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Early Soviet Cinema and American Poetry

David Kadlec

Modernism/modernity, Volume 11, Number 2, April 2004, pp. 299-331 (Article) Published by The Johns Hopkins University Press DOI: 10.1353/mod.2004.0034

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Early Soviet Cinema and American Poetry

David Kadlec

The battle against the blinding of the masses, the battle for vision can and must only begin in the USSR, where the film-weapon is in the hands of the state. Dziga Vertov, 1924 The epic if you please is what were after, but not the lyric-epic sing-song. It must be a concise sharpshooting epic style. Machine gun style. Facts, facts, facts, tearing into us to blast away our stinking flesh of news. Bullets. William Carlos Williams, 1939

MODERNISM

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299331.

2004 THE JOHNS


HOPKINS UNIVERSITY PRESS

Since the end of the Soviet Union in 1991, historians have been rediscovering the American 1930s, particularly those artistic and cultural movements erased by conservative and even anticommunist forces during the years of the Cold War. Art critics have begun to take more seriously the effects of constructivism and Russian futurism upon avant-garde movements in Western Europe and in America; and literary scholars have begun to notice the imprint in the 1930s of Soviet genres such as that of the worker correspondentfactory-floor testimonials that, during the 1920s and 1930s, surfaced repeatedly in Soviet theater productions, in newspaper columns, and in newsreels as well. Worker testimonials could be either spoken or written, but most of the examples that appeared in the U.S. in the early 1930s were literary ones, letters and poems, that filled out the pages of radical journals like The New Masses.1 With the introduction of recorded sound to Soviet cinema after 1930, however, films like Dziga Vertovs Three Songs about Lenin (1934) began to feature the faces and voices of testifying workers.2 In scenes like the one

David Kadlec (1957 2003) was associate professor of English at Georgetown University and author of Mosaic Modernism: Anarchism, Pragmatism, Culture (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2000) and of numerous articles in College English, ELH, and Sagetrieb. He was a frequent contributor to Modernism/Modernity. This is his last essay.

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Fig. 1. A young cement worker recounts her on-the-job heroism in Dziga Vertovs Three Songs about Lenin. From Annette Michelson, Kino-Eye:The Writings of Dziga Vertov (Berkeley: University of California Press).

tallied below, a rousing montage tribute to Lenins electrification initiative is overcome by an eerie stillness. The screen fills with the head and shoulders of a young cement worker. (Fig. 1) She looks at an offscreen interviewer and begins the story of an accident at Dnieperstroi, the site of what would soon become the worlds largest hydroelectric dam.3 We were working on section 34, she says. I was sending up concrete.
95 tubs that day. We raised the tub. The concrete was stamped down. Suddenly I saw some tarpaper had fallen into it. I went to get it, then started back. The board under me began to sink and I was dragged down. I grabbed hold of the ladder, but my hand was slipping. Everybody got scared. One of the girls screamed. Kuvyk ran over to me, grabbed hold of me and dragged me out. I was full of concrete, and wet. There was water there. The tar singed my arms. I went to dry off near the stove. And then went back to work. Theyd boarded the spot over. So I sent up the tubs again. I worked the full shift. . . . I was awarded the Order of Lenin for overfulfilling the plan.4

The worker correspondent genre marks a fascinating local effort to redefine the social power of art. But because it hinged on the idea that clear vision and hence powerful speech are functions of ones position in a system of economic exploitation, it will probably always be more of a historical curiosity than a genuine force in American literature. Still, twentieth-century American poetry owes a deep and unacknowledged

