Autobiography (1970) and Other Selected Poems

Although published only under LZ’s name, the Autobiography is another collaboration with CZ, consisting primarily of a selection of short poems accompanied by CZ’s musical settings. CZ began composing music to short poems in Dec. 1940 (“Motet”, included in I’s (pronounced eyes)) and by Dec. 1952 had completed all the 22 settings to 18 poems that make up the bulk of Autobiography. LZ includes both the composition dates of each poem as well as of each musical setting, which indicates the order of their presentation is determined by the latter. Many of these settings appear to have been done as Christmas cards or presents for LZ, reciprocating the Valentine poems LZ usually wrote more or less annually for CZ. In 1967 LZ was asked to write a brief biographical statement for an update of the reference volume, World Authors, which became the short prose remarks distributed throughout Autobiography (Scroggins Bio 410). These remarks eventually appeared in the volume in 1975 (World Authors 1950-1970: A Companion Volume to Twentieth Century Authors, ed. John Wakeman, NY: H.W. Wilson Co.): 1591.

It is not clear when LZ first conceived of this as a publishable project, but in a letter to Cid Corman dated 11 May 1960, LZ mentions that CZ had just made a clear copy of the settings and hinted that it might be an appropriate publication for Origin Press (HRC 18.2). The preface is dated 17 Feb. 1962, which was also the period when the two were working on Catullus together, and LZ took every opportunity to make public CZ’s collaborative efforts. Autobiography was eventually published by Grossman in 1970, in a very attractive design, with the musical scores in light brown print, and has never been reprinted. A performance of Autobiography took place in Lincoln Center, NYC on 31 March 1971, in which LZ’s reading of all the poems was followed by a performance of CZ’s scores sung by professional singers of The Metropolitan Opera Studio with LZ reading out the autobiographical prose passages as interludes. The recording of this performance can be heard at PennSound.

 

The poems included were all written between 1930 and 1952, but are not arranged in chronological order. The poems are as follows:

 

Motet (Some Time), setting composed 9 Dec. 1940

Song 11 (55 Poems), setting composed 17 March 1941

Song 8 [2 musical settings] (55 Poems), settings composed spring 1941

#5 (Anew), setting composed spring 1941

Song 22 (55 Poems), setting composed Sept. 1941

Light: #10 (Some Time), setting composed 25 Dec. 1941

Song 21 (55 Poems), setting composed 15 March 1942

Song 16 (55 Poems), setting composed 25 Dec. 1942

Song 13 (55 Poems), setting composed 11 Jan. 1943

#36 (Anew), setting composed 11 Jan. 1943

A Song for the Year’s End: #1 (Some Time), setting composed 25 Dec. 1945

#29 (Anew), setting composed 9 Nov. 1946

que j’ay dit devant: #1 (Some Time), setting composed 25 Dec. 1947

So that even a lover: #1 (Some Time), setting composed 25 Dec. 1948

Xenophanes (Some Time), setting composed 25 Dec. 1949

“As to how much” (Some Time), setting composed 25 Dec. 1950

To My Valentines (Some Time), setting composed 25 Dec. 1951

Old (Some Time), setting composed 25 Dec. 1952

 

Other volumes of selected poems

 

In addition to the Autobiography, LZ and/or CZ made and published several selections of poetry during the 1960s. Also in 1960 LZ made an interesting “Choice of Favorites” for an Academy of American Poets publication, whose contents I will list below

 

16 Once Published (Edinburgh, Scotland: The Wild Hawthorn Press, 1962)

 

This selection was made by CZ and apparently included an introduction consisting of excerpts from “Poetry / for my son when he can read,” which at LZ’s request were not bound into the book but inserted loose-leaf (Booth 40).

 

Passing tall (55 Poems)

Run on, you still dead to the sound of a name (55 Poems)

PROP. LXI (55 Poems)

It’s a gay li – ife (55 Poems)

No One Inn (55 Poems)

Che di lor suona su nella tua vita (Anew)

It’s hard to see but think of a sea (Anew)

No it was no dream of coming death (Anew)

Strange (Anew)

The world autumn (Anew)

Xenophanes (Some Time)

Air (Anew)

Shang Cup (Anew)

An Incident (Anew)

The green leaf that will outlast the winter (Barely and widely)

Ashtray (Barely and widely)

 

Found Objects (Georgetown, Kentucky: H.B. Chapin, 1964), A Blue Grass Book.

The brief preface to this volume, “Found Objects (1962-1926),” is included in Prepositions (167).

 

The Ways (After I’s)

Stratford-on-Avon (Barely and widely)

The Guests (Some Time)

Michtam (Some Time)

You three: —my wife (Anew)

“One oak fool box”; —the pun (Anew)

1892-1941 (Anew)

“Mantis” (55 Poems)

“Specifically, a writer of music” (55 Poems)

Song—3/4 time (55 Poems)

To my wash-stand (55 Poems)

Poem beginning “The” (55 Poems)

 

“A” Libretto (NY: privately printed [mimeographed], 1965)

 

Composed of selections from all movements of “A” written up to that point (LZ dated the work as finished 29 Oct. 1964): that is, through “A”-14 plus the three short occasional movements composed in 1963 and numbered out of sequence: “A”-16, -17 and -20. 

 

Selections of Others made by LZ

 

“Choice of Favorites,” Poetry Pilot, Academy of American Poets (1 Jan. 1960): 4-14.

For this gathering, LZ chose poems that in all but one case were translated or adapted by himself and all of which had been included in his previous books:

William Shakespeare, from Pericles, the Prologue to Act III spoken by Gower. LZ notes that he is using the 1st Quarto text (a couple lines from this prologue are quoted in Bottom 422).

Homer, The Odyssey, Invocation of Book I (LZ’s adaptation as it appears in TP 117 (7b) and at the conclusion of “A”-12.261.123-20).

Xenophanes (in Some Time, CSP 123).

Catullus IV (CSP 246-247).

Catullus V (CSP 247).

Lucretius, from De Rerum Natura, Book V (as adapted in “A”-12.165.1-19).

Machault, “Ballade: Plourères, dames” (in Anew, CSP 86-87).

Spinoza, Ethics and tractatus de intellectus emendatione (various passages as adapted in “A”-12.174.8-175.3)

Psalms 16 (as adapted in “A”-12.144.7-22).

 

“A Suite of an Older Sympathy,” Poetry Pilot (May 1966): 7-9.

Under this title LZ made a short selection of younger poets for Poetry Pilot, the newsletter of the Academy of American Poets:

 
Paul Blackburn, “The Sunlit Room”
Cid Corman, “Quarry Sunday”
Robert Creeley, “The Man”
Robert Duncan, “The Walk to the Vacant Lot”
Denise Levertov, “Illustrious Ancestors”
Gil Sorrentino, “The Language Barrier”