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On "Mantis"

An Interview with Louis Zukofsky by L.S. Dembo

Q. I wonder whether you'd mind also commenting on "Mantis," and the poem interpreting it [All, 1923-1958, pp. 73-80]. You seem to be concerned here with the sestina as the ideal expression of the "battle of diverse thoughts" or associations arising in the poet’s mind upon his encounter with a mantis. 

A. I never said it was the ideal form of expression. You have to be careful with this sapless guy, you know. Actually, I was trying to explain why I use the sestina, and there are a lot of old forms used. I suppose there are two types of natures. One is aware of the two-hundred-year-old oak, and it's still alive and it's going to have some use to him; the other one is going to say cut it down and build a supermarket. I'm not inclined to be the latter, nor do I want to imitate a traditional form, but if that thing has lasted for two hundred years and has some merit in it, it is possible I can use it and somehow in transferring it into words—as I said in "Aleatorical indeterminate"—make something new of it. And the same for the form of the sestina. Musicians have done that with fugues; there are some today who try to do counterpoint or traditional harmony, but most won’t even talk in that terminology. Ultimately it’ll come down to silence or sound, words or no words. And where are you going to get them? Where does language come from? Are you just going to make it out of a mouthful of air? Sometimes, but most of the time you don’t; there’s a world already there; it might be a poetic form that is still useful. 

Now the so-called "modern" will say you cannot write a sestina anymore, that Dante did it and it's dead and gone. But every time I read Dante, it's not dead. The poet is dead, but if the work is good, it’s contemporary. There’s no use in writing the same sestina as Dante, because in the first place, you couldn’t do it, except by copying it word for word and believing it's yours—an extreme case. What is possible is that L. Z. or somebody else could write something as good as it. Well, Williams came along arid said, "No, we've got to get a new poetic foot," and while he did wonderful things instinctively, I wish he had omitted some of the theory. Pound was more sensible. What kind of meters can you have? Well, what we've had throughout the history of poetry: you can count syllables, or your language is stressed and so you will count accents, or else you have a musical ear and know when so much sound approximates so much sound and there's a regularity of time. You want to vary the time or have no time sigatures . . . whatever the case, it'll have to hold together. So there's no reason why I shouldn't use this "old" form if I thought I could make something new.

"'Mantis,' An Interpretation" is an argument against people who are dogmatic. On the other hand, I point out that as it was written in the nineteenth century (and some "contemporaries" are nineteenth century), the sestina was absolutely useless. It was just a facility—like that of Sunday painters, who learn to smear a bit of oil on canvas. They're not Picasso; Picasso has used every form you can think of, whether it came from Greece, Crete, or Africa. But what I'm saying in "’Mantis,' An Interpretation" is not that the sestina is the ideal form; rather that it's still possible. Williams said it was impossible to write sonnets. I don't know whether anybody has been careful about it. I wrote five hundred sonnets when I was young and threw them away. Then I wrote A-7 and a canzone, which is quite different from the sonnet, as Pound pointed out. A very intricate form.

Q. I didn't mean to imply that the sestina was the ideal form of expression per se. I thought that for the particular experience that the poet was having with the mantis on a subway, his undergoing a process of "thought's torsion," the sestina was most appropriate.

 A. Someone else might have done it differently, but for me that's what it led to. I have that kind of mind. Somehow, you know, the thing can become kind of horrible—to connect a thing with everything. But how can you avoid it? And it's not that I want to be long-winded; I want to be very concise.

from "An Interview with Louis Zukofsky" in Contemporary Literature 10.2 (Spring 1969).

Samuel Charters

Mantis! praying mantis! since your wings’ leaves
And your terrified eyes, pins, bright, black and poor
Beg — "Look, take it up" (thoughts’ torsion)! "save it!"
I who can’t bear to look, cannot touch, — You —
You can — but no one sees you steadying lost
In the cars’ drafts on the lit subway stone.

I tried reading the mantis poem out loud. It doesn’t read. At least not in any way I could find to speak it. But once I heard Zukofsky read, telling me something about his Catullus and I heard a different placing of accent—of shift. But it reads in my mind, as he has thought it it has consonance— consonance of provenance. My mind adds in a note that Praying Mantisses, large stick-like bugs, were imported in the 1930’s to eat Japanese Beetles, and my Uncle Bill brought one back from Atlantic City in 1934 which we kept in an aquarium in the front room.

