Tuesday, April 26, 2016

BLEED THROUGH - Michael Davidson's New & Selcted Poems

 I had occasion just recently, responding to an essay by Steph Burt,  to write of the centrality of Whitehead's process philosophy to mid-century New American Poetry, which of course entails its importance to all that has come after. Olson, in his "A Later Note on Letter #15," had written:

"& Descartes was the value

until Whitehead, who cleared out the gunk
by getting the universe in (as against man alone

& that concept of history"

It was Process and Reality that had made the turning. "We diverge from Descartes by holding that what he has described as primary attributes of physical bodies, are really the forms of internal relationships between actual occasions." This was from lectures Whitehead had given in 1927-28, but it was to become part of the very vocabulary of the poetics coming to be known as the postmodern. You can find passages in Olson, Baraka and Creeley taking up this very phrasing.

and there was a later post, visible on the last page of Michael Davidson's The Mutabilities:

The sequence is up in the air,
I'm outside or inside
in each case
it's the truth
but who tells it
is up to the code . . .

That was the first of Michael Davidson's works to catch my attention. That cover collage by Jess included letters barely discernible, almost a bleed through, informing the very close reader that the book included "the foul papers" -- what was there not to love -- One odd thing about that Sand Dollar Press book, released in 1976: the collage was printed on a sleeve, which when removed revealed an identical collage in a different color, on which the title of "The Foul Papers" was more legible. So it was a sort of bleed through after all, and that effect is eerily present again, four decades on, on the cover of Davidson's New and Selected. 

After a first meeting, at which I said something so stupid I always prayed Davidson didn't recognize that we had met before when we met again, we became friends, and I have been able to document several of his great readings and lectures for postings on Penn Sound. (Go take a look!)

Somehow the new book came out without my noticing -- Back in the day when I lived in large metropolises, and those metropolises had book stores, I would routinely find things like The Mutabilities and Bleed Through in my wanderings through the shelved cities. But I've found it now, and it is a find. From Coffee House Press.

And now, on Pennsylvania primary day, as I cast my vote against Cruz control, I take comfort in "The Canadians":

                            I want
to occupy what
has not been bought, the space
where the earth meets the earth.

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