It Was (1961)

4 Aug. 1941, rev. 19 March 1954



Twitchell-Waas, Jeffrey. “Louis Zukofsky.” Review of Contemporary Fiction 22.3 (2002): 20-23.


This story was begun 4 August 1941 and initially finished later the same year; in 1954 LZ revised the work, giving a final date of 19 March. The first publication was in Nomad (Winter-Spring 1960) and then in the volume It Was (Kyoto, Japan: Origin Press, 1961).


Robert Creeley read this entire piece with a few comments into an absurd talk with William Spanos in boundary 2, 6.3/7.1 (Spring/Fall 1978): 44-45.


Note on the Text: There are two distinct printings of the Dalkey Archive edition of Collected Fiction (1990), which effects some of the pagination, although there is no indication of the difference in the later reset printing. In both printings, Little is photostatted from the original Grossman publication (1970), while the additional stories collected as It Was were first set in a different and somewhat unsightly type, which apparently is why the latter was reset to make a more uniform looking volume in 1997. As a result, the pagination is the same for Little, but different for the other stories, although this does not affect the references below for “It Was.” In the paperback editions, the earlier printing has an all-white cover with a full front cover photo of LZ, while the 1997 printing has a mostly black cover with the photo of LZ reduced and cropped.


181       We lived then opposite the park…: at the time this story was written, the Zukofskys lived at 1088 East 180th Street in the Bronx, where they moved as newlyweds in Sept. 1939. Their apartment faced the southern end of the Bronx Park, next to the Bronx River that runs through the park—the river forms an impressive gorge with cascades as LZ describes. As LZ mentions, the Bronx Zoo inside the park was one of the first in the US to introduce a non-cage concept with the opening of African Plains in May 1941. The Parks Commissioner of New York City from 1933-1960 was Robert Moses (1888-1981), who during LZ’s lifetime radically and controversially changed the face of greater NYC.

183       stereoscope: an optical instrument with two eyepieces used to create a three-dimensional effect with two photographs of the same scene taken at slightly different angles (AHD). The word also appears in “Thanks to the Dictionary” (CSP 279) and “A”-13.298.21.

184       white cotton print hand-blocked in blue…: also mentioned at “A”-12.239.14 and “All of December Toward New Year’s” 3 (CSP 144). LZ did research on “Cotton Historical Prints” for the Index of American Design, see A Useful Art 211-224.