Z-siteA Companion to the Works of Louis Zukofsky
After I’s (1964)
27 Oct. 1961 / The Nation (3 Feb. 1962)
Parker, Richard. “Louis Zukofsky’s American Zen.” Modernism and the Orient, ed. Zhaoming Qian (2012): 239-241.
Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. Z-Notes: Commentary on LZ, Cid Corman & Origin.
This poem is a complement to “(Ryokan’s scroll),” which leads off I’s (pronounced eyes), sharing both a visual resemblance and having a similar instigation. The poem is largely written out of a letter from Will Petersen (1928-1994), an American artist and writer then living in Japan, who worked closely with Cid Corman on the Origin Press publications, as well as the second series of the journal Origin (April 1961-July 1964) that featured LZ. Both corresponded frequently with LZ in this period. During the first year of the second series, Corman was on an extended stay in the U.S., so the actual production and administration of Origin was almost entirely left to Petersen and his wife, and he also was entirely responsible for instigating and bringing out the Origin edition of It Was (1961). So in part this poem was LZ’s way of thanking Petersen.
In a letter dated 8 Sept. 1961 Petersen remarks: “I’m looking now at Daruma—a stone sitting in a carved ‘stool’—like a dwarf tree pot, almost. Or tray landscape tray, say? And think he really ought to visit you a while—He’s really another Ryokan or Hakuin, and actually has been asking to see you, sit before you, for quite a while now. I’ll send him off tomorrow—by sea. Then, I think he’d like to pay a visit to uncle Cid, before heading back […] (He was given to me—8 or so years ago. Was sitting in a brush seller’s shop. Guess we recognized each other at once! (He’s a poem, to tell the truth.)” However, the key letter is dated 19 Oct. 1961, the substance of which LZ copied out into his notebook (HRC 3.16). On receiving word that “Daruma” had, after some delay, finally reached LZ, Petersen writes: “Did I tell you his history? Seven (?) years ago, wearing the jacket I’m wearing now, or one like it, ducked into a 2×2 brush shop. Had tea with the shopkeeper. He had three or four stones, sitting about in their carved stools. That’s Daruma, isn’t it? He nodded, and said, here, he’s yours. That’s art! Far as I know, he’s as he always was—a form of sun, water, fire and air. No hands. ‘Found object’ sculpture was something new about the time I left the stage—I meant States. Some sort of slip there. […] I often thought of having Daruma visit you. When a butterfly sat on his shoulder blades—became his wings, and I failed in trying to record the event. I knew he’d have to go to you” (HRC 26.2; thanks to Richard Parker for pointing out this source).
In a 15 Feb. 1962 postcard to Lorine Niedecker, LZ refers her to Lafcadio Hearn, “Otokichi’s Daruma” in A Japanese Miscellany (1901), a sketch that offers a thumbnail biography of Bodhidharma or Daruma (see note below) but mainly describes various Japanese figures of Daruma, including snowmen, toys and small figurines (HRC 25.7).
Title Daruma: Will Petersen explained to LZ that Daruma is the Japanese name for Bodhidharma, the 5th-6th century Buddhist monk who brought Chan (Zen) Buddhism to China and therefore to East Asia generally (letter dated 19 Sept. 1961). Daruma is the transliterated Japanese form of the Sanskrit dharma, which is also a key Buddhist term that has a range of meanings: “the natural condition of things or beings, the law of their existence, truth, religious truth, the Buddhist Doctrine, the law (Law), the ethical code of righteousness” (from Wisdom of India and China, ed. Lin Yutang, which was in the LZ library). See note at 221.5 below.
221.2 found object: in 1964 LZ published 12 short poems selected from throughout his career under the title, Found Objects; see brief preface to that selection in Prep+ 168. See next note.
221.4 for good luck: this apparently was PZ’s remark on the arrival of Daruma (HRC 3.16).
221.5 Peter’s sen / Ami / Ren / Will: Ami was Will Petersen’s Japanese wife at the time and Ren their son. Petersen (see headnote) is best-known for his lithographs and was associated with the Beats in the late 1950s. It may be relevant that Petersen appears as Rol Sturlason in Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums (1958), but in any case he was a serious student of Zen Buddhism and Noh drama, and wrote a well-known essay, “Stone Garden” (Evergreen Review 1.4, 1957) on the Zen garden of Ryoanji, at the time not nearly so world renowned as it would soon become. As LZ pointed out in his postcard to Niedecker, a sen is also a Japanese monetary unit, 100 sen = yen, but too small to be in common use.
