Prepositions (1967, 1981, 2001)


Go to Notes to Prepositions


Publication History

The publication history of Prepositions is complex since LZ edited and arranged the essays for this collection. The volume is virtually a collected short critical prose with only a handful of short reviews and a few other brief pieces left out (listed below). The bulk of the essays, all those written up to 1940 (“Basic”), were revised, often extensively, in preparation for the 1967 collection, which in the case of LZ was entirely a process of deletion, with some ingenious splicing. The most severe pruning is in the case of the three pieces the appear together as “An Objective” in Prepositions, reduced to almost a third of their original length, but now the original pieces are conveniently available in Prepositions+ (2001).


There are three distinct editions of Prepositions:

Prepositions: The Collected Critical Essays of Louis Zukofsky. London: Rapp & Whiting, 1967; NY: Horizon, 1968.

Prepositions: The Collected Critical Essays of Louis Zukofsky. Expanded edition. Foreword by Hugh Kenner. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1981.

Prepositions+: The Collected Critical Essays. Foreword by Charles Bernstein. Additional prose edited and introduced by Mark Scroggins. Wesleyan UP, 2001 [reprints the Expanded edition and adds the first four essays in the 5 Statements for Poetry (1958) versions plus several short pieces].


The second, expanded edition, although published posthumously, was in fact authorized by LZ and the additional pieces it included had already been published as “Addenda to Prepositions” in 1974. In typical LZ fashion, he managed to come up with three recent pieces, adding one each to the three sections of the original Prepositions. See Scroggins’ Introduction to the “Additional Prose” in Prepositions+ (177-181) on the different editions. 5 Statements for Poetry was a lightly edited reprinting of LZ’s most important statements on poetics, and Scroggins indicates textual variants in Prepositions+. 


The following chronological list according to year of composition gives titles used by LZ in Prepositions in bold, followed by details according to original periodical publication. The following information comes primarily from Celia Zukofsky’s bibliographies.


1924     Henry Adams/ A Criticism in Autobiography (additions 1928/1929) [this is an edited version of LZ’s M.A. thesis]. “Henry Adams: A Criticism in Autobiography”—Parts I, II, III, Hound & Horn (May, July, Oct. 1930).

1927     Him. “Mr. Cummings and the Delectable Mountains,” The Exile 4 (Autumn 1928).

1928     William Carlos Williams [part III]. “Beginning again with William Carlos Williams (Postscript to ‘Henry Adams’),” Hound & Horn 4.2 (Winter 1931).

1929     Ezra Pound. “Ezra Pound: Ses Cantos,” Échanges (Paris) 1.3 (1930);  “The Cantos of Ezra Pound (one section of a long essay),” The Criterion 10.40 (April 1931) [part III]; “Ezra Pound: His Cantos, parts I & II,” The Observer 2.2 (Jan.-Feb. 1934) [the essay was published complete in Échanges, trans. by René Taupin, and then in L’Indice, trans. into Italian by Emanuel Carnevali, in April-May 1931; the Criterion version, with the note “one section of a long essay,” is only part III, with the first two parts subsequently published in The Observer].

1930     An Objective [part II]. “Sincerity and Objectification, With Special Reference to the Work of Charles Reznikoff,” Poetry 37.5 (Feb. 1931) [the original version of this essay, dated 4 Feb. 1930, was significantly longer than that published in Poetry, which reduces the discussion of Reznikoff’s poetry and deletes almost entirely discussions of his plays and prose].

            Influence. “Imagisme” (review of René Taupin, L’Influence du symbolisme français sur la poésie américaine (de 1910 à 1920)), The New Review (Paris) 1.2 (May, June, July 1931). [one paragraph extracted from review and retitled; see next].
Poetic Value. [one paragraph extracted from review of René Taupin and retitled; see preceding]
American Poetry 1920-1930
. “American Poetry 1920-1930,” The Symposium 2.1 (Jan. 1931).
An Objective [part I]. “Program: ‘Objectivists’ 1931,” Poetry 37.5 (Feb. 1931).

1931     An Objective [part III]. “‘Recencies’ in Poetry,” Preface to An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932).

1935     Lewis Carroll. “Review of Lewis Carroll, Russian Journal,” The New Masses (8 Oct. 1935).

1936     Modern Times. “Modern Times,” Kulchur 4 (Nov. 1961) [a number of deletions made from the 1936 typescript].

1942     Dometer Guczul. “Dometer Guczul,” View 3.3 (Fall 1943).

1943     Basic. Basic (A report on Ogden & Richards, Basic English), NY: Hazeltine Electronics Corp. (Dec. 1943).

1946     Poetry/ For My Son When He Can Read. “Poetry/ For My Son When He Can Read,” Cronos 2.4 (March 1948).

1948     Work/Sundown. Statement in The Case of Ezra Pound, ed. Charles Norman, NY: Bodley Press, 1948 [a draft version of this statement is reproduced in WCW/LZ 362-363].

1950     William Carlos Williams [part II]. “Poetry in a Modern Age,” Poetry 76.3 (June 1950) [ostensibly a review of Vivienne Koch’s Williams Carlos Williams]; reprinted as “An Old Note on W.C.W.,” The Massachusetts Review (Winter 1962). In Prep LZ dates this section of his composite piece on WCW as 1948, but Scroggins persuasively argues that this is probably an error that crept in when LZ republished the 1950 review deleting the references to Koch’s book on WCW, giving it the title “An Old Note…” and dating it 1948. Internal evidence suggests it is contemporaneous with the composition of “A”-12; see Scroggins’ argument here.
A Statement for Poetry. “Poetry (1952),” Montevallo Review 1.3 (Spring 1952).

1951     The Effacement of Philosophy. “The Effacement of Philosophy” (review of George Santayana, Dominations and Powers), Montevallo Review 1.4 (Summer 1953).

1958     William Carlos Williams [part I, “A Citation”]. “The Best Human Value,” The Nation 186.22 (31 May 1958).

             Prefatory Note. “Forward” to 5 Statements for Poetry, SF State College, 1958 [originally drafted and dated 22 June 1939, presumably for a critical volume to be titled, Sincerity and Objectification, and to include all or parts of The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire. The eventual published preface was only lightly revised, mostly deletions, in 1958, 1962 and 1965 according to notes on the draft (HRC 15.6) and republished with Prepositions (1967), with further slight revisions for the expanded edition of 1981 (dated 1976)]. Presumably the 1962 version appeared in “Notes on Contributors,” Kulchur 11 (Autumn 1963): 2.

1961     Bottom, a weaver. Written as a blurb for Bottom: on Shakespeare at the publisher’s request.

1962     Found Objects (1962-1926). Preface to Found Objects, Georgetown, KY: H.B. Chapin, 1964.

1965     Golgonoozà? “Pronounced Golgonoozà?” Poetry 107.1 (Oct. 1965) [ostensibly a review of four scholarly books on William Blake, which LZ names in passing: Hazard Adams, William Blake: A Reading of the Shorter Poems (1963); Harold Bloom, Blake’s Apocalypse: A Study in Poetic Argument (1963); Sir Geoffrey Keynes, A Study of the Illuminated Books of William Blake: Poet, Printer, Prophet (1964); John Middleton Murry, William Blake (1933, rpt. 1964)]. See 16 Jan. 1965 letter to Henry Rago in SL 304-306.


Added to the Expanded Edition of Prepositions (1981); all except the index first published as “Addenda to Prepositions” in Journal of Modern Literature 4.1 (Sept. 1974): 91-108:

1970     With Little/For Careenagers. Introduction to reading from Little for “Spoken Word Program,” Radio Station WNYC-FM, New York (15 Sept. 1970). The original recording of the introduction along with the reading of selected chapters of Little is available at PennSound.

1970     About the Gas Age. Remarks made following a reading at the U.S. Embassy in London (21 May 1969); corrected version (dated 23 Sept. 1970) of the unauthorized publication by Ultima Thule Book, 1969.

1971     For Wallace Stevens. Wallace Stevens Memorial Lecture at U. of Connecticut, Storrs (29 April 1971); an edited version of taped lecture. The recording of the original lecture, which includes readings of the poems by both Stevens and LZ listed on page 37, is available at PennSound.

1976     Index to Defintions.


“Additional Prose” in Prepositions+ (2001), edited by Mark Scroggins:

1958     5 Statements for Poetry. San Francisco: San Francisco State College (25 June) [lightly edited reprint of LZ’s major statements on poetics presented in chronological order; published while he was poet in residence at SFSC at Robert Duncan’s invitation].

1961     Translating Catullus (Louis and Celia Zukofsky). Kulchur 5 (Spring 1962).

1967     Foreword to “A” 1-12. “A” 1-12, NY: Doubleday, 1967.

1968     Interview (with L.S. Dembo). Contemporary Literature 10.2 (Spring 1969).


List of uncollected articles and statements not in Prepositions; since the list is short, I have included letters to editors:

“A Preface.” The Exile 4 (Autumn 1928) [originally a preface to a set of poems, “18 Poems to the Future,” never published as such].

“The February Number.” Poetry 38 (April 1931) [letter to the editor replying to Stanley Burnshaw’s negative response to the “Objectivists” issue].

Review of R. Hillyer, The Gates of the Compass, L. Speyer, Naked Heel and K.T. Young, Ten Poems. Nativity 2 (Spring 1931).

