Thursday, May 23, 2013

Spontaneous Poetics - 79 (Ed Marshall)

AG: I got turned onto that partly by Kerouac's Mexico City Blues, which were divisions of thought into the spaces of a notebook page, but for larger draughts of thought, or larger breaths of thought, I got turned on to this form of open-page broken phrasing arranged in series out on the page by a long poem called "Leave the Word Alone" by Edward Marshall, which is [was - sic] in the Don Allen anthology, and was, I think, the first, about 1958, breakthrough of this kind of block form, where thoughts were spread around on the page in a sort of logical order as they emerged from the mind of the writer.
"Leave the Word Alone" (that's the title of Ed Marshall's poem) is a long rhapsodic poem which also influenced me in rhythm for "Kaddish", but I think it was one of the single monuments of original notation of thought on the page that was produced in the post-War period. Ed Marshall, (a) friend of John Wieners. The poem was originally published in The Black Mountain Review, edited by Robert Creeley, in 1957 (so the date is probably 1955). And it was different from Williams, because it was a more rhapsodic poem, dealing with his mother and aunts who were in (a) bug-house in Boston. It was sort of crazy like Christopher Smart, but it had that element of continuous breath that wasn't exactly (a) measured long line like Whitman or Christopher Smart - that was broken-thought-ed, fragmented thought, but the thoughts had relation to each other, in terms of their speech, so it arrived at a form that was unique, and which I later used a lot as a model. The nearest of my own texts like that is a poem called "To Aunt Rose". And Frank O'Hara had somewhat of that same arrangement too - so I guess Frank O'Hara's poems were contemporaneous with Ed Marshall - but Frank wasn't writing (quite) that intense homosexual rhapsodic style. So for that rhapsodic style, (as a) modern Hart Crane, I think Marshall is the originator.

But we still have the problem, yeah, chance. Yeah?

Addenda:  "Marshall's Service" by Allen Ginsberg - (Introduction to the 1979 Pequod Press edition of Leave The Word Alone) - 

                                                      MARSHALL'S SERVICE

             This poetry serves for recurrent sacrament as given in Noon at Toxcatl 
                                                                                                   "...the beauty of
                                                         the boiled red and blue of the
                                                       seat of the emotions - the heart -"
The Creed or vision or most raw experience was shown to Irving Rosenthal, one of Edward
Marshall's early editors & connossieurs, as 
                                                                         I believe is He
                                                                       that comes as a germ
                                                                         in and out and in
                                                                           my feces..."
Like Christopher Smart, obscure in theological reference, as obscure as citizen, this poet's retired in privacy at time of these writings to bleak sexual apartments in a great dying city. And there to ecstatic transcriptions of Peyote in Brown Church
                                               "If I were to have heaved thee up/ O Earth"
                                                                                                                        and we hear a Refrain,
so characteristic of Marshall and Smart, one of many odd quotidian refrains mixed with archaic sacramental diction.
       The figure of Steve Jonas returns (with Alice O'Brien) as in John Wieners mythos, here's Last of Jonas Cycle, an older traditional form, the Epistle now wisely used, for a personal (not impersonal) quarrel - a social or moral ideological hassle between two brothers/sisters   
       Eighteenth Century divine Letters, free style twentieth-century poetics, again similar to Smart in mad sound, as the choruses of Hellan, Hellan roar louder in Bellen (The Bellowing Bear). Again Marshall's similar to Smart as prophet personalism's spokes-man with odd rich common language in eccentric mouth saying Let Us Sit And Meditate
                                                                               "Let us sit and meditate
                                                                                and we shall do things
                                                                                and get places
                                                                                before the Government
                                                                                           ever gets there


                                                                                And now the knee-caps are
                                                                                          shaking -
                                                                                 and the knee-caps touch the
                                                                                          ground -
                                                                                Yes, watch he is kneeling -
                                                                                And he sees the stars above - "
extended rhythm of Hellan, Hellan stays in my mind a decade as of this preface, it was a lovesong through the religious coverings, a love song in 1960 Hell.
       Leave the Word Alone - I first saw text in 1956 in San Francisco. Creeley (perhaps the earliest Marshall editor-connoisseur) had a sheaf of blue paper onionskins, in strange-typed open-page form - the poem was scattered all over the page more (as in first published version Black Mountain Review #7) - now it goes downpage in logical order, one breath suspended beneath another, the ideas as phrasings clearly stepping downward indented to the end of each thought, each thought a sort of strophe broken within itself, as if analyzed and divided by breath/idea line. I Thought shewing parts in profile, each long-breathed idea-sentence diagrammed into phrases.
       Hearken within each unit a kind of strophe-antistrophe antiphony - Biblical apposition they call it?      
                                                                                                take it any longer - pressure
                                                                                                        and she ran away."