The Old Poet Moves to a New Apartment 14 Times
25 Nov. 1960-22/26 Feb. 1962 / Poetry (March 1963)
This sequence was pieced together from many discrete entries in LZ’s notebook (HRC 3.16): #10 from at least seven, #12 from eight, and the above dates refer to the earliest of these note entries, with the last dates indicating the actual time of composition. He seems to have reworked these pieces as a complete sequence directly from the notes, rather than as individual poems that were then gathered together (see HRC 14.9 for the working draft).
LZ reads and offers scattered comments on the first four poems of this sequence in his interview with L.S. Dembo (Prep+ 232-235).
Title: In Feb. 1962 the Zukofskys moved from Willow Street in Brooklyn to a new apartment nearby at 160 Columbia Heights on the 10th and 11th floors.
222.1 “The old radical”: Cid Corman pointed out to LZ that he was referred to as an “old radical” in an article on Robert Creeley in the journal The Fifties (letter dated 28 June 1959). The article, “The Work of Robert Creeley,” was signed “Crunk,” a pseudonym for Robert Bly, the editor of The Fifties; see issue #2 (1959): 10-21, where in a cursory description of poets Creeley included in the Black Mountain Review, he mentions LZ, “the old radical, who is still writing on.”
222.2 surd: not having the sense of hearing, deaf; in mathematics, not capable of being expressed in rational numbers: as a surd expression, quantity or number (see below); in phonetics, uttered with breath and not with voice, devoid of vocality, not sonant, toneless, specifically applied to the breathed or non-vocal consonants of the alphabet; meaningless, senseless. In mathematics, a quantity not expressible as the ratio of two whole numbers, as √2, or the ratio of the circumference of a circle to the diameter (CD). In mathematics, a radical is the symbol √, meaning square root of … and a radical expression any that includes this symbol.
Absurd from L. absurdus, harsh-sounding, inharmonious, absurd: either ab, away, from + surdus, sounding; or ab- (intensive) + surdus, indistinct, dull, deaf (CD).
223.14 Aleatorical indeterminate: LZ’s notebook indicates that he is thinking about chance operations and at least generally about John Cage, who PZ was becoming very interested in at this time (HRC 3.16); see Little (CF 160) and “A”-14.347.30-33 & 349.13-14.
223.14 jingle poet as he says it: LZ also used this phrase in his interview with L.S. Dembo (Prep+ 235). It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who made the dismissive quip that Edgar Allan Poe was a “jingle man” in conversation with William Dean Howells; often this remark gets transmuted into “jingle poet.” However, LZ almost certainly has in mind Milton’s Preface to Paradise Lost, where he famously defends his rejection of rhyme: “true musical delight […] consists only in apt numbers, fit quantity of syllables, and the sense variously drawn out from one verse into another, not in the jingling sound of like endings, a fault avoided by the learned ancients both in poetry and all good oratory.” Key phrases from this remark, including the reference to “jingling” is quoted in 14.328.12-17.
224.2 Achilles shield: at the behest of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, Hephaestus constructed an intricately designed shield for Achilles, which is detailed in Homer, Iliad XVIII. See Bottom 386.
225.9 Xanthus and Balius: immortal horses given as a wedding present by Poseidon to Peleus; in the Trojan War they draw the chariot of Achilles, Peleus’ son. Their names mean Bay and Dapple respectively. In Bottom (388) LZ quotes the passage from Homer, Iliad XIX in which Xanthus speaks to Achilles.
225.13 favorite Yellow: apparently yellow was in fact LZ’s favorite color.
225.1 Tiny sarah golden: Sarah Golden was the girlfriend of poet Paul Blackburn (1926-1971) and later his second wife from 1963-1967 (Scroggins Bio 349).
226.2 Willow Street: the Zukofskys lived on Willow Street in Brooklyn at two different addresses from 1946-1962.
226.6 Shall we not see / these daughters…: from Shakespeare, King Lear V.iii, when Cordelia and Lear are brought in as prisoners after the initial triumph of Goneril and Regan’s forces:
Cordelia: We are not the first
Who, with best meaning, have incurr’d the worst.
