Thursday, January 25, 2007

A Manifesto's Manifesto

I'm going back to my old books these days. A fresh move from all this new new new that will be coming in 2007.

First up: Spring & All, by William Carlos Williams.

William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens, circa 1923, were much more alike in their thinking, and much of their poetry, than history has since made them seem.

If one wants to be reminded of this, one need go no further than Williams’ Spring & All. If you’ve never read this book, you’re in for a treat. It’s a wildly imagined tour de force of the imagination. A manifesto of imaginative brio. Yep. We all know the famous poems from this volume, but how often have we reminded ourselves of the prose?

“I speak for the integrity of the soul and the greatness of life’s inanity ; the formality of its boredom ; the orthodoxy of its stupidity. Kill ! kill ! let there be fresh meat. . .”

And the purity of its assertions:

“There is only “ illusion ” in art where ignorance of the bystander confuses imagination and its works with cruder processes. Truly men feel an enlargement 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 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 –”

Or:

" 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 --"

And this, my favorite bit:

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

And then, of course, the glorious IS-ness of the poems.

Of death
the barber
the barber
talked to me

cutting 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 !

for which
death shaves
him twice
a week

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