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u> Article Author: Williams, William Carlos, 1883- 

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■<* Article Title: Spring and all, 

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Spring and All 



William Carlos Williams 



I 
I 



V 



Spring and All 

by 

William Carlos Williams 



Copyrighted by the author 



Published by 
Contact Publishing Co. 



To 

Charles Demulh 



Spring and All 



f anything of moment results — so much the 



JL better. And so much the more likely will it be 
lhat no one will want to see it. 

There is a constant barrier between the reader 
and his consciousness of immediate contact with 
the world. If there is an ocean it is here. Or rather, 
the whole world is between : Yesterday, tomorrow, 
Europe, Asia, Africa, — all things removed and 
impossible, the tower of the church at Seville, the 
Parthenon. 

What do they mean when they say : ,, I do not 
like your poems ; you have no faith whatever. You 
seem neither to have suffered nor, in fact, to have 
felt anything very deeply. There is nothing appealing 
in what you say but on the contrary the poems are 
positively repellant. They are heartless, cruel, they 
make fun of humanity. What in God's name do you 
mean ? Are you a pagan ? Have, you no tolerance- 
for human frailty ? Rhyme you may perhaps take 




1 



away but rylhm ! why there is none in your work 
whatever. Is this what you call poetry ? It is the 
very antithesis of poetry. It is antipoetry. It is the 
annihilation of life upon which you are bent. Poetry 
that used to go hand in hand with life, poetry that 
interpreted our deepest promptings, poetry that 
inspired, that led us forward to new discoveries, 
new depths of tolerance, new heights of exaltation. 
You moderns ! it is the death of poetry that you are 
accomplishing. No. I cannot understand this work. 
You have not yet suffered a cruel blow from life. 
When you have suffered you will write differently ? » 

Perhaps this noble apostrophy means something 
terrible for me, I am not certain, but for the moment 
I interpret it to say : « You have robbed me. God,. 
I am naked. What shall I do ? » — By it they mean 
that when I have suffered (provided I have not done 
so as yet) I too shall run for cover ; that I too shall' 
seek refuge in fantasy. And mind you, I do not say 
that I will not. To decorate my age. 

But today it is different. 

The reader knows himself as he was twentv years- 
ago and he has also in mind a vision of what he would 
be, some day. Oh, some day ! But the thing he never 
knows and never dares to know is what he is at the 
exact moment that he is. And this moment is the 



— 3 — 



only thing in which I am at all interested. Ergo, 
who cares for anything I do ? And what do I care ? 

I love my fellow creature. Jesus, how I love him : 
endways, sideways, frontways and all the other ways 
— but he doesn't exist ! Neither does she. I do, in 
a bastardly sort of way. 

To whom then am I addressed ? To the imagina- 
tion. 

In fact to return upon my theme for the time 
nearly all writing, up to the present, if not all art, 
has been especially designed to keep up the barrier 
between sense and the vaporous fringe which dis- 
tracts the attention from its agonized approaches 
to the moment. It has been always a search for „ the 
beautiful illusion ". Very well. I am not in search of 
„ the beautiful illusion ". 

And if when I pompously announce that I am 
addressed — ■ To the imagination — you believe that 
I thus divorce myself from life and so defeat my own 
end, I reply : To refine, to clarify, to intensify that 
eternal moment in which we alone live there is but 
a single force — the imagination. This is its book. 
I myself invite you to read and to see. 

In the imagination, we are from henceforth (so 



long as you read) locked in a fraternal embrace, the 
classic caress of author and reader. We are one. 
Whenever I say „ I " I mean also „ you ". And so, 
together, as one, we shall begin. 



CHAPTER 19 



o meager times, so fat in everything imaginable ! 
imagine the New World that rises to our windows 
from the sea on Mondays and on Saturdays — and 
on every other day of the week also. Imagine it in 
all its prismatic colorings, its counterpart in our 
souls — our souls that are great pianos whose strings, 
of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow 
set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of 
adventure ! Imagine the monster project of the 
moment : Tomorrow we the people of the United 
States are going to Europe armed to kill every man, 
woman and child in the area west of the Carpathian 
Mountains (also east) sparing none. Imagine the 
sensation it will cause. First we shall kill them and 
then they, us. But we are careful to spare the Spanish 
bulls, the birds, rabbits, small deer and of course — 
the Russians. For the Russians we shall build a 
bridge from edge to edge of the Atlantic — having 
first been at pains to slaughter all Canadians and 
Mexicans on this side. Then, oh then, the great feature 
will take place. 



— 5 — 

Never mind ; the great event may not exist, so 
there is no need to speak further of it. Kill I kill I 
the English, the Irish, the French, the Germans, 
the Italians and the rest : friends or enemies, it makes 
no difference, kill them all. The bridge is to be blown 
up when all Russia is upon it. And why ? 

Because we love them — all. That is the secret : 
a new sort of murder. We make leberwurst of them. 
Bratwurst. But why, since we are ourselves doomed 
to suffer the same annihilation ? 

If I could say what is in my mind in Sanscrit or 
even Latin I would do so. But I cannot. I speak for 
the integrity of the soul and the greatness of life's 
inanity ; the formality of its boredom ; the ortho- 
doxy of its stupidity. Kill 1 kill ! let there be fresh 
meat... 

The imagination, intoxicated by prohibitions, 
rises to drunken heights to destroy the world. Let 
it rage, let it kill. The imagination is supreme. To it 
all our works forever, from the remotest past to the 
farthest future, have been, are and will be dedicated. 
To it alone we show our wit by having raised in its 
honor as monument not the least pebble. To it now 
we come to dedicate our secret project : the annihi- 
lation of every human creature on the face of the 
earth. This is something never before attempted. 
None to remain ; nothing but the lower vertebrates, 



_ 6 — 

the mollusks, insects and plants. Then at last will 
the world be made anew. Houses crumble to ruin, 
cities disappear giving place to mounds of soil blown 
thither by the winds, small bushes and grass give way 
to trees which grow old and are succeeded by other 
trees for countless generations. A marvellous serenity 
broken only by bird and wild beast calls reigns over 
the entire sphere. Order and peace abound. 

This final and self inflicted holocaust has been 
all for love, for sweetest love, that together the human 
race, yellow, black, brown, red and white, agglutinat- 
ed into one enormous soul may be gratified with the 
sight and retire to the heaven of heavens content to 
rest on its laurels. There, soul of souls, watching its 
own horrid unity, it boils and digests itself within 
the tissues of the great Being of Eternity that we 
shall then have become. With what magnificent 
explosions and odors will not the day be accomplish- 
ed as we, the Great One among all creatures, shall 
go about contemplating our self-prohibited desires 
as we promenade them before the inward review 
of our own bowels — et cetera, et cetera, et cetera... 
and it is spring — both in Latin and Turkish, in 
English and Dutch, in Japanese and Italian ; it is 
spring by Stinking River where a magnolia tree, 
without leaves, before what was once a farmhouse, 
now a ramshackle home for millworkers, raises its 
straggling branches of ivorywhile flowers. 



_ / — 



IIIX HaXdVHD 

Thus, weary of life, in view of the great consum- 
mation which awaits us — tomorrow, we rush among 
■our friends congratulating ourselves upon the joy 
soon to be. Thoughtless of evil we crush out the 
marrow of those about us with our heavy cars as 
we go happily from place to place. It seems that 
there is not time enough in which to speak the full 
•of our exaltation. Only a day is left, one miserable 
day, before the world comes into its own. Let us 
hurry ! Why bother for this man or that ? In the 
•offices of the great newspapers a mad joy reigns as 
they prepare the final extras. Rushing about, men 
bump each other into the whirring presses. How 
funny it seems. All thought of misery has left us. 
Why should we care ? Children laughingly fling 
themselves under the wheels of the street cars, 
airplanes crash gaily to the earth. Someone has 
written a poem. 

Oh life, bizarre fowl, what color are your wings ? 
Green, blue, red, yellow, purple, white, brown, 
orange, black, grey ? In the imagination, flying 
above the week of ten thousand million souls, I see 
you departing sadly for the land of plants and insects, 
already far out to sea. (Thank you, I know well what 



— 8 — 

I am plagiarising) Your great wings flap as you 
disappear in the distance over the pre-Columbian 
acres of floating weed. 

The new cathedral overlooking the park, looked 
down from its towers today, with great eyes, and 
saw by the decorative lake a group of people staring 
curiously at the corpse of a suicide : Peaceful, dead 
young man, the money they have put into the stones 
has been spent to teach men of life's austerity. You 
died and teach us the same lesson. You seem a 
cathedral, celebrant of the spring which shivers for 
me among the long black trees. 

