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No Camels or Burros Were Harmed In The Making Of This Message August 20, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Moloch, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Whiskey Tango Foxtrot.
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Before I settle down to an evening of [NON DISCLOSURE REDACTED]: first, settle in with a big, steaming mug of hot, black WHAT THE FUCK AM I DOING THESE PEOPLE ARE GOING TO KILL ME to make you straighten up and fly right, as my good old mother used to say. And to help keep me going, light up a COUGH HACK WHEEZE cigarette made without added chemical ingredients by sage smoke-wreathed, earth-prayer chanting naked Indian maidens WHO ARE IN REALITY A ROBOTIC PRODUCTION LINE IMPORTED FROM CHINA. This message has been brought to you by DEBT IS THE MODERN BASIS OF SLAVERY [Ezra Pound].

The Ghost in the Stone May 23, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Poetry, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, Travel, Writing.
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Praise be to Nero’s Neptune
The Titanic sails at dawn
And everybody’s shouting
“Which Side Are You On?”
And Ezra Pound and T. S. Eliot
Fighting in the captain’s tower
While calypso singers laugh at them
And fishermen hold flowers
Between the windows of the sea
Where lovely mermaids flow
And nobody has to think too much
About Desolation Row

I remember listening to this, the almost prophetic lines, almost a year ago to the day in that window of time between my graduation and leaving for Europe, wondering what lines an intent and malcontent young man a thousand years hence would–given an fortuitous manuscript in an ancient tongue–would render into his own poetry: Pound’s or Dylan’s?

I cannot see the future any more clearly clearly  than Ezra Pound could see the past. My current desire is to find a narrow swath of time, a butterfly’s worth say, in which to find some peace, the surcease of the black verses of Pound or early Dylan.  When I need to get away from the chatter of streetcars and the lowing of trombones,, I think of the Castle, Brunnenburg, last outpost on the winding castle road and guardian of the springs that watered the mountaintop fortress which loomed over it.

Madness. Pound is madness wrought fine, at once the distilled essence like  Nick’s fine grappa from the grapes that surrounded us, and the great stone in which the reader must discern the form. I followed the steep Via Ezra Pound and immersed myself for a month, my studies interrupted everyday by a gourmet lunch fresh from the Castle farm tended by his grandchildren, up late, falling asleep sitting up in my tiny room in the croft, and up again early scribbling marginal transcriptions of the sense of it from Terrell’s agate companion. Madness.
image
Ruins of Brunnenburg, 19th century engraving

I would do it again in a moment, for there I discovered not Pound’s truth but my own: dedication to something I loved beyond all reason, at least two healthy meals a day, and the steep climb to town if I wanted dinner or cigarettes. A mind well engaged and a body well fed and worked hard at least once a day. To live well and work hard at something worthwhile, not just to pay the bills.

I would leave today.I have my passport and 30 Euro found months later stashed in various pockets of my clothes.

I sit here sipping a Campari and soda (there is cava in the fridge, but not just now) listening for imaginary vaporetti passing along the canals of New Orleans. Yes, Venice: Venice is an essential part of the equation, four days our reward for hard work but still kept on task, following in Pound’s footsteps, passing our hands over the smooth sandstone pommel on the bridge leading to the small piazza where a young Pound contemplated tossing his early verses into the canal.

I am so often to tired to write much. Books of poetry topple constantly from their otherwise undisturbed stack. I sometimes go through my meager manuscript and consider what, if any of it, is worth the death of a tree. I watch from a quiet distance the steady success of a friend who for all his own troubles and the grind of his job practices his craft with a discipline I cannot conjure. In those moments I want to return to the castle, to rent the spare room off the küche and lose myself in poetry again, distracted only by the fairytale beauty of the low mountains of the Südtirol, the rescued eagles of the Castel Tirolo soaring, the warbling of the turkeys wandering the yard.

That is not going to happen anytime soon. June will be a death march through the work project at hand and I hope that keeps me too busy to dwell upon last June. Still, I must not forget the lessons of the castle: to eat well and walk long, to find time to bury myself in poetry, to stop and watch the hawks hunting in the park.

I write, Castles and mountains and iron-cloistered Virgins are all within my reach. I need only place myself before a metaphorical Via Ezra Pound, and take that first step up the daunting climb. Once started there is no point in turning back.

Bunker 3036 May 6, 2015

Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, FYYFF, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street, We Are Not OK.
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            I can hold out for ten minutes
With my sergeant and a machine-gun.
            And they rebuked him for levity.

— E.P., Canto XVI

The American Duende of the Blues March 7, 2015

Posted by The Typist in Duende, music, New Orleans, The Narrative, The Typist, Toulouse Street.
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El Taranto

Dame venemo
Si me quieres dimelo
Y si no dame venemo
Y sal a la calle y si
Yo mate a mi dulce dueno
Con vememo que le di

Give me poison
If you love me, tell it to me
And if not, give me poison
And go out on the street and say
I killed my sweet master
With the poison I gave him

— Traditional cante jondo

I love Irene, God knows I do,
I’ll love her till the seas run dry
But if Irene should turn me down,
I’d take the morphine and die

— Variant verse of “Good Night Irene” by Leadbelly

The continuous glissando of the cantaor’s vocal cords and the bending of notes upon the guitar with hard calloused Black finger or the glide of a bottle neck slide.

