Wednesday, May 22, 2019 Text is available under the CC BY-SA 3.0 licence.

Kenneth Rexroth (1905 – 1982)

American poet, essayist, translator and anarchist.
Kenneth Rexroth
Now I know surely and forever,
However much I have blotted our
Waking love, its memory is still
there. And I know the web, the net,
The blind and crippled bird. For then, for
One brief instant it was not blind, nor
Trapped, not crippled. For one heart beat the
Heart was free and moved itself. O love,
I who am lost and damned with words,
Whose words are a business and an art,
I have no words. These words, this poem, this
Is all confusion and ignorance.
But I know that coached by your sweet heart,
My heart beat one free beat and sent
Through all my flesh the blood of truth.
Rexroth quotes
Towards the end of the night, as trucks rumbled
In the streets, you stirred, cuddled to me,
And spoke my name. Your voice was the voice
Of a girl who had never known loss
Of love, betrayal, mistrust, or lie.
No one was required to believe in the gods as Christians believe in their creeds. Socrates had always been scrupulous in observance of every accepted principle and practice of community life. However, from his questioning he had developed a civic and personal morality founded on reason rather than custom. He envisioned it as subject to continuous criticism and revaluation in terms of the ever-expanding freedom of morally autonomous but cooperating persons, who together made up a community whose characteristic aim was an organically growing depth, breadth, intensity of experience — experience finally of that ultimate reality characterized by Socrates as good, true and beautiful.
The accusers were right. This is a new religion which bears scant resemblance to the old. Civic piety is founded on the recognition of ignorance and the nurture of the soil until it becomes capable of true knowledge — which is a state of being, a moral condition called freedom. The Greek city-state, not to speak of the tribal community, knew nothing of freedom in this sense, but only the liberty that distinguished the free man from the slave.

Rexroth Kenneth quotes
Late at night the horses stumble
Around the camp and I awake.
I lie on my elbow watching
Your beautiful sleeping face
Like a jewel in the moonlight.
If you are lucky and the
Nations let you, you will live
Far into the twenty-first
Century. I pick up the glass
And watch the Great Nebula
Of Andromeda swim like
A phosphorescent amoeba
Slowly around the Pole. Far
Away in distant cities
Fat-hearted men are planning
To murder you while you sleep.
Rexroth Kenneth
See Life steadily, see it whole.
Kenneth Rexroth quotes
The holiness of the real
Is always there, accessible
In total immanence. The nodes
Of transcendence coagulate
In you, the experiencer,
And in the other, the lover.
Kenneth Rexroth
The modern sensibility attempts to drain the contents of experience; these Greek poets strive to state the fact so poignantly that it becomes an ever-flowing spring — as Sappho says, "More real than real, more gold than gold."
Rexroth Kenneth quotes
You don't become a saint until you lead a good life whether in Tibet or Italy or America.
It is a commonplace that Racine is untranslatable. This is not because his verse is difficult, but because it is not.
Rexroth Kenneth
I have no interest in Kerouac whatsoever. I've done my stint for him. As far as I'm concerned, Kerouac is what Madison Avenue wants a rebel to be. That isn't my kind of rebel.
Kenneth Rexroth
Perhaps this is what really happens in life to most good men. They are not crucified. They simply pass through life and then die, and their passing influences just a few people to make them just a little happy.

