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Alan Davies:

To Call Them by Their Dead Name

Emanuel Carnevali, The Autobiography of Emanuel Carnevali, compiled & prefaced by Kay Boyle, Horizon Press, nd (1967)

Emanuel Carnevali, Fireflies, Sans Souci Press, 1970

Emanuel Carnevali, Furnished Rooms, Bordighera Press, 2006

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Much of what we know about the life of Emanuel Carnevali is made available to us in The Autobiography — a selection edited from letters to Kay Boyle and from an unfinished novel on which he worked toward the end of his life and from things written by Carnevali to William Carlos Williams. Kay Boyle wrote a wonderful book called Words That Must Somehow Be Said (North Point Press, 1985) — and the intensity (and the intent) of that title are applied (by her) to what she salvaged and made accessible of otherwise-lost portions of the life of Carnevali. [ The details that follow are gleaned from that text which is (among other things) a testament to her abiding affection and respect for Carnevali. ]

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Carnevali was born in Florence on December 4 1897. His mother was a morphine addict / his father (whom he did not see until he was eleven) did not live with them. His father beat his mother / his mother beat him. He lived with his mother and aunt in Florence — they then moved to Pistoia in Tuscany / and then to Biella in Piedmont / and then to Cossato (also in Piedmont). When Emanuel’s mother died (he was eleven) his father took him (and his brother) to live with him. His father had remarried / his father beat his brother but was rather more tolerant toward Emanuel. His father soon enrolled him in boarding school — and then in another one — where he won a scholarship of five year’s room and board at one of the country’s best schools. He described the school as a kind of militaristic institution — but was grateful that it was in Venice (the loveliest city in all the world). There he fell in love with Giovanni (a boy a year younger than him) / Giovanni became interested in another boy / Emanuel was pained by his unrequited love / so my first symptoms of hysteria came on me / and in consequence he was expelled from the school / his father refused to take him back / then relented. Because of a further misunderstanding he left home / and went to live with the family of his friend Mario / his father having given him a daily allowance for food and lodging. But the Pacini’s provided him with lodging / so he and Mario were able to spend the allowance on going to the theatre.

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I have never regretted one day that I was not at school. I had the spirit of rebellion and these days marked my awakening to many things. For instance, I discovered “Futurismo”. I wore a flowing necktie and was believed to be either an anarchist or a futurist, the two things being strangely linked together.

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He soon left Bologna / stopped at Milano to visit his two cousins / spent a couple of days in Genoa / and then boarded a ship for America / alone / he was sixteen. So I said goodbye to Italy, she to whom I gave so little and from whom I received less. His father predicted that in America he would never amount to anything more than a street-cleaner.

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He arrived in Manhattan on April 5th / he lived first (room with board) on Thirteenth Street. He survived by going into bars where snacks were served free for those purchasing beer / ate a few snacks without ordering beer / and left. He moved to Twelfth Street / got a job as waiter-helper in an Italian restaurant on Eighth Street — This was the first job of my life. He suffered from bedbugs. He hated his job and yet lived in fear of losing it. I was fired within a month. He worked at the Hotel Seville / the Hotel Bossert in Brooklyn / the Thompson Restaurant in Grand Central Station. The days I was not employed by work I was employed by hunger. He received a card announcing that his brother was in New York — when they met they found that they had less than fifty cents between them. He went from job to job (sometimes remaining employed for three months / sometimes for a day). Their father sent them an unexpected hundred lire / Emanuel left his dumpy lodgings / and he and his brother moved from room to room together. He worked for a while at Shanley’s bar-room (where his brother tried once to steal his paycheck) —

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When this job was done with I went four days without eating and the sight of food in restaurants I passed began to nauseate me. But when I found a crust of bread on the ground I washed it carefully in a fountain and ate it. Picking up cigarette-butts in the street was not the lowest thing I was reduced to then, but still I never begged (at least not from strangers); later on when I had friends I pestered them freely for pennies which would permit me to eat.

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More rooms — more jobs.

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Then I lost the second job mentioned above, and when I announced this loss to my brother, he answered in these very words:
“Well, now you must think of earning your living by yourself.”
The dirty cur — I had supported him all the while. So the next morning I beat it and left him in the lurch. I never saw him again. I did not hear of him again until they wrote me he had been killed in the war, peace to his soul.

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Together with a Dutch friend he began to write movie scenarios / all rejected.