CHAPTER VI 

Now, in the imagination, all flesh, all human 
flesh has been dead upon the earth for ten million, 
billion years. The bird has turned into a stone within 
whose heart an egg, unlayed, remained hidden. 

It is spring ! but miracle of miracles a miraculous 
miracle has gradually taken place during these 
seemingly wasted eons. Through the orderly se- 
quences of unmentionable time EVOLUTION HAS 
REPEATED ITSELF FROM THE BEGINNING. 



Good God ! 



— 9 — 

Every step once taken in the first advance of the 
human race, from the amoeba to the highest type 
of intelligence, has been duplicated, every step 
exactly paralleling the one that preceeded in the 
dead ages gone by. A perfect plagiarism results- 
Everything is and is new. Only the imagination is 
undeceived. 

At this point the entire complicated and laborious 
process begins to near a new day. (More of this in 
Chapter XIX) But for the moment everything is 
fresh, perfect, recreated. 

In fact now, for the first time, everything IS new. 
Now at last the perfect effect is being witlessly disco- 
vered. The terms „ veracity " „ actuality " „ real " 
„ natural " „ sincere " are being discussed at length, 
every word in the discussion being evolved from an 
identical discussion which took place the day before 
yesterday. 

Yes, the imagination, drunk with prohibitions, 
has destroyed and recreated everything afresh in 
the likeness of that which it was. Now indeed men 
look about in amazement at each other with a full 
realization of the meaning of „ art ". 



CHAPTER 2 



It is spring : life again begins to assume its normal 
appearence as of „ today ". Only the imagination 
is undeceived. The volcanos are extinct. Coal is 
beginning to be dug again where the fern forests 
stood last night. (If an error is noted here, pay no 
attention to it). 

CHAPTER XIX 

I realize that the chapters are rather quick in their 
sequence and that nothing much is contained in any 
one of them but no one should be surprised at this 
today. 

THE TRADITIONALISTS OF PLAGIARISM 

It is spring. That is to say, it. is approaching THE 
BEGINNING. 

In that huge and microscopic career of time, as it 
were a wild horse racing in an illimitable pampa 
under the stars, describing immense and microsco- 
pic circles with his hoofs on the solid turf, running 
without a stop for the millionth part of a second 



— 11 — 

until lie is aged and worn to a heap of skin, bones 
and ragged hoofs — In that majestic progress of life, 
that gives the exact impression of Phidias' frizze, 
the men and beasts of which, though they seem of 
the rigidity of marble are not so but move, with 
blinding rapidity, though we do not have the time 
to notice it, their legs advancing a millionth part 
of an inch even,- fifty thousand years — In that 
progress of life which seems stillness itself in the mass 
of its movements — at last SPRING is approaching. 

In that colossal surge toward the finite and the 
capable life has now arrived for the second lime at 
that exact moment when in the ages past the des- 
truction of the species Homo sapiens occured. 

Now at last that process of miraculous verisimi- 
litude, that grate copying which evolution has 
followed, repeating move for move every move that 
it made in the past — is approaching the end. 

Suddenly it is at an end. THE WORLD IS NEW. 
I 

By the road to the contagious hospital 
under the surge of the blue 
mottled clouds driven from the 



— 12 — 



northeast — a cold wind. Beyond, the 

waste of broad, muddy fields 

brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen 

patches of standing water 
the scattering of tall trees 

All along the road the reddish 
purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy 
stuff of bushes and small trees 
with dead, brown leaves under them 
leafless vines — ■ 

Lifeless in appearance, sluggish 
dazed spring approaches — 

They enter the new world naked, 
cold, uncertain of all 
save that they enter. All about them 
the cold, familiar wind — 

Now the grass, tomorrow 
the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf 

One by one objects are defined — 
It quickens : clarity, outline of leaf 

But now the stark dignity of 

entrance — Still, the profound change 



— 13 — 



has come upon then : rooted they 
grip down and begin to awaken 

II 

Pink confused with white 
flowers and flowers reversed 
take and spill the shaded flame 
darting it back 
into the lamp's horn 

petals aslant darkened with mauve 

red where in whorls 

petal lays its glow upon petal 

round flamegreen throats 

petals radiant with transpiercing light 
contending 

above 

the leaves 

reaching up their modest green 
from the pot's rim 

and there, wholly dark, the pot 
gay with rough moss. 



— 14 — 

A terrific confusion has taken place. No man knows 
whither to turn. There is nothing ! Emptiness stares 
us once more in the face. Whither? To what end?. 
Each asks the other. Has life its tail in its mouth or 
its mouth in its tail ? Why are we here ? Dora 
Marsden's philosophic algebra. Everywhere men look 
into each other's faces and ask the old unanswerable 
question : Whither ? Mow ? What ? Why ? 

At any rate, now at last spring is here i 

The rock has split, the egg has hatched, the pris- 
matically plumed bird of life has escaped from its 
cage. It spreads its wings and is perched now on 
the peak of the huge African mountain Kilimanjaro. 

Strange recompense, in the depths of our despair 
at the unfathomable mist into which all mankind is 
plunging, a curious force awakens. It is HOPE long 
asleep, aroused once more. Wilson has taken an army 
of advisers and sailed for England. The ship has 
sunk. But the men are all good swimmers. They take 
the women on their shoulders and buoyed on by the 
inspiration of the moment they churn the free seas 
with their sinewey arms, like Ulysses, landing all 
along the European seaboard. 



Yes, hope has awakened once more in men's 
hearts. It is the NEW ! Let us go forward ! 



— 15 — 

The imagination, freed from the handcuffs of 
„ art ", takes the lead ! Her feet are bare and not 
too delicate. In fact those who come behind her have 
much to think of. Hm. Let it pass. 



CHAPTER I 

Samuel Butler 

The great English divine, Sam Butler, is shouting 
from a platform, warning us as we pass : There are 
two who can invent some extraordinary thing to 
one who can properly employ that which has been 
made use of before. 

Enheartened by this thought THE TRADI- 
TIONALISTS OF PLAGIARISM try to get hold 
of the mob. They seize those nearest them and shout 
into their ears : Tradition ! The solidarity of life 1 

The fight is on : These men who have had the 
governing of the mob through all the repetitious 
years resent the new order. Who can answer them ? 
One perhaps here and there but it is an impossible 
situation. If life were anything but a bird, if it were 
a man, a Greek or an Egyptian, but it is only a bird 
that has eves and wings, a beak, talons and a cry 
that reaches to every rock's center, but without 
intelligence ? — 



The voice of the Delphic Oracle itself, what was 
it ? A poisonous gas from a rock's cleft. 

Those who led yesterday wish to hold their sway 
a while longer. It is not difficult to understand their 
mood. They have their great weapons to hand : 
„ science ", „ philosophy " and most dangerous of 
all „ art 

Meanwhile, SPRING, which has been approaching 
for several pages, is at last here. 

— they ask us to return to the proven truths of 
tradition, even to the twice proven, the substan- 
tiality of which is known. Denmth and a few others 
do their best to point out the error, telling us that 
design is a function of the IMAGINATION, describ- 
ing its movements, its colors — but it is a hard battle. 
I myself seek to enter the lists with these few notes 
jotted down in the midst of the action, under distract- 
ing circumstances — to remind mvsclf (see p. 2, 
paragraph 1) of the truth. 

Ill 

The farmer in deep thought 
is pacing through the rain 
among his blank fields, with 
hands in pockets, 



— 17 — 



in his head 

the harvest already planted. 
A cold wind ruffles the water 
among the browned weeds. 
On all sides 

the world rolls coldly away : 
black orchards 

darkened by the March clouds — 
leaving room for thought. 
Down past the brushwood 
bristling by 

the rainsluiced wagonroad 
looms the artist figure of 
the farmer — composing 
— antagonist 



IV 

The Easter stars are shining 
above lights that are flashing — 
coronal of the black — 

Nobody 

to say it — 

Nobody to say : pinholes 

Thither I would carry her 
among the lights — 
Burst it asunder 



— 18 — 

break through to the fifty words 
necessary — 

a crown for her head with 
caslles upon it, skyscrapers 
filled with nut-chocolates — 

dovetame winds — 

stars of tinsel 

from the great end of a cornucopia 
of glass 



So long as the sky is recognised as an asso- 
ciation 

is recognised in its function of accessory to vague 
words whose meaning it is impossible to rediscover 

its value can be nothing but mathematical certain 
limits of gravity and density of air 

The farmer and the fisherman who read their own 
lives there have a practical corrective for — 

they rediscover or replace demoded meanings to 
the religious terms 

Among them, without expansion of imagination, 
there is the residual contact between life and the 
imagination which is essential to freedom 

The man of imagination who turns to art for 
release and fulfilment of his baby promises contends 
with the sky through layers of demoded words and 
shapes. Demoded, not because the essential vital- 
ity which begot them is laid waste — this cannot 
be so, a young man feels, since he feels it in himself 



— 20 — 

— but because meanings have been lost through 
laziness or changes in the form of existance which 
have let words empty. 

