Friday, November 07, 2008


For Abstruse Reasons

Humphrey Carpenter, in the first chapter of The Inklings (1978), describes an elaborate prank planned by C.S. Lewis and his friends in 1926 but unfortunately never perpetrated. They composed parodies of modernist verse, purportedly written by the imaginary siblings Rollo and Bridget Considine, and intended to mail them from Vienna to T.S. Eliot's magazine Criterion, in the hope that Eliot would publish them as serious poems.

Ten years earlier Witter Bynner and Arthur Davison Ficke both planned and perpetrated a similar hoax. They composed ridiculous poems in the modernist idiom under the pseudonyms Emanuel Morgan (Bynner) and Anne Knish (Ficke) and published them as Spectra: A Book of Poetic Experiments (New York: Mitchell Kennerley, 1916). Among those fooled by the hoax into taking the Spectrist poems seriously were John Gould Fletcher, Alfred Kreymborg, Amy Lowell, Edgar Lee Masters, Harriet Monroe, and William Carlos Williams.

One of the poems, Anne Knish's Opus 40, is on a theme that interests me, the fact that some writers write primarily for themselves, not for readers:
I have not written, reader,
      That you may read...
They sit in rows in the bare school-room

Throwing rocks at windows is better,
And oh the tortoise-shell cat with the can fled on!
I would rather be a can-tier
Than a writer for readers.

I have written, reader,
For abstruse reasons.
Gold in the mine...
Black water seeping into tunnels
A plank breaks, and the roof falls...
Three men suffocated.
The wife of one now works in a laundry;
The wife of another has married a fat man;
I forget about the third.
Related posts:

<< Home
Newer›  ‹Older

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?