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debt to the art forms that emerged during the first years of the Bolshevik Revolution. It was not just point-blank testimonials like this one from the young Dnieper Dam worker, but the artfully assembled newsreel films that contained them that affected the way American poets thought about the words they were using, and, more importantly, how montage methods of construction might be brought to bear on the ambitious long poems that they began to conceive during the 1930s and 1940s. Of the leading American poets of the 1930s and 1940s, Louis Zukofsky and William Carlos Williams were among those most influenced by early Soviet cinema. Both writers were either planning or executing epic poems during this period. Zukofsky began his life-work, A, in late 1927 or early 1928; while Williams was struggling with the manner and method of Paterson as late as 1943.5 Though they faced different challenges and followed different timelines, both were trying to imagine new forms for their long poemsforms that would admit materials which had yet to be incorporated into the body of American literature. Due both to the influence upon American artists of Soviet newsreels and newsreel-style films, and to the questions that these films raised regarding truth and representation, Zukofsky and Williams shared a desire to make poems out of nonfictional textual materials. As a Marxist intellectual, Zukofsky was interested in the material of history; and he believed that, to be of moment, a modern epic would have to contain passages taken straight from Das Kapital, as well as quotations from Hen[ry] Ford the words exactly his own (PZ, 82).6 Williams wrote Paterson during a later epoch, and his sense of history and the material of poetry differed accordingly. In his view, the very explicit political demands placed upon artists in the 1930s had bred in present day audience[s] a natural antagonism to verse.7 This was an antagonism that Williams himself sometimes shared. Devoting himself to novels, stories, and essays during that decade, he delayed work on Paterson until he was prompted, through discussions held in New York at the 1939 Third Writers Congress, to think in new ways about how poetry might be wedded to documentary forms of expression.8 Zukofsky and Williams were among the American poets most affected by Soviet cinema during the 1930s and 1940s; and Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov stood together as the leaders of two rival cinematic approaches emerging from a country that, beginning in 1926, produced a series of full-to-bursting avant-garde films. Eisensteins Battleship Potemkin (1926) and Vertovs The Man with a Movie Camera (1929) headed a long list of living photographs that changed the film world after the political world had been shaken by the October explosion of 1917.9 Though Eisenstein and Vertov often disagreed in their public comments, the two shared an artistic as well as a political community through the pages of the Soviet avant-garde arts journal, LEF. Standing for Left Front of the Arts, LEF was a small but influential magazine founded in 1923 by the futurist poet Vladimir Mayakovsky. As Mayakovsky described it, LEF combined the weapons of Futurism with a brand of constructivism that owed more to advertising than to aesthetics; in gathering together this collection of arts movements, the journal attracted an unusually diverse and vibrant group of politically committed writers, visual artists, and filmmakers.10 In 1927, the poet and

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302 playwright Sergei Tretyakov, himself a LEF editor, underscored the similarities amid the differences between Eisensteins and Vertovs respective fictional and nonfictional approaches to film. It has always seemed perfectly justified to me, Tretyakov wrote, that there are both of these names on the cover of LefEisenstein and Vertov. These are men working for the same purpose, but with two different methods. With Eisenstein, the agitational impulse predominates, while the material shown takes an auxiliary position. With Vertov the informational impulse predominates and the material itself is most important.11 Tretyakovs comparison provides a useful way of thinking about Soviet cinema in the 1920s because it suggests that the material or the actual footage used by filmmakers does not finally constitute the defining distinction between fiction and nonfiction film. Eisensteins movies are staged, while Vertovs are spliced together in large part from pre-shot archival footage (KE, 45). And yet the differences in the kinds of footage that these filmmakers produced were less important than the aesthetic choices that determined the manner in which Eisenstein and Vertov assembled their respective materials. In his discussion of Eisenstein and Vertov as avant-garde filmmakers, Tretyakov implied that Soviet films should be categorized not on the basis of the materials from which they were constructed, but according to criteria that many would view as mutually exclusive: their political and formal objectives and strategies. Tretyakov reminds his readers that, for all of Eisensteins celebrity as a technical innovator, the renowned director was also committed to the making of agitational or propagandistic films. Early films like Strike (1925) and Potemkin (1926) did indeed commemorate high points in the long path toward the Revolution of 1917. In the process they inspired the masses, arousing in them what Tretyakov classified as emotional sympathy for the Revolutionary cause (SOSD, 36). By contrast, intellectualizing films like Vertovs Kinopravda newsreels (1922) were more instructional, documentary, scientific: they left the viewer better educated about the historical and theoretical processes of revolutionary change. The difference between the material used in Eisensteins so-called played films, which were rooted in the theater, and that used in Vertovs unplayed films, which were rooted in everyday events, seemed less significant if both cinematic approachesfictional and nonfictionalcould be shown to have a social impact.12 By gauging the political weight of Eisensteins and Vertovs played and unplayed avantgarde films, then, Tretyakov shifted the emphasis of filmmaking away from the material and toward the question of the filmmakers larger objectives. He reconciled the two Revolutionists as participants in an overall collective enterprise; and in the process he opened the door for a discussion of the shared methods of construction that enabled Eisenstein and Vertov to serve together as members of an artistic, as well as a political, vanguard (SOSD, 29).13 Arguing that, fact or fiction, it is all a matter of montage, Tretyakov followed the lead of another LEF contributor, the Russian formalist Viktor Shklovsky (SOSD, 29).14 More even than Tretyakov, Shklovsky approached the distinction between fiction and nonfiction film by emphasizing methods of construction over the materials used by the filmmakers themselves.15 Insofar as either Eisenstein or Vertov succeeded

