To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
.......................................again
it is as if nothing happened
though those who lived it thought
that everything was happening
enough to name a world for & a time
to hold it in your hand
unlimited.......the last delusion
like the perfect mask of death

Wednesday, July 8, 2020

Toward a Poetry & Poetics of the Americas (27): Independence Event & Ritual (Haiti) with Addendum by Javier Taboada



                                                       painting by Ernst Prophète (Haitian/Cap-Haitien, b. 1950)

Dutty Boukman, [aka. Zamba Boukman], (Haiti, d. 1791)
INDEPENDENCE EVENT & RITUAL

1. Grab a pig
2. Congregate the people & start a fire
3. Promise to Ezili Dantor –the spirit of vengeance and rage – that all of you will rise up & defeat the invader.
4. See the mambo priestess be possessed by the aforementioned spirit.
5. Say the following:

the god who created
the giving-light sun     the one who rouses
 the ocean & rules the thunder            our God
he who has ears to hear     you    
hidden in a cloud
you see all    
all the white man has made

the white man's god inspires him with crime
the god within us     our god     the just
commands us to avenge our wrongs
he will direct our arms to victory   
he will

let’s cast away the pitiless image
of the white men's god

listen to the voice for liberty that speaks within us


5. Slay the pig.
6. Seal the pact by drinking a cup of its blood.

Reworked by Javier Taboada.

COMMENTARY

source.  The Caribbean Oral Tradition: Literature, Performance, and Practice, ed. by Hanétha Vété-Congolo, Palgrave, Macmillan, 2016, p. 167 & ss.


Bois-Caïman (lit. “Alligator Forest”) in northern Haiti was the site for the political, religious & strategic assembly that on the night of August 14th, 1791, sparked the revolution against the French colonizers. It is said that Dutty Boukman, a voodoo houngan – shaman or high priest -- led a sacrificial pig slain along with Cécile Fatiman (a mambo priestess), a ritual now considered as the official start of the Haitian Independence movement. Many Haitians believe that it assured their success & up to date Bois-Caïman is regarded as a holy place.

Addendum
Javier Taboada (Mexico, b. 1982)
THIS IS A SPECTROGRAM
                                                                              
                                            1)      2)  3)      4)             5)            6)             7)      8)   9)  10)   11)  12) 
                                                                                                                                                                               A   B C
     
(this is—graphically—
the voice of a pig
in its last 20 secs. of life)

                Key:
        The pig is tied by the neck      1)
        Pig head at maximum tension: vocal peak     3)
        The pig halts or becomes exhausted   2), 5), 7), 10)
        Pig kicks/ pulls/ tries to free itself      4), 6), 8), 11)
        A swineherd’s mallet falls on the floor      9)
        The pig receives three blows to the head      A, B, C
        Bloodletting begins       12)

(an appeal
     or pace Gombrowicz.:  OBJECTIVISM
                  arising directly from anesthesia
that is    
this is no longer
    —no no no—
the voice of a tortured pig       

the artist
transforms it as
                Sacrifice
               [capital
               S]
just so
Sublime as
Art should be)

                                                  Translated from the Spanish by Cole Heinowitz

Wednesday, July 1, 2020

Harry Crosby: Three Poems in Retrospect, with an introduction



[The following is in celebration of the recent publication by MadHat Press of Selected Poems by Harry Crosby, which brings back the work of a major but twice forgotten avant-garde poet from the period of American poetry between the two world wars.  In 1973 George Quasha and I had promoted his recovery/rediscovery in our anthology/assemblage America a Prophecy, and in the following year I carried this forward in Revolution of the Word: A New Gathering of American Avant-Garde Poetry 1914-1945.  The poems reprinted below are from the latter work, followed here by my original introduction.  My own sense of Crosby’s value as a poet & prolific innovator has never diminished. (J.R.)]

PHOTOHELIOGRAPH

(for Lady A.)

black  black  black  black  black
black  black  black  black  black
black  black  black  black  black
black  black  black  black  black
black  black   SUN   black  black
black  black  black  black  black
black  black  black  black  black
black  black  black  black  black
black  black  black  black  black
black  black  black  black  black


SHORT INTRODUCTION TO THE WORD

1)

    Take the word Sun which burns permanently in my brain. It has accuracy and alacrity. It is monomaniac in its intensity. It is a continual flash of insight. It is the marriage of Invulnerability with Yes, of the Red Wolf with the Gold Bumblebee, of Madness with Rā

2)

    Birdileaves, Goldabbits, Fingertoes, Auroramor, Barbarifire, Parabolaw, Peaglecock, Lovegown, Nombrilomane

3)

    I understand certain words to be single and by themselves and deriving from no other words as for instance the word I

4)

    I believe that certain physical changes in the brain result in a given word -- this word having the distinguished characteristic of unreality being born neither as a result of conotation nor of conscious endeavor: Starlash
5)

