More Robert Duncan – 5

Robert Duncan at Novato, California,in 1976, continues  – (see previous Duncan video from this reading/lecture – here and here)  

RD: So, here we go, we’re back.  And we’re in a very much later “Passages”, and there are two of them that came, after having two attacks of sciatica and a considerable life-depression because I’d also seen a picture of what my spine looks like (my stomach muscles are holding me up, because there’s nothing going on in there (my spine) that can be doing it at the present round, or ought to be doing it at least).  I … in September, my mind returned. I returned to my “body of thought,” as the Gestaltas Kohler (sic ) would call it” (we have a series of bodies).  And I am.. really am bored with… I love.. sort of love to be in my physical body, but I loathe it to have to be checking out how am I standing? am I going to get in trouble? am I doing it right?, or something like this – because I want to return to the zany body of thought, which floats all over the place, (and gets into trouble, of course, it can’t stop when it’s excited), about.. am I excited about the wrong way,?   Alright.

I started to write on a poetics and I got into.. and it started with Aristotle, and the first thing I found was Aristotle was putting Homer is a poet but Empedocles is not a poet, Homer is entertaining and Empedocles is a philosopher. And then I find, by looking up Empedocles as a philosopher, that Aristotle tells us he’s not a philosopher, no way, because when Aristotle listens to Empedocles read aloud, the thought is arising from rhyme and rhythm, not from logic, and the rhythm puts Aristotle, our happy Aristotle, asleep  (Aristotle’s disposition to poetry is rather rocky – but he established in our minds that if a poem’s just frivolous enough (I don’t know why he thought Homer was frivolous – he does tell us he lied – so did Plato tell us he lied) that then it’s real poetry, it’s just poetry (just poetry, nothing big-like), but, if it looks like philosophy, like Empedocles, when he’s talking about the universe, he’s talking about things you couldn’t know,, unless you were making them up. because they didn’t..   Lo and behold our contemporary science when out of its mathematics, is imagining how the universe begins, they don’t get to put that under a microscope and check it off. So.. they’re making it up. I mean, that’s our pure poetry. Our pure poetry today is written by Einstein and Schrodinger, and compared with that, us reciting poems is nothing. I mean, that’s where the poetry is today. That’s where the universe is being made up like the myths were (in the Middle Ages).. Those are our myths.

So, that was where Empedocles was. So I went back then. Suddenly, as I’m writing and turning this, and beginning to write a detectible poetics, beginning to uncover what was the beginning here, and what had happened with that. Empedocles…I come into problems in Empedocles. And ”Passages” starts again. So the first one is “Empedoclean Reveries”   

[At approximately forty-eight-and-a-half minutes in – here – Robert Duncan reads  “Empedoclean Reveries”] (““Dread love that remorseless Aphrodite raises/ to drive home her offended power…”…..” the arrival or departure animal laughter advances thematic/ to all that’s gone before”)

The second “Passages” that followed that, arose from the same work on poetics… (this is not about to appear next week, it’s a five-year sort of project, like, I should be aware of, all of the…you remember, the Soviets were always doing the Five Year Project, which meant they’d just flunked the previous year!  However, an imaginary a Five-Year Project, and any space of time could be the five years. But I’d gotten into Mallarmé, You just get deeper and deeper in the problema, the problem(s) of poetry.

And, so, this “Passages” arrived with the with the great word that begins Mallarme’s “Un coup de dés, which is one of the ancestors of this very possibility in poetry, and it opens  “jamais”  [never] – ok – but along with this, I began…. after I finished it, I realized that the entire thing moves toward, began to move, in my mind, towards a tribute to a..  one of my superiors in poetry   (a master is the one you learn from, a spirit is the one you have that’s very-near contemporary, so this one’s a full twenty-five years older than I am, still alive, this one is Louis Zukofsky), and he had begun, in his youth, a poem called “A”, which is a vast musical composition – and his very first proposition about such a musical proposition was a poem called “B and, it is.. and if I inherited, some necessity to deal with Mallarmé  (and those of us in our American tradition who now have Mallarmé  to deal with, it’s because of Zukofsky who posited it in the center of what was happening in the modernist period in America).

