Bird In The Bush (New Directions, 1955) & World Outside The Window (New Directions, 1987)

Friday, September 5, 2008



P VII Bird - "These essays are all jobs, except the one on Buber which I wrote to organize my own relationship to a thinker who has had a major influence on me ... I think Lawrence a very great poet indeed, but rather a disgusting man, afraid of wildcats, red Indians, and children, who deliberately wrote erotic novels and then got up and lef the room in a blushing rage when somebody told a dirty joke. There is a lot of bullshit in Lawrence, Miller, or Patchen - but their enemies are my enemies."

P VIII Bird - "Everybody has a lot of fakery in his makeup. When it is personal it is all right. A man can be forgiven for being a snarf, a vegetarian, or a frequenter of astrologists. He cannot be forgiven for being a parson or a social worker or a professor. No truck with the Social Lie. Why not? Not because it makes you a partner in mass murder, which it does, but because it reduces all action to frivolity."

P IX Bird - "However, I will not take those would-be allies which Madison Avenue has carefully manufactured and is now trying to foist on me. If the only significant revolt against what the French call the 'hallucination publicitaire' is heroin and Zen Buddhism nobody will ever be able to escape from the lot of this tenth-rate Russian movie called 'The Collapse of Capitalist Civilization' onto which somehow we all seem to have wandered."

P X Bird - "... Because art is a weapon. After millions of well-aimed blows, someday perhaps it will break the stone heart of the mindless cacodemon called Things As They Are. Everything else has failed."

P. 8 Bird - " T.S. Eliot told us all so many times that he has no emotion, that he never writes of personal experience. The truth is that his poetry is so personal that you can reconstruct his whole inner life, his whole personal history, from it. It is as embarassingly intimate as the revelations of the analyst's couch."

P. 12 Bird - "As human beings grow more remote from one another, they become more like things than persons to each other ... First alienation from comradeship in the struggle with nature, then alienation from each other, finally self-alienation. A great deal of our communication is not with persons at all. It might just as well be a machine to which we say 'Pass the butter'. What we want is the butter."

P. 14 Bird - "... Baudelaire had all sorts of idiotic ideas about how and why he wrote. But more than any other poet for two hundred years he communicated. He defined and gave expression to all the dilemmas of modern man, caught in the cruel dynamic of an acquisitive and continually disintegrating society, a society which had suddenly abandoned satisfactions which went back to the beginning of human communities in the Neolithic Age. Baudelaire, at first sight, painted the entire portrait of modern man, urban and self-alienated. He speaks directly to each of us like a twin brother. And yet Baudelaire was hardly aware of the magnitude of his accomplishment - he had such foolish ideas when he tried to explain himself."

P. 14-15 Bird - "Blake ... saw the whole picture of the oncoming nineteenth-century civilization with its dark Satanic mills. He wanted none of it, but he came to grips with it."

P. 16 Bird - "It so happens that until modern times few poets were 'pure poets' in George Moore's sense - completely disinterested in anything but personal communication. Most poetry in the Western world is corrupted with rhetoric and manipulation ... with program and exposition, and the actual poetry, the living speech of person to person, has been a by-product. The felicities of Dante are such by-products, of an embittered politician rewarding his friends and punishing his enemies and preaching an already outworn philosophy and cosmology and an ugly, vindictive, and cruel religion."

P. 18 Bird - "The thing that endures, that gives value to life, is comradeship, loyalty, bravery, magnanimity, love, the relations of men in direct communication with each other, personally, as persons, committed to each other. From this comes the beauty of life, its tragedy and its meaning, and from nowhere else."

P. 87-88 Bird - "Here, if anywhere in America, was the focus of a purely indigienous agrarian anarchist-socialism. I have run hounds, swapped lies, and drunk tiger piss with men who would have been happy fighting with Makhno. Unruly, utterly skeptical, absolutely fearless, bawdy free-thinkers - very different indeed from the originals of the term 'square' - the square-headed agrarian Progressives of the northern Middlewest."

P. 99 Bird - "The majority of American poets have acquiesced in the judgement of the predatory society. They do not exist as far as it is concerned. They make their living in a land of make-believe, as servants of a hoax for children. They are employees of the fog factories - the universities. They help make the fog. Behind their screen the universities fulfill their social purposes. They turn out bureaucrats, perpetuate the juridicial lie, embroider the costumes of the delusion of participation, and as of late, in departments never penetrated by the humanities staff, turn out atom, hydrogen and cobalt bombers - genocidists is the word."

P. 100 Bird - "The official spokesmen of the Official Revolution have not chosen to stand in the place Patchen stands. Read Upton Sinclair's anthology, 'The Cry For Justice' and any anthology of pseudo-proletarian literature of the Thirties. The contrast is shocking. From Patrick Magill to the young Sandburg and Lindsay, Oppenheim and Lola Ridge, the poets of the earlier day had an integrity, a moral earnestness, which overrode their occasional corniness and gave them a substance of things hoped for, an evidence of things not seen, which has vanished from the work of the approved poets of bureaucratic salvation. 'Change the world' indeed, but from what to what?"

