Showing posts with label William Carlos Williams. Show all posts
Showing posts with label William Carlos Williams. Show all posts

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Talking with

William Carlos Williams

with John Wingate, WABD


This is perhaps
Williams’ least comfortable interview
expressing opinions
that are anti-Semitic & anti-Catholic,
& being lured by the interviewer
into an attack on “beatnik academics”

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Saturday, May 08, 2010

William Carlos Williams
reading at the 92nd Street Y
in 1954

Friday, April 17, 2009

And, then, of course, there is this, what I’ve already noted once in the past month just may be the finest poem William Carlos Williams ever wrote:

The rose is obsolete
but each petal ends in
an edge, the double facet
cementing the grooved
columns of air – The edge
cuts without cutting

meets – nothing – renews
itself in metal or porcelain  

whither? It ends – 

But if it ends
the start is begun
so that to engage roses
becomes a geometry – 

Sharper, neater, more cutting
figured in majolica – 
the broken plate
glazed with a rose

Somewhere the sense
makes copper roses
steel roses – 

The rose carried weight of love
but love is at an end – of roses

It is at the edge of the
petal that love waits

Crisp, worked to defeat
laboredness – fragile
plucked, moist, half-raised
cold, precise, touching


The place between the petal's
edge and the

From the petal's edge a line starts
that being of steel
infinitely fine, infinitely
rigid penetrates
the Milky Way
without contact – lifting
from it – neither hanging
nor pushing – 

The fragility of the flower
penetrates space

Sunday, March 29, 2009


1923                   &                   1970

There you have it. The ampersand is Harvey Brown’s intervention, and you can see immediately why it seems like such an integral part of that edition. Since it was the 1970 edition, not the original publication, that had the lasting impact on at least my generation of poets, I believe that I shall continue to use the ampersand when writing about the book generally, but will use “and” henceforth to distinguish the earlier edition.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Photo by Jonathan Williams

Every couple of years, right about this time, I find myself drawn to rereading Spring & All, William Carlos Williams’ 1923 volume of verse linked with critique – today we might say theory – that in almost all respects was not only his first “great book,” but the very best writing of his career. It includes the poems that made him legitimately famous – “The red wheel barrow,” “By the road to the contagious hospital,” “The pure products of America,” and the two poems that I tend to think of as the best he ever wrote – “The rose is obsolete” and “What about all this writing?” The book originally was published in an edition of 300 by Contact Press & basically sank like a stone, never to be heard of again until Harvey Brown published a facsimile edition in 1970, some 47 years later, when it was still the most radical book of poetry I’d ever seen. (Actually, the last time I read this book was just last summer, but it holds up to rereadings the way Lear or Macbeth do. I can’t imagine not seeing something new no matter how many times I read the book.)

The poems are interspersed throughout the critical text. Its first assertion – that the fundamental impulse behind all traditional writing is plagiarism – has always struck me as unassailable, even obvious. But Williams’ second assertion – that what one represents in the poem is the imagination – has always made me feel uneasy. His insistence upon it is central:

(W)e are beginning to discover the truth that in great works of the imagination A CREATIVE FORCE IS SHOWN AT WORK MAKING OBJECTS WHICH ALONE COMPLETE SCIENCE AND ALLOW INTELLIGENCE TO SURVIVE


When in the condition of imaginative suspense only will the writing have reality . . .  – Not to attempt, at that time, to set values upon the word being used, according to presupposed measures, but to write down that which happens at that time –

To perfect the ability to record at the moment when the consciousness is enlarged by the sympathies and the unity of understanding which the imagination gives, to practice skill in recording the force moving, then to know it, in the largeness of its proportions –

It is the presence of a

This is not “fit” but a unification of experience

That is, the imagination is an actual force comparable to electricity or steam, it is not a plaything but a power that has been used from the first to raise the understanding of – it is not necessary to resort to mysticism – In fact it is this which has kept back the knowledge I seek –

The value of the imagination to the writer consists in its ability to make words. Its unique power is to give created forms reality, actual existence

This separates

Writing is not a searching about in the daily experience for apt similes and pretty thoughts and images. I have experienced that to my sorrow. It is not a conscious recording of the day’s experiences “freshly and with the appearance of reality” – This thing is seriously to the development of any ability in a man, it fastens him down, makes him a – It destroys, makes nature an accessory to the particular theory he is following, it blinds him to his world, –

The writer of imagination would find himself released from observing things for the purpose of writing them down later. He would be there to enjoy, to taste, to engage the free world, not a world which he carries like a bag of food, always fearful lest he drop something or someone get more than he.

