Dialogue of Dissimilar Poets, 1950

[Note: I had been thinking about what happened to modernism at midcentury. (The quick answer is: it got very dull. Why? One quick answer: the cold war.) I read all the poems published in the New Directions annuals from 1950 to 1953. I imagined a conversation between Charles Olson and Daniel Hoffman--one that could possibly have taken place but most surely did not. I drew lines from the poems of each published in the New Directions annuals--from Hoffman's "An Armada of Forty Whales," "Abstract: Contact," "The Flautist's Breath Turns Reverie to Sound," "Dancing Master of the Pussy Cats" and "I Dreamt My Love A-Dying Lay"; and from Olson's "The Praises."]

(Olson:)				(Hoffman:)

What is necessary is

					Who sees, beneath their
					bows, a samba
					rippling under fur?

Finius Bonacci, his series

					Who hears their padded castanets
					or sees the light leap
					from their amber eyes...?

What has been lost
is the secret of secrecy, is
the value, viz., that the work get done, and quickly,
without the loss of due and profound respect for
the materials

					The flautist's breath
				 	turns reverie to sound.

Which is why what is related must remain enigmatic.

					Boys on the cross-bridge dangle

when men are active, enjoy thought.

					They leave their green world to fish

Like pa does, not like sis.

					while I beside her stood austere

to dream takes no effort

to think is easy
	to act is more difficult

					Boys in classrooms press the

It is the use, it is the use

					Drop pebbles; watch inverted


					Eager for hedgerows and roses.

the ratio 5-8, 8-13
in the seed cones of fir-trees
the ratio 21-34
in normal daisies

					He wove a lily garland sweet...

Here we must stop    And ponder     For nature

					Scholars of the circle's nuance:
					Diligent draughtsmen...

Which is why what is related must remain enigmatic
And why Ammonius excepts, from these epiphanies,
those who are entirely brutish.
Which brings us to what concerns us in the present inquiry

	Avert, avert, avoid
	pollution, to be clean
	in a dirty line

					How shall their canticles be sung?

	o' that's not fair

	You would have a sign? Look:
	to fly? a fly can do that;
	to try the moon? a moth
	as well; to walk on water? a straw
	precedes you

L da V, his notebook:
	Every natural action obeys by
	the straightest possible process.

It is the use, it is the use

you make of us, the use

you make of



Document URL: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~afilreis/poem-olson-hoffman.html
Last modified: Monday, 23-Aug-1999 15:03:21 EDT