Bestiário Literário

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Depois de ter passado o Verão de 1933 na aldeia de Bilignin, em Savoie (França), onde vivia Gertrude Stein (num imenso château ferme), a preparar press releases, acompanhado daquele zururum contínuo: “No, no, you’ve missed the entire point. Go back and try again”, e a passear pela zona rural de Savoie, com Stein ao volante, Alice B. Toklas ao lado, e os cães, Basket e Pepe, no banco de trás, James Laughlin foi viver para Paris, tinha então 19 anos. Dali escreveu a Ezra Pound, e perguntou-lhe se podia ir visitá-lo a Rapallo, na província de Génova (Itália), onde o poeta vivia. Não esperava sequer uma resposta, mas dias depois recebeu um telegrama: “Visibility high”.

Pound deu-lhe cama, pão e poesia. Por assim dizer, é claro: um quarto no apartamento de uma senhora alemã, e o pão e a poesia na “Ezuversity”: termo cunhado pelo autor para designar as aulas que dava ao pupilo, e que na verdade não passavam de longos monólogos de Pound sobre a correspondência que recebera de manhã. Almoçavam, faziam a sesta e depois iam nadar ou jogar ténis. Pelo meio, e em dias bons, Pound fazia imitações de James Joyce e John Keats, e o pupilo descabia em si de satisfação. “His stories were endless, and very funny, and what I remember about them – over all those years – was that I never heard him tell an off-color story”, diria anos mais tarde Laughlin, em entrevista à Paris Review.

Nesse Outono, depois de ler alguns poemas seus, Pound disse a Laughlin que ele nunca seria um bom poeta, e que o melhor seria tentar outra coisa. O discípulo considerou (apesar de ter continuado a escrever e a publicar), voltou para Harvard, onde estava a estudar, e fundou a New Directions, a editora que queria publicar o que as outras não publicavam, porque sabiam que não havia leitor que estivesse para aí virado.

Pound escreveu aos amigos – William Carlos Williams, Kay Boyle, Jean Cocteau, entre dezenas de outros (“If you have a manuscript send it to this worthy young man”) – e a pilha de textos para ler foi crescendo entre os livros e os arquivos, as cartas, a máquina de escrever e o tabaco e os cachimbos que cobriam a sua secretária. Laughlin fez um brilharete. E explica na entrevista: “That was no problem. In those days – it was fairly soon after the Depression – the big publishers just weren’t doing much literary publishing.”

Publicou Tennessee Williams, Karl Shapiro, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Carlos Williams, Henry Miller, Herman Hesse, Ezra Pound, Dylan Thomas, John Hawkes, Vladimir Nabokov. Depois, Pound sugeriu-lhe que se dedicasse também à literatura internacional, porque, segundo dizia, para perceber poesia era preciso trabalhar com várias línguas, e Laughlin começou a publicar traduções: Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire, Rainer Maria Rilke, Paul Valéry, Franz Kafka, Jean Cocteau, Jorge Luis Borges, Blaise Cendrars, Raymond Queneau, Federico García Lorca, Yukio Mishima, entre outros

“What I’m writing now is my auto-bug-offery. Wild stuff. Mostly fictional. What I wished had happened. The Way It Wasn’t would be a good title”. Laughlin esteve a preparar a sua autobiografia até morrer; aconteceu em 1997, tinha então 83 anos. Reuniu fotografias, poemas, reproduções de cartas e de capas de livros, postais e recortes de revistas e jornais e papéis com anotações. Nove anos depois, foi publicada em livro pela reestruturada New Directions. O arquivo foi organizado por temas, dispostos por ordem alfabética.

Bergman: “Now if you had Bergman’s Three Strange Loves on your list I could anecdotalize about that. This is an important film because it has my eye in it”. O olho era efectivamente o de Laughlin, na capa do Cosmological Eye que Bertil levava na mão; o livro, de Henry Miller, saíra pela New Directions em 1939. Céline: “The terrifying French novelist, Louis Ferdinand Céline – an enormously powerful and slashing, satiric, misanthropic writer. But what power of the imagination! We did three books of his. He was overpowering.” Cocteau: “I wish that nice Marse Jean Cocteau were still around. He took me to lunch at the Grand Véfours in the Palais-Royal and explained clearly all about flying saucers. He understood mechanical things. He would advise me. He was amiable.” Ferlinghetti: “Before I die I’d like to discover another rip-snorter – you know, like Ferlinghetti!” Japan: “Here around Kyoto, the old capital, which sits in a bowl of wooded hills, they have some beautiful little temple shrines in groves, all beautifully kept and as peaceful and lovely. At one of them we were given ceremonial tea – green stuff, quite thick & frothy – and sat on the matting by the open side for a long time looking out at the wonderful landscape of wooded hills.” Love: Cicero noted that an old love pinches like a crab.” Lewis: “Wyndham Lewis wrote ‘Why don’t you stop New Directions, your books are crap.” T. S. Eliot: “In a 1946 letter to Pound, WCW [William Carlos Williams] says that TS Eliot is ‘vaginal stoppage’ and gleet.”

“America”, “Bookselling”, “Elizabeth Bishop”, “Cultural Wasteland: USA”, “Ginsberg”, a reprodução de uma carta de Laughlin para Hemingway de Junho de 1950 e a resposta do escritor, “Herman Hesse”,  “India”, “Jack Kerouac” (também reprodução de uma carta para o editor: “I write intros to each author and my intro to you will be that you are “beat” because you took more chances than any other publisher”), “Joyce”, e por aí adiante, a bater terreno sobre as palavras até chegar o fim.