For thee, oppressed king, I am cast down;
Myself could else out-frown false Fortune’s frown.
Shall we not see these daughters and these sisters?
Lear: No, no, no, no! Come, let’s away to prison;
We two alone will sing like birds i’ the cage.
When thou dost ask me blessing, I’ll kneel down
And ask of thee forgiveness. So we’ll live,
And pray, and sing, and tell old tales, and laugh
At gilded butterflies, and hear poor rogues
Talk of court news; and we’ll talk with them too,
Who loses and who wins; who’s in, who’s out;
And take upon ’s the mystery of things
As if we were God’s spies; and we’ll wear out,
In a wall’d prison, packs and sects of great ones,
That ebb and flow by the moon.
227.11 danced the twist: the twist was popularized by Chubby Checkers recording “The Twist” in 1960 and became a national craze for the next few years; the dance is often considered the first rock and roll dance style.
227.12 as in a newspaper neared / human ashes icy roads / Auschwitz crematories’…: as LZ indicates, he is mostly quoting from the New York Times for 8 June 1961: “Survivors Tell Eichmann Court of Days of Agony at Auschwitz.” The trial of the former Nazi commander Adolf Eichmann took place in April-Aug. 1961, during which testimony about Auschwitz and the Nazi program to exterminate Jews preoccupied the world media: “[…] witnesses against Eichmann, charged by Israel with the murder of millions of Jews, told how human ashes from the Auschwitz crematories were scattered on icy roads from a cart pulled by twenty children. They told how a sadistic Nazi doctor, Joseph Mengele, who was in charge of selection for the gas chambers, became known as ‘the Angel of Death’ and how he rode around the vast camp on a bicycle whistling tunes by Mozart.”
227.17 Angel Head Doctor…: the infamous head doctor at the Auschwitz concentration camp, Josef Mengele (1917-1979); see preceding note.
228.1 La Paz, Bolivia…: La Paz is the capital of Bolivia and means Peace in Spanish. Through 228.12 LZ is mostly quoting from a New York Times article for 16 June 1961: “Stevenson Lands in Tense Bolivia.” Adlai Stevenson, then chief U.S. delegate to the U.N. was touring South American on behalf of President Kennedy, and when he arrived in Bolivia there were violent riots taking place between government troops and striking workers and leftist students.
228.17 ‘head lost / why cry “bald”‘?: from a quip by Nikita Khrushchev, the Soviet Premier, during the Berlin crisis of June-Nov. 1961, which resulted in the city’s de facto division into east and west. In an interview reported in the New York Times for 8 Sept. 1961, he remarked: “Russians have a proverb that says once you have lost your head you do not cry over your hair.” The specific context of his remark was the U.S. demand for a general disarmament of nuclear weapons before a discussion of controls.
229.11 art is not covetous / whose life is long: reworks the proverbial “art is long, life is short,” attributed to Hippocrates; see Ferdinand (CF 262) and “A”-13.297.10.
229.17 Friendship / rocket thrust…: on 20 Feb. 1962 John Glenn was the first U.S. astronaut to orbit the earth, launched on the booster rocket Friendship 7. He was in orbit for four hours and 56 minutes. LZ is taking this information through 229.25 from a chart, “Comparison of Statistics from Five Space Flight,” both Soviet and U.S. up to that point in time; this is cut from a newspaper hand-dated 21 Feb. 1962 (HRC 14.9).
230.16 sweet fat friend…: the poet Robert Kelly (b. 1935) (Scroggins Bio 350).
230.18 optimism gaining among steel men: a headline from the New York Times for 4 Dec. 1961; the sub-headline continues: “Pick-up in auto ordering cheers industry — Stock build-up expected.”
231.1 She brings me all things / the caryatid of the 10th floor / holding the 11th…: CZ who in an architectural image is seen as supporting the other two members of the family; in their Columbia Heights apartment, the living room and kitchen were on the 10th floor, while LZ and PZ had their work rooms on the 11th floor (Scroggins Bio 347).
231.9 the water bringing all of the continents…: the Columbia Heights apartment had a terrace and views out over the mouth of the NYC harbor looking towards Staten Island and the ocean. This also echoes LZ’s opening remarks in the “Continents” section of Bottom: “All He [Shakespeare] saw there flowed from and out to three continents, a fourth, or a fourth and a fifth, coming up, out of—“ (101) (Scroggins Bio 350).
