This essay on Hart Crane was written in 1979 by Out To Lunch at 9, Banstead Grove, a now demolished back-to-back in Leeds, and published in Heretic, 'the Organon of the Fifth International', Vol. 1 No. 2, edited by Paul Brown and printed on his Roneo duplicator in Peckham Rye, London SE22, in 1980. A site-browser by the name of Mo Ibrahim dropped us a line asking about Hart Crane, and so provided an excuse to scan it and put it up. I was originally alerted to Crane because I discovered J.H. Prynne had given a lecture on him - too late to attend, but not too late to look Crane up in the Caius library and be blown away by the industrial eroticism and bondage twangs of The Bridge. Crane wrote for transition, the zingtastic magazine which first published Finnegans Wake (as 'Work in Progress') and Kurt Schwitters' revolutionary Arbeiterbild picture (issue No. 3, June 1927). There's more on Crane in my 'Out To Another Lunch Party', originally published in John Wilkinson's Equofinality, whuch might also see the light of day if we get any interesting responses/discussion from this posting. Screw Bush and Blair and all who paddle profitably and uncomplainingly in capitalism's blood-soaked carcass. OTL 9-iii-2003

Out To Lunch -----------------------------------



The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play do indeed adorn literary criticism pretty late in the day, but the method may yet have a dwindle or two to perform in the pygmy twilight that remains. Let it be said at once that it by- passes fold-in, automatic writing and Urban Gwerder's Zappataphysics in one fell Marxist swerve, coagulating at the finishing post in Leninist garb. It works from the realization that until now philosophers have merely domesticated the final term with their slavering servilities of formulation so that one may as well go whole hog and base it on a dog; posit an explicitly cheap absurdity like the poodle as the kingpin of one's dialectic. In Crane we have a peculiarly susceptible host: even though only partially biodegradable, his lines invite spontaneous subcutaneous invasion by Poodle Play's hugely entertaining (if secret) ant army (while interpolated Red Indian chic moves our nits' enthusiasm from static SM black/white shock to redskin revolutionary violence). Poodle Play denies breathy profundities of the existentialist ilk and all its structuralist varieties, it operates dialectically within its subject matter to articulate a common economic and sexual substructure. It invokes with relish the tawdriest of stunts if these can disappoint the pretensions of the third term, a stunted dialectics hostile to the formation of aëry peaks, the dizzying sublimity of the achieved triad. Those who peddle the current brands of certified explanation, and wave their little bo-peep diplomas to draw attention to the fact, had better watch out: the Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play will not 'mind its own business' - anticipation is so much worse, cheesy aromas won't be allowed to waft by unremarked.

The second stanza of 'The Great Western Plains', a poem Hart Crane wrote in 1922, places the poodle squarely in the centre of modern life - in the lap of women - where phallocentric imagination invariably pushes it:

And Fifi's bows and poodle ease
Whirl by them centred in the lap
Of Lottie Honeydew, movie queen,
Towards lawyers and Nevada.

'Them' refers to the wild prairie does, whose basking outside the carriage stirs primal memories in the poodle, which responds with 'pathetic yelps'. The anecdotal pretext mustn't distract us from the genuine point, which is the rush of words unleashed:

And how much more they cannot see!
Alas, there is so little time,
The world moves by so fast these days!
Burrowing in silk is not their way ---
And yet they know the tomahawk.

The Zappologist will recognise the canine antinomy between unaccomodated hounds and lapdogs [1]. Crane apostrophises the prairie dogs in a metre that counts accents rather than syllables. This invokes a Romantic poet's sincere effluvium but seriousness is cancelled by the whimsey of his winning anthropomorphism. His declamatory zeal o'errides its supposed object in a sledgelike glide, a true 'sacrifice of identity to eloquence' [2]; the reader imbibes a flow of language that convinces at another level than that of meaning and worth. One thinks of Alfred de Vigny:

Pudeur, d'ou venez-vous? Noble crainte, o mystère
Du temps de son enfance a vu naître la terre!
Fleures de ses premiers jours qui tumtum parmi nous ... [3]

Lottie, her Fifi and Hart himself slide by the prairie dogs of memory Lottie on the frictionless, ice-like patronization of modern knowledge with its superiority to avidness and its twee reductionism. By contrast, the Indian word tomahawk is jarringly local and uncomfortable - they might know it, we certainly don't and tremble slightly at the thought. The spiel comes to a halt in bland Wordsworthian significance (similar to the kind Laura Riding herself used) giving the silence at the end of the poem the pregnancy that comes from ending on an 'upnote':

Pathetic yelps have sometimes greeted
Noses pressed against the glass.

