Expansive Poetics – (Apollinaire and TS Eliot)

Allen Ginsberg’s Annotated Copy of “The Waste Land” – courtesy Houghton Library, Harvard University

AG: The comparison to “The Waste Land” of this (Apollinaire’s “Zone”), particularly, “You are alone the morning is almost here/The milkmen rattle their cans in the street” ( Tu es seul le matin va venir/  Les laitiers font tinter leurs bidons dans les rues”) does that remind you of (T.S.) Eliot? – “Wipe your hands across your mouth and laugh,/ In the vacant allotments women gathering garbage, or something. Do you know the line? [Editorial note – Allen is quoting here, (slightly misremembering), the concluding lines from Eliot’s “Preludes” “Wipe your hand across your mouth and laugh,/The worlds revolve like ancient women/Gathering fuel in vacant lots”]
And the panoramic aspect is very similar to lines in “The Waste Land” – Eliot has the line- “A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many./ Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled/And each man fixed his eyes before his feet,/Flowed on the bridge and down off the bridge and up St. Williams/To where St Mary Woolnoth Church kept the hours/With a dead stroke on the final stroke of nine.” – Let me find it… “Flowed up the hill and down King William Street/To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours..” – [Editorial note – Allen, again, from memory, slightly misremembers the line] – You know that passage in “The Waste Land” that was itself an imitation or adaptation of Dante’s vision of hordes of the dead moving in Hell (Canto III, verses 55-57) – Si lunga tratta/Di gente, ch’io non avrei mai credito/Che morte tanta n’avesse disfatta” – Such a long stream/Of people, that I should never have believed./That death had slain so many…”), (another paraphrase of which we heard was Jerome Rothenberg‘s the hordes of the dead moving around the Ring Street in Vienna, the other night). [Editorial note – the allusion here is to a poetry-reading given by Rothenberg, one of the “Visiting Faculty” at Naropa that summer]

Let me see if I can find “The Waste Land”. How many here have read “The Waste Land”? – Just about everybody knows a little bit. Yeah – page one-seventy-nine – Yeah – “Unreal City..” (which is a paraphrase of (Charles) Baudelaire, originally  the first modern.Fourmillante cité,cité pleine de rêves.”[Editorial note – Allen is quoting from the opening line of Baudelaire’s poem, “Les Sept vieillards” in Fleurs du Mal ] does anyone know French? –“Fourmillante”? –  cité pleine de rêves – sort of like mass moving, massive moving, bubbling city, city full of dreams) – “Unreal City,/Under the brown fog of a winter dawn/A crowd flowed over London Bridge, so many,/I had not thought death had undone so many./ Sighs, short and infrequent, were exhaled/And each man kept his eyes before his feet..” – That’s a direct quote or paraphrase or translation of Dante moving through (the) Inferno – “Flowed up the hill and down King William Street/To where Saint Mary Woolnoth kept the hours/With a dead sound on the final stroke of nine.” – (This is that one panoramic vision of the twentieth-century city as a city of the dead, or as a city where the dead flowed over the bridges, and where the traffic is a phantom traffic. So you get that first in Eliot).

Here – the little influence of Apollinaire’s “Zone” – “Unreal city/Under the brown fog of a winter noon/ Mr Eugenides, the Smyrna merchant/Unshaven, with a pocket full of currants..(“currants” would be current drafts, or bank drafts, I take it?)- “C. i. f. London – documents at sight/ Asked me in demotic French/To luncheon at the Cannon Street Hotel/Followed by a week-end at the Metropole” – So it’s (that’s) very similar to (Apollinaire’s) “Here you are in Marseilles amid the watermelons/Here you are in Coblenz at the Hotel of the Giant”. (Te voici à Marseille au milieu des pastèques/Te voici à Coblence à l’hôtel du Géant”)If you check through Eliot and check back to Apollinaire you’ll see the relationship, which is celebrated, and which then goes back, as you’ll remember, to (Arthur) Rimbaud (remember when we had that kind of discontinuity and juxtaposition in Rimbaud, as well as some element of modernity? – and you also get the modern city in (Charles) Baudelaire, who’s what? – eighteen-twenty? thirty? forty?  around the time of (Edgar Allan) Poe? or just after Poe? [Editorial note – Fleur du Mal was published in 1857]

So, from Baudelaire to Rimbaud, then Rimbaud to Laforgue, and Laforgue to Apollinaire, is a huge influence of modernity and modern consciousness acknowledging the modern city which then spreads from the continent to (Ezra) Pound and (T.S.) Eliot, and influences (William Carlos) Williams, and other also (Williams’ application to America was to try and be totally up-to-date and just look outside, Pound and Eliot were picking up from classic writers and from French sources more, and trying to adapt Laforgue and Apollinaire into English).

[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately  forty-nine-and-three-quarter minutes in, to approximately fifty-five-and-a-half minutes in ]

Addenda: and here’s Allen’s hero, Bob Dylan reading a few lines from Eliot’s Waste Land –

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