• Non-Apologia to Ear-Freaks & Scholiasts of Things Like the Cantos
Non-Apologia to Ear-Freaks & Scholiasts of Things Like the Cantos
Non-Apologia to Ear-Freaks & Scholiasts of Things Like the Cantos
Text reads:
Any man who hates poetry can't be all bad. —W. C. Feels
What is the poor, vestigial Orphic soul to do? People occasionally buy the bloody books and that rash act seems to give them permission to slip them forever onto the shelves where the poems within are silent and blank as the tomb of Melville in the Bronx.
Poetry is being turned off, like commercials are turned off. The ear is a monitor. The Average American, god help us all, is being bombarded by approximately 1500 advertising messages per 24 hours from the media-combine. The switchboards unplug—and even non-con poems get caught in the antipathy. Since the attention-span of the Average American Reader, god help us all, is measured by the 60 seconds of the commercial—which allows one to run to the john—or by the mystical 3-minutes of the long-distance syndrome; and since his heart, memory, and taste tends to forget anything older than his lousy Pontiac, the poet, the maker of things out of syllables, O Look & See, O Best Beloved, the poet is almost wiped out now from the start. After all, he is the guy who is to put things together: like Die fasti St. Bridget, Regina et Veuve, Thutmose Ill, peat-moss, and Ty Cobb. So it is not curious that he wants a piece of the public. And (perhaps) miserably violent. There's action, and that the action has to be fast. And no other show in town, Mr. Thoreau, but Un-Quiet Desperation USA. If baseball is considered slow and stupid by fans who no longer know anything, then what of the poem, that hyper-active discrete construct of tough and telling syllables?
So, here, these poems are non-private and simple as signboards. You see the word YIELD on a yellow metal triangle on the verge of the high-speed merge of the freeway—that's one thing, and you heed it or die. Place that same sign on your bedroom door—that's the poetic shift. What we are now into is something like that. The imagination is flashing, picking up words and sounds from the air like amethyst crystals in your path, out observing the crudities and hard-edges of life. Very quick, very large. I want poems to get their ass out of books and out into the world where they stare back at people. There is no reason why this nation has to be surrendered only into the hands of TEXACO looming 60 feet high on the steel towers against the polluted sunset. Energy is Eternal Delight, said Mr. Blake. The concrete poem, the seen poem, is just another tool, another way—the slow curve to go with the lyrical fastbali—to keep us all alive and in the majors.
Jonathan Williams,
Poet-in-Residence: Maryland Institute
13 October 1968

Artwork: 2007.4.1

Non-Apologia to Ear-Freaks & Scholiasts of Things Like the Cantos

Silkscreen on paper

Image: 15 1/2 x 6 inches
Frame: 23 x 22 inches
Six Rusticated, Wall-Eyed Poems
Gift of Brian Butler
Jonathan Williams (poem) and Dana W. Atchley (graphics), Non-Apologia to Ear-Freaks & Scholiasts of Things Like the Cantos from the portfolio Six Rusticated, Wall-Eyed Poems, 1969. Silkscreen on paper. Collection of Black Mountain College Museum + Arts Center. Gift of Brian Butler.