“‘London or Troy?’ ‘Adest.’” Poetry 38 (June 1931) [review of Basil Bunting, Redimiculum Matellarum].

“Ezra Pound’s XXX Cantos.” Front 4 (June 1931).

“Completely and accurately.” The New York Sun (10 Oct. 1931) [review of The Poems of Wilfred Owen].

“The Transition.” The Saturday Review of Literature (30 July 1931) [review of Wyndham Lewis’s The Doom of Youth].

“The Open Mind: Physiology and a Poem.” The Lion & Crown 1.1 (Fall 1932) [published anonymously].

“Objectivists Again.” Poetry 42 (May 1933) [letter to the editor replying to Morris U. Schappes’ negative review of An “Objectivists” Anthology].

“A Further Note on XXX Cantos by Ezra Pound.” The Windsor Quarterly (Spring 1933). Rpt. “Active Anthology, ed. Ezra Pound (1933).

“What I Come To Do Is Partial.” Poetry 92 (May 1958) [review, consisting mostly of quotations, of Robert Creeley’s The Whip].

“A Preface?” Amen/Huzza/Selah by Jonathan Williams (1960).


Notes to Prepositions (1967)


Poetry / For My Son When He Can Read

An Objective

A Statement for Poetry

For Wallace Stevens


William Carlos Williams

The Effacement of Philosophy

Modern Times

Lewis Carroll

Ezra Pound


Henry Adams / A Criticism in Autobiography

With Little / For Careenagers


Poetic Values

American Poetry 1920-1930

Dometer Guczul


Work / Sundown

Bottom, a weaver

Found Objects (1962-1926)

About the Gas Age


Poetry / For My Son When He Can Read (1946)

3          When you were 19 months…: PZ was born 22 Oct. 1943, so he was 19 months in May 1945, which is the same month as the German surrender in World War II. This accords with the dates on the manuscript, which indicate the essay was finished at the end of 1946, although for the purposes of framing the essay as an address to his baby son, Zukofsky chooses to conclude it on PZ’s third birthday (see 11). 

3          atomic bomb: dropped on Hiroshima on 6 Aug. 1945.

4          translation of Confucius…: from the Analects found in The Wisdom of China and India, ed. Lin Yutang (Random House, 1942). LZ drops a parenthetical addition into Lin’s translation after “proper conduct (self-discipline).” Lin thematically rearranges his selections from the Analects, but this statement is from Book VIII.8. LZ included this remark in “Other Comments” appended to the original version of “A Statement for Poetry 1950” (Prep+ 223), and in a letter to WCW, in which he also recommends Yuan Chen’s “The Pitcher” (see next note), despite Arthur Waley’s mediocre translation (WCW/LZ 317).

4          “The Pitcher” of Yuan Chen: translation by Arthur Waley; according to Ahearn, LZ found this in More Translations from the Chinese (1919) (WCW/LZ 318).

5          bolts and bars of the motto of Kansas: the state motto of Kansas is Ad Astra per Aspera (To the Stars Through Difficulties), probably adapted from Virgil. The phrase “bolts and bars” is from Nehemiah 3:3: “The Fish Gate was rebuilt by the sons of Hassenaah. They laid its beams and put its doors and bolts and bars in place,” and repeated in the chapter thereafter.

5          “Dick the shepherd blows his nail”: from the “Winter Song” that concludes Shakespeare’s Love’s Labour’s Lost.

6          President’s remarks of 1932…: in the original printing of the essay, LZ explicitly identifies the President as Franklin D. Roosevelt. The remarks were read out at the 50th anniversary dinner of the Authors’ Club as reported in the New York Times for 11 Nov. 1932: “Author Roosevelt Felicitates Club; Absent on 50th Anniversary, he Declares Writers’ Task Is to Interpret Nation to Itself”: “Governor Roosevelt said in his telegram, which was read at the dinner, that he could ‘think of no more happy task and of no nobler occupation than to interpret American to herself, and to lead, through honest and beautiful literary craftsmanship, in the endless procession toward the true, the beautiful and the just. […] Authorship is not only a method of clear thinking; it is more. It is the chief means for the dissemination of truth and fact; on which our system of life depends. We have expanded the Roman idea of the forum, a place of national debate to include all the newer devices of authorship. In this process we shall lose in the long run no quality of workmanship, no atmosphere, no beauty, no attribute, no sublimity. We are incorporating into the soul of our people respect and appreciation of the best that has been written, achieved and thought in the dream of civilization.’”

6          Plato’s generalization…: from Plato, Philebus 55: “Socrates. ‘I mean to say, that if arithmetic, mensuration, and weighing be taken away from any art, that which remains will not be much.’ Protarchus. ‘Not much, certainly.’ Socrates. ‘The rest will be only conjecture, and the better use of the senses which is given by experience and practice, in addition to a certain power of guessing, which is commonly called art, and is perfected by attention and pains’” (trans. Benjamin Jowett). Qtd. “‘One oak fool box’;—the pun” (CSP 85) and “A”-17.380.

6          Lucretius: Roman poet of De Rerum Natura (On the Nature of Things), which versifies the atomistic philosophy of Epicurus; qtd. particularly in “A”-12.165.1-19 and 12.165.28-167.31.

7          eosere: with regard to plants, the development within each geological era. eo- = early, primeval (< Gk. eos, dawn) + sere = a stage in a ecological succession of plant communities (< L. serere, to join in a series).

7          motion of Lorentz’ single electron…: this passage qtd. in the notes to Anew 29 (CSP 104).

8          an historian shaping a sum of events to the second law of thermodynamics: Henry Adams (1838-1918) speculatively attempted to apply scientific laws to history in the late chapters of The Education of Henry Adams and particularly in two late essays collected posthumously in The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma (1919): “A Letter to American Teachers of History” and  “The Rule of Phase Applied to History.” The former specifically focuses on the Second Law of Thermodynamics, which states that for any self-contained system there is a constant dissipation of energy or entropy (see section X of “Henry Adams,” Prep+ 119-125).

8          an economist subsuming under a fiction of value a countless differentiation of labor processes: Karl Marx’s labor theory of value, particularly in Capital; in this case, the “fiction of value” would refer to “exchange value.” See especially the first half of “A”-9.

8          Singing like Gower…: from Shakespeare, Pericles opening prologue; Gower serves as the chorus throughout the play, LZ’s favorite.

8          ‘the business of every science…: from Dante, De Vulgari Eloquentia I.1: “But because the business of every science is not to prove but to explain its subject, in order that men may know what that is with which the science is concerned, we say (to come quickly to the point) that what we call the vernacular speech is that to which children are accustomed by those who are about them when they first begin to distinguish words; or to put it more shortly, we say that the vernacular speech is that which we acquire without any rule, by imitating our nurses. There further springs from this another secondary speech, which the Romans called grammar. And this secondary speech the Greeks also have, as well as others, but not all” (trans. A.G. Ferrers Howell).

9          ‘to whom the world is our native country’: from Dante, De Vulgari Eloquentia I.6: “But we, to whom the world is our native country, just as the sea is to the fish, though we drank of Arno before our teeth appeared, and though we love Florence so dearly that for the love we bore her we are wrongfully suffering exile—we rest the shoulders of our judgment on reason rather than on feeling.”

9          ‘the exercise of discernment as to words…: from Dante, De Vulgari Eloquentia II.7: “The next division of our progress now demands that an explanation be given as to those words which are of such grandeur as to be worthy of being admitted into that style to which we have awarded the first place. We declare therefore to begin with that the exercise of discernment as to words involves by no means the smallest labour of our reason, since we see that a great many sorts of them can be found” (90-91; qtd. “A Statement for Poetry” (Prep+ 224) and paraphrased “A”-12.162.32-163.1). Dante then goes on to describe types of words, including those that are “combed-out” and “shaggy,” concluding the section: “And what has been said on the pre-eminent nature of words to be used may suffice for every one of inborn discernment.

9          as when breathing the new life he warned against metaphor…:

9          ‘highest common speech—all that flows…: from Dante, De Vulgari Eloquentia II.4: “Also, in works of art, that is noblest which embraces the whole art. Since, therefore poems are works of art, and the whole of art is embraced in canzoni alone, canzoni are the noblest poems, and so their form is the noblest of any. […] But the proof of what we are saying is at once apparent; for all that has flowed from the tops of the heads of illustrious poets down to their lips is found in the canzoni alone.”

9          ‘nothing else but the completed action of writing words…: from Dante, De Vulgari Eloquentia II.8: “And such words, even when written down on paper without any one to utter them, we call canzoni; and therefore a canzone appears to be nothing else but the completed action of one writing words to be set to music. Wherefore we shall call canzoni not only the canzoni of which we are now treating, but also ballate and sonnets, and all words of whatever kind written for music, both in the vulgar tongue and in Latin.”

10        Dante called the ‘secondary speech’…: see note at 8.

11         your third birthday: 22 Oct. 1946.


An Objective (1930, 1931)


12        An Objective […] the lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus…: the original version of these definitions of “an objective” were written for “A”-6.24.21-26. In the preface to An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932), “’Recencies’ in Poetry,” LZ emphasized the prior formulation in “A”-6, written during the summer of 1930 (Prep+ 14/203).

