Friday, April 07, 2006

Go Thou & Buy

Michael Peverett pointed out a "Freudian slit" in that last post – "Barry Lydon," merging Ryan O'Neal and Johnny Rotten. I only wish I knew enough Photoshop to post a picture of the 18th-centurified O'Neal with a spiky Lydon quiff. Michael also asks whether I'll be reflecting "here on what sense there is to be made of a post-Zukofskyan tradition with an ambiguous pull towards closed forms?" I take it he refers to some of the remarks in Ron Silliman's recent take on Zach Barocas's Among Other Things, where Ron holds up LZ as a master of anal retentiveness. Aside from my own exasperated comments on that post, and a nice bit of reflection from Curtis Faville –
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.


E. M. Selinger said...

Hats off to Zuk (or on, if kipot),
And hats off to Scroggins, the one
Man whose blog could give us
Bishop, Winstanley, Johnny Rotten,
and now this.
The drought of March
You've pierc'ed to the root!


Ray Davis said...

Very cool news about the Library of America.

Don't know if you'll be amused, but I serialized a piece about Zukofsky, sincerity, and humor a while back: "My Funny Valentine". At least it includes an OK bit of Photoshoppery and has confused thousands of Googlers searching for Lorenz Hart lyrics.