Saturday, September 08, 2012

Saint Geraud (1940 - 1966)



“I had lots of theories as to why people should be posthumous; I figured they were posthumous anyway. Society is becoming so ordered that everything is known about you before you're born. See, you're born and at the age of 5.8 you're going to matriculate kindergarten, age 13.5 you're going to do this, age 40.2 you're going to do that--it has already been so planned out that when you're born your life is over. Everyone is posthumous in that way.”

—Saint Geraud (1940-1966)
 

Does anybody here remember Saint Geraud? (If not, have a fun google afternoon. You’re welcome!)
 

POEM
 

The only response
to a child’s grave is
to lie before it and play dead

44 Comments:

At 9/08/2012 10:52 AM, Blogger vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

In all seriousness, when Saint Geraud gets a wind of this, he’ll roll over in his Knott so
posthumous grave.

 
At 9/08/2012 10:54 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Shhh, we'll hear ourselves!

 
At 9/08/2012 12:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Back in the 60s, Bill Knott was a flash in the hospital bedpan. These days he's nothing but a narcissistic, misanthropic, typomaniacal dweeb who persists in self-publishing his emetic dreck despite the unmitigated scorn it everywhere encounters."--David Grove, EYE-GROTTO

 
At 9/09/2012 2:52 AM, Blogger vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

Apropos Anonymous above: Is it not preferable to be scorned for being who you are than lauded by sycophants for trying to be someone you are not?

 
At 9/09/2012 5:13 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

For the record, I don't believe a word of the quotation attributed to me. It was a response to Knott's request for disparaging blurbs to put on his book jackets. I.e., a joke. I posted it at EYE-GROTTO so it'd have a source, but I quickly deleted it because I don't want young people who are looking for reviews of Knott's work to find it and take it seriously.

Actually I'm a great admirer of Knott, and I own quite a few of his books, including his self-published 500-page Collected Poems 1960-2012--which, as far as I know, is no longer available. Someday my copy will be rare.

Just yesterday I was reading the brilliant "Temptrousseau"--who other than Knott would think of a title like that?--with unalloyed pleasure. I'd type it here, but I don't have Knott's permission. It's in the self-published Syllabics. Here's the opening: "The clock is dressed in drag...."

 
At 9/10/2012 6:18 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

David,

Wasn't Saint Geraud a virgin-suicide, who, in his note said that no one ever loved him? Something like that? (If my history is correct.)

 
At 9/10/2012 7:21 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

From "Knotty, Knotty Boy" by Richard Hell:

In 1968, when I was 18 and alone in New York where I'd Trailway-bused myself from the South a year and a half before with the idea of being a poet, I came across a newly-published book called The Naomi Poems: Corpse and Beans, attributed on its cover to "Saint Geraud (1940-1966)." On the book's back cover was printed "Of himself the author says: 'Bill Knott (1940-1966) is a virgin and a suicide.'" It was mostly love poems and anti-Vietnam War poems....Inside the book there was an introduction from its editor/publisher, Paul Carroll, that explained that "Saint Geraud" was a pseudonym taken from the name of the director of a sex-riddled orphanage, lecherous title-character of an obscure 18th century French pornographic novel called Le Tartuffe Libertin (The Lascivious Hypocrite). The introduction also revealed that Knott claimed to be an orphan himself, which appears to be the truth, and that in 1966 he'd distributed a mimeographed letter, signed with a friend's name, to various literary personages that announced that he (Knott) had committed suicide, basically because nobody loved him.

 
At 9/10/2012 7:29 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

David, funny how quickly I forget things! That's the very same essay I got the quote from I posted.

 
At 9/10/2012 8:29 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

VZ:

That question, you know? Right now I’m thinking maybe we could be wrong about who we are—maybe
they’re wrong about who we’re not. There are other possible equations as well. Maybe who you are is not something that it’s good to be. Maybe trying to be who you’re not is a version of positive mental and or spiritual growth. Fake it ’till you make it, or When in Rome do as the Romans do.

