was looking for Apollinaire’s essay “L’antitradition futuriste” and ended up finding a great site of futurist work. I’ve read thru many of Marinetti’s manifestos and was surprised to see how influential their ideas were, or at least how their ideas continue to be explored.
“The Founding and Manifesto of Futurism” (1909) opens rather atmospherically: “We had stayed up all night, my friends and I, under hanging mosque lamps with domes of filigreed brass, domes starred like our spirits, shining like them with the prisoned radiance of electric hearts. For hours we had trampled our atavistic ennui into rich oriental rugs, arguing up to the last confines of logic and blackening many reams of paper with our frenzied scribbling.”
The orientalized scene reminds me of the end of Apollinaire’s Zone: “You walk toward Auteuil you want to walk home on foot / To sleep among your fetishes from Oceania and Guinea”.
The opening of this “call” to poetry provides a powerful contrast to Duncan in the H.D. book. There are no teachers in the scene to guide the young men, no muses or nurses; instead, they are surrounded by modern machines and noices that have transformed them into beasts.
“‘Friends, away! Let’s go! Mythology and the Mystic Ideal are defeated at last…Look there, on the earth, the very first dawn! There’s nothing to match the splendor of the sun’s red sword, slashing for the first time through our millenial gloom.”
This reminds of the end of Apollinaire’s Zone: “Soleil cou coupe'”. but also of Stevens’ “Notes Towards a Supreme Fiction”:
Begin, ephebe, by perceiving the idea
Of this invention, this invented world,
The inconceivable idea of the sun.
You must become an ignorant man again
And see the sun again with an ignorant eye
And see it clearly in the idea of it.
How clean the sun when seen in its idea,
Washed in the remotest cleanliness of a heaven
That has expelled us and our images . . .
The Manifesto responds to the loss of the grand narrative with a ferocious speed, an exploration of the Unknown and the Absurd. The best part: Marinetti is a driving a car and suddenly two cyclists come towards him and cause him to crash into the “maternal ditch.” A crowd of fisherman (echoes of Williams here in Spring and All) fish out him and his car. before it goes into the tenets of futurism, there is a heroic portrait of the futurists:
“And so, faces smeared with good factory muck — plastered with metallic waste, with senseless sweat, with celestial soot — we bruised, our arms in slings, but unafraid, declared our high intentions to all the living of the earth.”
This narrative frame is thick with allegory, as is Duncan’s H.D. book. Reading these scenes together create a frightening tension in my imagination, especially with the ROTC marches still echoing from Duncan and then imagining the ditches and tunnels of Vietnam, the small fishing villages.
The tenets themselves celebrate “the love of danger” and “the beauty of speed.” The heroic symbol is “the man at the wheel” driving a roaring car. We see the Beats here. And Gertrude Stein (except with a woman at the wheel). rub her coupe.
“Poetry must be conceived as a violent attack on unknown forces.” Rimbaud’s influence.
“Time and Space died yesterday. We already live in the absolute, because we have created eternal, omnipresent speed.” Again, Stein and the continuous present, all the way to Language Poetry (this connection to Stein + LaPo gets developed thruout the manifestos, which i will explore in later posts.
“We will sing of great crowds excited by work, by pleasure , and by riot; we will sing of the multicolored, polyphonic tides of revolution in the modern capitals; we will sing of the vibrant nightly fervor of arsenals and shipyards blazing with violent electric moons; greedy railway stations that devour smoke-plumed serpents; factories hung on clouds by the crooked lines of their smoke; bridges that stride the rivers like giant gymnasts, flashing in the sun with a glitter of knives; adventurous steamers that sniff the horizon; deep-chested locomotives whose wheels paw the tracks like the hooves of enormous steel horses bridled by tubing; and the sleek flight of planes whose propellers chatter in the wind like banners and seem to cheer like an enthusiastic crowd.”
wow, aider, stop. there is so much here: Whitman, Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Ginsberg, Kerouac, O’Hara, Appolinaire, Zukofsky. The Industrial, inanimate machine as legitimate subject matter seems a powerful move here as well. The effects of the “multicolored, polyphonic tides” in world capitals.
So, futurism doesnt seem so bad until this: “We will glorify war — the world’s only hygiene — militarism, patriotism, the destructive gesture of freedom bringers, beautiful ideas worth dying for, and scorn for woman…We will destroy the museums, libraries, academies of every kind, will fight moralism, feminism, every opportunistic or utilitarian cowardice.”
Yikes. Duncan’s claim that “THERE HAS BEEN NO TIME IN HUMAN HISTORY THAT WAS NOT A TIME OF WAR.” has an hygenic quality to it, but he definitely does not glorify war or any of the pyramid building activities of militartism or patriotism. DADA, abolishing the future, has no interest in this kind of empire building wither.
“Art, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice.”
Empire, in fact, can be nothing but violence, cruelty, and injustice.
To base one’s poetic on the poetics of empire.
“like the comprachicos, if you will.”