A word detached from the necessity of recording it, sufficient to itself, removed from him (as it most certainly is) with which he has bitter and delicious relations and from which he is independentmoving at will from one thing to anotheras he pleases, unbound

and the unique proof of this is the work of the imagination not “like” anything but transfused with the same forces which transfuse the earthat least one small part of them.

Nature is the hint to composition not because it is familiar to us and therefore the terms we apply to it have a least common denominator quality which gives them currencybut because it possesses the quality of independent existence, of reality which we feel in ourselves. It is not opposed to art but apposed to it.

I suppose Shakespeare’s familiar aphorism about holding the mirror up to nature has done more harm in stabilizing the copyist tendency of the arts among us than

the mistake in it (though we forget that it is not S. speaking but an imaginative character of his) is to have believed that the reflection of nature is nature. It is not. It is only a sham nature, a “lie.”

Of course S. is the most conspicuous example desirable of the falseness of this very thing.

He holds no mirror up to nature but with his imagination rivals nature’s composition with his own.

He himself becomes “nature” – continuing “its” marvels – if you will

It occurs to me that one could learn all one needs to know of writing just by typing up this book, phrase by phrase, line by line. It occurs to me also that this is the template, in tone if not in exact architecture, for Robert Grenier’s infamous essay “ON SPEECH,” which would appear within the year of the Frontier Press republication.

But what precisely does Williams mean by imagination? Does he intend – I seriously doubt it – the same facility through which a child spins out so many nonsense syllables, as if speech itself were but a game?

The works that come through the imagination do not speak of the world – a belief in the possibility of which proves fatal to all political poetry, also all love poetry, also poetry about dogs and cats. That is because, says Williams, works of art, if they are not a “sham” or “’lie’,” do not speak of the world. Indeed, they do not speak of. Rather they are themselves in the world, on a par with the writer, and with the world itself, not to mention wars, love, cats & dogs. The poem, even if it is a great one, is no better than a dog in that each is real.

The imagination, as defined by Williams, uses words, but is not to be confused with them. Rather, its unique power is to “make words.” It has taken me years, decades in fact, to realize that imagination, as William Carlos Williams employs the term, can only be language. Or more accurately langue, tho not parole. That dimension of language that exists only – and always – as its potential, the entire system & never an instance.

This is what separates

Which makes cats & dogs & the infinite varieties of red. Which determines the exact border between blue and green, which, although it is hard & fast, is in fact different for each one of us, a shade to the left or to the right.

Watching Williams talk of language without a vocabulary for it falls into one of the primary fault lines of modernism, when all of the elements of a linguistic science were starting to come together, but did not yet fully exist. The great tragedy of James Joyce was his reliance on philology, on the 19th century discipline of word roots & origins, with which to mount Finnegan’s Wake. Pound translating from an imaginary Chinese. H.D. in Freud’s care, imagining him as a fellow researcher. Zukofsky’s flirtation with Basic English.

But Williams, like Stein, fundamentally gets it. Though he almost undoubtedly never read a word of Saussure, he writes like someone who has.

What then is imagination?

More to the point, what is it that Williams, in Spring & All, his finest work, is telling us about the role of imagination, of langue, in the poem?