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And all of a sudden I began to write: rhymed poems at first, absurd, rhymed poetry which I sent to more than twenty magazines, getting nothing but rejection slips in return. They were variously colored slips, and from them I took stereotyped encouragement to continue. It is difficult to say how rotten the poems were, and how impossible the stories. ... Finally an editor accepted two of my poems: it was A. R. Orage of the Seven Arts Magazine!

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The owner of a rooming house on Willoughby Street in Brooklyn where he lived found him a job at the Yale Club — it was also at that rooming house that he met his wife. They got pregnant / she paid for the abortion. She was a blessed little woman, my wife; blessed for the song that was in her face, blessed for all her misfortune. Blessed because she loved unloved, because she was a very little thing and her love was big, her love was despair, her love depended solely on me. They went to the theatre together / to Coney Island / to restaurants. I began to live in a glorious mist. There is no doubt that he loved her enormously / he could not stop writing of love when writing of her.

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The wife is working and I am not, so I do the things around the house. — he was also writing. He met Max Eastman and Babette Deutsch / Alfred Kreymborg and Lola Ridge. He discovered the work of Ezra Pound / of whom he wrote — Irritation inspires him and he inspires irritation in his readers. Already he was pulling no punches. He attended a weekly literary meeting of very young writers. A talk was given on a subject chosen the week before. Carnevali gave a talk on contemporary Italian literature. He met Waldo Frank and William Carlos Williams / Kay Boyle and Dorothy Dudley. At Lola’s I made my first long speech, and this speech won Carlos Williams’s friendship for me, or at least he offered it without any difficulty. I went and spent a few days at his home. In his talk he had attacked Williams (and the others) for being too tame / too tied to the niceties of ways (of ways) of writing and not enough to its boiling hot-points (of (perhaps) not having enough to say). It was perhaps at this talk that he made his wife sit beside him — (this from the introduction) — ... the first time that he read in public somewhere, he had made her sit on the platform beside him, scared, not knowing much what it was all about — but he insisted on it, that those who heard might know who the writer was, not just he, but the two of them.

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While his wife was away working in the country he saved enough money to buy her a gold watch / then spent it with a friend on two whores / then wrote to his wife to tell her what he’d done. He visited his wife on weekends in the country. While she was having an operation so as to not get pregnant / he met a painter (Dorothy S.) —

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I fell in love with her because she was kind to me. (That was the way all my love affairs began.) When I went to see my wife I had the letter in my pocket in which Dorothy S. told me “I love you.” I went to her that evening and as I finally kissed her, her eyelids beat like dying butterflies. I decided to let them die, those dying butterflies ....
I never say her again, but I met Caroline D. I do not know from what skies she fell into my arms.

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His wife returned from the country when he wasn’t there and found Caroline’s letters to him — she summoned both of them to meet her at the same place / confronted them / a row ensued — And to think that we had once passed more than twelve months together without tiring of one another! After the affair with Caroline ended his wife wept and wept until I was reduced to going to live with her again — but — What had been destroyed could not be mended. We were surrounded by the calmness of death. His wife confessed that she too (while working in the country) had had an affair.

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Robert McAlmon’s Contact Editions (together with William Bird’s Three Mountains press) published his first book A Hurried Man (the only one published during his lifetime) — it contained a collection of both essays and poems.

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Harriet Monroe came to New York and offered him a job in Chicago. His wife and Waldo Frank saw him off at the station. He promised to send for his wife when he could / but he did not. He worked for a newspaper (a job from which he was fired) / then for Harriet Monroe at Poetry magazine (he insulted her / and thanked her). He visited Niagara Falls — Niagara was to me an immensity that had, by miracle, found a way of speaking. Again he lived in rooming houses (...the typical American Home: the Furnished Room.) — he worked in a park cutting dead branches and eradicating caterpillars / he worked carrying sacks of corks from one end of the city to the other (the girls in the street laughed at him when he stumbled under the load).

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He was befriended by Jack Jones (who helped him). He fell in love with Annie Glick / his passion seems barely to have been returned (or at least not matched) / she was a muse / Annie went to New York.

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He suffered a severe crisis —

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But now on top of a house a star shone, a hole revealing that the sky is a diamond palace covered with a blue cloth. Well, I had to hurry up, as I was at the end of my strength. I swung myself up, whirled through the air, writing a beautiful parabola over the skirt of night and
Cra — rck!
I fell on the side of a house and broke my bones in pieces.

