IS T.S. ELIOT ROMANTIC ENOUGH TO WIN THIS TOURNAMENT?

 
 T.S. Eliot: Who the hell was this guy, really?  What the hell was Modernism, really?
 
The way in certain parts of the country summer arrives in a single moment after the vagueries of spring’s warm and chilly tease, Modernism made its entrance quite suddenly into English-speaking Letters in the person of T.S. Eliot around the year 1915.  
 
A rumor got started when Modernism began (early 20th century) that Poe’s poetry was admired by the French more than it should have been because of what was lost/gained in translation.  Poe-hater Harold Bloom called it the “French Poe” phenomenon.  It was troubling to certain moderns that the French, those subtle, ingenious, Parisian inventors of modern poetry, were besotted with Edgar Poe.  As an English-speaker, you couldn’t admire Poe if you were truly modern; Poe was too Byronic, too classical, too fussy, too correct, too chaste. (Poe also disliked Emerson—whom Bloom champions) Poe was timeless, not modern.
 
If Modernism was anything, it was irreverant; it was naughty and naughty now.  Not Poe at all.
 
Despite all the talk, it all comes down to this. 
 
Nice. v. Naughty.  (Even as the “naughty” might be covered up in “learned” blather to keep things “honest.”)
 
Poe was icy, and the French, hot and cold, found Poe’s temperature bracing, and to their liking, but their modernism could survive the addition of a stranger speaking a foreign tongue, one like Poe who made it quite known that he preferred the French to the British.
 
So in the beginnings of English-speaking Modernism, Poethe American, who conceived a new genre of literature whose detective was French, and who was both classically chaste and a loud critic hearkening back to the correctness of an Alexander PopePoe was all wrong.  Poe wasn’t decadently subtle and seedy enough, and for men like Pound and Eliot, Poe was a horror—Poe had to be kept hence.
 
Aldous Huxley, who was born 6 years after Eliot, a wealthy, connected Englishman who died in California while on LSD, burned Poe at the stake, calling him “vulgar” and stating that Poe’s French admirers had made a grave error because of the language difference.  Henry James, the teacup author, a blood-thick anglophile like Eliot, also dripped with scorn in putting Poe in his place: boyish-loser.
 
You can’t be a tweedy, pessimistic, world-weary, experimental British modern if you are brightly USA-ish and boyish.
 
Eliot supplied Modernism with its tone of mature pessimism.  Poe was a hopeful “Tom Swift” adventurist, by comparison.
 
But if Poe, the whiz-bang American, was distorted favorably by the sophisticated, avant-garde French, perhaps Modern Anglo-american poetry was nothing more than a favorable distortion of the French going the other wayEliot admired certain ‘bad boys’ of decadent, 19th century French poetry, and modern English poetry, reaching for that irreverence which distinguished it, found in a poet like Jules Laforgue the French lens which could justify and validate its practice in English. 
 
The Longfellow War (street-wise journalist Poe v. Harvard academic Longfellow) continued in the 20th century in a Paris salon.
 
Was Jules Laforgue a great poet?  Or, more importantly, did Laforgue’s poetry hit like a bomb because of the particular way it innoculated a certain tribe of Americans as a French vaccination?  If one of Pound and Eliot’s pals had written Laforgue’s poetry, they would have probably envied it as the product of a unique, eccentric personality by a fellow-traveler; but as it came from a recently dead Frenchman, it sprang upon them as a kind of cultural-aesthetic truthLaforgue’s petty sentimentalism and vulgarity, through the distance of its translation, became towering irony and sophistication.
 
Innovative success in the arts invariably involves foreign influence; it provides that necessary stamp of worldliness and learning, that automatic ‘otherness’ which frightens some and encourages others in the home country—the ensuing tension, camp-arguments,and general excitement feeding the revolutionary (moral-loosening) change.  
 
The importance of Paris to Modernism cannot be underestimated: avant-garde, after all, is a French word.
 
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the Armory Modern Art Show in New York, as the American public caught wind of European modern/Cubist art; art and poetry swirled about, hand-in-hand, like two dancers, as Modernism began to become popular just prior to World War One.
 
Laforgue influenced both Eliot and Duchamp.  The early modern art collector who gave the opening speech at the Armory show, John Quinn, negotiated the publishing deal for T.S. Eliot’s “Waste Land.”  Quinn, a secret associate of Aleister Crowley, was also Eliot and Pound’s lawyer. It was the same joke: the ugly having a laugh at the beautiful.  As the wife of a Cubist painter who befriended the young Duchamp, before his “Nude Descending A Staircase” made a big splash at the Armory Show, put it:
 
[Duchamp and Picabia] emulated one another in their extraordinary adherence to paradoxical, destructive principles, in their blasphemies and inhumanities which were directed not only against the old myths of art, but against all foundations of life in general.   —-from Picasso and the Chess Player
 
It really had nothing to do with theory or aesthetics.  Modernism sought to tear down, on a whim, the virtues of the past. (Or to put it more simply, virtue.)  Which, naturally, becomes a theoretical-aesthetic issue (of which any reasonably intelligent person can blather on about)—but Modernism was an act of irreverence first, an issue of aesthetics, later.
 
No art movement is going to announce to the world that it seeks to be immoral.  This is neither sensible, nor even cool.  But this is the unspoken truth of Modernism, and the unspoken truth of it is precisely why it quickly became covered in terms like “symbolism” and “cubism,” terms that were never accurate or agreed upon (even by the so-called “symbolists’ or “cubists” or “imagists” themselves) by anyone, merely betraying to the wise what was really going on: the “symbol” is merely to distract you from the fact that poet X, some years ago, completely lost his mind, and requires your pity, not your admiration.
 
We love the modern arts the way we pity wounded animals: it is not love or admiration, but it is a strong feeling.
 
But isn’t this what the artists always do?  They trick us into strong feelings.
 
The “science” of Modern art has always been suspect—the “fourth dimension” of Cubism, for instance, was something Picasso and others merely laughed at; Modernism has always been Romanticism by other means, the “other means” in this example the fourth-dimension of Cubism, which helps the ‘validity’ of the modern art industry if at least some rubes swallow its “learned” nonsense.
 
Conceptual art, which “Modernists” like Duchamp created when they were still “Modernists,” evolved out of Modernism only because Modernism’s trappings—existing to cover up the fact that it was an emotional continuation of Romanticism—naturally went in that direction; faux braininess covering up mere hysteria, passion and tears.
 
The Scarriet March Madness poem-entry by Eliot is miles from Pope, Byron, Shelley, Poe, Tennyson, but not from any technical innovation or revolutionary approach; it is merely a poem of feeling sans morality and beauty.  Eliot is far more emotional than Shelley, for instance; Eliot veers into hysteria, and thus more realism and less art is required to keep the hysteria in check. 
 
Jules Laforgue, who died at 27, in 1887, a year before Eliot was born,  has long existed as a profound, partially-hidden influence to the whole modern art/poetry world.  Stephen Spender pointed out that young Eliot—from a respectable Boston American family with Emerson connections and re-settled in St. Louis—was not only profoundly influenced by Laforgue’s cynical, jokey, naughty, pessimistic poetry, but also by the way Laforgue dressed: formally, like a gentleman banker.
 