 
At 9/10/2012 8:32 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Ah, right. It's a useful essay. I also like Hell's "My Burroughs: Postmortem Notes." Great the way it relates Burroughs to Rimbaud--like Henry Miller relating himself to Rimbaud in The Time of the Assassins. I don't care greatly for The Voidoids, though I hear the similarity to Patti Smith, whom I've always liked. To me, Hell is like Jim Carroll: the writing is interesting, the music meh.

 
At 9/10/2012 8:40 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Yes, actually all three of them you mention here, I always feel I should like - they do what I usually like - but I've never found myself actually liking or being moved by anything I've come across of theirs.

 
At 9/10/2012 10:35 PM, Blogger vazambam (Vassilis Zambaras) said...

"When in Rome do as the Romans do." Some people relish this but I don't think I could stomach all that lead poisoning. =:0(

 
At 9/11/2012 9:09 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

It's interesting to consider (though I believe it was Eliot Weinberger who raised the question first, in an exchange with Knott at the old Harriet blog, back before the permanent State of Emergency): Did Knott's faked suicide as self-promotional-shock gambit, successful as it certainly was in drawing a spiked po-biz attention to the work (arguably its after-effects are still playing out, even if faintly), possibly have some kind of role, however subliminal, in inspiring this or that young poet in subsequent years to *actually* commit suicide? To one-up the fake-out move? To go all the way, and for real, for the poetry afterlife? There is one legendary young suicide I am thinking about in particular, someone who was very aware of the Saint Geraud affair (I know from people who were close to him), but I'll leave it at that. This is just a question, no claim is being made. But it does seem an interesting question.

 
At 9/11/2012 9:25 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Kent,


I can’t think of many recent young poetry suicides, off the top of my head, so I’ve no – or little – to say specifically. Suicide as a literary stunt seems more like mental illness to me. Did the poet you’re thinking of get much post-suicide notice?

 
At 9/11/2012 9:45 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>Suicide as a literary stunt seems more like mental illness to me.

"Suicide as a literary stunt": *both* the faked and the real kind, you mean?

As to the alluded case, yes, indeed, that real suicide is very much a part of the legend. It happened a few years after the pretend one by the subject of your post.

by the way, these new security codes one has to type in, they are harder to read (for me, anyway) than Tibetan.

 
At 9/11/2012 10:04 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Thomas James?

I forget when he killed himself. Early 70s I suppose. But he was very into Plath, sounded a lot like her, not like Knott at all.

 
At 9/11/2012 10:06 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Kent,

Oh, I’m thinking only of the real kind. Pretend deaths and suicides have been an acceptable form of theater for a long time. Maybe they shouldn’t be. I’ve no opinions on it one way or the other. real suicides though, are a manifold tragedy.

For the life of me I can’t think of what real suicide you’re thinking of. From the late 60s, I guess? I’m a bad historian.

 
At 9/11/2012 10:35 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

>Pretend deaths and suicides have been an acceptable form of theater for a long time

What other poets do you know of who faked their *own suicides*, John? Going to lengths of distributing, including to presses, critics, acquaintances, and friends, elaborate announcements about having offed themselves? Seems to me the case under discussion is a rather singular one in the annals of attention-seeking stunts, unless you have other instances I just don't know about...

 
At 9/11/2012 10:54 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I’m not here to defend or praise such literary stunts as suicide, just to note that, as authorship goes, such stunts seem little different than other created and destroyed authors. No I can’t think of any other fictitious suicide than that of Bill Knott, as told by Saint Geraud. To me, it doesn’t seem harmful, though, who knows, maybe it could be. And, I suppose, yes, I guess it might then be singular, though singular makes it sound more important than I think it is.

 
At 9/11/2012 11:19 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

The Saint Geraud stunt reminds me of the Ern Malley hoax. Ern Malley was supposed to have died before the publication of his poems, at age 25.

Dying at that age is probably good for your career. It made Jeffrey Miller a Cobain-like cult poet.

If Werther can cause a spate of suicides and some Gide character's acte gratuit can result in people being pushed off trains, maybe such stunts are a little dangerous.

