A hundred years after his birth, poet Louis Zukofsky was honored at Columbia University and Barnard College this past weekend at an international conference devoted to his life and work. The conference, which also marked the 80th anniversary of his graduation from Columbia, drew more than 50 participants who read, debated, and discussed Zukofsky's experimental and often hermetic verse, which contains references to everything from Aristotle to engineering manuals.
His parents immigrated from Lithuania and his father worked as a night watchman in New York's garment district. While at Columbia, Zukofsky's professors included pragmatist John Dewey and anthropologist Franz Boas.
In 1931, Zukofsky edited an issue of "Poetry: A Magazine for Verse," which introduced readers to "Objectivist" poetics. The issue featured several poets associated with Objectivism, a school favoring sincerity and realistic detail, including Charles Reznikoff, Carl Rakosi, Basil Bunting, and George Oppen.
Despite his early promise, and a notable friendship with Ezra Pound, Zukofsky suffered relative neglect during his lifetime. Others writers, such as Allen Ginsburg and Robert Creeley, were influenced by Zukofsky, and scholarly interest in him picked up following the poet's death in 1978.
English and Comparative Literature Professor Michael Golston said it was "nothing short of a scandal" that Zukofsky did not appear in the fourth edition of W.W. Norton's poetry anthology. Mentioning this kind of "erasure," Mr. Golston added, "Hence the present conference."
Delivering the opening address, Mr. Creeley recalled a friend who had pursued a doctorate on Zukofsky at Cornell. When it came time to decide who ought to help serve on the faculty committee, a political scientist and a Hebrew studies specialist were quixotically called upon, rather than other creative writing or English professors.
Mr. Creeley spoke of Zukofsky's personal hospitality. He remembered Zukofsky's wife, Celia, offering him a cup of coffee - substituting ice cream for milk.That, he said, also led to his being offered ice cream.
Mr. Creeley spoke of an event in Austin, Texas, where he gathered with Zukofsky, Robert Duncan, and Jorge Luis Borges. During the evening, the group discussed what careers they would have pursued if they hadn't become writers. Borges mentioned an interest in film. Zukofsky said he would have liked to have been a flamenco dancer.
Florida Atlantic University professor Mark Scroggins offered comparisons between Zukofsky and James Joyce. Mr. Scroggins is finishing a biography of Zukofsky to be published by Wesleyan University Press. Stanford University professor emerita Marjorie Perloff later gave a talk on Zukofsky's French connection.
The conference had humorous moments. For instance, University of Louisville professor Alan Golding, who chaired a session, introduced the participants beginning with himself. He read his own brief biographical introduction in the third person, in "Zukofsky fashion."
The chairman of Parsons School of Design's department of architecture, interior design and lighting, Peter Wheelwright, moderated a roundtable discussion on Saturday wrapping up a two-day conference called "Tall Buildings: A Symposium."
The program was held in conjunction with the exhibition "Tall Buildings" which is on view at MoMA QNS through September 27.
Mr. Wheelwright raised the subject of the relationship between architects and engineers - and the issue of which gets credit for a building. He noted Jorg Schlaich's earlier observation that the Millennium bridge (the first new bridge across the Thames in more than 100 years) was referred to as "Foster's bridge," for its architect, Norman Foster.
But when problems arose in June 2000 with its swaying, it became "Arup's bridge," referring to consulting engineer Ove Arup.
On the panel was architect and theorist Peter Eisenman, who will be giving a public lecture at Yale on November 4 entitled "What Is a Diagram?"
Wearing a blue Yale baseball cap, Mr. Eisenman criticized Andres Duany and Elizabeth Plater-Zyberk's "New Urbanism" in their design of a community at Seaside, Fla. Mr. Eisenman called it effectively "restricted" with regard to wealth due to its high prices. Mr. Eisenman said he prefers the heterogeneous mixture of people he runs into walking around Manhattan.
With that comment, Mr. Eisenman rose and said, "I've got to go be middleclass and go to a ball game." The Red Sox and Yankees awaited.
The Brooklyn Public Library's central location at Grand Army Plaza has a new piano in its second floor meeting room. This is just in time for jazz vocalists who will perform free cabaret evenings on selected Wednesdays...a sign seen on stairways at the Brooklyn Public Library: "Please do not write on stairwell walls."