What is seen through the glass is no doubt seen but darkly: a talcum cloud of religion to polish off the bottom of the poem, to be rocked (but gently) in the same humanistic cradle, acquiescing calmly in one more concrete image unfurling to cosmic universal notion. We, too, sit in Lottie's lap and watch the world go by, cultivating an air of cosmopolitan superiority; and if our memories are stirred our yelps are equally pathetic. Out of Lottie's poodle Crane draws the poetic persona bred by Yeats and used by both Eliot and Crane in their early poems - the modern gentleman hounded by regret and memory, conscience and desire.

This persona becomes the object of Frank Zappa's discipline, and in poodle form. In Zappa's alchemy of sound and word the poodle, the remnant of bourgeois subjectivity, is tortured and degraded for purposes of sadistic play and scientific discovery and delight.

FZ: Well, here Fido, here Fido. Bring the slippers little puppy ... Fido, I told you to bring me the slippers!
Fido: Oh Frank, I was so stoned I couldn't keep them in my mouth.
FZ: Fido, when a big person tells a little animal to bring the slippers and the little animal doesn't bring the slippers it means the little animal can be punished to the full extent of Imperial Law!
Fido: No shit?
FZ: Yes Fido, I must punish you.
Fido: Hurt me, hurt me, hurt me.
FZ: Very well then. [4]

Of course, Fido's shrieks emerge as the honks of an overblown saxophones, the final restingplace of abstract expressive individualism in art, Archie Shepp's howls of pain. It is this impasse that Zappa's stylistic irresponsibility and anti-humanism shatters. Theodor Adorno saw Stravinsky adopting a similar strategy to escape Schoenberg's financially disastrous logic, but condemned him for stamping on subjectivity. For him, Stravinsky was the aesthetic equivalent of Nazism, though he was aware that Nazis would never tolerate such evident documentary of the hidden currents it exploits (which is why the bourgeois/radical feminists are wrong when they call for censorship of fantastic pornographic representations). Adorno's mistake was to see the arena of culture as a real battlefield instead of the scrapyard of partially veiled truths it is.

Like Stravinsky, Zappa 'thoroughly ritualized the selling-out itself, indeed even its relationship to consumer goods. He performs a danse macabre round its fetish character.' [5] What saves Zappa from Stravinsky's eventual irrelevance, his Symphony of Psalms (like Eliot, propping up outmoded bourgeois forms by appealing to the unashamed boredoms of religion), is that his particular commercialism does not restrict him to the respectability of the symphony orchestra, the idealist hypocrisies of the concert-going 'public'. Instead it entails bondage to the technological work ethic and its reflective recreation in the entertainment industry. Zappa comes close to the de Sade Adorno celebrates in Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944): a frightening insister on the bourgeois ratio. The Rite of Spring portrays the ritual sacrifice of a young girl, modern subjectivity pounded to death in an acceptance of the requirements of the capitalist mode of production, though this is posed as a resurgence of the primitive. 'The Torture Never Stops' features the erotic moanings of death-in-orgasm, an audio snuff movie: but the aggression comes from the auditor's own libido, and the verbal images come direct from B-movie horror films, nature's not in it. Stravinsky is profound, offers chthonic release: Zappa offers Ms Pinky, a rubber doll's head to wank in ('$69.95, boy, give her a try ...'). Zappa does not extinguish subjectivity because it'll lead to existential insights: he realizes that the extinction of subjectivity is one sound in a million.

Crane is more indulgent towards his poodle subjectivity, though the act of squeezing the yearning spirit of Romantic sensibility into frequently ridiculous confines of the machine age gives his writing a pungent ring. Lottie's lap makes the centre of this ring a sexual target for the phallic visual imagination. Hula-hoop sexuality - the rubbishy circus of sexual degradation - is ceaselessly celebrated in Zappa; the same rubbish wriggles in Crane's poems, giving his whimsey a nasty edge.

There is a connection between the passivity desired of the sex-object in fetished sex (manifested in the practice of bondage), the idea of sub-zero temperatures and the philosophical moment of negation. Negative Dialectics continually denies that the concept exhausts the thing conceived; the concept of sight/sound/smell denied is therefore impossibly evocative. The concept contains the utopian possibility - which only the reactionaries of affirmation say really represents the present order. Negative Dialectics criticises the concept, demonstrating how it falls short. Its belittlement has its counterpart in the Romantics' terrifying woman who can unleash orgasm and unman the man. La Belle Dame Sans Merci took Keats to 'her elfin grot' and 'sigh'd full sore' but he woke

On the cold hill's side.

And this is why I sojourn here
Alone and palely loitering
Though the sedge is wither'd from the lake,
And no birds sing.

Art which evokes a totality of sensation by denial rings its changes in a vertiginous spiral where each firm link between word and referent has been severed. Traditional lyricism has had to pursue the purveyors of identity thought and naturalizing ideology right into the strained libidinal patterns they exploit. Via Crane we can understand how the true heirs to the Romantics' lyrical protests are not the acknowledged 'poets' but Zappa, PiL, Bowwowwow.

