GAMUT: 90 Trees


Corman, Cid. “GAMUT/LZ.” Origin, fifth series 4 (1984): 51-54.
Holmes, Janet. “Zukofsky vs. Syntax: Reading ‘Gamut.’” American Poet 33 (2007): 3-6.
Leggott, Michele J. Reading Zukofsky’s 80 Flowers (1989): 29-31, 359-361.

Well before completing 80 Flowers, LZ already planned his next project for his 90th birthday, for which he gathered notes and assembled a tentative list of trees. He initially used the title GAMUT: trees ninety 5’s (note dated 20 April 1975), but on second thought he decided on the title GAMUT: 90 Trees (see transcript below). There exist two groups of notes for this project in the small-sized loose-leaf notebook he habitually used through much of his life. An initial group, including relevant old notes, are among LZ’s papers at the HRC (13.8) and  include the draft of an apparently rejected epigraph, entitled “The Overworld,” in the form of nine irregular lines, consisting entirely of phrases from Thomas Hardy’s The Dynasts. LZ copied and augmented these notes (24 pages in total) into the notebook he left at his death, which includes the draft of the first poem (dated 5-11 Feb. 1978). This proved to be the last poem he wrote before his death on 12 May 1978. This poem is included in CSP (355), although strictly speaking, the title of this poem should not be “Gamut,” but “Much ado about trees,” as indicated in the fair copy. 

The following is a transcription from LZ’s GAMUT notebook of the few draft pages he completed, which neatly describe his formal conception of the volume, as well as the draft of the first poem with his notes. The three draft stages (pencil, ink, fair copy) is characteristic throughout the 80 Flowers draft notebook. In this case there are absolutely no alterations or second-thoughts in or between any of the drafts, but typically LZ stuck to his system nonetheless. Editorial matter is in square brackets, while pointed brackets indicate LZ’s insertions:

[page 1]

                    GAMUT: 90 Trees
                     Louis Zukofsky




Collected notes for working drafts of poems
and pencil and ink drafts of 90 poems of
5 lines <each>, 5 words to each line <[??] 90 pages> follow. Final
MS text for printer to save space — this
notebook and spiral notebook (steelfile #2)
will use only 30 pages — 3 poems on a
page including numbers and titles —
in the chronological order they were

Title: (above) Feb 11/78 revised from original Apr. 20/75:
GAMUT: Trees ninety 5’s


[page 2]




                              Valentines Feb. 14, 1978


[page 3]

          Notes collected and
(1)     pencil draft b Sun.                     (Much ado about trees)
          Feb 5 – f. Fri Feb 11/78

[pencil draft]
1 Much ado about trees lichen
2 hugs alga and fungus live
3 off each other hoe does
4 dear owe dear earth terrace
5 money sunday coffee poorjoe snow
W.S. / T 673
line 1, lichen pronounce like kin (two words), l. 2-3 to other
line 3 hoe does (Liddell + Scott: ὀδός, οῦ, Att. for
Ion. οὐδός, a threshold; ὉΔΟΈ Aeol. οὐδός, οῦ, ἡ a way
path, road, highway .. course, channel of a river; path
of the heavenly bodies; (metaph a way or method .. of
thinking, mode of belief .. esp. of .. faith
line 4 sounds Diodia teris [teres] (Rubiaceae madder.. coffee f)
Illust U.S. Weeds 350-1 “buttonweed” (terrace pronounce
térrĭs, short i) line 5 Wallace Stevens’ “Sunday morning”,
“poorjoe” = Diodia teris; snow T 1112 “poor man’s manure”
protects plants winters + improves soil texture
when gradually thawing.
Ink draft Fri Feb. 11/78
1 Much ado about trees lichen
2 hugs alga and fungus live
3 off each other hoe does
4 dear owe dear earth terrace
5 money sunday coffee poorjoe snow

[page 4]
                              Much ado about trees

[fair copy]

Valentines’                     LZ Port Jefferson Feb 5-11/78

[Editor’s notes:
W.S. = Shakespeare
T = Taylor’s Encyclopedia of Gardening, 4th edition, ed. Norman Taylor (1961).
Liddell + Scott = A Lexicon, Abridged from Liddell and Scott’s Greek-English Lexicon (Oxford UP, 1891, 1953 impression).
U.S. Weeds = Common Weeds of the United States (U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, Dover edition, 1971).]