12        Desire for what is objectively perfect: see “A”-1.2.15, “A”-6.24.23-24. This formulation is informed by Spinoza; see quotations at 6.24.23.

12        Egyptian pulled-glass bottle in the shape of a fish: referring to the title of a 1924 poem by Marianne Moore.

12        oak leaves: probably from WCW, where the image appears frequently in his early writings, such as in the passage from A Novelette (1929) qtd. at 148. See also “Coronal” (Collected Poems I, 124); Spring and All (1923; Collected Poems I, 228); and “A Morning Imagination of Russia” from The Descent of Winter (1928; Collected Poems I, 304, also included in An “Objectivists” Anthology).

12        Bach’s Matthew Passion in Leipzig: first performance of J.S. Bach’s St. Matthew Passion in 1729; see “A”-1.1.2.

12        rise of metallurgical plants in Siberia: probably alludes to speech by Lenin; see “A”-6.32.2.

12        the Chinese sage who wrote, ‘Then for nine reigns there was no literary production’: this remark comes from EP (see EP/LZ 74).

13        Aten: ancient Egyptian sun god, particularly associated with the sun worship of Akenaten (Pharoh Amenhotep IV).

14        The melody, the rest are accessory…: from “A”-6.24.20-26; however, here LZ has retained the version as it appears in the original version of “’Recencies” in Poetry,” the preface to An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932) with slight textual variations from the final “A” version. In “’Recencies’” LZ translates Spinoza’s “nature as creator,” whereas in the text of “A”-6 in the anthology has the original Latin: naturans. The ellipses in the quotation indicate lines and words that have been left out, which anticipate LZ’s later revision of this passage; see Textual Notes.

16        meaning of science in modern civilization as pointed out in Thorstein Veblen: Thorstein Veblen (1857-1929), “The Evolution of the Scientific Point of View” in The Place of Science in Modern Civilization and Other Essays (1919); LZ quotes from this essay in both “A”-8.56.13f and “A”-12.257.7f.

17        poets who see with their ears, hear with their eyes…: LZ is echoing a number of favorite sources, most obviously Bottom’s speech in Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream IV.i (qtd. Bottom 9, 15, 35), but cf. Hamlet III.iv (qtd. Bottom 47, 279, “A”-12.127.6-12, 12.158.29-30) and Lucretius (qtd. “A”-12.166.31-167.5).

17        ‘Recencies’: part III of “An Objective” was originally given as a talk at the Gotham Book Mart in NYC and published with the title “’Recencies’ in Poetry” as the Preface to An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932).

17        Dante’s literal, anagogical and theological threefold meaning…: as outlined in the letter to Can Grande.

17        Shakespeare’s ‘when to the sessions,’ his working out of love as bookkeeping: Sonnet 30 (“When to the sessions of sweet silent thought”).

18        Donne’s ‘Valediction,’ his ‘two twin compasses’: John Donne, “A Valediction Forbidding Morning”; qtd. Bottom 166 and TP 127-128.


A Statement for Poetry (1950)

19        Thus poetry may be defined as an order of words […] wordless art of music as a kind of mathematical limit: cf. “A”-12.138.1-8.

19        A contemporary American poet says: ‘A poem is a small…: WCW in the “Author’s Introduction” to The Wedge (1944), a volume edited by and dedicated to LZ.

19        George Hardy: G.H. (Godfrey Harold) Hardy (1877-1947), prominent mathematician associated with the Bloomsbury group; for general readers he wrote A Mathematician’s Apology (1940) on the aesthetics of mathematics, in which he compares mathematics with poetry and art, arguing for mathematics’ “uselessness.”

19        Hideki Yukawa: (1907-1981), Japanese physicist who had recently won the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1949; at this time he was visiting professor at LZ’s alma mater, Columbia University. In all likelihood, LZ found this remark in the New York Time for 25 Jan. 1950, “Yukawa Expands His Meson Theory; Explaining His New Atom Theory.”

19        Homer’s heavenly singer…: see comments appended to the original version of “A Statement for Poetry” (Prep+ 223) and “A”-12.162.29-30.

19        Lucretius: in De Rerum Natura, which figures prominently in “A”-12.

19        The parts of a fugue, Bach said…: LZ’s source for this Bach remark is unidentified, although Charles Sanford Terry includes a paraphrased remark that is similar to this quotation, which also appears in “A”-12.127.24-25. In speaking of Bach’s practice in teaching counterpoint, he told students “that each part must be regarded as an individual conversing with his fellows, who, when he speaks, must speak grammatically and complete his sentences, and if he has nothing to say, had better remain silent” (Terry 100).

20        Egyptian Chapters of Coming Forth by Day…: the Egyptian Book of the Dead; LZ quotes from the translation of Robert Hillyer, “The Dead Man Ariseth and Singeth a Hymn to the Sun.” See “A”-14.357.26f, where at 358.5-6 he mentions the same title for the Book of the Dead.

21        Homer’s puns on the name of Odysseus…: the best-known name pun is that in the Cyclops episode when Odysseus calls himself “No Man,” which in Greek actually puns on Odysseus’ common epithet meaning “cunning” or “clever.” In the opening passage of the Odyssey, Homer also puns Odysseus with the word for “hated,” i.e. by the gods. LZ alludes to both these puns in Bottom 353.

21        Homer’s ‘a dark purple wave made an arch…: from Odyssey Book XI; LZ is quoting from W.H.D. Rouse’s prose translation.

21        Longinus (213-273), On the Sublime XV, 2: trans. W. Hamilton Fyfe (Loeb Classical Library). This same passage qtd. The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire 164/165.

21        ‘Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang’: from Shakespeare, Sonnet 73; qtd. 136.

22        ‘Who loses and who wins, who’s in, / who’s out’: from King Lear; qtd. “A”-13.293.16, TP 141 and Bottom 312.

22        Campion: Thomas Campion (1567-1620), English poet who composed music for his own poems.

22        Shakespeare’s songs—which have been set to music by Purcell, Johnson, Arne: Henry Purcell (1659-1695) composed music to several adaptations of Shakespeare, including John Dryden’s The Tempest. Robert Johnson (c.1582-1633), associated with The King’s Men, wrote the music for a number of the songs in Shakespeare’s later plays, including “Full Fathom Five” and “Where the bee sucks”; Thomas Arne (1710-1778), composed music to many of Shakespeare’s plays.

23        He looks, so to speak, into his ear…: cf. “Look in your own ear and read” in “Peri Poietikes” (CSP 213).


For Wallace Stevens (1971)

25        Luis De Leon’s book called The Perfect Wife: Luis Ponce de León (1527-1591), Spanish poet and author of the prose La perfecta casada (The Perfect Wife), instructions to newly wed women. He also translated the Book of Solomon, which along with some of his commentaries on the Bible got him into trouble with the Inquisition, resulting in imprisonment. The Perfect Wife was translated by a “distant cousin” of WCW’s, Alice Philena Hubbard (Sister Felicia, O.S.A.), and WCW gave a copy of the translation to the Zukofskys in 1944 (see WCW/LZ 344).

25        my lesser trial to sound their Hebrew in English: referring to LZ’s homophonic rendition of passages from Job in the opening section of “A”-15.

26        Mallarmé: Stephen Mallarmé (1842-1898); “A”-19 evidences LZ’s interest in Mallarmé’s meditations on the idea of the Book (Le livre).

27        X understands Aristotle instinctively: from “Five Grotesque Pieces” in Opus Posthumous (75).

27        The Book of Joel…: from Joel 2:28: “And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions.” Qtd. Bottom 152, where LZ indicates he found this in an essay by Francis Bacon; see also “A”-23.545.3.

28        The Boy Electrician: by Alfred Powell Morgan (1913), a classic boy’s book on electricity with numerous simple experiments.

28        the Letters: Stevens’ Letters, ed. Holly Stevens, published in 1966.

28        the Others group in New York: Others: A Magazine of the New Verse, edited by Alfred Kreymborg from July 1915-July 1917, was a major American outlet for experimental poetry including WCW, EP, Wallace Stevens, Marianne Moore, Mina Loy and many others.

29        Harriet Monroe’s anthology The New Poetry…: Harriet Monroe was founding editor of Poetry magazine and published The New Poetry in 1917, edited with Alice Cobin Henderson.

30        The Purpose of History—a man named Homer Woodbridge: Frederick J.E. Woodbridge, The Purpose of History (NY: Columbia UP, 1916).

30        Dewey: John Dewey (1859-1952), American pragmatist philosopher, who taught at Columbia University when LZ was a student.

30        Eisteddfod: ancient Welsh tradition of poetry and music festival; mentioned in Little 40.

31        “The essential thing in form is to be free…: from “A Note on Poetry” (1938) in Opus Posthumous (240).

31        not doctrinal in form tho in design: from “The Comedian as the Letter C”: “Score this anecdote / Invented for its pith, not doctrinal / In form though in design, as Crispin willed […]” (Collected Poems 45).

31        National Industrial Conference Board: LZ worked for the NICB from Oct. 1927-March 1928.

31        a friend suggested: the friend was WCW; see WCW/LZ 20. 

31        the Duomo: the main cathedral in Florence, Italy, which the Zukofskys visited in the summer of 1957.

