Sunday, March 24, 2013

Mother Beatnik

"59. When I looked at her early pieces, I had a sudden feeling that, regarding visual art, I was happy to be in San Francisco and not Paris. That was 1954."

"60. DeFeo rode Abstract Expressionism in a direction that it had never been before—it was the placement of her incredible shabby daubs or exquisitely worn splotches and loose sprawling offbeat bars that was the message. She was dealing with paint as the assemblagists would deal with worn materials. She was part of a vision, of a new way of seeing. She was beat, she was elegant, she was worn, she was glimmery. DeFeo is the visionary of the assemblagists."

Tuxedo Junction (fragment)

"61. . . . DeFeo was a gambler and an alchemist. She was translating her vision into painting and gambling her spirit on the coup of her dusky materials."

photo by Jerry Burchard • 1958

"63. At one point in the late fifties, I found that DeFeo had destroyed, by cutting in half, nearly all of her tempera on pasteboard works. The destroyed stack of work was eighteen inches to two feet high.
I wish she had not done it, and I have thought about her act for thirty years."

"66. Jay DeFeo is working with spirit, contemplation, and gesture. She proves that the minute gesture in a perfect daub is as fine as a great slooping drip in Pollock's work or a color field by Rothko."

[Text excerpted from "66 things about the California assemblage movement" in Lighting The Corners (1992) by Michael McClure.]

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Little Blue Books

Louis L'Amour remembers . . .

"Riding a freight train out of El Paso, I had my first contact with the Little Blue Books. Another hobo was reading one, and when he finished he gave it to me. 

"The Little Blue Books were a godsend to wandering men and no doubt to many others. Published in Girard, Kansas, by Haldeman-Julius, they were slightly larger than a playing card and had sky-blue paper covers with heavy black print titles. I believe there were something more than three thousand titles in all and they were sold on newsstands for 5 or 10 cents each. Often in the years following, I carried ten or fifteen of them in my pockets, reading when I could. 

"Among the books available were the plays of Shakespeare, collections of short stories by De Maupassant, Poe, Jack London, Gogol, Gorky, Kipling, Gautier, Henry James, and Balzac. There were collections of essays by Voltaire, Emerson, and Charles Lamb, among others. 

"There were books on the history of music and architecture, painting, the principles of electricity; and, generally speaking, the books offered a wide range of literature and ideas. I do not recall exactly, but I believe the first Blue Book given me on that freight train was Robert Louis Stevenson's Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde."

from "A Dissertation Upon Roast Pig"

The swine-herd, Ho-ti . . . left his cottage in the care of his eldest son Bo-bo, a great lubberly boy, who being fond of playing with fire, as younkers of his age commonly are, let some sparks escape into a bundle of straw, which kindling quickly, spread the conflagration over every part of their poor mansion, till it was reduced to ashes . . . . While he was thinking what he should say to his father, and wringing his hands over the smoking remnants of one of those untimely sufferers, an odour assailed his nostrils, unlike any scent which he had before experienced. What could it proceed from ? — not from the burnt cottage — he had smelt that smell before . . .  Much less did it resemble that of any known herb, weed, or flower. A premonitory moistening at the same time overflowed his nether lip. He knew not what to think. He next stooped down to feel the pig, if there were any signs of life in it. He burnt his fingers, and to cool them he applied them in his booby fashion to his mouth. Some of the crums of the scorched skin had come away with his fingers, and for the first time in his life (in the world's life indeed, for before him no man had known it) he tasted — crackling! 
•   •   •
Nothing but fires from this time forward.
•   •   •
There is no flavour comparable, I will contend, to that of the crisp, tawny, well-watched, not over-roasted, crackling, as it is well called — the very teeth are invited to their share of the pleasure at this banquet in overcoming the coy, brittle resistance — with the adhesive oleaginous — O call it not fat — but an indefinable sweetness growing up to it — the tender blossoming of fat — fat cropped in the bud — taken in the shoot — in the first innocence — the cream and quintessence of the child-pig's yet pure food — the lean, no lean, but a kind of animal manna — or, rather, fat and lean (if it must be so) so blended and running into each other, that both together make but one ambrosian result, or common substance.
•   •   •
How equably he twirleth round the string! . . . .  I make my stand upon pig.
•   •   •
I remember an hypothesis, argued upon by the young students, when I was at St. Omer's, and maintained with much learning and pleasantry on both sides, "Whether, supposing that the flavour of a pig who obtained his death by whipping (per flagellationem extremam) superadded a pleasure upon the palate of a man more intense than any possible suffering we can conceive in the animal, is man justified in using that method of putting the animal to death ?" 

I forget the decision.


Wednesday, March 6, 2013


The murmuring of Bees, has ceased
But murmuring of some
Posterior, prophetic,
Has simultaneous come.
The lower metres of the Year
When Nature's laugh is done
The Revelations of the Book
Whose Genesis was June.
Appropriate Creatures to her change
The Typic Mother sends
As Accent fades to interval
With separating Friends
Till what we speculate, has been
And thoughts we will not show
More intimate with us become
Than Persons, that we know.

I shall not murmur if at last
The ones I loved below
Permission have to understand
For what I shunned them so --
Divulging it would rest my Heart
But it would ravage theirs --
Why, Katie, Treason has a Voice --
But mine -- dispels -- in Tears.

Walt Gets His Freak On

"Feb. 20.—A solitary and pleasant sundown hour at the pond, exercising arms, chest, my whole body, by a tough oak sapling thick as my wrist, twelve feet high—pulling and pushing, inspiring the good air. After I wrestle with the tree awhile, I can feel its young sap and virtue welling up out of the ground and tingling through me from crown to toe, like health's wine. Then for addition and variety I launch forth in my vocalism; shout declamatory pieces, sentiments, sorrow, anger, &c., from the stock poets or plays—or inflate my lungs and sing the wild tunes and refrains I heard of the blacks down south, or patriotic songs I learn'd in the army. I make the echoes ring, I tell you! As the twilight fell, in a pause of these ebullitions, an owl somewhere the other side of the creek sounded too-oo-oo-oo-oo, soft and pensive (and I fancied a little sarcastic) repeated four or five times. Either to applaud the negro songs—or perhaps an ironical comment on the sorrow, anger, or style of the stock poets."

Specimen Days. Whitman, ill, convalescing, a decade or so after nursing the war wounded & dying . . .

° ° °

(A hundred years later, Michael McClure declaims a beast poem while standing in front of the lions at the San Francisco Zoo, the lions answering.)