Z-siteA Companion to the Works of Louis Zukofsky
#1 che di lor suona su nella tua vita
4 Feb. 1937
Hatlen, Burton. “Zukofsky, Wittgenstein, and the Poetics of Absence.” Sagetrieb 1.1 (1982): 63-65, 91-93.
Title: che di lor suona su nella tua vita: see note to this poem (CSP 102-103) where LZ identifies the source of this line in Dante, Inferno IV.77, as well as giving a translation. As LZ indicates, the setting is in Limbo and Virgil is explaining why the group of four pagan poets—Homer, Horace, Ovid and Lucan—exist in a sphere of light: “And he said to me: ‘Their honoured name, which sounds of them, up in that life of thine, gains favour in heaven which thus advanced them” (trans. J.A. Carlyle).
#2 “One lutenist played look; your thought was drink”
2 March 1937 / Calendar (1942)
In an undated (probably 1937) letter to Lorine Niedecker, LZ offers a quite detailed gloss on this poem (HRC 25.2).
77.1 One lutenist played look…: whether or not LZ has a particular lutenist in mind, this possibly refers to the popular practice of “word painting” in Renaissance madrigals. An etymological remark on air or ayre in Bottom is suggestive: “[…] in Shakespeare and the French of his time, mien, demeanour, tune—affected by Italian aria, meant ‘a looke . . . a tune’ (Florio)” (139).
77.3 Ben: Ben Jonson (1572-1637), whose “To Celia” (see “A”-18.390.31) is evoked in the opening line:
Drinke to me, onely, with thine eyes,
And I will pledge with mind;
Or leave a kisse but in the cup,
And Ile not looke for wine.
77.4 Music avoids impossibility: when originally published in Calendar, this poem had an epigraph: “‘—difficult, I wish it were impossible’ / Ben Jonson (on music)”; however, LZ has mixed up his Jo(h)nsons here since the quotation is actually attributed to Samuel Johnson, supposedly in response a violinist’s performance: “Difficult, do you call it, sir? I wish it were impossible.”
77.8 marsh-marigold: or cowslip (caltha palustris), a yellow wildflower that grows in marshy areas, usually flowers in early spring but does not last long.
#3 “The green plant grows”
2 Dec. 1937
78.11 Went a lande a / Ship of Lusseboene…: LZ notes this as from Amerigo Vespucci (1454-1512), the Italian navigator after which “America” was named. Apparently the source is the earliest account of America printed in English from an anonymous Renaissance compilation based on the epistolary accounts of Vespucci with additions, printed in Antwerp in 1511. Republished in Edward Arber, The First Three English Books on America, Birmingham, 1885:
“Of the newe landes and of ye people founde by the messengers of the kynge of Portyugale named Emanuel. of the R.  Dyners Nacyons crystened. Of Pope John and his landes and of the costely keyes and wonders molo dyes that in that lande is.
Here aforetymes [formerly] in the yere of our Lorde god. M.CCCC.xcvi.  and so be we with shyppes of Lusseboene [Lisbon] sayled oute of Portyugale thorough the commaundement of the Kynge Emanuel. So haue we had our vyage. For by fortune ylandes ouer the great see with great charge and daunger so haue we at the laste founde oon lordshyp where we sayled well. ix.C.  mylee [mile] by the cooste of Selandes there we at ye laste went a lande but that lande is not nowe knowen for there haue no masters wryten thereof nor it knowethe and it is named Armenica [America] there we sawe meny wonders of beestes and fowles yat [that] we haue neuer seen before the people of this lande haue no kynge nor lorde nor theyr god But all thinges is comune. This people goeth all naked, but the men and women haue on theyr heed necke Armes Knees and fete all with feders [feathers] bounden for their bewtynes [beauty] and fayrenes.
These folke lyuen [live] lyke bestes without any resenablenes. and the wymen be also as common. And the men hath conuersacyon with the wymen, who that they ben or who they fyrst mete, is she his syster, his moder, his daughter, or any other kyndred. And the wymen be very hoote and dysposed to lecherdnes. And they etc [eat] also on[e] a nother. The man etethe [eateth] his wyfe, his chylderne as we also haue seen, and they hange also the bodyes or persons fleeshe in the smoke as men do with vs swynes fleshe. And that lande is ryght full of folke for they lyue commonly. iii.C.  yere and more as with sykenesse they dye nat they take much fysshe for they can goen vnder the water and fe[t]che so the fysshes out of the water. and they werre [war] also on[e] vpon a nother for the olde men brynge the yonge men thereto that they gather a great company thereto of towe [two] partyes and come the on[e] ayene [against] the other to the felde or bateyll [battle] and slee [slay] on[e] the other with great hepes [heaps]. And nowe holdeth the fylde [field] they take the other prysoners And they brynge them to deth and ete them and as the deed [dead] is eten then fley [flay] they the rest. And they been [are] than [then] eten also or otherwyse lyue they longer tymes and many yeres more than other people for they haue costely spyces and rotes [roots] where they them selfe recouer with and hele [heal] them as they be seke [sick].”