The Romantic trope: a Shelley with shirt open, panting beneath the full moon at midnight was cleverly reversed by the T.S. Eliot persona via the Jules Laforgue persona—for several reasons, not immediately obvious to unsuspecting readers of poetry.
 
Even regular readers of Scarriet may not know the answer.  Here it is:
 
1. With the impending rise of the Program Era (Robert Lowell teaching at Paul Engle’s Iowa after leaving Harvard to study with Alan Tate (Princeton Writing Program teacher) and John Crowe Ransom, Eliot and Pound’s American Modernist Fugitive/New Critic university foot-soldiers), poets would soon be the ‘teacher wearing suit’ model, not the Shelley model.
 
2. The art collector/banker/lawyer was the new persona of the elite art/poetry world in the 20th century.
 
3. Eliot’s buttoned-up image masked the fact that Modernism was far more emotional/hysterical than Romanticism, and, in fact, hysteria was the whole of Modernism, all its so-called “theory” a distracting ruse.
 
Modernism is the very opposite of what is advertised; it does not present less pure, floating emotion, but more—and this is the sole reason why formally it is what it is—and the trick is that there really is no “formal” reality whatsoever to Modernism—it is whatever bit of catchiness can be made up by word-smiths on the fly, (the Apollinaires, the Cocteaus, the Pounds) who are beholden to the art dealers and wealthy patrons who fund the parties, and buy-low-sell-high at the art auctions.
 
Let’s call the “ism” what it really is: Money-ism.
 
Duchamp journeyed to New York in 1915. He was met at the pier by the art dealer and Armory Show organizer Walter PachPach worked for John Quinn, T.S. Eliot’s and Ezra Pound’s attorney.  Enter another Walter: Walter Arensberg, wealthy art patron and poet, who put up Duchamp in a Broadway apartment and hosted plenty of orgies and parties in another lavish apartment nearby.  Walter Arensberg, who translated Jules Laforgue, was the co-conspirator in Duchamp’s “Fountain by R. Mutt” (urinal) museum “ready-made” publicity stunt in 1917. 
 
The poets Wallace Stevens and William Carlos Williams (Pound’s friend) also belonged to the modern art investor Walter Arensberg’s circle.
 
Below is a quote from a just-published book on Picasso and Duchamp, Picasso and the Chess Player by Larry Witham, University Press of New England, 2013.  We see in it the familar rhetoric of modernism/post-modernism history: we always get some “theory” by way of a catchy phrase which the author dutifully quotes from one of the (con) artists—in this case, Ezra Pound.  Rhetoric is all it is, since, in this particular instance, “objects” have always been, and always will be, a part of art and poetry: the theory is of no importance; it is only a smokescreen to cover the ‘buy low/sell high’ enterprise—and the elite, hysterical, socially-connected parties.  Modernism wasn’t about “word-objects;” it was about “sentiments:” celebrities and their hedonism.  Modernism was “Realism,” because it was Romanticsm outside of the art—at the parties.  The “theory” was mere bait for the newspapers—and “scholars,” whose talk puffed up the cash value of the “art.”
 
All around [Duchamp] the new aesthetic was about photographs of objects and the new poetry, which a’ la Gertrude Stein and others, was about word-objects. A mere object—and any would do—could be photographed and called fine art, as Stieglitz had shown. [by photographing Duchamp’s urinal.] A poem, by the same token, could be simply a string of words about objects. This was the modernist poetry advanced by Stein in Paris, Ezra Pound in London, and William Carlos Williams in the Arensberg circle: the focus was on objects, particulars, not the big ideas, symbols, sentiments, or themes of past verse. As Pound said, “Direct treatment of the ‘thing.'” Besides chess, the modernist view of language was the intellectual content of the otherwise hedonist Arsenberg salon: the group was interested in linguistic games, puns, and little magazines.   —Larry Witham
 
After all that introduction, here is Eliot’s poem in the 2013 Scarriet March Madness Romanticism Tourney:
 
 
HYSTERIA—T.S. Eliot
 
As she laughed I was aware of becoming involved
in her laughter and being part of it, until her
teeth were only accidental stars with a talent
for squad-drill. I was drawn in by short gasps,
inhaled at each momentary recovery, lost finally
in the dark caverns of her throat, bruised by
the ripple of unseen muscles.   An elderly waiter
with trembling hands was hurriedly spreading
a pink and white checked cloth over the rusty
green iron table, saying: “If the lady and
gentleman wish to take their tea in the garden,
if the lady and gentleman wish to take their
tea in the garden …”   I decided that if the
shaking of her breasts could be stopped, some of
the fragments of the afternoon might be collected,
and I concentrated my attention with careful
subtlety to this end.
 
Eliot’s opponent is the French Romantic poet, Gerard de Nerval.

GOLDEN SAYINGS (trans Richard Sieburth)
Gerard de Nerval (1808-1855)

So you alone are blessed with thought, free-thinking man,
In a world where life bursts forth from everything?
You are free to dispose of forces at your command
But the universe is absent from your well-laid plans.

Honor each creature for the mind in which it takes part:
Each flower is a soul turned towards Nature’s face;
Each metal hides some ancient mystery of the heart;
“All things feel!” And all you are is within their art.

Beware, even blind walls may spy on you:
Even dumb matter is imbued with voice…
Put not its precious stuff to impious use.

The most obscure of beings may house a hidden god;
And like the new-born eye pouched within its lids,
Pure mind drives its bud through the husk of stones.

Nerval’s poem warns, “honor each creature” and of objects (“dumb matter”) “put not its precious stuff to impious use.”  He’s seems to be talking to the reckless, hysterical “impious” moderns.

Of course, Nerval’s poem, as wise as it is, does suffer from didactisim; Eliot’s poem is realism, squeezed out of actual social horror.

Guiltily, we prefer Eliot’s car-wreck.

The crowd pushes forward, rooting for Eliot; it is impossible for Nerval to concentrate.

Madness in the arena!

The referees are making strange calls!

Eliot wins, 99-77!

CRAFT AND MADNESS

Does Madness or Sanity write Poetry?

We might asssume sanity is responsible for poetic craft, while madness provides the urgency and the vision.

Plato would disagree.  Plato makes no such distinction in his “Ion” for instance, or in his “Republic,” between craft and whatever else poetry might be.    Let us assume the craft of poetry is the poetry—Plato still condemns it.

Robert Lowell rhymed when he was not medicated; if rhyme is craft—and most agree it is—Lowell, the madman, was more attentive to craft.

Sylvia Plath’s “Daddy” is a tour de force of craft.  It was written by a madwoman.

Paul Engle once pointed out that as Keats matured, he rhymed less.

Aldous Huxley, like Paul Engle, was a practical man—and a terrible poet.  (Paul Engle:  Who needs the words of writers when you can have the  money of would-be writers?  Aldous Huxley:  Who needs hallucinatory verses when you have LSD?)

Mr. Huxley once viciously ridiculed the rhymes and rhythms of Poe’s versification.

Is rhyme, is verse, juvenile?  Childish?  Mad?

Most moderns believe so, even when they don’t come out and say it.

Are the Moderns correct?

