Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Mark Spitzer and Whitman

"What widens within you, Walt Whitman," amid your multitudes and musky munificence? In early morning's light, half-way across his bridge, Crane "stood over the sleepless river" and witnessed a phantom regatta enter the harbor, thereby acknowledging the efficacy of Whitman's vision in which he claimed that "a hundred years hence" others will see "the tall masts of Manhatta," sky-scrapers, hemmed by the masts of ships, as he presently sees it, as sunset on the ferry. (By the way, Crane might usefully be considered directly over Whitman's ferry, though going the opposite way [at opposite poles of the day], symbolically channeling the old bard. Interestingly neither reaches the other side in the text, yet in Ginsburg's imagination Whitman, speculatively, does, stepping onto the smoking bank of the future. All three solitary wanderers (wonderers), connecting only through the poetry of the mind

Mark Spitzer's take on Walt sounds another emptiness, where people are only virtually together "on the scene and at the set," live at 7:00, etc. Even Captain Tracheotomny, from Spitzer's earlier work, and the only human figure in the poem, is significant only for his robotic speech, not anything human, as Walt rides the thermals over a desert floor, eye on a ripening carcass. The old transcendentalist's America has morphed into a circus of strays and furtive movements through the arid liquidficaton of the present, wandering the "inglorious lack" in a flashback attack broadcast live (if you can call that living), set against the simple, but profound, good and livelihood of the catfish. Everything's moving and nothing is.  In "Salut au Monde!" Whitman accompanies himself and all men else to belt out a paean to the largess of existence. In "For and/or Not Withstanding," the shelf-life of such vitality has long since passed.

                                            --Mark Spitzer

fish exist
along with the true
 good gold of cats
 you always forget
 & then flashback
& the mayor is in jail for 63 months
& the big-ass hawk is perched upon the chicken coop
looking for a hen to scoop
& the wildred pups come out at night
to skitter around in the heart of downtown
& skating skating out on the cӧven
gliding sliding frictionless
there is something always walty
crossing the hiatus of 200 vultures
the widening gyre
& as Captain Tracheotomy
                                        talks robotic
                 & as gospel glee
                                     rings down from Big Creek
this Season in Kirksville ends in a whimper
or, rather
the lone moan of coyote drone
shaloming in the gloam
―as if that’s it
and it is
in all its
inglorious lack
                        & that’s the flash, Slappy
                        live from Toad Suck

                        (July 14                         2000-sev.)


Salut au Monde!
            --Walt Whtiman


I see the battle-fields of the earth, grass grows upon them
            and blossoms and corn,
I see the tracks of ancient and modern expeditions.
I see the nameless masonries, venerable messages of the
            unknown events, heroes, records of the earth.
I see the places of the sagas,
I see pine-trees and fir-trees torn by northern blasts,
I see granite bowlders and cliffs, I see green meadows and lakes,
I see burial-cairns of Scandinavian warriors,
I see them raised high with stones by the marge of restless oceans, that the dead men’s spirits when they
            wearied of their quiet graves might rise up through the mounds and gaze on the tossing billows,
            and be refresh’d by storms, immensity, liberty, action.
I see the steppes of Asia,
I see the tumuli of Mongolia, I see the tents of Kalmucks and Baskirs,
I see the nomadic tribes with herds of oxen and cows,
I see the table-lands notch’d with ravines, I see the jungles and deserts,
I see the camel, the wild steed, the bustard, the fait-tail’d sheep, the antelope, and the burrowing wolf.
I see the highlands of Abyssinia,
I see flocks of goats feeding, and see the fig-tree, tamarind, date,
And see fields of teff-wheat and places of verdure and gold.  



Mark Spitzer is a professor of creative writing in the Department of Writing at the University of Central Arkansas. He has translated books by Jean Genet (The Genet Translations, Polemic Press), Louis-Ferdinand Céline (The Church, Green Integer), Arthur Rimbaud (From Absinthe to Abyssinia, Creative Arts), Georges Bataille (The Collected Poems of Georges Bataille, Dufour Editions; Divine Filth, Creation Books) and Blaise Cendrars (Films without Images, Green Integer). Spitzer’s novels include Chum (Zoland Books), CHODE! (Six Gallery Press), and Bottom Feeder (Creative Arts). He has also published the following nonfiction collections: Season of the Gar (U of AR Press), Writer in Residence (U of New Orleans Press), After the Orange Glow (Monkey Puzzle Press), and Riding the Unit (Six Gallery Press). Spitzer has published two volumes of poetry as well. A former editor of the legendary Exquisite Corpse literary franchise, he now edits the literary annual Toad Suck Review. Spitzer has starred in the “Alligator Gar” episode of Animal Planet’s River Monsters series and is an avid fisherman. His paper on the history of Jean Genet’s pirated poetry was presented at the 2010 conference Jean Genet--"La censure dans la traduction littéraire" (sponsored by the Federation of International Translators) at the Odeon Theatre in Paris. For more information see his website at


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