Hare handed the man contends with the sky, 
without experience of existence seeking to invent 
and design. 

Crude symbolism is to associate emotions with 
natural phenomena such as anger with lightning, 
flowers with love it goes further and associates 
certain textures with 

Such work is empty. It is very typical of almost 
all that is done by the writers who fill the pages 
even- month of such a paper as. Everything that I 
have done in the past — except those parts which 
may be called excellent — by chance, have that qua- 
lity about them. 

It is typified by use of the word « like » or that 
» evocation » of the « image » which served us for a 
time. Its abuse is apparent. The insignificant « image » 
may be « evoked » never so ably and still mean 
nothing. 

With all his faults Alfred Kreymborg never did 
this. That is why his work — escaping a common 



y 

— 21 — 

fault — still has value and will tomorrow have more. 

Sandburg, when uninspired by intimacies of the 
eye and ear, runs into this empty symbolism. Such 
poets of promise as ruin themselves with it, though 
many have major sentimental faults besides. 

Marianne Moore escapes. The incomprehensibility 
of her poems is witness to at what cost (she cleaves 
herself away) as it is also to the distance which the 
most are from a comprehension of the purpose of 
composition. 

The better work men do is always done under 
stress and at great personal cost. 

It is no different from the aristocratic compositions 
of the earlier times, The Homeric inventions 

but 

these occured in different times, to this extent, that 
life had not yed sieved through its own multiformity. 
That aside, the work the two-thousand-year-old poet 
did and that we do are one piece. That is the vitality 
of the classics. 

So then — Nothing is put down in the present book 
— except through weakness of the imagination — 
which is not intended as of a piece with the « nature » 
which Shakespeare mentions and which Hartley 



')') 



speaks of so completely in his « Adventures » : it is 
the common tiling which is annonymously about us. 

Composition is in no essential an escape from life. 
In fact if it is so it is negligeable to the point of insig- 
nificance. Whatever « life » the artist may be forced 
to lead has no relation to the vitality of his compo- 
sitions. Such names as Homer, the blind ; Schehe- 
razade, who lived under threat — Their compositions 
have as their excellence an identity with life since 
they are as actual, as sappy as the leaf of the tree 
which never moves from one spot. 

What I put down of value will have this value : 
an escape from crude symbolism, the annihilation 
of strained associations, complicated ritualistic forms 
designed to separate the work from « reality » — such 
as rhyme, meter as meter and not as the essential of 
the work, one of its words. 

But this smacks loo much of the nature of — This 
is all negative and appears to be boastful. It is not 
intended to be so. Rather the opposite 

The work will be in the realm of the imagination 
as plain as the sky is to a fisherman — A verv clouded 
sentence. The word must be put down for itself, not 
as a symbol of nature but a part, cognisant of the 
whole — aware — civilized. 



— 23 — 



V 

Blacks wind from the north 
enter black hearts. Barred from 
seclusion in lilys they strike 
to destroy — 

Beastly humanity 

where the wind breaks it — 

strident voices, heat 
quickened, built of waves 

Drunk with- goats or pavements 

Hate his of the night and the day 
of flowers and rocks. Nothing 
is gained by saying the night breeds 
murder — It is the classical mistake 

The day 

All that enters in another person 
all grass, all blackbirds flying 
all azalia trees in flower 
salt winds — 



— 24 — 

Sold to them men knock blindly together 
splitting their heads open 

That is why boxing matches and 

Chinese poems are the same — That is why 

Hartley praises Miss Wirt 

There is nothing in the twist 

of the wind but — dashes of cold rain 

It is one with submarine vistas 
purple and black fish turning 
among undulant seaweed — 

Black wind, I have poured my heart out 
to you until I am sick of it — 

Now I run my hand over you feeling 
the play of your body — the quiver 
of its strength — ■ 

The grief of the bowmen of Shu 

moves nearer — There is 

an approach with difficulty from 

the dead — the winter casing of grief 

How easy to slip 

into the old mode, how hard to 

cling firmly to the advance — 



— 25 



VI 

No that is not it 
nothing that I have done 
nothing 
I have done 

is made up of 
nothing 

and the dipthong 
ae 

together with 
the first person 
singular 
indicative 

of the auxilliary 

verb 

to have 

everything 
I have done 
is the same 



if to do 



— 26 — 



is capable 
of an 
infinity of 
combinations 

involving the 
moral 
physical 
and religious 

codes 

for everything 
and nothing 
are synonymous 
wrhen 

energy in vacuuo 
has the power 
of confusion 

which only to 
have done nothing 
can make 
perfect 



The inevitable flux of the seeing eye toward meas- 
uring itself by the world it inhabits can only result 



— 27 — 

in himself crushing humiliation unless the individual 
raise to some approximate co-extension with the 
universe. This is possible by aid of the imagination. 
Only through the agency of this force can a man feel 
himself moved largely with sympathetic pulses at 
work — 

A work of the imagination which fails to release 
the senses in accordance with this major requisite — 
the sympathies, the intelligence in its selective world, 
fails at the elucidation, the alleviation which is — 

In the composition, the artist does exactly what 
every eye must do with life, fix the particular with 
the universality of his own personality — Taught by 
the largeness of his imagination to feel every form 
-which he sees moving within himself, he must prove 
the truth of this by expression. 

The contraction which is felt. 

All this being anterior to technique, that can have 
only a sequent value ; but since all that appears to 
the senses on a work of art does so through 

fixation by 

the imagination of the external as well internal means 
of expression the essential nature of technique or 
transcription. 



Only when this position is reached can life proper 



— 28 — 

be said to begin since only then can a value be affixed 
to the forms and activities of which it consists. 

Only then can the sense of frustration which ends. 
All composition defeated. 

Only through the imagination is the advance of 
intelligence possible, to keep beside growing under- 
standing. 

Complete lack of imagination would be the same 
at the cost of intelligence, complete. 

Even the most robust constitution has its limits, 
though the Roman feast with its reliance upon regur- 
gitation to prolong it shows an active ingenuity, yet 
the powers of a man are so pitifully small, with the 
ocean to swallow — that at the end of the feast 
nothing would be left but suicide. 

That or the imagination which in this case takes 
the form of humor, is known in that form — the 
release from physical necessity. Having eaten to the 
full we must acknowledge our insufficiency since we 
have not annihilated all food nor even the quantity 
of a good sized steer. However we have annihilated 
all eating : quite plainly we have no more appetite. 
This is to say that the imagination has removed us 
from the banal necessity of bursting ourselves — by 



— 29 — 

acknowledging a new situation. We must acknowledge 
that the ocean we would drink is too vast — but at 
the same time we realize that extension in our case 
is not confined to the intestine only. The stomach 
is full, the ocean no fuller, both have the same qua- 
lity of fullness. In that, then, one is equal to the 
other. Having eaten, the man has released his mind. 

THIS catalogue might be increased to larger pro- 
portions without stimulating the sense. 

In works of the imagination I hat which is taken 
for great good sense, so that it seems as if an accurate 
precept were discovered, is in reality not so, but 
vigor and accuracy of the imagination alone. In work 
such as Shakespeares — 

This leads to the discovery that has been made 
today — old catalogues aside — full of meat — 

" the divine illusion has about it that inaccuracy 
which reveals that which I mean ". 

