Monday, September 17, 2007

privacies behind the mask

When Tom Devaney interviewed Carl Rakosi, he asked this question: "I wanted to ask about the effect Stevens had upon your writing. In your poem 'Homage to Wallace Stevens' (later renamed in the Collected as the 'Domination of Wallace Stevens'), there is both a music of the language and direct use of musical terms and language. You write:

These are privacies behind the mask
but they are not the manners of a boy
who blows his French horn, smiles at twelve o’clock
and sips the old port from the hostess’s shoe."

Laughing, Rakosi, answered this way: "You know, there I almost translated Stevens, it’s so close. Well, it was a catastrophe when I started to read Stevens because he just enveloped me, he was a seducer. I didn’t at first object to that, but then I thought it was going to put an end to me. So it took me a long time to finally shake him off. He greatly influenced my early work, but then my own poem is also a bit of a parody of Stevens. You notice the character in the poem is Levy, not an Anglo-Saxon."

Tom described the scene of the interview this way: "What most strikes you in Mr. Rakosi’s living room, where we recorded the interview and listened to music at length on both days, is a large three-paneled front window, which fills the room with a clean, generous light (in the aptly named Inner Sunset district). The front window faces west toward the Pacific ocean, which can be felt more than seen. The window looks out upon the sloping 17th Avenue, where telephone wires criss-cross with a uniform sag between the area’s signature staggered and stacked duplexes. In the living room, you also cannot miss the impressive twin four-feet-tall black Polk audio speakers and high-end stereo system. Carl is well known to sit for hours enjoying his extensive collection of classical and modern CDs and records."

This interview was published in Jacket in February 2004.