Or, is rhyme and verse the height of poetic skill, sanity and craft?

Surely a poem’s content is the chief indicator of whether the poet is mad, or not, and likewise, content determines the sanity of the poet.

What we term craft merely trails after the content, a content which, if mad, cannot be cured by craft—the craft would merely heighten its effect.

Content may be pure, even invisible (i.e., merely wordy) but poetic craft implies poetic skill and poetic skill, if it really is poetic skill, can never be pure, or invisible.

Craft is what follows the invisible cause.  Craft is the only true thing the mad person has and this is often why madness and craft go together.

Madness lacks a true cause.  It has no reason.

Poetic craft cannot exist apart, cannot be perfected by itself, alone, and thus will always willingly attach itself to madness, causing Plato to censor in a way we, today, consider too wide.   Most moderns explicitly or tacitly believe poetry is a madness that is good.

But the moderns are unconsciously Platonic—in their rejection of rhyme.   Moderns are very unconscious when it comes to philosophy, so this is no surprise.  The earnest attempt to be avant garde at all costs has made many a modern intellectual an outright buffoon—and a frightful bore.

Florence King has a fascinating theory that Sylvia Plath suffered from ‘teacher’s pet’ syndrome and could not deal with the real world.

We see the seeds planted in the very fact that Plath’s mother was a university student of her father’s.

Plath’s final doom, according to King, was when she then became a teacher’s pet to her psychiatrist.

Sanity is able to see through bullshit (art).

Madness cannot.

THE WUSSY POETS

CATULLUS (Foul-mouthed gossip)

TRISTAN CORBIERE (Sickly & sarcastic)

RALPH WALDO EMERSON (Sage, married into money)

HENRY WADSWORTH LONGFELLOW (Professor, married into money)

ROBERT FROST (Teacher, Grump)

WALLACE STEVENS (Got his ass kicked in Key West)

JOHN CROWE RANSOM (Academic, his ashes reside on Kenyon campus)

ALDOUS HUXLEY (Pampered aristocrat, extremely near-sighted)

T.S ELIOT (Bank Clerk)

PAUL VALERY (Wretched Pedant)

W.H. AUDEN (Disowned a poem when someone didn’t like a line)

ALLEN GINSBERG (Slept until noon-ish)

PHILIP LARKIN (Smut addict, librarian)

FRANK O’HARA (Wrote poem about Lana Turner)

JOHN ASHBERY (Wrote poem about Daffy Duck)

CAN ANYONE STOP THE LONDON ELIOTS?

Was April T.S. Eliot’s cruelest month?

On April 30, Ron Silliman (6-4) pitched the New Jersey Williams to a 3-1 victory over London, dropping the Eliots to 12-9.  At the time, it looked like April had been good for Thomas Stearns Eliot, for 12-9 is not a shabby mark (.571).

On May 1, Matthew Arnold (who had just been signed) threw a complete game shutout against New Jersey. In May and June London is 38-13, a .745 winning percentage.   The Eliots are 11-1 against the Williams this year.

Who can stop these guys?  London leads the Scarriet AL with 50 wins and 22 losses.  The next best record in Scarriet Poetry Baseball 2010 belongs to the New England Frost, second in the AL at 42-30.  The Philadelphia Poe owns a slim lead in the NL with a 41-31 showing.

The Eliots have won 18 of their last 22 games with a microscopic team ERA of 1.73 during that span.  The Frost, who added Jesus Christ (4-0) to their pitching staff, are 15-7 in their last 22 games, with a slightly better ERA than the Eliots in those 22 games, and yet London has increased their lead over the Frost from 5 to 8 games, thanks to London’s current incredible run.

The Eliots pitching staff: Bertrand Russell 11-3, James Frazier 11-3, Tristan  Corbiere 8-3, Winston Churchill 8-2, and Matthew Arnold 5-5 (with 2 shutouts).  Sir Edward Howard Marsh is 2-0 in relief.

Lady Ottoline Morrell is batting almost .400 from the leadoff spot, while Arthur Symons, John Donne and Aldous Huxley are providing the power.

But it’s been the pitching and defense which has been miraculous.

Vivienne Haigh-Wood is playing well at second, providing excellent double-play defense with shortstop Rudyard Kipling.

“I’m proud of my team, ” Eliot said yesterday.  “It is a long summer, though, and anything can happen.”

A BRIEF HISTORY OF U.S. POETRY: HAPPY NEW YEAR!

1650 Anne Bradstreet’s The Tenth Muse Lately Sprung Up in America: By a Gentlewoman of Those Parts published in London.

1773 Phillis Wheatley, a slave, publishes Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral

1791 The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin is published in Paris, in French.  Ben Franklin’s Autobiography appears in London, for the first time in English, two years later.   Had it been published in America, the Europeans would have laughed.  The American experiment isn’t going to last, anyway.

Franklin, the practical man, the scientist, and America’s true founding father, weighs in on poetry: it’s frivolous.

1794  Samuel Coleridge and Robert Southey make plans to go to Pennsylvania in a communal living experiment, but their personalities clash and the plan is aborted.  Southey becomes British Poet Laureate twenty years later.

1803  William Blake, author of “America: A Prophecy” is accused of crying out “Damn the King!” in Sussex, England, narrowly escaping imprisonment for treason.

1815  George Ticknor, before becoming literature Chair at Harvard, travels to Europe for 4 years, spending 17 months in Germany.

1817  “Thanatopsis” by William Cullen Bryant appears in the North American Review.

1824  Byron dies in Greece.

1824  Lafayette, during tour of U.S, calls on Edgar Poe’s grandmother, revolutionary war veteran widow.

1832  Washington Irving edits London edition of William Cullen Bryant’s Poems to avoid politically offending British readers.

1835 Massachusetts senator and abolitionist John Greenleaf Whittier mobbed and stoned in Concord, New Hampshire.

1835  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow appointed Smith Professor of Modern Languages at Harvard.

1836  Ralph Waldo Emerson publishes 500 copies of Divinity School Address anonymously.  He will not publish another book for 6 years.

1838  Poe’s translated work begins appearing in Russia.

1843  Transcendentalist, Unitarian minister, Harvard Divinity School student Christopher Pearse Cranch marries the sister of T.S. Eliot’s Unitarian grandfather; dedicates Poems to Emerson, published in The Dial, a magazine edited by Margaret Fuller and Emerson; frequent visitor to Brook Farm.  Cranch is more musical and sensuous than Emerson; even Poe can tolerate him; Cranch’s poem “Enosis” pre-figures Baudelaire’s “Correspondences.”

T.S. Eliot’s family is deeply rooted in New England Unitarianism and Transcendentalism through Cranch and Emerson’s connection to his grandfather, Harvard Divinity graduate, William Greenleaf Eliot, founder of Washington U., St. Louis.

1845  Elizabeth Barrett writes Poe with news of “The Raven’s” popularity in England.  The poem appeared in a daily American newspaper and produced instant fame, though Poe’s reputation as a critic and leader of the Magazine Era was well-established.  During this period Poe coins “Heresy of the Didactic” and “A Long Poem Does Not Exist.”  In a review of Barrett’s 1840 volume of poems which led to Barrett’s fame before she met Robert Browning, Poe introduced his piece by saying he would not, as was typically done, review her work superficially because she was a woman.