“Atque in Perpetuum A.W.”
21 June 1962 / Poetry (Oct.-Nov. 1962)
Title Atque in Perpetuum: from the final line of Catullus’ elegy on his brother (Carmina 101): atque in perpetuum, frater, aue atque uale (and for ever, O my brother, hail and farewell). LZ included Catullus’ poem in TP (114), in the prose translation of F.W. Cornish.
A.W.: = Alan Wand, husband of LZ’s older sister Fanny, died 3 June 1962; he appears as Count Murda-Wonda in Chapter 8 of Little. CZ mentions his cheerful personality (see Terrell, “Eccentric Profile” 40).
231.8 sedum: any low, succulent plant of the genus Sedum, stonecrop family, with broad-toothed leaves and clusters of small flowers (< L. houseleek). See “A”-13.271.1.
231.13 privet: any of various Old World shrubs having smooth entire leaves and terminal panicles of small white flowers followed by small black berries; often used for hedges.
21 June 1962 / Poor.Old.Tired.Horse (May 1963)
Original title in manuscript, “The Desire” (Booth 154). Writing to Jessie McGuffie, founding editor with Ian Hamilton Finlay of Wild Hawthorn Press and Poor.Old.Tired.Horse, LZ remarked: “Since Hugh [Kenner] said something about the four lines I sent for Poth (title: THE)—your or Ian’s wondering about how serious I was—very (like Basil [Bunting])—I was thinking of tug boats, they tow very seriously: + that’s the duration of us: notice none of the vowels repeat in that poem—+ that’s the breath of it. But you don’t have to take it if you don’t see it—just let me know” (letter dated 8 Sept. 1962; HRC 19.1).
25 June 1962 / Burning Deck (Fall 1962)
Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. See Z-Notes commentary on “A”-17.
Manuscript notes indicate that this was written from the 11th floor terrace of the Zukofskys’ then current home at 160 Columbia Heights, in Brooklyn Heights (Booth 136). This poem is included complete in LZ’s homage to WCW, “A”-17.388.
232.4 Hesperides: in Greek mythology, both Hera’s garden with an orchard that produces golden apples as well as the group of nymphs (daughters to Hesperus or Night) who guard it. The Hesperides are associated with sunset, particularly with evening golden light. The Hesperides was also an earlier name for the constellation Ursa Minor (Small Bear).
2 July 1962 / Burning Deck (Fall 1962)
15 Dec. 1963 / Joglars (Spring 1964)
Title Strictly speaking, the title of this poem should be the first line, “After reading, a song,” which is how LZ always presented it and as it appeared in After I’s. Presumably it was when the poem was reprinting in ALL, The Collected Short Poems, 1956-1964 (1966) that it acquired the title “After Reading,” as that collection imposed a uniformity of formal titles throughout.
LZ read at Adams House, Harvard on 14 Dec. 1963 at the invitation of the poet Michael Palmer, then a student at Harvard. LZ notes that the poem was written while on the train back to NYC (Booth 61). Joglars was edited by Palmer with Clark Coolidge (1963-1966). This reading and its subsequent poem took place just three weeks after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, and at “A”-15.368.21-23 indicates the poem was in some sense a response to the President’s death (see note).
1-2 Feb. 1964
Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. “‘a point flowers into every line’: Thanks to the Dictionary & some other poems” (2021). See Z-Notes.
This poem is essentially written out of dictionaries pursuing meanings, etymologies and homophonic associations of the word mulier, which in L. means woman or wife. LZ consults three standard dictionaries: Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (5th edition), Lewis and Short’s Latin Dictionary, and Liddell and Scott’s An Intermediate Greek-English Lexicon (abridged). LZ also brings in Italian at 238.26f via moglie = It. wife. Below are copied out the relevant entries, from which the reader can trace LZ’s lines of association.
At the time this poem was written LZ and CZ were deep in their work on Catullus together, which preoccupied them from 1958-1966, and LZ was in the habit of writing valentine poems each February, e.g. see next poem. At about the same time, LZ worked on Catullus 70, Nulli se dicit mulier mea nubere malle, which Francis Cornish translates: “The woman I love says that there is no one whom she would rather marry than me, not if Jupiter himself were to woo her. Says:—but what a woman says to her ardent lover should be written in wind and running water.” Corman notes that mulier also appears in Catullus 87 (“Poetry as Translation” 28).