She's just like a Penguin in Bondage, boy
Oh yeah, Oh yeah, Oh . . .
Howlin' over to some
Antarcticulated moon

In the frostbite nite,
With her flaps gone white
Shriekin' as she spot the hoop across the room

Lord, you know it must be a Penguin bound down
When you hear that terrible screamin' and
there ain't no other
Birds around

She's just like a Penguin in Bondage, boy
Oh yeah, Oh yeah, Oh . . .
She's just like a Penguin in Bondage, boy
Oh yeah, Oh yeah, Oh . . .
Aw, You must be careful
Not to leave her straps

'Cause she might just box yer dog
She just might box yer doggie
An' leave you a dried-up dog biscuit [6]

In Zappa, Keats' 'elfin grot' becomes a 'Yemenite hole' and the vision of sexuality is explicitly invaded by the commodity and US foreign-policy word-bites (though of course the bog biscuit is as far from the limp actuality as the withered rose and sedge in Keats' ballad).

Before we return to the way Crane's words arcticulate the frozen commodity landscape facing the erect individual, PiL's song 'No Birds' on Metal Box needs some comment.


The 'illusion of privacy' Lydon whines about earlier is the perfect peace of wealthy bourgeois existence, where (he thinks) the individual is safe by being completely absorbed into the social system, and therefore isn't there at all. Here we've left the violent strife of the phallocentric Romantic (which must be receiving its final slipper in Zappa's poodle routine) - the birds are so absent they're only left as a title. As Keith Levene says, Lydon isn't some tosser expressing his emotions; the loss of tension in the words (which have become documentary) they attempt to replace by boosting the bass. This copies the movement from the Blues to Reggae which has constituted a vindication of Benjamin's belief in the spontaneously progressive effect of technological developments.

To reveal the mechanical workings of sex beneath the cosy veils of bourgeois ideology is to shiver in a realm that supports the phallus. This comes from a note in Freud's interleaved copy of the 1904 edition of The Psychopathology of Everyday Life [7]:

From a dream of P's it appears that ice is in fact a symbol by antithesis for an erection: i.e. something that becomes hard in the cold instead of - like the penis - in heat (excitation). The two antithetical concepts of sexuality and death are frequently linked through the idea that death makes things stiff.

Wyndham Lewis's psychotic aesthetic, which insisted on rigidity and hardness, welcomed the Arctic region (in Enemy of the Stars) because sub-zero temperatures ensure such stiffness and stasis. As in William Burroughs (though in Lewis it remains unconscious) death keeps the hard-on. It is no accident that the flipside of Gary Glitter's 'I Didn't Know I Loved You (Till I Saw You Rock And Roll)', which pioneered the empty echoing Nuremburg beat of disco, is called 'Hard On Me'. These are the titillatory techniques fascism uses while concealing their sexual basis: revolutionary art revels in them while revealing their true origin and aims. At the moment Heaven 17's '[We Don't Need No] Fascist Groove Thang' best demystifies the allure cf a currently exciting beat sound, while also being an excellent 'Get Down'-type number. In other words it's okay to be out in the cold as long as we know why:

Dreamed I was an Eskimo
Frozen wind began to blow
Under my boots 'n' around my toe
Frost had bit the ground below
Was a hundred degrees below zero [8]

Crane was no stranger to the frozen white wasteland, as can be seen in 'North Labrador' (dogs of course not far off):

A land of leaning ice (An' stuffed it in my other eye)
Hugged by plaster-grey arches of sky (An' the huskic wee-wee)
Flings itself silently (I mean the doggie wee-wee)
Into eternity (Has blinded me)
(An' I can't see)
(Temporarily) [9]

Zappa uses documentary fact as mediated by film to construct his narrative - the furtrapper is blinded by Nanook of the North - but his comic-strip continuity-by-nonsense-increment makes all arbitrary and harmless. This despite themes - blindings, oil, dogs, whoreson zeds, feet, dogs and whips - of King Lear proportions. Crane is more ontological than manufactured - while constrained by the same rhyme, he concludes on an opposite note: on eternity, not temporality (though 'plaster-grey' does point to man-made materials: a DIY practicality keeps cluttering Crane's sublime). 'North Labrador' echoes another poem, 'Legend':

As silent as a mirror is believed
Realities plunge in silence by [10]

Where Zappa deals throughout Apostrophe(') with presence and absence, one eye and then the other eye, Crane's gaze is fixed and assured. The other senses are not so sure. Regan has the blinded Gloucester thrown out with the words, 'let him smell/His way to Dover' [11] and when the python boot is finally removed, it puts a hurt on your nose (Lear also has difficulty with his boots: feet enter domination as the instrument of oppression - sadomasochistic-style reversals of Fool and Master question the iron heel [12]). Crane hasn't time for smells, his imagination is visual and tactile (Kantian, pre-Joycean, bourgeois).

