Friday, March 31, 2006

some buried treasure 

Gil Orlovitz is a poet I always wish I had met! His work is something I've written about on this blog in the past, and mentioned on the NEGLECTORINO Project. Frankly, I should have written ABOUT him on the NEGLECTORINO Project instead of JUST mentioning his name, but by the time I was ready to do so, it was clear that I had already taken up far more space than I had intended.

Before reprinting here for you one of my favorite Orlovitz poems, let me reprint his bio from the anthology TODAY'S POETS, edited by Chad Walsh, published in 1964.

Gil Orlovitz has never before been included in a widely distributed anthology; his work is known only to a handful of poetry lovers who read the verse magazines and purchase slender books issued by publishing houses with names like Inferno Press and Hearse Press. He is nonetheless one of the finest -- the most versatile -- poets now writing in English.
     Long before the San Francisco Renaissance exploded with public and police clamor and articles in Time, Orlovitz was writing with a Dionysian frenzy combined with perfect control of language that has been equaled by few, if any, of the Beats. At the same time, he is one of the few contemporary masters of the sonnet and the short lyric. He also has the rare distinction of carrying on a lover's quarrel with society without falling into cheap contempt for individual classes of humanity.
     Born in 1918 in Philadelphia of Russian Jewish background, Orlovitz describes his higher education as "capricious." He has held a variety of jobs from staff screenwriter (Columbia Pictures) to his present position as associate editor with a New York publishing house specializing in paperback fiction. He is married and the father of two sons and a daughter.
     Orlovitz's first book of poetry, Concerning Man, was published in 1947. Among his other works are Selected Poems (1960) and Art of the Sonnet (1961). He has written numerous short stories and had several plays produced. The Spoken Word has issued a disk (120) of his poetry under the title, "The Rooster," and he has prepared a tape for the Library of Congress. Detailed discussions of his poetry have been published by George Dillon (Poetry, August, 1955), David Ignatow (Poetry, January, 1962), and Guy Daniels (Nation, August 2, 1958).

This bio is kind of funny to me, since Orlovitz seems so out of step with some of the names mentioned, especially those who wrote about him. Like the anthology where this bio is taken, alongside Philip Larkin, Richard Wilbur, and the like. In the introduction to the anthology Chad Walsh says that Robert Duncan refused to be included when he was invited. That's funny, what was that about I wonder? Did Duncan want to know who else was included first? Why would he decline this offer? Maybe there's a Duncan letter somewhere explaining, does anyone know?

Did Ted Berrigan ever read the Orlovitz book Art of the Sonnet I wonder? If not, he might have appreciated the experiment with the form. The sonnets are numbered, and at first they cling to some of the rigors of the form, but later paint themselves onto the frame, then over the frame, then right out into the cosmic overtures. Like Turner's later and last paintings, these later and last sonnets keep you at the pain of utter attention, dressed in their sod and stone robes funneling all your inevitable emotional breaking points. Like dying between two words on a page. And I ask anyone reading these Orlovitz poems: Was that an ambulance outside the sentence no one recognizes for the sky? Like the poet Miriam Kessler who said in her poem at the Gil Orlovitz Symposium I coordinated some fifteen years ago, I too would be his gach'ba.

AbeBooks.com always has a handful of his books, including his experimental novels Milk Bottle H., and Ice Never F. If you like novels, especially novels which have never once looked like novels have looked, these are for you.

I hope reprinting his magnificent poem "THE ROOSTER" will possibly encourage everyone who reads it to seek out more by Orlovitz. If you live in Philadelphia you are the most fortunate, as our library system has ALL of his books for special loan. Meaning that they're not on the shelf, but in the stacks, but can still be taken out on loan.

If you live elsewhere then go to your local public library and have them do an interlibrary loan search for you. His work is available, you just need to make a little effort to get it.