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I believed absolutely now that I was the Only God. But no god was ever humbler than I, and no god ever made worse blunders, and no god was ever as ugly as I was.

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Every vestige of reality had left me, and I was staggering and stumbling about, helpless in an uncertain world.

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He went to Sherwood Anderson’s house and asked for food (thinking that to eat would stabilize him) / Sherwood Anderson fed him / and then wary of his wife’s return rushed him out of the house / eating the food had not worked as he’d hoped.

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Out in the snow again I said out loud: now that corner is going to stop being a corner, that lamp-post cease being a lamp-post, that gutter no longer run with its burden of dirty water, because the beloved list of understandable things has been inadvertently destroyed, because in this immaculate sky-piece a screw has been loosened, a nut has gone daffy, has gone cuckoo, and the whole machine of reality has jumped the switch. I said: because I am or will be crazy presently, it is impossible for me ever to grasp reality again. And then something strange happened or did not happen: I felt that one of my eyes could not shut, and that it acted now quite separately from the other eye.

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It must have been about two in the morning that I got back to my room, and I stood looking at myself in the mirror, able to see nothing, to prove nothing. I spent the time until daylight shouting that I had found the formula for godhead, this is the formula: YES — NO and YES and NO. This is the formula of acceptance and denial, at the same time and at different times, and if simultaneous acceptance and denial could be achieved, then godhead would be at your door.

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At first I was appalled by the extraordinary simplicity of the thing. I had found the solution of life in the formula:
God is or God is not.
God neither is nor is not.
God absolutely is
or
God absolutely is not.

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The easiest thing in the world was to live and now I could live, survive forever because of this simple formula of godhead I had found.

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The following morning the landlady and some other women came to his room / they fed him / they called Harriet Monroe / the second night Harriet stayed to keep him company. For at least fifteen days he was in a psychiatric ward. His friends paid for his convalescence in a sanatorium / they visited him there. Annie returned from New York and wept every time she visited him. He returned to his rented room / suffering from insomnia / perhaps recovering. His mental suffering continued. Friends raised money to send him to the Indiana dunes to rest (a doctor had advised that cities were no good for him) / he lived by the ocean and was happy. He went to Milwaukee / to the Minnesota woods / and elsewhere. For a while he lived in a shack in Ravinia (Illinois) with a man who helped care for him / until the expense of keeping him forced him out. He returned to live alone in a tent in the dunes.

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Carnevali returned to Italy.

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He took up residence in the hospital in Bazzano. The doctors didn’t know what his illness was. It was later diagnosed as encephalitis lethargica — an illness that causes the victim to shake and to convulse uncontrollably and continuously. His arms became strong from clinging to the head of the bed to control the shaking. He could often write not more than a sentence a day because he had to hold one hand steady with the other in order to type. He worked on a novel — He wanted the book to be called The First God or Religious Stammering. — the book was never finished but portions of it are incorporated in The Autobiography. Ethel Moorhead and Ernest Walsh visited him / Dorothy Dudley Moore and Harriet Monroe and Robert McAlmon visited / McAlmon had him removed to a private sanatorium (the Villa Rubazziana) and paid for a year’s treatment there / Ezra Pound took him a radio for which Kay Boyle and her husband had collected the money / Ernest Walsh gave him a gramophone / Kay Boyle and her husband also visited him. This constant trembling is the most absurd, the most awful joke. Eric Hjorth (a Chicago friend) came to visit him / bought them a wonderful meal at the inn / but I could not go, too drugged, too lost in lethargy and sleep. His father died / he did not know how.

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This illness must have inspired the saying, “As long as you aren’t dead, you’re fine.” During an instant of comparative quiet and repose, the slightest shock or movement even can start afresh the incessant, the relentless trembling. It is the falsest and at the same time the truest of all illnesses — it consists of nothing, practically nothing, but it is made of a multiplication of nothing until in the end it becomes an enormity.

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From Kay Boyle’s introduction —

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Until the fall of France in 1940, Carnevali in Bazzano, and I in Magève, in the Haute-Savoie, wrote every week to each other. I was still fitting the sentences and paragraphs of the book together when the dark curtain came down between France and Italy. Since then there has been silence, and it can only be concluded that Carnevali died during the course of the war. There is no record of his death, no trace of his name or of the few poor things he owned.