#4 “So sounds grass, and if it is sun or no sun”
27-28 Feb. 1938
79.4 Teruel: city east of Madrid where a fierce battle was fought during the winter of 1937-38, finally won by the Nationalists in Feb. 1938, a major turning-point leading to the eventual triumph a year later of Franco’s forces over the Republicans (or Loyalists) in the Spanish Civil War (see “A”-10.118.20).
#5 “Ah spring, when with a thaw of blue”
2 March 1938 / Calendar (1942)
#6 “Anew, sun, to fire summer”
1-4 Aug. 1938
Dembo, L.S. “Louis Zukofsky: Objectivist Poetics and the Quest for Form.” American Literature 44.1 (1972): 74-96. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 293-294.
The manuscript has a note indicating that this was written at “Palisades below Alpine / and Rockland Lake, N.Y.” (Booth 68). The Palisades are a range of cliffs along the west bank of the Hudson River from roughly opposite Columbia University and running immediately north of Manhattan. Alpine, New Jersey is along the Palisades Parkway and further north is Rockland Lake on a ridge of Hook Mountain in the Palisades area. This is all national park area easily accessible from NYC.
#7 “When the crickets”
28 Aug. 1938 / Calendar (1942)
#8 “Has the sum”
5 Dec. 1938
Dembo, L.S. “Louis Zukofsky: Objectivist Poetics and the Quest for Form.” American Literature 44.1 (1972): 74-96. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 294.
Anew 8-10, written over two days, are clearly interrelated; see notes to #9.
80.1 sum / Twenty-five…: possibly relevant here that CZ would have been 25 when this poem was written, although her birthday is in January; see next note.
80.11 2 a bird-prow / Taking 5 in tow: Perelman points out that this apparently reads a picture of Ra on his solar boat whose stylized bow and stern suggest the numbers 2 and 5 (Trouble with Genius 255n.51).
80.13 Ra: the Egyptian sun god represented as having a human body with a hawk’s head crowned with a soar disk and uraeus (sacred serpent).
#9 “For you I have emptied the meaning”
6 Dec. 1938
Dembo, L.S. “Louis Zukofsky: Objectivist Poetics and the Quest for Form.” American Literature 44.1 (1972): 74-96. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 294-295.
81.3 a god of midday: see Ra in preceding poem.
81.6 so overweening: this phrase appears in EP’s 1928 translation of Cavalcanti, Donna mi preigha, which so fascinated both poets, particularly at this time: “Because a lady asks me, I would tell / Of an affect that comes often and is fell / And is so overweening: Love by name. […].”
81.8 see 2 as a bird: see line 11 of preceding poem.
81.15 kirtle: can refer to a number of different garments, but most probably a full-length woman’s dress or skirt common in the late medieval and Renaissance periods.
#10 “What are these songs”
6 Dec. 1938
Jennison, Ruth. The Zukofsky Era: Modernity, Margins and the Avant-garde (2012): 191-193.
#11 “In the midst of things”
5 Dec. 1941, 29 March 1942
Jennison, Ruth. The Zukofsky Era: Modernity, Margins and the Avant-garde (2012): 177-181.
81.4 DICKEYVILLE…: a village on the western edge of the city of Baltimore, Maryland along the banks of Gwynn’s Falls founded in the late 17th century. In 1934 much of the then disintegrating village was sold to a developer who decided to preserve and restore it as a model historic village. The one remaining mill was indeed turned into homes and shops.
82.1 VOICE OF THE HOUSE-DOOR / (Speaking after Catullus)…: see Catullus, Carmina 67, where the poet converses with a door who recounts the details that follow in the stanza. LZ is paraphrasing Catullus with the final stanza entirely his own invention.
#12 “It’s hard to see but think of a sea”
16-17 Jan. 1944
Quartermain, Peter. “Recurrencies: No. 12 of Louis Zukofsky’s Anew.” Paideuma 7.3 (1978): 523-538. Rpt. Disjunctive Poetics (1992): 44-58.
Filreis, Al, et. al. “Poem Talk #22.” Jacket 2 (2009) and for transcript go here. This poem talk with Charles Bernstein, Wystan Curnow and Bob Perlman initiated a fair amount of followup commentary; see below and also here for a Poetry and Science discussion (2012).
Quartermain points out that at the time LZ wrote this poem he was working for Hazeltine Electronics Corp. writing instruction manuals. The quotation from Hendrik Antoon Lorentz that LZ gives in the notes to Anew #29 is relevant here (CSP 104), and Quartermain offers other definitions and explanations of the electrical concepts involved in this poem. For some further remarks on technical references by the poet-engineer Aryanil Mukherjee see here.
82.3 waves: in Physics, a. A disturbance traveling through a medium by which energy is transferred from one particle of the medium to another without causing any permanent displacement of the medium itself; b. A graphic representation of the variation of such a disturbance with time; c. A single cycle of such a disturbance (AHD).
82.4 frequencies: the number of times a specified phenomenon occurs within a specified interval, as: a. The number of repetitions of a complete sequence of values of a periodic function per unit variation of an independent variable. B. The number of complete cycles of a periodic process occurring per unit time. C. The number of repetitions per unit time of a complete waveform, as of an electric current (AHD).
