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THE NOISELESS SPIDER

Vol. II No. 1 Fall 1972



Statement of Editorial Policy

The editorial board of The Noiseless
Spider agrees with Henry Miller that the pangs
of birth relate not to the body but to the
spirit. It was demanded of us to know love,
experience union and communion, and thus
achieve liberation from the wheel of life and
death. But we have chosen to remain this side
of Paradise and to create through art the il-
lusory substance of our dreams. In a profound
sense we are forever delaying the act. We flirt
with destiny and lull ourselves to sleep with
myth. We die in the throes of our own tragic
legends, like spiders caught in our own web.



Published by the English Club of the University of New Haven

© 1972 The Noiseless Spider



LIBRAKV
UNIVERSITY OF NEW HAVEN



TABLE OF CONTENTS



Family Life


Anne Hebert






(trans. A. Poulin, Jr.)


3


SPIDER Interview with






A. POULIN, JR.




5


Are Poets Ever Rich?


Claudia Stephens


14


Testifying: Yeats


Bertrand Mathieu


15


The Poem


Bertrand Mathieu


15


Cynewulf


John M. Grudzien


16


Tanka


John J. Sullivan


17


Maydreams


Brian K. Wallace


17


Aig Garynahine


Lynn Hagman


18


Thought for Tonight


Paul Charbonneau


19


The Factory


Peter Moore


20


They Thought He Was Right


Obamola


21


I Thought


Jerry Weber


22


Edge


A. W. Fenn, Jr.


23


Sonnet


M. Frechette


24


Preface to Catholic God


N. Parker Prescott


25


driftwood ethic


Dick Cap or ale


26


When Love's Most


Linda Mandeville


27


Coffee and You


Peter Moore


27


Meeting Colin Wilson


John Perry


28


Owed to October


Peter Moore


32


Cover Design


Phyllis Ceccolini





$50 PRIZE WINNER

The editorial board of THE NOISELESS SPIDER has chosen Dick
Caporale's "driftwood ethic" as winner of this issue's award for the best
literary work submitted by a student. John M. Gmdzien's "Cynewulf"
was an extremely close runner-up, and honorable mention goes to Jerry
Weber's "I Thought" and Claudia Stephens' "Are Poets Ever Rich?"



Digitized by the Internet Archive

in 2010 with funding from

Lyrasis IVIembers and Sloan Foundation



http://www.archive.org/details/noiselessspider21engl



FAMILY LIFE

This is a family house
Without a fire or a table
Without rugs or dust.

The perverse enchantment of this place
Is all in its polished mirrors.

The only thing to do here

Is look into mirrors day and night.

Throw your reflections into those hard pools
Your heaviest one without shadow or color.

See, those mirrors are as deep

As chests.

Some ghost is always there behind the lead

And quickly covers your reflection,

Clings to you like algae,

Adjusts to you, thin and naked,
Counterfeiting love in a slow, bitter chill.



Anne Hebert

Translated from the French by A. Poulin, Jr.



SPIDER Interview with Poet A. Poulin, Jr.



The following is a transcript of
an interview with poet A.
Poulin, Jr., given on the occa-
sion of a series of readings on
the University of New Haven
campus on Friday, October
20, 1972, at the invitation of
the UNH English Clu h and the
editorial staff of THE NOISE-
LESS SPIDER. Poulin has
published widely in such mag-
azines as ATLANTIC
MONTHLY, ESQUIRE, NEW
AMERICAN REVIEW, and
KAYAK, and is the author of



§



a collection of poems, IN ADVENT (E. P. Button) and editor
of the anthologies THE AMERICAN FOLK SCENE (Dell)
and CONTEMPORARY AMERICAN POETRY (Houghton
Mifflin). He is presently at work on a book-length translation
of poems by the well-known Canadian poet, Anne Hebert,
and a bestiary tentatively entitled THE ELEPHANTS
WOMB. He lives in Brockport, New York, where he teaches
English at the State University College.

Spider: Why don't we begin, logically, at the beginning of
your life-in -poetry? Who would you say was the first major
poet ever to give you a strong sense of poetry as a vocation,
as a world apart?