The glazed and sceptical resignation of 'Legend' is also that induced more vulgarly by cinema, for instance the stream of abstract shapes that announces Pearl & Dean advertising, the 'trip' in 2001 or the pinball penetration that concludes Star Wars. The helplessness of the astronaut as he surveys the passing starscape, the detachment of the secret agent who watches foreign territory stream past his railway carriage - both are metaphors for the isolation commodity production enforces on the individual. Film ceaselessly evokes metaphors for the situation its lays on the consumer.

There are no longer 'dancers', the possessed. The cleavage of men into actor and spectators is the central fact of our time.... We have been metamorphosed from a mad body dancing on hillsides to a pair of eyes staring in the dark. [13]

Pertinent pop music realizes this fact. Poetry like 'Legend' attempts to 'feel' it, and therefore capitulates to the passivity forced on the worker under capitalism. Acceptance of social-democracy - in one clever form or another - has been the backbone of American art since Walt Whitman. Zappa boils down these vertebrae to fast 'n' bulbous jelly and shows that it protrudes the heads of the presidents as carved on Mount Rushmore. Lyrical art has to supersede itself because the fetishized plaint is recuperated as feeling, not criticism. This is why the presentday composer does not compose like Schoenberg but instead stamps on poodles. However Poodle Play is built on the foundations of atonality and dissonance just as revolutionary activity can develop as critique of recuperated lyricism.

Representative institutions depend upon the distance separating the spectators from the actors on the stage: the distance which permits both identification and detachment, which makes for participation without action; which establishes the detached observer, whose participation consists in seeing and is restricted to seeing, whose body is restricted to the eyes. [14]

Hence the fur-trapper's helplessness when Nanook blinds him; hence the fundamentally bourgeois politics of Wyndham Lewis which ensured that his revolutionary impulses were diverted to anti-semitism and scepticism about the Left.

It is when Crane's themes are extended by Frank O'Hara that the banality of their politics becomes transparent.

What dreams, what incredible
fantasies of snow farts will this all lead to?
don't know, I have stopped thinking like a sled dog.
The main thing is to tell a story.
It is almost
very important. Imagine
throwing away the avalanche
so early in the movie. I am the only spy left
in Canada,
but just because cause I'm alone in the snow
doesn't necessarily mean I'm a Nazi
... but I'm glad that Canada will remain
free. Just free, that's all, never argue with the movies. 15]

Social democratic politics is here fixed as the special brand of tolerating lunacy that characterises hangovers, all the freedoms of being able to watch a film. From Crane's hapless description of a taut cold reality to O'Hara's tongue-in-cheek acquiescence we come to Apostrophe('), where Zappals aggressive banality reduces all to sub-zero temperatures, and the Romantic poodle subject is no longer either dramatised or winningly mitigated but disciplined as the slavering Fido/Phaedo.

On Zappa's 1976 tour an account of Fido's ur-clipping concluded 'Stinkfoot' from Apostrophe(') and introduced 'Dirty Love'. In Plato's version, Phaedo promised to shear his locks in mourning for Socrates if the latter failed to convince him that the soul was immortal [16]. On 6th November 1976 in Troy, New York. Zappa replaced the ur-clipping with the shaving of his road manager Bubba, who had lost his beard playing backgammon with Zappa's bodyguard Smothers. These shearings are statements of Zappa's materialism; Eve clips the poodle because (as she remarks) 'I'd really like to fuck that dog, apart from the fact that it's not mod enough' [17]. This Samsonian castration is the fate of Romantic poodle subjectivity confronted by sexuality and fashion - ie, time and death.

O'Hara takes Crane's whimsical belittlement of the poetic persona to new depths of vulgar absurdity, though not without a certain loss. O'Hara's ubiquituous playfulness loses a pungency present in Crane, spreading instead a bland uniformity, the 'freedoms' of the blank canvas. Crane's juxtapositions, though, tend to promote the local character of each separate word or idea, so the result is reminiscent of garbage rather than clouds. O'Hara may be banal, but Crane is definitely more disgusting. The disgusting aspect of rubbish, compared to, say, compost or scrapyards is the contrast between organic and inorganic articles. In Crane, the conflict between tealeaves, nailclippings, orangepeel and tincans, milkbottletops, aerosolcanisters is mirrored by a conflict between his traditional rapturous vocabulary, terms for feeling, and his precise modern vocabulary, terms of technology.