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From Emanuel Carnevali —

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Oh, lady Death, take me, is now the common refrain of all my songs! Take me with you and I will be docile as a child and I will follow obediently in your footsteps without terror, knowing you are the divine mistress and the divine gift of God. I will not so much as slay a worm who comes to greet me and crosses my path, oh, Lady Death! I will be good and kind to all those who are going the same way. I will not talk out loud and too much the way I always did in life. I will merely stammer a few words in your ear. . . . .

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It is said that he died on January 11 1942 / he choked on a piece of bread.

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The editor of Fireflies writes that Carnevali lived in Hell, and wrote in beauty. And I have no argument with that but might amend it to read — Carnevali lived in hell and wrote in Beauty — his struggle was that emphatic / and that significant a success. I know of almost no other example of that almost slogan-like symbol — the-little-man-makes-good — in the world of poetry — as that of Carnevali. He is the exemplar (par excellence) of Williams’ “pure products of America”. Carnevali himself refers to — America, the land that gathers / The rebels, the miserable, the very poor; / The land of puerile and magnificent deeds; / The naïve skyscrapers — votive candles / At the head of supine Manhattan.

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Fireflies is a small letter-press volume containing seven poems.

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All of the (approximately forty) poems in Furnished Rooms are printed in italics — and there’s no reason for that — it’s affected and silly. I don’t believe Carnevali (with his straightforwardness always so implacably manifest) would have stood for it. The poems are divided into sections — a further affectation (this time assuredly of the editor Dennis Barone). Barone’s name is printed as large on the cover as is Carnevali’s — something of an impertinence. Barone writes that — I have made a few changes in spelling and punctuation in both the essays and the poems. — in that he doesn’t tell us what they are (or even give us examples) we don’t know to what extent or in what way the body of Carnevali has been tampered with. The real treat of this volume is the publication of Carnevali’s essay — The Book of Job Junior (originally published in January 1922).

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The poems are literal and lateral — they carry no dead matter forward from life (but live (rather) as life-lived). Carnevali never forgot what he was doing — as compellingly as life found him a component in its complexities. This (that (this that)) carried the verses along.

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FIREFLIES

Fireflies flying disconnectedly,
useless lights that bear no light to anything,
whose little lamps make the night darker.

You are one of the many useless works of God,
but still you are not beautiful;
but for the star
you carry in your belly,
you would look like a common insect.

You carry a bit of my soul in that lantern of yours.
You are like my weariness,
aimless and desultory.

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This poem doesn’t bear much analysis / it simply doesn’t need it. Obviously Carnevali is seeing himself in the object of his speculation — he says so. And after all is said and done (which after all doesn’t take very long here) — what could be more simple and direct? Nothing (really). An image / an identification / a statement of feeling / (done).

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He makes much the same use of cypresses in a poem of that title (or is it they that make that use of him?) — except that in this instance the cypresses stand in relation to a city / that lives, and barely lives — and thereby (the city as vehicle) in the same relationship to humanity. And the ultimate line of the poem — Cypresses lead the way to death. — is (uh) ultimate. The poems tend to proceed like this — by a kind of very simple inference / something slightly simpler than inference really / but something slightly beyond bald statement too — and it is that place of hovering (a kind of mental middle-ground) that Carnevali inhabits (and which in a very certain sense he has invented).

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There’s an almost fable-like simplicity to many of the remonstrances (for that’s what they are) that he constructs — but they’re never silly (although they certainly flirt with the disingenuous (at least from the vantage of our “sophisticated” century)). Seldom do such simple poems bear (and demand) such frequent rereading — (it is their simplicity doing the demanding (that is the secret)).

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The world takes a sort of pummeling at his hands — the world of the heart (as we’ve come to call it (and I suppose it’s because of the poets that we call it that)). He isn’t easy on himself — life wasn’t and he won’t be (won’t pretend otherwise). I don’t think he could have stood a moment of dishonesty with himself / and he didn’t make any — and it was probably the dishonesty of the world (in (its) many ways) that he found so crippling. After writing simply / and descriptively of the mountains / and meditatively for moments at a time — and while suffering from encephalitis — he yet manages to conclude —

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This morning I have dropped a burden
that was on me for years.

