for FRANZ WRIGHT: “dark, then bright, so bright”

An antique Relic found amongst the Ruins,
thought to be Samson’s.

What Genius Means Border………………….[Click twice on the old script to read it more easily.]

A further antique Relic thought to be Samson’s:
illuminations on Jūlija’s desk under the volcano on Bali.

God burns

…………….God Burns 4 …………..[Click twice on both to see better, & read carefully for clues to decipher the text.]

Dear Jūlija,……………………………………………………….December 9th, 2017
I love what you say in your last paragraph about the “message of the relics” — it’s very exciting how we’re finding our way there together, and I’m tremendously grateful to you for the help.

In answer to your question about Franz Wright, he was a unique, and uniquely great, American poet who also had a uniquely troubled life. He died just two and a half years ago after a long struggle with lung cancer, having essentially smoked himself to death. He had been abusing drugs and alcohol and everything else for 40 years, was in and out of mental hospitals, and was famous for being extremely angry and aggressive in public and especially  on-line. For examples of the latter you can go to For Franz Wright (2010) cited in my previous post. In particular you can read his Comment 34 followed by his Comments 38 & 39, and finally his very moving last Comment 41.  (For convenience sake I have highlighted all Franz Wright’s Comments in Green.) And you can also read a short reply of my own to him in Comment 40, which will give you an idea of how I dealt with all this at the time.

Insufficiently, needless to say, and why I have felt compelled to revisit the original thread 7 years later, and of course why I am dedicating “He Reflects on What his Genius Means” to Franz Wright along with your beautiful illuminations.

Also why I have high-lighted in blue the discussion with my co-editor at the time, the anti-modernist critic, Tom Brady, who mocked Franz Wright ferociously both as a poet and as a person throughout. My feeling is that readers will be interested not only in Tom Brady’s ‘Old- (as opposed to ‘New-) Critical’ views but also in the way my own understanding of both ‘the poet’ and ‘poetry’ in general developed during the discussion. Because I was caught between a rock and a very hard place, pushing against two uncompromising Savanarolas, Tom Brady on the own hand and Franz Wright on the other, the former dismissing my poem, “Leonardo Amongst Women,” as “didactic” and the latter as “perfectly awful.”

Which was a lot to deal with then, and still is.

[Cont. in the Comments.]

WHY IT IS MORE IMPORTANT FOR A WRITER TO SLEEP WELL THAN BE READ, OR ALMOST

Dod Proctor, %22Morning,%22 (1927)…………………………..“Morning” by Dod Procter (1926).

………………………………………………………………………… December 2nd, 2017
My writing is for me like a journal that sleeps in in the morning…

that wakes itself up every day from scratch…

that is always the same yet always completely different…

that like time itself starts over again every time it’s aware of the time…

that like time is aware of itself only in a present that has neither a past nor a future or anything in common with anything defined, labelled, catalogued or published…

that is always there in my present because it has never had to become like another person’s book on my shelf…

that is never finished because it has no other reader to fix it like a butterfly on a pin, a print in the darkroom, or a boat with a chart and a hand-bearing compass somewhere out there on the ocean…

that is never opened because it’s a book that has never been cut even after it has been selected, edited, printed, purchased and held in a hand or a wrapper or warmed in a pocket or by the pillow in somebody’s bed…

that is susceptible to revision but not editing, i.e. susceptible to being re-seen but not re-said because it might sound better any old way…
………………

[cont.] ……………………………………………………………… December 3rd, 2017


…..

…………………………...‘LIBERATION’  (vendredi, 19  janvier 1990)

[cont.] ……………………………………………………………… December 4th, 2017
I lay in for a long time yesterday morning, figuratively speaking, and my sense of it is that that was good. It meant I didn’t have to explain anything to you about what I was doing and, low and behold, that worked out brilliantly. Because it was obvious — you just clicked on the clipping to get in and even if you didn’t speak a word of French the drapes showed you everything. And of course Cristina Szemere then set that up beautifully in her elegant précis: “persistent absence…awareness because there is no revelation, no un-dressing.”

Oh my!

And then on top of all that there were you visitors from France, Spain, Angola, India and Thailand along with the anglophones from the U.K. and America, all clicking on ‘Liberation’ to get a life in the next:  FOR FRANZ WRIGHT – January 21, 2010.

What I’ve done today is highlight the relevant passages in blue so that if you’re ready you can breeze through it all quite easily and I can continue to lie in.

Oh yes, and the keywords, of course: Didactic, Perfectly and Awful.

[cont. in the Comments.]…………………………………………. December 6th, 2017

FOR FRANZ WRIGHT


L
……………………………………………….Liberation, Vendredi, 19  Janvier 1990

A small poem that dares to say what you probably meant when you came here blazing, Franz Wright — for almost certainly such anger was the result of a divine touch in you that does not allow you to compromise with anything or anyone.

Also a poem that has something to say, so it’s for Thomas Brady too, who will hate it.

For the record, this poem has been rejected by many of the top poetry reviews and journals in America over the years, the editors usually saying something like: “…drawn to the language in ‘Leonardo Amongst Women’… find myself distanced by the more didactic second half.” Or from another angle: “We can appreciate the craft and passion of your poem, but not the loss and worshipful longing it is steeped in.” The poem remains unpublished to this day.

……………………………..LEONARDO AMONGST WOMEN

…………………………………..The bulk not the vectors
…………………………………..is what old Merlin draws,
…………………………………..the wash of his own weight
…………………………………..shot through silk in motion.