1847  Ralph Waldo Emerson is in England, earning his living as an orator.

1848  Charles Baudelaire’s first translations of Poe appear in France.

1848  James Russell Lowell publishes “A Fable For Critics” anonymously.

1848 Female Poets of America, an anthology of poems by American women, is published by the powerful and influential anthologist, Rufus Griswold—who believes women naturally write a different kind of poetry.  Griswold’s earlier success, The Poets and Poetry of America (1842) contains 3 poems by Poe and 45 by Griswold’s friend, Charles Fenno Hoffman. In a review, Poe remarks that readers of anthologies buy them to see if they are in them.

1848  Poe publishes Eureka and the Rationale of Verse, exceptional works on the universe and verse.

1849 Edgar Poe is murdered in Baltimore; leading periodicals ignore strange circumstances of Poe’s death and one, Horace Greeley’s Tribune, hires Griswold (who signs his piece ‘Ludwig’) to take the occasion to attack the character of the poet.

1855 Griswold reviews Whitman’s Leaves of Grass and calls it a “mass of stupid filth.”  The hated Griswold, whose second “wife” was a man, also lets the world know in his review that Whitman is a homosexual.  Whitman later includes the Griswold review in one of his editions of Leaves.

1856  English Traits, extolling the English race and the English people, saying it was English “character” that vanquished India, is published in the U.S. and England, by poet and new age priest Ralph Waldo Emerson, as England waits for the inevitable Civil War to tear her rival, America, apart.

1859.  In a conversation with William Dean Howells, Emerson calls Hawthorne’s latest book “mush” and furiously calls Poe “the jingle man.”

1860  William Cullen Bryant introduces Abraham Lincoln at Cooper Union; the poet advises the new president on his cabinet selection.

1867  First collection of African American “Slave Songs” published.

1883  “The New Colossus” is composed by Emma Lazarus; engraved on the Statue of Liberty, 1903

1883  Poems of Passion by Ella Wheeler Wilcox rejected by publisher on grounds of immorality.

1888 “Casey at the Bat” published anonymously. The author, Ernest Thayer, does not become known as the author of the poem until 1909.

1890  Emily Dickinson’s posthumous book published by Mabel Todd and Thomas Higginson.  William Dean Howells gives it a good review, and it sells well.

1893  William James, Emerson’s godson, becomes Gertrude Stein’s influential professor at Harvard.

1897  Wallace Stevens enters Harvard, falling under the spell of William James, as well as George Santayana.

1904  Yone Noguchi publishes “Proposal to American Poets” as the Haiku and Imagism rage begins in the United States and Britain.

1910  John Crowe Ransom, Fugitive, Southern Agrarian, New Critic, takes a Rhodes Scholarship at Oxford University.

1910  John Lomax publishes “Cowboy Songs and Frontier Ballads.”

1912  Harriet Monroe founds Poetry magazine; in 1880s attended literary gatherings in New York with William Dean Howells and Richard Henry Stoddard (Poe biographer) and in 1890s met Whistler, Henry James, Thomas Hardy and Aubrey BeardsleyEzra Pound is Poetry’s London editor.

1913  American Imagist poet H.D. marries British Imagist poet Richard Aldington.

1914  Ezra Pound works as Yeats‘ secretary in Sussex, England.

1915  Edgar Lee Masters’ Spoon River Anthology published.  Masters was law partner of Clarence Darrow.

1917  Robert Frost begins teaching at Amherst College.

1920  “The Sacred Wood” by T.S. Eliot, banker, London.

1921  Margaret Anderson’s Little Review loses court case and is declared obscene for publishing a portion of James Joyce’s Ulysses, which is banned in the United States.  Random House immediately tries to get the ban lifted in order to publish the work.

1922  T.S.Eliot’s “The Waste Land” awarded The Dial Prize.

1922  D.H Lawrence and Frieda stay with Mabel Dodge in Taos, New Mexico.

1923  Edna St. Vincent Millay wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1923  William Butler Yeats wins Nobel Prize for Literature

1924  Robert Frost wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

1924  Ford Madox Ford founds the Transatlantic Review.   Stays with Allen Tate and Robert Lowell in his lengthy sojourn to America.

1924  Marianne Moore wins The Dial Prize; becomes editor of The Dial the next year.

1924  James Whitcomb Riley Hospital for Children opens.

1925  E.E. Cummings wins The Dial Prize.

1926  Yaddo Artist Colony opens

1927  Walt Whitman biography wins Pulitzer Prize

1930  “I’ll Take My Stand” published by Fugitive/Southern Agrarians and future New Critics, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren, Cleanth Brooks, Allan Tate defend ways of the Old South.

1932  Paul Engle wins Yale Younger Poet Prize, judged by member of John Crowe Ransom’s Fugitive circle.  Engle, a prolific fundraiser, builds the Iowa Workshop into a Program Writing Empire.

1933  T.S. Eliot delivers his speech on “free-thinking jews” at the University of Virginia.

1934  “Is Verse A Dying Technique?” published by Edmund Wilson.

1936  New Directions founded by Harvard sophomore James Laughlin.

1937  Robert Lowell camps out in Allen Tate’s yard.  Lowell has left Harvard to study with John Crowe Ransom at Kenyon College.

1938  First Edition of textbook Understanding Poetry by Fugitives Brooks and Warren, helps to canonize unread poets like Williams and Pound.

1938  Aldous Huxley moves to Hollywood.

1939  Allen Tate starts Writing Program at Princeton.

1939  W.H. Auden moves to the United States and earns living as college professor.

1940  Mark Van Doren is awarded Pulitzer Prize for Poetry

1943  Ezra Pound indicted for treason by the United States government.

1946  Wallace Stegner founds Stanford Writing Program.  Yvor Winters will teach Pinsky, Haas, Hall and Gunn.

1948  Pete Seeger, nephew of WW I poet Alan Seeger (“I Have A Rendevous With Death”) forms The Weavers, the first singer-songwriter ‘band’ in the rock era.

1948  T.S. Eliot wins Nobel Prize

1949  T.S. Eliot attacks Poe in From Poe To Valery

1949  Ezra Pound is awarded the Bollingen Prize.  The poet Robert Hillyer protests and Congress resolves its Library will no longer fund the award.  Hillyer accuses Paul Melon, T.S. Eliot and New Critics of a fascist conspiracy.

1950  William Carlos Williams wins first National Book Award for Poetry

1950  Gwendolyn Brooks wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1951  John Crowe Ransom is awarded the Bollingen.

1953  Dylan Thomas dies in New York City.

1954  Theodore Roethke wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1957  Allen Tate is awarded the Bollingen.

1957  “Howl” by Beat poet Allen Ginsberg triumphs in obscenity trial as the judge finds book “socially redeeming;” wins publicity in Time & Life.

1957  New Poets of England and America, Donald Hall, Robert Pack, Louis Simspon, eds.

1959  Carl Sandburg wins Grammy for Best Performance – Documentary Or Spoken Word (Other Than Comedy) for his recording of Aaron Copland’s Lincoln Portrait with the New York Philharmonic.

