The “Objectivists” and Their Publications

Mark Scroggins

 

The notion of the “Objectivists” as posse of four – Zukofsky, Oppen, Reznikoff, and Rakosi (with Williams, Niedecker, and Bunting as occasional outriders) – is largely a retrospective construction of literary history, dating from L. S. Dembo’s 1968 series of interviews with Zukofsky, Oppen, Reznikoff, and Rakosi, and their 1969 publication in Contemporary Literature as “The ‘Objectivist’ Poet: Four Interviews.” It is clear, as the contents of the February 1931 “Objectivists” 1931 issue of Poetry magazine and the 1932 An “Objectivists” Anthology (both edited by Zukofsky) indicate, that the term “Objectivist” was originally intended as something quite other than a name for a given half-dozen poets.

            The original “Objectivists” issue of Poetry can be viewed at the Poetry Foundation (minus the contributors notes). The contents of both the “Objectivists” issue and the anthology are as follows:

 

Poetry: A Magazine of Verse 37.1 (February 1931): “Objectivists” 1931

 

 

 

Carl Rakosi

 

            Before You

 

                        Orphean Lost

237

                        Fluteplayers from Finmarken

238

                        Unswerving Marine

239

                        Before You

240

Louis Zukofsky

 

            “A” Seventh Movement: “There are different techniques” 

242

Howard Weeks

            What Furred Creature    

246

Robert McAlmon

 

            Fortuno Carraccioli: A Satire

247

Joyce Hopkins1

 

            University: Old-Time

251

Charles Reznikoff

 

            A Group of Verse2

 

            I. “All day the pavement has been black”           

252

            II. “From my window I could not see the moon,”

252

            III. “Among the heaps of brick and plaster lies”

252

            IV. “Rooted among roofs, their smoke among the clouds,”

252

            V. “What are you doing in our street among the automobiles,”

252

            VI. “Of our visitors—I do not know which I dislike most:”

253

Norman Macleod

 

            Song for the Turquoise People

253

Kenneth Rexroth

 

            Last Page of a Manuscript3

254

S. Theodore Hecht

 

            Table for Christmas

255

George A. Oppen

            1930’s4

 

            I. “Thus / Hides the / Parts—”

256

            II. “The knowledge not of sorrow, you were saying, but of boredom,”

256

Harry Roskolenkier

 

            Supper in an Alms-House

257

Whittaker Chambers

 

            October 21st, 1926

258

Henry Zolinsky

 

            Horatio

259

Basil Bunting

 

            The Word5

260

Jesse Lowenthal

 

            Match  

261

From Arthur Rimbaud, trans. Emanuel Carnevali

 

            Wakes – III

262

            To One Reason

262

John Wheelwright

 

            Slow Curtain

263

Richard Johns

 

            The Sphinx

264

Martha Champion

 

            Poem

265

William Carlos Williams

 

            The Botticellian Trees

266

 

 

Louis Zukofsky

 

            Program: “Objectivists” 1931

268-272

            Sincerity and Objectification: With Special Reference to the Work of
              Charles Reznikoff

272-285

Symposium

 

            Hymn, by Parker Tyler  

285-286

            Left Instantly Designs, by Charles Henri Ford

286-287

            Note on the two poems above, by P.T. and C.H.F.

287

            Note by the Editor, by L.Z.

287-288

            In rebuttal, by P.T. and C.H.F.

288

            The Horses of Her Hair, by Samuel Putnam

288-289

Three Poems by André Salmon — I, by René Taupin, trans. LZ

289-293

Notes6

294-295

 

*  *  *

 

An “Objectivists” Anthology, ed. Louis Zukofsky (Le Beausset, Var, France; New York, PO Box 3 Station F: To, Publishers, 1932)

 

 

Louis Zukofsky

 

            Preface: “Recencies” in Poetry [datelined “The Gotham Book Mart,
               New York, Aug. 1931″]

9-25

Dedication [to Ezra Pound]7

27

 

 

I.

 

 

            quotation from René Taupin8

31

Basil Bunting

 

            Attis; Or, Something Missing [section III]

33-35

Mary Butts

 

            Corfe

36-39

Frances Fletcher

 

            A Chair

40

Robert McAlmon

 

            Historical Reminiscence

41-42

George Oppen

 

            1930’s [“White.  From the”]4

43

Ezra Pound

 

            “Gentle Jheezus sleek and wild”

44-45

            Words for Roundel in Double Canon

45-46

Carl Rakosi

 

            A Journey Away [9 sections]

47-52

Kenneth Rexroth

 

            Prolegomena to a Theodicy

53-78

            Fundamental Disagreement with Two Contemporaries

79-86

Charles Reznikoff9

 

            Rashi

87-91

            from My Country, ’Tis of Thee

92-97

William Carlos Williams

 

            I. “I make really very little money.”

98

            II. “It is a living coral”

98-101

            III. This Florida: 1924

101-104

            IV. Down-Town 

104-105

            V. “On hot days”

105

            VI. “The pure products of America”

105-108

            VII. A Morning Imagination of Russia

108-111

Louis Zukofsky

 

           A”

 

            First and Second Movements: “Come, ye Daughters”

112-120

            Third and Fourth Movements: “Out of the voices”

121-128

            Fifth and Sixth Movements: “And I:”

128-152

            Seventh Movement: “There are different techniques”

152-155

 

 

II.

