Thanksgiving Is Ruined

The Personal is Political. The Political is Personal.

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July 24, 2007

As part of the arts organization Flux Factory's recently completed six-week obsession with Paterson, NJ, USA, one Joe Milutis led a weekly book club that read and discussed William Carlos Williams' long poem.

Milutis kindly posted audio files of three of the weekly discussions on-line on his fascinating Paterson-related blog. The audio files are very interesting. So is William's poem; it is obsession-producing in its own right.

Below are some unsystematic, various, noted moments from WCW's Paterson and the audio files, with an attempted parallel column of scattered, pointless, overly-long TiR-style research links and stray reactions that resulted from consumption of WCW & the audio. It all got posted here primarily to preserve weblinks of possible future interest (to me), and for the technical challenge of putting it together.

Suggestion of the bravery, creativity and challenges of Flux Factory's Paterson project is contained in this newspaper article; blog commentary on the article, here; and some apparent traces of the photographic sort, here.

from WCW's Paterson:from the discussion:pointless notes:
Bk II:

(limping iambics)

"walking" x 9

pistons too powerful for delicacy!

Minds beaten thin
by waste

WCW as ambivalent --
sympathetic yet reserved
from the people he's bringing into the world

know what he's doing
but can't get ahold of it w/ yr mind

labile terms

white noise

WCW not sure he buys his own line

in non-linear way

words linked

constellations of meaning
pieced together

uncentered sense

Baudelairian note

written spring & summer '47.

WCW to Babette Deutsche, June '47:

[I]n "Paterson," the social unrest that occasions all strikes is strong -- underscored, especially in the 3rd part, but I must confess that the aesthetic shock occasioned by the rise of the masses upon the artist receives top notice. . . . In Part or Book II . . . there will be much more in the same manner, that is, much more relating to the economic distress occasioned by human greed and blindness -- aided, as always, by the church, all churches in the broadest sense of that designation -- but still, there will be little treating directly of the rise of labor as a named force. I am not a Marxian.

[I]n the dialectical antithesis between distraction and concentration, [WCW] unhesitatingly took the most conservative side. . . .
The depiction of the poet as a remote figure working in solitude so as to actualize the symbolic order of his aristocratic revolution is emblematic of William's ideology of the task and responsibility of the intellectual in a time of crisis.
(from Carla Billitteri's "William Carlos Williams and the Politics of Form" (2007))

the working classes SOME [
SUM?] sort
of breakdown
has occurred.

Within three years the S.U.M. was party
to the first American lockout,
and three decades later
to the first American strike.
It was bad for the people, the economy,
and the landscape.

(from Hugh Kenner's The Pound Era)

like Hamilton: use the roar of the falls
for one's own purposes (Mariani)

the peon in the lost
Eisenstein film drinking

            - laughing, toothless?

                       Heavenly man!

the children with their dusty little minds

               the inevitable
poor, the invisible, thrashing, breeding
.            debased city

"Que     Viva     Mexico!" aka "Time in the Sun," now being restored

Dos Passos' "cinematic ["mechanical"] flâneur narrative

"camera eye" &
montage (Cendrars, Eisenstein, Vertov)

[Williams] remained closer to the original Imagist practice than many of the other poets in Pound's book [the anthology, "Des Imagistes"], including Pound himself. He opposed abstractions (Pound's GIFOA -- go in fear of abstactions -- was an article of faith for him).

(from Michael Schmidt's Lives of the Poets)


[a world without prepositions:
Hungarian? Finnish? spatial (.pdf)]

This instrument of word order which the Chinese language has developed to the highest consistency and sharpness, might indeed, from a purely logical point of view, be regarded as the only truly adequate means of expressing grammatical relations. For it would seem possible to designate them more clearly and specifically as relations pure and simple, possessing no perceptual base of their own, through the pure relation of words expressed in their order, than by special words and affixes.

(from Cassier's The Philosophy of Symbolic Forms, vol. 1, Language)

Fenollosa in 1904:

A true noun, an isolated thing, does not exist in nature. Things are only the terminal points, or rather the meetingpoints of actions, cross-sections cut through actions, snapshots. . . . The eye sees noun and verb as one, things in motion, motion in things . . .

[T]he agent and object are secretly verbs.

[Fenollosa] warred on the copula: "There is in reality no such verb . . . , our very word exist means 'to stand forth.' to show oneself by a definite act.' In the Chinese, 'is' he found 'a splendid flash of concrete poetry.' . . . His great, his unassailable originality stemmed from his conviction that the unit of thought was less like a noun than like a verb, and that Chinese signs therefore denoted processes."

There is a strong, indeed barely repressible, temptation to consider the growing predominance of the formal function of the copula as a process of falling, an abstraction, degradation, or emptying of the semantic plentitude of the lexeme "to be" and of all lexemes which, likewise, have let themselves dwindle or be replaced.

(from Derrida's "The Supplement of Copula: Philosophy before Linguistics: The Remainder as Supplement: On the Third Person Singular of the Present indicative of the Verb 'To Be'")

Pound on the poetic image:
a radiant node or cluster; . . . what I can, and must perforce, call a VORTEX, from which, and through which, and into which, ideas are constantly rushing. (1914)(from Kenner's The Pound Years)

Williams' feeling-tone, as Donne's, groups an order of tangible objects.
(Zukofsky, in Prepositions, on WCW)

[interwoven thing-clusters]

Forget it! for God's sake, Cut
out that stuff            .

min 46-47:
Why should we be reading this?
It's, like, crazy.
It's the way I might talk to somebody I have issues with, in my head, pretending a conversation.
Who decided?
Why is this great?

To return to anything like values and clarity we have been forced into vulgarity. This is history. (WCW in The Embodiment of Knowledge)

language, tongue-tied
                   the language worn out .

    .         .

I dare say you have, at moments


literature, as something disconnected from life

purely literary sympathies and understandings, the insights and humanity of words on paper only -- and also, alas, the ego of the literary man

cranky Nardi letter

so far ahead of his time,
he didn't know what he was doing,

not always conscious of it

Williams always did his best work when he did not 'think it out,' when both the theme and the form were discovered in the course of the poem itself. . . . [M]ake a case for the greatness of his poetry when he was not thinking, and were not about to try to strengthen and extend that case.

(Hyatt H. Waggoner)

abstract of paper about how Nardi cured WCW's writer's block:

on MN's poems: their monstrous reality had triggered something in [WCW].(Mariani)

long blog post with WCW/Nardi info, analysis:

re: Nardi in spring of 1942:
Williams was crazy about her.(per Mariani)

1942: MN = in her early 30s.
WCW born 1883 (age 59?).

from WCW's play "Many Loves" (written 1941) :
Doc (age: "not so young anymore")
to Clara, his patient, a "young suburban housewife"
during a housecall:

. . . starved as we live, because we never, never, never, never took a chance among the five or six thousand or million people of our small personal world to know them actually and individually . . .what actually the creature in the next bin is doing or feeling. And all the shyness and all the prudery and all the moral carpings are no more than so much heartburn from our chronic emptiness.
Shall we go upstairs now?

(Act 3, sc. 1)

from WCW's play "A Dream of Love":
Dr. Thurber (a physician in his middle 40s).
Dotty (woman in her late 20s).
her response to hearing his theory of poetics:
Dot: I love you.
Doc: You mean you know what i'm talking about?
Dot: Yes.
Doc: You mean you understand what I'm after?
Dotty: Yes.
Doc: And it doesn't make you wanna puke?
(act III, scene 3 (penultimate scene))(based on dream WCW had in summer 1942)

That woman would take a hundred shapes and forms over his lifetime, and Floss, troubled, confused, angry, amazed, would have to chide her husband for falling in love with every two- and four-legged female he met.