What you must search for and find is the black torso of the Pharaoh.
— Andalusian cantaor Manual Torre, to Federico Garcia Lorca, explaining the duende–the “soul” if you will, of cante jondo or deep song; paraphrased from Greg Simon’s introduction to Ralph Angel’s translation of Lorca’s Poem of the Deep Song

Song born of pain, of longing, and of pride. Simon continues:

The apex of Moorish culture, which is represented for eternity by the Alhambra, was hallowed out from below by the brutal, secular incursions of the crusaders and brought to an abrupt end by the reconquest…By the time of the destruction of the Spanish Armada…Andalusia had splintered…and soon sank like a breached caravel from the sight of the world. I’m convinced that Andalusia’s Gypsy cantaores…began to be called upon for the consolation inherent in their art.

‘We are a sad, static people,” Lorca wrote of his fellow Andalusians, ‘people [who] cross their arms in prayer, look at the stars, and wait uselessly for a sign of salvation.’ ‘Static,’ Lorca’s description of the Andalusian…invokes the idea of the power of the force of life, potential energy waiting to be called upon by those who must have it to survive.

The further I go into the cante jondo and Lorca, in search of clues to the duende, a possible explanation for my own familiar demons that express themselves sometime in poetry, it seems impossible not to link the deep song, the cante jondo, to the blues. And if you listen for it, it lurks in the portamento of the fiddles in the saddest low waltzes of the Acadians, America’s closest native-born analog of the Gypsies.

“The black torso of the Pharaoh,” the common link in the Gypsy’s origin myth out of Egypt, out of Africa; the marginalization and suffering of a people who lived in caves above the city, and the Black American experience of their own harsh marginalization (the three fifths), the profound combination of sadness and hope, the constant portamento of the cantaor and the blues player, speaks to me of the universality of the duende. There is a force of unknown origin, the soul, the collective consciousness, or as Lorca relates (quoted from Archer) “…the words of an ancient guitar player who told him the duende pressed up through the crust of the earth and into him through the soles of his feet.”

I stood more than once in a tai chi class and felt myself rooted to the earth, the energy rising up through my own soles to the tips of my extended fingers and continuing by a tenuous but palpable thread to the sky.

As I read Archer’s translation, familiar poems in new clothes, the overwhelming presence of the earth, of the Guadalquivir and other rivers of Andalusia, of the olive grove and the flower, I hear echoes of haiku and the poetry of Asia generally. I am carried back to Ezra Pound’s free translations from the Chinese, in particular to the “Lament of the Frontier Guard” and the “Song of the Bowmen of Shu:”

When we set out, the willows were drooping with spring,
We come back in the snow,
We go slowly, we are hungry and thirsty,
Our mind is full of sorrow, who will know of our grief?
— from “Song of the Bowmen of Shu”

(Wind and dust
Fashion prows of silver.
— Lorca’s “Clamor”)

Lorca, in his published lectures and essays, and in his poetry, speaks often of the cave dwellings of the Gypsies of Andalusia, as do his commentators. Caves, openings into the earth, the place closest to the spirits of the earth. As Lorca himself explains, the duende is not the angel or Greek muse born of heaven, but closer to a demon, a spirit of the earth. The duende follows the ley lines beneath the rock and flowers, circles the earth and–when conjured by by stout hearts with the scent of sorrow–comes forth in the voices and fingers of the poet, the player and the singer.

Forward to a Preface July 28, 2014

Posted by The Typist in literature, New Orleans, Toulouse Street.
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One of the benefits of Generalized Anxiety Disorder is the squirrels don’t give a damn about seven hours of jet lag, or yesterday’s epic 25 our travel day. A man wakes up to pee after a certain amount of sleep, the merciless digital clock reads 8:00 and they leap to their wheels: the squeaks of anxiety over things to be done, the horrible cogs begin to turn. It is 15:30 Central European Summer Time, siesta in Spain but those rules no longer apply. I need a driver’s license to replace the one stolen in Madrid. I have classwork over due. I have no idea what my apartment looks like after leaving my 19-year old son alone for 40 days and 40 nights but I imagine there is enough cat hair in the carpet to knit a sweater and streaks of black mold creeping up the wall in the usual spots.

In short I am up, with coffee: not a proper Spanish con leche, two shots of espresso lathed in frothy milk–a concept I could never quiet communicate in Italy; they always thought I wanted a cappuccino and two espresso, cappuccino and doblio technically correct but as functionally wrong as a Starbuck’s grande–but coffee none the less. The first sips of the first drips take me back in memory to the day before yesterday but I am too tired to call up the phrase for a cafe sin leche(cafe solo; the cogs turn but slowly yet).

I am up in part because of the rigors of castle life. It is idyllic as the pictures suggest but I usually awoke in my room in the croft, a barn converted to a dormitory, by seven a.m. with Ezra Pound’s Cantos of the day on my mind. There were endless notes to transcribe from C.F. Terrell’s Companion to the Cantos, the poem itself thick with Greek and Latin and allusions to the classics, medieval Provençal and Italian history, and modern events. Somewhere in my notes the phrase “[William] Burroughs cut-ups & [John] Dos Passos” appear. While there are powerful and lyrical passages of the poet’s own throughout, so much is an artful crib: the “epic poet” (as the professor referred to him, punning on E.P.) translating beautifully if not faithfully or borrowing heavily from Homer, Dante, Cavalcanti and other medieval and classical sources.

In short, it was a lot of work between tramping over the cobblestones in sight of the mountains spotted with precarious vineyards and coffee, between coffee and stepping into the castle proper for class. I am tanned, bested and unsteady but with the exception of one down day in Barcelona between check-out and my night train to Granada, I have been on the squeaky wheel myself most of the last 40 days and 40 nights, a discipline that will hopefully carry me through jet lag and into a poetry manuscript with preface and an outline of a paper before my library privileges expire tomorrow, through cleaning house, getting a new driver’s license and looking for a job.

Un otro cafe, por favor.