Hope you enjoy this poem as much as I do, with all its dark hummings under the vegetable world of America, decadent, and shamelessly betrothed to its own riches.
(p.s. I was very careful with Orlovitz's punctuation, which comes and goes, just so you realize this is entirely how he made it.)

by Gil Orlovitz

the rooster crows in my belly
an old hangout for the billiard cues of the morning
and table-hopping hail hail the ganglias all here
after sunset like a mouthwash last yesterlight
and the white tails of the gorillas on television
and that liberal politician stumping for twilight
down by that old
As I buttonholed the Ancient Auctioneer
how goes America going

after the thunderbird pooped out over the canyon
when he clovered her cleavage
and she pleaded like an electric organ in the rain
the moon greased out of the ten commandments a make-
     up too late
what about the negative feedback of death
what about magnetism striking as a poisonous snake
or a hoop of jazzedup wire
snarling up communications over the Morse Pole
after the statesman belched ionized yeast
  and the physics convention approved the musical

in an expanding economy they do not matter

the rooster will take us on a guided missile tour
we are knellbent for automation
the minister prays Our Lord Who Art in Heaven judge
     us not by our actions
but fractions
the skullskinner intones judge us not by our trans-
but analytic sessions
the physicist says christ anybody can have a halo
     wheres the hesitance
when we can boast electronic resonance

you think anybodyll look for the pinprick in an
     expanding economy

look easy and you will see
a cad and a ford in every nebulae
that no comettail you lost
but gods custombuilt Buicks exhaust
Americas producing for the Infinite
Holy Ghost Mongerers for the Universe
Export or Die
theres a report we got a parimutuel for the flying angels
will be solved by

Miss Wall Street does a dance of the seven ticker-
mathematicians enter the bullring to lock equations
in the circus the economists show off their
         Trained Graphs
the specialists hide from the specialists
the whores organize their first Vertical Union
to which madames
         pimps and
         cops must belong
waddya mean youre contemptuous of the Middle Class
       theyre the
          National Compromise

(it's like some sort of abdominal bell)
the historians yang and yin
says its not too late to get out
and not too late to get in
hole hole the gongs all here
like some sort of abdominal bell
shes a Supermarket Baby with all the skimmings
mate doth look for automate
male finds femalleable
we dont die we reincarnate
this goes for everybody but the lower animal orders
those down-at-the-heel aristocrats who simply wont
     take in boarders

its already noon and I'm still expanding
I'm a Paul Bunyan Giveaway
schizophrenia for lonely dolts
manic nuts for shy bolts
paranoia for those who say nobody has followed them
telescopes by god for those who say we've hollowed
hail to the architects whove eliminated the five-
     oclock shadow

we function beardless from cradle to the nave
free sexual irrigation for the ascetic
and thorns to bower the apoplectic
the cardiacs will look like roses
in this Promised Land without a Moses

hail to the farmers and their cows
in swimmingpools of milk and honey
hail to parity granaries of money
the worker with his fake-home pay
and the sociological gangster parentally rejected
steals his fathers in property quite protected

alls fair in an expanding economy

alls fair in love and boredom
the heavyweight champ
is still damp
               behind his fears
the opera star endorses beers
the homerun king belts one into the stratofears
rich as a churchmouse the saying goes
the deacon leaves cheese between the foes
the cathedral is built in stunted gothic
this is america
     their very own
I'm going to the bank to get a loan
get a loan
     little dogie
     get a loan

get a loan to
          integrate the negro in the south
          with white hoof-&-mouth
          a new perfume
          for the bladderroom
          pouting purses
          for wetnurses
          democratic steel
                    for teething kings
                    for the delinquent
          and giant breweries
          spiking castoroil with luminal
waddya mean whats the international policy
we got an expanding economy

we're counting cosmic rays in the bank
we got cocacola in labrador
thats what you call getting your mouth in the door
we'll have skyscrapers in the ionosfear
every suicide'll live a charged particle here
we're putting extra-sensory-production on the
perception line
get rid of that goose
our economys on the loose
we'll advertise a hermit for snob-appeal
we'll get every hunchbacked shoulder behind the
pile all your energies into the new Golden Calf
                    THE ELECTRONOLAUGH
                    THE COMPUTER
                    WITH THE SMILING TOMORROW

all the great comics willed their bodies to it
the graveyard with the future in it
the bones
      of contemporary saints
Forest Lawn?

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