Sunday, December 30, 2012

Readings for a year's end: "one person at a time"


 ... In earlier times the “Avant Garde” could be defined as a community of particular sympathy, as in Black Mountain College, or a Shaker village. I don’t think I am preaching the Gospel of Beauty like Vachel Lindsay. It’s more like Beethoven’s hope — “from the heart, to the heart.” Like I said before, one person at a time. Sad to say, a lot of my readers and supporters are by now dead. A lot are not yet born. Yet, quite a number in their twenties write letters (real ones with stamps, etc.) And some come to visit, look at the view, and listen to the talk. That’s a good sign. And the talk is good. Tom Meyer, the fine poet I have been living with for 34 years, talks better than I do.

... Uncle Remus says: “Hit run’d cross my min’ des lak a rat ‘long a rafter.” I have a mind like that. It darts and shimmies all the time. It thinks of six things (besides sex) all at once. So the trick is to slow down, focus, concentrate. Someone said that craft is perfected attention. I like making well-crafted books, and poems, and images. Because it pleases me so to do. And it’s nice to please some of one’s friends now and then. I have never cultivated a commercial audience. I try never to do anything just for money— I seem to have been quite successful at that. My things are for one or two people at a time. My old friend, Ephraim Doner (whose father had been an Hassidic rabbi in Poland), once told me about “The Lamed-Vov.” In the ancient Hebraic tradition the Lamed-Vov were the 36 great souls of the earth. Wonderfully, they never knew they were great souls, but Yahweh knew. If suddenly they dwindled to less than 36, then Yahweh would pull the plug and go to work on a better animal.
(from an interview with Jonathan Williams conducted by Jeffery Beam for Rain Taxi in spring, 2003. It also appears on the Jargon Society website.)

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