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as filmmakers (and Shklovsky clearly preferred Eisenstein of the two), they did so not because they inspired or educated but because they discovered and utilized the modern technique of filmic montage (SOSD, 323). In making his point regarding the importance of method to filmmaking, moreover, Shklovsky suggested that poets could imitate the work of Soviet filmmakers by using the sorts of materials that newsreel artists like Vertov were using. The idea that it is not such a great leap to extrapolate poetic forms and techniques from those who trade in moving images is suggested by a remark that Shklovsky made as early as 1925. Before Zukofskys experiments with A, and well before Williamss innovative epic construction of Paterson, the former literary scholar suggested that writers could begin to think about expanding their palettes to include not just words but documents and extracts from letters and newspapers.16 Although his remark concerned the materials with which poets (and other writers) worked, Shklovsky understood that, if modern poetry were to acquire the vitality of newsreel, it would do so by following filmic methods of construction. These methods were always present, Shklovsky knew, and they always bore witness to the filmmakers intelligence and artistry. What poets should finally concern themselves with was the process of assemblage, and not the act of imitating the ostensible contents of a film that purports to hold what Vertov called life caught unawares, or a cinema that show[s] people without masks, revealing them in a moment when they are not acting (KE, 41). So while Dziga Vertov claimed to have found an art form that rejected the artistry that detracted from the power of film, members of his artistic circles in Moscow, and watchful American filmmakers and poets in New York, questioned whether his construction of archival material was any more or less artful than Sergei Eisensteins arresting assemblage of pieces of staged film (RSCD, 133).17 Like many of the radical American filmmakers who were associated with the Workers Film and Photo League (WFPL) between 1930 and 1935, Zukofsky and Williams were inspired and invigorated by nonfiction film coming out of the Soviet Union in the late 1920s and early 1930s.18 And although they were drawn to the idea that a poem could be made to ring hard like history, and that it could be waged less with allusions than with [f]ists made of facts, both poets seemed to know that, while filmed news had become central to the development of a new Soviet aesthetic, its vibrancy did not hinge upon the materials innate fidelity to live events (KE, 39, 59).19 Shklovskys writings provide an especially rich theoretical ground for a study of the historical relationship between early Soviet cinema and American poetry. Not only did the literary scholar-turned-film critic anticipate the historical transposition of materials from one medium to the otherfrom the documentary film to the long poemhe also knew that it mattered how these materials were assembled. Shklovsky recognized that montage would be the method of an epoch, and he could see that this epoch was being shaped here and now by the fast-cut film sequences issuing from studios in and around Moscow, Leningrad, and the Ukraine. What Shklovsky may not have seen, and what I hope to explore further in this essay, is the extent to which the defining characteristics of Soviet film, such as the makeup and pace of their montage sequences, were determined by material circumstances, including an acute shortage of film stock dur-

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304 ing the transitional post-Revolutionary years. As a formalist, Shklovsky may not have been particularly attuned to the material genesis of Soviet montage, but he still possessed an uncanny understanding of the materials and methods that provided a common ground for Russian filmmakers and American poets. What set Shklovsky apart from other film writerscritics in Russia, in Europe, and in Americawas his capacity to imagine forms of poetry made up of documents, letters, and newspapers. More importantly, his writings enable us to see how Soviet film of the 1920s contains within it some of the defining features of twentieth-century American poetry. In writing about the differences between fiction and nonfiction film, Shklovsky inadvertently illustrated how, in American poetry, a new storehouse of extraliterary materials came to be combined through new methods of montage construction.

1. Dziga Vertov and the Soviet Newsreel


Sergei Eisenstein is certainly the best known director to be associated with what some contemporary filmmakers derided as the choppy cutting technique of Soviet films.20 But it was in fact a widespread movement in Russian filmmaking that led many British and American critics of the late 1920s to designate montage as Russian montage and to claim that Soviet films formed the arrowpoint of cinema progress.21 This international cadre of viewers recognized that choppy cutting techniques were a source of real power: Soviet films were marked by briskness and by a heightened concentration of images. The Ukranian filmmaker Alexander Dovzhenko, for his part, spoke in 1934 of the extraordinary density of his own filmic constructions: Out of a great quantity of material, which would suffice for the creation of five or six pictures, I make one single film, linked together by an unusually strong tension.22 Kenneth Macpherson, the editor of the British film journal Close Up that circulated among British and American literary modernists, compared Soviet montage methods favorably to those practiced in Hollywood and indeed anywhere in the world.23 The Russian director, Macpherson wrote, makes a profound and exhaustive study of the art of cutting which has grown up in Russia alone, and which is unique in the world of cinema. The basic principle is never to repeat the same shot twice, and never to prolong any scene, whether a street with people, or a close up, or swift action, one moment longer than is necessary to convey the meaning to the spectator. This means that instead of about four to five hundred cuts in a film there may be anything from a thousand to four thousand.24 By the late 1920s, not just Eisensteins, but Russian films at large were known for their bracing movement and density of construction. And while Eisenstein was from the beginning the best known exponent of modern montage methods, his technique was derived from some less well known makers of newsreels and more elaborate unplayed montage constructions. One of Eisensteins predecessors was Lev Kuleshov, an early filmmaker and theorist who wrote about montage and who undertook vital experiments in rhythmic cutting and cross-cutting, techniques that were later masterfully employed by such pupils as Eisenstein himself.25 The newsreel artist

