Z-siteA Companion to the Works of Louis Zukofsky
12-16 Aug. 1930, rev. 4-6 Aug. 1942
For revisions to the text, which include the deletion of a number of passages, see Textual Notes.
21.1 Environs, the sea of —: see 22.5 and 23.7.
21.2 Grace notes, appoggiatura, suspension: musical terms. A grace note, especially an appoggiatura, is added to a melody as an embellishment or ornamentation; appoggiatura, It. a leaning, is an embellishing note, usually one step above or below the note it precedes and indicated by a small note or special sign; suspension is the prolongation of one or more tones of a chord into a following chord to create a temporary dissonance (AHD). Grace notes are indicated by a slash or cross through the stem, as alluded to in the following line.
21.4 Beata Virgo Maria: L. Blessed Virgin Mary (abbreviated BVM; see 5.19.8); one of Mary’s standard appellations used in various Catholic prayers and hymns. On this entire passage through 21.11, cf. 5.18.25-19.8.
21.8 avoirdupois: weight or heaviness (AHD).
21.11 Wrigley boys: see 2.8.10 and 5.19.2. EP remarked on this line: “In his tour de force L. Zukofsky gives a phonetic representation of an American chewing chewing-gum. We must distinguish between the masterpieces of world poetry and a certain few poems which are necessary to keep us informed of what our contemporaries are doing elsewhere” (A Visiting Card, originally published in Italian in 1942 and later translated by John Drummond (London: Peter Russell, 1952); rpt. Selected Prose 1909-1965, ed. William Cookson (1973): 325).
22.1 obbligato: musical term, It. not to be left out, indispensable, used of an accompaniment that is an integral part of a piece (AHD).
22.2 Everyone tired of trying to see differences: see 8.45.24.
22.5 ‘The sea of necessity…: see 21.1.
22.6 That stem Atlas carrying his on his shoulder: Atlas was a Titan condemned by Zeus to carry the sky on his shoulders; anatomically, refers to the first cervical vertebra, which supports the head. LZ apparently is conflating the latter meaning with the visual look of a musical note, a stem with a head or ball (see 21.3). In architecture, an atlas is a support sculpted in the shape of a male figure, and therefore a masculine version of a caryatid (see 2.6.16, also 6.30.27-28). In its original printed version, this line read: “That stem Atlas carrying his balls on his shoulder”; see Textual Notes.
22.9 Saying: It’s a hard world anyway…: see WCW/LZ 385.
22.13 Fathers, wherever they put their hats / Spiralled…: this and the following several lines echo various details from “A”-4, see 4.12.13, 12.20, 13.13.-14.
22.21 (Fate – fate – fate – void unable to write / a melody: Ahearn (54) suggest this mimics the famous opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony with three G notes followed by an extended E-flat, which are often glossed as suggesting: “Thus Fate knocks at the door.”
22.23 Ludwig and Goethe: Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827) and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832).
22.25 Words rangeless: cf. 5.20.5.
22.27 Would you persist?: Cf. Spinoza, Ethics III, Prop. 6 & 7: “Everything in so far as it is in itself endeavours to persist in its own being”; “The endeavour wherewith a thing endeavours to persist in its being is nothing else than the actual essence of that thing” (trans. Andrew Boyle).
22.28 Natura Naturans / Nature as creator / Natura Naturata / Nature as created: from Baruch Spinoza (1632-1677), Ethics Part I, Prop. 29, Note: “Before proceeding, I would wish to explain, or rather to remind you, what we must understand by active and passive nature (natura naturans and natura naturata), for I think that from the past propositions we shall be agreed that by nature active we must understand that which is in itself and through itself is conceived, or such attributes of substance as express eternal and infinite essence, that is […] God, in so far as he is considered a free cause. But by nature passive I understand all that follows from the necessity of the nature of God, or of any one of his attributes, that is, all the modes of the attributes of God, in so far as they are considered as things which are in God, and which cannot exist to be conceived without God” (trans. Andrew Boyle). See 24.23 and cf. 8.43.5-6; also Prep+ 15/207, 168.
23.3 He who creates / Is a mode of these inertial systems: Niedecker is surely correct in identifying this as from Spinoza as well, although not a direct quotation (“Poetry of Louis Zukofsky”); “mode” is a key Spinozian term, and central to his philosophy is the idea that everything is immanent in the totality of God-Nature which simply unfolds itself according to its nature or definition, very much like an inertial system conceived of as always in motion, never static.