 

 

Forrest Anderson

 

            Arrangement from “Land’s End”

159

T.S. Eliot

 

            Marina 

160-161

Frances Fletcher

 

            Carmen et Error (Ovid in Exile)

162

Robert McAlmon

 

            Child-Blithely

163

Carl Rakosi

 

            Parades

164

Kenneth Rexroth

 

            The Place for Yvor Winters

165-168

Charles Reznikoff

 

            The English in Virginia April 1607

169-170

R.B.N. Warriston

 

            I. “No, not your beauty—”

171

            II. “For handsome others”

171-172

            III. “Hope so intricately” 

172

            IV. “Seriously, with pain”

172

William Carlos Williams

 

            The Jungle

173

            On Gay Wallpaper

173-174

            3. “Nothing is lost; the white / shellwhite”

174-175

            In the ‘Sconset Bus

175-176

            All the Fancy Things

176-177

            The Red Lily

177-178

            To

178-179

            The Avenue of Poplars

179-180

            Portrait of a Lady

181

            Full Moon

182

Louis Zukofsky

 

            —“Her Soil’s Birth”

183

            Prop. LXI

184

            Madison, Wis., Remembering the Bloom of Monticello (1931)

184-185

 

 

III. Collaborations10

 

 

Kenneth Rexroth

 

            Prolegomena to a Theodicy [abridged by LZ, Aug. 29]

189-192

Jerry Reisman.—L.Z.

 

            After Les Collines (G.A.) [Guillaume Apollinaire] 

193

R.B.N. Warriston

 

            Bora Bora [arranged by L.Z.]

194-195

William Carlos Williams

 

            March [in V sections, “Re-written by L.Z. / Feb. 16, 1930”]

196-200

 

 

IV. Appendix, Reprinted from Poetry (Chicago) February 1931

 

 

Louis Zukofsky

 

            Program: “Objectivists” 193111

203-205

 

 

Acknowledgments

209-210

 

*  *  *

 

The goals of the Objectivists’ two publishing programs – To, Publishers and The Objectivist Press12 – are perhaps best summed up in the statement of purpose Charles Reznikoff composed for the dust wrapper of The Objectivist Press’s first publications:  “The Objectivist Press is an organization of writers who are publishing their own work and that of other writers whose work they think ought to be read.” Zukofsky was salaried editor for To, Publishers, which was largely bankrolled by George and Mary Oppen; books published by The Objectivist Press, whose editorship was collective, were underwritten directly by their authors (except for Williams’s Collected Poems, which was funded by subscription). 

 

Books published by To, Publishers

 

William Carlos Williams, A Novelette and Other Prose (1932).

Ezra Pound, Prolegomena 1: How to Read, Followed by The Spirit of Romance, Part 1 (1932).

Louis Zukofsky, ed., An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932).

 

Books published by The Objectivist Press

 

William Carlos Williams, Collected Poems 1921-1931, with an introduction by Wallace Stevens (1934).13

George Oppen, Discrete Series (1934).

Charles Reznikoff, Jerusalem the Golden (1934).

Charles Reznikoff, Testimony (prose), with a preface by Kenneth Burke (1934).

Charles Reznikoff, In Memoriam: 1933 (1934).

Charles Reznikoff, Separate Way (1936).

 

Louis and Celia Zukofsky revived The Objectivist Press imprint in 1948 to publish Zukofsky’s A Test of Poetry, and for a while the Zukofskys corresponded on Objectivist Press letterhead which advertised their 30 Willow Street, Brooklyn address as the Press’s location.

 

Notes (added by JTW)

1 Pseudonym for LZ and/or Irving Kaplan; in the contributors notes, LZ states that Joyce Hopkins is from Berkeley, CA where his good friend Kaplan lived. Aside from the title, this poem consists, of a single found line—“Dis in napa now trailing the sterilized.”— apparently taken from a sentence written by Kaplan. As LZ explained in a letter to Edmund Wilson (22 March 1963), “Dis” was the name of a female social worker in Napa, California, while de-capitalized napa was a trade name for a naphthalene or naptha product. See 14 Dec. 1931 letter to EP for an explanation and possible interpretations of this poem (EP/LZ 120-121).

2 This selection of Reznikoff poems, as well as “The English in Virginia” included in An “Objectivists” Anthology, would all be subsequently published in Jerusalem the Golden (1934) by The Objectivist Press.

3 This poem is the last section of the long, Prolegomena to a Theodicy, which would be included complete in An “Objectivists” Anthology.

