World outside the Window: The Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth

World outside the Window: The Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth

World outside the Window: The Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth

World outside the Window: The Selected Essays of Kenneth Rexroth

Synopsis

This book brings together twenty-seven essays written over a period of more than forty years by the man one of his publishers called 'an American cultural monument.'

Excerpt

. . . independently, widely, and seriously educated, at home in those provinces of art and thought, distant in time or space, which interest him. He has assimilated only what he wanted, but he has wanted much, and he has been thorough about it . . .

Reviewing a retrospective exhibition of Mark Tobey's paintings in 1951, Kenneth Rexroth sketched as evocative a portrait of his own homegrown auto-didacticism as exists in any of his poems, essays, or autobiographical works. He had a singularly tenacious memory; if memory is, as Beckett suggests in his early study on Proust, a function of the intensity of the original perception of an idea or a thing, then it is a function finally of desire. Like Tobey, Rexroth "wanted much": he perhaps assimilated more than any other American poet of his generation. Alchemy, gnosticism, pre-literate poetry, post-apocalyptic communalism, jazz, "Country gentlemen and Cornbelt Metaphysicals," the thousands of years from sand-shuffling shamans to dispensers of the Social Lie, the convergences of cultures in their religions, their literatures and painting, their philosophies and politics--here is a range of interests rarely encountered in an individual in any age, let alone in an age of specialization. Rexroth's particular genius for making not just the fine distinctions, but unexpected associations and distillations, gives torque to his numerous judgments, stances, opinions. "Purposive construction of any kind is a species of communication, just as any kind of communication must be structured. I cannot get paid for this lecture," he once said, "by babbling to you incoherently."

These essays represent not quite half a century's work. the earliest (only the half-finished "Examen de Conscience"--a letter to Louis Zukofsky protesting emendations made against his wishes . . .

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