Z-siteA Companion to the Works of Louis Zukofsky
10 Oct. 1928 – Aug. 1930, 4-7 Aug. 1930
“A”-7 is a sequence of seven sonnets and the first of three odd-numbered movements of “A” that adopt strict conventional Medieval and Renaissance forms, to which can be added “‘Mantis’” and the ballade concluding “A”-8. In “American Poetry 1920-1930,” written around the same time LZ was finishing “A”-7, he remarked: “Pound’s contribution is quantity, and the dealers in stock and trade sonnets and iambs have never taken up his challenge. They have also dissipated the sonnet as a form; it is time someone resurrected it” (qtd. from the original published version in The Symposium 2.1 (Jan. 1931): 74; see Prep+ 143-144).
Sonnets 1, 3, 5 and 6 follow the rhyme scheme: abab cdcd effe gg; with the other sonnets playing variations on this scheme in their final six lines, until in the final sonnet the rhyme scheme breaks down altogether in the sestet.
When first published in the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry (Feb. 1931) and then again in An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932), this movement had the subtitle, “There are different techniques,” which is quoted from EP as found at “A”-1.4.13.
39.1 Horses: in the first instance the poet is referring in this poem to sawhorses, which are being used to mark off a section of a street under repair; therefore they have “Street Closed” printed on their “stomachs” (39.9). Scroggins suggests (359) a possible source for the subject of this poem in Guillaume Apollinaire’s poem “Chevaux de Frise” (Friesland horses) from Calligrammes (1918), in which the poet verbally transforms bared wire covered wooden frames, called Friesland horses, into actual horses. In the work LZ ghost wrote for his friend René Taupin beginning in later 1931, Le Style Apollinaire (1934), he quotes the lines: “Non chevaux barbes mais barbelés / Et je les anime tout soudain” (Not Barbary horses but barded wire / And I give them sudden life) (238-239). Also see numerous references to horses throughout “A”, as indicated in the index.
39.1 manes: horse manes, but manes were also spirits of the dead in ancient Rome; anagrammatically there is as well a pun on names (see 41.3). Probably it is relevant that violin bows are typically made with horsehair, although this would be from the tail rather than the mane.
39.2 airs: in Renaissance usage an accompanied song; also breath or to make out of air.
39.4 singing gut: instrument strings, traditionally made out of animal gut, catgut; see 2.6.5.
39.8 two legs stand A, four together M: shape of sawhorses seen from end view. Kenner points out (“Of Notes and Horses,” in Terrell 190) that AM suggests God’s response to Moses concerning his name: “I AM THAT I AM” (Exodus 3:16; see 12.163.24). This in turn might invoke Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s definition of the primary imagination: “the living power and prime agent of all human perception, and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM” (Biographia Literaria, Chap. 13).
39.11 jiggers / Are cut out: (1) jig = a lively dance or the music for such a dance; joke or trick; apparatus for cleaning or separating crushed ore by agitation in water; device for guiding a tool or for holding machine work in place; (2) jigger = a person who jigs or operates a jig; a small measure for liquor or this amount of liquor; device, such as a drill, that operates with a jerking or jolting motion (AHD). Ahearn adds that jigger is also slang for streetcars (62). In letters to LZ, Lorine Niedecker used “jiggers” as an exclamation: e.g. “[…] so when you write ‘Regards to Glover’—jiggers, there’s my title” (Pemberthy 147).
39.12 bucks: dollars; robust or high-spirited young man; act of bucking; sawhorse (AHD).
39.21 birds spreading harps, two manes a pair / Of birds: the Australian lyrebird spreads its tail in a lyre-like fashion when courting (Ahearn 63). Ahearn also suggests (64) an allusion to Shakespeare’s Venus and Adonis: “For through his mane and tail the high wind sings, / Fanning the hairs, who wave like feath’red wings.”
40.3 See Him! Whom? / The Son / Of Man: from J.S. Bach, St. Matthew Passion; see 1.1.5.
40.5 grave-turf: see 5.18.16 and 6.38.25.
40.9 He found them sleeping: from Bach, St. Matthew Passion, No. 24 Recitative; see 1.4.26.
40.10 See him! How?: from Bach, St. Matthew Passion; see 1.1.7.
40.13 Birds—birds—: see 5.19.19.
40.17 light lights in air: see 8.43.2, 8.48.22, 8.104.10, also 12.136.29 and 18.393.35.
40.18 liveforever: see note at 1.4.29.
40.27 Two voices: see 6.24.20.
41.6 Bum pump a-dumb: LZ seems to have picked up this from a 22 Sept. 1929 letter from WCW, who uses this phrase for “dump” meaning the hopeless situation in which they live (WCW/LZ 37).
41.8 clavicembalo: It., a harpsichord; see 4.13.19, 5.18.5, 7.42.4 and 8.105.6.
41.11 O Saviour: from Bach, St. Matthew Passion; see 2.8.18 and text of chorus at 1.1.3.
41.19 Then I, Singing, It is not the sea / But what floats over…: see 2.7.29. Various other details in this stanza echo those in “A”-2: “Sea of horses” (2.7.2), “Green, and leaf on leaf” (2.7.7), “liveforever” (2.7.8 & 19).
41.22 Mary!: see 6.21.4, 30.17, 36.22.
41.24 liveforever: see 40.18 and note at 1.4.29.
42.3 Ricky: LZ’s friend Richard Chambers, for whom he wrote “A”-3 as an elegy; see 3.9.3.
42.4 Clavicembalo: see note at 41.8.
42.3 Shimaunu-San: from the poetry of Yehoash (see note at 4.14.18); see 4.13.27.
42.9 the Glass / Broken: originally echoed the unrevised version of 3.10.21: “Wish I / The Glass had been broken!” (see Textual Notes).
42.11 for the fun of it: see 2.8.17.
42.12 (Open, O fierce flaming pit!): from Bach, St. Matthew Passion; see 1.5.29.
42.14 we want a meal: cf. 1.5.13.
42.14 different techniques: see headnote above.
42.15 Two ways, my two voices: see 6.24.20, where LZ distinguishes two voices in introducing his definition of “an objective,” subsequently incorporated into “An Objective” (Prep+ 12, 119). However, originally this echoed the unrevised version of what is now 5.18.2-3: “And I: / I shall continue one song / Tho’ its sound go to ways, / My two voices” (see Textual Notes).
42.15 Offal and what / The imagination: originally this echoed the unrevised version of 5.17.9: “Offal (I’m kiddin’ sure) / Offal-and-What, the imagination” (see Textual Notes).