 
At 9/11/2012 11:26 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

In fact, that's more or less what your friend G.C. Waldrep said, though more directly, in his Kenyon Review interview a few weeks ago: that he found it "hilarious" someone like moi would get so worked up about the Conceptual poets writing and publishing a book (Doggerel for the Masses) and then attributing it to my name.

To be sure, I am cognizant of the ironies inhering in the sub-text. But these authorship problems get tangled and fuzzy. And while they can be very tragic, as in the case of Knott, they can become really fun, too, as in the case of Craig Dworkin. Or G.C. Waldrep.

I suspect none of you know what the hell I'm talking about, in the end. And that's cool. Because I don't, either.

Is Jordan Davis still around here? I've got a book coming out in two weeks I want to send him for an evenhanded review in The Nation.

 
At 9/11/2012 11:37 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I missed G.C. talking about that on the KR blog. I’ll have to go look. I also don’t get the tragic part you allude to. I didn’t know you had a new book coming out. Congrats on that. And I also didn’t know Davis does reviews for The Nation. That’s a lot of misses for one day.

 
At 9/11/2012 11:39 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

David,

I promise to never push anyone from a train or fake my death. My death will come when it's good and ready, I suppose. I'm in no hurry to see the engraving.

 
At 9/11/2012 11:40 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Isn't Jordan the Poetry Editor for the Nation? I'm completely out of the loop, so could be I've had that wrong for the past two years.

 
At 9/11/2012 11:50 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I just googled it and yes, he is! I recall now you made some comment about it before. I guess it didn’t sink in. He probably doesn’t edit the reviews, though. (I understand you’re saying that above mostly to anger him.)

 
At 9/11/2012 12:01 PM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Not at all. I like Jordan and I believe he likes me. He jokes around that he's going to sue me, and wild stuff like that, and so then I say silly, funny things back to him. It's like collaborative writing.

 
At 9/11/2012 3:21 PM, Blogger Steven D. Schroeder said...

Frank Stanford is the first contemporary poet suicide I think of, though of course he seemed to have a lot of other reasons...

 
At 9/12/2012 11:04 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

John, here's that book, A Question Mark above the Sun. There's a little notice of it in Publisher's Weekly at link below. It's supposed to be available for the Brooklyn Book Fair, in a couple weeks. Already the book has nearly 400 advance-order sales, and that's just by word of mouth, because there hasn't been a bit of official publicity for it yet (for this expanded second edition, I mean). Not blockbuster numbers, by any means, but a fair amount of pre-pub sales for a book related to poetry, I think. http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-9837405-5-1

 
At 9/12/2012 11:20 AM, Blogger Bill Knott said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/12/2012 11:34 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

No, Bill. We are all very glad that you didn't *actually* do that. Poetry is glad, too, regardless of your personal-esteem measurements.

 
At 9/12/2012 11:35 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I, on the other hand, have no new books to link to. Alas, and all of that.

I did just order a copy of BK's selected poems, however. Plain white wrapper!

 
At 9/12/2012 3:55 PM, Blogger Bill Knott said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 9/13/2012 3:54 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Is there a word for giving birth to yourself? Mater de se? Suinativity?

 
At 9/13/2012 9:55 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

BK,

Yikes.

David,

Here you go:

http://www.success.bz/articles/2177/giving_birth_to_yourself

 
At 9/13/2012 10:26 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

At a different angle to sadness, some have probably seen that the great Russian poet Arkadii Dragomoshchenko has passed away. I had the fortune to spend time with him in what was then Leningrad, in 1989, and to collaborate with him in editing Third Wave: The New Russian Poetry (1992), which was the first anthology in English of late-Soviet avant-garde poetry.

He makes an appearance in this entry in my book I Once Met, a collection of eighty-some reminiscences of meetings with poets.