82.13 condensers: 1) one that condenses, especially an apparatus used to condense vapor; 2) another name for a capacitor, an electric circuit element used to store charge temporarily, consisting in general of two metallic plates separated and insulated from each other by a dielectric; 3) a mirror, lens, or combination of lenses used to gather light and direct it upon an object or through a projection lens (AHD).
82.19 open circuit: in electronics, an incomplete electrical circuit in which no current flows.
83.11 forty years: Quartermain points out that LZ wrote this poem a week before he turned 40.
83.16 child: PZ was born in Oct. 1943 a few months before this poem was composed.
#13 “A last cigarette”
15 May 1939
Dembo, L.S. “Louis Zukofsky: Objectivist Poetics and the Quest for Form.” American Literature 44.1 (1972): 74-96. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 290-291.
84.6 World’s Fair: a World’s Fair was held in NYC in 1939-40.
#14 “‘One oak fool box’;—the pun”
2 Dec. 1942
84.1 the pun: presumably on “toolbox.”
84.4 dimout: blackout.
85.1 acanthus: herb or shrub with large spiny leaves and spikes of white or purplish flowers; in architecture, a design patterned after the leaves of one of these plants, especially on the capitals of Corinthian columns.
85.5 Dooley: created by Finley Peter Dunne (1867-1936), Mr. Dooley was a working class Chicago saloon keeper who satirically comments on politics and government policy of the day; also mentioned and quoted at “A”-14.357.5f. Here LZ standardizes some Dooley remarks found in Mr. Dooley in Peace and in War (1899), “On the Anglo-Saxon”: “I’m what Hogan calls wan iv th’ mute, ingloryous heroes iv th’ war; an’ not so dam mute, ayther. Some day, Hinnissy, justice’ll be done me, an’ th’ likes iv me; an’, whin th’ story iv a gr-great battle is written, they’ll print th’ kilt, th’ wounded, th’ missin’, an’ th’ seriously disturbed. An’ thim that have bore themselves well an’ bravely an’ paid th’ taxes an’ faced th’ deadly newspa-apers without flinchin’ ‘ll be advanced six pints an’ given a chanst to tur-rn jack f’r th’ game.”
85.14 If number, measure and weighing…: from Plato, Philebus:
“Socrates. ‘I mean to say, that if arithmetic, mensuration, and weighing be taken away from any art, that which remains will not be much.’ Protarchus. ‘Not much, certainly.’ Socrates. ‘The rest will be only conjecture, and the better use of the senses which is given by experience and practice, in addition to a certain power of guessing, which is commonly called art, and is perfected by attention and pains’” (55; trans. Benjamin Jowett). LZ included these three lines in “A”-17 (380) and “Poetry/For My Son When He Can Read” (Prep+ 6), which offers an extended gloss on LZ’s sense of “measure.”
85.18 Appreciation of dawn / After the sixth day…: cf. Genesis 1:31: “And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good. And the evening and the morning were the sixth day.”
# 15 “No it was no dream of coming death”
3-5 Dec. 1941
Dembo, L.S. “Louis Zukofsky: Objectivist Poetics and the Quest for Form.” American Literature 44.1 (1972): 74-96. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 291-292.
Title misprint in the CSP (1991) edition: Not [should be] No.
85.5 From a window looked down / On the river…: at the time this poem was written, the Zukofskys were living at 1088 East 180th Street directly opposite the Bronx Park where the Bronx River comes out at the south end; see description in “It was” (CF 181-182) and see next note.
85.10 Whose waters seemed unwillingly…: the parenthetical quotation is from the first stanza of “Bronx,” by Joseph Rodman Drake (1795-1820) (Ahearn note in EP/LZ 202):
I sat me down upon a green bank-side,
Skirting the smooth edge of a gentle river,
Whose waters seemed unwillingly to glide,
Like parting friends who linger while they sever;
Enforced to go, yet seeming still unready,
Backward they wind their way in many a wistful eddy.
#16 “I walk in the old street”
29 May-22 June 1944
Conte, Joseph M. Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry (1991): 152-153
#17 Guillaume de Machault (1300-1377) Ballade: Plourès, dames
5-6 Nov. 1941
LZ notes that the French text was given to him by Yves Tinayre (1891-1972) on 4 Nov. 1941 (Booth 101). Tinayre was a French singer and musicologist, who was an important figure in the revival of Medieval and Renaissance music; he met and became a good friend of EP’s during the latter’s London years and sang in the premier of EP’s Villon opera, Le Testament, in Paris in 1926.
Title: Guillaume de Machault was a French court composer as well as poet. LZ translates the first of the three stanzas of this Ballade:
Ploures, dames, ploures vostre servant.
Qui ay toudis mis mon cuer et m’entente.
Corps et desir et penser en servant
L’onneur de vous que Dieus gart et augmente.
Vestes vous de noir pour mi.
Car j’ay cuer teint et viaire pali.
Et si me voy de mort en aventure.
Se Dieus et vous ne me prenes en cure.