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He writes (often) from the vantage of “the little man” — and he doesn’t abjure using the emblems of a little mind when that will make that more apparent / and lingering. His simplicity is strict — it’s a practice (the practice of daily living). As he writes — For I greet you with words too plain to hide a lie. He abhors any artifice beyond that necessary to say what he says / and to say it well (but not more well than it need be said). We often seem to have (nowadays) the idea that it is necessary to say more to get at the truth — Carnevali seemed to understand that it is by saying nothing (or at least by approaching that) that the truth is made (or permitted to become) apparent.

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But he cries (he cries out) when crying (when crying out) says it best —

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Hesitating everywhere, hesitating fearfully,
The few poets, they who weigh with delicate hands,
Walk in the unfrequented roads,
Maundering,
Crying and laughing
Against the rest.

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It’s as if he knew so much (in terms of experience) that he ached. He did. But he always forgot almost all of what he knew (at any moment) in order to bring (only) that moment to life — to be that moment (in and as words). He did not tolerate any smugness. He was not an avant-garde or an otherwise affected poet. He was not even a poet of the people (although he certainly felt for and of them) — but he was a poet. Eliot wrote of “crabs scuttling on the floor of the ocean” as a metaphor — as he wrote of “the straw men”. Carnevali writes —

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See me scuttle on —
Satisfied enough,
Finding with my almost eager eye
Not-yet-known breasts and strange thighs
In your sacred crowds, O Manhattan!

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— and it is not a metaphor that is scuttling on. And when he has something of a strident sort to say — of necessity he preaches.

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SERMON

Chao-Mong-Mu freely laid his hands over the sky:
You do not know how to lay your hands over the breasts of your beloved.

Chao-Mong-Mu made the tree dance at his will:
You do not know how to hug a rough tree and say “darling” to it.

Chao-Mong-Mu magnificently ran a shaft of sunlight to smash against the tree-tops:
You walk carefully, carefully, and fend off the sunlight with your grey clothes, although you’re very poor.

Chao-Mong-Mu painted a sky that was a pin-fleshed vase: then he became a very small thing and hid in the vase:
You build yourselves immense houses to live in, and you are afraid even there.

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What keeps coming through in Carnevali’s voice (regardless of the mood occasioned by what he’s writing about) is the indomitable spirit of man / of this man (to survive). There’s no doubt that he did it (at least in part) by writing. He wrote his way through (through (he wrote his way through)) his sorrows. Life killed him (of course) — a verdict all of us face — and in his case one exacerbated by years of poverty and years of torturing illness. But life did not kill (or even make ill) his spirit — and it is that spirit that sings through his poems. So many of his poems begin in the morning / and don’t go beyond it — I believe he was in despair by nightfall — but he did what he could to ennoble the day when he could.

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AUBADE

The morning now
Is a white corpse —
The nightmares
Killed her.
Vainly the breeze
Wafts a terrible sadness
Over her body.

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There’s something of the succinctness of life that Carnevali made his own — probably because it had made him its own. He had to make it known. And yet he loved what hurt him. He spoke of it. He lived those streets (the ones that hurt them) and (at least momentarily) got the better of them (by writing them down) — he couldn’t do more (than that). His work is almost an emblem of the extent to which life can turn suffering into poetry. One feels that he is always on the verge of weeping (tears) — and yet that weeping is his poetry (so be it).

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Every day (the onslaught of every day) filled him I think with hope and dread — not in equal measure — but as the same thing (as (as (as the same thing))). It was out of that equation that he wrote. The day made him (each new day made him) write (each new day made him write). I believe that was more of an imperative for him than it was for his peers / for most writers. Writing somehow kept him alive (alive in the death of living). To say that it is how he made peace with the world would not be correct — for he did not make peace with the world (nor the world with him / ever) — but it is how he held the world off from crushing him (that final moment) / and he did it until the very last (until even the very last could not last). Writing is all it took (and that was the miracle — in fact). The unerring simplicity of his writing is tribute to this fact. He writes of a little girl (Dina — age four) — You dance all day long / And it costs nothing to watch you. / They pay Pavlova so much! — and of her brother (? — Charles — age seven) — All of a sudden / You see him stop and be still ... / His eyes full of sparks and sparkles, / His running-clear-water eyes are still, / Deep and strange ... / Poor kid / Is he going to be a poet? And (later) toward the end (and in a different vein (sic)) — My heart has lost itself in clouds that resemble princesses on horseback.

