“A”-5

9 Sept. 1929, rev. 28 July 1942

For revisions to the text, which include the deletion of several passages, see Textual Notes.

 

17.9      Kay: see note at 2.6.2; also 6.23.18

17.11    Faust: the title character of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s (1749-1832) major work, a figure of insatiable desire for knowledge. The punctuation of Go-ethe in the following line and also in “A”-6 presumably indicates the common mispronunciation of Goethe’s name by English speakers.

17.12    alias MacFadden: Bernarr Macfadden (1868-1955), best-known as a flamboyant health crusader—bodybuilding, nutrition, free sexuality—Macfadden became enormously wealthy as a magazine publisher, initially publications promoting physical culture and then moving into various low-brow genres: e.g. true confessions, detective and romance stories. At about the time “A”-5 was written, Macfadden started the sensationalist tabloid, New York Graphic and was the owner of several major buildings in NYC.

17.13    He-er vent Hel-ee-na: Helena of Troy appears significantly in the Second Part of Goethe’s Faust.

17.15    And past the leaf’s edge: cf. WCW, from Spring and All (1923): “The rose is obsolete / but each petal ends in / an edge […]” (Collected Poems I, 195-196).

17.19    The courses we tide from: see 4.15.11.

18.4      words Matthew weeps: the Gospel according to St. Matthew, the basis of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion (see 1.1.2)

18.5      claivicembalo: It., a harpsichord; see 4.13.19, 7.41.8, 7.42.4, 8.105.6.

18.6      Chorale: Ger. short for choral song (Choralgesang), a type of traditional German metrical hymn-tune for congregational use, frequently made use of by Bach; also can simply mean a chorus or choir.

18.7      O love untold…: from Bach, St. Matthew Passion, the opening Chorus (see 1.1.3).

18.12    trefoil: plants having compound trifoliate leaves, clover; here an architectural feature having the appearance of a trifoliate leaf.

18.13    Purple clover: also red or sweet clover (Trifolium pretense), also called trefoil.

18.14    She wore her shoes three years…: refers to LZ’s mother, Chana Pruss Zukofsky, who died 29 Jan. 1927 (Ahearn 66); see 6.38.25. 

18.17    Speech bewailing a Wall: the Wailing Wall, the only surviving structure of the ancient Temple of Jerusalem, and thus the spiritual home of Judaism. See 4.13.13.

19.2      Wrigleys: see 2.8.10; also 6.21.11. Wrigley’s ads often depicted green elf-like characters, which at other times morphed into a more cartoony couple. 

19.4      “Eveline!…: see 6.21.7.

19.7      laundered conception / of the B.V.D.: B.V.D. is a well-known brand name for underwear; the acronym stands for the company founders—Bradley, Voorhees and Day—but has come to have a more generic meaning. Although today B.V.D. only produce men’s underwear, at the time this movement was composed, the company produced woman’s underwear as well. However there also is word play here with BVM (Blessed Virgin Mary; see 6.21.4) and the immaculate conception (Odlin 551). In the original published version of “A”-5 in An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932), LZ more explicitly mentions the immaculate conception, as well as Pope Pius IX (1792-1878) who defined the immaculate conception of the Virgin Mary as a Catholic dogma in 1854 (see Textual Notes). E.E. Cummings mentions both Wrigleys and B.V.D. in “Poem, or Beauty Hurts Mr. Vinal,” from is 5 (1926), a volume on LZ’s must read list (see Prep+ 142, 189).

19.11    the Jews eating unleavened bread: the Feast of Unleavened Bread is part of Passover commemorating the Jews’ exodus from Egypt. See 1.3.32.

19.20    forehead / tormented red: at this point in the original publication of “A”-5 in An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932), LZ explicitly refers to Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891) and quotes the phrase, “plein de rouges tourmentes,” from “Les Chercheuses de Poux” (The Lice Seekers), whose first two lines are: “Quand le front de l’enfant, plien de rouges tourmentes, / Implore l’essaim blanc des rêves indistincts” (When the child’s forehead full of red torments, / Implores the white swarm of hazy dreams….) (see Textual Notes).