There is only „ illusion " in art where ignorance 
of the bystander confuses imagination and its works 
with cruder processes. Truly men feel an enlarge- 
ment before great or good work, an expansion but 
this is not, as so many believe today a „ lie ", a 
stupefaction, a kind of mesmerism, a thing to block 



— 30 — 



out " life ", bitter to the individual, by a " vision 
of beauty ". It is a work of the imagination. It 
gives the feeling of completion by revealing the 
oneness of experience ; it rouses rather than stupefies 
the intelligence by demonstrating the importance 
of personality, by showing the individual, depressed 
before it, that his life is valuable — when completed 
by the imagination. And then only. Such work 
elucidates — 

Such a realization shows us the falseness of 
attempting to " copy " nature. The thing is equally 
silly when we try to " make " pictures — 

But such a picture as that of Juan Gris, though 
I have not seen it in color, is important as marking 
more clearly than any I have seen what the modern 
trend is : the attempt is being made to separate 
things of the imagination from life, and obviously, 
by using the forms common to experience so as 
not to frighten the onlooker away but to invite 
him, 

The rose is obsolete 
but each petal ends in 
an edge, the double facet 
cementing the grooved 
columns of air — The edge 
cuts without cutting 



— 31 — 



meets — nothing — renews 
itself in metal or porcelain — 

whither ? It ends — 

But if it ends 
the start is begun 
so that to engage roses 
becomes a geometry — ■ 

Sharper, neater, more cutting 
figured in majolica — 
the broken plate 
glazed with a rose 

Somewhere the sense 
makes copper roses 
steel roses — 

The rose carried weight of love 
but love is at an end — of roses 

If is at the edge of the 
petal that love waits 

Crisp, worked to defeat 
laboredness — fragile 
plucked, moist, half-raised 
cold, precise, touching 



What 



— 32 — 



The place between the petal's 
edge and the 

From the petal's edge a line starts 

that being of steel 

infinitely fine, infinitely 

rigid penetrates 

the Milky Way 

without contact — lifting 

from it — neither hanging 

nor pushing — 

The fragility of the flower 

imbruised 

penetrates spaces 

VIII 

The sunlight in a 
yellow plaque upon the 
varnished floor 

is full of a song 

inflated to 

fifty pounds pressure 



— 33 — 

at the faucet of 
June that rings 
the triangle of the air 

pulling at the 
anemonies in 
Persephone's cow pasture 

When from among 
the steel rocks leaps 
J. P. M. 

who enjoyed 
extraordinary privileges 
among virginity 

to solve the core 
of whirling flywheels 
by cutting 

the Gordian knot 
with a Veronese or 
perhaps a Rubens — 

whose cars are about 

the finest on 

the market today — 

And so it comes 



— 34 — 



to motor cars — 
which is the son 

leaving off the g 

of sunlight and grass — 

Impossible 

to say, impossible 
to underestimate — 
wind, earthquakes in 

Manchuria, a 

partridge 

from dry leaves 

things with which he is familiar, simple things 
— at the same time to detach them from ordinary 
experience to the imagination. Thus they are still 
" real " they are the same things they would be 
it photographed or painted by Monet, they are 
recognizable as the things touched by the hands 
during the day, but in this painting they are seen 
to be in some peculiar way — ■ detached 

Here is a shutter, a bunch of grapes, a sheet of 
music, a picture of sea and mountains (particularly 
fine) which the onlooker is not for a moment permitted 
to witness as an " illusion ". One- thing laps over 
on the other, the cloud laps over on the shutter, 



— 35 — 

the bunch of grapes is part of the handle of the 
guitar, the mountain and sea are obviously not 
" the mountain and sea ", but a picture of the 
mountain and the sea. All drawn with admirable 
simplicity and excellent design — all a unity — 

This was not necessary where the subject of art 
was not " reality " but related to the " gods " — 
by force or otherwise. There was no need of the 
" illusion " in such a case since there was none 
possible where a picture or a work represented 
simply the imaginative reality which existed in the 
mind of the onlooker. No special effort was necessary 
to cleave where the cleavage already existed. 

I don't know what the Spanish see in their Velas- 
quez and Goya but 

Today where everything is being brought into 
sight the realism of art has bewildered us, confused 
us and forced us to re-invent in order to retain 
that which the older generations had without that 
effort. 

Cezanne — 

The only realism in art is of the imagination. 
It is only thus that the work escapes plagiarism 
after nature and becomes a creation 



— 36 — 

Invention of new forms to embody this reality 
of art, the one thing which art is, must occupy all 
serious minds concerned. 

From the time of Poe in the U. S. — the first 
American poet had to be a man of great separation — 
with close identity with life. Poe could not have 
written a word without the violence of expulsive 
emotion combined with the in-driving force of a 
crudely repressive environment. Between the two 
his imagination was forced into being to keep him 
to that reality, completeness, sense of escape which 
is felt in his work — his topics. Typically American 
— accurately, even inevitably set in his time. 

So, after this tedious diversion — whatever of 
dull you find among my work, put it down to criti- 
cism, not to poetry. You will not be mistaken — 
Who am I but my own critic ? Surely in isolation 
one becomes a god — At least one becomes something 
of everything, which is not wholly godlike, yet a 
little so — in many things. 

It is not necessary to count every flake of the 
truth that falls ; it is necessary to dwell in the 
imagination if the truth is to be numbered. It is 
necessary to speak from the imagination — 

The great furor about perspective in Holbein's 



— 37 — 



day had as a consequence much fine drawing, it 
made coins defy gravity, standing on the table as 
if in the act of falling. To say this was lifelike must 
have been satisfying to the master, it gave depth, 
pungency. 

But all the while the picture escaped notice — 
partly because of the perspective. Or if noticed it 
was for the most part because one could see " the 
birds pecking at the grapes " in it. 

Meanwhile the birds were pecking at the grapes 
outside the window and in the next street Bauer- 
meister Kummel was letting a gold coin slip from 
his fingers to the counting table. 

The representation was perfect, it " said some- 
thing one was used to hearing *' but with verve, 
cleverly. 

Thus perspective and clever drawing kept the 
picture continually under cover of the " beautiful 
illusion '* until today, when even Anatole France 
trips, saying : " Art — all lies ! " — today when we 
are beginning to discover the truth that in great 
works of the imagination A CREATIVE FORCE IS 
SHOWN AT WORK MAKING OBJECTS WHICH 
ALONE COMPLETE SCIENCE AND ALLOW 
INTELLIGENCE TO SURVIVE — his picture 



— 38 — 



lives anew. It lives as pictures only can : by their 
power TO ESCAPE ILLUSION and stand between 
man and nature as saints once stood between man 
and the sky — their reality in such work, say, as 
that of Juan Gris 

No man could suffer the fragmentary nature of 
his understanding of his own life — - 

Whitman's proposals are of the same piece with the 
modem trend toward imaginative understanding of 
life. The largeness which he interprets as his identity 
with the least and the greatest about him, his " demo- 
cracy " represents the • vigor of his imaginative 
life." 

IX 

What about all this writing ? 
O Kiki " 

0 Miss Margaret Jarvis 
The backhandspring 

1 : clean 

clean 

clean : yes.. New- York 



— 39 — 



Wrigley's, appendecitis, John Marin : 
skyscraper soup — 

Either that or a bullet 1 
Once 

anything might have happened 
You lay relaxed on my knees — 
the starry night 
spread out warm and blind 
above the hospital — 

Pah ! 

It is unclean 

which is not straight to the mark — 

In my life the furniture cats me 

the chairs, the floor 
the walls 

which heard your sobs 

drank up my emotion — 

they which alone know everything 

and snitched on us in the morning — 



What to want ? 



— 10 — 

Drunk we go forward surely 
Not I 

beds, beds, beds 
elevators, fruit, night-tables 
breasts to see, white and blue — 
to hold in the hand, to nozzle 

It is not onion soup 

Your sobs soaked through the walls 

breaking the hospital to pieces 

Everything 

— windows, chairs 
obscenely drunk, spinning — 
while ,blue, orange 

— hot with our passion 

wild tears, desperate rejoinders 
my legs, turning slowly 
end over end in the air I 

But what would you have ? 

AH I said was : 

there, you see, it is broken 

stockings, shoes, hairpins 

your bed, I wrapped myself round you 



_ 41 — 



I watched. 

You sobbed, you beat your pillow 

you tore your hair 

you dug your nails into your sides 

I was your nightgown 

I watched I 

Clean is he alone 

after whom stream 

the broken pieces of the city — 

flying apart at his approaches 

but I merely 
caress you curiously 

fifteen years ago and you still 
go about the city, they say 
patching up sick school children 

Understood in a practical way, without calling 
upon mystic agencies, of this or that order, it is that 
life becomes actual only when it is identified with 
ourselves. When we name it, life exists. To repeat 
physical experiences has no — 

The only means he has to give value to life is to 
recognise it with the imagination and name it ; this is 



— 42 — 

so. To repeat and repeat the thing without naming 
it is only to dull the sense and results in frustration. 

this make the artist the prey of life. He is easy of 
attack. 

I think often of my earlier work and what it has cost 
me not to have been clear. I acknowledge I have 
moved chaotically about refusing or rejecting most 
things, seldom accepting values or acknowledging 
anything. 

because I early recognised the 
futility of acquisitive understanding and at the same 
time rejected religious dogmatism. My whole life has 
been spent (so far) in seeking to place a value upon 
experience and the objects of experience that would 
satisfy my sense of inclusiveness without redundancy 
— completeness, lack of frustration with the liberty 
of choice ; the tilings which the pursuit of « art » 
offers — 

But though I have felt « free » only in the presence 
of works of the imagination, knowing the quickening 
of the sense which came of it, and though this expe- 
rience has held me firm at such times, yet being of a 
slow but accurate understanding, I have not always 
been able to complete the intellectual steps which 
would make me firm in the position. 