#18 “The bird that cries like a baby”
30 Sept. 1940
87.6 Virginia creeper: a climbing vine with bluish-black berry-like fruit; also called woodbine.
87.10 Forsythia named Golden-rain: forsythia is a bush of the genus Forsythia with early-blooming intense bright yellow flowers; although plausible to call them “Golden rain,” this name usually refers to a different shrub.
87.16 saving daylight: during World War II, President Roosevelt instituted daylight saving time, called “war time,” as an energy saving measure; see “Light 13” (CSP 120).
87.19 oldest Throne’s baby…: the Japanese Chrysanthemum Throne claims to be the world’s oldest continuous monarchy. The following quotation is from an Imperial Edict issued by the Japanese Emperor Hirohito (1901-1989) on the occasion of the signing of the Tripartite Pact with Hitler and Mussolini in Sept. 1940 (Quartermain, “‘Not Surprised by Science’” 212) and reported in the New York Times for 28 Sept. 1940: “Hirohito Rescript”: “To enhance justice on earth and to make the world one household is the great injunction bequeathed by our imperial ancestors which we take to heart day and night. In the stupendous crisis now confronting the world it appears that there will be an aggravation of war and confusion and incalculable disasters will be inflicted upon mankind. We fervently hope for a cessation of disturbances and hope a restoration of peace will be realized as swiftly as possible. Accordingly we commanded our government to deliberate on the matter of mutual assistance and cooperation with the governments of Germany and Italy, which share the views and aspirations of our empire. […] We are deeply gratified that a pact has been concluded between these three powers. The task of enabling each nation to find its proper place and all individuals to live in peace and security is one of great magnitude, unparalleled in history.”
#19 “And so till we have died”
8 April 1941
#20 “The lines of this new song are nothing”
7 March 1939
Taggart, John. Songs of Degrees: Essays on Contemporary Poetry and Poetics (1994): 88.
#21 “Can a mote of sunlight defeat its purpose”
15 Sept. 1942
Scroggins, Mark. Louis Zukofsky and the Poetry of Knowledge (1998): 46-49.
Stanley, Sandra Kumanoto. Louis Zukofsky and the Transformation of a Modern American Poetics (1994): 89-90.
There are two mentions of “mote” in Bottom (299, 328)—actually both close quotations from Hamlet and Pericles respectively—which correlate with the sense used here and suggest that this poem can be understood in terms of Bottom’s “definition of love.” The Shakespeare sources are Pericles IV.iv [spoken by Gower as the chorus]: “Like motes and shadows see them move awhile. / Your ears unto your eyes I’ll reconcile,” and Hamlet I.i [spoken by Horatio]: “A mote it is to trouble the mind’s eye.” See also King John IV.i: “Arthur: Is there no remedy? Hubert: —None, but to lose your eyes. Arthur: O heaven, that there were but a mote in yours, / A grain, a dust, a gnat, a wandering hair, / Any annoyance in that precious sense! / Then feeling what small things are boisterous there, / Your vile intent must needs seem horrible”; also Love’s Labour’s Lost IV.iii and A Midsummer Night’s Dream V.i. Also relevant is the discussion of the word “atomies” in Shakespeare, usually glossed as meaning “motes,” as related to Lucretius in Bottom 86-89. See also Prep+ 34.
LZ, as well as Shakespeare, may also have in mind the following from Matthew 7:1-7: “Judge not, that ye be not judged. For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye.”
#22 Catullus viii
Gordon, David. “Three Notes on Zukofsky’s Catullus I ‘Catullus viii’: 1939-1960.” In Terrell (1979): 371-381.
Translation of the following Catullus poem (text as in Loeb edition):
Miser Catulle, desinas ineptire,
et quod vides perisse perditum ducas.
fulsere quondam candidi tibi soles,
cum ventitabas quo puella ducebat
amata nobis quantum amabitur nulla.
ibi illa multa tum iocosa fiebant,
quae tu volebas nec puella nolebat,
fulsere vere candidi tibi soles.
nunc iam illa non vult: tu quoque, impotens, noli,
nec quae fugit sectare, nec miser vive,
sed obstinata mente perfer, obdura.
vale, puella. iam Catullus obdurate,
nec te requiret nec rogabit invitam:
at tu dolebis, cum rogaberis nulla
scelesta, nocte. quae tibi manet vita?
quis nunc te adibit? cui videberis bella?
quem nunc amabis? cuius esse diceris?
quem basiabis? cui labella mordebis?
at tu, Catulle, destinatus obdura.
#23 “Gulls over a rotting hull”
1-3 Sept. 1939
#24 “The men in the kitchens”
LZ notes on the manuscript that this came from a dream the morning of 28 Oct. 1939 (Booth 160).
#25 for Zadkine
7 May 1944
Giorcelli, Cristina. “A Stony Language: Zukofsky’s Zadkine.” In Giorcelli, The Idea and the Thing in Modernist American Poetry (2001): 109-139.
Jones, Alan. “The Zukofsky-Zadkine Files.” Arts Magazine 66.5 (1992): 25-26.
