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Kamarck, Edward (ed.) / Arts in society: confrontation between art and technology

Allen, Dick
[Editorial comment: the poet looks at space--inner and outer],   pp. [184]-193 PDF (10.1 MB)

Page 189

but does point out that in the work of many
older poets space and the bomb,
nuclear destruction, are somehow
combined. That old distrust of science
is seen. These poets would say that since
we have too many earth problems,
why give ourselves others. Space can
become an escape for not facing up to
things here: it is a stock car race, a bloody
Ben Hur movie.
This uncomfortableness with space is shown
in the work of another of our older
and well-respected poets, W. H. Auden.
In a recent collection of poems,
About the House, Auden tries, as so many
poets before him have tried, to come
to terms with new conceptions of the
universe - principally the conceptions of
modern physics. The question is, how can
we handle what we cannot
understand. How can we become
comfortable with this Einstein and Hoyle
and Whitehead universe? In "After
Reading a Child's Guide to Modern Physics"
Auden writes,
Our eyes prefer the suppose
That a habitable place
Has a geocentric view,
That architects enclose
A quiet Euclidean space:
Exploded myths - but who
Would feel at home astraddle
An ever-expanding saddle?
Auden is less distrustful than Eberhart,
but still holds back his enthusiasm.
He explores and states but finds the new
age difficult to wholeheartedly accept.
On the other hand, his "Directions for
Reaching Atlantis" is a classic and his
translation of Andre Vosnesensky's
"Parabolic Ballad" masterful.
In this poem Vosnesensky demonstrates the
influence of Space Age sensibility on
modern poetry as well as any other
living writer. "Along a parabola life like a
rocket flies,/ Mainly in darkness,
now and then on a rainbow." Gauguin
escaped his critics and he "rose like a
howling rocket" which "didn't steal
into the Louvre by the front door/
But on a parabola smashed through the
ceiling" for "Worms come
through holes and bold men on parabolas."
Vosnesensky writes,
Forgive me for this idiotic parabola.
Cold shoulders in a pitch-dark vestibule . . .
Rigid, erect as a radio antenna rod
Sending its call sign out through the freezing
Dark of the universe, how you rang out to me;
An undoubtable signal, an earthly stand-by
From whom I might get my flight
bearing to land by.
The parabola doesn't come to us easily.
And in the poem "Antiworlds" there are
"no women -/ just anti-men./ In
the forests, anti-machines are roaring."
All is strange, other-dimensional. We all
share the quality of double negation.
Another poet who shares Vosnesensky's
embrace of science-fantasy is
Allen Ginsberg. His leading success in this
field is, I think, "Poem Rocket."
In it (and as always influenced by Whitman)
Ginsberg attempts to make a large
statement about the new possibilities of
Space-man and to show how these
give rise, in turn, to new possibilities and
responsibilities for poets. His poem tries
to absorb the entire universe. The
moon is a "goof moon." And "as God is
possible as All is possible so we'll
reach another life." Addressing himself
to creatures he imagines man will
discover, and speaking about
the all-inclusiveness of the religious
experience, Ginsberg wonders if we will
find "slave camps on Saturn Cuban
revolutions on Mars . . . will Catholic
Church find Christ cn Jupiter."
Will the future beings "eat my poems or
read them/ or gaze with aluminum blind
plates on sunless pages." The final
planet is the one where "the Great Brain of
the Universe sits/ waiting for a poem
to land in His golden pocket."
More fantasy, but of a different sort, is
found in Edward Field's Variety Photoplays.
Field loves old horror movies, and in
his work merges their characters
with contemporary ones. In "Curse of the
Cat Woman" he writes, "It sometimes
happens/ that the woman you meet and
fall in love with/ is of that strange
Transylvanian people/ with an affinity for
cats." At some point she turns and
attacks you; you kill her and she turns
human again. Field also has a marvelous
poem on Frankenstein, in which
the monster becomes the symbol for
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