— 43 — 

So most of my life has been lived in hell — a hell 
-of repression lit by flashes of inspiration, when a 
poem such as this or that would appear 

What would have happened in a world similarly 
lit by the imagination 

Oh yes, you are a writter ! a phrase that has often 
damned me, to myself. I rejected it with heat but 
the stigma remained. Not a man, not an under- 
standing but a WRITER. I was unable to recognize. 

I do not forget with what heat too I condemned 
some poems of some contemporary praised because 
of their loveliness — 

I find that I was somewhat mistaken — ungenerous 

Life's processes are very simple. One or two moves 
are made and that is the end. The rest is repetitious. 

The Improvisations — coming at a time when I 
was trying to remain firm at great cost — I had 
recourse to the expedient of letting life go completely 
in order to live in the world of my choice. 

I let the imagination have its 
own way to see if it could save itself. Something very 
definite" came of it. I found myself alleviated but 



— 44 — 

most important I began there and then to revalue 
experience, to understand what I was at — 

The virtue of the improvisations is their placement 
in a world of new values — 

their fault is their dislocation of 
sense, often complete. But it is the best I could do 
under the circumstances. It was the best I could 
do and retain an} - value to experience at all. 

Now I have come to a different condition. I find 
that the values there discovered can be extended. I 
find myself extending the understanding to the work 
of others and to other things — 

I find that there is work to be done in the 
creation of new forms, new names for experience 

and that « beauty » is related not to "loveliness » 
but to a state in which reality playes a part 

Such painting as that of Juan Gris, coming after 
the impressionists, the expressionists, Cezanne — 
and dealing severe strokes as well to the expression- 
its as to the impressionists group — points forward 
to what will prove the greatest painting yet produced. 

— the illusion once dispensed with, painting has 



Ihis problem before it : to replace not the forms but 
the reality of experience with its own — 

up to now shapes and meanings but always the 
illusion relying on composition to give likeness lo 
« nature » 

now works of art cannot be left in this category of 
France's « lie », they must be real, not « realism » but 
reality itself — 

they must give not the sense of frustration but a 
sense "of completion, of actuality — It is not a matter 
of « representation » — much may be represented 
actually, but of separate existence. 

enlargement — revivification of values, 
X 

The universality of tilings 
draws me toward the candy 
with melon flowers that open 

about the edge of refuse 
proclaiming without accent 
the quality of the farmer's 



— 46 — 

shoulders and his daughter's 
accidental skin, so sweet 
with clover and the small 

yellow cinquefoil in the 

parched places. It is 

this that engages the favorable 

distortion of eyeglasses 

that see everything and remain 

related to mathematics — 

in the most practical frame of 
brown celluloid made to 
represent tortoiseshell — 

A letter from the man who 
wants to start a new magazine 
made of linen 

and he owns a typewriter — 

July 1, 1922 

All this is for eyeglasses 

to discover. But 

they lie there with the gold 

earpieces folded down 



tranquilly Titicaca — 



— 47 



XI 

In passing with my mind 
on nothing in the world 

but the right of way 
I enjoy on the road by 

virtue of the law — 
I saw 

an elderly man who 
smiled and looked away 

to the north past a house — 
a woman in blue 

who was laughing and 
leaning forward to look up 

into the man's half 
averted face 

and a boy of eight who was 
looking at the middle of 

the man's belly 
at a watchchain — 



— 48 — 



The supreme importance 
of this nameless spectacle 

sped me by them 
Avithout a word — 

Why bother where I went ? 
for I went spinning on the 

four wheels of my car 
along the wet road until 

I saw a girl with one leg 
over the rail of a balcony 

When in the condition of imaginative suspense 
only will the writting have reality, as explained 
partially in what preceeds — Not to attempt, at that 
time, to set values on the word being used, according 
to presupposed measures, but to write down that 
which happens at that time — 

To perfect the ability to record at the moment 
when the consciousness is enlarged by the sympa- 
thies and the unity of understanding which the 
imagination gives, to practice skill in recording the 
force moving, then to know it, in the largeness of 
its proportions — 



— 49 — 



It is the presence of a 

This is not " fit " but a unification of experience 

That is, the imagination is an actual force compar- 
able to electricity or steam, it is not a plaything 
but a power that has been used from the first to 
raise the understanding of — it is, not necessary to 
resort to mystecisism — fn fact it is this which has 
kept back the knowledge I seek — 

The value of the imagination Lo the writer consists 
in its ability to make words. Its unique power is to 
give created forms reality, actual existence 

This separates 

Writing is not a searching about in the daily 
experience for apt similies and pretty thoughts and 
images. I have experienced that to my sorrow. It 
is not a conscious recording of the day's experiences 
" freshly and with the appearance of reality " — 
This sort of thing is seriously to the development 
of any ability in a man, it fastens him down, makes 
him a — It destroys, makes nature an accessory to 
the particular theory he is following, it blinds him 
to his world, — 

The writer of imagination would find himself 

4 



— 50 — 

released from observing things for the purpose of 
writing them down later. He would be there to 
enjoy, to taste, to engage the free world, not a 
world which he carries like a bag of food, always 
fearful lest he drop something or someone get more 
than he, 

A world detached from the necessity of recording 
it, sufficient to itself, removed from him (as it 
most certainly is) with which he has bitter and 
delicious relations and from which he is independant 
— moving at will from one thing to another — as 
he pleases, unbound — complete 

and the unique proof of this is the work of the 
imagination not " like " anything but transfused 
with the same forces which transfuse the earth — at 
least one small part of them. 

Nature is the hint to composition not because it 
is familiar to us and therefore the terms we apply 
to it have a least common denominator quality 
which gives them currency — but because it possesses 
the quality of independant existance, of reality 
which we feel in ourselves. It is not opposed to art 
but apposed to it. 

I suppose Shakespeare's familiar aphorism about 
holding the mirror up to nature has done more 



— 51 — 

harm in stabilizing the copyist tendency of the arts 
among us than — 

the mistake in it (though we forget that it is not 
S. speaking but an imaginative character of his) 
is to have believed that the reflection of nature is 
nature. It is not. It is only a sham nature, a " lie ". 

Of course S. is the most conspicuous example 
desirable of the falseness of this very thing. 

He holds no mirror up to nature but with his 
imagination rivals nature's composition with his 
own. 

He himself become " nature " — continuing 
" its " marvels — if you will 

I am often diverted with a recital which I have 
made for myself concerning Shakespeare : he was 
a comparatively uninformed man, quite according 
to the orthodox tradition, who lived from first to 
last a life of amusing regularity and simplicity, a 
house and wife in the suburbs, delightful children, 
a girl at court (whom he really never confused with 
his writing) and a cafe life which gave him with the 
freshness of discovery, the information upon which 
his imagination fed. London was full of the concen- 
trates of science and adventure. He saw at " The 



— 52 — 

Mermaid " everything he knew. He was not con- 
spicuous there except for his spirits. 

His form was presented to him by Marlow, his 
stories were the common talk of his associates or 
else some compiler set them before him. His types 
were particularly quickened with life about him. 

Feeling the force of life, in his peculiar intelligence, 
the great dome of his head, he had no need of any- 
thing but writing material to relieve himself of his 
thoughts. His very lack of scientific training loosened 
his power. He was unencumbered. 

For S. to pretend to knowledge would have been 
ridiculous — no escape there — but that he possessed 
knowledge, and extraordinary knowledge, of the 
affairs which concerned him, as they concerned the 
others about him, was self-apparent to him. It was 
not apparent to the others. 

His actual power was PURELY of the imagina- 
tion. Not permitted to speak as W.S., in fact pecu- 
liarly barred from speaking so because of his lack 
of information, learning, not being able to rival his 
fellows in scientific training or adventure and at the 
same time being keen enough, imaginative enough, 
to know that there is no escape except in perfection, 
in excellence, in technical excellence — his buoyancy 



— 53 — 

of imagination raised him NOT TO COPY them, 
not to holding the mirror up to them but to equal, to 
surpass them as a creator of knowledge, as a vigorous, 
living force above their heads. 

His escape was not simulated but real. Hamlet 
no doubt was written about at the middle of his life. 