No L, de “Lustig”, Laughlin recorda a primeira vez que teve contacto com o trabalho de Alvin Lustig. Foi em Los Angeles, em 1939, quando Lustig tinha 24 anos. Um amigo tinha-lhe dito que ele devia investigar sobre um tipo que andava a fazer umas coisas meio estranhas – “queer things”, dissera-lhe – para capas de livros. Na autobiografia, depois da nota do editor, foram incluídas imagens de algumas capas que Lustig fez para os livros da editora: Iluminações, de Rimbaud, Amerika, de Kafka, O Homem que Morreu, de D. H. Lawrence, As Flores do Mal, de Baudelaire, e Miss Lonelyhearts, de Nathanael West. A mais conhecida é provavelmente a que fez para o Three Tragedies (1955), do Lorca, de um rigor simbólico e domínio em termos de composição que dizem continuar a servir de inspiração aos designers que trabalham com livros: conjugação de títulos com tamanho reduzido e tipo de letra discreto com elementos desfiliados e emprestados a outros sistemas – assemblage, se quisermos – de modo a conseguir um design minimalista. Quando por aí se julga que o nome dele não se vai aguentar sozinho, comparam-no a Paul Klee, Joan Miró e Mark Rothko.

The Way It Wasn’t, o livro, deu origem depois a um blogue, com o mesmo título e os mesmos conteúdos, tentando fazer uma reprodução o mais fiel possível da autobiografia em papel.

Para uma primeira aproximação àquilo que foi Laughlin, leia-se o que escreveu a Dylan Thomas: “New Directions is the best Publisher for you in America because I fight for my books. None of the big houses will fight for a poet these days.” Para começar, isto serve.

Enfermaria 6, 20-01-2014

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The unknown magazine of Ginsberg, Kerouac and Burroughs

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Rhinozeros Issue 2 (via Reality Studio)

In 1960, Allen Ginsberg was travelling South America with fellow poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti, but after Chile, Argentina and Bolivia, he decided to go it alone. In the back of a truck full of natives, Ginsberg arrived in Peru, where he visited Cusco, then Machu Picchu. He stayed there at the forest guardhouse, in a room whose walls were covered in newspaper. Letters were written there which described the cliffs and cordilleras of the Andes.

A few weeks later, Ginsberg continued to Lima on the invitation on Sebastian Salazar Bondy, a writer he had met in Chile. One afternoon in Lima, Ginsberg saw the Peruvian poet Martin Adan, who was living in the same hotel. They sat together and talked a while. “Why do you write bullshit?” Adan asked Ginsberg, to which the latter answered, “At least I shower every day. And my feet don’t smell like dead spiders.”

Following their meeting, Ginsberg wrote a poem about Adan: “To an Old Poet in Peru.” It was included in his book of poetry Reality Sandwiches, published by Ferlinghetti’s City Lights Publishers in 1963 — but it first appeared in Rhinozeros,a German magazine of poetry, in 1960. In that same issue, there’s a poem by Samuel Beckett, “Saint-Lo,” written about his experience in the titular French town after the Battle of Normandy in World War II. There’s also a reproduction of a Jean Cocteau drawing along with a greeting.

There’s not much information online about Rhinozeros, which ran from 1960 to 1965. It was published by the Dienst brothers: Rolf-Gunther and Klaus-Peter, who did the calligraphy for each issue. The magazine of concrete poetry remains a “typographic marvel,” in the words of Jed Birmingham of Reality Studio (a website dedicated to William S. Burroughs, from which I accessed Rhinozeros issues). Most of Rhinozeros is in German, but there are a few exceptions:

Let’s wait for night.
The day has been a lonely one.
Letters I didn’t send lie on the table,
Waiting, loveless, as unread.
I hoped you’d come here, but you didn’t.
The hills were beautiful as always,
though I couldn’t see them clearly,
looking at other things,
trying to fill up time
writing these letters.
Soon, I’ll take them down and mail them.
[They’ll go out tonight]
Then I’ll close the door and wait for you
in large, dark shadows.

That was written by Theodore Enslin, one of the most musical poets of American avant-garde. It’s called “P.S.” and was published in the “Beat Issue” of Rhinozeros, which included Ed Dorn, Gregory Corso, Gary Snyder, Michael Horovitz, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Peter Orlovsky, Jack Kerouac and Piero Heliczer.

The Dienst brothers were interested in the Beat Generation, concrete poetry and the cut-up technique. They produced 10 issues of Rhinozeros in five years. Their contributors were outstanding: Ezra Pound, Jean Cocteau, Henry Miller. Burroughs was one of the most prolific. To Rhinozeros, he contributed “Wind Hand Caught in the Door,” “Novia Express,” “Be Cheerful, Sir Our Revels Touching Circumstance” and “Text.”

A few months ago, I showed Rhinozeros to a friend. He asked me — likely already knowing the answer — if the magazine was to be viewed more than read. I can’t remember what I told him. I must have said something about the contents, about the list of contributors, undoubtedly impressive. Then, as I couldn’t find the words, I quoted Jed Birmingham (this time from Mimeo Mimeo): “For bibliophiles, this is the artists’ magazine equivalent of the finest of high class porn.”

The Airship, 9-09-2014