Bibliography

The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, vols. 1-3, ed. Arnold Rampersad (Columbia,

Richard Barksdale, Langston Hughes: The Poet and his Critics (Chicago, 1977). R. Baxter Miller, The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes (Lexington, KY, 1989). Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes, 2 vols. (New York, 1986, 1988). Steven C. Tracy, Langston Hughes and the Blues (Urbana, IL, 1988).

Louis Zukofsky was born on Manhattan's Lower East Side of Russian immigrant parents, and grew up reading Yiddish as well as English. He graduated from Columbia University at the age of 20, and later supported himself by a variety of jobs including teaching English for many years at the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn, New York. His writing includes poetry, fiction, criticism, and translations, although he is best known for his long collage-like poem of 24 sections, "A", which he published in parts over 50 years, and for his association with the objectivist movement in the 1930s and the principles that developed from it.

Richard Barksdale, Langston Hughes: The Poet and his Critics (Chicago, 1977). R. Baxter Miller, The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes (Lexington, KY, 1989). Arnold Rampersad, The Life of Langston Hughes, 2 vols. (New York, 1986, 1988). Steven C. Tracy, Langston Hughes and the Blues (Urbana, IL, 1988).

In February 1931, having been recommended to editor Harriet Monroe by Ezra Pound, Zukofsky guest-edited an issue of Poetry within which he published a group of poets whose work incorporated the principles that he outlined in two accompanying essays "Program: 'Objectivists' 1931," and "Sincerity and Objectification." These poets included, along with Zukofsky himself, William Carlos Williams, George Oppen, Kenneth Rexroth, Charles Reznikoff (the main subject of the second essay), and Carl Rakosi. The journal noted that Ezra Pound "gave over to younger poets the space offered him." The objectivists were scarcely a group, and the term itself did not carry much beyond the early 1930s, in which time there was an associated Object-ivist Press, which published Pound and Williams, and An "Objectivists" Anthology (1932), edited by Zukofsky. But the emphasis upon the linguistic properties of the poem that the poets shared received renewed interest in the 1950s from such poets as Robert Creeley, Robert Duncan, and Cid Corman, and this renewed interest increased still further with the importance of Zukofsky's work for the Language poets in the 1970s and 1980s.

As Zukofsky's "Program" explains the goals of objectivism, the poets aim for two particular kinds of achievement, which Zukofsky terms "sincerity" and "objectification." "Sincerity," he argues, is "preoccupation with the accuracy of detail in writing" which can be for example in the detail of objects or, again, "in the rendering of character and speech." "Objectification" refers to structural unity, at the level of the sound, syllables, and the relationships of words within the line and the poem as a whole. "Sincerity" thus provides the building blocks of "objectification," unifying the poem through the very close relationship between the properties of language properly used and the detail that it expresses.

Zukofsky argued that this resulting unity within a poem must also have a historical basis. In a note accompanying the part of his long poem "A" which he included in the 1931 issue of Poetry he summarized two of its "themes":

I - desire for the poetically perfect finding its direction inextricably the direction of historic and contemporary particulars; and II - approximate attainment of this perfection in the feeling of the contrapuntal design of the figure transferred to poetry.

In the case of Zukofsky's own poetry the resulting work is often extremely difficult - even for such readers as William Carlos Williams - the difficulty caused by a density of allusions literary, historical, and personal, and a sustained wit operating on multiple levels and incorporating sound, sense, and form. Sometimes Zukofsky's own notes, or comments in interviews, are essential to a full engagement with a particular poem. Zukofsky has never had a wide general readership, but to the modernist and postmodernist poets who were and are strong admirers of his work this "dangerous sort of writing," as Williams put it in a 1942 review of 55 Poems, when it succeeds, more than justifies its method and difficulties. "Their successes," Williams affirms of the poems, "are of a superlative quality when achieved."

Some of Zukofsky's best-known poems include the witty "To My Wash-stand," which narrates the action of close attention that Zukofsky's poetry demands, "Mantis," with its series of bold associations of history and social comment, and "Ferry," which shows the close affinities to imagism that some critics see in objectivist verse. In the objectivist issue of Poetry Zukofsky published the seventh section of "A", which illustrates well the close relationship of language properties to detail that he argued for, as his description of seven sawhorses fencing off a construction site turns into a dance of sound and movement through the multiple possibilities offered by the poem's multilevel connections.

In addition to 55 Poems (1941) Zukofsky's major volumes include Anew: Poems (1946), the critical study A Test of Poetry (1948), and the publication of the complete "A" in 1978. His ambitious and wide-ranging prose study of Shakespeare Bottom: On Shakespeare (1963) has been seen variously as a neglected masterwork, eccentric, and baffling. Zukofsky's extensive and often illuminating correspondence with Williams and with Ezra Pound has also been published, and his relationship with these two major modernist figures has, like his own work, become a subject of interest to a widening group of scholars and poets since his death.

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