He speaks authoritatively through invention, 
through characters, through design. The objects 
of his world were real to him because, he could use 
them and use them with understanding to make his 
inventions — 

The imagination is a — 

The vermiculations of modern criticism of S. parti- 
cularly amuse when the attempt is made to force 
the role of a Solon upon the creator of Richard 3d. 

So I come again to my present day gyrations. 

So it is with the other classics : their meaning and 
worth can only be studied and understood in the 
imagination — - that which begot them only can give 
them life again, re-enkindle their perfection — 

useless to study by rote or scientific research — 
Useful for certain understanding to corroborate the 
imagination — 



— 54 — 

Yes, Anatole was a fool when he said : It is a lie. — 
That is it. IF the actor simulates life it is a lie. But 
— but why continue without an audience ? 

The reason people marvel at works of art and say : 
How in Christ's name did he do it ? — is that they 
know nothing of the physiology of the nervous system 
and have never in their experience witnessed the 
larger processes of the imagination. 

It is a step over from the profitless engagements 
of the arithmetical. 

XII 

The red paper box 
hinged with cloth 

is lined 
inside and out 
with imitation 
leather 

It is the sun 
the table 
with dinner 
on it for 

these are the same — 



— ao — 

Its twoinch trays 
have engineers 
that convey glue 
to airplanes 

or for old ladies 
that darn socks 
paper clips 
and red elastics — 

What is the end 
to insects 
that suck gummed 
labels ? 

for this is eternity 
through its 
dial we discover 
transparent tissue 
on a spool 

But the stars 
are round 
cardboard 
with a tin edge 

and a ring 

to fasten them 

to a trunk 

for the vacation — 



XIII 



Crustaccous 
wedge 

of sweaty kitchens 
on rock 
overtopping 
thrusts of the sea 

Waves of steel 
from 

swarming backstreets 

shell 

of coral 

inventing 

electricity — 

Lights 
speckle 
El Greco 
lakes 

in renaissance 
twilight 

with triphammers 

which pulverize 
nitrogen . 



— 57 — 

of old pastures 
to dodge 
motorcars 

with arms and legs — 

The agregate 
is untamed 
encapsulating 
irritants 
but 

of agonized spires 

knits 

peace 

•where bridge stanchions 
rest 

certainly 

piercing 

left ventricles 

■with long 

sunburnt fingers 

XIV 

Of death 
the barber 
the barber 
talked to me 



culling my 
life with 
sleep to trim 
my hair — 

It's just 
a moment 
he said, we die 
every night — 

And of 
the newest 
ways to grow 
hair on 

bald death — 
I told him 
of the quartz 
lamp 

and of old men 
with third 
sets of teeth 
to the cue 

of an old man 
who said 
at the door — 
Sunshine today 



— 59 — 



for which 
death shaves 
him twice 
a week 

XV 

The decay of cathedrals 
is efflorescent 
through the phenomenal 
growth of movie houses 

whose catholicity is 
progress since 
destruction and creation 
are simultaneous 

without sacrifice 
of even the smallest 
detail even to the 
volcanic organ whose 

woe is translatable 
to joy if light becomes 
darkness and darkness 
light, as it will — 



— 60 — 

But seism which seems 
adamant is diverted 
from the perpendicular 
by simply rotating the object 

cleaving away the root of 
disaster which it 
seemed to foster. Thus 
the movies are a moral force 

Nightly the crowds 
with the closeness and 
universality of sand 
witness the selfspitlle 

which used to be drowned 
in incense and intoned 
over by the supple jointed 
imagination of inoffensiveness 

backed by biblical 

rigidity made into passion plays 

upon the altar to 

attract the dynamic mob 

whose female relative 
sweeping grass Tolstoi 
saw injected into 
the Russian nobility 



. — Gl — 

It is rarely understood how such plays as Shakes- 
peare's were written — or in fact how any work of 
value has been written, the practical bearing of 
which is that only as the work was produced, in that 
way alone can it be understood 

Fruitless for the academic tapeworm to hoard its 
^xcrementa is books. The cage — 

The most of all writing has not even begun in the 
province from whicli alone it can draw sustenance. 

There is not life in the stuff because it tries to l:e 
" like " life. 

First must come the transposition of the faculties 
to the only world of reality that men know : the world 
of the imagination, wholly our own. From this 
world alone does the work gain power, its soil the 
only one whose chemistry is perfect to the purpose. 

The exaltation men feel before a work of art 
is the feeling of reality they draw from it. It sets 
them up, places a value upon experience — (said 
that half a dozen times already) 



— 62 — 



XVI 

O tongue 
licking 
the sore on 
her netherlip 

O toppled belly 

0 passionate cotton 
stuck with 
matted hair 

elysian slobber 
from her mouth 
upon 

the folded handkerchief 

1 can't die 

— moaned the old 
jaundiced woman 
rolling her 
saffron eyeballs 



I can't die 
I can't die 



— 63 — 



XVII 

Our orchestra 

is the cat's nuts — 

Banjo jazz 

with a nickelplated 

amplifier to 
soothe 

the savage beast — 
Get the rythm 

That sheet stufT 
's a lot a cheese. 

Man 

gimme the key 

and lemme loose — 
I make 'em crazy 

with my harmonies — 
Shoot it Jimmy 



— 61 — 

Nobody 
Nobody else 

but me — 

They can't copy it 

XVIII 

The pure products of America 
go crazy — 

mountain folk from Kentucky 

or the ribbed north end of 
Jersey 

with its isolate lakes and 

valleys, its deaf-mutes, thieves 
old names 

and promiscuity between 

devil-may-care men who have taken 
to railroading 

out of sheer lust of adventure ■ — 

and young slatterns, bathed 
in filth 

from Monday to Saturday 



— 65 — 

to be tricked out that night 
with gauds 

from imaginations which have no 

peasant traditions to give them 
character 

but flutter and flaunt 

sheer rags — succumbing without 
emotion 

save numbed terror 

under some hedge of choke-cherry 

or viburnum — 

which they cannot express — 

Unless it be that marriage 
perhaps 

with a dash of Indian blood 

will throw up a girl so desolate 
so hemmed round 
with disease or murder 

that she'll be rescued by an 
agent — 

reared by the state and 

5 



— 66 — 



sent out nt fifteen to work in 
some hard pressed 
house in the suburbs — 

some doctor's family, some Elsie — 
voluptuous water 
expressing with broken 

brain the truth about us — 
her great 

ungainly hips and flopping breasts 

addressed to cheap 
jewelry 

and rich young men with fine eyes 

as if the earth under our feet 
were 

an excrement of some sky 

and we degraded prisoners 
destined 

to hunger until we eat filth 

while the imagination strains 
after deer 

going by fields of goldenrod in 



— 67 — 

the stifling heat of September 
Somehow 

it seems to destroy us 

It is only in isolate flecks that 

something 

is given off 

No one 
to witness 

and adjust, no one to drive the car 

or better : prose has to do with the fact of an 
emotion ; poetry has to do with the dynamisation 
of emotion into a separate form. This is the force of 
imagination. 

prose : statement of facts concerning emotions, 
intellectua states, data of all sorts — technical expo- 
sitions, jargon, of all sorts — fictional and other — 

poetry : new form dealt with as a reality in itself. 

The form of prose is the accuracy of its subject 
matter-how best to expose the multiform phases of 
its material 

the form of poetry is related to the movements of 
the imagination revealed in words — or whatever 
it may be — 

the cleavage is complete 



— G8 — 

Why should I go further than I am able ? Is it 
not enough for you that I am perfect ? 

The cleavage goes through all the phases of exper- 
ience. It is the jump from prose to the process of 
imagination that is the next great leap of the intelli- 
gence — from the simulations of present experience 
to the facts of the imagination — 

the greatest characteristic of the present age is 
that it is stale — stale as literature — • 

To enter a new world, and have there freedom of 
movement and newness. 

I mean that there will always be prose painting, 
representative work, clever as may be in revealing 
new phases of emotional research presented on the 
surface. 

But the jump from that to Cezanne or back to 
certain of the primitives is the impossible. 

The primitives are not back in some remote age — 
they are not BEHIND experience. Work which 
bridges the gap between the rigidities of vulgar expe- 
rience and the imagination is rare. It is new, imme- 
diate — It is so because it is actual, always real. It 
is experience dynamized into reality. 



— 69 — 

Time does not move. Only ignorance and stupidity 
move. Intelligence (force, power) stands still with 
time and forces change about itself — sifting the 
world for permanence, in the drift of nonentity. 

Pio Baroja interested me once — 

Baroja leaving the medical profession, some not 
important inspectors work in the north of Spain, 
opened a bakery in Madrid. 