1959  M.L Rosenthal coins the term “Confessional Poetry” in The Nation as he pays homage to Robert Lowell.

1960  New American Poetry 1945-1960, Donald Allen, editor.

1961  Yvor Winters is awarded the Bollingen.

1961  Denise Levertov becomes poetry editor of The Nation.

1961  Louis Untermeyer appointed Poet Laureate Consultant In Poetry To the Library of Congress (1961-63)

1962  Sylvia Plath takes her own life in London.

1964  John Crowe Ransom wins The National Book Award for Selected Poems.

1964  Keats biography by Jackson Bate wins Pulitzer.

1965  Horace Gregory is awarded the Bollingen.  Gregory had attacked the poetic reputation of Edna Millay.

1967  Anne Sexton wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1968  Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet, directed by Zeffirelli, nominated for Best Picture by Hollywood.

1971  The Pound Era by Hugh Kenner published.  Kenner, a friend of William F. Buckley, Jr., saved Pound’s reputation with this work; Kenner also savaged the reputation of Edna Millay.

1971  W.S Merwin wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1972  John Berryman jumps to his death off bridge near University of Minnesota.

Berryman, the most “Romantic” of the New Critics (he was educated by them) is considered by far the best Workshop teacher by many prize-winning poets he taught, such as Phil Levine, Snodgrass, and Don Justice.  Berryman’s classes in the 50’s were filled with future prize-winners, not because he and his students were great, but because his students were on the ground-floor of the Writing Program era, the early, heady days of pyramid scheme mania—characterized by Berryman’s imbalanced, poetry-is-everything personality.

1972  Frank O’Hara wins National Book Award for Collected Poems

1975  Gary Snyder wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1976  Humboldt’s Gift, Saul Bellow’s novel on Delmore Schwartz, wins Pulitzer.

1978  Language magazine, Bernstein & Andrews, begins 4 year run.  Bernstein studied J.L Austin’s brand of ‘ordinary language philosophy’ at Harvard.

1980  Helen Vendler wins National Book Critics Circle Award

1981 Seamus Heaney becomes Harvard visiting professor.

1981  Derek Walcott founds Boston Playwrights’ Theater at Boston University.

1981  Oscar Wilde biography by Ellman wins Pulitzer.

1982  Sylvia Plath’s Collected Poems wins Pulitzer.

1984  Harold Bloom savagely attacks Poe in review of Poe’s Library of America works (2 vol) in New York Review of Books, repeating similar attacks by Aldous Huxley and T.S. Eliot.

1984  Marc Smith founds Slam Poetry in Chicago.

1984  Mary Oliver is awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1986  Golden Gate by Vikram Seth, a novel in verse, is published.

1987  The movie “Barfly” depicts life of Charles Bukowski.

1988  David Lehman’s Best American Poetry Series debuts with John Ashbery as first guest editor.  The first words of the first poem (by A.R. Ammons) in the Series are: William James.

1991  “Can Poetry Matter?” by Dana Gioia is published in The Atlantic. According to the author, poetry has become an incestuous viper’s pit of academic hucksters.

1996  Jorie Graham wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

1999  Peter Sacks wins Georgia Prize.

1999  Billy Collins signs 3-book, 6-figure deal with Random House.

2002  Ron Silliman’s Blog founded.

2002  Louis Menand’s The Metaphysical Club wins Pulitzer Prize.

2002  Garrison Keillor’s Good Poems published.

2004  Foetry.com founded by Alan Cordle. Shortly before his death, Robert Creeley defends his poetry colleagues on Foetry.com.

2004  Franz Wright wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

2005 Ted Kooser wins Pulitzer Prize for Poetry.

2005  William Logan wins National Book Critics Circle Award

2006  Fulcrum No. 5 appears, featuring works of Landis Everson and his editor, Ben Mazer, also Eliot Weinberger, Glyn Maxwell, Joe Green, and Marjorie Perloff.

2007 Joan Houlihan dismisses Foetry.com as “losers” in a Poets & Writers letter. Defends the integrity of both Georgia and Tupelo, failing to mention Levine is her publisher and business partner.

2007  Paul Muldoon succeeds Alice Quinn as poetry editor of The New Yorker.

2008 Poets & Writers bans Thomas Brady and Christopher Woodman from its Forum. The Academy of American Poetry On-Line Editor, Robin Beth Schaer, is shortlisted for the Snowbound Series prize by Tupelo at the same time as Poets.org bans Christopher Woodman for mentioning the P&W letter as well.

2009  The Program Era by Mark McGurl, published by Harvard University Press

2009  Following the mass banning of Alan Cordle, Thomas Brady, Desmond Swords and Christopher Woodman from Harriet, the blog of The Poetry Foundation, a rival poetry site is formed: Scarriet.

DRUGS & POETRY

Robert Graves

“There’s nothing classy or poetic about opium. It has the same effect as morphine and heroin. You get relaxed and energetic at the same time. Problems become unimportant. You feel sleepy, but if you go to bed you lie awake. You itch all over. You get constipated. You get hungry, especially for sweets. You get patient and understanding. You get nice…..an opium high can be described in one word: comfortable. It’s weird that people get to where they’ll give up their souls for stuff that just makes them comfortable.”
…………………………………………………………………….Eric Detzer

“Everywhere and at all times, men and women have sought, and duly found, the means of taking a holiday from the reality of their generally dull and often acutely unpleasant existence. A holiday out of space, out of time, in the eternity of sleep or ecstasy, in the heaven or the limbo of visionary fantasy.”
…………………………………………………………………….Aldous Huxley. “A Treatise on Drugs”

“Over the centuries our Hindu philosophers have seen everything come and go. Empires, religions, famines, good times, invasions, reforms, liberators, repressors….and drugs. Drugs are among the most influential and dangerous powers available to humans. They open up glorious and pleasurable chambers in the mind. They give great power. Thus they can seduce the searcher away from the path.”
……………………………………………………………………Sri Krishna Preem

“Why, the slave trade was merciful compared with the opium trade. We did not destroy the bodies of the Africans, for it was our immediate interest to keep them alive; we did not debase their natures, corrupt their minds, nor destroy their souls. But the opium seller slays the body after he has corrupted, degraded and annihilated the moral being of unhappy sinners, While every hour is bringing new victims to a Moloch which knows no satiety, and where the English murderer and Chinese suicide vie with each other in offerings at his shrine.”
……………………..quoted by Karl Marx in an article, Opium or Commerce, Sept 20, 1858

“The Way of Heaven is fairness to all; it does not suffer us to harm others to benefit ourselves. Men are alike in this in all the World; for they cherish life and hate what endangers life. O majesty, control your wicked. O, Majesty, you can order the opium not to be grown, the fields hoed over, and sown instead with the five grains, and thus show the sincerity of your politeness, and humility, so our countries may have peace, together.”
…………………………..Letter of Lin Tse Hsu about the opium trade to Queen Victoria, 1839

“Everything one does in life, even love, occurs in an express train racing toward death. To smoke opium is to get out of the train while it is still moving. It is to concern oneself with something other than life or death.”
…………………………………………………………………….Jean Cocteau

