Friday, August 24, 2012


The reason for opening with these two photographs is that I am reading Yves Bonnefoy's THE ARRIERE-PAYS, published by Seagull Books.  A beautiful book of prose and full colour illustrations.    

A book of meditations for want of a better word  on a place, a place where one discovers the self, the place not known, probably unknowable, yet we receive hints and these hints disappear, a book to go back to and back to and to read and to read...unlike the books that accumulate in beach houses never to be re-read.  But more than that, of course

        Here is Bonnefoy:  "...that is what I dream of, at these crossroads, or a little way beyond them--- and I am haunted by everything that gives credence to the existence of this place, which is and remains other, and yet which suggests itself with some insistence even.  When a road climbs upwards, revealing, in the distance, other paths among the stones, and other villages; when the train travels into a narrow valley, at twilight, passing in front of houses where a window happens to light up; when the boat comes in fairly close to the shore-line, where the sun has caught a distant windowpane (and once it was Caraco where I was told that the paths were long since impassable, smothered by brambles), this very specific emotion seizes hold of me--- I feel I'm getting close, and something tells me to be on the alert.  What are the names of those villages over there?  Why is there a light on that terrace, and who is greeting us, or calling us, as we come alongside.  Of course, the moment I set foot in one of these places, this sense of 'getting warm' fades away.  But not without it intensifying, sometimes for as much as an hour, because the sound of footsteps or a voice rose to my hotel room, reaching me through the closed shutters..."


Bonnefoy is on a journey, Italy, France, Greece, eventually in memory to Armenia... but the place first took shape in a book read in childhood, long remembered, but now lost... don't we all have these books?


The whole of Bonnefoy’s book is summed up, “I sought my true place, on this strange earth of ours, so prompt to satisfy my desires and yet so mysteriously disappointing.”

But where?: “it is the context of these undisciplined speculations that Italy became a part of the arriere-pays, and the place where I most abandoned myself to the dream.

In truth, I did find it hard going when he takes us into a discussion of dream.  I do not read about dreams.  Someone said once about dreams: that is why a shrink charges so much, nothing more boring than listening to a dream…

However Bonnefoy is aware of this and backs away all the time from dream, “I have resolved nothing , which can explain why I have remained a writer, writing being the wood that piles up as the fire starts to catch, in the smoke.  But one or two things I have understood… it consists in not forgetting the here and now in the dream of elsewhere, in not forgetting time, humble time as it is lived through here among the illusions of the other place, that shade existing out of time.

Yet always mentioning great artist ending in his listing Caravaggio…”and next to these, who have lifted off the tombstone from the imagination, there are others, crreators of great art also, divided within themselves, discouraged but still tenacious, not without the suffering which Baudelaire knew to be the illustre compagne, the noble companion, of the beauty be most prized.."


Bonnefoy ends his book with an evocation of Armenia based upon black and white photos of Armenian churches he remembered  seeing as a child and this thought about black and white photographs:  "I had the impression I had already  visited these churches, among their mountains, because the black and white  established a continuity with other memories from those ‘profound years’, reminiscences that seem to spring from ‘before we were ourselves.”…


The reason, by now you might be asking for those two photographs: taken in Deddington, near Oxford, Sunday afternoon in August, while taking a walk, while visiting the Oldfields... just stopped as Bonnefoy before certain paintings in Italy... a place, not the Mascot Dock in Patchogue, n
not, not, late night  walking across the Galata Bridge in Istanbul... or in Kyoto or in Dublin...  in Dublin...

a picture saturated with memory of after the pubs eating on the way home... now forlorn only because of memory


When John O'Brien discovered that I was heading to Cape May, NJ for a week with extended family he sent this message:  


I suspect O'Brien is echoing Sorrentino... but I know when my son was talking about his 20 and 20 and 20 plan...20 years in industry, 20 years in a university and then 20 years teaching in a school like the school he went to Groton...I knew I would be there possibly only for the start of his first 20 year plan...
as when  we were at the beach  in the late afternoon...  that time around four when people are beginning to leave the beach...


I have with deliberation said nothing about those pictures from Deddington.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012


Another beginning.  I was writing to the publicity guy who does the Library of America that he had better get ready for a shit storm when the Library of America publishes the COLLECTED POEMS OF JACK KEROUAC.  There will be great squeals of disgust, accusations of pandering, the question of standards, how could you when you have not published… all the rest of it.

2- My first question why did the Library only do one volume of Kerouac’s prose focused upon ON THE ROAD  THE DHARMA BUMS< THE SUBTERRANEANS, TRISTESSA, LONESOME TRAVELER  when  to be complete there is an immediate need for all the other prose books:  BIG SUR, MAGGIE CASSIDY, SATORI IN PARIS (the most under-rated of K’s books and the saddest) PIC (the most daring) and all the rest.