That antiphonal extra phrase is an extra memory-detail rising at the end of first impulse thoughts, it's form of the recall while typing that forms the verses, gives logical after-echo thoughts of particulars to each assertion, completes references with minute detail for Bodhisattvic explanation. "Add alluvials to the end of your line when all is exhausted but something has to be said for some specified irrational reason, since reason can never win out, because poetry is NOT a science. The rhythm of how you decide to "rush" your statement determines the rhythm of the poem in verse-separated lines..." - J. Kerouac 1959 explained his own similar practice.
       Here telling about his mother, as I told mine in Kaddish, so here's Marshall's original Confession, that inspired my own, I copied his freedom of form, and wildness of line, and homeliness of personal reference:

              "She reads nothing now for she is catatonic, dementia-
                           praecox among the wolverine
                                         gang of girls who
                                                     couldn't get what they
                                                                    wanted in the '29

                             "If  I can finish this poem without cracking up and becoming
                                             victorious onslaught resurrection
                                                    It was the first of August that she couldn't 
                                                                 take it any longer - pressure
                                                                                  and she ran away."

This poem was in Don Allen Anthology (with Kerouac's & Olson's essays on freedom of breath mind tongue) which did influence Poetics in 1960-1970 period till partly forgotten in a flood of obscure rhymed crap issuing from Rock and Roll technology, late synthetic  Republican rock & roll, money and vagueness - but this Ed Marshall text is sharp-tongued prophecy, and poetry must recover the sincerity, awkwardnesss, naivete, and absolute seriousness of his revelation of his own sources of emotion, (early traumas and momma in madhouse unrecognizing him)
       I remember kneeling over Marshall over a decade ago 8th Avenue 28th Street NY thanking him for displaying a model memorial family poem, model of what's now tritely called "confessional" poem as if consciousness to fellow human beings to break the human ice  (as G.Corso named a mood) were somehow emotionally degraded - Oh no, it's an honor to bear witness to real tears, real tragedy, real one and only life, our own self archetypes honestly revealed as in Leave the Word Alone - This is the antidote to official poison gas and Mechanical Button Bomblets electrified o'er the nation - one human voice in wilderness stillness repeating the charming story of self truth. Ecstasy, yes, paroxysms of realization noted social. This piece is historic, like the poem Mayakovsky prophesied "At the Top of My Voice" :
                                                    "excavate in future like a
                                                             piece of rocket ship on moon"
       Re-reading the text I'm amazed that in this time the poem and poet haven't become  classic, known to all youths in Nixon years of impersonal secret thought with hidden feeling and up-tightness dominating Nation from Whitehouse down to street robber - everyone in America a thief living of thievery from nature or man, thus secretive & shamed of inner thought - So that this poem, and the type of poem that rises from it, is emotional medicine to the Nation.
       Where public speech is stilted, or cold, or conventional to police Bureaucracy, the speech of innermost private family thought becomes manifesto and standard of human (as opposed to non-human bureacratese, objective rational disconnected from raw meat body feeling) emotion & public discourse - no matter how un famously the speech is, modestly writ along and buried in Black Mountain Review or the memories of a few poet survivors of the  '50s, or poet youths who check the Don Allen New American Poetry 1945-1960 Classic Anthology.
       This speech is still good medicine for the young of another generation who will have to break through Party conditioning of "thought, feeling and apparent sensory phenomena", have to break through the nationalistic-ideological murder (mass-murder Good American as one recognizably Good German) "cool" apathy to reach, express, manifest, vocalize their own experience - actual momma knowledge, actual national grief, actual city subjectivity and personal body-lore.
       Yes Duncan said it was grief driving those mad bombers through the skies to turn Indochina Heaven into US manufactured Hell this our last decade. Despite this poem. And it is the obscurity of Marshall's poem & the excess publication given to the last several Presidents' poems, the reversal of value in public discourse, the mass marketing of bad White House poesy that has allowed this emotional and physical holocaust to develop. Grief over what we've done to our fellow yellows, our planet, our selves - Bombed out in soul forever: America's taken to violence to shield itself from the living grief expressed here in Leave the Word Alone.
                             "And Harry visited the hospital to see my 
                                           mother - faint recognition -
                                                    She was gone, not gone, asleep - no more
       This tender tone exact shorthand detailed hurried recollection, inspirations-on-the-wing from memory, uncovered my own natural style in Kaddish several years later.
       I know it's strange to praise another Poet's work for influencing your own, but I have fame and name and shame of money where Marshall has none, yet much of my reputation rests on an original breath of inspiration that came from Edward Marshall's own body lone unlaureled Prana intelligence, lung.
       Marshall explains his breakthrough, in an extra Fragment of ..the Word:
                                     "for it was the Holy Spirit
                                                    that made me jump out of my seat -"
       Examining his book (December 13, 1972, men returning from lunar voyage) see how prophetic Mischief of the Spirit is, beginning and ending:
                                          "The larger the territory
                                                       the greater the claim
                                                                     into all space
                                                                               not for sale - 

                                               And don't forget the alchemists
                                                              and all the chief priests
                                                                   who will wiggle their way to the moon."
       Well yes little slight generational social comments linking fad and style to Apocalypse too, as The Nabi, adorn the book. 
                                            "Thank God for the rhythmic generation
                                                           of bodily rhythms     
                                            For this is "the generation that seek him"
       Another major anaphoric composition How Deep is Thy Love is vision of 1960s funky city apartment live as if in belly of whale:
                                        "How deep is thy love because I did go out 
                                                 on the roof this morning with the dog
                                                         and I felt September before the  
                                                         Idea and then I discussed
                                                         color to sound."