Also relevant is the conclusion to Shakespeare, Cymbeline V.v, where Philarmonus the soothsayer interprets an oracle:
Thou, Leo-natus, art the lion’s whelp;
The fit and apt construction of thy name,
Being Leonatus, doth import so much.
The piece of tender air, thy virtuous daughter,
Which we call ‘mollis aer’ [L. tender or soft air] and ‘mollis aer’
We term it ‘mulier’: which ‘mulier’ I divine
Is this most constant wife; who, even now,
Answering the letter of the oracle,
Unknown to you, unsought, were clipp’d about
With this most tender air.
234.7 mens: L. mind, intellect; understanding, reason. But here, as LZ indicates, punning on the English sense.
234.31 Lewis and / Short: Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short, A Latin Dictionary (Oxford: Clarendon Press, , 1958). The relevant entries as follows:
mŭlĭer, ĕris, f. [mollior, comp. of mollis, q. v.], a woman, a female, whether married or not.
mollis, e, adj. [Gr. μαλακὸς [malakós], ἀμαλός [amalós], μῶλυς [môlus]; cf. βληχρός, perh. Lat. mulier (mollior)] easily movable, pliant, flexible, supple; soft, tender, delicate, gentle, mild, pleasant (class.; syn.: tener, facilis, flexibilis, lentus).
235.6 mulley: LZ uses this word in the first line of Catullus 25. Here he is consulting the Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, 5th ed. (1936)—this is a different edition than that he used in Thanks to the Dictionary; the copy in his library is a 1948 printing:
mul′ley (mool′ĭ; mŭl′ĭ), n. [Also muley, mooley, moiley, of Celt. origin.] 1. U.S. A polled animal. 2. Dial. Eng. A cow; — in U.S., a child’s word. —adj. Hornless; polled; —said of beef cattle.
236.7 q. / v.: L. quod vide, which see (see 234.31).
236.8 (positive): while the other parenthetical lines on this page give the full terms for the abbreviations used in Lewis and Short (see 234.31), this is apparently LZ’s addition; the fuller entries for both mulier and mollis include sections of negative senses of the words.
237.21 Liddell / and / Scott: LZ owned the so-called “Little Liddell,” A Lexicon: Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford UP, 1891 [1953 impression]). The relevant entries follow:
blêchros: βληχρóς, á, óν, weak, feeble, sluggish: also with a euphon., ἀβληχρός. Adv. -ρῶς, slightly.
malakos: ΜΑˇΛΑ ΚΟΈ, ή, όν, Lat. MOLLIS, soft; μαλακὸς, λείμων a soft, grassy meadow. II. soft, gentle, mild. 2. in bad sense, soft, effeminate: easy, careless, remiss.
amalos: ἀμᾱλός, Att. ἁμαλός, ή, όν, = ἁπαλός, soft, light, Lat. tener. 2. weak, feeble.
238.26 “a / cura / della / moglie / del / poeta, / che / ha / tratto / poesie”: It. edited by the poet’s wife, who has drawn (selected) from the poetry (or as LZ suggests: who has picked poetry from). This quotes from a note in an Italian anthology edited by Carlo Izzo, Poesia Americana del ’900 (Parma: Ugo Guanda, 1963): 977, which includes translations of four short poems by LZ, that mentions the recently published 16 Once Published (Edinburgh: The Wild Hawthorn Press, 1962), a small selection of short poems edited by CZ.
Finally a Valentine
9 Feb. 1963
Although written before President Kennedy’s assassination on 22 Nov. 1963, this poem was first published in the volume, Of Poetry and Power, poems occasioned by the Presidency and by the Death of John F. Kennedy (NY: Basic Books, 1964), for which LZ gives an explanation of sorts at “A”-15.368.17-20 (see note). When this poem was published as a valentine card by the Piccolo Press dated Jan. 1965, LZ included a note: “‘my last short poem for a long time’ this finally a valentine will close or now closes my collected short poems to be called ALL”—although actually After I’s includes a couple of poem written after “Finally a Valentine.” In the Piccolo Press publication, he dates the poem 23 Oct. 1963, whereas the above date is on the manuscript as recorded in Booth (97).