The isolation he speaks of, as a member of the so 
called intellectual class, influenced him to abandon 
his position and engage himself, as far as possible, 
in the intricacies of the design patterned by the 
social class — He sees no interest in isolation — 

These gestures are the effort for self preservation 
or the preservation of some quality held in high 
esteem — 

Here it seems to be that a man, starved in imagina- 
tion, changes his milieu so that his food may be 
richer — The social class, without the power of expres- 
sion, lives upon imaginative values. 

I mean only to emphasize the split that goes down 
through the abstractions of art to the everyday 
exercises of the most primitive types — 



— 70 — 



there is a sharp division — the energizing force of 
imagination on one side — and the acquisitive — 
PROGRESSIVE force of the lump on the other 

The social class with its religion, its faith, sincerity 
and all the other imaginative values is positive (yes) 

the merchant, hibernating, unmagnatized — 
tends to drop away into the isolate, inactive particles 
— Religion is continued then as a form, art as a 
convention — 

To the social, energized class — ebullient now in 
Russia the particles adhere because of the force 
of the imagination energizing them — 

Anyhow the change of Baroja interested me 

Among artists, or as they are sometimes called 
" men of imagination " " creators ", etc. this force 
is recognized in a pure state — All this can be used 
to show the relationships between genius, hand labor, 
religion — etc. and the lack of feeling between artists 
and the middle class type — 

The jump between fact and the imaginative reality 

The study of all human activity is the deliniation 
of the cresence and ebb of this force, shifting from 



— 71 — 

class to class and location to location — rhythm : the 
wave rhythm of Shakespeare watching clowns and 
kings sliding into nothing 

XIX 

This is the time of year 
when boys fifteen and seventeen 
wear two horned lilac blossoms 
in their caps — or over one ear 

What is it that does this ? 

It is a certain sort — 

drivers for grocers or taxidrivers 

white and colored — 

fellows that let their hair grow long 
in a curve over one eye — 

Horned purple 

Dirty satyrs, it is 

vulgarity raised to the last power 

They have stolen them 
broken the bushes apart 
with a curse for the owner — 



Lilacs — 



— 72 — 



They stand in the doorways 

on the business streets with a sneer 

on their faces 

adorned with blossoms 

Out of their sweet heads 
dark kisses — rough faces 

XX 

The sea that encloses her young body 
ula lu la lu 

is the sea of many arms — 

The blazing secrecy of noon is undone 
and and and 

the broken sand is the sound of love 

The flesh is firm that turns in the sea 
O la la 

the sea that is cold with dead mens' tears 

Deeply the wooing that penetrated 

to the edge of the sea 

returns in the plash of the waves 



— 73 — 



a wink over the shoulder 

large as the ocean — 

with wave following wave to the edge 

coom barrooom — 

It is the cold of the sea 

broken upon the sand by the force 

of the moon — 

In the sea the young flesh playing 
floats with the cries of far off men 
who rise in the sea 

with green arms 

to homage again the fields over there 
where the night is deep — 

la lu la lu 

but lips too few 

assume the new — marrruu 

Underneath the sea where it is dark 
there is no edge 
so two — 



— 74 — 



XXI 

one day in Paradise 
a Gipsy 

smiled 

to see the blandness 

of the leaves — 
so many 

so lascivious 
and still 

XXII 

so much depends 
upon 

a red wheel 
barrow 

glazed with rain 
water 

beside the white 
chickens 



— 75 — 

The fixed categories into which life is divided must 
always hold. These things are normal — essential to 
every activity. But they exist — but not as dead 
•dissections. 

The curriculum of knowledge cannot but be divided 
into the sciences, the thousand and one groups of 
data, scientific, philosophic or whatnot — as many 
as there exist in Shakespeare — things that make 
bim appear the university of all ages. 

But this is not the thing. In the galvanic category 
•of — The same things exist, but in a different 
condition when energized by the imagination. 

The whole field of education is affected — There 
is no end of detail that is without significance. 

Education would begin by placing in the mind of 
the student the nature of knowledge — in the dead 
■state and the nature of the force which may energize 
it. 

This would clarify his field at once — He would 
then see the use of data 

But at present knowledge is placed before a man 
as if it were a stair at the top of which a DEGREE 
is obtained which is superlative. 



— 76 — 

nothing could be more ridiculous. To data then? 
is no end. There is proficiency in dissection and a 
knowledge of parts but in the use of knowledge — 

It is the imagination that — 

That is : life is absolutely simple. In any civilized 
society everyone should know EVERYTHING there 
is to know about life at once and always. There should 
never be permitted, confusion — 

There are difficulties to life, under conditions there 
are impasses, life may prove impossible — But it 
must never be lost — as it is today — 

I remember so distinctly the young Pole in Leipzig 
going with hushed breath to hear Wundt lecture — 
In this mass of intricate philosophic data what one 
of the listeners was able to maintain himself for the 
winking of an eyelash. Not one. The inundation of 
the intelligence by masses of complicated fact is not 
knowledge. There is no end — 

And what is the fourth dimension ? It is the end- 
lessness of knowledge — 

It is the imagination on which reality rides — It is 
the imagination — It is a cleavage through every- 
thing by a force that does not exist in the mass and 



therefore can never be discovered by its analomiti- 
zation. 

It is for this reason that I have always placed art 
first and esteemed it over science — in spite of every- 
thing. 

Art is the pure effect of the force upon which science 
■depends for its reality — Poetry 

The effect of this realization upon life will be the 
emplacement of knowledge into a living current — 
which it has always sought — 

In other times — men counted it a tragedy to be 
■dislocated from sense — Today boys are sent with 
dullest faith to technical schools of all sorts — broken, 
bruised 

few escape whole — slaughter. This is not civiliza- 
tion but stupidity — Before entering knowledge the 
integrity of the imagination — 

The effect will be to give importance to the sub- 
divisions of experience — which today are absolutely 
lost — There exists simply nothing. 

Prose — When values are important, such — For 
example there is no use denying that prose and poetry 



— 78 — 



are not by any means the same IN INTENTION. 
But then what is prose ? There is no need for it to 
approach poetry except to be weakened. 

With decent knowledge to hand we can tell what 
things are for 

I except to see values blossom. I expect to see 
prose be prose. Prose, relieved of extraneous, unre- 
lated values must return to its only purpose : to clarity 
to enlighten the understanding. There is no form 
to prose but that which depends on clarity. If prose 
is not acurately adjusted to the exposition of facts 
it does not exist — Its form is that alone. To pene- 
trate everywhere with enlightenment — 

Poetry is something quite different. Poetry has to 
do with the crystalization of the imagination — the 
perfection of new forms as additions to nature — 
Prose may follow to enlighten but poetry — 

Is what I have written prose ? The only answer is 
that form in prose ends with the end of that which 
is being communicated — If the power to go on falters 
in the middle of a sentence — that is the end of the 
sentence — Or if a new phase enters at that point it 
is only stupidity to go on. 

There is no confusion — only difficulties. 



— 79 — 



XXIII 

The veritable night 
of wires and stars 

the moon is in 

the oak tree's crotch 

and sleepers in 
the windows cough 

athwart the round 
and pointed leaves 

and insects sting 
while on the grass 

the whitish moonlight 
tearfully 

assumes the attitudes 
of, afternoon — 

But it is real 
where peaches hang 

recalling death's 

long promised symphony 



— 80 — 



whose tuneful wood 

and stringish undergrowth 

are ghosts existing 
without being 

save to come with juice 
and pulp to assuage 

the hungers which 
the night reveals 

so that now at last 
the truth's aglow 

with devilish peace 
forestalling day 

which dawns tomorrow 
with dreadful reds 

the heart to predicate 
with mists that loved 

the ocean and the fields — 
Thus moonlight 

is the perfect 
human touch 



— 81 — 



XXIV 

The leaves embrace 
in the trees 

it is a wordless 
■world 

without personality 
I do not 

seek a path 
I am still with 

Gipsie lips pressed 
to my own — 

It is the kiss 
of leaves 

without being 
poison ivy 

or nettle, the kiss 
of oak leaves — 

rie who has kissed 
a leaf 



— 82 — 



need look no further — 
I ascend 

through 

a canopy of leaves 

and at the same time 
I descend 

for I do nothing 
unusual — 

I ride in my car 
I think about 

prehistoric caves 
in the Pyrenees — 

the cave of 
Les Trois Freres 

The nature of the difference between what is 
termed prose on the one hand and verse on the other 
is not to be discovered by a study of the metrical 
characteristics of the words as they occur in juxta- 
position. It is ridiculous to say that verse grades off 
into prose as the rythm becomes less and less pro- 
nounced, in fact, that verse differs from prose in that 
the meter is more pronounced, that the movement is 



more impassioned and that rhythmical prose, so 
called, occupies a middle place between prose and 
verse. 