Poulin: That's easy. Whitman! It was Whitman who aroused
in me a sense of the strangeness and wonder of the human
condition. It was he who awakened my five senses, who
quickened in me a sense of the limitless possibilities of life
and language. That was way back during my high school
days, in a seminary for the Catholic priesthood in Upstate
New York overlooking the Hudson. To a lesser extent, Edgar
Allan Poe was also involved in my dawning awareness of the
magic latent in sound patterns. But it was William Carlos Wil-
liams, not Whitman, who first made me see the possibility of
a "vocation" in poetry. And, oddly enough, it wasn't his
poems that showed me this but his letters! I had picked up a
remaindered copy of THE SELECTED LETTERS OF
WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS at a second-hand bookstore
during my Freshman year in college, I think, and reading
those incredible letters was a revelation to me! Here was a
man who had tirelessly worked and worked at his vocation
(his double vocation, actually) and his letters provided me
vdth an amazingly detailed record of the problems he had
faced and the solutions he had eventually arrived at. Wonder-
ful letters! They should be in the hands of every aspiring



young poet, like those of Rilke. These letters made me aware
very early of the patience and persistence I would need to get
anywhere in poetry. I found Williams' letters so moving that I
decided to write him a few letters of my own about the prob-
lems I was having as a fledgling poet.

Spider: And did he answer you?

Poulin: He certainly did! Despite the fact that he was a very
sick old man by then, he answered me patiently. I've got five
of his letters to me framed on my study wall at home.

Spider: What sort of advice did he give you?

Poulin: His first piece of advice was to use the editorial blue
pencil freely! He was convinced that a poet should allow no
flabbiness to weigh down his writing. But, at the same time,
he repeated again and again that I should follow my own in-
ner convictions. No one can teach you what the sound of
your own voice can be like, ultimately, because only you are
acquainted with its possibilities from within. That drove me
right back to what I had learned from Whitman, of course.
And speaking of a poet's voice, there's another very impor-
tant influence I must mention. That's Dylan Thomas. The
young writers of my generation, from the middle- to the late-
1950's, naturally turned to him as a model. He seemed to be
everything, everywhere! He was simply the kind of man you
couldn't avoid imitating. I consider ^/zat a stroke of immense
good fortune in my development. What a superb example he
was, with his rich love of music and of celebration! What a
marvelous sense of the resources of language! In this respect,
I feel that the generation that followed mine was far less for-
tunate in having Lawrence Ferlinghetti as its most conspic-
uous model. Ferlinghetti's is a far thinner gift, all in all,
despite the fact that he can do some rather marvelous things
when he wants to. As for the present generation, I think their
favorites are utter disasters! Rod McKuen! Richard Brau-
tigan! Terrible! Absolutely terrible!



Spider: What other important influences helped shape your
idea of yourself as a writer?

Poulin: Well, they weren't all literary. By any means. There's
no doubt that the strangely Gothic setting of that seminary
in Upstate New York had an important effect on my imagina-
tion. It was an awesomely beautiful place with magnificent
magnolia trees, four turrets, and a dining hall almost Beo-
wulfian in its sombemess. It was in that sensuous atmosphere
that I first read the early prose writings of Chateaubriand and
Joyce's PORTRAIT OF THE ARTIST. It was also there that
I beccime acquainted with Gregorian chant aind its terrific
clarity of narrative line. I sang in the choir and became quite
familiar with the workings of Gregorian chant. I even took
speech lessons there for a while. Pm sure these speech lessons
contributed something to the forming of my voice, but my
training in Gregorian chant strikes me as vastly more impor-
tant in the formation of my ear. It's an amazingly intricate
and exacting musical mode. I found it very impressive, es-
pecially the way Gregorian chant slowly gathers an inward-
ness of rhythm and, monotonously but strongly, moves to a
climax that's invariably dramatic and lucid. Perhaps it was
the lucidity that appealed to me most.

Spider: But this lucid quality that seemed so hard for you to
resist in the Gregorian chant is completely at odds with what
you've been calling the "Gothic" setting of the seminary!
How do you explain this peculiar attraction to completely
opposite styles?

Poulin: That's true, come to think of it. Perhaps they simply
represent the two poles of my nature. But that's what that
whole complex world of French Catholicism I grew up in did
to you. It erected a whole cycle of "Gothic" experiences



around you. From the grim self -de privations of the Lenten
and Advent seasons to the joyous hght of Easter and Christ-
mas: the cycle was complete and ever-repeating. In the sem-
inary, I had experiences very similar to those of Joyce's
Stephen Dedalus in the PORTRAIT. The marvelously power-
ful rhetoric of those sermons bidding us to repent at the risk
of everlasting damnation often scared me to death! Cathol-
icism was still very much like the strenuous Catholicism of
Joyce's Dublin in the Franco- American atmosphere of the
Maine towns of my boyhood, you know. Its terrors were
awfully exciting! The whole thing had the ambience of one
of those irresistible medieval Dance of Death paintings. And
it's quite likely that an awareness of these things could be of
some value to readers of IN ADVENT. After all, the book is
divided into four parts that suggest the stages of the liturgical
year, culminating in an important birth. And more than one
poem is concerned with "damnation" and the attainment of
varieties of grace.