That it is the duty of the poem to make langue visible, perceptible, so vivid you can taste the salt on its surface, can hear its hum. That, he is arguing, is the poem’s only duty.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Not the School of Quietude: Williams with cat, Rutherford, NJ, 1916

(Front row, L-R: Alison Hartpence, Afred Kreymborg, WCW, Skip Cannell
Back row, L-R: Jean Crotti, Marcel Duchamp, Walter Arensberg,
Man Ray, R.A. Sanborn, Maxwell Bodenheim)

Billy Joe Harris notes – and is quite right – that Spring & All is printed in its entirety in The Collected Poems of William Carlos Williams, Volume I (1909-1939) edited by A. Walton Litz & Christopher MacGowan, and that this version doesn’t have any of the crowded page disadvantages that render Imaginations unnecessarily reader unfriendly. It’s also worth noting that it’s a good looking book, always a bit of a miracle at New Directions.

The Descent of Winter, Williams’ prose & verse linked diary – I doubt that he knew the word haibun – is also included in this volume. Unfortunately, Kora in Hell: Improvisations, the third volume of poetry from Imaginations, is not. Kora appears to be out of print in its City Lights Pocket Poets edition as well. Like the Frontier Press edition of Spring & All, the 1958 City Lights edition is the one that had a dramatic impact on my generation of poets. It’s still hard to find a book of prose poems as radical as this one Williams penned in 1920.

Kessinger Editions of Whitefish, Montana, a publisher of rare book reprints, has however republished Kora. Kessinger has also published three other early Williams volumes: Sour Grapes (the book immediately prior to Spring & All), Al Que Quiere, and The Tempers. In short, all of Williams’ work that is now in the public domain. This doesn’t solve my problem with the lack of a stand-alone Spring & All, and I haven’t seen these editions, so I can’t tell you how well or badly they’ve been done. But I’m very glad to see that they exist.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Photo by Jonathan Williams

Somebody who signs him- or herself as Barnes – I have a few cousins with that surname – wrote in yesterday’s comments stream:

"...Jeeze, Doc, I guess it's all right
but what the hell does it mean?"

Aside from the comic way it’s raised, that’s a perfectly legit question. A click on the link in the poem’s title would have brought Barnes, or anyone else, to the full text as I was reading it yesterday morning on the Academy of American Poets website. Doing so reminded me that this has always been a favorite Williams poem of mine, and the stanza I reproduced on my own site is the reason why. Published seven years ahead of Spring & All, the moment I always think of as the real start of Williams’ mature writing, “A Love Song” is one of the earliest signs of the great poet yet to come.

Narratively, the poem is not that difficult. A man’s lover has departed. He contemplates the residual stain – what my generation has tended to call “the wet spot” tho further on it appears possibly to be some residual semen shining still upon his own “horned branches” – and thinks of her, wondering if he will ever see her again. Or see her again in just this way. The act itself, figured in that stain, makes everything in the world seem far more lucid, even hallucinatory. Williams takes this idea & just runs with it. Some 50 years after this poem was written, people would begin talking of such reactions as “a heightened state of awareness.” It certainly is that.

For a man who made a lifelong reputation for himself as a love poet on the basis of his poems for his wife, Florence “Floss” Herman Williams, WCW also wrote, repeatedly and at some length, of his many trysts with others. At the time of “A Love Song,” he and Floss had been married for four years. Is this a poem about her? Does anyone really think so? Ambiguity will let you do a lot of things & Williams is one of the best at exploiting its potential. This reminds me of nothing so much as John Lennon’s comment that songs like “Norwegian Wood” were a way of writing about his times with other women without upending his marriage.

And for a poet who, some 16 or 20 years after this poem was written, would be associated with the neo-Marxian Objectivist poets, and functionally a scientist to a degree that any medical doctor is, Williams is also a writer who greatly trusts the irrational, what I would actually prefer to call, as here, the transrational. Making sense is not one of the critical requirements of verse – indeed it far too often just gets in the way of a much more direct treatment of our feelings & sensations. In the name of Ezra Pound’s only dicta for how to write, “direct treatment of the thing” is very often the exact opposite of treating it objectively.

