"A" (Magill's Literary Annual 1980)
Two years after he taught English at Columbia, Louis Zukofsky produced his long poem, The, in 1926—a long poem in partly conventional blank verse which uses the technique of multiple voice and verbal collage. Inspired by his technical experiment for more daring and dramatic results, Zukofsky “started to think of “A” as soon as I had finished The,” as he writes in a letter to his friend, Lorine Niedecker. About 1927, he began with a sketch—a plan of the form with section titles for a poem in twenty-four parts. This plan suggests that he originally envisioned “A” as more than The, but not of the length and scope of the final version of “A”, while he also made a table of difficulties to be overcome in the writing of the poem. In an interview on May 16, 1968, he answers, ““A” is written at various times in my life when the life compels it. That also means that my eye is compelling something or my ears compelling something; the intellect is always working with words.” This statement underlines three significant and crucial features found in “A”—the visual imagination, the aural power, and the quality of intelligence at work. It also indicates that the motivation behind the writing of the poem has been the very life of the poet.
Predetermined by the number of parts or movements (“the ’curve’ of it in twenty-four movements”) and undetermined as to...
(The entire section is 1898 words.)
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