Lionel Ziprin (1924-2009) – 3

Lionel Ziprin, poet (from David Katz’s biographical essay in The Jewish Quarterly)

“Ziprin began writing poetry (early), and received a scholarship to Columbia University, impressing the critic and scholar Mark Van Doren with articles on Thomas Wolfe, Keats and the Greeks..”

Contact at Columbia, with his friend, Asa Benveniste, led to subsequent publication of the poem “Math Glass”. one of several early long poems.

As he (Ziprin) describes it:

“He (Benveniste) was a Turkish Jew,  he had a very good poetry magazine, called The Trigram [Editorial note – subsequently it would evolve into the groundbreaking Trigram Press]. I knew him in college, he went into the army. Later, he stayed in Paris. There were a lot of people who stayed in Paris, it’s a literary place and you can always go to Morocco. “Moroc” they call it, and you can get all the free hashish you want, and come back. He and a guy called Themistocles Hoetis, this guy George Salamos, published a magazine called Zero,  George came to New York, and he said: Give us what you got. So I gave them “Math Glass”, and he published it and somehow T. S. Eliot got a part of it, and wrote me a nice little letter about it.’

Despite fan mail from T.S.Eliot, he barely bothered to pursue a poetic career. “A poet in the prophetic tradition,” as William Grimes has noted, “he did not so much write as open himself up to otherworldly voices”. Judy Upjohn, a later publisher noted, “He would read the stuff we published and would have no idea that he’d written it.”

Among his most famous works was an eleven-hundred-page (yes, an eleven-hundred-page!)  epic poem entitled “Sentencial Metaphrastic”, (“I reduced it to 785 pages, he later remarked,” I call it the longest and most boring poem since Milton’s “Paradise Lost’).  Selections of the poem were published in 1971 by Angus & Hettie MacLise in the magazine Aspen  (Aspen #9 – “The Psychedelic Issue”)  – Those selections are available here

His one and only book (the only book published in his lifetime)  Almost All Lies Are Pocket Size (1990)  was published by the legendary Flockaphobic Press, a project was started by Alexander S. C. Rower, a grandson of the sculptor Alexander Calder

As poet John Yau writes, “The name Flockaphobic means “fear of the flock,” a loathing of all that is mainstream and institutional (both in art and poetry). During the twenty-plus years of its existence, Flockaphobic Press published poetry and prose by writers Rower felt had been neglected.   The publications were in unbook-like forms, which, in (this) case meant a hand-carved box that contained a pamphlet, a scroll, a recording and some loose sheets. Perhaps twenty copies were made, certainly less than one hundred.”

Posthumus publication urgently awaits Lionel.  The process has fortunately begun with the 2017 publication by The Song Cave of  Songs for Schizoid Siblings, a 1958 collection of, in complete contrast to the epic works, short poems , “the very first manuscript of Ziprin’s work ever to be published in its entirety”

Here’s. Ryo Yamaguchi,. from his review in the Michigan Quarterly Review

“Limericks! And songs, nursery rhymes, funny little catalogs, most of which roll out in the meters and rhyme schemes of our childhood. We might think the conceit is ironic, that these are excruciatingly hip — and hip they certainly are — but indulging oneself in these for more than a few minutes and one begins to perceive two distinct qualities to the poems of this three hundred page volume that bring them beyond mere curiosity. First, for as whimsical and wry as these pieces can be, they are also extraordinarily genuine. Second, they evince- both across and within the poems – a sophisticated layering of mystical pursuit, existential inquiry, and historical anxiety. These are, in short, real poems — more real than many.”

Here’s (treasure of treasures) Lionel Ziprin reading from the volume:

and more Lionel

William Grimes ends his New York Times obituary with these lines:

“A man of many words, he managed to write his self-portrait in just a few:

“I have never been arrested. I/have never been institutionalized./I have four children. I am in/receipt of social security benefits./I am not an artist. I am not an/outsider. I am a citizen of the/republic and I have remained/anonymous all the time by choice.”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *