RUDIMENTS, pt. 37
I never knew what it felt like to
be human; this is true. My entire
life, every little part of it, from the
very beginning, always felt as if
it were someplace else, an 'other',
all about. As if it weren't happening
to me, or only me; that there were
various levels of me to which
everything was being addressed.
There were harmonious things,
and there were dis-harmonious
things to. That was the real rub.
I've always had people around me -
in later life anyway - the schooled
and the eggheads, who'd say high
and mighty things about 'simplicity,'
a paucity of words, about being succinct.
Their point was and always has been ,
that I go on too much, about too much.
That always seemed disharmonious to
me, and who did they think they were
anyway. There's the moon high above,
a million years of light, and story lines,
and they want me to limit myself to five
or eleven words about it? Everyone's
always reining themselves into so as
to fit some silly structure - only so
many words, and some spaces, and
then a couplet to summarize and pull
it together; an and all of that hoo-daddle.
I like silence as much as the next person,
but silence doesn't need to be revered.
It doesn't just automatically make you
right or holy or blessed-great. Not a
fan of the rules anyway.
When I was a youngster, one of my aunts
lived in quite nearby to William Carlos
Williams, famous blah-blah poet with a
big, reserved house on River Road, East
Rutherford or whatever that was. He was
also a baby-slapping pediatrician, with
births and care, mothers and babies, and
all that. Poor chump; I could never get the
two things together in one sentence, but
talk about noise and pandemonium. No
peace there. I never much cared about it
and just viewed him as a overly-busy adult
doctor doing his stuff; all that poetry and
writing notwithstanding. In later life, I
dug and read and studied him much
more carefully, and wish back then -
if I hadn't been just a stupid, little kid
of 12 or whatever - I'd just walked
up to his front door and banged.
What the heck. His big-deal claim to
fame was a volume called 'Paterson.'
Another great book by him, probably
even more favored by me, was something
he wrote called 'In the American Grain.'
That one really got me. However, back
to Paterson, his great 'poetic' work, (by
contrast, 'In the American Grain' is prose),
it dragged me in, screaming, and probably
helped make me what I am today, whatever
that is. Run-on over-writer that I am.
The opening of 'Paterson' - a verse form
poem, by whatever definition - opens
at the Great Falls. It does and it doesn't
actually (lots of words here, you 'succinct'
people), because he calls the Great Falls
a 'he' and has it lying "on its right side with
its head near the thunder of the waters filling
his dreams. Eternally asleep, his dreams walk
about the city where he persists incognito..."
That right there just about slayed me - an
eye opener. I'd remember it wherever I was
walking in New York City, and once or twice
I even dragged myself over to Paterson, in
those years, to see. The place was filled with
references - Ginsberg, locomotives, Colt
firearms, even Abbot and Costello, huge
machine shops and foundries. Alas, like
so much else, by the end of the 1960's the
place was a dead heap, abandoned and
crumbling already, with most of those
mighty business just plain gone. But, for
me, as a 'writer' just learning what I
wanted to do, what a rich minefield
that opening was - how masterful to
portray that, to personify the grand city
and falls as a lying down man of
He then goes on, and this is where his
most famous 'William Carlos Williams'
Imagist-School dictate is taken from;
yes, the dolts took this and named a
school of poetic form after him -
'Imagism.' [Imagism is a type of
poetry that describes images with
simple language and great focus. It
came out of the Modernist movement
in poetry.] Can you, really, believe
that crap? Here, William Carlos
Williams goes on : "Say it, no ideas
but in things / nothing but the blank
faces of the houses and the cylindrical
trees bent, forked by preconception and
accident - split, furrowed, creased,
mottled, stained secretly into the body
of the light!" (The catchphrase of his
with which they founded their 'new'
school of poetry was 'no ideas but
in things.' Frankly, I never thought
much of that line in and of itself.)
Point being, here, this fellow goes on
and on, and making perfect poetry and
poetic sense too, about Paterson, the
city, the locus, chosen by him to be
stroked and cascade with probably
over 100,000 words. So, take that all
you formulaic succincters. No, I said
succincters, not sphincters. See, see,
what a wise ass I can be.