I love the reiteration here of yellow yellow yellow – that’s the moment when the poem really abandons any literal sense of narrative reality¹ & Williams discusses exactly the impact of this sense and how it transforms the material world. That is the function of this stanza & it seems to me one of the elemental tasks not just of love & sex, but of poetry as well. Poems read with too much concern as to “what the hell does it mean” will always miss at least half of life, maybe much much more.


¹ Why yellow, which is hardly the color of semen? Is it the room, the light at that time of day, the color of the sheets or walls? We’ll never know, but the specificity of the color is as important as the fact that Williams did not write off-white off-white off-white.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

I was reading an Allen Curnow poem from the early 1960s, “A Small Room with Large Windows,”* when the prosody of its fourth section struck me:

A kingfisher’s naked arc alight
Upon a dead stick in the mud
A scarlet geranium wild on a wet bank
A man stepping it out in the near distance
With a dog and a bag
                                        on a spit of shell
On a wire in a mist
                                    a gannet impacting
Explode a dozen diverse dullnesses
Like a burst of accurate fire.

This passage, by no means Curnow’s best, stood out in contrast to the section immediately preceding, which carried an AABBCC… rhyme scheme, a relatively rare occurrence for the late New Zealand poet. I like the prosody here, even if words such as “naked” & “dead” in the first two lines appear to have been inserted solely for the sake of sound. I can hear it – the music of this passage reaches me just fine.

Which reminded me of how seldom this is the case for me with poets from English-speaking countries other than the United States. With the very notable exception of Basil Bunting, I find there to have been shockingly few poets from the old Commonwealth on either side of the equator whose work I would characterize as having a strong ear. More often than not, I can’t hear it at all, not even in Hopkins’ so-called sprung rhythms. Whatever the other values the poem might propose – & often enough they are many – the prosody of so much non-Yank Anglophone verse strikes me as jumbled, prosaic, “a dozen diverse dullnesses.”

There are of course exceptions, but I notice how many of them are poets who seem to have taken a particular interest in the American tradition of poetry – Tom Raworth, Thomas A. Clark, Fred Wah, Jill Jones, Lee Harwood, Gerry Shikatani. Yet the whole idea of poetry’s relationship to spoken English – & through speech to sound – is one that invariably leads back to Wordsworth & Coleridge. This makes me wonder if there isn’t some disability within me that just can’t hear it, whatever “it” might in this instance be, rather like the Kansan watching a British film with North Country accents who longs for subtitles.

I also wonder if there isn’t something specific about U.S. verse & its history that isn’t turned toward sound & might not be peculiarly tuned to the tones & rhythms of speech – at least of American dialects. While Whitman clearly had some desire to relate his writing to speech, Dickinson had a more charged push-pull relationship towards the possibility. In fact, the often intrusive editing that her work received can be viewed as an attempt to normalize her poetry on a model more identifiable as speech. Pound & Stein likewise bring their own strong sense of melopoiea to the party, though incommensurate with one another’s. Where Stein often seeks a cubism of the ear, Pound’s remarkable prosody turns on a wide range of models, from Beowulf to the Bible, proposing speech as such usually as satire:

“an’ doan you think he chop an’ change all the time
stubborn az a mule, sah, stubborn as a MULE,
got th’ eastern idea about money”

Something Josephine Miles once said to David Melnick & myself jumps out at me here. Recalling William Carlos Williams’ poetry in the 1930s & ‘40s, she noted that she could not – these were her words – “hear him,” she and her friends had no idea how to read those texts that today seem so self-evidently the paradigm for spoken English. The very features of his verse that today seem so obvious as to be boring – a level of acceptance that has come to hurt Williams’ reputation – were in fact impenetrably opaque not that long ago.

In fact, in spite of his own critical comments, these features may have been somewhat opaque to Williams as well. Robert Creeley, one of the first to recognize Williams’ poetry as an apotheosis of transcribed speech, has commented on how surprised he was to discover that Williams himself did not respect his linebreaks when reading the poems in public.

