Utopian Turtletop. Monsieur Croche's Bête Noire. Contact: turtletop [at] hotmail [dot] com

Saturday, February 14, 2004


Everything reminds me of everything else. It’s not exactly like William Blake’s augury of innocence, “To see a World in a Grain of Sand,” but it’s as close as it gets for me.

I mention this because untangling the spaghetti bowl of associations that listening to the album “Ella and Friends” while driving down a mountain road called up for me -- it’s gonna take a while. The musicians, the songs, the songwriters, the way the songs and the writers and the recordings and the musicians -- !! -- figure in the history of musical and lyrical style. And one set of associations setting off unrelated sets of associations. Each association connecting to all the others, everything reminding me of everything else.

A verse is a line of poetry. “Uni” is a prefix meaning “one.” The universe is a single line of poetry.

I’ll get back to Ella and Friends in the next day or two, but yesterday’s Wallace Stevens quote is firing me up. Wallace Stevens, like the great early 20th century esoteric American composer Charles Ives, made his living as an insurance executive. Of the contemporary American poets that are usually grouped with him -- William Carlos Williams, Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Marianne Moore, all of them but Eliot his friends to one degree or another -- only Pound was a typical bohemian. Williams was a doctor, Eliot was an editorial bigwig at a publishing company, Moore (I think) was a librarian. Most of them would have scorned the idea of being a professional poet.

In 1961, a few years after Stevens died, Marianne Moore at the age of 74 said something inspiring about this in an interview. She had said that professional writers sometimes lose their “verve and pugnacity.” The interviewer asked:

“How does professionalism make a writer lose his verve and pugnacity?”

Marianne Moore answered, and it’s the last thing in the interview:

“Money may have something to do with it and being regarded as a pundit. Wallace Stevens was really very much annoyed at being catalogued, categorized, and compelled to be scientific about what he was doing -- to give satisfaction, to answer the teachers. He wouldn’t do that.

“I think the same of William Carlos Williams. I think he wouldn’t make so much of the great American language if he were plausible; and tractable. That’s the beauty of it; he is willing to be reckless; if you can’t be that, what’s the point of the whole thing?”

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