Tuesday, December 11, 2012
Williams, William Carlos
In the American Grain
Purchased at Talking Leaves Books. This book was one the syllabus for one of the first courses I took in grad school. It was called, "Preface: or Seen Again for the First Time." The course was taught by Susan Howe and, as I recall, this book became the focus of the class at about the mid-way point. It had a tremendous impact on me and became a sort of guide to a lot of what I studied. Books like Olson's Call Me Ishmael, D.H. Lawrence's Studies in Classic American Literature, Howe's My Emily Dickinson, et al, followed my reading of this book and formed the core of my graduate studies right on through to my oral exams and the beginning of my unfinished dissertation.
There are no American servitors. An American will not serve another man. This is a fear. Nothing is so delightful as to serve another. Instead of that, we have "service," the thing that Rabindranath Tagore so admired, telling us we did not know we had it: Sending supplies to relieve the cyclone sufferers in Indiana. It is a passion. But to serve another, with a harder personal devotion is foreign to us: a trick for foreigners, a servant's trick. We are afraid that we couldn't do it and retain our self-esteem. We couldn't. Thus we see of what our self-esteem is made.
"Don't let us have any poor," is our slogan. And we do not notice that the chief reason for this is that it offends us to believe that there are essentially poor who are far richer than we are who give. The poor are ostracized. Cults are built to abolish them, as if they were cockroaches, and not human beings who may not want what we have in such abundance. THAT would be an offense an American could not stomach. So down with them. Let everybody be rich and so EQUAL. What a farce!