—The ungainliness
of the creature needs stating.

And the head

And your terrified eyes, pins, bright, black and poor

The"pins" unexpected, but the exact word for a mantis’ eyes.

It’s possible to trace the poem’s growth in the addenda, the poem that follows with the title, "Mantis, An Interpretation." The lines began as,

"The mantis opened its body
It had been lost in the subway
It steadied against the drafts
It looked up—
Begging eyes—
It flew at my chest"

Simple incident of praying mantis in the subway who flew against his chest, extending into the scene of the subway in the first poem, the frightened insect—a newsboy seeing it.

… "it is harmless," he says moving on—You?
Where will he put you? There are no safe leaves
To put you back in here, here’s news! too poor
Like all the separate poor to save the lost.

The images of the poem can move in so many directions. He lost a little by giving up "The mantis opened its body" of the first note— brittle image of mantis flying—to get "your wings’ leaves" of the final poem—but what he kept is the stick-like body of the mantis flying, wings which fold in close sticking abruptly out like leaves. Should have a picture of the mantis with the poem—picture of Subway not needed.

I find another aspect of being given All—of being given the whole of it to consider, the living of it, the reflecting on it, that I have to go slowly with it. I have to find the consistency of the inconsistencies, since a life is consistent, even its inclusions of the seemingly inconsistent.

I find I can go back, read the mantis poem again. Its image grows in other lights. The interweaving of the poem and the even longer poem appended as the interpretation—he could have said from the "Interpretation,"

One feels in fact inevitably
About the coincidence of the mantis lost in the subway,
About the growing oppression of the poor—
Which is the situation most pertinent to us—

but the poem itself says,

Here, stone holds only seats on which the poor
Ride, who rising from the news may trample you—
The shops’ crowds a jam with no flies in it.

The alternatives clarify the inclusions that he insists on—that the poet’s role is never to impose, but to make order out of his "history."

From "Essay Beginning’All.’" Modern Poetry Studies 3.6 (1973)

 Steven Helming

A praying mantis inexplicably stranded in a New York subway seems doomed to certain extinction in that internal place of machines and noise, where throngs of the city's poor hurry about their business. Everyone is too rushed, too hardened, to rescue the creature, to "save it!" Besides, being city people, they are frightened of insects anyway. As the poem proceeds, this hardheartedness and unwillingness to help the helpless but majestic insect are implicated in the larger structures of indifference and acquiescence, the dehumanizing, self-interested "tunnel vision," literalized by the poem's subway setting, in which the human poor are themselves trapped. In a breathtaking reversal (all the more breathtaking for the poem's formal intricacy and halting, deliberate, mantislike movement), the mantis becomes an emblem of that larger nature that encloses human history, and might (the poem urges) "save it."

From Dictionary of Literary Biography (1980)

Alan Shucard, Fred Moramarco, and William Sullivan

The action of this poem centers on Zukofsky’s discovery of a praying mantis in a New York subway stop. The insect begs to be acknowledged and to be "taken up," to be "saved" from an indifferent urban, capitalistic society. The speaker overcomes his initial. repulsion and permits the mantis to light on his chest. The insect is then envisioned as an emblem of the poor and alienated individual who is either ignored or crushed by society. Even the poor reject the mantis out of shame, fright, or despair. But if the mantis can transform the speaker, it can also bring light to the oppressed, rekindle the spark of revolution, and create the energy to build a new world. Realizing this, the speaker tells the mantis:

Android, loving beggar, dive to the poor
Say, I am old as the globe, the moon, it
Is my old shoe, yours, be free as the leaves.

Fly mantis, on the poor, arise like leaves
The armies of the poor, strength: stone on stone
And build the new world in your eyes, Save it!

If the mantis's task is to save the world, the poet's task is to save this moment, this experience through language and music. The question of process and form become central; what form or structure will save this experience? Surprisingly, Zukofsky has chosen the sestina--a thirty-nine line poem consisting of six six-line stanzas and a three-line envoy; the initial six end words are repeated in differing order throughout the poem. Thus a highly traditional and formal structure is selected to capture a revolutionary experience. Zukofsky, who realizes this paradox and the fact that "Our world will not stand it, / the implications of a too regular form," provides an examination and rationale for his selection of the sestina in " 'Mantis,' An Interpretation," which immediately follows the poem itself. Here he writes that the poem is not merely an experiment in form, what he calls "wicker work," but rather the result of a natural, creative force that drew him to the sestina form. Key to this is the nature of the experience with its diverse, conflicting feelings and thought occurring in a simultaneous fashion: "Thoughts'--two or three or five or / Six thoughts' reflection (pulse's witness) of what was happening / All immediate, not moved by any transition." To Zukofsky, this was "the battle of diverse thoughts--/ The actual twisting / Of many and diverse thoughts." Six twisting thoughts naturally attract the poet to the sestina form, which is marked by its six twisting end words.

