Thursday, June 18, 2009

Mayhew's Lorca Book

So I suffered from a bout of insomnia last night around 4 am and so I stayed up and read most of Jonathan Mayhew's book Apocryphal Lorca. It's a good read, almost more like a polemic at times than a conventional scholarly book.

The topic of the polemic is the misreading of Lorca - by scholars and poets, american and spanish. Mayhew wants to correct the apparent misrepresentation of Lorca as a kind of naive, natural poet of Spain. I don't know anything about Lorca scholarship (he was one of the first poets I was really into, but my high school girlfriend stole my book and I haven't spent much time with him since), so this has limited interest to me.

However, I think Mayhew did a fascinating reading of how multiculturalism - represented by Lorca - fit into American exceptionalism (weren't we just talking about that the other day?) around the mid-century. On one hand you have a kind of McCarthyite anti-foreign stance; and on the other a counterculture openness to otherness. But in that openness there is a certain element of American exceptionalism: America is so great we can incorporate other literatures. (In this it resembles much German Romanticism of the 19th century.).

There is an interesting section about Langston Hughes's often neglected translations of Lorca; they seem really great. I am going to look those up. There is so much about Hughes that is overlooked (his trips to Russia for example).

I also appreciated the discussion of the "Deep Image School" and all the distortions that followed in its footsteps. Mayhew does a good job of showing how this came out of Rothenberg's initial interest in Euro surrealism and how when Bly took over the idea (and Jerry R moved on to other ideas, most notably ethnopoetics) he made it into something that supposedly had more to do with a vague notion of "Spanish surrealism," though, as Jonathan notes, it really has more to do with perhaps translations of Chinese poetry, DH Lawrence and Trakl. Although it's been commonplace to call Bly and James Wright "surrealists", their imagery is seldom surreal.

He does mention Bly's Vietnam poems as being in tune with Neruda's surreal-influenced anti-imperialist poetry; and that's where Bly is both most surreal and at his best.

In this regard he might also have mentioned the sometime visitor to this (and many other) web site Bill Knott, who wrote truly strange and very surrealistic anti-vietnam-war poems. But then I'm not sure Knott was ever umbrella-ed in the "deep image" rubric.

Anyway, I think this essay should be widely disseminated to clear up all the BS I hear about deep image and Lorca and Bly and supposed Surrealism.

Interesting to note how Creeley comes off as a kind of anti-translation guy. That's I suppose not surprising.

One more thing: Interesting close-reading showing how Bob Kaufman appropriates Lorca.

Of course, it being Mayhew, it's also annoying and pointificating at times, but that's fine.


Blogger Unknown said...

no, they didn't umbrella me anywhere,

not in the morassful Morrow Young Poets

nor the new Hypebrids——

if i was his age, i'd probably be trying to write like Lundwall in your new issue . . . he makes me nod my head unh-huh unh-huh


1:06 PM  

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