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Carnevali’s The Book of Job Junior essay nowhere pampers itself / nor its subject / nor its (intended) listeners. Nowhere does it pardon itself / or its subject / or its intended listeners. It is — fact-for-fact / word-for-word / struggle-for-struggle — one of the strongest pieces of (manifesto-like) writing around. It made it this far — and it deserves to endure well past our years (our ears).

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Job suffered (nothing else but that) — what could Job Junior be expected to have learned? — but that? Nothing (really) — except that he didn’t (perhaps) get the credit for the original / for all of that — suffering. Just a little chip off the old block — just more suffering to (to have) come. Carnevali’s wording is as careful as is that of the author of the Book of Job — and his suffering as immaculate (as emasculating — perhaps?). He knew / that / there is nowhere else to go. That’s it / that’s that / this is it / this is that / and that’s that / suffering.

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And — what is he writing about? — he is writing about art. He is making it live — in words only slightly outside those of (his) art itself. He begins —

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The faith that is in me and upholds this attempt of mine — to say something about art from the artist’s and not the critic’s standpoint — is worried into activity by a great quantity of nagging little facts which merge into this relevant one; ours are times of categorization, classification, specialization.

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Is worried into — and the fact that the moment is what is making this address imperative (at all). And the quick (not studied) injunction —

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In the beginning there was a lonely Phidias that made statues and hardly knew, if at all, why or wherefore. Now every irreverent mongrel who lifts his hind leg to leave a desecration of ink on clean paper talks of technique.

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He cracked his whip against the hardest heads (and the softest little ego-beings) of his time. He nowhere took account of anything but what he had to say. He was strong. He knew only his own stance — and from it he intuited what had to be done. And (you know what?) — I can’t say that he was anywhere wrong. He knew only strength — but he experienced (otherwise) mostly failure. He lived the struggle (is there one? — is there ever not one?) between Apollonian and Dionysian tendencies — and made of them his work (all of his work — even these essayed utterances).

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The artist is no specialist. The artist is not an expert worker, a craftsman, a technician, he belongs nowhere because he belongs everywhere, he knows nothing because he knows everything; he is not a judge, not a scholar, not a king, not a captain, not a god, not a worker, not a lover — because he knows better, because he is a MAN and a judge, scholar, king, captain, god, worker, lover — these are words that express a more definite and narrower and “more specific” concept than the concept, MAN.

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The artist is a person who specializes in being person.

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There is nowhere else to go.

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He states that — The voice of the people says: the artist is a specialist who attains perfect craftsmanship by the perusal of a certain technique. — and the statement seems like an acceptable (almost a laudable) one. But he (conclusively (not so conclusively?)) argues that — The strange fact is that almost everyone who is at all concerned knows something or everything about art. It is only the artists who do now know. And for those of us who do not know (and who willingly do not know) — that is the fact of our practice (as it was of his) / the (its) way of going forward. And (then) finally — One cannot say what art is otherwise than by producing a work of art. And — A work of art is an attempt to say what art is, its only scope is that.

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He understood art as the — not as the purveyor of — fear — but as its residence / as its absolution (in residence). Art is a moment in the compelling movement of life forward. Art / may be / its last gasp. Ie — no forward. But I am aware that I am now vaguely touching the tremendous sinews of what we indifferently call Art. But of course he doesn’t mean it / not something that emphatic — he can’t — but he does. That is the way of his presence here. And there cannot be another meaning to the word truth but this, life. To live is to know truth. Every moment of his speech (of his essay) is a kind of absolution — a way of going forward (something like forward) without (too much) regretting the past (without being (being (without being))) its regret. That was his way of lasting. And he modifies what he has said (but not by way of curtailing it) — Or rather, to sense it, for nothing is knowable in the way philosophers understand the word knowable. Only the senses are our interpreters, our body is the vessel that bears truth, our body is the wireless receiving station of the universe. He goes forward by dragging himself with it / him. He is the understanding — the being understanding (in fact). He is the way of the understanding of himself. Oh! — you will say — but that is the way of (for) all of us. But it is not — not in the way that he groped for something to hold onto — and found it always in a word / in the next word. He did not weave himself into the reality of the moment — he tried to weave himself out of it / and he (always) succeeded — that was his task. The written word was for him a lob — of the moment / into the moment / and then out of the moment / keeping the moment (always) with it / and then back into the moment (of the writing / of the address) — and that / on-and-on.

