There's no question Zukofsky was meticulous. However that may have been expressed in his life--some couples live lives of scrupulous attention to detail. But the life of the mind is endlessly complex, and not to be measured in such terms. Poetry likewise. I never read an LZ poem without feeling his puckish mischief--there's always a sweet comedy or (contrarily) a dourness lurking between the lines. Good God!, read the Catullus--how could anyone without a sense of the absurdity and delight of accident (and gratuitous convergence) have composed such work???– yes, I think I'd like to think about Michael's suggestion in public.
But not now. Right now I just want to celebrate the release of the latest volume in the Library of America's American Poets Project, Louis Zukofsky's Selected Poems edited by Charles Bernstein. Hurrah! This ain't Robert Pinsky's Williams, either, but a full-scale selection of the greatest LZ hits from one of the sharpest set of eyes in the field. You got a big selection of the short poems, you got 9 of the Flowers, you got 70 pages of "A" (including all of "A"-23), you got a handful of Cats, you got more than enough to teach an undergraduate semester or to persuade your stick-in-the-mud sweetie that this guy really is the shit! Everybody go buy this thing! Now! You! – yes, you, Carruthers! There in the back – you're not buying, young man!
And the first review seems to have hit the street, from of all places the Forward, where David Kaufmann makes a number of nifty observations, among them:
There may be, of course, a touch of the parvenu's pushiness in Zukofsky's deep and vigorous play, a desire to show that he can indeed better the instruction of his (goyish) instructors and twist red-hot pokers into even more complicated knots. But his work, with its emphasis on puns, on different shades of sound and sense, has something of rabbinic argument, of pilpul, to it. Zukofsky's delight in sheer virtuosity and in naked displays of intelligence owes more than a little to this tradition.