“Oh, jab me with your needle a hundred times and a hundred times I will bless you, Saint Morphine.”
…………………………………………………………………….Jules Verne

“Woe to you, my princess, when I come. I will kiss you quite red and feed you till you are plump. And if you are forward you shall see who is the stronger, a little girl who doesn’t eat enough or a big strong man with cocaine in his body. In my last serious depression I took cocaine again and a small dose lifted me to the heights in a wonderful fashion. I am just now collecting the literature for a song of praise to this magical substance.”
…………………………………………………………………….Sigmund Freud

“If you think dope is for kicks and for thrills, you’re out of your mind….If you think you need stuff to play music or sing, you’re crazy. It can fix you so you can’t play nothing or sing nothing.”
…………………………………………………………………….Billie Holliday

“All excess is ill, but drunkenness is of the worst sort: it spoils health, dismounts the mind, and unmans men; it reveals secrets, is quarrelsome, lascivious, impudent, dangerous, and mad. In fine, he that is drunk is not a man, because he is so long void of reason, that distinguishes a man from a beast.”
…………………………………………………………………….William Penn

“The Times reports that a new study has found that the use of such stimulants and antidepressants as Ritalin has increased dramatically in the past few years, not merely among hyperactive preteens and teens, but now among preschoolers. We’re talking about two-,three, and four-year-olds. Babies! Prozac is also being prescribed….to these tiny tykes!”
…………………………………………………………………….Jim Hightower

“Prohibition, a dismal failure, not only increased law-breaking, but also created a criminal class that turned to gambling, drugs, and prostitution when the 18th Amendment was finally repealed in 1933.”
…………………………………………………………………….George Bruce Woodin

“The drug war is just a U.S. excuse to control our countries.”
……………………………………………Evo Morales (Bolivian Presidential Candidate Aug,2002)

“When we finally decide that drug prohibition has been not more successful than alcohol prohibition, the drug dealers will disappear.”
………………………………………………………….Ron Paul (Republican Congressman Texas)

“No stars were visible in the long night of the opium habit.”
…………………………………………………………………….William Cobbe

“Narcotics in Hollywood is a complete story unto itself, and it finds parallels with the world of stage and music, all of which received unprecedented attention from magazines and newspapers; reading them now, one gets the impression that the world had succumbed to an epidemic of addiction.

“In spite of, or perhaps because of the evidence of misery, corruption and waste, our fascination with opium persists to this day. Stereotype-shattering contradictions such as the ease with which strict Victorians accommodated drug habitués throw into question our notions of pre-twentieth century lives, habits and values and in doing so, help clarify our present-day attitudes towards drugs and drug addiction. And though we may try to shake off the myth of the Morphean slumber and the promise of profound dreams and boundless creativity, it’s doubtful that opium will ever let us”.
…………………………………………………………………….Barbara Hodgson

“We are making these drugs for Satan-Americans and Jews. If we cannot kill them with guns, we will kill them with drugs.”
…………………………………………………………………….Fatwa of Hezbollah

“I remember someone saying if you try heroin once you’ll become hooked. Of course I laughed and scoffed at the idea but I now believe this to be true.”
…………………………………………………………………….Kurt Cobain

“Opium, horrible and blessed connection of pleasure, destroys our organs and senses. The healthy appetite and the bourgeois sensation of feeling good and tired have to be sacrificed. The eyes water, the ears ring. Objects, printed words, people look faded. Sounds and words wander randomly in the tiny mechanisms of the organs of hearing.”
…………………………………………………………………….Gezu Csath

“Intoxication is not unnatural or deviant. Absolute sobriety is not a natural or primary human state.”
………………………………………………………………….Richard Davenport-Hines

“According to one analysis, retail sales of illegal heroin, cocaine, and marijuana generate close to $27 billion, with an unreported illegal income of about $21 billion. Illicit sales of all drugs have been estimated as high as $75 billion. Any way you cut it, that’s big business. Three groups have a vested interest in keeping it that way: Organized crime, terrorists, and drug enforcement agencies all make their living off drugs….”
…………………………………………………………………….Georgette Bennet

“In the roster of pop-culture medical doctors who don’t reflect well on the profession, includes the character of Dr. Henry Jekyll, created by Robert Lewis Stevenson. Jekyll’s self-medication experiments turned him into the sociopathic Mr. Edward Hyde, with fatal side effects. After dreaming the story, Stevenson, despite suffering from tuberculosis, wrote the 60,000-word classic in a six-day, cocaine-fueled frenzy.”
…………………………………………………………………….Erin Barrett & Jack Mingo

“The Incas believed that the Gods presented coca to the people to satisfy their hunger, to provide them with new vigor, and to help them forget their miseries…..It was intimately involved in their religious ceremonies and in the various initiation rites; and that shamans used it to induce a trance-like state in order to commune with the spirits. It was a far too important commodity to be used by the common Indians, and their exposure to coca was very limited before the invasion by Pizarro and his conquistadors.”
…………………………………………………………………….John Mann

“There is always a need for intoxication: China has opium, Islam has hashish, the West has woman.”
………………………………………………………………Andre Malraux, Man’s Fate

“Picture yourself in a boat on a river,
with tangerine trees and marmalade skies…”
………………………………………….John Lennon

“During World War II (1941-45), President Franklin D. Roosevelt legitimized smoking by declaring tobacco an essential wartime crop. Even Army training manuals of the day urged leaders to “smoke and make your troopers smoke.” Gen. Douglas MacArthur himself demanded a better supply of tobacco in the soldier’s daily ration. He ordered that $10 million raised for the war effort “be used to purchase American cigarettes, which, of all personal comforts, are the most difficult to obtain here.”
…………………………………………………………………….Tara Parker-Pope

“a deep dichotomy between reason and irrationality can be seen in the world’s tremendous appetite for alcohol and caffeine. Alcohol is the liberator of the irrational. Caffeine is the stimulator of the rational. It would appear that the human spirit craves both poles and turns to these most familiar of drugs to achieve those ends.”
………………………………………………………………………………...Braun

The Science and love of Alcohol and Caffeine

Thanks be to God, since my leaving drinking of wine, I do find myself much better, and do mind my business better, and do spend less money, and less time lost in idle company.”
…………………………………………………………………….Samuel Pepys

By the early 1960s, though, something bigger was afoot than whether or not LSD was a truth drug. The public was discovering the wonders of the CIA’s brainwashing drugs, and attitudes towards hallucinogens in the United States were shifting.

The shift had resulted partly from the fateful chain of events set in motion in September 1952, when Robert Graves had alerted Gordon Wasson to the existence of teonanacatl, the ‘Flesh of God.’ This stage had culminated in 1957 with the publication of “The Discovery of Mushrooms that Cause Strange Visions” in Life magazine. That year, Graves visited Wasson in New York, and the two men spent an evening listening to a recording of Maria Sabina’s mushroom ceremony. This, wrote Graves, was “the most exciting event” of his stay in the United States.

