American Poet

Louis Zukofsky

Louis Zukofsky was born January 23, 1904, in New York’s Lower East Side, to Orthodox Jewish immigrants from what is now Lithuania. The only one of his siblings born in America, Zukofsky grew up in a Yiddish-speaking family and community. His first encounter with literature was Yiddish adaptations of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Strindberg, and Tolstoy at the local theaters. He first read Longfellow’s Hiawatha and Aeschylus’s Prometheus Bound in Yiddish, though by age eleven he had read all of Shakespeare in English.

Although Zukofsky’s family was poor, and though he could have gone to City College for free, his parents sacrificed and sent him to Columbia University, where he studied both English and philosophy. In 1924 he received his master’s in English, having studied with prominent scholars such as poet Mark Van Doren, philosopher John Dewey, and novelist John Erskine.

While in school, Zukofsky singled out Ezra Pound as the only living poet that mattered, just as Pound had done years earlier with Yeats. In 1927, Zukofsky sent Pound his “Poem beginning ‘The,'” a slanted parody of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land that addresses the poet’s mother and includes slices of Dante and Virginia Woolf. Pound was impressed by the poem and published it a year later in the journal Exile. Zukofsky further impressed Pound by writing the first analyses of Pound’s The Cantos in 1929, which were still unfinished at the time. Pound then persuaded Harriet Monroe, Chicago heiress and founder of Poetry, to allow Zukofsky to edit a special issue for her in February of 1931.

Zukofsky’s special issue, “‘Objectivists’ 1931,” unveiled what would later become the Objectivist movement, a group of poets that included Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, Carl Rakoski, as well as Zukofsky himself. The issue also included work by poets who would remain associated with the group in various ways, such as William Carlos Williams and Kenneth Rexroth.

In 1932, Zukofsky edited An “Objectivists” Anthology, which further defined the group, though without indicating any single aesthetic position. Zukofsky’s own contribution to the anthology included the first seven movements of “A,” an ambitious poem in a juxtapositional style akin to that of The Cantos in its cohesiveness and length. Begun in 1927, Zukofsky spent the rest of his life working on “A,” expanding the epic to 24 sections, mirroring the hours of the day. The poem weaves together politics and family, traditional forms and free verse, and features Zukofsky’s own father as a major theme. The complete version of “A” was finally at the printers when the poet died in 1978.
The 1930s proved to be an extremely busy decade for Zukofsky, in both his artistic and personal life. Not only did he continue to work on “A,” but he made great progress on a number of other manuscripts, including many short poems that were later collected in 55 Poems (1941), as well as the compilation A Test of Poetry (1948), a teaching anthology. In 1933 he met musician and composer Celia Thaew, whom he courted and later married in August 1939. Their only son, Paul, was born in 1943. He was a child prodigy on the violin and eventually became one of the world’s noted performers and conductors of twentieth-century music. Zukofsky’s family, specifically his wife, played a large role in his writing throughout his life, collaborating and offering key support for works such as his translation of Catullus (1969), his Autobiography (1970), and even sections of “A.”

Despite the attention Objectivism received as a major poetic movement of the 1930s, Zukofsky’s own work never achieved much recognition outside literary circles. His poetry tended to be obscure, experimental, and intellectual. As Guy Davenport wrote in the journal Parnassus, Zukofsky is a “poet’s poet’s poet,” one whose work is intended for a select audience of connoisseurs. In later years, Zukofsky’s work became deeply influential to poets in both the Black Mountain and Language movements.

When Zukofsky died on May 12, 1978, in Port Jefferson, New York, he had published 49 books, including poetry, short fiction, and critical essays. He had also won National Endowment for the Arts Grants in 1967 and 1968, the National Institute of Arts and Letters Grants in 1976, and an honorary doctorate from Bard College in 1977. The first complete edition of his work “A,” along with another collection, 80 Flowers, was finally published posthumously in 1978, providing closure to a unique and uncompromised career.

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Published in: on February 23, 2007 at 1:22 pm  Comments (1)  

Scanner Sings Fur Elise

Gentle Reader please enjoy

Published in: on January 12, 2007 at 3:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

The World is a Double Haunting.

Watch sea morph to poppies to séance to small doors that close in the night. Here is a constellation of video, music, and movement culled from that venerable repository of culture and curiosity, the worldwideweb.

Dr. Lilyfoil Squirreltease

The Future of Music

Gentle Reader witness the future of music.shot02.jpg These mechanical devices, create the most marvelous of acoustic delights. Take your time to marvel at the superb engineering involved in the metamorphosis of this machine from mere machine to a work of art.

Dr. Horace Mothwing

On the World Wide Web:

Reactable Website

Video of the Reactable being played by Chris Brown

Robert Moog the master of musical electronics playing the Reactable

Published in: on December 23, 2006 at 3:16 pm  Leave a Comment  

Wax Cylinder Recordings

Sunday evening I prepared myself, to motor to the capital city of the United States of America, Washington DC, To ensure that the drive I was to make had many musical delights to enhance the experience, I began searching the World Wide Web looking for compositions that would provide mental stimulation. This sensual offering from the good people of the University of Santa Barbara Special Collections Library, is literally a virtual treasure trove of ancient recordings from the late 19th and early 20th Century.

Wax Cylinders, were the method of choice for recording and playing back music long before the invention of our beloved MP3 players. Sadly, many of these wonderful recordings have succumbed to the wear and tear of age neglect. Entropy has set in and nearly destroyed, or in some cases completely destroyed forever these recordings. These auditory marvels offer a time machine, if you will, into the lives, hopes, and aspirations of souls who have long ago left this planet we call earth. Thankfully, the restoration of thousands of recordings, is currently underway at many esteemed places of learning and research. The kind souls that have taken it upon themselves, this monumental task of restoring, cataloging, and making available to the public free of charge ( on the World Wide Web) is truly one of at the very least a medal of service and achievement, from our country’s leaders.

Please read this excerpt from the website concerning the history of recording:

From the first recordings made on tinfoil in 1877 to the last produced on celluloid in 1929, cylinders spanned a half-century of technological development in sound recording. As documents of American cultural history and musical style, cylinders serve as an audible witness to the sounds and songs through which typical audiences first encountered the recorded human voice. And for those living at the turn of the 20th century, the most likely source of recorded sound on cylinders would have been Thomas Alva Edison’s crowning achievement, the phonograph. Edison wasn’t the only one in the sound recording business in the first decades of the 20th century; several companies with a great number of recording artists, in addition to the purveyors of the burgeoning disc format, all competed in the nascent musical marketplace. Still, more than any other figure of his time, Edison and the phonograph became synonymous with the cylinder medium. Because of the overwhelming preponderance of cylinder recordings bearing his name in UCSB’s collection, the following history is, we admit, Edison-centric. Nonetheless, Edison’s story is heavily dependent on the stories of numerous musical figures and sound recording technological developments emblematic of the period, and it is our hope that we have fairly represented them here. Herein, a humble primer.

Yes indeed, Edison was the Wizard of the New World.

Dr. Horace Mothwing

Please take your time to enjoy.
University of Santa Barbara Special Collections Library.

Published in: on December 19, 2006 at 4:12 pm  Comments (1)  

99 famous garage doors

Please enjoy this music offered to us from Berlin composer AFG.
She offers a wondrous moving picture of “99 famous garage doors

Dr. Yumi Nakamura

99 Famous Garage doors
more information about AFG can be found at:
poem producer

Published in: on December 18, 2006 at 3:31 am  Leave a Comment