Title Zadkine: Ossip Zadkine (1890-1967), Russian-born sculptor based in Paris who spent the years of World War II (June 1941-Sept. 1945) in NYC and whom LZ met at that time. LZ likely was aware that Henri Gaudier-Brzeska praised Zadkine in an omnibus review reprinted in EP’s Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir (1916, 1970): 31.
90.2 La Prisonnière: a 1943 bronze sculpture created by Zadkine as a response to the war, which depicts three female figures, or perhaps a single figure in three aspects, enclosed in a cage-like structure that looks made of wood (“wood once now stone”). The piece was first exhibited Jan. 1944 in NYC (Giorcelli 109) and apparently there are 5 copies of the work; photos of this and other Zadkine sculptures can be found in Giorcelli and here.
90.13 Furies sometime called kind: Furies is the Roman name (L. Furiae) for the personifications of vengeance, which were often if not always conceived of as three in number. In Gk. called the Erinyes or Eumenides, the latter meaning the “kindly ones,” which is either a euphemistic designation to deflect their frightening nature or refers to their merciful transformation through Athene’s intervention in the Orestes legend (see 23.550.6-7).
90.27 Daphne: nymph with whom Apollo fell in love and pursued until her father, the river god Peneus, transformed her into a laurel tree. Zadkine made a number of works based on mythological subjects, including a wooden Daphne (unfinished) in 1939, which Giorcelli believes LZ saw (128).
6 June 1941 / Poetry (Sept. 1942)
Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. See Z-Notes commentary on LZ and Henry Adams.
Title: 1892-1941: The title obliquely refers to the setting of the poem, which is the monument Henry Adams had built for the grave of his wife in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C. and where he also is buried. Marion (Clover) Adams committed suicide in 1885, and two years later Henry commissioned his friend, the prominent sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens (1848-1907), to create a bronze sculpture, which shows a seated figure almost entirely enfolded in a robe. The sculpture became popularly known as “Grief,” although this was not a title given by Adams or Saint-Gaudens, and Adams objected to it being given any name at all, intending that the work express “acceptance, intellectually, of the inevitable.” The larger monument site is octagonal, slightly raised and enclosed by a tall hedge of conifers. Facing the statue, there is a large curved bench of marble with winged clawed feet at each end and granite pebbles fixed in concrete covering the space between bench and statue. There are absolutely no markings on the gravesite to indicate its purpose or who is buried there, but on the backside of the granite block that serves as a backrest for the statue are two entwined wreathes, as mentioned at 91.14. The dates of LZ’s title indicate the year when Adams first visited the monument, after several years traveling especially in the Pacific, and the year LZ visits the grave on June 1 1941 as recounted in this poem (see note at 91.24).
There are two prior descriptions of visits to this monument that stand behind LZ’s poem. First, there is Adams’ own description of his first visit in 1892 in The Education of Henry Adams (1918), from which LZ quotes at 91.24. The second is by the historian, Carl Becker, that LZ quotes at length in the final chapter of his MA thesis on Adams (1924).
From The Education of Henry Adams, Chap. XXI: Twenty Years After; LZ quotes this paragraph in “Henry Adams” (Prep+ 109):
“His first step, on returning to Washington, took him out to the cemetery known as Rock Creek, to see the bronze figure which St. Gaudens had made for him in his absence. Naturally every detail interested him; every line; every touch of the artist; every change of light and shade; every point of relation; every possible doubt of St. Gaudens’s correctness of taste or feeling; so that, as the spring approached, he was apt to stop there often to see what the figure had to tell him that was new; but, in all that it had to say, he never once thought of questioning what it meant. He supposed its meaning to be the one commonplace about it—the oldest idea known to human thought. He knew that if he asked an Asiatic its meaning, not a man, woman, or child from Cairo to Kamtchatka would have needed more than a glance to reply. From the Egyptian Sphinx to the Kamakura Daibuts; from Prometheus to Christ; from Michael Angelo to Shelley, art had wrought on this eternal figure almost as though it had nothing else to say. The interest of the figure was not in its meaning, but in the response of the observer. As Adams sat there, numbers of people came, for the figure seemed to have become a tourist fashion, and all wanted to know its meaning. Most took it for a portrait-statue, and the remnant were vacant-minded in the absence of a personal guide. None felt what would have been a nursery-instinct to a Hindu baby or a Japanese jinricksha-runner. The only exceptions were the clergy, who taught a lesson even deeper. One after another brought companions there, and, apparently fascinated by their own reflection, broke out passionately against the expression they felt in the figure of despair, of atheism, of denial. Like the others, the priest saw only what he brought. Like all great artists, St. Gaudens held up the mirror and no more. The American layman had lost sight of ideals; the American priest had lost sight of faith. Both were more American than the old, half-witted soldiers who denounced the wasting, on a mere grave, of money which should have been given for drink.”