[WCW vs. MN: competing visions of
the socially
engaged artist?
cf. contemp debates, re: identity politics
"who's more 'down (with)'?"

within the world vs.
away from the world

art v. commerce]

WCW as doc served immigrant and black communities,
refused to raise his prices
during G. Depression
when his competitors did,
or to mail them bills (e.g., he did not charge Nardi
when he treated her son,
the first time he met her) (per Mariani)

who more truly got their hands 'dirty'?
faced 'life'?
(& must the choice be an 'either/or' one?)

[but Nardi gets the last word in the book.
(& almost unedited)]

WCW's refutation -- or admission of guilt?

[David] Lilienthal,
delivering the

re: Fred Miller [Blast editor] letter to WCW, early 1947:

Miller had been complaining about the Senate's attempts to block David Lilienthal's confirmation as chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission, a blockage that would have -- in Miller's view -- turned the bomb over to a few powerful industrialists.

with trick and money

Chicago mayor, 1890s,
pardoned Haymarket anarchists
refused to call out federal troops vs. rail strike
populist hero
political casualty


network of associations
not linear logic,
through repetition of words, concepts,
read by interconnecting,


from WCW's review of Muriel Rukeyser's US1 (New Republic, March 9, 1938):

[H]er poetic material, is in part the notes of a congressional investigation, an X-ray report and the testimony of a physician under cross-examination. These she uses with something of the skill employed by Pound in the material of his "Cantos." . . . This poem relates to big business and its "innocent" effects on the men in employs. . . . I hope Miss Rukeyser does not lose herself in her unjudicious haste for a "cause" . . .

[transparency of process vs. veiling]

WCW reading Lowell's Lord Weary's Castle circa 1946:

[WCW] was especially struck by Lowell's ability 'to mention local place names . . .without that jumping out of context which so often occurs to make a work false sounding. . . [to] treat of American things and name them specifically without a sense of bathos.

(as here) (Mariani)

Pat 4's "Selah!"s
summer of 1950:

[WCW] also spotted Melvin Tolson's 'Libretto for the Republic of Liberia' -- followed by Allen Tate's 'Preface' in the July issue of "Poetry" -- and incorporated Tolson's refrain 'Selah!' by the way of praising Tolson's 'cultured intelligence' . . .


mode of the tapestries (i.e., Unicorn)
thought of the poem in terms of a fugue
acentric, simultaneous effect
circularity of time

(see Margaret Lloyd Bollard's
"The Interlace Element in Paterson," in Twentieth Century Literature,
Oct. '75)

Randall Jarrell on "Pat Bk 1" in Partisan Review, Sept-Oct. 1946:

[T]he organization of 'Paterson' is musical to an almost unprecedented degree: Mr. Williams introduces a theme that stands for an idea, repeats it over and over in varied forms, develops it side by side with two or three more themes that are being developed, recurs to it time and time again through out the poem, and echoes it for ironic or grotesque effects in thoroughly incongruous contexts.

from Mezzrow's Really the Blues, about Bessie Smith records:

What knocked me out most on those records was the slurring and division of words to fit the musical pattern, the way the words were put to work for the music.

Zukofsky on WCW's "Improvisations" (1920), in Prepositions:

At best, there is a continual friskiness, the writing is a fugue, comparable to the scene in "Twelfth Night" in which the Clown proves Olivia a fool. . . . His line sense is not only a music heard, but seen, printed as bars, printed (or cut as it were) for the reading. . . . one does not think of line-ends in him but of essential rhythm.

[cf. WCW letters to Zukofsky & wife in A, asks 'em to put enclosed poems to music]

Charles Bernstein on A as fugue:

Futurist idea of burning libraries,
anti-naturalist, pro-machine

the Falls' duality -- water dropping,
mist & rainbow rise

mist = myth

lang as forgotten/forgetting,
and looking forward, unsaid yet

the riddle =
most unexamined violent trauma

hence his
when talking about it

wax model of the falls

always systems of regress

cure thru representation (wax figure)
through prayer
-- which is lang.

but: the disease also = urge to representation

demonstrate the dilemma
don't perform it

don't want to center things too much

sounds Freudian! -- (min 44)

from Marinetti's 1909 "Futurist Manifesto":
Let the good incendiaries with charred fingers come!
Here they are!
Heap up the fire to the shelves of the libraries!
Divert the canals to flood the cellars of the museums!
Let the glorious canvases swim ashore!
Take the picks and hammers!

