The Meditation and Poetics class (from July 24 1978) continues…
AG : So then for that (poetic modernism) I would recommend, if you’re interested in this, because there’s a kind of, like, unfolding of perception during the century, so it would be interesting to begin (with)…
Student: (Did you yourself study all this?)
Student: What does the Museum of Modern Art have to do with keeping them?
Well, for focus of perception, (Charles) Reznikoff, who, as the notes to the Volume I (of his Collected Poems) say [editorial note – Reznikoff’s Collected Poems are now available in a one-volume edition] – “Rhythms, Reznikoff’s first book, was published by the author in Brooklyn, New York, in 1918″. He had it printed up himself. And all of his books he had printed up himself. There were a few printed by New Directions during his life, but he preferred to do his own. New Directions didn’t actually sell enough copies of By the Waters of Manhattan, the New Directions book, or Testimony, to warrant further publication of Reznikoff, even though (James) Laughlin thought Reznikoff was a great poet. Still, the best they could do was put out two books, or three, and Reznikoff himself, when I visited him about a year before he died in (19)75, got up on a chair in his bedroom closet and pulled one each of books that he’d printed in 1918,1927,1931, 1948, and gave them to me. He still had fifty copies of each that he was saving for poets who came to visit, because it was all [quoting Louis Zukofsky] “Sight is where the eye hits”. What’s personal is real. That was, like, a personal world of poetry that was totally real, totally solid. No abstraction to it at all. In the sense that it was one-to-one, person-to-person.
I didn’t mean to be talking (about him), actually. I meant to be reading him.
[Audio for the above can be heard here, starting at approximately thirty-six minutes in and concluding approximately thirty-nine minutes in]