“Paragraphs” by Walter Lowenfels

Thursday, December 27, 2018

One of the most important literary magazines of the period between 1950 and 1970 was James Boyer May’s TRACE, edited and published in Los Angeles. One of its contributors is largely forgotten today, though he was a poet whose literary “career” was similar to George Oppen’s, in that both had a significant period during which they devoted themselves to radical political activity rather than give precedence to writing poems.

Here are some links to background information to Lowenfels, who deserves to have more scholarship done on his work with the same degree of thoroughness as Michael Davidson and Stephen Cope addressed the poetry and notebooks of George Open in recent decades. In fact, this new scholar’s initial work will be somewhat easier because that person can easily and directly access much of Lowenfels’s work thanks to the Upenn website; there is no excuse for scholars not to begin to embed his work more prominently in their critiques of 20th century American literature.





The following material was first printed in issues 33 and 35 of TRACE magazine.

“Paragraphs” by Walter Lowenfels

A poem comes from a new misreading of history.

You have to write quickly these days. Otherwise your style changes and your particular theme loses itself.

What does Gautier’s “arcana of daily travail” mean? That you
have to get closer to the point where the poem writes itself automatically.

For me poems have been a way of living rather than a way
of literature. It was only when I quit thinking that poems were actually possible that I began to make them.

Something in every poem escapes the moment it has been created
– the underlying totality the poet carries with him. On the other hand—something is added – the totality the reader carries with him. When the two are close to one you have the minimum basis for a poem.

The poem ought to be read to end the instant it begins.

The poem has to get worse and worse. Only so it gets better and better. As the grass of the world goes deader, the grass of the poem goes whiter.

* * *

PARAGRAPHS by Walter Lowenfels

I don’t agree with anybody, and the only way I can indicate it is
a poem.

Tomorrow’s poem is still an exile from a land we are trying to find.

That a poem ends is just as mysterious as that it begins.

If it can be said in half the words, it is twice as good.

We have to live poems to make poems…

If you take dancing seriously, a poet is a man without a tongue,
shouting at an audience without ears.

(issue 35)

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