    There is the automatic word as for instance with me the word Sorceress; when the word goes on even while my attention is focused on entirely different subjects just as in swimming my arms and legs go on automatically even when my attention is focused on subjects entirely different from swimming such as witchcraft for instance or the Sorceress


FRAGMENT OF AN ETUDE FOR A SUN-DIAL

                                  let the Sun shine
                                  (and the Sun shone)
on a wooden dial
in the garden of an old castle
(dumb when the Sun is dark)

on a pillar dial
in the cimetiere de l'Abbaye de Longchamp
(blessed be the name of the Sun for all ages)

on the wall of an imaginary house
Rue du Soleil Paris
(the initials of the makers H.C. and C.C. and date
October Seventh 1927 are on the face)
(true as the dial to the Sun)

on a small stone dial
over the door of a farm
(sole oriente orior
sole ponente cubo)

on the exterior of a ring dial
worn on the finger of the Princess Jacqueline
("Es-tu donc le Soleil pour vouloir que je me tourne
vers Toi")

on the dial of the south wall
                     of a tower
(the Sun is the end of the journey)

and there is a second dial
         on the north wall
(I tarry not for the slow)

on a dial
over an archway in a stableyard
(norma del tempo infallible io sono)
(I am the infallible measure of the time)

on a dial
in a garden in Malta

on a dial at Versailles

on an old Spanish dial
(the dial has now, 1928, disappeared a railroad line
having been taken through the garden where it stood)

on the wall of the
Bar de la Tempete at
Breast facing the sea
(c'est l'heure de boire)

on a small brass dial in
    the British Museum
on a silver dial in the
    Museum at Copenhagen
on a gold dial in the
    soul of a Girl
("mais à mon âme la nécessité de ton âme")

                  let the Sun shine
                  (and the Sun shone)

on a dial placed upon the
deck of the Aeolus
in the harbor of New London.
on a dial placed upon the
deck of the Aphrodisiac
in the harbor of Brest
on a dial placed upon
the deck of the Aurora
in the harbor of my Heart
("et quelques-uns en eurent connaissance")

                   let the Sun shine
                   (and the Sun shone)

on pyramids of stones
on upright stones in
ancient graveyards
on upright solitary stones
on bones white-scattered on the plain
the white bones of lions in the sun
the white lion is the phallus of the Sun
"I am the Lions I am the Sun"

on the dial of Ahaz who
reigned over Judah

on a rude horologe in Egypt
("as a servant earnestly
desireth the shadow")

on the eight dials of
the Tower of the Winds at Athens

on old Roman coins
unburied from the ground

on the twin sundials on
the ramparts of Carcassonne

on the pier at Sunderland
(and where is the sound
              of the pendulum)

on the sun-dials on the mosques
      of Saint Sophia
      of Muhammed
and of Sulimania

on the immense circular
block of carved porphyry
in the Great Square of
the City of Mexico

on Aztec dials

on Inca dials
(Femme offre ton soleil en adoration aux Incas)

on Teutonic dials built
into the walls of
old churches

on the dial of the Durer Melancholia
(above the hour-glass and near the bell)

on the white marble slab
which projects from the
facade of Santa Maria Della Salute
on the Grand Canal Venice

on the dial of the Cathedral at Chartres
("the strong wind and the snows"_

on a bedstead made of bronze
(and Heliogabalus had one of solid silver)

on a marriage bed
(lectus genialis)
on a death bed
(lectus funebrius)

on a bed
style à la marquis
("ayant peur de mourir lorsque je couche seul")

on a bed
lit d'ange

on a flower bed
on a bed of mother-of-pearl
on a bordel bed
on a bed of iniquity
on a virgin bed
on a bed of rock

(To God the Sun Unconquerable)
to the peerless sun, we only

               let the Sun shine
               (and the Sun shone)

                 Soli  Soli  Soli


Harry Crosby

Born 1898.  Died 1929.  In the last two years of his life, Crosby had developed into a major image-making poet.  The myth he unfolded was of the Sun – both as male & female -- & he followed its orders through a striking series of structural innovations.  Editor of Black Sun Press in Paris (which published works by Hart Crane, Archibald MacLeish, Eugene Jolas, & D.H. Lawrence, along with his own first books), Crosby’s verse experiments included the use of found forms (racing charts, book lists, stock reports, etc.) & concrete poetry, all concerned with sun-related imagery.  After his suicide, several volumes of his work appeared, with introductions by Eliot, Lawrence, & Pound, among others.  But in the anti-“modernist” reaction of the 1930s he was turned into a virtual non-person.  In the context of a later time, however, the importance of his vision would seem clear – its dimensions suggested by Pound’s earlier summary, viz: “There is more theology in this book of Crosby’s than in all the official ecclesiastical utterance of our generation.  Crosby’s life was a religious manifestation.  His death was, if you like, a comprehensible emotional act. … A death from excess vitality.  A vote of confidence in the cosmos. … Perhaps the best indication one can give of Crosby’s capacity as a writer is to say that his work gains by reading all together.  I do not mean this as a slight compliment. It is true of a small minority only.”