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Reading this essay is like eating treacle — it angers (back) against all that is false. It tells (off) on itself.

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There is no way back over the old terrain. This “back” (and this “forward”) are metaphors of the worst sort — I exhort you to get beyond them (wherever I use them) — to find a way out of them and into the immediate (which is where they belong). I don’t know of anyone else for whom the words ethics and aesthetics would have no division (no dividing line) between them — (in fact) for which there would be no need (not the one being the other and the other the one — but!). He found causes (in this way) for which there were no results — and results for which there were no causes. The immediate happened to him as an instance of his own default (of the default upon him of the moment’s (ugly (when ugly)) utterance). The cause of so much is so nothing. It’s like that. Over against the world we have our utterances — and he (Carnevali) had his — and that was that / and this is this. So be it. And why the tragedy? Because if it is to himself that he lies, that part of him which is lying, KNOWS THE TRUTH.

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Carnevali was a sort of custodian of what would have not been possible without him (ie him (but more than him)). A synopsis of the sanctity of this man would — well — what would it do? what would it be? It would be nothing other than him / nothing other than what he wrote — it would be him. A writer and what she or he writes is not always equatable / not always the same thing — but in the case of Carnevali there was no distillation (except in the direction of truth which (as he has already said) is — in the direction of life (no difference)). So to go forward / to go anywhere — is just to life (sic) / is just to write. It’s as if a magnet makes the obverse unacceptable — there is a force.

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The line is its own force. And that is writing.

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If the life of artists is tragic it is because he has TO TELL ALOUD the truth to defeat a lie — a lie which is also, of course, fatally, inevitably, his own lie.

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— such truth (such life) is almost unheard of / such life (such truth) we almost never hear of. It is the rupture in the space of not thinking that makes this not-thinking so emphatic. He goes on with it (and he goes on with it). Nothing comes after what did not come before. There is no present moment.

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But — there are angular utterances. And they have us (angularly) in it. In them. As such (whatever “such” might mean — in such a landscape of angular doubt). Who has perfectly breathed? — nobody has said such a thing before / or asked it (it is worthy of Dante grunting toward the ground). There are only emphases / only the emphases on that ground (on what has been (or might be) found). For nothing can be sacrificed / for everything has to be sacrificed. That is the lot.

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The artist is an inseparable limb of an immense body — the world. You would call him a specialist because YOU WISH TO AMPUTATE THAT LIMB.

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What could be more sufferingly / insufferably true? Nothing. Not for us / not for those of us who try (also) to create (the also / thing). He curtailed nothing — he left nothing in the closet (metaphorically speaking). In fact — he would have (for the most part) abhorred the “metaphorically speaking”. For him the world (the word) was a sudden justness — not necessarily just (even seldom so) — but just (as such) — the imminent already moment. We all suffer that moment. We all / are / that moment. As such. That moment governs us — seldom do we know it. We’re long gone (unfortunately) before out attention passes over it. The moment bursts through in this thought (in Carnevali’s prose and his thrusts of poetic burst). Carnevali breaks through — all of that.

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After speaking only death remains.

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There are no curtains. Hiding is obsolescent. There is nowhere (other) to be. There’s nowhere to slouch / nowhere else (to be). But — we can be — frank. For there were (no) others before us. It’s all a matter of the language and (of) the language speaking to itself. Which is the only thing it does (ever / anyway). There are no curtains. Not even the ones without us in them. What, what would happen if the voice of all was heard? Some things can’t be answered — (actually) nothing can be answered. Why? — there were no questions (no adequate questions) to begin with (that’s why).

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There are words that go off by themselves and make mates. As it were — no (no (no)) not “as it were”. There are words that go off by themselves and make (are) mates. Up against the seamlessness of time. The way they do that. With you in it (always that catastrophe of a you / that heraldable you). No one ever believes in a lie. There’s no such thing as time. There’s just this muck / with us (us (“us”)?) in it. Actually — there’s only sleep / and sleeplessness — the having and the not having of the moment (with the moment) in it. I’m gone.

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Slaughtered.
Slaughtered logs.
(Waiting) for you (in it) too.

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For everything gets thrown into the mix — and the mix is just that (the everything-thrown-into-the-mix) — as if there could be (there could not be) any other way. The world has the us in it — and that is its constraint / its pleasure / its momentum / its contrariness / and its constraint (again). For there were not the being of that (of) otherwise. It’s as it is. Art is in the world. Art exists always. Sometimes there are times — but whether they have us in it (that is a matter of time / that is a matter of art).