From Modern American Poetry, 1865-1950. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press, 1989. Copyright © 1989 by G.K. Hall & Co.

Joseph Conte

Louis Zukofsky's renovation of the sestina began when Ashbery was still a grade-schooler. But in the diachronic record of an eight-hundred-year-old form, Zukofsky's "Mantis" and Ashbery's "Farm Implements" are practically simultaneous events. Both poems pursue a new content suitable to the twisting spiral of the sestina's end-words, a new expression of "la battaglia delli diversi pensieri." Their "discovery" of a postmodern, predetermined form whose shape was familiar to many Renaissance poets in France and Italy has its scientific analogue: Crick and Watson, unveiling the double-helix model of DNA must have seen the resemblance to that ancient timepiece, the hourglass; but their model contained a map of genetic coding, not grains of sand. That Zukofsky intended to write the sestina "anew" is clear from his discussion of the poem with L. S. Dembo:

I suppose there are two types of natures. One is aware of the two-hundred-year-old oak, and it's still alive and it's going to have some use to him; the other one is going to say cut it down and build a supermarket. I'm not inclined to be the latter, nor do I want to imitate a traditional form, but if that thing has lasted for two hundred years and has some merit in it, it is possible I can use it and somehow in transferring it into words--as I said in "Aleatorical indeterminate"--make something new of it. And the same for the form of the sestina. Musicians have done that with fugues.

Zukofsky encounters several hazards in the renovation of poetic form. He does not wish to imitate lamely a traditional form; to do so would be "absolutely useless ... just a facility--like that of Sunday painters." Such was the case in the nineteenth century--a reference to the efforts of Swinburne perhaps--in which the sestina form became mere "wicker-work," "not the form but a Victorian / Stuffing like upholstery." Nor has he any intention of restoring the form to its original condition with period furnishings from the age of Daniel, Petrarch, or Dante. Any sort of restoration attempt would validate the criticism of "the so-called 'modern' [who] will say you cannot write a sestina anymore, that Dante did it and it's dead and gone.... There's no use in writing the same sestina as Dante, because... you couldn't do it, except by copying it word for word and believing it's yours--an extreme case." But neither will Zukofsky relinquish the possibility of the form for the twentieth century--he will not cut down the oak to build "supermarkets." He disagrees with Williams's statement, quoted in "'Mantis,' An Interpretation," that "Our world will not stand it, / the implications of a too regular form." Zukofsky will not join in the modernist rejection of predetermined forms; with the oak already felled by the high modernists, he does not feel compelled to haul out new lumber and build from scratch. His distinction as a postmodernist is that he neither restores nor abandons the old forms of the sestina or the canzone--he renovates the form by "making it new" from the inside out.

[. . .]

The six-page, verse "Interpretation" that accompanies Zukofsky's sestina is a remarkable reassembling of the poem's scaffold; the closed-form poet refuses to stow the construction materials and devices, the evidence of his artifice, after the poem has been made. Step by step, the decisions by which Zukofsky arrives at the necessity of the sestina form for his poem are enumerated. The genesis of this poem is an "incident"--a mantis, lost in the subway, flying at the poet's chest, startling him. Its "inception" is a first draft of twenty-seven words which fail to do more than write up the "ungainliness" of the creature. The incident itself is insufficient, not "all that was happening." There has been a coincidence of "six thoughts' reflection (pulse's witness) of what was happening / All immediate, not moved by any transition." These six thoughts are the first indication that the poem will assume the form of a sestina, with its six end-words and six stanzas. Finally, the poet questions:

"(thoughts' torsion)"
la battaglia delli diversi pensieri ...
the battle of diverse thoughts--
The actual twisting
Of many and diverse thoughts
What form should that take?

