Sunday 24 March 2013

My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer (Wesleyan UP, 2008), first selection

Below are some of my favourite passages from the first and third section of the book, "Berkeley Renaissance (1945-1950)" and "Berkeley/San Francisco (1952-1955)." Thanks to editors Peter Gizzi and Kevin Killian for their splendid work.

We died prodigiously; it hurt awhile
But left a certain quiet in our eyes.

last lines of "Berkeley in a Time of Plague"

                                                                                The waves
Curved and unspent like cautious scythes, like evening harvesters.


                             Deep in my mind there is an ocean
I would fall within it, find my sources in it. Yield to tide
And find my sources in it. Aching fathoms fall
And rest within it.

from "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Landscape"
Heart is so monstrous naked that the world recoils,
Shakes like a ladder,
Spits like a cat,

from "A Night in Four Parts"

When he first brought his music into hell
He was absurdly confident. Even over the noise of the shapeless fires
And the jukebox groaning of the damned
Some of them would hear him.

opening lines of "Orpheus in Hell"

The temporary tempts poetry
Tempts photographs, tempts eyes.

from "Imaginary Elegies"

Shouting song
Until the hunters came.

I was a singer once, bird-ignorant.

from "A Postscript to the Berkeley Renaissance"

The dummies in the empty funhouse watch
The tides wash in and out. The thick old moon
Shines through the rotten timbers every night.
This much is clear, they think, the men who made
Us twitch and creak and put the laughter in our throats
Are just as cold as we. The lights are out.


Upon the old amusement pier I watch
The creeping darkness gather in the west.
Above the giant funhouse and the ghosts
I hear the seagulls call. They're going west
Toward some great Catalina of a dream
Out where the poem ends.

from "Imaginary Elegies"

I'm pleased to say Foyle's has both hardback and paperback editions of My Vocabulary Did This to Me available at a good discount.

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