23.5 The flower — leaf around leaf wrapped / around the center leaf: see 2.7.13-14.
23.11 Asked Albert who introduced relativity…: Albert Einstein (1879-1955), physicist. Possibly from a report of an interview by S.J. Woolf in the New York Times for 18 Aug. 1929: “Einstein’s Own Corner of Space; In a Prosaic Flat in a Prosaic District of Berlin the Mathematical Philosopher Receives an American Visitor Affably and Gives Him a Simple Algebraic Formula for Success in Life”: “Suppose A stands for success. Then my formula is: A=X+Y+Z. The X stands for work, the Y stands for play, and the Z stands for keeping your mouth shut.” Einstein was a great admirer, as well as performer of Bach, and in Anton Reiser’s Albert Einstein: A Biographical Portrait (1930), which LZ translated anonymously, there is the following: “On one occasion when he had to answer a questionnaire about Bach he said briefly: ‘In reference to Bach’s life and work: listen, play, love, revere, and—keep your mouth shut’” (202).
23.18 Kay: see 2.6.2.
23.19 Ricky’s romance…: see “A”-3. The following off-color joke does not repeat but is clearly similar to a risqué passage deleted from “A”-3, see Textual Notes.
24.4 The sailors in the carousel / looking for a place to / bury Ricky: cf. 2.6.20-25, 4.15.22. In the original text it is made explicit that the opening passage of “A”-4 describes a carousel and there is also the association of Ricky with a carousel in a deleted line of “A”-5, see Textual Notes.
24.13 Mozart’s / Magic Flute: opera by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) first performed in 1791.
24.21 An objective—rays of the object brought to a focus…: this passage through 24.25 is the original version of LZ’s famous definition of “an objective” that appeared in the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry (Feb. 1931) as the opening of “Program: ‘Objectivists’ 1931,” later part 1 of “An Objective” in Prepositions (Prep+ 12,191). LZ quoted this passage from 24.20-26 in the preface of An “Objectivists” Anthology, “‘Recencies’ in Poetry,” to emphasize the point that the “A”-6 version of this passage, written summer 1930, preceded its appearance in the “Objectivists” Poetry issue (Prep+ 14, 203).
24.23 nature as creator: from Spinoza, see 22.28-29.
24.23 desire / for what is objectively perfect: see 1.2.15. This phrase is informed by Spinoza who defines “reality and perfection […] to be one and the same thing” (Ethics II, def. 6) and argues that “The more perfection anything has, the more active and the less passive it is; and contrariwise, the more active it is, the more perfect it becomes (V, Prop. 40; trans. Andrew Boyle).
25.2 “Napoleon filled a barrel with rams horns…: evidently this is an anecdote LZ overheard or was told while on a train (24.29); the circumstances are somewhat clearer in the original An “Objectivists” Anthology version (see Textual Notes).
25.5 It’s hard to say: from Dante, Inferno I.4: “Ahi quanto a dir”; LZ quotes the Italian in the earlier version of “A”-6 printed in the An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932); see Textual Notes.
25.13 “Many people are too busy to be unemployed…: through 26.12, except for parenthetical interpolations, quoted directly from an interview with Henry Ford (1863-1947), founder of the Ford Motor Company and one of the first to take advantage of assembly line manufacturing. See New York Times for 31 July 1930: “Ford Defends Life in Industrial Age, Declares in Interview on 67th Birthday Machine Era Will Develop Culture. Belittles Trade Slump Lays Unemployment to Jobless. Urges Summer for Shut-Downs. Calls Over-Production a Misnomer. Sees Opportunity for Worker.”
25.18 Ned: the Devil
26.26 “That’s poetry,” he was told. / “It’s fiction, too, isn’t it…: from interview with Henry Ford, see 25.13.
26.31 The common air includes / Events listening to their own tremors…: this passage through 27.6 is, except for 27.1, extracted from a passage LZ wrote on EP’s Cantos in 1929 (see Prep+ 77): “Postulate beings and there is breathing between them and yet maybe no closer relation than the common air which irresistibly includes them. Movements of bodies, peoples through history, differences between their ideas, their connections, are often thus no closer knit, no further away than ‘So that’ and an ‘and’ which binds them (end of Cantos 1 and 2 respectively). The immediacy of Pound’s epic matter, the form of the Cantos, the complete passage through, in and around objects, historical events, the living them at once and not merely as approximation of their statistical historical points of contact is as much a fact as those facts which historians have labeled and disassociated.” The immediately following lines can more or less be found in the article, as well as echoing EP: e.g. “a tin flash in the sun-dazzle” from Canto 2 (7).