It is true that verse is likely to be more strongly 
stressed than what is termed prose, but to say that 
this is in any way indicative of the difference in 
nature of the two is surely to make the mistake of 
arguing from the particular to the general, to the 
effect that since an object has a certain character 
that therefore the force which gave it form will 
always reveal itself in that character. 

Of course there is nothing to do but to differentiate 
prose from verse by the only effective means at hand, 
the external, surface appearance. But a counter pro- 
posal may be made, to wit : that verse is of such a 
nature that it may appear without metrical stress 
of any sort and that prose may be strongly stressed 
— in short that meter has nothing to do with the 
question whatever. 

Of course it may be said that if the difference is 
felt and is not discoverable to the eye and ear then 
what about it anyway ? Or it may be argued, that 
since there is according to my proposal no discover- 
able difference between prose and verse that in all . 
probability none exists and that both are phases of 
the same thing. 



— 84 — 

Yet, quite plainly, there is a very marked differ- 
once between the two which may arise in the 
fact of a separate origin for each, each using similar 
modes for dis-similar purposes ; verse falling most 
commonly into meter but not always, and prose 
going forward most often without meter but not 
always. 

This at least serves to explain some of the best 
work I see today and explains some of the most 
noteworthy failures which I discover. I search for 
" something " in the writing which moves me in a 
certain way — It offers a suggestion as to why some 
work of Whitman's is bad poetry and some, in the 
same meter is prose. 

The practical point would be to discover when a 
work is to be taken as coming from this source 
and when from that. When discovering a work it 
would be — If it is poetry it means this and only 
this — and if it is prose it means that and only 
that. Anything else is a confusion, silly and bad 
practice. 

I believe this is possible as I believe in the main 
that Marianne Moore is of all American writers most 
constantly a poet — not because her lines are invar- 
iably full of imagery they are not, they are often 
diagramatically informative, and not because she 



— 85 — 

clips her work into certain shapes — • her pieces 
are without meter most often — but I believe she 
is most constantly a poet in her work because 
the purpose of her work is invariably from the 
source from which poetry starts — that it is con- 
stantly from the purpose of poetry. And that it 
actually possesses this characteristic, as of that 
origin, to a more distinguishable degree when it 
eschews verse rhythms than when it does not. It has 
the purpose of poetry written into and therefore it 
is poetry. 

I believe it possible, even essential, that when 
poetry fails it does not become prose but bad poetry. 
The test of Mariane Moore would be that she writes 
sometimes good and sometimes bad poetry but 
always — with a single purpose out of a single foun- 
tain which is of the sort — 

The practical point would be to discover — 

I can go no further than to say that poetry feeds 
the imagination and prose the emotions, poetry 
liberates the words from their emotional implications, 
prose confirms them in it. Both move centrifugally 
or centripetally toward the intelligence. 

Of course it must be understood that writing 
deals with words and words only and that all discus- 



— 86 — 

sions of it deal with single words and their association 
in groups. 

As far as I can discover there is no way but the 
one I have marked out which will satisfactorily deal 
with certain lines such as occur in some play of 
Shakespeare or in a poem of Marianne Moore's, let us 
say : Tomorrow will be the first of April — 

Certainly there is an emotional content in this for 
anyone living in the northern temperate zone, but 
whether it is prose or poetry — taken by itself — 
who is going to say unless some mark is put on 
it by the intent conveyed by the words which 
surround it — 

Either to write or to comprehend poetry the 
words must be recognized to be moving in a direction 
separate from the jostling or lack of it which occurs 
within the piece. 

Marianne's words remain separate, each unwilling 
to group with the others except as they move in the 
one direction. This is even an important — or amus- 
ing — character of Miss Moore's work. 



Her work puzzles me. It is not easy to quote 
convincingly. 



— 87 — 



XXV 

Somebody dies every four minutes 
in New York State — 

To hell with you and your poetry — 
You will rot and be blown 
through the next solar system 
with the rest of the gases — 

What the hell do you know about it ? 

AXIOMS 

Do not get killed 

Careful Crossing Campaign 
Cross Crossings Cautiously 

THE HORSES black 
& 

PRANCED white 

What's the use of sweating over 
this sort of thing, Carl ; here 
it is all set up — 

Outings in New York City 



— 88 — 
Ho for the open country 

Dont't stay shut up in hot rooms 
Go to one of the Great Parks 
Pelham Bay for example 

It's on Long Island Sound 
with bathing, boating 
tennis, baseball, golf, etc. 

Acres and acres of green grass 
wonderful shade trees, rippling brooks 

Take the Pelham Bay Park Branch 
of the Lexington Ave. (East Side) 
Line and you are there in a few 
minutes 

Interborough Rapid Transit Co. 

XXVI 

The crowd at the ball game 
is moved uniformly 

by a spirit of uselessness 
which delights them — 



— 89 — 

all the exciting detail 
of the chase 

and the escape, the error 
the flash of genius — 

all to no end save beauty 
the eternal — 

So in detail they, the crowd, 
are beautiful 

for this 

to be warned against 

saluted and defied — 
It is alive, venemous 

it smiles grimly 
its words cut — 

The flashy female with her 
mother, gets it — 

The Jew gets it straight — it 
is deadly, terrifying — 

It is the Inquisition, the 
Bevolution 



— 90 — 

It is beauty itself 
that lives 

day by day in them 
idly — 

This is 

the power of their faces 

It is summer, it is the solstice 
the crowd is 

cheering, the crowd is laughing 
in detail 

permanently, seriously 
without thought 

The imagination uses the phraseology of science. 
It attacks, stirs, animates, is radio-active in all that 
can be touched by action. Words occur in liberation 
by virtue of its processes. 

In description words adhere to certain objects, 
and have the effect on the sense of oysters, or 
barnacles. 

But the imagination is wrongly understood when 
it is supposed to be a removal from reality in the 
sense of John of Gaunt's speech in Richard the 
Second : to imagine possession of that which is lost. 



— 91 — 



It is rightly understood when John of Gaunt's 
words are related not to their sense as objects 
adherent to his son's welfare or otherwise but 
as a dance over the body of his condition accurately 
accompanying it. By this means of the understand- 
ing, the play written to be understood as a play, 
the author and reader are liberated to pirouette 
with the words which have sprung from the old facts 
of history, reunited in present passion. 

To understand the words as so liberated is to 
understand poetry. That they move independantly 
when set free is the mark of their value 

Imagination is notto avoid reality, nor is it descrip- 
tion nor an evocation of objects or situations, it is to 
say that poetry does not tamper with the world but 
moves it — It affirms reality most powerfully and 
therefore, since reality needs no personal support but 
exists free from human action, as proven by science 
in the indestructibility of matter and of force, it 
creates a new object, a play, a dance which is not a 
mirror up to nature but — 

As birds' wings beat the solid air without which 
none could fly so words freed by the imagination 
affirm reality by their flight 

Writing is likened to music. The object would be 
it seems to make poetry a pure art, like music. 



— 92 — 

Painting too. Writing, as with certain of the modern- 
Russians whose work I have seen, would use uno- 
riented sounds in place of conventional words. The- 
poem then would be completely liberated when 
there is identity of sound with something — perhaps, 
the emotion. 

I do not believe that writing is music. I do not 
believe writing would gain in quality or force by 
seeking to attain to the conditions of music. 

I think the conditions of music are objects for the 
action of the writer's imagination just as a table 
or — 

According to my present theme the writer of 
imagination would attain closest to the conditions- 
of music not when his words are disassociated from 
natural objects and specified meanings but when 
they are liberated from the usual quality of that 
meaning by transposition into another medium, 
the imagination. 

Sometimes I speak of imagination as a force, 
an electricity or a medium, a place. It is immaterial 
which : for whether it is the condition of a place or 
a dynamization its effect is the same : to free the 
world of fact from the impositions of " art " (see 
Hartley's last chapter) and to liberate the man to 
act in whatever direction his disposition leads. 



The word is not liberated, therefore able to 
•communicate release from the fixities which destroy 
it until it is accurately tuned to the fact which giving 
it reality, by its own reality establishes its own 
freedom from the necessity of a word, thus freeing 
it and dynamizing it at the same time. 

XXVII 

Black eyed susan 

rich orange 

round the purple core 

the white daisy 
is not 
enough 

« 

Crowds are white 
as farmers 
who live poorly 

But you 
are rich 
in savagery — 

Arab 
Indian 
dark woman 



PRINTED AT DIJON 
BY 

MAURICE DARANTIERE 
M.CM. XXIII