31        state of the Charter Oak: i.e. Connecticut. King Charles II had given the first settlers of Connecticut a charter ensuring their rights to the colony, which James II subsequently attempted to revoke, but the charter was hidden in the trunk of a large oak tree that became known as the Charter Oak.

33        poetry is the subject of the poem: from “The Man with the Blue Guitar” in Collected Poems (176); LZ is mistaken about the date as this poem was published 1937.

33        Winslow Homer’s palm tree…: the American painter Winslow Homer (1836-1910) has quite a few works featuring palm trees in the Bahamas and Florida.

34        this most excellent canopy, the air, look you: from Shakespeare, Hamlet II.ii.

34        eye . . . not dim . . . nor . . . natural force abated: from Deuteronomy 34:7: “And Moses was an hundred and twenty years old when he died: his eye was not dim, nor his natural force abated.”

34        the magazine Imagi […] included a poem of mine…: i.e. “As to how much” (CSP 129).

35        The Century Dictionary: in ten volumes, LZ acquired a set for PZ around 1950 and often used it thereafter.

37        The other day, in the middle of January…: from Opus Posthumous (252-253).


Golgonoozà? (1965)

Title     Golgonoozà: William Blake’s city of the imagination and art in his major prophecies. On LZ’s added accent mark, see 43.

41        Scene: the summer house…: this setting is taken from a well-known description of a visit by Blake’s friend and patron, Thomas Butts, as recorded in Alexander Gilchrist’s The Life of William Blake (1863): “At the end of the little garden in Hercules Buildings there was a summer-house. Mr. Butts calling one day found Mr. and Mrs. Blake sitting in this summer-house, freed from ‘those troublesome disguises’ which have prevailed since the Fall. ‘Come in!’ cried Blake; ‘it’s only Adam and Eve, you know!’ Husband and wife had been reciting passages from Paradise Lost, in character, and the garden of Hercules Buildings had to represent the Garden of Eden: a little to the scandal of wondering neighbours, on more than one occasion.”

41        ‘a fierce desire as when two shadows mingle on a wall’: from Blake, The Four Zoas (Vala, Night the Ninth, lines 27-28):
Recievd her in the darkning South their bodies lost they stood
Trembling & weak a faint embrace a fierce desire as when
Two shadows mingle on a wall
they wail & shadowy tears
Fell down & shadowy forms of joy mixd with despair & grief
Their bodies buried in the ruins of the Universe
Mingled with the confusion.

41        All that Blake says here has been attributed to his actual conversation or comes from his writings: this is literally true and covers the full sweep of his poetry, but also to a large extent the Visitor’s remarks are attributable to Blake’s writings as well. For a full list of sources see here.

41        Why do you say frightened?: the preceding sentence refers to a Blake remark recorded by A.H. Palmer: “I can look at a knot in a piece of wood till I am frightened of it.”

41        Spinoza […] how to read Genesis…: this refers to Spinoza’s Theological-Political Treatise (1670), which in arguing for civil tolerance and freedom is largely taken up with matters of Scriptural interpretation and is a pioneering work in historical criticism, thus anticipating the demystifying and anti-priestcraft views of the Enlightenment. It does not appear that LZ had read Spinoza’s political treatises at the time he wrote “Golgonoozà,” although he would do so soon after when PZ gave him a copy of the R.H.M. Elwes translation of Spinoza’s complete works for Christmas 1966. However, he could have picked up this information on the basic argument of the Theological-Political Treatise anywhere, including from the introduction by George Santayana to the Everyman’s Library edition of the Ethics and Treatise on the Correction of the Understanding that was LZ’s main source on Spinoza.

41        Voltaire…: this reference is to an article in Voltaire’s Philosophical Dictionary on “Liberty of the Press” that LZ probably found in the Portable Voltaire edited by Ben Ray Redman, which was in LZ’s library: “The most dangerous, the most pernicious book of all, is that of Spinoza. Not only in the character of a Jew does he attack the New Testament, but in the character of a scholar he ruins the Old. His system of atheism is a thousand times better constructed and reasoned than those of Straton and of Epicurus” (trans. H.I. Woolf). In the context of Blake, Voltaire and Edward Gibbon (see next note) were representative Deists or advocates of natural religion; both, along with Hume and Rousseau, form a standard catalog of Deists against which Blake inveighed in both Milton and Jerusalem.

42        Gibbon laughed at the useless research into filioque: filioque, L. and from the Son. The clause of the Nicene Creed in its western form which asserts that the Holy Ghost proceeds both from the Father and from the Son. The doctrine of the “double procession,” as it is called, has been generally accepted in the Latin Church from a very early period; and this clause was frequently added to the creed before it was authoritatively incorporated in it in the eleventh century. The Greek Church, on the contrary, has always maintained the doctrine of the single procession, as expressed in the original form of the Nicene Creed, in accordance with John 15:26, “the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father”; and the controversy on this subject (called the Filioque controversy), continued to the present time, was one the chief causes of the schism between the two churches (CD). Edward Gibbon describes this controversy with his usual sarcasm in Chap. 60 of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.

43        Hazard and Harold and Geoffrey and John Middleton: “Golgonoozà?” was originally written and published ostensibly as a review of four scholarly works on Blake: Hazard Adams, William Blake: A Reading of the Shorter Poems (1963); Harold Bloom, Blake’s Apocalypse: A Study in Poetic Argument (1963); Sir Geoffrey Keynes, A Study of the Illuminated Books of William Blake: Poet, Printer, Prophet (1964); John Middleton Murry, William Blake (1933, rpt. 1964). See 16 Jan. 1965 letter to Henry Rago (SL 304-306).

44        . . . The citizens of New York close their books . . . : from Blake, America: A Prophecy, Part 3.


William Carlos Williams (1958, 1948, 1928)

45        Hume who wrote ‘My Own Life’…: David Hume (1711-1776), English philosopher and historian.

46        Blue at the prow of my desire: from WCW, “Postlude” in The Tempers (1913) (Collected Poems I, 4).

46        Hamlet says: If it be now, ‘tis not to come…: qtd. Bottom 46, 106, 302, 358 and “A”-18.406.20-22.

46        Ezra, early in March […] 1928…: see EP/LZ 7. LZ used the phrase “best human value” as the title of this first part on WCW when originally published in the Nation in 1958 (see bibliographical information above).

46        Your Easter letter of that year…: see WCW/LZ 5.

46        you have just presented me with a foreword…: for the Origin Press publication of “A” 1-12 (1959). Paterson V was published 1958.

47        ‘less volatile . . . I have gotten older…: see WCW/LZ 6.

47        ‘I never knew To was a noun gosh…: from Jan. 1932 letter (WCW/LZ 119).

47        like Puck…: the mischievous fairy character in Shakespeare, A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

47        The visits to your home entailed…: for the references to the Erie Railroad and to C.F. Adams’ “An Erie Raid,” see “A”-8.76.9-22, particularly the detail at 76.21.See also “A”-15.374.6.

47        Aristotle first wrote about the unnatural evil: Politics I.10 (1258a-1258b): “There are two sorts of wealth-getting, as I have said; one is a part of household management, the other is retail trade: the former necessary and honorable, while that which consists in exchange is justly censured; for it is unnatural, and a mode by which men gain from one another. The most hated sort, and with the greatest reason, is usury, which makes a gain out of money itself, and not from the natural object of it. For money was intended to be used in exchange, but not to increase at interest. And this term interest, which means the birth of money from money, is applied to the breeding of money because the offspring resembles the parent. Wherefore of all modes of getting wealth this is the most unnatural” (trans. Benjamin Jowett).

47        ‘Floss going back to plant…: adapted from 1 Nov. 1941 letter of Florence Williams to CZ (WCW/LZ 297); the same letter mentions the walk in the rose garden of the Bronx Park, directly across from which the Zukofskys lived at the time; see “No it was no dream of coming death” (CSP 85) and “It Was” (CF 181).

48        I told mother this afternoon…: letter dated 15 Sept. 1948; (WCW/LZ 403).

48        I can’t stand the full restraint that X…: X is EP (WCW/LZ 221-222).

48        Aristotle knew that ‘the argument of the Odyssey is not a long one’: see Poetics 17 (1455b), as translated by Ingram Bywater.

48        Chapman spurred by the job…: George Chapman (c.1559-1634), published his famous verse translation of the Odyssey in 1614-1616. In “The Epistle Dedicatory” he remarks: “And that your Lordship may in his face take view of his mind, the first words of his Iliads is …, wrath; the first word of his Odysseys, …, man: contracting in either word his each work’s proposition. [… ] The return of a man into his country is his whole scope and object; which in itself, your Lordship may well say, is jejune and fruitless enough, affording nothing feastful, nothing magnificent. And yet even this doth the divine inspiration render vast, illustrious, and of miraculous composure. And for this, my Lord, is this poem preferred to his Iliads; for therein much magnificence, both of person and action, gives great aid to his industry; but in this are these helps exceeding sparing, or nothing; and yet is the structure so elaborate and pompous that the poor plain ground-work, considered together, may seem the naturally rich womb to it, and produce it needfully.”

49        It is in complexities that appear finally as one person…: as LZ notes immediately following, this is from WCW’s memoir of his mother, whose full maiden name was Raquel Hélène Rose Hoheb, which was eventually published as Yes, Mrs. Williams (1959): 27-28. LZ is quoting from a section, then entitled Raquel Hélène Rose, that was published in Twice a Year 5-6 (Fall-Winter 1940).

