Monday, June 20, 2011

Max Jacob

I hear they jabber all night long.

I keep being surprised when poets I consider aesthetically conservative (like Hayden Carruth) admire poets I consider aesthetically wild (like Max Jacob). This shouldn’t surprise me, especially when the admiration crosses generations, as it does in my Carruth/Jacob example. As is well known (I think Silliman talked about this at one time as well), the mainstream of one age looks back to the fringes of an earlier age for inspiration. So what happens to the mainstream in the future? I suppose it also influences the future. That would seem logical, but I’m a little weak on examples.

I get all confused about what the mainstream and the fringes of any age are, anyway. I suppose Byron was the mainstream? I seem to recall he was popular. And Yeats? We certainly still talk about them. But do we talk about them as influential on the way people write now? How about Auden?

Plath was mainstream, I imagine, and she’s still tagged as influential on the way some poets write.

The last 20 years has seen an uptick in conversation about Stevens as influential, or a mix of Stevens and Stein, perhaps? How major was Stevens during his lifetime? I’m pretty sure Stein was on the fringes. Certainly Jacob was, which leads me back to say Max Jacob is a poet to whom I keep returning. It’s a good place to which to return. His version of Cubist Absurdist Surrealism (something like that) would seem to mirror a lot of what’s going on in contemporary American poetry. I wonder if poets are reading him, or if it’s just something in the air.

The Key (Wm Kulik, trans.)
Max Jacob

When Milord Framboisy got back from the war, his wife scolded him royally in church, so he said: “Madame, here’s the key to my entire fortune. I’m leaving forever.” Out of a sense of delicacy, the lady let the key fall to the stone floor of the church. Over in a corner, a nun was praying because she’d lost her key, the one to the convent, and nobody could get in. “See if this will fit your lock.” But the key was no longer there. It was already in the Cluny Museum: a huge key shaped like a tree trunk.

Looks like someone dropped the key to the Cluny! Right beside some lovers! Oh, Paris . . .


At 6/24/2011 9:05 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

FWIW, Elizabeth Bishop translated several Max Jacob poems ages ago...

At 4/13/2013 2:20 PM, Blogger Toni Gandel said...

My husband also translated many poems of Jacob in his book on him "Max Jacob and The Poetics of Cubism".


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