AG: Well, it’s the list poem, or litany, or anaphoric return to the margin, which is characteristic of a lot of this kind of composition. The most common form is (in the) Bible
– [from Ecclesiastes 12:6-7, King James version] – “Or ever the silver cord be loosed, or the golden bowl be broken, or the pitcher be broken at the fountain, or the wheel broken at the cistern/Then shall the dust return to the earth as it was: and the spirit shall return unto God who gave it” – So you have it in the Bible. You have it in all ancient poetry.
For twentieth-century, the great example you can look up is Christopher Smart’s (“Rejoice In the Lamb”) (which is the first specemin in our book, among the “Precursors”) but I won’t go into that here (but I did put it in the book as a precursor – although, actually, it’s a twentieth-century manuscript, because Smart’s “Jubilate Agno” “Rejoice In the Lamb”, written in (the) 176o’s or so, was not published until 1920, it was considered so outrageously cranky – Written three lines a day in a mental hospital. Smart was where I got my structure for “Howl”, more than Whitman).
[Christopher Smart (1722-1771)]
Student: (Velimir) Khlebnikov [in “Menagerie”] is a naturalist. It reminds me of Whitman’s “animals..animals..animals”, you know.. in “Song of Myself“…
AG: I don’t know that.
Student: (That’s) just a nick-name for the poem.
AG: “I would be content to go live with the animals” ?
Student: Yes, yes,
AG: I want to move on to other topics
AG : Is Khlebnikov’s descriptions of the animals accurate?
Student: Very good. It’s very fine.
AG: He worked in a zoo.
Student: ..Let me see what I can think of. Just (remembering)..
AG: The Nietzche look of what is it..the sea-lion?
Student: The walrus.
Student: Yes. No, what I was thinking of was that some of his accounts of birds in there are particularly very good, and…
AG: There’s also.. one of the animals was chewing with his jaw first to the left and then to the right.
AG: The flat-horned buffalo.
Student: I like the way he switches from the nauralism into the political neo..somewhat..is that surrealism? – to jump from one to the other and compare them back and forth?
AG: Well, the jump of mind…
Student: Mixed metaphor?
AG: …would be surrealism, I would guess… continuous junping around like that..
Student: These..these two lines here about “Where after a brief rain the ducks of a certain species cry out in unison, as if offering a thanksgiving prayer to the deity of ducks.”
AG: Is that so?
Student: Oh, they all come out of the water. They just all… quack-quack-quack-quack-quack. You know it’s…
AG: After a rain?
Student: After a rain. And the next line too is like a double-punch here – “Where the ash-silver guineau fowl have the aspect of professional beggars” – And the “guinea fowl” are a semi-domesticated bird which will just follow you around everywhere. A little.. and they’re kept like chickens, hens, in the..
AG What is implied.. What was his line for it? “Where the…”?
Student: “Where the ash-silver guineau fowl have the aspect of professional beggars”
AG: Oh, they do follow you around
Student: They follow you all around the place. They’re a nuisance.
Student: It’s great
AG: Actually then, observed carefully.
Student: Very well. Very good
AG: Nineteen…? I don’t know when these (next) poems by Ezra Pound are. They’re probably around the same time or around World War (I), between 1910 (and)… (which was) when Khlebnikov wrote his Whitmanics, which are.. The footnote, incidentally, to this little piece that I read [Menagerie] does mention Whitman. It says that “‘Menagerie’ was first published in Sadock Sudei, St. Petersburg, 1909 .”Sadock Sudei” means either a “Trap”, or a “Hatchery”, for Judges. This was the first document issued by the Russian Futurists. It actually appeared in April 1910, in an edition of three hundred copies, which were printed on wallpaper as a parody of elaborate bourgeois books. Khlebnikov’s prose poem, one of the few outstanding works in this collection, shows the influence of Walt Whitman whose poems had been translated by Kornei Chukovsky in 1907 – see (Vladimir) Markov’s Russian Futurism – A History” – So, apparently Whitman had an immediate impact on the Russian Futurists. Translated in 1907 into Russian (for) the first time.
[Sadok Sudei – Zhuravi’, St Petersburg, 1910]
[Audio for the above may be heard here beginning at approximately twenty-seven-and-three-quarter minutes in and concluding at approximately thirty-two-and-a-quarter minutes in]