S11-551-05-06-13 • Reading: Half sleep, or gymnast’s struggle • The primacy of poetry • The politics—not dogma, but practical construction, not party, but self measuring. • Absolutely NOT mimesis: that is the plagiarism of the traditional. Accurate attention: if rigor of beauty is the quest, but it is “locked in the mind” beyond all remonstrance, the issue is to unlock the mind, and let it be what it most deserves to be. • Williams: continuity, following. The late books: the mind being where and what it sees • Desert Music: 1954 (trip from July, 1947) • Journey to Love 1955 • Pictures from Breughel 1962 (published with Desert Music & Journey to Love)
WALDEN, 3. Reading To read well, that is, to read true books in a true spirit, is a noble exercise, and one that will task the reader more than any exercise which the customs of the day esteem. It requires a training such as the athletes underwent, the steady intention almost of the whole life to this object. Books must be read as deliberately and reservedly as they were written.. . The works of the great poets have never yet been read by mankind, for only great poets can read them. They have only been read as the multitude read the stars, at most astrologically, not astronomically. Most men have learned to read to serve a paltry convenience, as they have learned to cipher in order to keep accounts and not be cheated in trade; but of reading as a noble intellectual exercise they know little or nothing; yet this only is reading, in a high sense, not that which lulls us as a luxury and suffers the nobler faculties to sleep the while, but what we have to stand on tip-toe to read and devote our most alert and wakeful hours to. Democratic Vistas In fact, a new theory of literary composition for imaginative works of the very first class, and especially for highest poems, is the sole course open to these States. Books are to be call'd for, and supplied, on the assumption that the process of reading is not a half sleep, but, in highest sense, an exercise, a gymnast's struggle; that the reader is to do something for himself, must be on the alert, must himself or herself construct indeed the poem, argument, history, metaphysical [Page 993 ] essay -- the text furnishing the hints, the clue, the start or frame-work. Not the book needs so much to be the complete thing, but the reader of the book does. That were to make a nation of supple and athletic minds, well-train'd, intuitive, used to depend on themselves, and not on a few coteries of writers. Emerson Thoreau Whitman The Poet . The pairing of the birds is an idyl, not tedious as our idyls are; a tempest is a rough ode, without falsehood or rant: a summer, with its harvest sown, reaped, and stored, is an epic song, subordinating how many admirably executed parts. Why should not the symmetry and truth that modulate these, glide into our spirits, and we participate the invention of nature? This insight, which expresses itself by what is called Imagination, is a very high sort of seeing, which does not come by study, but by the intellect being where and what it sees, by sharing the path, or circuit of things through forms, and so making them translucid to others. The path of things is silent. Will they suffer a speaker to go with them? A spy they will not suffer; a lover, a poet, is the transcendency of their own nature, -- him they will suffer. The condition of true naming, on the poet's part, is his resigning himself to the divine aura which breathes through forms, and accompanying that. It is a secret which every intellectual man quickly learns, that, beyond the energy of his possessed and conscious intellect, he is capable of a new energy (as of an intellect doubled on itself), by abandonment to the nature of things; that, beside his privacy of power as an individual man, there is a great public power, on which he can draw, by unlocking, at all risks, his human doors, and suffering the ethereal tides to roll and circulate through him: then he is caught up into the life of the Universe, his speech is thunder, his thought is law, and his words are universally intelligible as the plants and animals.
Letter to James Laughlin, 1947 • What I said about Eliot has nothing to do with his inheritance of the King’s old underwear but dates from his advice to us in this country that we may now read Milton without fear of damage to our testicles. Geez what a shit he has turned out to be—to the enhancement of his charm, I must confess, and drawing power among the American snots. Not that he isn’t a sort of a good poet or a good poet of a sort but from they way they bend down to kiss the hem of his metaphorical garments—cerements, I was going to say—you’d think he possessed the universal genius of a Saint Anthony, . . . Instead of being a very frail sister indeed. (from Liebowitz)
By the road to the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves under them leafless vines- Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches- They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind- Now the grass, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf One by one objects are defined- It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf But now the stark dignity of entrance-Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken - By the road to the contagious hospital under the surge of the blue mottled clouds driven from the northeast-a cold wind. Beyond, the waste of broad, muddy fields brown with dried weeds, standing and fallen patches of standing water the scattering of tall trees All along the road the reddish purplish, forked, upstanding, twiggy stuff of bushes and small trees with dead, brown leaves under them leafless vines- Lifeless in appearance, sluggish dazed spring approaches- They enter the new world naked, cold, uncertain of all save that they enter. All about them the cold, familiar wind- Now the grass, tomorrow the stiff curl of wildcarrot leaf One by one objects are defined- It quickens: clarity, outline of leaf But now the stark dignity of entrance-Still, the profound change has come upon them: rooted, they grip down and begin to awaken The road to the contagious hospital
The Red Wheel Barrow so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens.
Stevens: Not ideas about the thing but the thing itself • At the earliest ending of winter, • In March, a scrawny cry from outside • Seemed like a sound in his mind. • He knew that he heard it, • A bird's cry, at daylight or before, • In the early March wind. • The sun was rising at six, • No longer a battered panache* above snow... • It would have been outside. • It was not from the vast ventriloquism • Of sleep's faded papier-mache... • The sun was coming from the outside. • That scrawny cry--It was • A chorister whose c preceded the choir. • It was part of the colossal sun, • Surrounded by its choral rings, • Still far away. • It was like A new knowledge of reality.