…………………………………..Thus the kneeling girl that
…………………………………..God wants even more than he,
…………………………………..sheen of eggplant fish and
…………………………………..satin light on rose paper.

…………………………………..Yet even the new faithful
…………………………………..schooled to ask too much
…………………………………..study not the secret in the folds
…………………………………..but just the pale hands clasped
…………………………………..in prayer, the inviolable eyes
…………………………………..raised to praise everything but
…………………………………..the veiled act taking place
…………………………………..preposterously below—
…………………………………..precisely where the raw clay plug
…………………………………..cradled in that lone man’s hope
…………………………………..lingering turned, sweetly bound,
…………………………………..dignified in clinging drapes
…………………………………..and tight swaddling clouts
…………………………………..the immaculate desire to be
…………………………………..defined not by what we do but
…………………………………..like a mute maiden what she is
…………………………………..wound in her cocoon.

…………………………………..And so with unfurled wings
…………………………………..folding back like perfumed letters
…………………………………..in the dark, virgin lips signing
…………………………………..in the last low light and every
…………………………………..flute and hollow, genius spins
…………………………………..the miracle of thighs with down
…………………………………..so light it only lifts to knowledge
…………………………………..stroked the other way, leading
…………………………………..the man’s hand of God
…………………………………..to know those things
…………………………………..it never sees or ever thinks
…………………………………..but only dies to dream.

…………………………………..And if we priests and doctors
…………………………………..cannot bow our heads to live
…………………………………..draped amongst the women thus
…………………………………..we cannot hold God’s absence
…………………………………..live nor like the genius maiden
…………………………………..be the empty vessel it desires—

…………………………………..and then we only die to dream
…………………………………..no more—
…………………………………..and all our saints are peeping toms,*
…………………………………..and all our gold, lead.

………………………………………………………………“Les études de draperies,”
………………………………………………………………..Musée du Louvre 1990

______________________
This poem is based on a small Leonardo da Vinci exhibition I saw in the new underground gallery at the Louvre in 1990 called “Les études de draperies” — I have carried the original pages from the great Parisian left-wing newspaper, ‘Liberation’ (Vendredi, 19  Janvier 1990), with me ever since, the event meant so much to me.

The exhibition consisted of a series of experimental sketches in which the artist wound damp muslin strips around small, featureless lumps of clay and then drew just the wraps — one of the most eloquent demonstrations of the fullness of emptiness ever conceived in the mind of man but widely experienced, one suspects, by women.

* NOTE added December 4th, 2018: In the version of the poem discussed in this thread the last two lines read: “and all our saints are fools,/ and all our gold is lead.” I always annotate that discrepancy when it leads to confusion in the following discussion.

“I GAVE UP EVERYTHING, EVERYTHING TO BE A POET” –FRANZ WRIGHT

…….Franz Wright Grab

 

James and Franz Wright, poets, and miserable sons-of-bitches.

“A Blessing” by James Wright is maudlin crap, perhaps the worst poem ever published.

The lust for horsies and the ‘break into blossom’ trope is embarrassing in the extreme.

“Northern Pike” is a close second: “we prayed for the muskrats”

“I am so happy.”    Good grief.

His football poem isn’t much better; “gallup terribly” is a trite way to describe the violence of football.  One can tell he’s just a nerdy observer.

“Their women cluck like starved pullets,/Dying for love.”  Lines like these are destined for the ash heap.

Don’t get me started on the treacly, self-pitying exploitation of George Doty, the executed killer.

What to do with James Wright, who is nothing more than smarmy Whitman-haiku?

[Note: No woman poet seeking entrance to the canon would be permitted to get away with Wright’s metaphorical slop.]

“Depressed by a book of bad poetry…”

“I have wasted my life.”

Yea.

The times (1972) were right for Whitman-haiku poetry, so James Wright’s Pulitzer is no surprise.  Plus, Wright was associated with a lot of big names: Roethke, Kunitz, Tate, Berryman, Bly.

Franz faced a difficulty as a poet.  His father was a name.  Say what you will about Whitman-haiku, his father did it well.

Franz seems to have genuinely admired his father’s poetry and made no attempt, as a poet, to get out from under his father’s shadow.

Junior poet looks up to senior poet and uses the same straight-forward, plain-speaking, self-obsessed, sentimentality of approach: Look, reader, here is my transparent chest; take a look at what I am feeling.  You might think I’d be sad—and good Lord, I have reason to be—but something about the inscrutability of the universe and my inner faith makes me happy.

Recently on Harriet, Franz Wright wrote the following, which Franz never should have written and which Harriet never should have published, and which we publish here because…oh, we forget why.

[Warning: Wright’s comment on Harriet does contain abusive language]

Henry–I have no opinion about your “work”, or the “work” of others like little Kent and the others you masturbate with. My suggestion to all of you is: give up everything for the art. Everything. Can you do that? I did it 35 years ago–do you think that might have something to do with what you little whiners call “being on the inside”? I am not on the inside of shit. I gave up everything, everything, to be a poet. I lived in financial terror and homelessness, sometimes, for nearly 40 years. Can you do that? You little whining babies. Franz Wright, 12/20/2009 Blog:Harriet

Now, that’s poetry.

Granted, it’s hyperbolic to say you gave up everything to be a poet.  What does that even mean? No one wants to suffer, and to say in hindsight that you suffered for your art is arrogant, because even if you thought it were true, it can never be proven by anyone, anywhere, that the more outrageously you suffer, the better your art will be.   There’s no substance to such a “brag.”

But we love the balls of it.