BT's busted nose == The Sphinx!
(min 47)

BT = source of labor

men in Pat. make silk for beautiful things

min 56:
kids outside begin terrorizing discussion group,
singing at them.

kids enter.
What you all doing here?
Talking about poetry.
Want something to eat?
Asks 'em to sing again.

Kids ask for ice cream.
Book group only has coffee, 7-Up.

Kids take snacks,

You're familiar w/ the words,
but still are not sure what they mean.

Artaud: need to communicate
as if signaling through the flames


[who was Kore?]

homage to Dada

floating periods
double periods

calm waters that suddenly drop

[WCW's] translation, "in collaboration with his mother," of Philippe Soupault's novel, Last Nights [of] Paris (1929)"

words to be rebricked up

the triad that makes up "Paterson 3": first wind, then fire, then water . . . these become radical metonyms for the 'elements' of language itself


[below falls
bloody loam (Bk. 1)
(fertile, useful material)
what do you get when you combine mud and fire?

(What is the "catastrophe"?)]

min. 1:19 Louis Ginsberg, Allen's dad,
Don's English teacher --
Don loved it, but LG was unhappy
with loudness of falls,
interfered w/ poetry
near falls once upon a time

falls in with same folly
as any identification or signification does
-- it's a f__cking frenzy of particles in the Falls

x 11

If [WCW] had some kind of
sociological statement to say,
he wouldn't be writing in this way.

Bks IV-VI:

credit x 24

do you joke when a man is dying
               of a brain tumor?

too much move into bio blinds us to the poetry

let it be

cloud of referentiality

identifying mode is patriarchal,
more feminine not to identify

bird mnemonics

'I am a man,' 'I am a woman' -- We overcode something so vast,
we can't utter it,

utterance = insigificant
totality of social and life forces stand behind,
complex history of material occurrences,
but we try to read infinitenessimal sounds.

He's talking about not talking at all.

bks hang together less, he performs his own
, as goes on

It's interesting that . . .

min. 46
(someone sings the title of the Police's "Synchronicity" )

radiant gist: radium? credit?
labor theory of value?

Jefferson's 1775 "
Resolutions of Congress on Lord North's Conciliatory Proposal"

Pragmatism -- pluralism -- polyvocality?

Deweyan aesthetics
Social Credit economics

William James:

Thus the lowest grade of universe would be a world of mere WITHNESS, of which the parts were only strung together by the conjunction ’and.’ Such a universe is even now the collection of our several inner lives.

[a possibly useful distinction:
'what he means' vs.
'what he means for us']

James's "The Stream of
Consciousness essay: created 1892.

the Passaic River: created
Pleistocene Epoch.

the Dial magazine for June 1920 (table of contents
here): the last page of John Dewey's essay "Americanism and Localism" faces the first page of Pound's "Fourth Canto."

Dewey: local American newspapers as
the only genuinely popular form of literature we have achieved. . . .
the local is the only universal.

cf. EP in ABCs of Reading
Literature is news that STAYS news.

blaming the difficulty of writing
on the legacy of Hamiltonianism: finance capitalism.
(Alec Marsh)

cf. Bryan's "Cross of Gold"

Jefferson said it. We should have
a revolution of some sort in America
every ten years. . . .
There has to be a new poetry. . . .
[T]he altered structure of
the inevitable revolution must be
in the poem. Made of it.

(from WCW's Selected Essays)

Social Credit economic theory &
modernism (.pdf)

money as pure text:
could be wiped out
at stroke
of pen

credit = true, lasting (art)

                    My little


Let's change names.
You be Corydon!
And I'll play Phyllis.
Young! Innocent!