A network of mechanical definitions constantly binds a swelling lyricism; the thongs of modern property relations both restrain and stimulate a naked eroticism. The writing occasionally dips into the hard chromium lines of fetishism but usually ample organic flushes and spongey bits on the surface evoke something more putrid. Harry Halbreich said of Edgard Varése that in Amériques there are relaxations 'like flowers growing in the middle of skyscrapers of concrete, glass and steel' [18]. Crane's flowers are sexual organs; spoor, bulging bouillon, frogs' eyes, jelly.

Zappa's brand of commercial surrealism eschews committment, passion, quality: nothing moves beneath the flash superficiality except the impersonal musclature of the sexual and material substructure. Crane's poetry is replete with painful ruptures and personal hurts. Crane abstracts from rubbish, driving at the responsive rising gorge (frequently, as if by cleansing alka-seltzer, transferred into responsive lust) whereas Joyce got on with his material. Finnegans Wake is a piece of used toilet tissue blowing about on a rubbish dump. In the Wake complete arbitrariness of expression comes to the same thing as the most stringent and detailed psychic naturalism (the same can be said of O'Hara and J. H. Prynne). However, Joyce drove himself into unsaleable verbal nominalism, lacking the visual component that later gave surrealism a new lease of life in advertising. Crane's visual tricks have much in conmon with these developments - he said in a letter to Waldo Frank that 'a Bridge will be written in some kind of style and form, at worst it will be something as good as advertising copy' [19]. He knew what he was talking about: he actually wrote ad copy for his father's candy products. Crane uses visual tricks, but grounds them in the fetishized, commodity-glamorizing environment they spring from. Unlike Pound's tedious recital of archaic stageprops Crane's visual imagination seethes with the problems of extension and restriction commodity production forces on libidinal impulses.

'Emblems of Conduct' from White Buildings (1926) illustrates Crane's ability to provide the key distortions through which the Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play can achieve its social and political analysis. Unlike the images in the Cantos, which waft airily in the stale breath of incantation, Crane's sit awkwardly, like litter. This poem, for instance, evokes some new city like Brazilia or Mussolini's Eur, gleaming with fountains, mosaics and 'modern' sculptures, in which the latest tourquoise glazes and metallised gloss fail to emulate ancient splendour; or it begets the distinct presence of a garden rockery, dotted with plaster casts in miniature imitation of celestial gilt.

While the apostle gave
Alms to the meek the volcano burst
With sulphur and aureate rocks...
Orators follow the universe
And radio complete laws to the people...
... Marble clouds support the sea...
Dolphins still played, arching the horizons,
But only to build memories of spiritual gates.

Crane admits that his words build a memory, not the splendour itself. Each image in the poem behaves in the way proper to an object in an era of commodity production, it competes and jostles with its companions, ignoring all place, rank and hierarchy. It glistens with the water-sprinkled, vacant freshness of the suburban lawn pockmarked with concrete Venus de Milos, cast-iron sundials and pigeons de plastique. The Romantics' fear and trembling before nature was the initiation of a thick layer of ideological bullshit, since in their very time Capabaility Brown proved that men could construct landscape and suit it to their whims. As the lie that only a few people deserve these powers becomes more strained, so the landscaping itself descends to the passive consumption of artefacts, and Capability Brown starts to manufacture garden gnomes. Zappa takes the process beyond the stage of the prop: his avowed intention is 'extensive long-range conceptual landscape modification' [20]. This is social critique via satirical negation of affirmative identity thinking, a critique which proves the manufactured, ersatz nature of things perceived as natural - a social critique which unlocks the utopian possibility in the concept. Zappa reveals in the degraded versions of Romantic art (now become the basic form of commodity production - cheap horror films, Japanese monster movies, pieces of furniture like the piano and sofa, plaster jockeys for the garden and Brittini's prints portraying venetian blinds screwed into Motel room walls) a negative suggestion of the possibilities denied mankind by the capitalist mode of production and the abstract necessity for accumulation. In seeking to evoke an imaginary antique splendour in 'Emblems of Conduct', Crane barks his shins on these negative portrayals of the utopian idea: but to unleash them we have to reveal, as Zappa does, the class nature of their production.

The artist has a strange relationship to the ornamental appendages of the boupgeoisie. Because 'an object can be conceived only by a subject but always remains something other than the subject, whereas a subject, by its very nature, is from the outset an object as well. Not even as an idea can we conceive a subject that is not an object, but we can conceive an object that is not a subject. To be an object also is part of the meaning of subjectivity, but it is not equally part of the meaning of objectivity to be a subject.' [21] - this anxiety is experienced by one of David Hockney's boys when he strokes the stuffed moose's head in A Bigger Splash; by Robert McAlmon when his patroness refuses to buy a portrait bust of him, saying he was no suitable companion for 'the high-bosomed girl eating grapes' in the library; by Philip Marlowe when he strikes up a relationship with 'a little painted Negro in white riding-breeches and a green jacket and a red cap' outside his patroness's front door, imagining they are equally victims of her inaccessibility. [22] Each face a possession of their employer which has equal status and value but no subjectivity; and of course each only remains in employment in so far as he denies his subjectivity and accepts the wage/labour relation.

