AG: [Allen reads from the then freshly-published poetry-collection, The Stars by David Cope] – “Nada Press, Big Scream, 698 48th Street, South East, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49508 – The Stars by David Cope, copyright 1976. All rights reserved for the author. Acknowledgements – Some of these poems have appeared in Big Scream, Windows in the Stone, and in two previous collections – Neon Eyes and The Clouds – So this is, like, coming out of the sidewalks of…
“Walking, driving, everything is business, nothing is still. Across the river/ the city gleams. Voices roar in the metal traffic./ This is an American poem, accept no substitutes. No Surrealism or/ Symbolism. This is the asphalt under your feet.”
Monday Morning – “But two old friends appear out of the crowd and were standing in the /rain, yacking. Still I gotta go, and going up the hill wave them good-bye,/ turning to see faces on a city bus staring blankly into the misty city.”
Baseball – “The farmboy’s proud of his white uniform with a red trim. Under the/ white lights he and another play baseball. They’re dazzling on the green./ A hit! The crowd stands up, mouths full of popcorn. The ball goes high/ over the lights at the field’s edge into the/ dark river beyond.”
“An old woman leans against a tree, alone in the cemetery, the wind at/ her back. Now she turns back to her car, the highway, home, coffee with/ friends.”
Crash! – “The cars lie, one on its side, a rear-wheel still spinning and the other/ upside-down. The bodies are scattered across the cornfield, bent and/ broken on the frozen ground. Two ambulances pull up. The attendants/ arrange and cover the dead.Cars pull over to the side of the road./ Everyone shuffles, eager to help, hands in pockets.”
“Lines of headlights extend to the horizon. Horns honking, flashing lights/, and overhead the high thin poles are silhouetted before the lavender/ sky.”
American Dream – sort of like an Objectivist poem drawn from the newspapers, maybe?. This is the 1970’s – American Dream – “The house was all in flames, orange billows bursting up into the sunlight./ F.B.I. agents and police were laid up behind walls, sheds, and other/ buildings, armed with MI6’s and rocket-launchers. The firemen were kept/ back. The battle had gone on for some time when the first exploded/ throughout the house. One of the bodies could be seen inside the house,/ loaded with ammunition belts, the bullets exploding from the heat.” – I think that’s the Los Angeles Patty Hearst shoot-out/ Donald DeFreeze shoot-out. But it’s an interesting treatment of the newspaper phenomena – the reduction of that to a series of clear, precise, images.
“The evening streets are full of ghosts pleading for mercy. Sunset washes/ the windows red and they flash over the river. The night comes on, all sirens and bowling tournaments.”
Detroit – “Twilight. A white bar-owner thinking a black dude’s breaking into his car/ shoots him down on the asphalt lot. The bar’s in flames. Patrons scatter./ The sirens begin. Police arrive and the crowds all over the street/ chanting. Gas masks, electric megaphones, rifles, bottles, swinging clubs.” – A complete riot in ten lines!
Lunch Hour – “Waiting for a bus, some laid-off workers shoot craps. This one’s won./ He’s dancing around, slapping at the losers.” – The weirdest language, but absolutely perfect speech – “He’s dancing around, slapping at the losers.”
“Two men are shouting outside the courtroom, waving their arms,/ pointing to sheafs of paper clutched in their fists. Police appear and/ escort them out, still shouting, half dragged down the marble steps.”
“If I turn out the light it will be dreams tonight.”
The Line Up – “Arriving customers take a number. There is the expression of permanent/ boredom, shuffling feet. Children are given dimes to start up the hobby/horse. Yawns. Everyone stares at the floor or at the clerks. There are no/ conversations. A man walks off with a package. The jostling for his/ counter-space begins.”
“Going to see friends, all the lights are out on the expressway. A semi-/ files into our lane, not seeing us and we’re skidding, slamming on the/ brakes.” – That was fast for getting into that situation, getting into that nightmare – four lines!
Well, back to (Charles) Reznikoff. So, you see, it’s still being done. Or, what we have, really, is a universal system of notation, in a way. Merely trust your senses. Mindfulness of what you actually see. “Direct treatment of the object”, as (Ezra) Pound said in his “How To Read”,an essay called “How To Read”, which I guess..where would that appear? “How To Read”?
Student: The ABC of Reading?
AG:…No, there’s some suggestions for how to condense and present, rather than refer to things, but present directly what you see, in (the) ABC of Reading, but there’s a little short pamphlet, “How To Read”, I guess in Guide to Kulchur, maybe?, no, (selected) Literary Essays. At the beginning of (selected) Literary Essays in the library, see a little twenty-page essay, “How To Read”.