Another Reason to Celebrate Modernism

I had not known the work of the architect Charles Gwathmey until I read his obituary in the NY Times.The photograph of the small house he designed for his parents in 1966 is breathtaking and reminds one of the aesthetic power of the Modernist vision, in architecture, which I know only casually, and in poetry, which I know professionally. Things have changed, of course; Modernism has been replaced by the hodge-podge amalgam of post-modernism. The Times quotes a friend of the architect: "'A lot of people jumped ship, but Charlie was loyal to Modernism', said Peter Eisenman, the architect and theorist." Given my preference for pluralism over any form of authoritarian Tradition, I should be happy about the passing of Modernism, but it produced so much great art that I not so secretly long for a return to the vision quest of the Modernist project, to put something together out of the fragments of the past as it has come down to us, though I have perhaps a more catholic appreciation for and acceptance of the sort of fragments that might be useful than the old Modernists.

Author: jd

Joseph Duemer is Professor of Literature Emeritus at Clarkson University in northern New York state. His most recent book of poems is Magical Thinking from Ohio State University Press. Since the mid-1990s he has spent a good deal of time in Vietnam, mostly Hanoi. He lives with his wife Carole & five terriers (four Jack Russells & one Patterdale) on the stony bank of the Raquette River in South Colton.

2 thoughts on “Another Reason to Celebrate Modernism”

  1. joseph, by now so many movements and -isms have captured my word kitchen that i don’t remember if symbolism is in the ‘s’ group with ‘surealism’ or
    in the postavantcantanker group with the quiet ones (not the quakers i gather) or if i have lost my way.

    so i speak now for and by myself my simple self too:

    but i want to speak to the generation of the child
    of dennis koran now in his 20’s, to michael koran a graduate of uc berkeley and a student in recent years of that good teacher robert haas.

    here is something local i wrote that harkens back to the early l970’s and to all the influences then — of josephine miles, george oppen, carl rakosi, lawrence fixel, raymond carver the sweet fellow dennis’s and my age, lennart bruce, laura ulewicz, robert duncan rosalie moore, george hitchcock, gina barriault, thom gunn, shirley kaufman and jack gilbert, james broughton, helen adam, ann stanford, laurence ferlinghetti, ruth weiss —

    the duboce triangle and my life
    Tuesday, August 11, 2009 11:15 AM
    edward mycue

    the duboce park triangle area san francisco : that area carries on west to castro and south to market and a bit further a couple of blocks maybe to 18th street and east down market to about gough street and north to about haight street: that’s been a central area for rick steger &me since 1971. on sanchez, #99, where david highsmith’s books & bookshelves is now, was panjandrum press and the luminous presence of dennis koran. i organized the weekly reading series in the early 1970’s and my first book damage within the community was published by panjandrum in 1973. (dennis moved to lost angeles in late 1970’s) (his son michael koran now late 20’s lives here now in san francisco).

    i have been involved w/another one of those speedbump poems– perhaps a lyric vest ill- containing history. everysooften it happens and i get all trafficjammed by something like this that may end up in the ‘privishing’ drawer (versus the ‘publishing’ one –the distinction being made by lawrence fixel possibly even in his ‘book of glimmers’ published jointly over 30 years ago by london england’s menard press and berkeley’s cloud marauder press).

    in the middle is embedded the title of the book lo 20+? years ago lost now in the mists of the rusalka dreamworld: next year’s words/another voice, a title so forgotten it’s not even listed in my bibliography being forgotten somehow or i couldn’t remember then the title. (it’s not attitude but memory.) and i wonder if i have a copy someplace still.
    (i often put in things not to be noticed and aren’t meant to be seen–but just for myself, as says yeats in his discussion someplace of the levels of poems–of an ur-personal shelf or level.) there are public personal and private levels. and possibly more. but the public and personal may be understood or and inferred from the poem itself. the private however not.
    the private when appropriate is ‘unseen’ though might ‘echo’ through somehow the way for example hemingway spoke of in novels and tales of a ‘backstory’.

    (example just as ‘the green arcade’ replaces the initial ‘my light years’ . that light years reference was to milton’s sonnet on his blindness, but it didn’t fit and ‘the green arcade’ fits better as an echo idea of a bookstore on market street and gough near here matching (for me) bird n’ beckett store that is specified.) and i like green arcade for the color and the symbolism and the oblique reference for me to arcadia and the very american theme of uprooting and early facisim in the very beginning of north america. and another kind of slavery often not taken into full view.)

    the noe street area where the mediterannean is and cafe flor is just east down market from the castro is followed east by sanchez is in the duboce area and further east down market at gough is the green arcade bookstore that patrick marks runs, new this year. patrick used to be a mgr at cody’s in berkeley and the short lived cody’s in san francisco. his boyfriend ghent sturgeon artist works at city lights. patrick now abt 60. he used to work at the beginning of his b.s. career with alison moxley my age old clerk like me sent adrift when stacey’s closed.
    well, just morning nattering.
    here’s the piece i must move on from soon, ed:

    for William Butler Yeats Among School Children



    emphasizing peace not valorizing war nor exalting conflict
    today summer august 6 2009 what is left of them now include
    the tired, lame, halted waiting for god and some dancing bears
    but many are still getting into someone’s face space and roots.

    dooming is a looming deficit of good will since John F. Kennedy.
    an abalone moon is sinking into the western skyline dissembling
    the goodwill-to-the-world remaindered into recontexualization
    and sampling and appropriation an inheritance of Nixon,Regan,Bush.

    Those who can’t decide what to do could ask an ant as Michael Torrice
    wrote in Science Now Daily News in its July 22 2009 dot org blog
    and meanwhile go strawberrying, bake apple pies, smell tulips or
    try to find a smell while attempting seeking-out insect life of Florida

    and don’t strive really, nor sacrifice futile reality, but start afresh
    and make new friends, renew your inquiring spirit, believe tomorrow
    the way the defeated in the Pleissy vs.Ferguson believed they’d
    ultimately defeat that “separate but equal” judgement in 1874.

    As I write here in Pacific Daylight Time on the San Francisco Bay
    for humans not only Americans believe the downswing will upswing
    and now I hear the water sprite’s“Song To The Moon” for the 4 act opera
    RUSALKA by Antonin Dvorak written 108 years ago lilting soaring

    still hoping for some rightside-up in next year’s words/another voice
    for that drowned maiden and reconciliation and end to remorse.
    Still seeking an end of the foredefeated, of the usurpation and enjoyment
    and use/profits of others, establishing the concept of ‘the commons’

    because we are all outsiders in a small space as artist Richard Steger said
    at a poetry reading in San Francisco ’s Bird & Beckett Bookstore.
    Now: I’ve come to the end of my green arcade, recalling Peace Corps time
    and an outlaw in the commons of a global village, &then/now strike root.

    Edward Mycue

    life an unbroken circle, yes, but a mobius strip seen angled–a bermuda triangle in that sargasso sea we find our lives
    in any here where we
    may be.
    mine: the “duboce triangle”.
    call it a circle
    call it a strip.
    square it.

    Edward Mycue

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