In 'Black Tambourine' Crane registers the social and political degradation the profession of minstrel constitutes for Black people in America, and here we can make a link between the conversion of artistic subjectivity into the poodle and the exploitation of the proletariat, which entails denial of self-activity. 'Uncle Remus' on Apostrophe(') focuses on thses issues:

Wo', are we movin' too slow
Have you seen us,
Uncle Remus...
We look pretty sharp in these clothes (yes we do)
Unless we get sprayed with a hose
It ain't bad in the day
If they squirt it your way
'Cept in the winter, when it's froze
An' it's hard if it hits
On yer nose
On yer nose

Just keep yer nose
To the grindstone, they say
Will that redeem us, Uncle Remus...
Can't wait till my Fro is full-grown
I'll just throw 'way my Doo-Rag at home
I'll take a ride to
Just before dawn
An' knock the little jockeys
Off the rich people's lawn
An' before they get up
I'll be gone, I'll be gone
Before they get up
I'll be knockin' the jockeys off the lawn
Down in the dew

The phallocentric frigidity of 'Don't Eat the Yellow Snow' here admits some social realism, though through its own grid of references and rhymes. The song gently chides Black activists for being less active, restricting their interventions to growing their 'natural' hair and smashing racist garden crockery in rich suburbs. Zappa can't approve of this action (anymore than he could simply enthuse over the Watts riots of 1965: the Situationists could applaud from their Parisian armchairs, but they weren't in danger of getting their throats cut) because his position, like Marlowe's, is only that of a jockey on rich people's lawns. The artist has a lot to lose if merely ideological protest replaces struggle around the economic base, the substitute actions during a downturn. The denial of 'unsound' images eliminates the artist's area of play without providing the genuine conditions for their overthrow. Stalinism rides in on exactly the shaping of ideology without reference to its truth or otherwise to the economic and sexual substructure. Religious counter-revolution in Iran and the re-subjugation of women came in with the same suppression of 'capitalist degeneracy' some so-called feminists demand here. It is inevitable that bourgeois ideologues overestimate the role of ideology, because they are idealists. The dangers of idealism manifest themselves in the proto-fascism of cultural critics like Julien Benda, Wyndharn Lewis and T.S.Eliot, where the trahison des clercs is perceived as the cause of what is, in fact, a crisis of capitalist profitability which demands an attack on working-class living standards. Of course, this doesn't eliminate the usefulness or otherwise of their works for delineating the operation of the base. Though one must ceaselessly draw attention to the insufficiency of the concept, this is not the same as abolishing the lies of ideology, which only occurs during the revolutionary moment. As Adorno has pointed out:

Matter-of-factness between people, doing away with all ideological ornamentation between them, has already itself become an ideology for treating people as things. [23]

The fascist response to the insufficiency of the concept, the hypocrisies of the Labour Party and their People's March, is to hate the concept, and deny forever the utopian possibility it contains. The negative dialectician constantly criticises the insufficiency of the reality and the theoretical bankruptcy of those who defend it, but acknowledges that outside concrete political agitation (e.g. here) criticism only lives in that gap. Adorno was wrong to only inhabit that gap, but at least he knew when he was there, unlike the politically ineffectual and theoretically nauseating nards who write about 'problematics' and 'levels' in New Left Review. This unfortunat deviation into external polemic was necessary to answer the sneaking political earnestness that would have nothing to do with garden gnomes (I have nothing to say to the clever social democrats who present consumerism, boredom and passivity as the latest attitudes of the avantgarde).

Crane was acutely aware of embarrassing residual Romantic inflation and it led him to include details resistant to the sublime in his poems. The second part of The Marriage of Faustus and Helen seeks to evoke the intoxication of Romantic symphonic music in visual terms, but cannot resist a few bathetic modern observations:

All relatives, serene and cool
Sit rocked in patent armchairs ...
This music has a reassuring way

This is art according to Henri Matisse ('an armchair') and not necessarily endorsed. The poem concludes:

The siren of the springs of guilty song -
Let us take her on the incandescent wax
Striated with nuances, nervosities
That we are heir to: she is still so young
We cannot frown upon her as she smiles
Dipping here in this cultivated storm
Among slim skaters of the gardened skies.