49        ‘The province of the poem is the world’: from Paterson III (100); LZ included this among the comments on poetics appended to “A Statement for Poetry 1950” (Prep+ 224).

49        The horse moves / independently…: WCW, “The Horse,” quoted complete from The Clouds (1948) (Collected Poems II, 141-142). Cf. “A”-12.175 and 179 on this image of the horse and cultural inheritance.

50        Phidias: the great 5th century BC Greek sculptor credited with the work in and around the Parthenon.

50        ‘If politics,’ as Williams says, ‘could be the science of humanity’: from In the American Grain (207).

50        Williams’ Sam Patch…: refers to an account WCW includes in Paterson I (1946) concerning a drunk who became a professional jumper after leaping at the Paterson falls, but who eventually made a jump too many (Paterson 15-16).

50        Apollinaire’s Couleur de Temps: more properly Couleur du Temps; a late play by Guillaume Apollinaire, from which LZ quotes in the The Writing of Guillaume Apollinaire (202-207).

50        Gris in Williams, of Klee, Demuth, Sheeler…: all painters who interested WCW, especially the latter two about whom he wrote frequently.

50        Lucretius’ ‘Spring goes on her way and Venus’: from De Rerum Natura, Book V as translated by Cyril Bailey; qtd. “A”-12.165.1 and Bottom 86.

50        As Gertrude Stein (one of Williams’ interests) remarked…: from “What Is English Literature?” in Lectures in America (1935); LZ quotes the latter half in “A”-12.168.26-29. WCW wrote a 1930 essay on Stein (Selected Essays 113-120), which Quartermain points out was written in collaboration with or at least with many suggestions from LZ (Disjunctive Poetics 67, 102; see also WCW/LZ 38-45, 47-50).

50        Einstein: ‘Everything should be as simple…: quoted “A”-12.143.27-29. From the New York Times for 8 Jan. 1950, “How a ‘Difficult’ Composer Gets That Way” by Roger Sessions: “I also remember a remark of Albert Einstein, which certainly applies to music. He said, in effect, that everything should be as simple as it can be but not simpler!”

51        Aristotle? ‘An herb peddler…: WCW’s remark in “The Clouds”: “Aristotle, / shrewd and alone, a onetime herb peddler?” (Collected Poems II, 172). The following quotations from Aristotle, Metaphysics XII.7 (1072a-1072b): “(The one and the simple are not the same; for ‘one’ means a measure, but ‘simple’ means that the thing itself has a certain nature.) […] That a final cause may exist among unchangeable entities is shown by the distinction of its meanings. For the final cause is (a) some being for whose good an action is done, and (b) something at which the action aims; and of these the latter exists among unchangeable entities though the former does not. The final cause, then, produces motion as being loved, but all other things move by being moved. Now if something is moved it is capable of being otherwise than as it is” (qtd. Bottom 53, 54 and “A”-12.237.7-8).
Metaphysics I.9 (990b; precisely the same statement also appears at Metaphysics XIII.4 (1079a)): “And in general the arguments for the Forms destroy things for whose existence the believers in Forms are more zealous than for the existence of the Ideas; for it follows that not the dyad but number is first, and that prior to number is the relative, and that this is prior to the absolute-besides all the other points on which certain people, by following out the opinions held about the Forms, came into conflict with the principles of the theory” (qtd. “A”-12.170.8-10, see also Bottom 55) (trans. W.D. Ross).

51        his Stein-ish definition of substance ‘a this’: qtd. “A”-17.381.33; see note at “A”-12.163.22.

51        [Part III]: this section was originally published in Hound & Horn (1931) as a “postscript” to “Henry Adams,” which had been published in three issues of Hound & Horn the previous year. This explains the nature of this section, which is a review of WCW’s A Voyage to Pagany, published 1928 when this section was actually written, considered as a contemporary revisiting of Adams’ encounter with the Old World.

52        Of all the elaborate symbolism…: from Henry Adams, Mont-Saint-Michel and Chartres; see longer quotation in “Henry Adams” (Prep+ 116).

53        of Bach’s St Mathew Passion—‘I heard him agonizing…: see “A”-1.4.17.


The Effacement of Philosophy (1951)

54        Santayana: this essay is ostensibly a review of the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana (1863-1952), Dominations and Powers: Reflections on Liberty, Society and Government (1951). It is perhaps relevant that according to Ahearn (105) the Everyman’s Library edition of Spinoza’s Ethics (including On the Correction of the Human Understanding) that LZ used throughout most of his life listed no translator but had a preface by Santayana, who LZ assumed to be the translator as well, although in fact it is Andrew Boyle.

54        We do not admire, said Spinoza, the architect who…: from On the Correction of the Human Understanding 108; qtd. Bottom 21.

54        He also said, to perceive a winged horse is to affirm it: from Spinoza, Ethics II, Prop. 49, Note, qtd. “A”-12.234.32-235.6 and Bottom 76.

54        there cannot be too much merriment: from Spinoza, Ethics IV, Prop 42, qtd. “A”-12.184.15-16, Bottom 78, 192; see also “A”-9.109.18.

55        hymn of creation in the Rigveda…: from ancient Indian Rig Veda, Book X, Hymn 129; LZ includes the same following lines from the hymn in “A”-12.126.24-125.1. See also Bottom 104.

55        Greek word ruthmos…: cf. “A”-12.126.10.

55        Aristotle zealous for things scolded Plato for his Ideas…: refers specifically to Aristotle, Metaphysics I.9, see quotation at 51; qtd. “A”-12.170.6-16. On Aristotle’s critique of Plato see Bottom 42, 54, 73-75; for Plato’s “whorl of the spindle of Necessity,” see Bottom 83 and “Pamphylian” in CSP 133.

55        Bach’s Art of Fugue: see “A”-12.127.23.

55        Bach’s remark: The order which rules music…: qtd. “A”-12.128.2f. It is highly unlikely that Bach made such a remark, and LZ’s source is almost certainly an extract from an autobiographical work by Margaret Anderson; see note and quotation at “A”-12.128.2.

56        . . . many errors consist of this alone, that we do not apply names rightly…: from Spinoza, Ethics II, Prop. 47, Note; see “A”-12.235.7 and “A”-11.108.25.

56        takes the title of his book from Colossians…: dominations and powers are orders of angels; Santayana’s title is taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Colossians 1:16: “For in him were all things created in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones, or dominations, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him and in him.” LZ alludes to 3:16: “Let the word of Christ dwell in you abundantly, in all wisdom: teaching and admonishing one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles, singing in grace in your hearts to God.”

56        ‘The superstitious, who know better…: from Spinoza, Ethics IV, Prop. 63, Note 1.


Modern Times (1936)

57        Mark Twain (over the embalmed Egyptian): ‘Is he dead?’: refers to a scene in Mark Twain, Innocents Abroad (1969); the American “innocents” touring Europe are impervious to the glories of the Old World, and when visiting the Vatican are shown a mummy: “‘Born in Egypta. Never heard of Egypta before. Foreign locality, likely. Mummy—mummy. How calm he is—how self-possessed. Is, ah—is he dead?’”

57        Modern Times: Charlie Chaplin film released in 1936; Chaplin was not only the star, but also wrote, directed, produced and even composed the music score for the film—the film is almost entirely silent despite being made many years after the introduction of sound. According to Slate, LZ saw the film with Jerry Reisman in early Feb. 1936 (124).

57        Survey of the Film in America…: A Brief Survey of the Film in America, 1895-1932 was a pioneering series of programs of historical films beginning in Jan. 1936 organized by Iris Barry for the newly established film library at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC. According to Slate, LZ and Jerry Reisman attended at least one of the programs sometime before 18 March 1936 (Slate 124). Here LZ seems to be referring to the descriptive release (dated 4 or 5 Jan. 1936) for the first program of very early films. This and other descriptive announcements for the programs can be found online at the MOMA archive of press releases.

58        Ben Turpin: (1869-1940), silent film comic who early worked with Chaplin for the Essanay film studio based in Chicago, although they did not get along. Like Chaplin he had a vaudeville background.

58        Byrd’s Wolseys Wilde: a popular keyboard tune by William Byrd (1543-1623), used by LZ in the contemporaneously written Arise, Arise 9.

58        Dali’s Le Chien Andalou: Andalusian Dog, the most famous surrealistic short film, produced by Salvador Dali and Luis Buñuel in 1929. There is an infamous opening scene of an eyeball being sliced open.

58        Frank Powell: Canadian silent screen actor and director, discovered Theda Bara (1885-1955) when he directed her in A Fool There Was (1915), which made her internationally known as “the Vamp” and a great sex symbol of the period.

58        Thomas Ince…: (1882-1924), American silent screen actor and director, particularly of early Westerns. Bill Hart (William S. Hart, 1964-1946), one of the greatest early Western actors, directed and starred in The Fugitive (The Taking of Luke McVane), which Ince wrote. LZ mentions Hart’s last film, Tumbleweeds (1925), in “A”-12.255.12.

58        lap-dissolving: the film technique of overlapping scenes, as the end of one scene fades out and the next fades in.