Spider: You spoke a moment ago of your debt to Dylan
Thomas. Would we be right in assuming that the densities
of texture of a poem like "I Woke Up. Revenge" owe any-
thing to Thomas? The closing lines of your poem, es-
pecially :

But I can't brush it
off my teeth or gargle it out of my throat.

And on my tongue revenge still sits,
a recalcitrant wedge of thinnest bread,
a stubborn, undissolving Vatican.



A passage like this one strongly recalls things like the
closing lines of Thomas' "Deaths and Entrances":

plunge, mount your darkened keys
And sear just riders back,
Until that one loved least
Looms the last Samson of your zodiac.

Poulin: Possibly. Although I like even more those great lyric
outbursts that suddenly cause a poem by Thomas to ignite!
I'm especially fond of the linguistic suggestiveness in poems
like "Fern Hill":

And honoured among foxes and pheasants by the

gay house
Under the new made clouds and happy as the heart

was long.
In the sun bom over and over,

I ran my heedless ways.
My wishes raced through the house high hay.

Thomas had an amazing gift for making the sound of his lan-
guage carry along the enormities of his own inner excitement.
It's utterly irresistible! But it's not strictly a melodic or ono-
matopoeic thing, alone. His genius delighted in puns, in sug-
gestiveness based on etymological variants, in ambiguities.

Spider: There's a good deal of that evident in your own
work, isn't there? For instance, the poem "Science" opens:

Love, I've spent nights down
in the cellar pouring
over letters from your
past and younger lovers,
a monk becoming
blind and impotent.

The way you break up the line after the word "down," at the
end of line 1, creates a marvelous ambiguity there. On the
more obvious level, "down" simply means the opposite of
"up" and introduces a prepositional phrase ("down/ in the
cellar"), but on another level it suggests "down" in the sense
of "depressed," the reverse of "high." "Science" strikes this
reader as a terribly pessimistic poem about the futility of ever
getting to know another human being fully. That feeling



seems strongly clinched by the closing Unes, addressed to the
sleeping woman in her bedroom upstairs:

You fall asleep, dream
and whisper the names
of wiser men who
solved that riddle that
you harbor like some
undiscovered and essential
element or atom.

If one bears in mind the original Greek meaning of "atom"—
that which cannot be broken up or divided— there's a very
interesting resonance here that leads back to an earher
passage in the poem where the discouraged husband
downstairs "itched to be torn open/ like a goat or bread."

Poulin: I think I'm beginning to understand what was in-
tended yesterday wdien you suggested that this poem created
a sort of "local" or domestic myth to replace the lost collec-
tive myth: the monk rummaging among the "scriptures," the
aboriginal/ superstition," and now there's the sacrificial
goat or bread." I guess I would agree, in a very general
sense, that the function of the artist is a "priestly" one. But I
wouldn't push that too far.

Spider: Even though it's extremely dangerous to subject the
personality of a writer to too much psychologizing, there's a
great temptation to point out the astonishing range of moods
that run through IN ADVENT. From the ecstatic verve of
"Angelic Orders" to the unrelieved despondency of "Sunday
Morning" represents such an absolute swing, both in mood
and technique, that one is tempted to blurt out something
like "manic depressive"! Poems like "Sunday Morning" and
"Famine 1970" are terrific downers after the incandescent
joyousness of "Angelic Orders." Have you given this any con-
scious thought?

Poulin: First of all, I don't think "Sunday Morning" was
meant to be a "downer." The setting in "Miss Washington's/
Diner in New Britain, Conn.,/ eating a number five breakfast"






is bleak enough, but there's a sustained effort to transmute
the hideousness through language. I admit I was depressed by
the impasse of the Vietnam War at the time I wrote it, but
there's a clearly liturgical intent at the heart of the poem. But
even if the poem succeeds in BEING a dark one, I don't think
that's so bad. After all, each of us is terribly complicated, ter-
ribly contradictory. One of the things I don't like about T. S.
Eliot's poetry is that it's psychologically monochromatic. It
doesn't take in enough of the breadth of human possibility.
Most people have incredibly wide ranges. As for me, I think
my work moves freely "from the sublime to the ridiculous,"
from "Angelic Orders" to "Assistant Professor Plots Re-
venge." (Needless to say, I'm denying you permission to print
this bit about "the sublime to the ridiculous" unless you put
the damned thing in quotes!)