4 “1930’s” was apparently Oppen’s earlier or working title for what would become Discrete Series, whose first three poems are those that appeared in the “Objectivists” Poetry issue and An “Objectivists” Anthology. The bibliographical notes for these poems in Oppen’s New Collected Poems (2002) are mixed up.

5 In Bunting’s Complete Poems (111-112), this poem is Ode I.15: “Nothing / substance utters or time,” plus “Appendix: Iron,” which was subsequently separated out as an individual poem, Ode I.16: “Molten pool, incandescent spilth of.”

6 Aside from brief notes on contributors, LZ notes that “A poem by Horace Gregory, arriving too late to be included this month, will appear in a later issue [“A Tombstone with Cherum,” appeared in the following issue of Poetry 37.6 (March 1931): 306-307]. The editor regrets the delay; also the limitations of page-space which prevent his presenting contributions by Helen Margaret, Herman Spector, John W. Gassner, William Lubov, B.J. Israel, Chrystie Streeter, Sherry Mangan, Donal McKenzie and Jerry Reisman. The editor also regrets the omission of a blank page representing Ezra Pound’s contribution to this issue—a page reserved for him as an indication of his belief that a country tolerating outrages like article 211 of the U.S. Penal Code, publishers’ ‘overhead,’ and other impediments to literary life, ‘does not deserve to have any literature whatsoever.’ Mr. Pound gave over to younger poets the space offered him.” In his contributor’s note, LZ remarks: “His poem ‘A’—in process—includes two themes: I—desire for the poetically perfect finding its direction inextricably the direction of historical and contemporary particulars; and II—approximate attainment of this perfection in the feeling of the contrapuntal design of the figure transferred to poetry; both themes related to the text of Bach’s St. Matthew Passion” [Scroggins notes that “figure” is almost certainly a mistranscription of “fugue,” an easy mistake given LZ’s handwriting].

7 The Dedication reads as follows:
                    “And that was the revolution . . .
                            as soon as they named it.”

To
Ezra Pound
who despite the fact
that his epic discourse
always his own choice of matter
causes him in his Cantos
to write syntactically almost no two lines
the consecutiveness of which
includes less than two phrases
“And doom goes with her in walking,
Let her go back to the ships,
back among Grecian voices.”
himself masterly engaging
an inference of musical self-criticism
in his Fifth Canto
(readers can afford to look for the lines)
is still for the poets of our time
the
most important.

The opening quotation is from EP’s Canto XVI, from a passage describing Lenin and the Bolshevik Revolution that LZ quotes at length in his essay on EP’s Cantos (Prep+ 70-71). The second quotation is from Canto II.

8 The epigraph reads: “to give to the epic its rightful qualities, to find again the essential distinction of the epic, which is neither love nor hate but the restitution of these sentiments to a chain of facts which exist, and the existence of which confers upon them the marvelous.” This is taken from Taupin’s article “Three Poems by André Salmon,” translated by LZ and included in the “Objectivists” Poetry issue (337).

9 Reznikoff’s contributions in the first section of An “Objectivists” Anthology are a short play, Rashi, that originally appeared in Nine Plays (1927) and an excerpt from “My Country, ’Tis of Thee,” an early version of the prose Testimony published by The Objectivists Press in 1934, which would in turn be reworked and considerably expanded as verse (or what Reznikoff called “recitative”) and published eventually in four books beginning with Testimony: The United States 1885-1890: Recitative (New Directions, 1965). Further sections of “My Country, ’Tis of Three” also appeared in 1932 in Contact edited by WCW and Robert McAlmon: 1.1 (Feb 1932): 14-34, 1.2 (May 1932): 99-108.

10 These “collaborations” consist of poems that LZ has abridged through deletions, often quite radically. Rexroth insisted a note of protest be appended: “I have read this over once more. I cannot allow it to be printed with my signature. You can append a note that it has been abridged by L. Z., if you wish, or print it entire or don’t print it at all. It simply makes no sense to me at all.” “After Les Collines” refers to the long poem by Guillaume Apollinaire in Calligrammes—Reisman and LZ produce a four-line, 22-word, highly fragmentary poem that appears to have little to do with “Les Collines” and whose last line translates a line from another poem, Apollinaire’s “La Victoire.”

11 This is a severely truncated version of the two statements that appeared in the Poetry “Objectivists” issue, “Program: ‘Objectivists’ 1931” and “Sincerity and Objectification,” including the crucial statements on poetics. From the former is included the opening paragraphs through the list of recommended reading and from the latter the two definitional paragraphs on “sincerity” and “objectification.”

12 The publishing history of these two presses is examined in detail by Tom Sharp, “The ‘Objectivists’ Publications,” Sagetrieb 3.3 (Winter 1984): 41-47.

13 This volume is actually a selection, that according to WCW himself was largely chosen and edited by LZ (I Wanted to Write a Poem, ed. Edith Heal, New Directions, 1977: 52). Despite the title, the collection includes a section of earlier poems.