Mind, Mouth and Page – (Sacco and Vanzetti)

Mind, Mouth and Page continues from hereĀ 

AG: What time is it now? Does anybody know?

Peter Orlovsky: Nine after six. Nine after six.

AG: Okay, I think I’ll begin, and everybody that comes in, will come in.

Where we left off, there was that long poem of Williams that was a political statement and a sudden angry testament, which was prophetic of later police-state tendencies in America. It was the early Sacco-Vanzetti case.. If you don’t know what the Sacco-Vanzetti case is, there were these two Italian fish-peddlars from Boston, who were set up on a fake bombing charge, and executed. So it was, like, the first blood of this era of State murder. It was the beginning of the Cold War. It was the first blood in the great Cold War.

Student: What year was that?

AG: ’26, ’27. It was a big thing, everybody got involved. All the intellectuals got involved, including Williams. And you could probably find some information on it, in a journalistic style, if you check out a book by Frederick Lewis Allen called “Only Yesterday” (or its sequel, “Since Yesterday”) . I’m guessing it’s in there. There are (many) books on the Sacco-Vanzetti case. It was one of the big causes of the radical Left

Student: Did it inspire literature?

AG: Yeah. There were songs, there were poems. I think my father (Louis Ginsberg) wrote a poem that was in “The New Masses“. Edna St Vincent Millay wrote a poem called “Justice Denied in Masachusetts”, which was about that also, after they were killed. That strain’ll come in through Williams a little bit, on and off.

There’s a description of the Capitol building in Washington, which is his (Williams’) aesthetic comment on the vision of America that would be conjured up if you made a collage of the elements of painting and sculpture and architectural construction in the Washington Capitol.

[Allen reads “It Is a Living Coral (“To produce one out of many – an island – E Pluribus Unum”) – Allen reads the entire poem – “It is a Living Coral/ a trouble/ archaically fettered/ to produce/ E Pluribum Unum an/ island/ in the sea a Capitol/ surmounted/ by Armed Liberty -“..”in a rowboat on Lake/ Erie/ changing ships the/ dead/ among the wreckage/ sickly green” – So that was his “character” of the Capitol, or portrait of his character of the Capitol. It’s like a national portrait, but done in the details – in the critical detail of the architecture of the Capitol building . So that’s about as near as you could get if you were an Imagist, sticking with “No ideas but in things”, yet wanting to do a commentary on the State of the Nation.

More into his real genre – “Hemmed-in Males” on page 322. It’s one that I always thought was the best of poor old Paterson, or Rutherford. [Allen reads “Hemmed-in Males” in its entirety] – “The saloon is gone up the creek..”..”..there’s no place/ any more for me to go now/ except home – ” – It’s actually real sympathetic and sweet [Allen repeats one stanza] – “You can laugh at him without his/organs but that’s the way with/ a river when it wants to/ drown you”.

Getting back now to his preoccupation with seeing if he can find little rhythmical turns in his own speech, or in the speech he heard around him, a little exercise called “(This) Florida 1924”. The theme is his Imagination, wandering off, while he’s in a real Florida, doing a real job, actually, at the time, or dreaming of Florida while doing his job as a doctor, but listening to the sound. The very last line is one of the classic American speech lines of Williams – for him – it was one of the lines that he thought the most interesting that he’d ever written, rhythmically. It has the rhythm – Um datta-datta-duh-datta-datta-dah – you’ll recognize it when you get to it – Datta-datta-duh-datta-datta-dah Datta duh-duh, datta. Datta-datta-datta-datta- dah” – [Allen reads “This Florida, 1924” in its entirety] – “of which i am the sand – / one of the sands – in which/ the turtle eggs are baking”… (concluding with) “..Peggy has a little albumen/ in hers – ” (the middle-section of the poem reads, “The whole damned town/ is riming up one street/ and down another, yet there is/ the rime of her white teeth/ the rime of glasses/ at my plate, the ripple time/ the rime her fingers make – And we thought to escape rime. by imitation of the senseless/ unarrangement of wild things – / The stupidest rime of all – Rather – Hibiscus,/ let me examine/ those varying shades/ of orange..” – and it goes on – “I shall do my pees instead -/ holding them in test tubes/ holding them to the light/ dropping in the acid…”

Student: How is “rhyme” spelled?

AG: R-I-M-E. Rime. He spells it R-I-M-E. Actually, he’s got this long disposition on “orange”. (“Rather – Hibiscus,/ let me examine..” ) – Because he’s “doing his pees” – he’s a doctor, he’s examining all the little pee (urine) samples he took, to see who’s got what – who’s got kidney-troubles (“Peggy has a little albumen/ in hers -“) – “Peggy has a little albumen/ in hers -” – that’s the last line in the poem. And I know that was one of the lines he was most proud of in terms of rhythm – “Peggy has a little albumen/ in hers -” – ” dropping in the acid” – “Peggy has a little albumen/ in hers -” [Allen re-reads the poem from “Rather Hibiscus..” to the end “in hers -“] – Dash, it ends with a dash. “Dropping in the acid”, “Peggy has a little albumen”, and then (the) last line, “in hers – dash”.

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