Though this was written as early as 1926, and describes a concert performance, it registers the music's shocks in words recalling the marking of sound directly on wax, the spiral groove cut into the skin of a record. Crane's home town Akron, Ohio, was the rubber/type production centre of the United States, providing him in the 20s (as it provided Devo and Pere Ubu in the 70s) with elastic local industrial imagery: the track of radial-ply winds through his productions. Incandescent wax fell from Icarus' wings when he toppled headlong (an Incan descent occurs in 'Inca Roads' on One Size Fits All [24], when Chester's 'Thing' lands on Ruth) reminding us that polyvinyl stores time in space, a wound response as chillingly vortical as the consideration of duration as a chemical formula in plants. Where time stops because nothing moves the temperature drops (hence 'skaters'). The frozen eternity of the castration complex is fraudulent because it allows the movement of consciousness, which is somehow meant to be outside time: this is the same hard frictionless surface of assumed knowledge and objectivity that Lottie, Fifi and Crane's eloquence glided by on in 'The Great Western Plains'. Here the sophisticated observer watches ancient mythical terror skate by and 'cannot frown upon her'. When Odysseus had himself bound to the mast so that he could both hear and survive the sirens' song he initiated precisely this friction-free passage; siren's song 'is neutralised to become merely the wistful longing of the passer-by' [25]. Small wonder 'Hungry Freaks, Daddy' and 'Anarchy in the UK' both declared war on the passer-by. Ornamental bondage gear was the punks' explicit commentary on the civilised approach to music - 'since Odysseus' successful-unsuccessful encounter with the sirens all songs have been affected' [26]. Responses to lyricism have been constrained ever since; the nuances that striate the siren are the marks of binding thongs, or perhaps a whip. The intellectual denial of the historical nature of consciousness, and its basis in a manufactured sexuality, is tied to the symbols of the castration complex. Time defeats the erect member just as it destroys the individual: death is present in the above lines - if the sky is 'gardened' it must be heaven we're in. This calm hints at the stifling order and emotional extinction of PiL's 'No Birds'. Crane's imagery, by calling on modern productive processes and the creation of commodities like gramophone records, enables us to make these corrosive and colloidal links between the psychological position of reactionary irrationalism and the expressive features of an experimental dramatization of commodity fetishism. The pun in the title 'Inca Roads' - ink erodes - is a slogan for the handmade speculation that would rot the oaken panels of classical oppression by the spread of spiderwebs of irrefutable if irritating parallel and coalescence. The Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play notes the presence of connective tissue in the poetry of Hart Crane as irreducible grains which even the culture industry cannot grind. Whereas T.S. Eliot spread these grains thinner and thinner in his poems, seeking the smooth, clogging peanut-butter consistency of the explicitly grand bland themes, Zappa collects them together in a dense but radiant muffin of his own design. The intention of the honest labourer in Ford Madox Brown's painting Work is to sift the clean sand from the detritus the workmen have extracted from their pit. The sieve is Brown's symbol for the combined moral and sanitary reform necessary to avert revolution and plague (both unpleasant threats from below). Zappa sieves to preserve the misshapen grains, each of which

contains copied information not only about the American way of life, but also about psychological processes which are common here, too, all over Europe [27]

Doing this, Zappa is an alchemist, like his original source of inspiration, Edgard Varèse, an erotic scientist

involved in buried aspects of reality, aimed at purifying and transforming all being and matter [28]

Crane nods to alchemy in his epigraph to Part I of The Marriage of Faustus and Helen by quoting a speech from Ben Jonson's Alchemist. Given Crane's avowed veneration for the mythical figure of Helen [29], it's an odd choice: it consists of part of Dol's fake raving, which alerts Face and Subtle to Mammon's sexual advances and gives them a pretext to discontinue their services, blaming his 'impurity' for the failure of their experiments. In other words, Crane doesn't quote the words of a true Helen, but the meaningless rant of a con merchant. In doing so Crane shows that he is aware that alchemy (his own - whether as advertising copywriter or as poet - included) is a form of deception.

Alchemy is neither technology nor religion, but survives and flourishes among rubbish. As an inventor of jingles for candy bars Crane must have been particularly aware of the exploitative nature of fizzy verbal dexterity, and, like Zappa's music, his poetry attempts to demystify commercial techniques by drawing out their reliance on patterns of production and sexuality. It can be argued that we are here examining the unconscious result of a literary practice still explicitly tied to religion. And of course such claims might be made for anyone operating in the sex/commodity field - where for instance we part company with Adam Ant is in his too streamlined, healthy and un-political enthusiasm for his own product [30], which falls short of the original Pistols' aesthetic of denial, and hence fails to attack identity thinking, and returns to showbiz merely (though of course preferable to the divided joys of consummerist indulgence in existential complaining, admirably pre-satirised in PiL's 'Theme'). We should bear in mind The Alchemist's summary of alchemy's methods:

