Davidson, Michael. The San Francisco Renaissance: Poetics and Community at Mid-Century. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, pp. 179-187. Duncan, Robert. "Biographical Notes." In The New American Poetry, edited by Donald M. Allen. New York: Grove Press, 1960.
Finkelstein, Norman M. The Utopian Moment in Contemporary American Poetry. 2d ed. Lewisburg, Penn.: Bucknell University Press, 1993, pp. 82-90. Prevallet, Kristin. "The Reluctant Pixie Poole (A Recovery of Helen Adam's San Francisco Years)," Electronic Poetry Center. Available online. URL: http://wings.buffalo.edu/ epc/authors/prevallet/adam.html. Downloaded March 26, 2003.
AFTER LORCA JACK SPICER (1957) After
Lorca, according to Peter Gizzi, "offers a template for reading [Jack] spicer's other books" (183); it works as an ars poetica that introduces serial composition and what is usually called "dictation" as theme and method in the poet's career (see long and serial poetry) . Its attention to language, community, and poetic tradition were significant to both Spicer's contemporaries in the san francisco renaissance (particularly Robin blaser and Robert duncan) and to the later language school. The book also demonstrates a paradoxically solemn and irreverent attention to tradition. While Spicer's poetry exists within elevated traditions (the text names a number of poets as influences, including William Blake, Helen adam, Marianne moore, and William Butler Yeats), it simultaneously critiques the very notion of tradition. After
Lorca purports to be a translation of the poetry of Federico Garcia Lorca (1899-1936), but, in actuality, it takes Lorca's poetry, particularly his interest in spiritual mediums, as an often radical jumping-off point. Furthermore Spicer's use of source materials (in the form of poetries quoted or alluded to within After Lorca) situates him alongside 20th-century writers ranging from Ezra pound and William Carlos Williams to Susan howe.
The poem's description of tradition as "generations of different poets in different countries patiently telling the same story, writing the same poem" indirectly addresses Spicer's idea of poetic dictation. For Spicer dictation is a quasi-mystical writing practice in which the poet, like a radio, receives the poem from an "outside" source (in Spicer's case, purportedly from Martians). "At the base of the throat is a little machine / Which makes us able to say anything," he explains in After Lorca's "Friday the 13th" section. Here the poet's "voice" is dissolved into a poem that exceeds the poet's own subjective control.
After Lorca contains perhaps Spicer's most famous commentary on language in poetry, articulated as a desire to "make poems out of real objects," to make of the poem a "collage of the real." Spicer wants "to transfer the immediate object, the immediate emotion to the poem." The poems themselves are essentially lyrical, though this lyricism is marked by line breaks that frequently respond not to sound or to breath (as described in Charles olson's essay "Projective Verse") but to meaning; Spicer's line break often works to heighten a word's ambiguity, particularly when combined with an often erratic use of punctuation: "I crawled into bed with sorrow that night / Couldn't touch his fingers." The word sorrow fluctuates between being the emotion that informs the speaker's action and the lover with whom the speaker is in bed; it is similarly unclear whether "I" or "night" itself fails in the caress. Meaning's ambiguity heightens the effect here, producing the emotion described. According to Blaser, it is in After Lorca that "the reader first notices the presence of this disturbance" characteristic of Spicer's work, in which "all elements of order and resolution draw to themselves a fragmentation of meaning" (308).
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