a lot about Zukofsky and math, Pythagoras, and numerological stuff (and no, I didn't know, I need to check out the Vico stuff in _A_) in Scroggins's _Poem Of A Life_, a bio of Zuk. Lots on Uncle Ez too. See esp. 180-194...made me think of your remarks on "number poetry" in An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson.

    The L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets have made quite a splash in the Bay Area since the last 70s. I tried to read Silliman's trilogy, but couldn't; it approaches FW in the mathematical theory of information, but reads closer to WSB's cut-up books, like Nova Express. To me. Lots of clique-ishness regarding the LANG poets and other poetry groups. A fantastic way to track it all, I found was reading the 2-vol work by Jack Foley, who's been here and seen it all go down, knows the main players personally. See if your library has Visions and Affiliations and look in on Vol I, pp.377-389 (on p.378 Ez named a precursor too), 496-498 (Hejinian, Silliman, Watten, Zukofsky), and Vol 2, pp.248-249 (Foley on Olson, Ezra, ideogram, and influence).

    Did you happen to see the piece from a couple weeks ago in Chronicle of Higher Education, about how poetry "makes you weird"? And it's a good thing?

    Back to canons and trying to read everything: it seems Rbt Frost kept reading the same 20 books over and over his whole life. But they were his choices.

  2. Thanks for the comments. "A" includes an index making it easy to find the Vico references. I did not see the poetry article in the Chronicle of Higher Education, pg. 420.

    I find canons fascinating. For one thing, some books/films/music seem much easier to find and to study. Video stores (remember them?) and libraries used the AFI Hundred Greatest American Movies list as a buy list. (I worked at Blockbuster in 1998 when the list came out.) Films that top that list show up on TV frequently. If one wants to study a canonical composer like Beethoven, one can find dozens (hundreds?) of books and scores to aid in that study. If one want to understand Roscoe Mitchell better, one has to blaze a trail.

    If one wants to understand Robert Anton Wilson, one can find some online resources and one book (with a lot of typos and a lot of autobiographical rambling by the author). That leads me to my


    10. Michael writes extremely well.

    9. His deep knowledge of many Wilsonian areas nicely complements areas of deep ignorance in myself and other Wilson scholars.

    8. Bob would have loved to read your book. I remember once driving with him, and I asked him if he'd like libraries to have shelves of books on him like they do for Pound and Joyce. He said, "Of course."

    7. The world could use your books and the thoughts it would stimulate in your readers.

    6. I bet you would have a lot of fun writing it.

    5. I know you'd have a blast with the experience of holding your own book in your hands.

    4. I bet you'd enjoy observing how the world starts treating you as a "published author."

    3. Your book will start the snowball rolling and growing for the "Wilson Industry" of the 2020's.

    2. I bet this whole process would increase your already prodigious intelligence.


  3. I second those top ten reasons, and add that it would benefit a lot of people.