I think I'll go on the stage,
said she

(I'm no Simaetha)

49 min
on Phyllis & Corydon:
BOTH of them are women?
Corydon too?

[cf. Genet's The Maids
playmates exchange identities]

               The best thing a
man can do for his son, when he is born, is to die            .

still caught in that weird game of identifications

WCW's particular perversity

"eh, whatever" delivery

rubric of the helicopter

a manmade bird

rels w/ his son
Paris Review
interview (.pdf)

[A. Gins. as literary 'son']

Williams noting that the poet has no père -- no father . . .
It is a resolution that splits through the very title of the epic, dividing it like the scar down Ahab's face: Pater/son.

Curie (the movie queen)

WCW's empathy & distance
doctor/poet dialectic

Wasn't William Blake a chemist?

March or April 1944: WCW goes to see MGM's "Madame Curie" with Greer Garson

WCW, July 1945 letter:
Somewhere in some piece of art
resides a radioactive force.

And Billy Sunday evangel

        (if you are interested)
        leads to discovery

1913 silk strike

(E. G. Flynn
remembers it)

Billy Sunday, who [WCW] remembered had been called into Paterson in 1913 to break the back of the long, drawn-out strike by preaching God to the workers and reminding them of their religious duty to return to work. That Billy Sunday had preached at the Hamilton Hotel (ironically recalling the father of all those special interest groups that had crippled Paterson from its inception as a city), and that he'd received $27,000 for his services from the Union Factory Owner's Association, did not escape Williams.


[Emma Goldman's reaction to B. Sunday:
here; Upton Sinclair's: here]

WCW in "Against the Weather" (1939):
churches as

monopolies using religion
to bring a man under an economic yoke
of one sort or another

preachers preach that one should
give all they goods to feed the poor
then throughout Western history turn to
draining of every cent
from the poor
to their everlasting misery and impoverishment.

Thy drasty rymyng is not
worth a toord

why toords are important to medical science

masculine, curious, mystified

min 1:17
piano starts in background

The suburbs were created for women.

WCW trying to become a woman in a sense?

WCW to Viola Baxter in 1911:

[M]en are not strong enough to "bat air" with women. That forever proves to me I am not a man; they, men, disgust men and if I must say it fill me with awe and admiration. I am too much of a woman.

[A man like a city and a woman like a flower. (Bk. 1)--
Why can't a woman be like a city too?]

You can learn from poems
            than an empty head tapped on
                sounds hollow
in any language!

min 1:19
JMil breaks into Gershwin's "But Not For Me"

'and I''ll cause a riot' -- Newark! 1967!

][who was Beatrice Fairfax?]

WCW explan. to Babette Deutsche on why he wrote Pat 5: merely coming 'home' could not be the end of it unless you say what 'home' is. (Mariani)

WCW to Marianne Moore:

If the vaunted purpose of my poem seems to fall apart at the end, it's rather frequent that one has to admit an essential failure. (Mariani)(emph. supplied)

deeply interesting. . . . late style that involves a nonharmonious, nonserene tension, and above all, a sort of deliberately unproductive productiveness going against. . . .

(from Said's On Late Style: Music and Literature Against the Grain)

[WCW commentary ideal page layout]

Galway Kinnell:

I learned since that Williams was one quarter Jewish. Probably that quarter was the poet in him.

Another day, he spoke of suicide attempts. He told me, with a wit that allowed me to think he was just playing with the idea,

"I try stepping off the curb in front of speeding cars all the time, but the drivers just swerve around me and speed away.

"My advice to you is, if you ever get something wrong with you, don't cure it, but cultivate it."

(from Paterson Literary Review, # 34 (2005))

Sources most drawn upon for the above include Money & Modernity: Pound, Williams & the Spirit of Jefferson, by Alec Marsh, and Paul Mariani's William Carlos Williams: A New World Naked.