From Carl Becker as quoted in LZ’s “Henry Adams”; LZ does not identify the source, but it is a review essay of The Education of Henry Adams published in the American Historical Review (April 1919):
”Henry Adams lies buried in Rock Creek Cemetery, in Washington. The casual visitor might perhaps notice, on a slight elevation, a group of shrubs and small trees making a circular enclosure. If he should step up into this concealed spot, he would see on the opposite side a polished marble seat; and placing himself there he would find himself facing a seated figure, done in bronze, loosely wrapped in a mantle, which, covering the body and the head, throws into strong relief a face of singular fascination. Whether man or woman, it would puzzle the observer to say. The eyes are half closed, in reverie rather than in sleep. The figure seems not to convey the sense either of life or death, of joy or sorrow, of hope or despair. It has lived but life is done; it has experienced all things, but is now oblivious to all; it has questioned, but questions no more. The casual visitor will perhaps approach the figure, looking for a symbol, a name, a date—some revelation. There is none. The level ground, carpeted with dead leaves, gives no indication of a grave beneath. It may be that the puzzled visitor will step outside, walk around the enclosure, examine the marble shaft against which the figure is placed; and, finding nothing there, return to the seat and look long at the strange face. What does he make of it—this level spot, these shrubs, this figure that speaks and yet is silent? Nothing—or what he will. Such was life to Henry Adams, who lived long, and questioned seriously, and would not be content with the dishonest or the facile answer” (Prep+ 129-130).
91.1 To be moved comes of want…: possibly LZ is adapting Dante here, who he quotes in “Modern Times”: “’Everything that moves, moves for the sake of something which it has not, and which is the goal of its motion; … Everything that moves, then, has some defect, and does not grasp its whole being at once’ (Letter to Can Grande, 26)” (Prep+ 63).
91.24 “the cemetery known as Rock Creek”: see quotation from The Education of Henry Adams above.
91.25 “One’s instinct abhors time”: from The Education of Henry Adams, Chap. XV: Darwinism:
”By this time, in 1867 Adams had learned to know Shropshire familiarly, and it was the part of his diplomatic education which he loved best. Like Catherine Olney in ‘Northanger Abbey,’ he yearned for nothing so keenly as to feel at home in a thirteenth-century Abbey, unless it were to haunt a fifteenth-century Prior’s House, and both these joys were his at Wenlock. […] The peculiar flavor of the scenery has something to do with absence of evolution; it was better marked in Egypt: it was felt wherever time-sequences became interchangeable. One’s instinct abhors time. As one lay on the slope of the Edge, looking sleepily through the summer haze towards Shrewsbury or Cader Idris or Caer Caradoc or Uriconium, nothing suggested sequence. The Roman road was twin to the railroad; Uriconium was well worth Shrewsbury; Wenlock and Buildwas were far superior to Bridgnorth. The shepherds of Caractacus or Offa, or the monks of Buildwas, had they approached where he lay in the grass, would have taken him only for another and tamer variety of Welsh thief. They would have seen little to surprise them in the modern landscape unless it were the steam of a distant railway. One might mix up the terms of time as one liked, or stuff the present anywhere into the past, measuring time by Falstaff’s Shrewsbury clock, without violent sense of wrong, as one could do it on the Pacific Ocean; but the triumph of all was to look south along the Edge to the abode of one’s earliest ancestor and nearest relative, the ganoid fish, whose name, according to Professor Huxley, was Pteraspis, a cousin of the sturgeon, and whose kingdom, according to Sir Roderick Murchison, was called Siluria. Life began and ended there. Behind that horizon lay only the Cambrian, without vertebrates or any other organism except a few shell-fish. On the further verge of the Cambrian rose the crystalline rocks from which every trace of organic existence had been erased.”
#27 A madrigal for 3 voices
27-28 Feb. 1935 / Contemporary American Men Poets (1937)
Conte, Joseph M. Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry (1991): 153-154.
Title madrigal: a polyphonic song for multiple voices using a secular text developed especially in Italy and England during the Renaissance period. This poem was given the title, “Trio for Workers: / (a madrigal) Unaccompanied” (Henderson 126) when published in Contemporary American Men Poets, ed. Thomas Del Vecchio (NY: Henry Harrison, 1937).
#28 “The rains, the rains”
7 March 1939 / Calendar (1942)
92.5 Seasoned armies / Tested in defeat…: this poem was written during the final collapse of the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War: 26 Jan. 1939 Barcelona fell to Nationalist forces, 27 Feb. France and Britain recognize Franco’s regime and 28 March the Nationalists took control of Madrid.
#29 “Glad they were there”
22 Nov. 1938 / Calendar (1942)
Dembo, L.S. “Louis Zukofsky: Objectivist Poetics and the Quest for Form.” American Literature 44.1 (1972): 74-96. Rpt. Terrell (1979): 292-293.
Jennison, Ruth. The Zukofsky Era: Modernity, Margins and the Avant-garde (2012): 193-196.
This poem is partially quoted at “A”-12.137.1f.
Notes (102-104): …e quelle anime liete…: Dante, Paradiso Canto XXIV describes the sphere of the Fixed Stars and the dancing spiritual figures of the Apostles. Since the entire passage contributes to LZ’s image, I will quote and give a translation of it in full, putting in italics what LZ quotes:
. . . e quelle anime liete
si fero spere sopra fissi poli,
fiammando forte a guisa di comete.