Zukofsky describes his arrival, after the "incident," after the "inception" of the poem, at the question of an appropriate form. Of course, by citing Dante's description of the sestina, the question contains its own answer. The lyric of a single, concentrated vision is inadequate to express the many and diverse thoughts that the poet, in that one moment, encounters. The "ungainliness" of the mantis is replicated in the twisting of the sestina form itself. But the mantis that is "lost," or contextually displaced, in the subway initiates contextually diverse thoughts on entomology, self-extinction myth, and especially the plight of the poor who find themselves begging in the subways.

One feels in fact inevitably
About the coincidence of the mantis lost in the subway,
About the growing oppression of the poor--
Which is the situation most pertinent to us--,
With the fact of the sestina:
Which together fatally now crop up again
To twist themselves anew
To record not a sestina, post Dante,
Nor even a mantis.

Zukofsky does not want to imitate the traditional form, post-Dante. His renovation of the sestina occurs as the inevitable consequence of two facts: the twisting structure of the poetic form and a new battle of diverse thoughts expressing the most pertinent issue of the day.

Zukofsky's analysis of his poem's content--thoughts' torsion--precedes his identification of the sestina "as the only / Form that will include the most pertinent subject of our day." For Ashbery, as we noted earlier, the elaborate twisting of the sestina form serves as an exploratory probe of the remoter areas of consciousness. In Ashbery, the form generates an appropriate content; in Zukofsky, the content discovers an appropriate form. Despite this difference in craft, neither poet alters the form of the sestina, retaining the outer shell of the structure intact. Both adhere to Dante's description of the shape of the content--notice that Dante's "battaglia" does not specify an appropriate subject but the manner in which content behaves when intimately related to the sestina form. Each poet guts the sestina of traditional amorous or pastoral subjects, introducing a "battaglia nova": in Zukofsky, the coincidence of a mantis lost in the subway and the plight of the urban poor; in Ashbery, the multiple voices in a cosmopolitan blend of high and low culture. But postmodern renovation also involves a new attitude toward predetermined form: Ashbery employs its strictures as an exploratory device, to find "the new" itself; Zukofsky, convinced that a predetermined form can express the most pertinent situations of contemporary life, rejects the modernist view of closed form as a false sense of order and regularity imposed on the (as Pound says in "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley") "accelerated grimace" of our age.

Zukofsky's renovation of the sestina form is intended as a refutation of the modernist rejection of predetermined forms, but his assertion of two corollary characteristics of procedural form also identifies his efforts as distinctly postmodern. The first of these characteristics is the predominance of recurrence as both structural device and paradigmatic figure, displacing metaphor. Although most obviously present in predetermined forms, recurrence is significant in all of Zukofsky's work, including "A" and the finite series in All. In fact, Zukofsky ventures to say in an interview, "All art is made, I think, out of recurrence. The point is to have recurrence so that it isn't mere repetition, like Poe's 'Bells, bells, bells, bells.' The idea is to have these recurrences so that they will always turn up as new, 'just' different. Something has happened to the movement or you see the thing 'differently.'" His distinction between static repetition and shifting recurrence is particularly attractive when one considers that the project at hand, the renovation of the sestina, is an attempt to have an old form turn up as new, seen differently. Additionally, Zukofsky is aware that the structure of the sestina exploits recurrence to a degree greater than most poetic forms. When he finally decides on a form for "Mantis," he concludes:

That this thoughts' torsion
Is really a sestina
Carrying subconsciously
Many intellectual and sensual properties of the
                forgetting and remembering Head
One human's intuitive Head

In the sestina, recurrence of the six parole rime enacts the intellectual and sensual properties of the "remembering Head." The shifts in context from one strophe to the next indicate that much is forgotten while much that is new takes the place of the old. The end-words of the sestina avoid static repetition by always turning up in the company of new materials, new contexts; in each strophe, their semantic import and contextual value must be seen differently. Zukofsky examines the role of the end-words:

The sestina, then, the repeated end words
Of the lines' winding around themselves,
Since continuous in the Head, whatever has been read,
                                whatever is heard,
                                        whatever is seen
Perhaps goes back cropping up again with
Inevitable recurrence again in the blood ...

He recognizes that the retrogradatio cruciata motion of the end-words is the most appropriate form in which to express the coincidence of several thoughts' torsion, winding around themselves in the head. But Zukofsky also identifies the sestina and the action of its end-words as the most concentrated example in poetic form of an inevitable recurrence, both intuitive and physiological, structural and figural.