Kenneth Rexroth quotes
The contemporary world is being pulled apart by two contrary tendencies — one toward social death, one toward the birth of a new society. Many of the phenomena of the present crisis are ambivalent and can either mean death or birth depending on how the crisis is resolved.
The crisis of a civilization is a mass phenomenon and moves onward without benefit of ideology. The demand for freedom, community, life significance, the attack on alienation, is largely inchoate and instinctive. In the libertarian revolutionary movement these objectives were ideological, confined to books, or realized with difficulty, usually only temporarily in small experimental communities, or in individual lives and tiny social circles. It has been said of the contemporary revolutionary wave that it is a revolution without theory, anti-ideological. But the theory, the ideology, already exists in a tradition as old as capitalism itself. Furthermore, just as individuals specially gifted have been able to live free lives in the interstices of an exploitative, competitive system, so in periods when the developing capitalist system has temporarily and locally broken down due to the drag of outworn forms there have existed brief revolutionary honeymoons in which freer communal organization has prevailed. Whenever the power structure falters or fails the general tendency is to replace it with free communism. This is almost a law of revolution. In every instance so far, either the old power structure, as in the Paris Commune or the Spanish Civil War, or a new one, as in the French and Bolshevik Revolutions, has suppressed these free revolutionary societies with wholesale terror and bloodshed.
Kenneth Rexroth
The free, creative, loving people who shine so brightly in my memory of studios and coffee shops have become models for a huge section of the population. If they in turn can just stay alive in the face of power and terror, they may become the decisive section.
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The basic line in any good verse is cadenced... building it around the natural breath structures of speech.
Rexroth Kenneth
Today we hear a great deal about Organizational Men, Mass Culture, Conformity, the Lonely Crowd, the Power Elite and its Conspiracy of Mediocrity. We forget that the very volume of this criticism is an indication that our society is still radically pluralistic. Not only are there plenty of exceptionalists who take exception to the stereotyping of the mass culture — but that very string of epithets comes from a series of books that have been recent best-sellers, symptoms of a popular, living tradition of dissent from things as they are.
Rexroth Kenneth quotes
Marriage is the last sacrament available to modern man, and with the terrible destruction of interpersonal relations by capitalism and its war-making State, it is not very available, nor is it surely enduring. But then, vision does not come with guarantees.
Kenneth Rexroth
St. Francis is not only the most attractive of all the Christian saints, he is the most attractive of Christians, admired by Buddhists, atheists, completely secular, modern people, Communists, to whom the figure of Christ himself is at best unattractive. Partly this is due to the sentimentalization of the legend of his life and that of his companions in the early days of the order. Many people today who put his statue in their gardens know nothing about him except that he preached a sermon to the birds, wrote a hymn to the sun, and called the donkey his brother. These bits of information are important because they are signs of a revolution of the sensibility — which incidentally was a metaphysical revolution of which certainly St. Francis himself was quite unaware. They stand for a mystical and emotional immediate realization of the unity of being, a notion foreign, in fact antagonistic, to the main Judeo-Christian tradition.
“I am that I am” — the God of Judaism is the only self-sufficient being. All the reality that we can know is contingent, created out of nothing, and hence of an inferior order of reality. Faced with the “utterly other,” the contingent soul can finally only respond with fear and trembling.
Kenneth Rexroth quotes
Huckleberry Finn sets the tone and pattern for hundreds of American novels after it. No other civilization in history has been so totally rejected by its literary artists. Mark Twain is far more at odds with the values of his society than Stendhal, Baudelaire or Flaubert, and yet he is far more a part of it. In many ways he was the typical educated — self-educated, usually — American male of his day. He was also enormously successful, one of the most popular American writers who has ever lived. Significantly, his hack work was less popular than Huckleberry, and even his blackest, bitterest books sold very well — and still do. Perhaps the typical American male is secretly far less the optimist than he would have the world believe; but the lies he rejects and myths he believes are still those whose contradictions tortured Mark Twain.
Kenneth Rexroth
In America we have nothing that takes the place of the gods and goddesses and heroes and demigods of the ancient world. There is nothing to connect us with the soil. We have no mythology. It has never been possible to construct one.
Rexroth Kenneth
The moral issues with which Marcus struggles would be, as he points out, unchanged whether the universe were mechanical and devoid of meaning or value or ruled by deity or Providence; whether the will were in fact free or determined; whether there were or were not a future life, or any even fugitive rewards and punishments at all.

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