58        Cocteau…: Jean Cocteau (1889-1963), made his first film, Le Sang d’un Poete (The Bood of a Poet) in 1930.

59        René Clair…: (1898-1981), French film director early associated with the Surrealists and best known for satiric comedies with a leftist viewpoint. The musical comedy À Nous la Liberté (Freedom for Us, 1931) is about an escaped convict who rises up the capitalist ladder and contains a scene in which the audience, bored by a politician’s nationalistic speech, prefers to chase after money that is blowing about after accidentally escaping from a bag. The film also contains satiric scenes of industrial working conditions, which Chaplin was later accused of copying in Modern Times. Le Dernier Milliardaire (The Last Millionaire, 1934).

59        stratigraphic: stratigraphy is the study of rock strata, especially the distribution, deposition and age of sedimentary rocks (AHD).

59        Charlie’s use of Clair’s trimness of machinery in Modern Times…: René Clair’s À Nous la Liberté (see note above) includes an assembly line scene, which is often assumed to have influenced a similar scene in Modern Times, although Chaplin always insisted that he never saw Clair’s film. LZ may be alluding to the fact that the German distributor of Clair’s film sued Chaplin for plagiarism, although Clair himself was an admirer of Chaplin and was embarrassed by the affair.

60        Swift has the Laputans build from the roof down or prescribes how gloves…: from Jonathan Swift, Gulliver’s Travels, Part III (see Prep+ 160); also mentioned in the “Symposium” in the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry 37.5 (Feb. 1932): Prep+ 288.

60        The Pawnshop…: all the titles mentioned in this paragraph are early, mostly short, films directed by and starring Chaplin: The Pawnshop (1916), Behind the Scenes [the correct title is Behind the Screen] (1916), Shoulder Arms (1918), Easy Street (1917), A Dog’s Life (1918).

60        irised out: in film, iris is the technique of showing an image in a small circle of the screen; iris out begins with a pinpoint and moves out to fill the full scene.  

62        Paulette Goddard: (1910-1990) lived with and perhaps was married to Chaplin through most of the 1940s. Modern Times first brought her stardom and she would also star in Chaplin’s The Great Dictator (1940).

62        Pudovkin in Life is Beautiful: Vsevolod Pudovkin (1893-1953), major Soviet era Russian director. Life is Beautiful was originally shown in the USSR in 1930, but due to adverse criticism was reworked and re-released in 1932 as A Simple Case. However, when it appeared in the US the following year, it retained its original title. Pudovkin also directed The End of St. Petersburg, which LZ mentions in his essay on EP (see 70).

62        Jakob Blokh’s A Shanghai Document: 1928 film by Blokh (or Bliokh), who produced Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin, using a documentary style to contrast the lives of local Chinese and European expatriates in Shanghai and culminating with the failed March 1927 Communist uprising in Shanghai.

62        Eisenstein, Ten Days that Shook the World: Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948), best-know of the Soviet era directors. Ten Days that Shook the World, also known as October, was a 1928 film based loosely on John Reed’s famous account of the Bolshevik Revolution. The film was commissioned as part of the celebrations for the tenth anniversary of the Bolshevik victory.

62        The Rink: short film from 1916.

63        D.W. Griffith, The New York Hat (1912): short film starring Mary Pickford (1892-1979) and Lionel Barrymore.

63        ‘Adornment,’ says Dante…: from the translation of A.G. Ferrers Howell in the Temple Classics.

63        ‘Hallelujah I’m a Bum’: a folk-song that became the title song of a 1933 musical film that glamorizes life on the streets in New York, starring Al Jonson; Chaplin incorporated the tune into Modern Times

64        Singing, Charlie concocts his words internationally…: LZ refers here to the famous penultimate scene of Modern Times in which the Tramp improvises a nonsense song mixing up words from various languages.

64        Joyce’s Ulysses: during the early 1930s, LZ had worked with Jerry Reisman on a screenplay of Ulysses and made various attempts to interest Joyce and Hollywood directors in it. The quotation from Ulysses is actually from the Reisman-Zukofsky screenplay, as Slate points out: the first sentence is Joyce’s, but the second is a selection of Joyce’s words except for the parenthesis. See “Eumeus” chapter of Ulysses 616-7 (Slate 123).


Lewis Carroll (1935)

Review of The Russian Journal and Other Selections from the Works of Lewis Carroll, ed. J.F. McDermott (E.P. Dutton, 1935).

65        an essay ‘Alice on the Stage’ (1887)…: all the quotations in this opening paragraph are from this essay.

66        A Broken Spell: a short story whose full title is “Novelty and Romancement: A Broken Spell,” which is included in the above mentioned collection that LZ reviewed.


Ezra Pound (1929)

67        TA HIO: in 1928 EP published the first of his Confucian translations, the pamphlet Ta Hio, The Great Learning Newly Rendered into the American Language (Seattle: University of Washington Book Store). This is the work that EP would later revise and publish as The Great Digest (1947, 1951).

67        ‘the expression of an idea of beauty (or order)’: from EP, Antheil and the Theory of Harmony (1925); see Ezra Pound and Music 293.

67        ‘language not petrifying on his hands…: from EP, slightly adapted note to Fenollosa, The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry (SF: City Lights Books, 1936): 23. LZ’s source is EP, Instigations (1920).

67        ‘Artists are the antennae of the race’: from EP, “Henry James” (1918) in Instigations; see Literary Essays 297

68        The arts give us a great percentage of the lasting and unassailable data…: all the prose quotations on this page from EP, “The Serious Artist” (1913) in Pavannes and Divisions (1918); see Literary Essays 42, 45, 50-51.

69        ‘the bright principle of our reason’: from EP’s Ta Hio (see note at 67): “On the duty of developing and of restoring to its primitive clarity the bright principle of our reason” (11). This echoes the opening sentence of EP’s translation: “The law of the Great Learning, or of practicable philosophy, lies in developing and making visible that luminous principle of reason which we have received from the sky, to renew mankind and to place its ultimate destination in perfection, the sovereign good.” The concluding phrases of LZ’s paragraph allude to Canto 7/27: “Life to make make mock of motion: / For the husks, before me, move….”

70        ‘a new language is always said to be obscure…: the quotations and paraphrase here and through the next several paragraphs are from EP’s editorial commentary in The Exile 4 (1928), particularly “Data” (114-115).

70        Grosstadt Symphony: Die Sinfonie der Großtadt/Symphony of a City, 1927 documentary-montage film directed by Walter Ruttman (1887-1941).

70        Rodker’s Adolphe: John Rodker (1894-1955), English writer and small press publisher married to Mary Butts. EP was enthusiastic about his short novel, Adolphe 1920 (1929), publishing an excerpt in The Exile as well as being responsible for the book publication.

70        Sovkino’s The End of St Petersburg: Sovkino was formed in the Soviet Union to consolidate the film industry and was involved in the import and export of films beginning in 1925. The End of St. Petersburg is a 1927 film by Vsevolod Pudovkin (1893-1953), considered Eisenstein’s main contemporary rival, and includes frequent use of montage. Commissioned to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the October Revolution, the film follows a peasant from the farm to the city, caught up in the historical events of World War I and the Russian Revolution, and climaxing with the storming of the Winter Palace.

70        Pound anticipated The End of St Petersburg as poetry…: the man talking in the following excerpt from Canto XVI is Lenin, which is followed by scenes from the February 1917 Revolution that led to the abdication of the Czar worked from Lincoln Steffens Autobiography (1931). Cf. LZ’s use of Lenin and his lectures on the 1905 Revolution in “A”-8.53.9-21. Some further relevant remarks from EP’s “Data” in Exile 4: “This film [Großtadt Symphony] and the straight Russian sociological film, “The End of St Petersburg” wd. alone have paid one for the trouble of going to Vienna. It would be simple snobism not to accept the cinema, on such terms, as being, on parity with the printed page, L’histoire morale contemporaine, with the national and sociological differences clearly marked” (114-115).

71        ‘The translations […] are a make-shift…: from EP, “Arnaut Daniel” in Instigations (1920); see Literary Essays 115.

71        ‘Poetry […] the highly untechnical, unimpressionist, in fact almost theological manner…: from EP, “Henry James” (1918) in Instigations; see Literary Essays 324.

73        ‘Near Périgord’…: long poem that first appeared in Lustra (1916), in which EP meditates on the problems of historical recuperation, specifically in the case of En Bertrans or Bertrans de Born, the later 12th century troubadour nobleman who much fascinated EP.

73        [Part III] Cantos 1-27: the cut-off number indicates LZ did not yet have A Draft of XXX Cantos (1930) when he wrote this essay, as he indicates in a 8 Sept. 1930 letter to EP in which he enclosed the article (EP/LZ 40). What LZ had on hand, probably borrowed, were the two deluxe volumes: A Draft of XVI. Cantos (Three Mountains Press, 1925) and A Draft of the Cantos 17-27 (John Rodker, 1928). Soon after LZ would write a review of A Draft of XXX Cantos published in Front 4 (June 1931), which primarily reiterates points made in the longer essay.

73        (‘Three Cantos’ in Lustra): this refers to the so-called Ur-Cantos which EP subsequently completely rewrote as mentioned at 75. LZ refers to the enlarged edition of Lustra published 1916/17.