Okay. He had just finished.. he had finished “A. He had written “A-24” and then he wrote “A-23” to finish it, in his old age, ( I mean, it extended for a long time). So I went back into the poem, and built in the word, “a” , where you will hear it occur, and wrote a dedication – “Homage to the youthful Zukofsky leading toward his A-23” – Okay so that’s.. so that poem also gets to be addressed an homage (not a memorial, because he’s very much alive, but an homage to a superior in the orders of poetry – and it also means that he writes better than you do, you know.- It means that he done write better than I do – Hm?.. Okay..that’s…. Now it’s clear, okay?

[At approximately fifty-eight-and-a-half-minutes inhere  (and to the end of the tape) – Robert Duncan  reads “Passages- Homage to the youthful Zukofsky, his looking forward in the 1920s to prove his art in A-23′] – (“JAMAIS ..must extend   beyond the throw of the dice” ….” “…..creature of the air   the”)

{Lecture, then,  continues with final video – see above]

RD: If he’s blamed, he’s blamed for what people rightly blame me for, and if he puzzles the readers (and including me),  it’s the same way I puzzle me when I try to read it and get it – just exactly where does that word go? – not only how did I hear it? but what is it saying? (which is always my concern when I’m reading). Well, Rumi suddenly started speaking to me, (and he had to speak through an English translator – I ain’t got no Persian, I’m not about to go get any..)  So, imagine… a translator starts speaking to me!  That’s even more of a mystery!  This is Professor Arberry and I’ve had Arberry’s translations from Rumi for ten years, at least I think it is. (I think it’s 1969, I think it was, no… sixty? – something near ten years)… Okay.. .And so these now are open, simply because Rumi’s poetry went on forever. Rumi had had a teacher, who then disappeared within a year, and he poured forth for the rest of his life (he had been a professor before  (well, in Persia, it was more like a rabbi), he had been a spiritual teacher, and he deserted his spiritual teachings, and poured forth love poems to his teacher, and through the teacher to the universe, and you got a remarkable homoerotic Persian address to… (after all, the great difficulty about the Judeo-Christian religion, it has been somewhat observed – they ain’t got nothing but Him up there – In the beginning of the Christian period, since they had a dove hanging around, lots of people in the Middle East kind of thought that that was her dove – it was!  – and they got roundly – roundly! – persecuted for so interpreting it.  A lot of them thought, ”Gee, if… when Christ got.. you know.. at the point of the Baptism, a dove hovered, that must be now Astarte’s in it, for sure, Ishtar’s there, and if he had a Virgin Mother, she must really be that She that. all the West .. Middle-East knew – and they… it took them took a period of three or four centuries of rudely interrupting people’s lives, (mainly terminating them!) , for this particular heresy to disappear) .

Well, so in our happy Persia, there is a certain amount of humor in this, I should mention. Finally, you’ll see, towards the end, “Mother” comes into it, of all things, (she comes in in a rather nice way,  she’s not the one you met in “My Mother Would Be A Falconress ) I don’t contradict myself, I’m simply multiphasic, (if you know what a multiphasic test is – I grew up along with the multiphasic test and I’m probably one of the many reasons that they developed the multiphasic test) – Somebody constantly comes up a different way when you just thought you had them pinned down.

Okay. Now  we’re going to “Circulations of The Song” – [At approximately two-and-three-quarter minutes in, Robert Duncan reads, (almost) in its entirety, “Circulations of The Song”] – (“If I do not know where He is He is he very place of my not knowing…”“Let us speak of how these parallel things uphold me so that I fall into place…”)

And. yeah… I didn’t bring the Rumi..  the Rumi is being written in the back of Rumi – there is one more, but I’ll leave you there. That’s where we end  (I won’t.. since I read that last one). There is one more poem.(in the sequence).

This transcription concludes the transcription of Robert Duncan’s 1976 Novato, California, lecture/reading. The transcription may be read in five episodes – here, here, here, here and here.

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