Saturday, October 1, 2011

Jack Spicer


Jack Spicer : [Dear Lorca, Loneliness is necessary for pure poetry]

Dear Lorca,

Loneliness is necessary for pure poetry. When someone introduces into the poet’s life ( and any sudden personal contact, whether in the bed or in the heart, is an intrusion) he loses his balance for a moment, slips into being who he is, uses his poetry as one would use money or sympathy. The person who writes the poetry emerges, tentatively, like a hermit crab from a conch shell. The poet , for that instant, ceases to be a dead man.
I, for example, could not finish the last letter I was writing you about sounds. You were like a friend in a distant city to whom suddenly unable to write, not because the fabric of my lige had changed, but because I was suddenly, temporarily, not in the fabric of my life.i could not tell you about it because both it and I were momentary.
Even the objects change. The seagulls, the greenness of the ocean, the fish – they become things to be traded for a smile or sound of conversation- counters rather than objects. Nothing matters except the big lie of the personal- the lie in which these objects do not believe.
That instant, I said. It may last for a minute, a night, or a month, but, this i promise you, García Lorca, the loneliness returns. The poet encysts the intruder. The objects come back to thier own places, silent and unsmiling. I again begin to write you a letter on the sound of a poem. And this immediate thing, this personal adventure, will not have been transferred into the poem like the waves and the birds were, will, at the best, show in the lovely pattern of cracks in some poem where autobiography shattered but did not quite destroy the surface. And the encysted emotion will itself become an object, to be transferred at last into poetry like waves and the birds.
And I will again become you special comrade.



Harry Redl
Jack Spicer, second from left, with members of the staff of the Poetry Center at San Francisco State College in 1957: Ida Hodes, Ruth Witt-Diamant and Robert Duncan.

Jack Spicer : [Dear Lorca, This is the last letter]

Dear Lorca,

This is the last letter. The connection between us, which had been fading away with the summer, is now finally broken. I turn in anger and dissatisfaction to the things of my life and you return, a disembodied but contagious spirit, to the printed page. It is over, this intimate communion with the ghost of Garcia Lorca, and I wonder now how it was ever able to happen.
It was a game, I shout to myself. A game. There are no angels, ghosts, or even shadows. It was a game made out of summer and freedom and a need for a poetry that would be more than the expression of my hatreds and desires. It was a game like Yeats’ spooks or Blake’s sexless seraphim.
Yet it was there. The poems are there, the memory not of a vision but a kind of casual friendship with an undramatic ghost who occasionally looked through my eyes and whispered to me, not really more important then my other friends, but now achieving a different level of reality by being missing. Today, alone by myself, it is like having lost a pair of eyes and a lover.
What is real, I suppose, will endure. Poe’s mechanical chessplayer was not the less a miracle for having a man inside it, and when the man departed, the games it had played were not less beautiful. The analogy is false, of course, but it holds a promise and a warning for each of us.
It is October now. Summer is over. Almost every trace of the months that produced these poems has been obliterated. Only explanations are possible, only regrets.
Saying goodbye to a ghost is more final than saying goodbye to a lover. Even the dead return, but a ghost, once loved, departing will never reappear.



Jack Spicer at the opening of the Six Gallery, San Francisco, Halloween 1954. Photo copyright © Robert Berg, 1954, 1999. Photo courtesy Small Press Traffic in San Francisco - visit them at

Jack Spicer: [Dear Lorca,When you had finished a poem]

Dear Lorca,

When you had finished a poem what did it want you do with it? Was it happy enough merely to exist or did it demand imperiously that you share it with somebody like beauty of a beautiful person forces him to search the world for someone that can declare that beauty? And where did your poems find people?

Some poems are easily laid. They will give themselves to anybody and anybody physically capable can receive them. They may be beautiful (we both written some that were) but they were meretricious. From the moment of their conception they inform us in a dulcet voice that, thank you, they can take care of themselves. I swear that if one of them were hidden beneath my carpet, it would shout out and seduce somebody. The quiet poems are what I worry about – the ones that must be seduced. They could travel about with me for years and no one would notice them. And yet, properly wed, they are more beautiful than their whorish cousins.
But I am speaking of the first night when I leave my apartment almost breathless, searching for someone to show the poem to. Often now there is no one. My fellow poets ( those I showed poetry to ten years ago) are so little interested in my poetry as I am in theirs. We both compare the poems shown ( unfavourably, of course ) with the poems we were writing ten years ago when we could learn from each other. We are polite but it is as if we were trading snapshot of our children- old acquaintances who disapprove of each other’s wives. Or were you more generous, García Lorca?
There are the young, of course. I have been reduced to them (or my poems have) lately. The advantage in them is that they haven’t yet decided what kind of poetry they are going to write tomorrow and are always looking for some device of yours to use. Yours, that’s the trouble. Yours and not the poem’s. they read the poem once to catch the marks of your style and then again, if they are at all pretty, to see if there is any reference to them in the poem. That’s all. I used to do it myself.
When you are in love there is no real problem. The person you love is always interested because he knows that poems are always about him. If only because each poem will someday be said to belong to the Miss X or Mister Y period of the poet’s life. I may not be a batter poet when I am in love, but I am a far less frustrated one. My poems have an audience.

Finally there are friends. There have been two of them in my life who could read my poems and one of that two prefers to put them in print so he can see them better. The other is far away.

All this to explain why I dedicate each of our poems to someone.



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