E come cerchi in tempra d’oriuoli
si giran sì, che ‘l primo a chi pon mente
quieto pare, e l’ultimo che voli;
così quelle carole, differente-
mente danzando, de la sua ricchezza
mi facieno stimar, veloci e lente.
[…] and those glad souls
made themselves spheres upon fixed poles,
outflaming mightily like unto comets.
And even as wheels in harmony of clock-work
so turn that the first, to whoso noteth it,
seemeth still, and the last to fly,
so did those carols with their differing
whirl, or swift or slow,
make me deem of their riches. (trans. P.H. Wicksteed)
. . . it is a contradiction to say…: as LZ states, this is from Marx’s Capital, Chap. III on Money, section 2a, “The Metamorphosis of Commodities” (trans. Eden & Cedar Paul). LZ also drew on this particular section of Capital in “Song—3/4 time” (CSP 58).
. . . general theory of electromagnetic field…: from H. A. Lorentz, The Theory of Electrons And its Applications to the Phenomena of Light and Radiant Heat (1915), based on lectures given at Columbia University in 1906. LZ paraphrases and quotes the last remark in “Poetry / For My Son When He Can Read” (Prep+ 7).
. . . luce e sta verde: Cavalcanti’s madrigal, “O cieco mondo, di lusinghe pieno” (O blind world, full of false deceits), as found in EP’s Guido Cavalcanti Rime (1931), second stanza:
Folle è colui che ti addrizza il freno,
Quando per men che nulla quel ben perde,
Che sovra ogn’ altro Amor luce e sta verde.
Fool is he who turns toward you,
Then for less than nothing loses that good
Which above every other Love shines and remains green.
(See also Bottom 135, where LZ quotes the last five words and correlates particularly the mention of “green” with both Shakespeare and Dante’s “Verdi, come fogliett pur mo nate” (Green, like little leaves just born), which is mentioned at 200).
#30 A marriage song for Florence and Harry
30-31 Dec. 1942
See remarks on this poem in 1 Feb. 1943 letter to WCW (WCW/LZ 314).
Florence Feigenblum was the daughter of LZ’s elder brother Morris Ephraim Zukowsky.
#31 “My nephew”
20-21 Oct. 1939
94.6 From his mother / My sister / He never saw / And my mother…: the nephew whose wedding LZ is celebrating is Moe E. Pruss, the son of his sister, Dora, who died in 1913 (born 1888), if not in childbirth then shortly after, which is why the nephew never saw his mother (lines 7-8) (Scroggins Bio 173, 508). Chana Pruss Zukofsky, LZ and Dora’s mother, died in 1927, therefore missing this wedding, which is why their mother does not see the bride (or the bride’s mother) or vice versa, depending on how one wishes to read the reference of “Hers.” In the play Arise, Arise a daughter-sister who has prematurely died has a significant presence in the play, and at the end of the first scene, the Father is heard off-stage talking to a young “nephew,” who is the dead daughter’s son (3).
95.10 Love tomorrow / Loved today: these concluding lines echo the famous refrain of Pervigilium Veneris (The Vigil of Venus), a late Roman poem celebrating the arrival of spring that appears a number of times in LZ’s work associated with marriage. At the end of Arise, Arise (52), LZ gives the refrain: “Let whoever never loved, love tomorrow, let whoever has loved love tomorrow”—as translated by J.W. MacKail, but almost certainly found in EP, The Spirit of Romance, 20. See also Bottom 411 and “A”-23.555.10-13.
#32 “Even if love convey”
20-21 Feb. 1944
#33 “Drive, fast kisses”
12-13 Oct. 1939
Dawson, Fielding. “Straight Lines.” The Dream/Thunder Road: Stories and Dreams 1955-1965 (1972): 111-114. Rpt. Krazy Kat & 76 More: Collected Stories 1950-1976 (1982): 209-211.
In a letter to Lorine Niedecker (dated 1939), LZ suggested comparing this poem with Catullus, Carmina 5 (HRC 25.2).
#34 The Letter of Poor Birds
1-5 March 1944
96.13 Jerry: Jerry Reisman (1913-2000), LZ’s close friend and collaborator during this time (see 99.1, 102.3).
#35 Or a valentine
14 Feb. 1942 / Calendar (1942)
This poem was first published in 14 Poets, 1 Artist (Jargon 31) in 1958, a portfolio dedicated to WCW.
#37 “The world autumn”
26 Nov. 1940
#38 “Belly Locks Shnooks Oakie”
7 April 1941
Quartermain, Peter. “Thinking with the Poem.” Golden Handcuffs Review 1.5 (2005); Rpt. Stubborn Poetries: Poetic Facticity and the Avant-Garde (2013): 90-91. Available on-line at Jacket 2.
Cf. LZ’s limerick, “Belly Lox Shnooks Oaky,” which apparently is an earlier or alternative version of Anew 38; see “Discarded Poems” in Terrell 159.
#39 “One friend”
22 March 1942
Originally intended to be used as the final poem of Anew and entitled “Endpiece” (Booth 129).
#40 Celia’s birthday poem
21 Jan., 30 March 1942
Title Celia’s birthday was on 21 January.
