Friday, December 17, 2010

Aimless Reading: The L's, Part 22 (Mina Loy)

Loy, Mina
The Lost Lunar Baedecker

Purchased at Talking Leaves...Books for a course with Charles Bernstein. I think this had only been out a short time when we studied it in Bernstein's seminar. Must have been 1997, my first semester in Buffalo.

"The Lost Lunar Baedecker" is one of my all-time favorite book titles, despite its being an extrapolation from the title of the Loy poem, which is simply, "Lunar Baedecker."

I remember learning that a Baedecker was the primary tourist guide for Europe in the early 20th Century, so much so that it became a byword for a tourist guide itself, much the same way "xerox" once meant "photocopy" or the way "google" can now mean "to perform an internet search."

Thus, a tourist guide to the moon.

A lost and now recovered tourist guide to the moon.

Standing alone, the title is great. As a title for a newly edited collection of poems by a "lost" modernist, it perhaps makes its point somewhat too emphatically, but I can forgive that.

Imagine finding a lost tourist guide to the moon!

Ah, the implications!

And then of course there is the Mina/Myrna slippage. It is said the actress took her stage name at the suggestion of a friend who happened to be a Russian modernist poet, but that's as close as one gets to finding a direct connection between the two. One wonders how much this slippage eclipsed or helped to eclipse the name and reputation of the original.

Ah, the implications.

Lunar Baedeker

A silver Lucifer
cocaine in cornucopia

To some somnambulists
of adolescent thighs
in satirical draperies

Peris in livery
for posthumous parvenues

Delirious Avenues
with the chandelier souls
of infusoria
from Pharoah’s tombstones

to mercurial doomsdays
Odious oasis
in furrowed phosphorous

the eye-white sky-light
white-light district
of lunar lusts

          Stellectric signs
“Wing shows on Starway”
“Zodiac carrousel”

of ecstatic dust
and ashes whirl
from hallucinatory citadels
of shattered glass
into evacuate craters

A flock of dreams
browse on Necropolis

From the shores
of oval oceans
in the oxidized Orient

Onyx-eyed Odalisques
and ornithologists
the flight
of Eros obsolete

And “Immortality”
mildews ...
in the museums of the moon

“Nocturnal cyclops”
“Crystal concubine”

Pocked with personification
the fossil virgin of the skies
waxes and wanes

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