Spider: Right on!

Poulin: Regardless of the mood a writer is working with,
though, it all comes to nothing if he hasn't learned what
Dylan Thomas called his "craft or sullen art." I've said a
number of unkind things about some of my contemporaries
during my visit here, but how can you withhold your admir-
ation from passionate technicians like Sylvia Plath and John
Berryman and Galway Kinnell? These people all believe in-
tensely in poetry as an art\ No matter what the personal suf-
fering or happiness they confront, they know it adds up to
little if it hasn't been given the radiance of mythic design or
linguistic heightening.

Spider: One final question. What do you do during your fal-
low periods? What do you recommend to young writers when
they aren't actively engaged in doing their own personal
work?

Poulin: I suppose the best thing to do is translate. Poets
should learn as many languages as they can lay their tongues
to! I recommend getting as many languages as you can. And
when you're not doing anything of your own, translate! I'm
presently at work on some extensive translations of the
poetry of Anne Hebert, but prior to that I completed a new
American translation of the complete DUINO ELEGIES of



Rilke which Stephen Berg will be running as a special supple-
ment in a forthcoming issue of THE AMERICAN POETRY
REVIEW. It's amazing what you can learn about poetic tech-
nique by rendering another person's poem painstakingly into
your own language. It's the best of educations.

Spider: Do you also do any reviewing or criticism?

Poulin: Yes. I've got an article on Wallace Stevens in the
Spring 1972 issue of CONCERNING POETRY. It's rather
cumbersomely titled "Crispin as Everyman as Adam: 'The
Comedian as the Letter C " And I do a little reviewing, now
and then. I was tempted to review my old friend Paul Car-
roll's popular THE POEM IN ITS SKIN a while ago. I think I
would have called my review "The Poem Circumcised"!

Spider: Would you forgive us for asking one more question?
Poulin: Fire away!

Spider: Why do you write?

Poulin: To be loved, of course. Doesn't everyone write to be
loved?

Spider: Such candorl Well, it's been an eye-opening experi-
ence talking with you. And we all hope you'll drop in to see
us again whenever you come down to visit your folks in New
Britain.

Poulin: When I do, we've got to make sure we go dovm to
Pat's on Campbell Avenue again. The nightcap and folk music
we had with your night-flying students there last night were
far out! That place is a natural refuge for "manic
depressives"!

-Interviewer: BERT MATHIEU



Are Poets Ever Rich?
(Dedicated to A. Poulin, Jr.)

Are poets ever rich?

It seems they

are forever involved

in the plugging up

of bathroom wall holes

with The da Bara posters;

with peanut butter and jelly

malnutrition; and,

having spent their last

few coins on coffee,

do without cigarettes,

resort to fingernails.

Clothed in rags or otherwise,

poets build their kingdoms

on secondhand typewriters

with two broken keys.

Poets' tears are seas

running gutters of injustice;

their smiles, revolutions in disguise;

the gift of alchemy, their gold.

—Claudia Stephens



Testifying: Yeats

Two things he had that burst into Art:
A pubhc man and a private part.

— Bertrand Mathieu



The Poem

Strange to see
how the poem
explodes on the

page, shatters and splin-
ters, lodges itself
under your eyelids,

stays with you long
after you've stopped

looking, makes your day!

— Bertrand Mathieu



Cynewulf

a northern legend
I hate the private ways, the soft shadows on the

Iceland door
this ruins everything these sighs
On shoreditch we blessed the stones that we set

on the birds

I chased sails along the shoreline
We hate Old Sarum, Southern Arabia and sight

of the Southern Ocean
But now I dare the king to sit with his legion

on the estuary region

Tikal would I bum you down
pound your city arms to the ground
Woon pool knowledge

"Sanctitas Vestra," let them go

—John M. Grudzien



Tanka

Poems in strict form
are like Japanese gardens,
nothing strange, nothing
out of place, and best of all
there is always just enough.

— John J. Sullivan



May dreams

My mind purchased

A ticket on a cloud

Today . . .

And rode the wind

To you and no other sky.

— Brian K. Wallace



Aig Garynahine

We danced on the beach because

it was the only thing to do:
To the thundering calamity of the tide upon the rocks
The ancestral salt and motions of our blood

owed a reply.

For that we reeled on the spray-stung beach

We whooped to the surf

And all our clumsy feet slogged

clumsy hand-bound circles in the white white sand
The giddy melody of our stepping pranced on

the ponderous rhythm of the white-horsed tide.