With all your broths, your menstrues and materials,
Of piss, and eggshells, women's terms, man's blood,
Hair o'the head, burnt clouts, chalk, merds and clay,
Powder of bones, scalings of iron, glass
And worlds of other strange ingredients
Would burst a man to name? [31]

The importance of this mixing in The Alchemist is that it creates opportunities for moneymaking, as pertinent as the girls' extended nipples in 'Wet T-Shirt Nite' which allow the landlord to overcharge for his beer [32]. The naive alchemical belief is that this mixing can produce gold directly without recourse to the mediation of the market - an attempt of alchemy to become chemistry, which fails. The massive profits of the drug companies show that it is the merchandising of aspirin, not the formula, that is crucial. Another of Jonson's insights is that it is sex around which the gold-producing trickeries of latterday alchemy revolve; Dol cracks Mammon. In respect of rubbish, Zappa's 200 Motels does all that The Waste Land pretended to do. Marx referred to the market as 'the alchemist's cauldron' [33]: by reducing everything to the abstract form of the commodity, capitalism makes everything equivalent to everything else, producing the fragmentation and organic/inorganic mingle of rubbish universally. Crane's verbal juxtapositions do not contribute to the false normalising of this process in the manner of advertising, they do not result in a synthesis, some o'erriding poetic proposition. Lines, on the contrary, tend to curdle back to their constituent parts, the words give each other indigestion, promise a spew. ('Would burst a man to name' implies that the list is the inventory of some unfortunate person's vomit).

Only through trickery (ideology) does capitalism manage to pretend that profit arrives as the result of a natural process (as only trickery enables Subtle to 'make gold' with his alchemy) and to obscure the fact that profit and rent and indeed capital are value stolen from the worker. Crane's queasy nominalism, his refusal to let meanings gleam with the simplicity of money across the page, constitutes a refusal to underwrite the convenient (and fallacious) syntheses of bourgeois ideology. [34]


[1] Zappa's Apostrophe(') (1974) contrasts the proletarian huskies who pull a sled, with Fido, who fetches slippers.

[2] Laura Riding on Hart Crane in transition (No.10, January 1928), p. 14O.

[3] From memory - probably inaccurate.

[4] Frank Zappa, in dialogue with Romantic subjectivity (aka a silly voice) in Osaka, Japan, 3 February 1976 - private tape.

[5] Theodor Adorno, The Philosophy of Modern Music, 1948, p. 171, n. 25.

[6] Frank Zappa, 'Penguin in Bondage', Roxy & Elsewhere (1974).

[7] Pelican Freud Library Vol.5, p. 90, n. 1.

[8] Frank Zappa, 'Don't Eat The Yellow Snow', Apostrophe(')

[9] 'Nanook Rubs It', ibid.

[10] Note the eye/I rhyme again.

[11] III-vii-93-4.

[12] This note has been cancelled as it's too boring; for King Lear's trouble with the false vision of representative politics and his boots, see King Lear, 4-vi-170-3.

[13] Jim Morrison, The Lords (1969), p. 29.

[14] Norman 0. Brown, Love's Body (1966), p. 119.

[15] Frank O'Hara, 'Fantasy', Lunch Poems (1964).

[16] Plato, Phaedo, 89b-c. For a more detailed exegesis see my Frank Zappa: the Negative Dialectics of Poodle Play, pp. 247-51.

[17] Frank Zappa, introduction to 'Dirty Love', Munich 14 February 1976 - private tape.

[18] Sleevenotes to Edgard Varèse's Amériques & Arcana (January 1920 & July 1926, this recording conducted by Marius Constant, 1973) ERATO [STU 70726].

[19] Hart Crane, Complete Poems & Selected Letters & Prose (1966), p. 233.

[20] Frank Zappa, International Times, no 115 (1971).

[21] Theodor Adorno, Negative Dialectics (1966), p. 183.

[22] Robert McAlmon, Being Geniuses Together (1938), p. 44; Raymond Chandler, The High Window (1943).

[23] Theodor Adorno, Minima Moralia (1944), p. 42.

[24] Frank Zappa, One Size Fits All (1975).

[25] Theodor Adorno & Max Horkheimer, Dialectic of Enlightenment (1944), p. 59.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Frank Zappa, Melody Maker 28 January 1978 (& see [20] above).

[28] Jim Morrison, The Lords, p. 84

[29] Hart Crane, Op. Cit., p. 217

[30] Adam Ant, Sounds, 4 April 1981, pp. 22-4.

[31] II-iii-193-8.

[32] Frank Zappa, Joe's Garage Act I (1979).

[33] Kark Marx, 'The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte' (1852), Surveys from Exile, London: Penguin, 1973, p. 242.

[34] Which is why I like him, Mo (and why I like Ken Fox's Inventry of Zerox, too, incidentally).


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