For those of you (Jessica among others) who want instant gratification – or at least as instant as 5-months-in-advance gratification can be – The Poem of a Life is now available for pre-order from Amazon.com. And such a bargain! (Mind you, the list price of $30 for the handcover, so far as I'm concerned, is already a bargain...) And it'll be out just in time for the holiday gift-giving season, if you take my hint.
Yes, that's right. The fruit of 7 or 8 years of grubbing in the archives (think Gandalf in the Minas Tirith scrolls basement, minus the pipe & tankard of ale), interviewing poets, writers, & folk of all walks of life from San Francisco to Edinburgh, and (mostly) bending over a legal pad or a word processor in a haze of tobacco smoke & caffeine – is finally available for general purchase.
The preliminary jacket copy (with one error corrected) reads as follows:
The Poem of a Life is the first critical biography of Louis Zukofsky, a fascinating and crucially important American modernist poet. It details the curve of his career, from the early Waste Land-parody “Poem beginning 'The'” (1926) to the dense and tantalizing beauties of his last poems, 80 Flowers (1978), paying special attention to the monumental, complex, and formally various epic poem “A”, on which Zukofsky labored for almost fifty years, and which he called “a poem of a life."All this in some 450-odd pages of text, another hundred or so of lovingly detailed notes (at least one joke in the notes, for those who actually read these things), and a carefully prepared – tho alas not particularly Zukofskyan – index. And packaged, if I may say so myself, in one of the most handsome books that the legendary designer David Bullen has ever produced. So for the love of Pete, & for my daughters' college funds, go forth & BUY!
Zukofsky was a protégé of Ezra Pound's, an artistic collaborator and close friend of William Carlos Williams's, and the leader of a whole school of 1930s avant-garde poets, the Objectivists. Later in life he was close friends with such younger writers as Robert Creeley, Paul Blackburn, Robert Duncan, Jonathan Williams, and Guy Davenport. His work spans the divide from modernism to postmodernism, and his later writings have proved an inspiration to whole new generations of innovative poets. Zukofsky's poetry is oblique, condensed, and as fantastically detailed as the late writings of James Joyce, yet it bears at every point the marks of the poet's life and times.
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