74        Pound’s prose…: following identifies and locates the various critical pieces LZ refers to:
Translators of the Greek’ (Instigations): “Translators of the Greeks: Early Translators of Homer” (1918-1919), in which appears the translation from the Odyssey Bk. XI that was incorporated into Canto I; see Literary Essays 259-265. On Browning in the same essay see Literary Essays 267-273.
Geste and Romance’: a chapter in The Spirit of Romance.
horizontal’ music in Antheil: from Antheil and the Theory of Harmony (1925); see Ezra Pound and Music 258.
Peace’ (Exile 4): see Selected Prose 222-223.

75        Our envy be for a period when…: as LZ indicates this and the following two quotations are from EP’s “Paris Letter” column published regularly in The Dial from Oct. 1921-March 1923.

75        Faust’s ‘Habe nun, ach! Philosophie’: Ger. I have studied, alas! philosophy; the first line of Faust’s opening soliloquy in Goethe, Faust.

75        ‘phantastikon,’ ‘filmy shell that circumscribes,’ ‘actual sun’: from a passage with occult overtones in “Canto One” of the three discarded Lustra Cantos: “And shall I claim / Confuse my own phantastikon / Or say the filmy shell that circumscribes me / Contains the actual sun” (Personae 234).

77        Postulate beings and there is breathing between them and yet maybe no closer relation than the common air…: this and the following sentence are adapted from or used in “A”-6.26.31-27.6.

77        ‘Neither prose nor drama…: from EP, “Henry James” (1918) in Instigations; see Literary Essays 324.

77        Pound’s ‘theological, untechnical opinions’: see quotation at 71 from “Henry James.”

77        ‘It is possible to divide poetry into three sorts…: from EP, review of Others, [Anthology of 1917] (1918) in Instigations; this section rpt. “Marianne Moore and Mina Loy,” see Selected Prose 424. This is the earliest formulation of EP’s famous tripartite distinction.

78        ‘I think progress lies…: from EP, “A Retrospect” (1918) in Pavannes and Divisions; see Literary Essays 13.

79        And if the art…: from EP, “Arnaut Daniel” in Instigations (1920); see Literary Essays 114.

79        You must know, that, although in our First Undertaking…: qtd from EP, “Vers Libre and Arnold Dolmetsch” in Pavannes and Divisions; see Literary Essays 438.

80        ‘the thing to be done, is but only to make a kind of Cessation…: qtd. from EP, “Vers Libre and Arnold Dolmetsch” in Pavannes and Divisions; see Literary Essays 438.

81        ‘The proportion or quality of the music…: from EP, “Vers Libre and Arnold Dolmetsch” in Pavannes and Divisions; see Literary Essays 437.

82        ‘messing up the perception of one sense…: from EP, “A Few Don’ts by an Imagist” (1912) in “A Retrospect” (1918) in Pavannes and Divisions; see Literary Essays 7.


Him (1927)

84        Title: E.E. Cummings’ play HIM was published in 1927, and its two main characters are Him and Me.

84        Pirandello: like Luigi Pirandello’s Six Characters in Search of an Author (1921), HIM has a complicated play within a play structure about an playwright trying to write a play.

84        Enormous Room: Cummings’ 1922 satirical novel based on his incarceration during World War I. The novel adopts John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress as a referential framework, as indicated by allusions to “The Delectable Mountains” (LZ’s essay was originally entitled: “Mr. Cummings and the Delectable Mountains”), from which the Celestial City can be seen, and to the “Slough of Despond.” LZ himself used quotations from Pilgrim’s Progress as epigraphs for each of the poems in his early grouping, 18 Poems for the Future (see EP/LZ 9), but never published as such; however, one of these survives in “During the Passaic Strike of 1926” (CSP 26).

84        Marquis de la Poussière: Fr. Marquis of Dust; mentioned in HIM.

84        Few writers since John Donne…: this sentence incorporates a line from Emily Dickinson, “He bit an angleworm in halves / And ate the fellow, raw” (“A bird came down the walk—), as well as a quotation from Cummings’ play, “the awake which must dissolve before the sleep.”

85        Is 5: Cummings’ 1926 volume of poems. LZ always considered this Cummings’ best collection.

85        Ernst Toller: (1893-1939), a leftist German Expressionist playwright, one of whose plays is entitled Masses Man (Masse Menschen, 1921).

85        Tulips and Chimneys: Cummings’ first collection of poetry (1923).


Henry Adams/A Criticism in Autobiography (1924, 1929)

86        Taylor’s Faust: Bayard Taylor’s verse translation of Goethe’s Faust (1870-71) was widely considered the finest of its time.

89        ‘Warte nur! Balde / —Ruhest du auch!’: from Goethe, “Wanderer’s Nightsong”: Ger., “Just wait! Soon / You too will be resting.”

93        [chapter title]: the first date appears to be in error and should be 1867, the date when Adams published the article on John Smith in the North American Review.

94        New York gold conspiracy of Jay Gould and James Fisk: in “A”-8.78.19-31, LZ quotes from the essay on “The New York Gold Conspiracy,” Chapters of Erie (1871) by Charles Francis Adams and Henry Adams.

96        Shame upon you, Robin…: from Tennyson’s verse play, Queen Mary (1875).

97        HIC JACET…: the Latin reads: Here Lies / Small Man Writer / Barbarous (Foreign) Doctor / Henry Adams / Son of Adam and Eve / Who First Explained / Socn. “Socn” is an Anglo-Saxon legal term regarding fiscal jurisdiction, which Adams examined in the article, “The Anglo-Saxon Courts of Law,” which LZ alludes to previously on the same page.

108      monument at Rock Creek: Adams had an elaborate monument built for the grave of his wife in Rock Creek Cemetery in Washington, D.C., designed with a statue by his good friend, the sculptor Augustus St. Gaudens. Adams is buried there as well. See note at 129.

124      Written today Adams’ thought would probably stress what The Education said of Russia…: the rest of this chapter was originally added for the Hound and Horn publication (1930) as a long footnote, in which LZ discusses Adams in relation to the Russian Revolution—arguing that Adams was not politically reactionary and foresaw the Russian Revolution. This note was abridged in the final revision for Prepositions (1967), but its argument appears significantly in “A”-8.

129      Henry Adams lies buried in Rock Creek Cemetery…: LZ identifies this passage as by the historian Carl Becker, from a review essay of The Education of Henry Adams published in the American Historical Review (April 1919). See LZ’s poem on his own visit to Adams’ grave, “1892-1941” (CSP 91).

130      quoted Heine: Also fragen wir beständig…: from Heinrich Heine, “Zum Lazarus: Lass die heilgen Parabolen”:
Thus we constantly question ourselves,
Until finally someone shuts us up
Stuffing our traps with a fistful of earth,
But is this an answer?


With Little / For Careenagers (1970)

131      only about 6000 years old: LZ mentions this 6000 year era in “A”-12.127.3 and 239.2, and the main bodies of “A”-22 and -23 draw on materials covering the same period.


Poetic Values (1930)

136      ‘Bare ruined choirs where late the sweet birds sang’: from Shakespeare, Sonnet 73; qtd. 21.

136      ‘Moi, l’autre hiver, plus sourd que les cerveaux d’enfants’: from Arthur Rimbaud (1854-1891), “Le bateau ivre” (The Drunken Boat): Fr., “I, that other winter, deafer than the minds of children.”


American Poetry 1920-1930 (1931)

137      ‘mil(lions of aflickf) litter ing brightmillion of S hurl…: from Cummings’ Is 5 (1926), poem ONE XXXIV.

137      Hart Crane—smithereens: apparently refers to Crane’s poem, “The Hurricane,” originally published as “The Hour” in transition 9 (Dec. 1927), which has the lines: “Nought stayeth, nought now bideth / But’s smithereened apart”; see note at 140.

137      Pound’s first three Cantos…: referring to the so-called Ur-Cantos EP published in Poetry (June-Aug. 1917) but subsequently completely rewritten.

138      Robert McAlmon…: McAlmon (1896-1956) is primarily remembered as a fiction writer, but LZ evidently thought highly of his poetry at this time and included examples of his sardonic satiric verse in both the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry (Feb. 1931) and the follow-up An “Objectivists” Anthology (1932). McAlmon was a good friend of WCW as well as highly praised by EP. The volume LZ refers to as Unfinished Poem is the epic, North America, Continent of Conjecture; WCW sent a copy to LZ (see WCW/LZ 41).

139      ‘You confuse the spectator by smacking as many of his senses as possible…: from EP, Antheil and the Treatise on Harmony (1924); see Ezra Pound and Music 256.

140      his [Hart Crane’s] unrhymed work in recent numbers of transition: Crane was closely associated in the later years of his life with Eugene Jolas’ transition in Paris, and he was one of the signatories of the journal’s “Proclamation” or manifesto published June 1929. The unrhymed poems LZ refers to are probably “Moment Fugue” (in #15, Feb. 1929) and “The Mango Tree” (in #18, Nov. 1929).

140      For, nor in nothing, nor in things…: from John Donne, “Air and Angels.”

141      Mina Loy (Contact Anthology): the Contact Collection of Contemporary Writers (Three Mountain Press, 1925), edited by Robert McAlmon, included the second half of Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose.”