High above us on a bluff there stood a lass
Alone with the wind and the sea,

watching our stumbling patterns below;
Her silhouette reached along the wind

as far as it could stretch,
A tuneless piper without a pipe,

the wind played skirls in her long hair
And summoned us to our dance

— Lynn Hagman



1^



Thought for Tonight

or mother highway's

A-callin' me

Lonesome roadway's

Gonna set me free

Why I go

Seems I'm never gonna know

There's a force

That's drivin' me

Back out on the road

Only a radio's kaleidoscope voice

To keep me company

—Paul Charhonneau



The Factory

When I was a boy

my mother used to take me

to pick up my father at work
and I'd watch all

the tired old faces with black lunch pails

and the Daily News in their pockets
It used to be a treat then— riding in
the car, watching the people and running

out to meet old dad.

I'm working now and I see all
the tired old faced with black lunch pails
and the Daily News in their pockets
and I wish I were a boy again,

thinking the whole thing a treat

Because now I want to cry

— Peter Moore



They Thought He Was Right



for those who still moan
the fourth of April



They thought he was right

who followed him

who trusted him

'cause another had told them

he was Right.

Then one day

someone

asked for proof

so he knelt to prove it

but after about twenty hallelujahs

an assortment of: Oh-Lawds

Our- Father's

Jesus-h ave- mercy- on- my-soul's

mixed with thirty or so Hail Mary's

and no less than 3 dozen Amens

he was

dead.

So now they say
he was dead
wrong.



— Ohamola



I thought

Love is an awful chance

you take
because you're afraid to
take a chance on not taking

a chance

Faith is beheving in

something
that all your life youVe

been told
not believing in
will bring you

regretfulness

Courage is something soldiers

are told to have
by someone who was told

to have it, by someone
who, at one time, had it

told to him

Hate is something you acquire

over a period of time
for the people who tell you

it takes courage

to have faith,

in your love
for a country you

never could understand

— Jerry Weber



Edge

Trying to scrape death

off the mirror,

my dull razor seems to get

sharper and sharper

each time I use it.

One of these days,

it will turn into an

axe.

— A. W. Fenn, Jr.



m



Sonnet

Three silent shadows writhe, incapable,

Six eyes staring above the parapet.

Mad Harlequin, all truths invisible

To his eyes, smells their tower, dimly lit.

Upon the visage of the Harlequin

Is written in pathetic, painful hurt

"Why should I, I forbear that older sin?"

The Idiot drools, touching ragged cloth,

To him, the Harlequin's horror does not

Affect the cold beauty of the dead moth.

The Priest alone, tempted, let his soul rot

Until, like diseased rocks, it is dirt.

The priest cowers beneath his robes of black,

This day (Apocalypse) he cannot go back.

— M. Frechette



d^



Preface to Catholic God

holy

holy

holy
The holy, magnificent, catholic grandeur of St. Peter's Cathedral

holy

holy

holy
Is more than man can bear
Although it makes him

crouch in wonder
Of hands
Eyes

And another sort of tool.
No church is larger than a stone.

—N. Parker Prescott



driftwood ethic

Alone, in the drift of three tenses

the sea polishes its limbs and
moonlite bleaches its flesh
a naked and pale gray

blister smooth it turns

in the burning desire for a beach:

Floating on the surface too long

the thick skin risks defeat —

the terrible prize of eternal night.

Presently, the Mystery: Who or What
would drown a tree?
Brothers of the Wood who've kissed a shore
find solace on a dry mantel or

cottage floor

I for one

would prefer the comber's fire.

All acts there purged

the incense rises

to smart the wet nostrils —

Then

Even the sea would look up as I pass
and

Only the sea would mourn my passing.



— Dick Caporale



When Love's Most

When love's most any nothing

Is a glance away

A lifetime spent in spring

Is a dirge of innocence.

When life's most seeming soon

Is a clock's alarm

The circular motion in space

Leaves tears on the stEiirs.

— Linda Mandeville



Coffee and You

You've been gone a long time now
I no longer do the things

we used to do
But now and then, in the morning, forgetting,

I still make enough coffee for two.




Meeting Colin Wilson

In its Spring 1972 issue, THE NOISELESS SPIDER had the
rare privilege of printing a number of excerpts from the
unpublished journals of Colin Wilson, author of THE OUT-
SIDER (1956) and THE OCCULT (1971). The UNH Li-
brary is presently in the process of completing the job of
reproducing these journals for use by scholars and devotees
of modern English literature. The following is an account
of the meeting in Cornwall between Colin Wilson and for-
mer UNH student John Perry, who was instrumental in se-
curing Wilson's permission to duplicate this important lit-


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