Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Poet, Burning His Own Work

Carl Spitzweg, "The Poor Poet" (1839)

"The poet writes while huddling under his bedcovers and wearing a tattered coat and nightcap. The writer has been burning some of his own work - most likely volumes I and II since volumes III and IV remain in bundles on the floor. The fire in the room has obviously gone out since the poet rests his hat on the cold stovepipe and no live coals are visible in the stove. Indeed this cold stove is the darkest part of the picture and symbolizes the writer's sorry state of affairs."


TC said...

Hi Rachel,

Swell post, though a bit too close for comfort in the been there, done that dept.

E.g. on top today I have another chapter in that stirring oft-told saga

Poet drowns in own image

Come visit some time and we can nibble soggy crusts and seashells.


Rachel Loden said...

Holy toledo, a visitation from beyond! Hello, Tom -- fantastic to see you here. And you have a blog!? The mind reels, happily. We must visit soon and catch up -- crusts, seashells, a bucket of pixels.

tom said...


Yes--Beyond the Pale, to put a fine point on it.

"Walking sticks were important, too, like the cravat, as a way to dress up and lend a man a sense of individuality. The poor poet’s stick can be seen leaning against the wall on the left."

I can empathize, my stick leans against the wall to my left, in this curious nocturnal moment of our reunion, and of my return from (or is it to) the dead.

Anyway, it's a lovely relief to see, in the pictured "state of affairs", our lugubrious poet sufferings as... kitsch. How accurate!

A. and I had fun inspecting your website. It must be strange to have been perhaps the only person willing to actually pay the price of admission to the New American Poetry... and it wasn't all that cheap, as we could see. ("I got in free!" confided A.) (This was a bit like hearing one Confederate War Survivor discuss the experiences of another.)

Rachel Loden said...

Well, not all of us can be as charming as A.

I was 17, shy, in from out of town, and trying to be invisible.

Nobody spoke to me and I don't think I spoke to anybody during the entire conference. Which is to say, it wasn't very different from the rest of my life in poetry.

But I did soak up things that I'll never forget -- for good and ill.

Beauty. Hypocrisy. Grandiosity. And then (off-site, actually), a reading from the Sonnets, and pure bleeping genius.

And to think I paid to get in!

There were lots of us with tickets, but yes, I may have been the only silly teenager to save one.

tom said...


Well, I don't know that charm had all that much to do with it--I was a world away in England mind you, so must rely on hearsay, not that that's ever been much of an impediment--but perhaps this is a mere hairsplitting bit of retro-semantics. Perhaps "I snuck in!" might have been more accurate... though of course it sounds so much less "Sixties" than "I got in freee!"

And what a wonderful decade I'm told it was.

(Here's to invisibility!)

A few weeks after the Berkeley show Ed Dorn showed up in England with reel-to-reel tapes of his private highlights of the Conference. The usual suspects... but interestingly, the thing that Ed was really wowed by (along with Ed Sanders' performance) was that reading of the Sonnets (which you cite as worth the price of admission, and bless your heart for paying). We listened to that on a banged up old machine in an early-android-era glass office cubicle dropped into the heart of Constable country. 'Twas revelation.

How lovely to hark back to a time when "Schools" actually did not matter, even to the scholars!

But then I think and hope we're still in the dark about all this for many more years to come. If there is any darkness left that is... in fact that's my question for the night at

Dunces' Corner

t said...


Oops, sorry about that, it's what happens at

Night on Earth

Ed Baker said...

I was also there

I had a ticket but her dog ate it
instead of going in
I went around..

been meaning to track-back into your work for several years

ever since I discovered
that you are from D.C.
(you 1948. me 1941)
and an Edelson (I have / had a friend Evelyn Edelson, who is a cousin of mine

so pardon me while I

"dig" (into) your 'chops'"

Rachel Loden said...

Ed, thanks! Hope you enjoy the track-back (and the chops).

I am indeed an Edelson from D.C.