Celebrating Sagetrieb

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Cover for the first issue of Sagetrieb, Spring 1982

Our next publication, about which more news will soon follow, is a Festschrift for the late Burton Hatlen, guest edited by Demetres Tryphonopoulos, combining Paideuma 40 and Sagetrieb 20. The latter journal has been dormant for several years, its planned last issue left languishing when Burt fell ill; but Sagetrieb deserved a better conclusion than this mere petering out, and we are pleased that our celebration of Burt’s life and work will include a version of his last editorial project: a collection of essays on George Oppen. The Festschrift also includes an essay on Sagetrieb by Kaplan Harris, acknowledging the good work performed by the journal and the end of the era in which that work was performed.

In the coming weeks, as we await the arrival of the Festschrift, we will celebrate Sagetrieb by noting some highlights from the issues. Their tables of contents and covers can be seen at our Sagetrieb blog (link).

This celebration of Sagetrieb will be informal and improvisational, ranging freely across the run of the journal in no particular order — we’ll be pulling issues off the shelf at random, so to speak. But to get things started, here are a few choice sentences from the inaugural issue, from the section titled “The Biographer.”

Cid Corman remembering Louis Zukofsky:

Like Olson he wanted to play teacher and critic to me. And as with Olson — I balked. It has simply been a thing with me to do my own dirty work.

Fielding Dawson with respect to Charles Olson:

He wanted to be used the way he liked — with advance warning. He wanted what he wanted in the way he wanted. I bet his mom spoiled him.

Grattan Freyer, from “Montale and His Friends”:

On one occasion it was announced at the Giubbe Rosse that everyone would take the day off and go for a walk in the country. I pictured a twelve-mile hike at the very least. We walked, six or eight of us, about three-and-a-half miles out of Florence to a little country inn, where we all ate an enormous meal in the open air. The conversation en route to the inn was about what we would find to eat there, and on the way back about what we had eaten.

Freyer’s essay ends with two translations, one of Montale made with the poet’s help, a lovely version of “Eastbourne”:

“God save the King” intone the trumpets
from a pavilion erected on piles
which line the passage of the sea as it rises
obliterating footprints
of horses in the wet sand
of the shore.

Coldly a wind assails me,
but a shimmering lights up the windows
and the whiteness of mica in the rocks
glistens.

BANK HOLIDAY . . . The long wave of my life
slides back
escaping, too sweetly, declining.
It grows late. Noises fall apart,
closed in softness.

They go in bath-chairs the mutilated,
accompanied by long-eared dogs,
children unspeaking, or dotards. (Perhaps
tomorrow all will seem a dream.)
And you too
will come, prisoner voice, liberated
spirit wandering,
bleeding voice, lost and given again
to my evening.

As a hotel-door revolves on its sections
brilliantly
— another responds with returning beam —
a merry-go-round enthralls me, which overturns
everything within its circle. My homeland!
I listening recognize your breathing,
I too stir myself and the day is thick with living.

Everything will seem in vain: even the power
which in its blinding flux brings together
the living and the dead, the trees and the breakers
and unwinds itself from you, for you. the holiday
has no pity. The band
blares out again while in the early darkness
a grace unfolds itself unarmed.

Conquering evil . . . The wheel does not rest . . .
You also knew about it, light-in-darkness.

On the burning land, whence you are
vanished at the first stroke of the bells, remains
only an enormous burning brand for what once was
BANK HOLIDAY.

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