27.8 flash of photoplay: here photoplay simply means a film or movie. Cf. remarks on “the cinematic principle” in correspondence with EP (EP/LZ 112).
27.16 Septuagenarian actor’s personal locomotive…: these lines refer to William Gillette (1853-1937), a well-known American actor and playwright, especially famous for playing Sherlock Holmes. Gillette built a miniature railway on his estate in Connecticut (now the Gillette Castle State Park), on which the New York Times for 20 Aug. 1930 reported: “Gillette’s One-Man Railroad Fills Boyhood Desire” (thanks to Odile Harter for this identification).
27.18 De gustibus: L. de gustibus non est disputandum (About taste there is no disputing).
27.21 On that morning when everything / will be clear…: in a 12 Dec. 1930 letter to EP, LZ says that the following lyric is a “paraphrase of the Dies Irae [Day of Wrath]” (EP/LZ 80), the 13th century Latin hymn on the Last Judgment by Thomas of Celano (qtd. TP 147 and Bottom 411). However, whereas the “Dies Irae,” as its title suggests, envisions an ominous day of reckoning, LZ’s version imagines the subsequent world redeemed or beginning anew.
28.9 Rest Thee softly, softly rest: from the closing Chorus (No. 68) of Bach, St. Matthew Passion, addressed to the buried Jesus; see quotation at 1.2.2.
28.12 Magnus: see 1.5.15 and 30.13.
28.15 By Mazola, on Riverside Drive: Riverside Drive is a main road running along west side of Manhattan parallel with the Hudson River. On the opposite New Jersey side of the river there used to be a running electric sign advertising Mazola cooking oil and also giving the time: “The time is now [current time].”
28.26 Glory of the Seas: famous clipper ship; however, LZ appears to be referring sarcastically to yacht racing.
29.5 Arcy Bell:
29.11 Post Office: CZ mentions that one of LZ’s early part-time jobs was working at a post office (Terrell, “Eccentric Portrait” 52). See CSP 13.
29.16 “I dreamt that I tickled my grandfather’s aw-awls…: an off-color lyric; one version as follows: “I dreamt that I tickled my grandfather’s balls / with a little sweet-oil and a feather / but the thing that tickled the old man the most / was rubbing his two balls together.”
30.8 Park Av.: Park Avenue is the central north-south avenue in Manhattan, famous for its up-market addresses.
30.11 Their children got jobs because “they didn’t believe in / Santa Claus”: cf. interview with Henry Ford (25.13) in which he declares, “Lots of people are looking for Santa Claus,” when asked about the government’s responsibilities toward the unemployed.
30.17 The heretics sought perfection, Blessed Virgin Mary…: this and the following line playfully allude back to 5.19.5-8 (see original version of this latter passage in Textual Notes).
30.22 “It is more pleasant and more useful,” / Said Vladimir Ilytch…: remark by Lenin in the brief postscript to The State and Revolution (1917) explaining that the work is being published unfinished because the Oct. 1917 Bolshevik Revolution interrupted its composition. LZ also refers to this remark at the end of the Aug. 1931 version of “‘Recencies’ in Poetry” (Prep+ 215).
30.27 The women held the world cornice…: see 2.6.16-17. Possibly refers to Lenin’s remarks to Clara Zetkin, “Reminiscences of Lenin” (1924); see 8.91.28: “‘Yes, our proletarian women are excellent class fighters. They deserve admiration and love. […] We have in the Party reliable, capable and untiringly active women comrades. We can assign them to many important posts in the Soviet and Executive Committees, in the People’s Commissariats and public services of every kind. Many of them work day and night in the Party or among the masses of the proletariat, the peasants, the Red Army. That is of very great value to us. It is also important for women all over the world. It shows the capacity of women, the great value their work has in society. The first proletarian dictatorship is a real pioneer in establishing social equality for women’” (48-49).
31.4 Haiti…: in response to instability, U.S. sent Marines into Haiti in 1915 and established a military government that remained in power until 1934.