Olson in theory took care of that. With the Projectivists proposing a hard or rigorous version & the New York School and the Beats offering “soft” ones, U.S. poets from the 1960s onward have had a ready toolkit available for what speech might look like translated into line & stanza. & for the past 20-odd years, these have been supplemented by a variety of post-avant text strategies intended to problematize a too simplistic one-to-one correlation, ranging from sound poetry at one extreme to visual poetics at another.** What these various interventions have not done is to add significantly to the prosodic vocabulary of the poem.*** The number & potential combination of sounds in English is not infinite, even though the number of possible meanings & utterances is. Thus the elaboration and expansion of poetic forms over the past 30 years, impressive as it has been, has not been accompanied by much in the way of a new cadence.

The limits of prosody are a major motivator behind the technological augmentation of poetry, substituting a divergence in lieu of an advance. To paraphrase Robert Grenier, all technologies say the same thing: hummmm. The margins of poetry have been littered with attempts at expanding the terrain of verse at least since Hugo Ball and the Russian zaum poets aimed at writing beyond language, but to date no one seems to have noticed that such projects age at an accelerated rate, moving from startling to quaint in something less than 30 years. This difficulty is not coincidental and promises only to get worse the more closely it attaches itself to Moore’s Law.+

A by-product of this phenomenon is that books that do think seriously about the question of poetic sound, such as Charles Bernstein’s Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word (Oxford, 1998) or Stephen Ratcliffe’s particularly excellent Listening to Reading (SUNY, 2000), have yet to tackle the problem of prosody as it impacts the relative impenetrability of different variants of English. It may be easy enough, outside of Boontling, Gullah or Hawaiian pidgin, to envision American English as one language, but the minute you cross national borders it patently is a problem of another order, a larger & radically different context. In Close Listening, the essays that do focus on the poetics of specific communities do so in terms that are more social than linguistic, with the pointed exception of Dennis Tedlock’s “Toward a Poetics of Polyphony and Translatability.” Nick Piombino, Marjorie Perloff and Bruce Andrews all consider the role of sound within different sectors of the U.S. poetry community, but nobody appears able to consider the possibility that a poem by Tom Raworth or Allen Curnow, might mean something quite different in Oxford, UK, at the Kootenay School of Writing in Vancouver, at New College in San Francisco’s Mission District, at the Iowa Writers Workshop, in Algiers, Louisiana, or at the Northern tip of the Southern island of New Zealand.

* Early Days Yet: New and Collected Poems, 1941-1997 (Auckland University Press, 1997), pp. 177-178.

** “Who would have thought that fewer than forty years after Olson celebrated the ‘LINE’ as the embodiment of the breath, the signifier of the heart, the line would be perceived as a boundary, a confining border, a form of packaging?” Marjorie Perloff, “After Free Verse,” in Close Listening: Poetry and the Performed Word, edited by Charles Bernstein (Oxford, 1998), p. 99. But that was exactly the condition that created this reaction.

*** The two writers who perhaps represent the most aggressive attempts to expand prosody would probably be Ted Enslin with his endless (or very nearly so) variations on the line in his long works from the 1970s and, somewhat more recently, Clark Coolidge, whose sense of jazz rhythm, from bebop to pomo, clearly informs his sense of line and stanza.

+ In this sense, the move away from something that is simply “the verse print bred” that makes the most sense to me are Grenier’s hand-lettered scrawl works.

Sunday, October 27, 2002

Patrick Herron almost always has something interesting to say, viz this note to the ImitaPo list:

The presence of the quotidian in verse seems to remain an essential and perhaps even distinguishing characteristic of what is commonly lumped and labeled as "American" poetry.  We can find it in Whitman, Pound, Eliot ("hurry up please it's time"), O'Hara (who expands it to regularly include personal names), Ginsberg, and especially Ron all over your work ("Nissan stanza" or "The beer can on the sidewalk had been crushed flat" as two of perhaps thousands of examples).  Alan too.  I was just reading one of Kasey's poems on VeRT and it was laden with almost paranoiac quotidian statements, statements that should be shocking but just aren't.  I find myself using the web for finding and co-opting quotidian text from time to time (similar to what is in Kasey's poem I'd guess).  But I don't understand why or what makes the quotidian poetic.  Is it in the nominal grounding of the abstract, perhaps as some sort of exalted discrepancy with a vast valley between the peaks of the particular and the general?

