Thursday, March 26, 2009
I've been reading My Vocabulary Did This to Me: the Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer, new from Wesleyan. I was not familiar with his work or life at all. There's a great long introduction, and a chronology of his life, which were really interesting. He was part of the gay rights movement way back in the 50's, when it was certainly very uncool, and dangerous. Worked for the Matachine Society. Taught at several universities. Started Gallery 6 where Ginsberg eventually read "Howl." Unfortunately he died pre-maturely (of alcoholism) at age 40. The book's title, "my vocabulary did this to me" were apparently his last words.
The work, the poems and other writings (poem-plays, poem-essays, poem-letters, poem-manifestos, poem-lists, etc), for the most part, are very experimental. Not a lot of singular "great poems" here, but I don't think that was his point at all. He was interested in something more interesting.
My favorite section of the book is "After Lorca." Some wonderful short lyrics (faux "translations") interspersed with "letters" to and from Lorca (who ghost writes a blurb from beyond the grave),that are really mini-essays and manifestos about poetry and the true calling of the poet.