141      Herrick’s ‘Divination’: Robert Herrick’s “Divination by a Daffodil” was a favorite with LZ. It appears as TP 16b alongside LZ’s own “So That Even a Lover 1” (“Little Wrists”; CSP 114), and later he would often read these two poems together at readings suggesting that his own poem was an effort to do something similar to Herrick. See also Bottom 166.

141      ‘we do not sell and buy things so necessary’ (Cummings): from Is 5 (1926), “ONE IX,” whose first two stanzas are:
death is more than
certain a hundred these
sounds crowds odours it
is in a hurry
beyond that any this
taxi smile or angle we do

not sell and buy
things so necessary as
is death and unlike shirts
neckties trousers
we cannot wear it out   (Collected Poems 1913-1962, 238)

142      Whitman who giving ‘the soul of literature’ the cold shoulder ‘descended upon things to arrest them all’ and ‘arrested’ them ‘all faithful solids and fluids’: LZ is quoting from two different Whitman poems. The first phrase, “soul of literature” is from “As I Sat Alone by Blue Ontario’s Shores,” section 13, see quote at “A”-8.81.18; LZ quotes from the same section of this poem at “A”-8.65.30-66.1 and Bottom 151. “Soul” is probably a misprint for the correct “soil” that appears in some editions of this much revised poem, whose later version is entitled, “By Blue Ontario’s Shores.” The rest is adapted from section 12 of “Sun-Down Poem,” an earlier version of “Crossing Brooklyn Bridge”:
We descend upon you and all things—we arrest you all,
We realize the soul only by you, you faithful solids and fluids,
Through you color, form, location, sublimity, ideality;
Through you every proof, comparison, and all the suggestions and determinations of ourselves. 

142      ‘Emotion is an organizer of forms’: from EP, “Affirmations IV: As for Imagisme,” originally published in The New Age (28 Jan. 1915): 350 (Selected Prose 374). It seems likely LZ found this remark quoted in René Taupin, L’Influence du symbolisme français sur la poésie américaine (de 1910 à 1920) (1929): 114 (see bibliography for Prepositions above for LZ’s review of Taupin’s book).

142      The sand that night like a seal’s back / Glossy: EP, Canto 29/141.

143      ‘after all white horses are in bed’: from Is 5, poem FIVE I, as are the following quoted lines, “if scarcely the somewhat city…” and “touch (now) with a suddenly unsaid….”

143      ‘everything which we really are and never quite live’: from Cummings’ play, HIM (1927), which LZ reviewed in The Exile 4 (Autumn 1928) (see Prep+ 84-85); qtd. “A”-1.4.19f.

143      Frost’s / One bird begins to close a faded eye: from the sonnet “Acceptance” from West-Running Brook (1928).

147      as someone said of Matthew Arnold…: source of this remark on Arnold is unidentified, although the allusion to “singing robes” is to a famous phrase by John Milton: “a poet soaring in the high reason of his fancies, with his garland and singing robes about him” (The Reason of Church Government, 1642).

147      Roger Kaigh’s Paper…: pseudonym of Irving Kaplan, a Columbia classmate and close friend of LZ’s, who appears as Kay in “A”-2.6.2f and “A”-6 (in the original version also addressed in “A”-5). This essay was eventually published as “The Written Record…” under Basil Bunting’s name in Three Essays (Durham, U.K: Basil Bunting Poetry Centre, 1994); for the mysterious fate of this essay, see Andrew Crozier, “Paper Bunting.”

148      ‘I think these days when there is so little to believe in…: this and the following quotations in this paragraph from A Novelette (Imaginations 277, 291). LZ has slightly altered the last quotation, which reads: “This is in fact my intimate, my musician, my servant, my wife” (Imaginations 291).

149      Improvisations (1920): this is the volume Kora in Hell: Improvistions

150      “Botticellian Trees”: at the time of writing, this was still an unpublished poem, which first appeared in the “Objectivists” issue of Poetry (Feb. 1931). See original version of “’Recencies’ in Poetry” where LZ remarks that this poem is the “most perfect recent example of the conceit” (Prep+ 213); see also Bottom 192.

150      ‘obstinate raionalists’: from The Descent of Winter in a section on “Shakespeare” (Collected Poems I, 311).

150      the harried / earth is swept…: from “The Wind Increases,” which LZ may have found in Imagist Anthology, 1930, ed. Richard Aldington, (see WCW, Collected Poems I, 339).

151      drive the car through the suburbs…: this entire last sentence echoes the conclusion of “The pure products of American go crazy,” otherwise known as Spring and All XVIII: “To Elsie”:
it seems to destroy us

It is only in isolate flecks that
is given off

No one
to witness
and adjust, no one to drive the car   (Collected Poems I, 218-219)


Dometer Guczul (1942)

When originally published in the surrealist journal View, edited by Charles Henri Ford, this article was accompanied by photographs of seven of the paintings LZ lists.

Title      Dometer Guczul: other than what LZ tells us there seems to be virtually no further information on Guczul. He was born in 1886 in Hungary (as LZ mentions on 154), became a naturalized US citizen in 1945 and probably died in 1948 at Lake George.

152       “The Pickaninny”: apparently the Zukofskys owned this painting; see “A”-18.402.38.

152       Rousseau: Henri Rousseau, “le Douanier” (1844-1910), French painter known for his naïve, proto-surrealist style.

153       Harnett: William Harnett (1848-1892), Irish-American painter of strikingly realistic still lifes of ordinary objects.


Basic (1943)

160      The Meaning of Meaning: subtitled A Study of the Influence of Language upon Thought and of the Science of Symbolism (1923) and co-authored by C. K. Ogden and I. A. Richards; a very influencial work of the period.

160      Swift’s Laputans: Laputa is the flying island in Part III of Gulliver’s Travels, inhabited by absurdly abstract inventors; see Prep+ 60.

160      Jeremy Bentham: (1748-1832) English Utilitarian philosopher.

163      Henri Poincaré’s The Value of Science: published 1905; LZ quotes the latter sentence in “A”-8.102.22-23.


Work/Sundown (1948)

165      When he was here in 1939: EP made a trip to the U.S. in April-June 1939, his first since 1911, primarily to persuade politicians to avoid America’s imminent involvement in World War II. He met with a number of Senators and Congressmen, but not F.D.R., and also saw both LZ and WCW on the trip.

165      his essay ‘Mediaevalism’: refers to the first section of EP’s introductory essay for Guido Cavalcanti Rime (1932), which was originally published on its own in Dial (1928); the entire introduction is collected in Literary Essays as “Cavalcanti” (149-200).

165      Sun up; work…: from Canto 49/245.

165      ‘Anyone can run to excesses’: from Canto 13/59, the Kung Canto.

165      ‘Who even dead, yet hath his mind entire’: from Canto 47/236.


Found Objects (1962-1926) (1962)

168      Found Objects: see notes to the poem “Daruma” from After I’s (1964).

168      nature as creator: from Spinoza, Ethics I, Prop. 29, Note; qtd. “A”-6.22.28f.


About the Gas Age (1970)

LZ’s note explains the origin and circumstances of this response following a reading in London. According to Scroggins (Bio 415), the questioner is Michael Shayer of Migrant Press, who transcribed LZ’s answer for the unauthorized version, “The Gas Age,” published as a small booklet by Tom Pickard’s Ultima Thule Bookshop in Newcastle-on-Tyne.

169      Henry Adams […] Willard Gibbs’ rule of phases, the second law of thermodynamics, and history…: Adams, “The Rule of Phase in History” in The Degradation of the Democratic Dogma (1919); see note at 8.

169      There are three states of existence…: this distinction is rudimentary science, but there are at least a couple sources for it in LZ’s thinking. As Scroggins has pointed out and the context suggests, one source is Henry Adams’ essay mentioned in the preceding note (see Prep+ 123), although Adams actually identifies more than three states. Another source is Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, “Vortex,” which LZ quotes in Bottom 178. See also Prep+ 242 where LZ suggests as equivalencies, “sense, essence, non-sense.”

169      Mr. Toynbee: Arnold J. Toynbee (1889-1975) British historian who proposed a reading of universal history according to rhythms of rise and decline. LZ owned and marked a number of Toynbee’s major volumes (see 12.176.26).

169      Gibbon: Edward Gibbon (1737-1794) whose Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is extensively quoted in “A”-15.370.17-373.32 and referred to elsewhere.

170      left-handed moths…: it was Chico Marx in the Marx Brothers’ film, Animal Crackers (1930), who explains the disappearance of a painting as due to left-handed moths.

170      partita section of “A”…: that is, “A”-13; see note to “A”-13.262.1.

170      Prospero, / all eyes! Be silent: the line, “No tongue! All eyes! Be silent,” from The Tempest IV.i.59 serves as something of a leitmotif reiterating the main theme throughout Bottom; qtd. in whole or in part at 38, 39, 77, 81, 85, 86, 91, 99, 232, 341, 362, as well as frequently echoed.

170      Spinoza’s philosophy […] 8 definitions and 7 axioms he builds a whole system…: see “A”-13.312.32f.

170      Harriet Monroe: founding editor of Poetry magazine, who at EP’s urging offered the young LZ the opportunity to edit the “Objectivists” issue (Feb. 1931) of the journal.

171      passage from the partita of “A”: “A”-13.290.24-38; the final quoted line refers to the “theme” of Bottom.

171      From Bottom: On Shakespeare: pages 423-424.