Absolutely quirky mad Smart - with some kind of hidden wisdom ram-rodding the poem forming a rhythmic spine - Emptiness and dispossession, he's returned to natal New England & singing in the emptiness is at the edge of - over the edge of - compassion to himself and the world about which he sees, names and rhapsodizes around in the Deep Love refrained poem. 
       Yet it was thought for a decade to react, publish or comment -  or read - this poesy, because it often seems it's crazy punish-meant - till a familiar mood of hopeless human prayer sets in. So that you know he's with You, You and You:

                                                    "I throw my manuscript and I surrender all, my
                                                                    Dear, but God says that I must throw some         
                                                                                    more of my conscience (pricks) at his
                                                                                    Son's feet if I expect to be lifted high
                                                                                    angel-wise and go by I's lifted - 
                                                                                    archangels and lyres -
                                                       A little more surrender and you'll go everywhere..."

       What tradition is this? What poetic tantra?. Reading the Convicts I thought somewhere between Christopher Smart, Emily Dickinson, Browning and Gertrude Stein - there's a lilt and logic to the short line interrogative prose arrangement - a quick form for self-interrogation same verse form as Last of Jonas Cycle. On That Web of Words, Marshall commentarys on his own method

                                                  "Short circuits - 
                                                               or staccato
                                                   with no restraining wires
                                                                that give expectantly  
                                                                                 to the next line
                                                              Short circuit..."
       And Dramatic Silence provides a more classical explanation of method.

                "The lyre of self-estrangement admitting sin
                        stroking these discords     
                                        then dischords
                                        then chromatics
                                        but then grace notes -
                        but only grace notes because of dischords -
                                                                                     disgraceful notes."

       An open-form poetry, projective or spontaneous has now become commoner practice than in the days when these excellent examples of natural individual. type of notation were scribed; it's appropriate that as the innovative precision  (accuracy to one's own embarrassingly free mind) of original poet Marshall's lines and divisions and breaks, chords and dischords, are finally published, they be available to younger poets for a working standard.  Rule of thumb and sensitive ear and intelligent mind guide thought in these free forms, and many "minute particulars" keep the lines alive. Open form poetry when written popularly can also be a lot of slush, there is plenty of that in the '70s. Marshall's work is published just in time, to show the source of this style, and its native usage.
       Thoughts rise. What mystic experience had he - all the way back to '52 addressing "mortals on all Saints day"? like some XX Century Gerard Manley Hopkins. We can tell the divine Afflatus in How Deep is Thy Love among other poems. Yes and there's the smallness of George Herbert, little poems with some complex image Fire worked out, ramified like Altars and Pulleys.
       What major quality here? A unique sense of refrain powerful loud rhythm, Hellan, Hellan/Bellen Bellen,  Leave the Word Alone, How Deep Is Thy Love all prove Marshall's strange familiar genius of vocal movement, which others including myself can use, moved by his pioneer ear, and tongue, and lung.  Andrei Voznesensky asked in Moscow in 1965 elevator to his apartment, "What language do you think in?". I said something, Spanish, mostly English -  He said I think in rhythm.   
                                                                                                                           - December 27 1972


  1. Terrific to have this attention to Ed Marshall's work (with more to come in future transcriptions, I understand?) -- thank you!

    I presume that the addendum, "Marshall's Service," comes from a manuscript or typescript source, because only about a third of what is given here was actually used as the "Introduction" for R'Lene Dahlberg's 1979 Pequod Press edition of Leave the Word Alone. (That introduction starts with the paragraph beginning "Leave the Word Alone - I first saw text in 1956 . . ." and ends with the quoted lines "for it was the Holy Spirit / that made me jump out of my seat - ")

    It is a boon to have access to the full Ginsberg response to Marshall's poem.

    (One note that may help anyone searching for Marshall's work: Allen apparently misremembered the spelling of the title of Marshall's first book, which is "Hellan, Hellan")

    1. Thanks, David, and yes, more Ginsberg-on-Marshall to come (including contributions from poet Ted Berrigan). That text, "Marshall's Service" does indeed come from the original typescript here in the archives at The Allen Ginsberg Project
      - and thanks for pointing out that mis-spelling (the fault of the transcriber and not of Allen), that's been duly corrected - thanks

  2. Here's something remarkable - video footage of the elusive Mr Marshall -
    - also here -