Shklovsky somewhere talks about how the aesthetic – I’m not sure if that’s how he identifies the category, but it is how I remember it – always moves to incorporate all that is on its fringe, rather like The Blob. Or imperialism. Put more positively: one of the duties of poetry is to continually expand what poetry can include & discuss.

For me, at least, this isn’t about theory. I’ve written before about the importance of William Carlos Williams’ poem, “The Desert Music,” in shaping my recognition that I was to be a poet. While, in retrospect, this is the most traditionally narrative of Williams’ poems, it was precisely its other elements – especially the depiction of the person sleeping on the bridge – that enabled me at the age of 16 to “get” how poetry was uniquely able to incorporate what Williams would have characterized as despised materials, but which I would have identified (then & now) as the “invisible,” the background, the details that in fact make up the surfaces and textures of daily life. It was exactly this capacity for what Patrick calls the quotidian that brought me to poetry.

I had been writing since the age of 10 in order, I realize now – I couldn’t have articulated it then – to bring order to my world. Like more than a few other poets, I was raised in a classically dysfunctional family – the 500 pound gorilla in our living room that went unseen & undiscussed was my grandmother’s mental illness – and writing gave me not only a place to escape (although it did that also), but critical tools I could not have found any other way as a pre-teen.

However, raised in a house in which the only creative work around were four-to-a-volume Readers Digest Condensed Novels, the idea of poetry, let alone all its possibilities, was outside my field of vision until I picked up that volume by Williams in the Albany Public Library sometime around 1962. At that time, I was writing dreadful teenage fiction. I was under the impression – and I’ve seen some of the responses to Patrick’s post on ImitaPo that reflect this position – that one was constrained to craft novels around characters and action in order to get to this “real” material, the so-called background detail. From my perspective, the so-called elements of the “narrative drive” of a novel were really just an excuse for enabling the author to incorporate what mattered most: these tiny elements at the margins. The idea of a literature that could raise the invisible up to the field of vision, in & of itself, was a revelation.

So for me, the quotidian, to call it that (I never think of it as such), is not about adding a layer of texture for the sake of enhancing a reality effect. The invisible or marginal is not adjunct to the work: it is the work itself. I want you to understand that dust bunny in the corner under your desk. The whole of human history can be found there.

But how that history is to be discovered matters terribly. One of the primary objections I have to the school of quietude is its grotesque sense of heroism, even when it’s a heroism of everyday objects. A trowel is not a trope. This always seems to me a fundamental dishonesty, a true violation of any pact with the reader, even with the self. It’s a betrayal of the world of objects & of the objective. Such poetry is founded on precisely the dynamics that render the most critical elements of the world invisible. So when I take exception to the writing of a Robert Lowell or a Phil Levine or a Linda Gregg or an Alfred Corn, it’s really an allegiance to that ten year old boy I once was to which I continue to stand fast. I won’t betray him by creating a false world, a poetry of lies.

Against this I would pose Francis Ponge’s uses of the object as exemplary. His use of soap, his elaboration of fauna. His insistence on the thingness of things. To this I would add the thingness of words, their literal immanence, which is what I get out of Stein and so much of the best writing of the past thirty years. This has very little to do with any grounding of the abstract. Rather, I see it as an issue of being present in my own life. This is how poetry matters.

Tuesday, October 08, 2002

The fourth issue of The Electronic Poetry Review is now live and includes a talk that I gave a couple of years ago at the annual confab of the Modernist Studies Association, “The Desert Modernism,” focusing in part on the question of why William Carlos Williams would have chosen to write a poem in 1951 that would lead to the famous, if somewhat abashed, affirmation of

                                             I am a poet! I
am.  I am. I am a poet, I reaffirmed, ashamed.