I once met Arkadii Dragomoshchenko, a great Russian poet. This was in Leningrad. It was the last year of Glasnost, and there was a conference of new poetry there. One thing I will never forget from that simulacral city in reverse is sitting in a vast hall in a vast, ornate czarist building made all of marble, crimson-draped windows towering to the ceiling, looking out onto the Neva, swarms of cherubs fat and hot for Aphrodite above, Barrett facing me across the great mahogany table in a kind of late pinkish glow, dapper Aeneas in a polo shirt, looking somewhat edgy, eating little spoonfuls of caviar, as satyr attendants from the Ministry of Culture rose and offered formal toasts to the "American Poetic Friends of the Soviet Union." Arkadii Dragomoshchenko leaned over to me and with booze on his breath said in heaviest accent, Is this a great quantity of such repulsive fucking dog shit or what? You think so? I said, my mouth full of bread and sturgeon eggs. Why, it's the first time in my life that I feel like a real Poet. I think this is fantastic! And to my left, far away, at the far head of the regal table, was Ron Silliman, his whole face consumed by a blinding sphere of light.

 
At 9/13/2012 12:52 PM, Blogger David Grove said...

If you gave birth to yourself, an Oedipus complex would be narcissism...

 
At 9/14/2012 8:51 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Speaking of young poets and first books and such: Some of you may have seen the current New Yorker, in which there is a poem by Austin Smith. He's a poet still in his twenties, currently a Stegner Fellow at Stanford. His first book, Almanac, will be published early next year by Princeton UP. He's also a fiction writer, has won a major award for a story (has another coming out in Kenyon Review). The leading literary agency in NYC has already signed him up. I gave a talk about Austin at AWP last year, before any of this happened, predicting that he would be one of the prominent American poets in years to come. I'm pretty confident.

Anyway, Austin is from Freeport, IL, the son of Dan Smith, a dairy farmer who recently retired from farming and was my closest friend for many years. I published Austin regularly, starting when he was twelve, in our college literary magazine-- most of these beautiful short poems influenced from his readings of Chinese poets translated by Kenneth Rexroth, a book I'd given him. That I was his first poetry mentor is likely what I'll be most remembered for, I suspect. Non-syllogistically, I also suspect the poems of de Lima, many of them which appeared here, will one day be published. The wonderful poet, Julio de Lima.

 
At 9/14/2012 8:56 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

I thought his name was Julio de Luna?

 
At 9/14/2012 9:18 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

de LUNA! Ha. I'm flying into Lima in November, and taking care of ticket stuff today, in fact, thus my slip...

Anyone seen this?

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/magazine/stephen-burt-poetrys-cross-dressing-kingmaker.html?_r=3&pagewanted=all

 
At 9/14/2012 9:24 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

I don't think this text of Goldsmith's talk at the Poetry Foundation last year has been released until now? Broodthaers would roll in his grave, I suspect. Someone sent it to me this AM because I come up in it:

http://enclavereview.files.wordpress.com/2012/09/goldsmith-my-career-in-poetry.pdf

 
At 9/14/2012 9:57 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

Sorry, too many comments, but this a must see:

John Latta, today, whose fingers get dusty in the most surprising ways, on a mysterious (and stranger, more fun, imho) precursor (ca. 1870s) to the Christian Bok of Eunoia.

http://isola-di-rifiuti.blogspot.com/2012/09/notebook-swinburne-moore-bok.html

 
At 9/14/2012 11:27 AM, Blogger Kent Johnson said...

By the way, OuLiPo avant la lettre, it's everywhere!

See the 1939 novel without an "E" called Gadsby, published in Los Angeles by one Ernest Vincent Wright. Anyone ever hear of him? :

http://www.holybooks.com/wp-content/uploads/Gadsby-by-Ernest-Vincent-Wright.pdf

Once again, M. Latta in the stacks. We're talking three decades before Perec, here...

Then again, the Japanese invented the New Sentence 1000 years before the Langpos did. It's called renga.

 
At 9/14/2012 11:46 AM, Blogger David Grove said...

Terrible workers of the blogosphere, unite! You have nothing to lose but your comment renga.

 
At 9/15/2012 1:38 PM, Blogger Bill Knott said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 

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