31.5 Mars: Roman god of war.
31.21 Aldebaran: one of the brightest stars in the northern hemisphere in the Taurus constellation.
31.28 He had worked enough in his pa’s wheatfields…: may refer to Robert McAlmon (1896-1956), who grew up in rural Kansas and South Dakota, attended the Universities of Minnesota and Southern California and spent much of the 1920s as a publisher and writer in Paris. As the publisher of Contact Publishing (1923-1929), McAlmon literally acted as angel for many writers, using the wealth he acquired on his marriage of convenience to Bryher. LZ included poetry by McAlmon in both the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry and An “Objectivists” Anthology, as well as commenting positively on him in his “American Poetry 1920-1930” (Prep+ 138).
32.2 12 years after Ilytch’s statement…: Ilytch is Lenin, who was born Vladimir Ilytch Ulyanov. 1918 saw various decrees to collectivize the Soviet economy, particularly that of the Council of People’s Commissars approved in June 1918. LZ may be referring to Lenin’s major statement of that time, “The Immediate Tasks of the Soviet Government” (April 1918) or his “Speech at a Joint Session of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee” (29 July 1918), although in either case the metallurgical plants do not appear to be located in Siberia. In any case, these metallurgical plants are also mentioned as an example of an “event” in his initial definition of “An Objective.”
32.9 The U.S.A. embargo / On pulp-wood from Russia…: around the time LZ was writing there were renewed anti-Soviet initiatives in Congress, including an embargo on importing lumber, pulpwood and matches, purportedly because their production involved convict labor. In 1930, the House of Representatives set up a special committee under the chairmanship of Hamilton Fish of NY to investigate communist activities in American, which the following year recommended the outlawing of the Communist Party and sweeping embargos on all Soviet products. In a 12 March 1936 letter to EP, LZ mentions Fish accusing F.D.R. of being a communist (EP/LZ 178).
32.14 “We’ve got to find new uses for wheat,” said Henry: from interview with Henry Ford, see 25.13. Ford had a long-time interest in discovering various industrial products, including plastics, from agricultural materials such as soybeans and wheat.
32.16 Ivan: = Russia.
32.18 Kulak: prosperous landed peasant in czarist Russia (AHD).
32.21 The time for hitch-hikers across country…: LZ made a cross-country trip in the summer of 1930, which is the source of many of the following details.
33.1 Divorced from himself…: punningly alludes to the fact that Reno, Nevada was famous not only for gambling but also for quickie divorces, especially from 1927 on.
33.6 Lincoln highway: the first transcontinental highway in the US from NYC to San Francisco, running across the mid-west (passing near Gary, Indiana) and through Reno, Nevada.
34.3 “Asunder!”: punning on “thunder” and perhaps alluding to the conclusion to T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land.
34.5 “A—sole, a—sole / A soldier boy was he…: this and the following two lines from a traditional soldier song, of which apparently there are various versions, often obscene.
35.14 The roving Red bands of South China: during this time Mao Zedong and Zhu De, then unknown names in the West, were building up the Red Army and waging a guerrilla war against the Nationalists in southeast China, prior to the Long March of 1934-35. See New York Times for 2 May 1930: “Reds Real Menace to Nanking’s Rule; Control at Least 4 Provinces, Seizing Many Missionaries and Looting Along Yangtse. Nationalists Powerless Terror Reigns in Lungchow, Kwangsi, With Bandits Plundering, Burning and Massacring”: “Communist bandits have acquired such power in China that they now constitute a definite menace to the Nanking Government [the Nationalist government of Chiang Kai-shek]. […] The indications are that if the roving Red bands coalesce the Yangtse Valley is likely to be menaced by a formidable Communist force, as Nanking is powerless to act owing to the necessity of concentrating troops on the northern front to meet the menace presented by General Yen Hsi-shan and Marshal Feng Yu-hsiang [warlords independent of the Nationalist Government].”
35.20 Concoctors of ‘hard’ poetry…: refers to the poet Robinson Jeffers (1887-1962), who built and worked in a stone tower or tor (35.33) at Carmel, near Monterey on the coast of California, an area well known for its seals and sea lions (35.24-26). Jeffers became enormously popular, particularly in the wake of the publication of Roan Stallion, Tamar and Other Poems (1925), and his work was often compared with the Greek tragedians. While staying in Berkeley during the summer of 1930, LZ mentions in a 19 Aug. letter to EP that he may go down to Monterey and visit Jeffers (EP/LZ 39). LZ consistently disparaged Jeffers’ poetry, for example remarks in the original version of “American Poetry 1920-1930” printed in The Symposium 2.1 (Jan. 1931): 71-72. See 1.3.23.