On 31 January, 1960, the pair listened to the recording again, this time after they had eaten some mushrooms. Graves found the experience revelatory. A week later he wrote to Wasson that “this was not merely a red letter day but a day marked with all the colours of the rainbow.” The mushrooms, he said, had broken down the barriers in his consciousness with the result that “I am now able to see pictures in my mind far more clearly than I did before.” He concluded that the sacred mushrooms should be distributed across Europe and America. “Why reserve these drugs for the mentally sick?” he wrote. “They should be given to the mentally whole. Especially to poets and artists.”

Four months later he indulged again, this time taking synthetic psilocybin tables made by Albert Hofmann at Sandoz Pharmaceuticals. On 8 July, 1960, he reported to his friend William Sargant that the synthetic product did not compare favorably to the real thing. “Don’t be deceived,” he told the psychiatrist. “It has left out the magical principle and sends you to Coney Island not to Eden (like the other).”
…………………………………………………………………….Dominic Streatfeild

I took Peyote in the mountains of Mexico and I had a dose of it that lasted two or three days with the Tarahumara, and at the time those three days seemed like the happiest days of my life.

I had stopped tormenting myself, trying to find a reason for my life, and I had stopped having to carry my body around.

I realized that I was inventing life, that that was my function and rason d’etre, and that I suffered when my imagination failed, and Peyote gave it to me.”

…………………………………………………………………….Antonin Artaud

A note on Peyote.

“Wow, I have learned more in six hours than in the last sixteen years!”
…………………………………………………………Timothy Leary in a letter to Arthur Koestler

“I have been born again. I have just been through a psychiatric experience that has completely changed me. It was horrendous, I had to face things about myself that I never admitted. I was an utter fake, a self-opinionated bore, a know-all who knew very little.”
………………………………………………………………….Cary Grant

“…the young men have a rude health which runs into peccant humours. They drink brandy like water. They chew hasheesh….taste every poison….”
……………………………………………………………Emerson, Essay on English Traits

Why Marijuana?

“It makes you feel good, man. It relaxes you, makes you forget all the bad things that happen to a Negro. It makes you feel wanted, and when you’re with another tea smoker it makes you feel a special sense of kinship.”
…………………………………………………………………….Louis Armstrong

“Which is better: to have Fun with Fungi or to have Idiocy with Ideology, to have Wars because of Words, to have Tomorrow’s Misdeeds out of Yesterday’s Miscreeds?”
…………………………………………………………………….Aldous Huxley

“If alcohol is queen, then tobacco is her consort. It’s a fond companion for all occasions, a loyal friend through fair weather and foul. People smoke to celebrate a happy moment, or to hide a bitter regret. Whether you’re alone or with friends, it’s a joy for all the senses. What lovelier sight is there than that double row of white cigarettes, lined up like soldiers on parade and wrapped in silver paper?….I love to touch the pack in my pocket, open it, savor the feel of the cigarette between my fingers, touch the paper on my lips, the taste of tobacco on my tongue, love to watch the flame spurt up, love to watch it come closer and closer, filling me with its warmth.”
…………………………………………………………………….Luis Bunuel

“Intelligent people discussing interesting things in an intelligible manner. Quite a concept. Steele’s newsletter became Tatler, the first modern magazine; his idea of correspondents and sections provided the prototype for the modern newspaper, the one institution that all agree is essential for a vital democracy (London’s second oldest newspaper is Lloyds News, which began as a bulletin board in Lloyd’s Coffeehouse.) Small wonder that pamphleteers of the time wrote that “coffee and commonwealth came in together…..to make a free and sober nation.” Coffee-houses had made civilized conversation into a popular sport.”
…………………………………………………………………….Stewart Lee Allen

The Devils Cup

“It is disgusting to notice the increase in the quantity of coffee used by my subjects….Many battles have been fought and won by soldiers nourished by beer, and the king does not believe that coffee-drinking soldiers can be relied on.”
…………………………………………………………………….Frederick the Great

“For this sparkling outburst, there is no doubt that honor should be ascribed in part to the great event which created new customs and even modified human temperament-the advent of coffee….which brings forth the sparkle and the sunlight of truth.”
…………………………………………………………………….Michelet

“One need only compare the violent coffee-drinking societies of the West to the peace-loving tea drinker of the Orient to realize the pernicious and malignant effect that bitter brew has upon the human soul.”
…………………………………………………………………….Hindu dietary tract

“When the sweet Poison of the Treacherous Grape
Had acted on the world a general rape…..
Coffee arrives, that grave and wholesome liquor
That heals the stomach and makes the genius quicker.”
…………………………………………………………………….anonymous Puritan (1674)

Aside from sobering up the workplace, coffeehouses gave Brits an alternative to taverns in which to meet and talk. Taverns were not the safest place to discuss politics or religion. Everybody was armed or drunk, usually both, and proprietors sensibly discouraged heated discussions. Coffeehouses, on the other hand, encouraged political debate, which was precisely why King Charles II banned them in 1675 (he withdrew the ban in eleven days).

At breakfast Beethoven drank coffee, which he usually prepared himself in a percolator. Coffee seems to have been the nourishment with which he could least dispense and in his procedure with regard to its preparation he was as careful as the Orientals are known to be. Sixty beans to a cup was the allotment and the beans were often counted out exactly, Especially when guests were present.”

…………………………………………………………………….Anton Schindler

Dear Arthur,

Things are happening here which I think will interest you. The big, new, hot issue these days in many American circles is DRUGS. Have you been tuned in on the noise?

I stumbled on the scene in a most holy manner. Spent last summer in Mexico. Anthropologist friend arrived one weekend with a bag of mushrooms. Magic mushrooms. I had never heard of them, but being a good host joined the crowd who ate them. Wow! Learned more in six hours than in the past sixteen years. Visual transformations. Gone the perceptual machinery which clutters up our view of reality. Intuitive transformations. Gone the mental machinery which slices the world up into abstractions and concepts. Emotional transformations. Gone the emotional machinery that causes us to load life with our own role-ambitions and petty desires.

Came back to the USA and have spent last six months pursuing these matters. Working with Aldous Huxley, Alan Watts, Allen Ginsberg the poet. We believe that the synthetics of peyote (mescalin) and the mushrooms (psilocybin) offer possibilities for expanding consciousness, changing perceptions, removing abstractions.

For the person who is prepared, they provide a soul-wrenching mystical experience. Remember your enlightenments in the Franco prison? Very similar to what we are producing. We have had cases of housewives understanding, experiencing satori describing it –who have never heard of Zen.

There are inevitable political-sociological complications. The expected groups are competing to see who should control the new drugs. Medicine and psychiatry are in the forefront. Psychiatric investigators (hung up as they are on their own abstractions) interpret the experience as PSYCHOTIC- and think they are producing model-psychosis. Then too, the cops and robbers game has started. Organized bohemia (and don’t tell me it ain’t organized, with rituals as rigid as those of the Masoic order) is moving in. There is the danger that mescalin and psilocybin will go the way of marijuana ( a perfectly mild, harmless, slightly mind-opening substance, as you know). And of course the narcotics bureau hopes that it will go the same way–so they can play out their side of the control game.

We are working to keep these drugs free and uncontrolled. Two tactics. We are offering the experience to distinguished creative people. Artists, poets, writers, scholars. We’ve learned a tremendous amount by listening to them tell us what they have learned from the experience.