John Taggart, in his discussion of "Mantis," notes one effect of a structured recurrence in the sestina: "All of Zukofsky's rhyme words appear at more than their predetermined end positions throughout the poem.... The result is a heightened fugal complexity of very few words." In fugue structure, a repeated subject is joined by new material. The proliferation of the end-words in "Mantis" indicates an even greater proportion of recurrent material and a greater centripetal force than usual in the sestina. If all art is made of recurrence, Zukofsky is determined to display this property to an undeniable degree in his practice of procedural forms.

An instance in which recurrence demonstrates the ability of the form to record the most pertinent situation of the day occurs in the third strophe. The newsboy who notices the poet's concern for the mantis declares that it is "no use." The boy's resignation--the mantis is "harmless" anyway, as the poor are impotent--and his employment cause the poet to remember something read: "papers make money, makes stone, stone, / Banks." This observation is a condensed version, glossed by Zukofsky in his "Interpretation," of a clever interlocking statement on the economics of the very poor: "Rags make paper, paper makes money, money makes banks, banks make loans, loans make poverty, poverty makes rags." The newsboy is "unable to think beyond" this cyclic repetition that conspires to retain the poorest at the subsistence level. In this manner, Zukofsky claims that the recurrence of the sestina form is quite pertinent to the cycle of poverty, and yet, by its avoidance of exact repetition, by its attempt to see things differently and encourage new modes of thinking about an old problem, the poem may offer some hope to those lost and begging in the subway.

The second distinctly postmodern characteristic of a procedural form which Zukofsky's "Mantis" illustrates is an antagonistic attitude toward symbolism. In his "Interpretation," Zukofsky argues:

But the facts are not a symbol.

There is the difference between that
And a fact (the mantis in the subway)
And all the other facts the mantis sets going about it.

No human being wishes to become
An insect for the sake of a symbol.

The mantis and the poor are coincidental facts that twist themselves together, relationally, within the fact of the sestina form; the mantis is not a symbol for the poor. Such symbolism is antithetical to the form of the sestina. It implies that there is a superficial structure or set of signifiers which momentarily conceals a more important, referential signified. Zukofsky's point throughout his "Interpretation" has been that there is a correlation of the "fact" of the sestina's twisting structure and the "thoughts' torsion" that comprises the poem's content. Recurrence in the sestina presents these coincidental facts in profile, examining their variations and commutations; the symbolic mode insists on an imagination of depth, a hierarchy of issues so large as to squash our poor insect. As Zukofsky says, the mantis sets other facts going about it; it does not "stand for" the poor as if it were a pin in a man's lapel.

The postmodern renovation of closed forms is most obvious in its effect on traditional content: although the structure of the building remains intact, the dumpster on the street is full of old plaster and floorboarding. For poets like Ashbery and Zukofsky, it is easier to displace traditional subjects in the sestina, canzone, and pantoum because they are foreign imports--their continental heritage is considerably devalued in United States currency. But in general, it is easier for the contractor to gut a building than to determine how and with what materials it may be made newly inhabitable. The contemporary function of closed form is the first consideration. Both poets reject the romantic concept of closed form as superimposed upon content: Ashbery is most avant-garde in his use of elaborate forms as exploratory devices to uncover remoter areas of consciousness; Zukofsky considers the twisting form of the sestina and the ungainliness of the mantis to be a coincidence of related facts that find one another. But there is also the furnishing to consider. The absence of rhyme and the predominance of recurrence in these procedural forms allow the poet to displace symbol and metaphor in favor of the commutation of several elements. Ashbery shuffles the several voices of kings and knaves like a Las Vegas blackjack dealer; Zukofsky offers the thoughts' torsion of a mild Marxist economics, entomology, and Melanesian myth. The postmodern renovated form is a paradigmatic structure of repetition and variation, invariably opposed to the symbolic consciousness in which form is a superficial film over the depths of a significant content.

From Unending Design: The Forms of Postmodern Poetry. Copyright © 1991 by Cornell University. Reprinted by permission of the author.