As I so often do when thinking about the history of poetry, I try to articulate a social context for Williams’ sense of isolation, which I do partly in terms of Objectivism:
The early 1950s was the nadir of Objectivism. Zukofsky, completing “A” 12 in 1951, would not touch the poem again until 1960. Some Time, Zukofsky's gathering of his shorter works between 1940 and 1956, contains just 33 poems for its seventeen years. In her bibliography of the composition of these works, Zukofsky's wife Celia notes that, in 1954, the only poetry he wrote were two sections of “Songs of Degrees,” one a nine-line valentine, the other “William / Carlos / Williams // alive!” George Oppen hadn't written anything since 1934. Charles Reznikoff was self-publishing and the collection Inscriptions: 1944-1956 takes up only 30 pages in his Complete Poems. Lorine Niedecker had published just one book and that with a publisher in Prairie City, Illinois; she would not publish another until Ian Hamilton Finlay brought out My Friend Tree in Scotland in 1961. “The Spoils,” which Basil Bunting wrote in 1951 was his first major piece of poetry since 1935 and last until 1965. He wrote just three odes, as he called his shorter poems, in the 1940s and none in the 1950s.
The talk in general and this passage in particular provoked a most interesting and thoughtful email from Eliot Weinberger, which he has kindly given permission for me to reprint here. I don’t agree with everything he says but he’s got me pondering the need to re-vision the 1950s in particular beyond the canonic box that is Donald Allen’s The New American Poetry. Here is Weinberger’s perspective:

Along with the silence/invisibility of the “objectivists,” you should add Rukeyser, who published no new books between 1948 and 1962. WCW told a depressed Reznikoff to keep writing, no matter what, so Rezi wrote the novel “Manner Music.”

I think you underestimate the presence of Pound who, though locked up, was writing a zillion letters a day and entertaining endless visitors. It's also a period of the first standard editions of Ez: 1948, Cantos; 1949, Selected Poems; 1950, Letters; 1953, Translations; 1954, Literary Essays. Then in 1954 you have the Confucian Odes and in 1955 Rock-Drill. He couldn't be more visible, however immobile.

I also wonder about WCW's isolation. If you look at his letters and essays from the time, he's praising (and is in contact with) a lot of poets: Lowell, Eberhart, Roethke, Rexroth, Harvey Shapiro, MacLeod, etc-- besides the New Americans you mention (Creeley, Olson, Ginsberg) and the honorary New American, Corman.

Also in the period you have Rexroth’s “Signature of All Things,” “Dragon and the Unicorn” and “Beyond the Mt” (reviewed by WCW). And Patchen had books from ND, Jargon, and the first City Lights pocket pamphlets.

I'm as guilty as everyone else, maybe more guilty, but I increasingly wonder whether we're all not prisoners of the Don Allen taxonomy. The problem is that Allen overlooks a (small) sort-of generation between the objectivists and the New Amers: Rexroth, Rukeyser, Patchen, etc. And the anthology wars c. 1960 obscured genuine affinities, at least in the early 50's. Lowell considered himself a Poundian; he loved WCW; everyone remembers his famous “raw and the cooked” as referring to him and Ginsberg, but in fact, RL thought he was one of the “raw,” compared to Wilbur etc. WCW and Roethke are not in opposition, etc. It is forgotten that Origin was pitched on two poets: Olson and Bronk, whom no one would put together any more. And the Allen obscured genuine hostilities: Joel Oppenheimer used to tell about Beats and Black Mountaineers getting into fistfights at the Cedar Tavern.

Is WCW in 1950-55 more isolated aesthetically/personally than anyone else, or himself at any other time? Snyder says somewhere that in the spiritual wasteland of the 50's one would hitchhike a thousand miles just to have someone to talk to. Outside of a few small groups-- like the SF Ren and the Black Mteers who were actually at Black Mt (unlike the Blk Mt group in Allen) and the inner-circle Beats-- how much physical community was there anyway?

Could the proverbial Martian be able to sort the poems c. 1950 of Levertov, Eberhart, Roethke, Duncan, Rexroth, etc into “avant-garde” and “establishment”? Maybe there's a new history to be written.