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TitleOne Kind of Everything: Poem and Person in Contemporary America
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Table of Contents
Introduction: “One Kind of Everything”
Reading Objects: Robert Lowell
Elizabeth Bishop on Autobiographical Grounds
Reading Frank Bidart Pragmatically
The Tenses of Frank O’Hara
Forms of Narrative in the Poetry of Louise Gluck
Conclusion: Autobiography and the Language School
Works Cited
Document Text Contents
Page 2

One Kind of Everything

Page 102

Reading Frank Bidart Pragmatically 93

“Her soul, uncompromising, / insatiable / must have loved eating
the flesh from her bones”—the “soul” thins Callas to her new
form just as a sculptor trims excess marble from a sculpture,
revealing “this extraordinary / mercurial; fragile; masterly crea-

—But irresistibly, nothing
stopped there; the huge voice

also began to change: at first, it simply diminished
in volume, in size,

then the top notes became
shrill, unreliable—at last,
usually not there at all . . .

—No one knows why. Perhaps her mind,
ravenous, still insatiable, sensed

that to struggle with the shreds of a voice

must make her artistry subtler, more refined,
more capable of expressing humiliation,
rage, betrayal . . .

—Perhaps the opposite. Perhaps her spirit
loathed the unending struggle

to embody itself, to manifest itself, on a stage whose
mechanics, and suffocating customs,
seemed expressly designed to annihilate spirit.

(Western Night 115)

In the course of performance, then, Callas must meet and in-
corporate her own expressive limits; must account for (which
is to say, make beautiful) the “shrillness” and “unreliability” of
her notes. So the performance of song turns into a performance
of self; the subtle adjustments by which Callas makes the con-
tours of song available to her is a model for the way an in-
dividual human life creates itself within the “givens” of gen-
eralized experience and fate. West describes how, in watching

Page 103

94 Reading Frank Bidart Pragmatically

Tosca she, West, suddenly “felt like I was watching / autobio-

—I know that in Tosca, in the second act,
when, humiliated, hounded by Scarpia,
she sang Vissi d’arte

—“I lived for art”—

and in torment, bewilderment, at the end she asks,
with a voice reaching

harrowingly for the notes,

“Art has repaid me like this?”
(Western Night 116)

Callas’s ability to “be Callas” while playing in Tosca (like Olivier’s
inexorable “Olivier”-ness even, especially when playing the most
famous role in Western drama) figures Ellen West’s own wish
to “be Ellen West” within a role, perhaps “girl” or “wife”; the sad
difference, invisible of course to Ellen West, is that Callas adapts
her voice to the necessities of her body, not vice versa. The body
dies at the very moment the dictates of voice are at last obeyed;
we know this because its inverse—that is, that voice itself “dies”
of its perfect embodiment—is true in the case of Callas, as West

—I wonder what she feels, now,
listening to her recordings.

For they have already, within a few years,
begun to date . . .

Whatever they express
they express through the style of a decade
and a half—;

a style she helped create . . .

—She must know that now
she probably would not do a trill in
exactly that way,—

that the whole sound, atmosphere,

Page 204

Index 195

subjectivity, subjective life, 16, 27, 28;
American, 11; conventional, 170;
integrated, 169; as a means, 16;
modernist evasion of, 29; Roman-
tic, 170

substitution: in “Sestina,” 56
“Supermarket in California, A”

(Ginsberg), 14
suppression: aesthetic value of, 6; of

the personal, 6
syntax: Bidart’s, 82, 97; Hemingway’s,

53; Pound’s, 82

tableau vivant, 147
Tate, Allen, 32
tautologies, 71
television, 43
time, 129–30; geologic, 37; historic, 37;

idea of, 37; personal, 37, 161, 165;
social, 161; stopped, 143

Titian, 118, 120
“To Larry Rivers” (O’Hara): dejec-

tion, 120; and envy, 117–18
“Tower, The (Yeats), 81
Tractatus (Wittgenstein), 174
Trilling, Lionel, 115
trope: and autobiography, 6
“Trustworthy Speakers” (Costello),

150, 152, 155

Ulysses ( Joyce), 81
“Ulysses and Circe” (Lowell), 22,

65; antimythical, 66; and self-
representation, 65

“Unbeliever, The” (Bishop), 45
“Under Albany” (Silliman), 169,

174, 175; and autobiographical
recollection, 174

variation: in narration, 106
Vendler, Helen, 49, 126; on Bidart’s

monologues, 92; definition of

lyric, 83; and self-revelatory
speech, 83; on transparent myth,

verbs, 142
voice, 97; Bidart’s treatment of, 86
Voyage of the Beagle, The (Darwin),


Waldron, Mal, 131
walk poems: O’Hara, 127; Whitman,

Waste Land, The (Eliot): and marital

quarrel, 145
Watten, Barrett, 175
Wedding Dress, The (F. Howe), 169
Whitman, Walt, 4, 8, 15, 17, 21–22, 137;

bias against autobiography, 1, and
catalogs, 31; mentioned by other
poets, 14; and roles, 5; and self,
12, 15; and temporality, 13; walk
poems of, 127

“Whoso List to Hunt” (Wyatt), 35;
reading-act, 34

“Why I Am Not a Painter” (O’Hara),
111, 122, 125; as parable, 122, 123

Wild Iris, The (Glück), 144; and
voices, 152

Williams, William Carlos, 8, 53, 69,

Williamson, Alan: on Lowell, 29
Winters, Yvor, 29
Wittgenstein, Ludwig, 174, 175
Wordsworth, William, 13, 21, 68, 112,

144; and Crusoe, 69
Wright, James, 138
Wyatt, Thomas, 34

Yeats, William Butler, 25, 128, 129,
130; and Crazy Jane, 7; and emo-
tive engagement, 155; masks, use
of, 150–51; on personality, 151; and
poetic performance, 151

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