P. 109-110 Bird - "So today we have large sections of our most literate population voluntarily adopting the religious behavior and beliefs of more primitive communities for purely pragmatic, psychologistic, personal reasons. The assumption is that this is a kind of sumbolic behavior by which greater spiritual insight into reality ... and finally true realization of the self will follow. The fact that there is not the slightest statistical evidence for this assumption does not matter. The fact that the entire Judeo-Christian-Muslim period in human history has been an episode of unparalleled personal and social psychosis and intentional barbarity is beside the point. People have Hannukah lights in the window or Christmas trees at the winter solstice and take Communion at Easter or make a Seder on Pesach because the society in which they live provides them with no valid life aim and robs them of all conviction of personal integrity. All 'neo' religions are cults of desperation in a time of human self-alienation and social disintegration."

P. 114 Bird - "He is so polite, this man with the most beautiful beard since von Hugel. He is so nice to Carl Jung. He picks his way so nicely, so kindly through and over the 'disjecta membra' of that beached whale, the chubby corpse of Mme. Blavatsky, which is the gnostic theosophy of Jung, and even after Jung answers him in a half-cocked polemic full of pleas about the 'science of psychology' from one of the most unscientific minds of all time, Buber so gently points out that the controversy is beneath the level of a second-year student in a good theological seminary - any time in the past fifteen hundred years. He does this, of course, purely by implication. Jung, I am sure, was completely unaware that he was thoroughly told off."

P. 115 Bird - "Max Weber long ago pointed out that the use of a transcendental ideology to justify the betrayals and compromises of politics and economics is the essential social falsehood. The oncoming war is not going to be fought on either side from any sort of values whatsoever, and anyone who says so is a liar or a dupe. We have finally reached a point where the very conditions under which they operate expose the fiction of politics and economics for what they are."

P.140 Bird - "Early in life Buber turned away from what he considered the self-obliterative mysticism of the East. But he was wrong. Taoism is not self-obliterative. In a sense it is not even mysticism. It is rather just a quiet and fairly accurate assessment of the facts."

P. 162 Bird - "That is why you can never base an educational system on the 'Hundred Best Books'. A hundred of the truest insights into life as it is would destroy any educational system and its society along with it."

P. 179 Bird - "Hardy could say to himself: 'Today I am going to be a Wiltshire yeoman ... writing a poem to my girl ... with the gnawed stub of a pencil', and he could make it very convincing. But Lawrence really was the educated son of a coal miner, sitting under a tree that had once been part of Sherwood Forest, in a village that was rapidly becoming part of a world-wide, disemboweled hell, writing hard, painful poems, to girls who had been carefully taught the art of unlove."

P. 198-199 Bird - "Every year there is less, but in Lawrence's day there was still something of the primeval Mexico - at the great feast in Oaxaca, in the life of the peasants in the remote villages, in the Indian communities in the back country."

P. 201-202 Bird - "All men have to die, and one would think a sane man would want to take that fact into account, at least a little. But our whole civilization is a conspiracy to pretend that it isn't going to happen - and this, in an age when death has become more horrible, more senseless, less at the will of the individual than ever before. Modern man is terribly afraid of sex, of pain, of evil, of death ... Men and women torture each other to death in the bedroom, just as the dying dinosaurs gnawed on each other as they copulated in the chilling marshes. Anything but the facts of life. Today you can take a doctor's degree in medicine or engineering and never learn how to have intercourse with a woman or repair a car. Human self-alienation, Marx called it."

P. 48 World - "Much of the best popular fiction deals with the world of the utterly disaffiliated. Burlesque and carnival people, hipsters, handicappers and hop heads, wanted men on the lam, an expendable squad of soldiers being expended, anyone who by definition is divorced from society and cannot afford to believe even an iota of the Social Lie - these are the favorite characters of modern postwar fiction"

P. 62-63 - "Literature is work. Art is work. And work, said St. Benedict, is prayer. There are at least three Zen Buddhists to be found in every public toilet in every city over 250,000 in the U.S.A. after ten at night. 'You just dig it, man. You just let it happen. It just busts in your head like shit in your bloodstream, you dig?' ... Have these poor disheveled children any idea of the work, years and years of it, that goes to the perfecting of a Japanese swordsman, a judo expert, one of the admirals that pulled off Pearl Harbor, a monk in a Zendo, or any other recognized exponent of the philosophy of Boddhidarma? No. 'Like that's all for squares, man.'"

P. 76 - "Be very careful you don't become what Madison Avenue wants every artist to be - a wild man."

P. 197 - "Hemingway was certainly a thoroughly conventional personality. Anyone who could sit for five minutes in Harry's Bar or spend a weekend in that hotel on Torcello is indisputably a square. His tough guy code was bluster and bullying, he was the model and idol of a generation of junior executives, especially the type Yale Man or Time editor, but he had talent and a certain tragic feeling."

P. 262 - "It only took a year for that caricature of Big Business and the Big Business ethic - Organized Vice - to take over the Hippies; and the movement itself, by the pressure of idle youngsters of the upper middle class, was turned into a craze for the conspicuous expenditure of senseless commodities - beads, couch cover serapes, and worn-out squirrel skin chubbies."

Posted by St. Drogo at 1:12 PM  

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