To begin ...

As the twentieth century fades out
the nineteenth begins
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

Monday, March 9, 2009

Julian Beck: the state will be served even by poets

the breasts of all the women crumpled like gas bags when

neruda wrote his hymn celebrating the explosion of a hydrogen bomb by soviet authorities

children died of the blisters of ignorance for a century more when

siqueiros tried to assassinate trotsky himself a killer with gun and ice

pound shimmering his incantations to adams benito and kung prolonging the state with great translation cut in crystal

claudel slaying tupí guaraní as he flourished cultured documents and pearls in rio de janeiro when he served france as ambassador to brazil

melville served by looking for contraband as he worked in the customs house how many taxes did he requite how many pillars of the state did he cement in place tell me tell me tell me stone

spenser serving the faerie queene as a colonial secretary in ireland sinking the irish back for ten times forty years no less under the beau monde’s brack

seneca served by advising nero on how to strengthen the state with philosophy’s accomplishments

aeschylus served slaying persians at marathon and salamis

aristotle served as tutor putting visions of trigonometrics in alexander’s head

dali and eliot served crowning monarchs with their gold

wallace stevens served as insurance company executive making poems out of profits

euclides da cunha served as army captain baritoning troops

and even d h lawrence served praising the unique potential of a king

these are the epics of western culture
these are the flutes of china and the east

everything must be rewritten then

goethe served as a member of the weimar council of state and condemned even to death even to death

this is the saga of the state which is served

even to death

pinerolo to faenza palma de mallorca paris roma
november 1976 august 1979

[Poet, painter, actor, and director, Julian Beck (1925-1985) was the cofounder with Judith Malina of the Living Theater. Their influence & dedication to a liberatory poetics has continued into the present, and the Living Theater in its most recent incarnation continues to remind us of what poetry at its most extreme & experimental still has to offer: “an archimedean point of imaginative / construction, / in which we can be energized, our resourses shored” (C. Bernstein). For all of that, the poem above is a kind of counter-manifesto, a warning of our susceptibilities, the temptation to act against our works & our own better nature. [Reprinted from semi-perishable membranes: twenty songs of the revolution, as it appeared also in the Art of the Manifesto section of Poems for the Millennium, volume two.]

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