First Letter (from Admonitions)

Dear Joe,

    Some time ago I would have thought that writing notes on particular poems would either be a confession that the poems were totally inadequate (a sort of patch put on a leaky tire) or an equally humiliating confession that the writer was more interested in the terrestrial mechanics of criticism than the celestial mechanics of poetry - in either case that the effort belonged to the garage or stable rather than to the Muse.

    Muses do exist, but now I know that they are not afraid to dirty their hands with explication - that they are patient with truth and commentary as long as it doesn't get into the poem, that they whisper (if you let yourself really hear them), "Talk all you want, baby, but then let's go to bed."

    This sexual metaphor brings me to the first problem. In these poems the obscene (in word and concept) is not used, as is common, for the sake of intensity, but rather as a kind of rhythm as the tip-tap of the branches throughout the dream of Finnegans Wake or, to make the analogy even more mysterious to you, a cheering section at a particularly exciting football game. It is precisely because the obscenity is unnecessary that I use it, as I could have used any disturbance, as I could have used anything (remember the beat in jazz) which is regular and beside the point.

    The point. But what, you will be too polite to ask me, is the point? Are not these poems all things to all men, like Rorschach ink blots or whores? Are they anything better than a kind of mirror?

    In themselves, no. Each one of them is a mirror, dedicated to the person that I particularly want to look into it. But mirrors can be arranged. The frightening hall of mirrors in a fun house is universal beyond each particular reflection.

    This letter is to you because you are my publisher and because the poem I wrote for you gives the most distorted reflection in the whole promenade. Mirror makers know the secret - one does not make a mirror to resemble a person, one brings a person to the mirror.

copyright © 1975 by the Estate of Jack Spicer
reprinted from The Collected Books of Jack Spicer with the permission of Black Sparrow Press
all materials reprinted with the kind permission of Robin Blaser