My Vocabulary Did This to Me: The Collected Poetry of Jack Spicer
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In 1965, when the poet Jack Spicer died at the age of forty, he left behind a trunkful of papers and manuscripts and a few copies of the seven small books he had seen to press. A West Coast poet, his influence spanned the national literary scene of the 1950s and '60s, though in many ways Spicer's innovative writing ran counter to that of his contemporaries in the New York School and the West Coast Beat movement. Now, more than forty years later, Spicer's voice is more compelling, insistent, and timely than ever. During his short but prolific life, Spicer troubled the concepts of translation, voice, and the act of poetic composition itself. My Vocabulary Did This to Me is a landmark publication of this essential poet's life work, and includes poems that have become increasingly hard to find and many published here for the first time.
the story, show that there is space inside the casket. For this reason whenever I read a short story I skip through the narrative paragraphs and concentrate on the dialogue. (That is the scrollwork on the casket.) “Whenever I read a short story,” Ken said, looking up from his coffee, “I skip through the narrative paragraphs and concentrate on the dialogue.” He paused for a moment. “And that’s the scrollwork on the casket,” he added parenthetically. It is Ken, of course, who is dead. It is his
Themselves in others. Do not see themselves. The moon does. The moon does. The moon is not a yellow camera. It perceives What wasn’t, what undoes, what will not happen. It’s not a sharp and clicking eye of glass and hood. Just old, Slow infinite exposure of The negative that cannot happen. Fear God’s old eye for being shot with ice Instead of blood. Fear its inhuman mirror blankness Luring lovers. Fear God’s moon for hexing, sticking pins In forgotten dolls. Fear it for wolves. For
in what I’ve spent and earned: Time does not finish a poem. Upon the old amusement pier I watch The creeping darkness gather in the west. Above the giant funhouse and the ghosts I hear the seagulls call. They’re going west Toward some great Catalina of a dream Out where the poem ends. But does it end? The birds are still in flight. Believe the birds. NEW YORK / BOSTON (1955–1956) IInd PHASE OF THE MOON Son of Pan with thighs smooth as raw silk, send some of our dreams back to us from
trees Williams saw. Drop The words drop Like leaves from a fuzzy tree I can’t remember tomorrow I (alone in the real world with their fuzzy heads nodding at me) Can’t Remember. VII. Trees in their youth look younger Than almost anything I mean In the spring When they put forth green leaves and try To look like real trees Honest to God my heart aches When I see them trying. Comes August and the sunshine and the fog and only the wood grows They stand there with big rough leaves
pawns and a queen and bit a hell of an edge off a black rook Savage As the god of plague is savage Apollo the mouse ran up the chessboard Down the chessboard. IV. Or, explaining the poem to myself, Jay Herndon has only three words in his language Door: which means that he is to throw something which will make a sound like a door banging. Fffish: which means that there is something that somebody showed him And Car: which is an object seen at a great distance He will learn words as we