Friday, August 3, 2007

Test of Test of

At Jacob Riis Beach on Rockaway Beach my reading was Louis Zukofsky's A Test of Poetry, demanding in its attempt to sever assocations from the process of reading by (in its first and third sections) omitting author and date data while demanding the reader judge the work: in other words, discovering or setting criteria. And at the same time as it appears to suggest that while this criteria might seem personal, there is also strongly, in the second part of the book where Zukofsky offers glosses and attributions, a right answer and a wrong one. To be lured by music to the elimination of sense is a bridge too far, and to be prosy and unimaginative equally wrongheaded. And so one founders on the shores of objectivity, though I found surprisingly that when I was struggling it turns out, qua Zukofsky, it is for a reason. It is not the poetry that is to test me, but, for Zukofsky, that I am to test the poetry. The outcome is moral, and to be shared.

Riis Park is like so much of New York the vision of Robert Moses hewn out of the private city and a robber's consensus. To celebrate it is to celebrate the vision of populist accessibility (the largest parking lot in the world at its time) but also the tyranny of vision. It is a matter of confidence (it must be done) but also conspiracy (we do it for them, il duce, etc). Which is, ironically, precisely what Zukofsky sets out to avoid in his criteria, which thematizes greed and power in its rendering of good poetry while setting a silent thumb on the scales. (Rachel Blau DuPlessis is very insightful on this in her essay on Zukofsky at Jacket.

On the beach I read for a while and then went out in the waves, which I could only body surf so far without getting sand in my ears. ("There is no Atlantic Ocean")

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