 Michael Heller

We know that Zukofsky was deeply influenced by Marx at the time of writing "Mantis." His relationship to Marx's thought, however, was marked by a dialectical dilemma of the very sort that Marx himself invokes in his famous aphorism concerning the philosopher whose job is no longer to describe the world but to change it. The dilemma, as it arises in Zukofsky, concerns, of course, the question of the poet's role as either reflector of the world or as instrument of change. Written during a period when most Marxist-oriented poets were following the mandate of a "socialist realist" poetry for the masses, "Mantis," far from being a piece of propaganda or a purely Marxist "proof," is an example of Zukofsky's poetics at work--especially as given in statements like "An Objective." That is, the poem itself appears to be governed by a poetics of open and unfinished composition, one that cannot be tamed to a philosophical conception. Such a poetics is clearly enjoined in Zukofsky's epigraph from the Latin to "Mantis, An Interpretation," that "names are sequent to the things named," and in Zukofsky's use, almost as a litany of Dante's and Cavalcanti's sense of poetry, of "la battalgia degli diversi pensieri," "the battle of diverse thoughts," "thought's torsion."

Like Crane's The Bridge, Zukofsky's poem, too, is a drama of the struggle of myth over and against the word. The utopocalyptic "moment" of the poem, the pressures brought to bear on poetic composition, here concerns not only the political status of the poem or poet, but the nature of words in relation to art and reality, especially as a totalized worldview, one form of which is Marxism's attempts to subordinate all human activity to its categories and analyses.

In a sense, Zukofsky's poem reminds us of the antagonism between high modernist art and the impulse to provide meaningful social commentary. "The growing oppression of the poor," Zukofsky writes in the "Interpretation," "is the situation most pertinent to us." If this is so, then, for poets of the thirties, as I have described above, the condition of this oppression is bound up, not only in external political relations about which one could propagandize via one's poetry, but in the very nature of poetic activity. The poem tries, on one level, to resolve these tensions. It is part formal plaint for the poor, as in the sestina's last lines, unmistakably hortatory, which read: "Fly Mantis, on the poor, arise like leaves / The armies of the poor, strength: stone on stone / And build the new world in your eyes. Save it!" At the same time, much of its modernist tendencies and idiosyncracies, its obeisance to "making it new," are contained in the "Interpretation," the "open-form explanation" that partly explicates the sestina while reminding us that "our world will not stand it, / the implications of a too-regular form."

Now you will recall that Zukofsky elsewhere has stated that the poem has a function--is a "job," as he puts it. In this case, the job of the poem is not only a call to alleviate the condition of the poor, but, as I believe the "Interpretation" makes clear, to resist the strictures which a purely sociopolitical view would impose on the poem. To do this, Zukofsky must honor and be faithful to the starting point of the incident that, in effect, generated the poem, the gratuitous occasion of the mantis in the subway, an occasion that sets into motion ("movement") a series of thoughts and associations creating an order of relations faithful to the initial experience and contrary to the expected usages of the incident as symbolical ("no human being wishes to become / An insect for the sake of a symbol") of the poor's oppression or of the demonization of capital. In other words, the poem’s turn is to be toward "an incident, compelling any writing" rather than the typical politicized use of language as propaganda or "message." By staying with "thought's torsions" wherever they will lead, Zukofsky places his trust, not in political rhetoric, but in something having "enough worth if the emotions can equate it," in this case, from "Provencal myth" to "airships" or comments by the "British Admiralty." "Mantis," in effect, offers its own felt series of interrelationships, a counter-continuity, one not made up of Marxist analyses but of intuitive connections established by having been faithful, as Zukofsky insists, to the "original shock still persisting." This is not so much a new making as a constant desiring, beyond a political schema, to be in touch with a social world. "So that," Zukofsky writes

    the invoked collective
Does not subdue the senses' awareness,
The longing for touch to an idea, or
To a use function of the material:
The original emotion remaining,
    like the collective,
Unprompted, real, as propaganda.

In effect, Zukofsky is trying here to find a way of refusing the hard conceptualizations of ideology and theory, so that he may return the act of poem-making to something that is simultaneously open-ended and analytical--not so much to deny his own Marxist insights as to prevent any "philosophy" from having a hegemonic hold over existence. Because the world in its entirety is beyond a single conception, so the poem must find its own unified form. The complexity of that form demands that the poem strive, as Zukofsky says in the brilliant final strophe of "Mantis" to hold "the simultaneous, / the diaphanous, historical / in one head."

From The Objective Nexus: Essays in Cultural Poetics. Ed. Rachel Blau DuPlessis and Peter Quartermain. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 1999. Copyright © 1999 by the University of Alabama Press.


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