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What I would want is you. That is the burning coefficient of art. But — fuck that — that is / you. Don’t be gone. Man understands form only when he is form. When he is swept by an emotion into form and becomes the intrinsic part of form. Isn’t that what happens to all of us — isn’t that what takes us away (into) our self (our “self”). For there is nothing that is true (or even “true”).

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There being others.

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Nowadays, if a poem does not hurt, if it does not bring before our eyes the skull of our own skeleton — it is not a poem, it is not art.

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The strength of the moment is the moment (has the moment in it) — but no (no!) — there is no moment / no strength / and no strength in it (no jacking off that way (at all)).

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Exasperation.

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There’s exasperation. The quadrangle with the fist going around and around in it. But the reality of the fact (there is no reality / there is no fact) is that. Let it be (asleep) as that (there is no — that). It is form which assimilates the artist. Bling! It is form which assimilates the artist. There is no room outside of that for us — and why should there be? There is only the form and the artist — and the equation (finally — the equation) of the two (therefore (not) the “two”).

parnum

There is splendor — and then there is splendor.

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And nothing is left out.

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Out(?).

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The going-on-with.

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For there is furtherance. But not the going-against-that. There is only hope — that’s what Carnevali had (big-time) — the hope against all that might be against that. (Whatever that might be.)

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Carnevali wrangled his own presence out of the world — that is what he wrought.

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Our concern should be to liberate this moment, this present moment from its frightful tangle. To strive toward the form of this moment. What is its form? A poem from me to you, that would be it. Can I recite now a poem?

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He goes on a rant to save his life — and it is a pure rant / pure and muddied (with life). A poem nowadays cannot be if it is not violent. He had just noted that what he is really fighting for is — Food, food, food. — and I can assure you that he did not mean it metaphorically (ie he did not indulge in his words). From now on, every work of art shall be a talk to the people. — not with / but to — because he had to make people (the people) listen / in order to survive he had to make them listen. For the only signs of life, the artists are dying. And I, for one, do not want to die. His entire project (it was not (was not (not)) a project) — his entire being / his art / his excursus into and through living — was to be the one who went on living / and in order to do that he had to go on living. He was a prophet (really) — a prophet of the need to go on living. He spoke of Christ (in this talk he speaks of him more than once) — and I believe he understood him (and I believe he knew that he understood him) as a brother can understand a brother. But he claimed nothing for himself. He claimed only the need to be heard — and that he claimed for others.

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There is never more. There is only what is — and it is never more.

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He knew (in an entirely modest way) that nothing lasts except the will to last. And even that he did not claim for himself.

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Or — to put it (all) another way: He created his own person in order to know why he was doing so (not (not) his own persona (nothing of the sort ever came to exist)). He — could not / would not / did not — waste a moment. He was made to impeach time / to make it intractable / to bring it down within the realm of reach. The world invented him — (as it does each of us) but in his case it is so evident that it had to. He made the world invent him. Every moment asked him to explain itself to it. He did. Only a mood, your own, personal, individual, holy mood will give you a glimpse or more than a glimpse into the comprehension of art. Carnevali was implacable — his suffering was implacable too (perhaps that’s what made him implacable (I think it was)). For him poetry was truth because it defeated lies. And for him — beauty was more important than that (because it made it possible). For Carnevali to utter was to be almost senseless (ie completely sensate). To understand means to personify. — by that he means — to make human (not to make — as if human). He was enormously gracious toward the world in which he lived — he gave it (always) back to itself. I believe that he would have died rather than lied — (perhaps that’s what killed him). Our concern should be to liberate this moment, this present moment from its frightful tangle. His every word is a proof of his existence (a most rare thing). His insanity was his sanity — let me untangle that for you — if he had not approached insanity so courageously he would not have been (able to be) sane / he wouldn’t have had a chance.

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I’m out here with an old anger in me. Not for a poem, but with you, unclean with your way, using your ways, unclean with your touch. They have been slandering you, I want to talk to you the same way you’d talk to me, that’s all. When I say you, I mean the public. My face is a reflection of yours, and as your face is a twisted yell of fear, so is my face a twisted yell of fear. Here we are, not you and I any more then, but we. Let us talk of ourselves then.

parnum

— 4Dec07

 
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