We are also trying to build these experiences in a holy and serious way into university curricula. I’ve got approval to run a seminar here–graduate students will take the mushrooms regularly and spend a semester working through, organizing and systematizing the results. Its hard for me to see how anyone can consider himself a theologian, psychologist, behavioral scientist if he had not had this experience.

So how does it sound? If you are interested I’ll send some mushrooms over to you. Or if you’ve already been involved I’d like to hear about your reaction. I’ll be in London around June 8th and would like to tell you more about the cosmic crusade.

The memory of our weekend last winter remains as an intellectual and emotional highspot.

………………………………………………………Best Regards to you,
………………………………………………………………..T.L

………………………………………………..from the Letters collection on Leary.ru
………………………………………………..also see Tim Leary Correspondence on Archive.org

~
http://www.druglibrary.org/schaffer/LSD/stevens2.htm
http://www.socialfiction.org/?tag=graves

THE DAY THE MUSIC DIED

Joan Shelley Rubin, author of Songs of Ourselves: The Uses of Poetry in America, said the 1920s belonged as much to Henry Wadsworth Longfellow as it did to Thomas Stearns Eliot—and this is true.

The anti-Victorian, Imagism revolution of Bloomsbury, which gradually changed poetry from an art of song to an art of image through the ‘trickle-down’ effort of its elites, gained the overwhelming momentum of  great numbers when its ‘trickle-down’ effort became  normalized and taught in the academy–both in English departments and Creative Writing Workshops–during the second half of the 20th century.

Are there any prominent musicians who bother to set contemporary poetry to music?

The image in poetry became associated with art, while the music of poetry became associated with vulgarity.

Two brief examples, from last century, will suffice:

First: these lines from J.V. Cunningham, the anti-modernist poet, who is largely forgotten:

How time reverses
The proud in heart!
I now make verses
Who aimed at art.

Second:  Bloomsbury author Aldous Huxley’s infamous slam against Poe’s verse as “vulgar.”  The prim Englishman’s distaste for musical Poe was quoted approvingly in Brooks & Penn Warren’s well-placed textbook, Understanding Poetry (first edition, 1938) which also solidified the reputations of Imagist classics, ‘At A Station In the Metro’ (Pound) and ‘The Red Wheel Barrow’ (Williams) in its unalloyed praise for these two works.

Could poetry change radically today?  And, if it did, would the public even notice?    The answer to both quesitons is, ‘no,’ and the reason the first answer is ‘no,’ is because the second answer is ‘no.’

How did poetry change so radically in the early part of the 20th century?

First, it did have a public, but not a particularly large or enthusiastic one, and secondly, poetry was understood by the public to have a certain definite identity: it looked like work by Longfellow and Tennyson.

An art whose practioners are disunited, who have no common expertise, will not be seen as an art at all.  Poetry had a common expertise: the ability to compose memorable music with mere words, like Longfellow and Tennsyon.

“Verse is not easy,” Cunningham wrote.    But the skill of verse is no longer a part of poetry; poetry no longer has a specific “skill.”

The Imagists never got beyond a very minor, little magazine existence, but they believed what they were offering would be very popular, like a portable camera; now you can just point and shoot!  Anyone can appreciate images–and put them into simple poems–like haiku.  Poetry for democracy!  Poetry that was selfless and natural!  It will be a phenomenon!  But the public didn’t buy it–they still wanted their Tennyson and their Longfellow with their gadgets and their telephones and their cars.  Imagism, like Futurism, Cubism and 12-Tone Music, failed to inspire anyone except the core of elites who were pushing them.  Imagism was a flop.

Or, was it?

People ‘on the street’ today define poetry as vaguely expressive, and the public’s perception of something, we have learned, should not be underestimated.  ‘Vaguely’ is the chief term here.  No longer does the public think of poetry as Longfellow.  They think of it as vaguely expressive.

100 years ago the American public had a more sharply defined view of poetry.  It was like what those fellows, Mr. Alfred Lord Tennyson and Mr. Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, wrote.  That was what poetry was.

The zen joke of ‘The Red Wheel Barrow’ and ‘The women come and go/talking of Michelangelo’ resonated once, but these jokes are no longer funny.  But Longfellow is gone, too.

Image truly belongs to other arts: painting, photography, and film;  further, these arts do not need to look to poetry at all as they wrestle with the image.

Song belongs to songwriters, and songwriters, the good ones, are poets, but they are known to the world as songwriters; poetry’s identity carries on in the sister art of songwriting, and unlike the filmmakers, photographers and painters, songwriters do consult poetry, not contemporary poetry, but old poetry, the art, for inspiration.

Since poetry has given up song for image as its current identity, poetry manifests no contemporary attachment with any other art.  No glory belongs to poetry, or is even reflected back on poetry.  Poetry is in the dark.

Poetry, with no public identity, is stuck: it has nowhere to go.

History affords countless examples of  technical changes which have improved music’s expressive qualities as a whole even as music, the art, remains, in its simplicity, recongizable to everyone.   When the piano replaced the harpsichord, all composers took notice, not just some.

The modernist revolution changed poetry so that everyone took notice,  but unfortunately in a way that made poetry no longer recognizable to everyone.  Nor is it easy to say if expressive qualities have increased–certainly not in the public’s perception.  As far as prose and how it perhaps opens things up, the problem poetry has, is that in prose, one would naturally think poetry could express itself with greater variety, but fiction owns prose, and poetry is expected to do something different than fiction; poetry as art has been developed in different ways than prose.   Yes, poetry should be as good as good prose, and all that, but how does poetry keep from disappearing into it?  And so poetry–sans the music that separates it from prose, as the art which the public knows as poetry–has been at sea for 100 years.

T.S. Eliot, an honorary Bloomsbury member, and the most respected critic of the 20th century, recommended minor poetry 300 years old as superior to major poetry composed  250, 200, 150, 100, and 50 years before his day.  This, in some ways, was counter to the whole modernist revolution.  John Donne?  Andrew Marvell?  Henry King, Bishop of Chichester?  What was Eliot thinking?  Eliot was thinking this: If my friends and I are to effect this modernist revolution of ours, we must not seem like mere brick-throwers; we need erudition, scholarship, appreciation of certain aspects of the past, and if we are to become professors and editors of modernist verse, it will be well to be able to make the past our clay, for revolutions must feed off the past; no revolution lives in the present day; Eliot knew he and Pound were not Bach, the master, at the keyboard, re-inventing music itself; he knew they were merely sullying a grand tradition with a little sleight-of-hand: Goodbye, Milton, Shelley, Poe, Shakespeare, Keats.  Hello, Kyd, King, Corbiere.  Eliot knew that when a revolution happens, the past will not disappear; a certain respect for the past must not only be feigned, but enthusiastically pursued, for every manifesto needs food; actual ‘new’ material (Waste Lands, cantos, wheel barrow haiku,) will run out in a week, so the past has to be transformed.  Every revolution needs a professor; Mary Ann and Ginger alone will not do.

The image is free-standing and pre-verbal; it is not necessary for image to fit, or be coherent–it simply is. Why should such a thing be the essence of poetry?  Ask that Bloomsbury elite.  After a snort and a sigh and a sip of their very expensive wine, they will tell you.

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