Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On the possible link between Ginsberg's Howl and Aimé Césaire's long-ass poem

So 'Cahier d'un retour au pays natal' was published in 1939, and Howl in 1956. Similar treatments and themes throughout: exploitation, surreal imagery, the use of lists, choruses, invocations. 

Then there's that line from Isidore-Lucien Ducasse-- "a howling of fists against the barrier of the sky"-- that André Breton quotes in his intro to the edition of Césaire's work that we're using in class, and his claim that Césaire thought highly of Ducasse and once published him in 'Tropiques'-- Possible that Ginsberg read the same edition?

According to Wiki, Ducasse was a major influence on Césaire as well as the surrealists... and there's Ducasse's  'Maldoror' to Ginsberg's 'Moloch': Mark Spitzer recounts an anecdote shared by one Steve Collins, who claims Ginsberg shared Ducasse's 'Les Chants de Maldoror' with Bob Dylan, who was then inspired to create 'Taratula' (

So, perhaps Ducasse's large prose poem inspired Césaire's long poem and possibly separately, Ginsberg's long poem? 'Les Chants de Maldoror' is available in an English (painful) translation on Gbooks, as a preview. So, Ducasse as some sort of grandfather of transgressive literature to both Césaire (at least in that one poem) and Ginsberg?

[Does Jeremy Reed's book on Ducasse and Burroughs, titled 'Isidore', shed any light on any of this?]

Wondering how much more is owed to Ducasse than is popularly acknowledged.

Also, image search the Ducasse title: wonderful stuff.

Only other link that seemed of deep interest, and speaks to this process of inspiration across all sorts of lines: this wonderful entry on 'Tarpeian Rock', a blog I'm tucking away in my bookmarks with a very real glee-- 

N.B: The image accompanying this post is available via the wonderful National Library of the Netherlands-- fantastic entry here on Ducasse and the 1927 imprint of Les Chants de Maldoror


Arun said...

PJ! Don't know if you remember me. Arun... Arun Shankar, from eons ago. the only memory jog I can provide is Manasi's friend - we used to chat a lot - like crazy - and then fell off each others' radar. Even in this time, you're tough to find. Remember? Schism - Tool - etc? Do get in touch, there's a lot of catching up to do - and I assure you, it won't be anything like you expected. Yes, I know, this isn't the place to get in touch with you - on a blog comment - but where else? I don't know!