36.1 “Camels”: see 1.2.21; LZ was a life-long smoker.
36.2 Staten Island: large island in NYC harbor.
36.5 To her and / Her mother half-blind…: this probably refers to Kate Hecht, who along with her husband, S. Theodore Hecht, was among of LZ’s closest friends since the latter were students together at Columbia University. In Meaning A Life, Mary Oppen mentions that Kate’s mother was “nearly blind” (Santa Barbara, CA: Black Sparrow Press, 1978: 92). The Hechts lived on Staten Island around this time and LZ would often visit. The Mary at 36.22 might be Mary Oppen, but she mentions that she and George were first introduced to LZ by Mary Wright (84-84).
36.13 Michelangelo: Buonarroti Michelangelo (1475-1564), Italian Renaissance painter who in two different projects produced frescos for the Sistine Chapel in the Vatican.
36.15 Le Roi Renaud: popular French ballad of medieval origin.
36.17 “What can I do to show how much I love”: song (“What shall I do to show how much I love her”) from Henry Purcell’s opera, The Prophetess, or The History of Doclesian (1690); see next.
36.18 Purcell plangent to Dryden’s stiff love-making: Henry Purcell (1659-1695), English composer who worked in collaboration with John Dryden (1631-1700), including songs for the latter’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest (mentioned in Bottom 421) and music for the play Amphitryon, both in 1690. Plangent means loud and resounding (AHD).
36.19 “Waken my fair one from thy slumber…: French folk song, “Réveillez-vous, belle endormire.” The following quoted lines are presumably from French songs as well.
36.24 Belaire Road: context suggests this is Belair Road on Staten Island (see 36.2) directly across from the west end of Long Island, from where one can see NYC in the distance as described.
37.3 “J.S.B., everytime we play that Chorale…:
37.17 “Connie’s Hot Chocolates”: a 1928-1929 Broadway musical revue advertised as “a new tanskin revel” (37.18) with music by Fats Waller and lyrics by Andy Razaf. Performers included the Sixteen Hot Chocolate Drops and the Eight Bon Bon Buddies (37.19), as well as Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway. This revue was a slicked up version of the one at the well-known Connie’s Inn in Harlem.
37.28 Kaffee Cantata: composed by J.S. Bach by 1734; see 38.6.
38.1 Frankfort: more properly spelled Frankfurt. Could be either Frankfurt am Main in west Germany or Frankfurt an der Oder in the east and nearer to Bach’s general area of operation. In either case, somewhat puzzling as to what LZ is referring too, since it is usually assumed Bach composed the “Kaffee Cantata” for immediate performance by his Collegium Musicum (see 8.43.23) at Zimmerman’s Coffee House in Leipzig. However, Bach’s son, C.P.E. Bach, attended university in Frankfurt an der Oder and reportedly performed the Kaffee Cantata while there.
38.5 Harlem: predominately African-American neighborhood in upper Manhattan.
38.6 All about a maiden coffee-bibber…: this stanza and the following quote or paraphrase from the beginning of the libretto by Christian Friedrich Henrici for Bach’s Kaffee Cantata (see 37.17), which is a mini-comic opera involving a father’s disapproval of his daughter’s coffee addiction. At 38.8-9, LZ adapts the lines that in the original read: “Wenn ich des Tages nicht dreimal / Mein Schälchen Coffee trinken darf […].” He is being comically awkward here in imitating the German propensity to put verbs at the end of sentences. LZ was interested enough in this work to produce a full translation of the libretto, which he sent to his friend René Taupin (letter to Taupin dated 28 Aug. 1930) (thanks to Barry Ahearn for this information; the letter and manuscript of the translation are held at the Indiana University’s Lilly Library).
38.11 Schweigt still—plaudert nicht: Ger. Be still, do not chat; the introductory words of the libretto for Bach’s Kaffee Cantata, as well as being the formal title of the cantata.
38.22 At eventide: from Bach, St. Matthew Passion; see 3.9.1.
38.25 Her soles new as the sunned black of her grave’s turf: alludes to the death of LZ’s mother, Chana Pruss Zukofsky (c.1862-1927) (Ahearn 66); see 5.18.14.