7- It is my firm belief that ON THE ROAD is the equivalent to Melville’s MOBY DICK.  ON THE ROAD is the singular American novel of the 20th Century as is MOBY DICK of the 19th Century.  Tim Hunt has begun the intellectual and academic job of building the case though readers in every country of the world have done the job for him in the sense that it is the one novel read in nearly every language of the world by those who read in those individual languages who really read.  No other American novel can make that claim.

4- So, the real scandal of the Library of America is why have they not published Melville’s collected poetry?  Of course as Geoffrey O’Brien--- Editor in Chief of LOA--- has told me,  That book will be published but  just not in our lifetimes.  A reason, I would think,  to live on into…

67- So, while we wait for the remaining prose book of Kerouac from LOA we have the Collected Poetry… and down here on East First Street that is cause for celebration.

9- After T.S. Eliot’s opening line to The Waste Land, April is the cruelest month… and Ezra Pound’s opening  line to Hugh Selwyn Mauberly, For three years, out of key with his time…  I have quoted Jack Kerouac’s  TO EDWARD DAHLBERG.  Don’t use the telephone/People are never ready to answer it./Use poetry.  (Sadly there has to be a note as to why EDWARD DAHLBERG is/was)

78- And  I carried for years as a bookmark a card with Kerouac’s  WOMAN.  A woman is beautiful/but/you have to swing/and swing and swing/and swing like/a handkerchief in the/wind.

85- I turn the page in the collected poetry:  GOOFBALL BLUES:  I’m just a human being with a lot of/shit on my heart.

6- Or:::: OLD ANGEL MIDNIGHT::::  Friday Afternoon In the Universe, in all directions in & out you got your men women dogs children horses pones tics perts parts pans pools palls pails parturiences and petty Thieveries tat turn into heavenly Buddha--- I know boy what’s I talkin about case I made the world & when I made it I no lie & had Old Angel Midnight for my name and concocted up a world so nothing… 
39- From Uncollected Haikus  The sound of silence/is all the instruction/you’ll get

43- Years and years ago I remember in embarrassed naivety NOW  talking with Julian Green in Paris who had envied my being an altar boy as we sat In his elegant rue Vaneau apartment and him in the French Academy and me a little drunk—that special academy---  and me talking about Jack Kerouac who Green had heard of but who thought that the mixing of Buddhism with Catholicism un-necessary and yet I thought it important enough to mention to Green, about who Kerouac was and is still the most important American writer who happened also to be a Catholic who believed with the necessary belief of Green’s Idealized  Italian painter who never asks why: what’s the point, since only belief matters… and years later Green finally told me the real truly, finally something and which scandalized the pathetic agnostic, atheist  Guardian readers where I published this profile/interview with Green---  something Kerouac knew: when  I asked Green in his 90s what he had to look forward to, replied:  Purgatory and I know JK was seeking that in the final stupidity of his alcoholism, though …

44- The story of man/Makes me sick/Inside,outside,/I don’t know why/Something so conditional/And all talk/Should hurt me so./ 
I am hurt/I am scared/I want to live/I want to die/I don’t know/Where to turn/in the Void/and when/to cut/Out

45- My only problem with the LOA editon:  they disgraced the cover with a quote from the consummate fake Anne Waldman who has made a huge living by parading about with the mere rotten flesh of Ginsberg and Kerouac and Burroughs hanging off her skirt.

57-  from MEXICO CITY BLUES:   1, A home for unmarried fathers.
                                                                2. Well, that about does me in./I've packed my bags and time /Has come to start to heaven.
                                                                3.  Love’s multitudinous boneyard/of decay.

Another beginning .  The other day for fifty cents I bought the April 1966 mass market paperback of Jack Kerouac’s DESOLATION ANGELS published by Bantam for 95 cents.  FROM THE INTERNATIONAL UNDERGROUND OF THE BEAT GENERATION.  On the cover stark black and white figures of six humans, centered upon a bare-chested man and a woman seen from behind wearing only a bra, positioned on top of what might be the Washington Square Arch...

I mention this because there are no longer mass market paperback that are actually literary and readable.  I was forced to live in exile that early Fall of 1966 in my parents’ exile in Menasha, Wisconsin.  In  the city next to Menasha, Neenah was a large smoke shop and bookstore with many racks of paper backs and it was likely that this book would have been there. 

All of that has been wiped away.  The Signet and Bantam Classics, the Avon Books, books that would introduce South American literature to a mass audience… and make no mistake about it these pocketbooks, were published for a mass audience.  

At one moment, now long gone, some people thought that the masses wanted to read literature.  That has changed and now those people, those masses  talk about liking the books that I like to read, my books, my library and they are talking in reality about a range of books from James Patterson to Jonathan Franzen… and if you think there is a difference between Franzen and Patterson you are not really reading these words… and it could be Franzen is a pen-name for James Patterson…