#41 After Charles Sedley
14 Feb. 1943
Title Sir Charles Sedley (c.1639–1701), referring to his poem “To Celia,” from which LZ adopts his form including most of the rhyme words, as well as the quoted line:
Not, Celia, that I juster am
Or better than the rest;
For I would change each hour, like them,
Were not my heart at rest.
But I am tied to very thee
By every thought I have;
Thy face I only care to see,
Thy heart I only crave.
All that in woman is adored
In thy dear self I find—
For the whole sex can but afford
The handsome and the kind.
Why then should I seek further store,
And still make love anew?
When change itself can give no more,
’Tis easy to be true.
#42 “You three:—my wife”
27 May 1943
99.1 You three…: the other two friends, aside from CZ, are almost certainly Jerry Reisman, “the chief of my friends” (see 96.13, 102.3) and WCW or possibly Lorine Niedecker, “the one who still writes to me”—by this point the correspondence with EP had broken down due to their political differences and the war. Much later, LZ would include the opening of this poem in “A”-17, his tribute to WCW, although this does not necessarily indicate the poem was originally addressed to him since WCW expressed great enthusiasm for the poem, both in correspondence and in his review of Anew, “A New Line Is a New Measure” (The New Quarterly of Poetry 2.2, Winter 1947/48). This poem possibly takes off from Dante’s sonnet addressed to Guido Cavalcanti, “Guido, ì vorrei che tu e Lapo ed io” (Guido, I would that thou and Lapo and I were taken by enchantment, and put in a vessel, that with every wind might sail to your will and mine; trans. P.H. Wicksteed).
99.2 whom like Dante, / I call the chief of my friends: see preceding note; LZ is alluding to Dante, La Vita Nuova, Chap. III, in which Dante remarks: “To this sonnet answer was made by many and in divers senses, among which he was an answerer whom I call the chief of my friends; and he then composed a sonnet which begins: Thou didst behold to my seeming all excellency” (trans. Thomas Okey). The friend Dante refers to is Guido Cavalcanti. The significant presence of La Vita Nuova (The New Life) here and elsewhere in this poem and of Dante throughout this volume relates to the title Anew.
99.6 like the devil in the book of Job / Having come back from going to and fro in the earth: see Job 1:8, 2:2.
100.9 ape a dead poet…: Dante, whose self-analysis of the psychology of love in La Vita Nuova is the source for the next two stanzas. The “spirits of sight” appear several times, but LZ probably has primarily in mind the description of Dante’s first sight of Beatrice in Chap. II: “At that moment the animal spirit which dwelleth in the high chamber to which all the spirits of sense carry their perceptions, began to marvel much, and speaking especially to the spirits of sight said these words: Apparuit jam beautitudo vestra [Your beautitude has now appeared]. At that moment the natural spirit which dwells in that part where our nourishment is distributed began to weep, and weeping said these words: Heu miser: quia frequenter impedius ero deinceps [Alas, wretch, often shall I be hindered from now on]. From thenceforward I say that Love held lordship over my soul, which was so early bounden unto him, and he began to hold over me so much assurance and so much mastery through the power which my imagination gave to him, that it behoved me to do all his pleasure perfectly.”
The equation of appetite with heart and reason with soul can be found in the commentary to Chap. XXXVIII: “In this sonnet I make of me two parts according as my thoughts were divided in twain. One part, to wit, appetite, I call heart; the other, to wit, reason, I call soul, and I tell what one saith to the other” (Trans. Thomas Okey).
101.23 Will she write the music I cannot…: CZ was a musician and composer, who beginning in the early 1940s wrote musical settings for various of LZ’s short poems, later collected in Autobiography (1970), as well as the score to Shakespeare’s Pericles in volume 2 of Bottom. The painter referred to in the following line should logically be Reisman, and LZ mentions drawing by Reisman in a 18 Jan. 1936 letter to EP (SL 124).
102.4 Like that of Job’s scourge— / Do you know…: refers to Job 36-37, where Elihu harangues Job and among a long catalogue of questions concerning God’s powers, rhetorically asks Job at 37:17 if he knows “How thy garments are warm, when he quieteth the earth by the south wind?”
#43 To my baby Paul
23 Oct. 1943
This poem was written the day after the birth of PZ (Dinty).
102.1 Guido: = Guido Cavalcanti (c. 1255-1300), Italian poet and friend of Dante. Although in an entirely different mood, this poem takes off from the opening of Cavalcanti’s Ballata, “Perch’io non spero de tornar già mai,” which LZ used as the formal template for “A”-11. EP translates the opening lines of Cavalcanti’s poem: “Because no hope is left me, Ballatteta, / Of return to Tuscany, / Light-foot go thou some fleet way / Unto my Lady straightway […]” (Translations 121).
102.3 Jerry: Jerry Reisman; see 96.13, 99.1.
102.4 place her there who has never seen a / vineyard—: in manuscript, “her” reads “Sophie,” presumably CZ’s younger sister (Scroggins Bio 517).
102.6 Chianti: a dry red wine from the Chianti region of Tuscany, just south of Florence.