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Vertov, who described his montage constructions as, variously, hurricanes of movement and [h]urricanes of facts, also had a strong impact on Eisenstein.26 And while Eisenstein and Vertov disagreed about the extent to which cinema should depart from the conventions of theatrical production, the celebrated director of dramatized historical films clearly based aspects of his own cinematic styleits nonfiction look and its use of rapid montage sequencesupon the pioneering work that Vertov had done in his early Kinonedelia (1918) and Kinopravda (1922) newsreel projects.27 Vertovs newsreel montage methods hinged on brevity of shots and a reliance on old stock compilation footage: the rapid movement and on-site newsreel look were both distinguishing features of classic Soviet played films such as Eisensteins Potemkin and October. (For October, his epic dramatization of the Bolshevik attack on the czars Winter Palace, Eisenstein studied newsreel footage and photographs and reproduced them so assiduously that stills from the films newsreel reconstructions appeared in newspapers [including the Los Angeles Times] and in history books as photos of actual historical events [K, 2312, 241]).28 As early as 1916, Vertov was associating with young Soviet avant-garde artists including the writer and theoretician Osip Brik, the designer Alexander Rodchenko, and Vladimir Mayakovsky. Vertovs filmic emphasis on both a dynamic form of construction and a fidelity to factsor to the daily news of utopian world buildingfit neatly not only within constructivist aesthetics, but also within the international aesthetic traffickings of these emerging Russo-Futurist artists.29 At the same time, however, the new aesthetic that Vertov so stridently broadcast was also a product of the severe material limitations that had been imposed upon Russian filmmakers during the years of civil war that followed the October Revolution. In 1918, Vladimir Lenin began calling for young Revolutionists to shoot and circulate newsreel footage that would help to facilitate ideological and social changes.30 By this time, studio owners and skilled workers in pre-Revolutionary cinema were beginning to flee the country; and in the process many of them were destroying the equipment, including cameras and supplies of film stock, that they could not carry with them when they left.31 During the years of internal struggle1918 to 1921 in particularthat followed the actual Revolution, it was difficult if not impossible to replace these missing materials. As no film stock was being manufactured in the Soviet Union, Red Army cameramen had to rely on ingenious methods of acquiring sufficient quantities of film. Alexei Lemberg, one of the chief cameramen for Vertovs Kinonedelia (Cine-Week) and Kinopravda (Cine-Truth) series, remembers being sent to film a battle at Tsaritsyn, and having to barter his front-line rations for three boxesor three hundred sixty metersof negative film.32 Having successfully traded for this film stock, Lemberg considered himself rich. And he was indeed fortunate compared to another newsreel cameraman, Pyotr Yermolov, who was shooting a different propaganda filmone that was half newsreel, half enacted filmon a battlefront near Kiev. Unlike Lemberg, Yermolov was unable to barter for boxes of negative film; and so he had to devise a method of using positive film stock, washing the emulsion from used film and recoating the celluloid by hand, in order to have something, however fragile it might finally prove to be, to feed into his camera (K, 1501).

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Shortages of equipment during the civil war years affected directors and editors as well as the cameramen who worked with them. As Alexander Arossev described it in his 1935 retrospective on the growth of the Soviet cinema, 1920 was a year marked not only by an increased production of newsreels and propaganda or agitational films, but also by shortages that posed special challenges for directors: There was no stock of raw film, and some pictures, e.g. Forest Brothers, had to be taken literally on film strips of 5 and 10 metre lengths pieced together.33 And Vertov was in a position to be as affected as any filmmaker by the material shortages of that time. Lemberg and Yermolov were both leading newsreel cameramen who worked with Vertov on his weekly newsreel project, Kinonedelia (19181919). Their struggles to acquire film meant that, in piecing together his weekly filmic news magazine, Vertov himself was often left assembling fragile footage, or footage that was truncated, or footage that was missing altogether, forcing him to pillage existing film archives. In dealing with these shortages on a weekly basis, Vertov devised a filmic aesthetic that was based on two competing claims. On the one hand, he insisted that his films bore an inductive fidelity to actual experience, since his unplayed films didnt represent experience in any predetermined way, but rather worked it up through what Vertov called previously shot, and therefore random footage (KE, 45). At the same time, he also spoke of his Kinoglaz, or kino-eye, newsreel method as the active construction of a new reality through montage, which Vertov described as a kind of writing or as the achievement of a rhythmical order such that all links of meaning coincide with visual linkage (KE, 88, 90). Written through Vertovs hurricane of facts, this special montage language was, according to some film critics and historians, a direct outgrowth of the material shortages faced by filmmakers in the Soviet Union during the civil war years. As Thorold Dickinson and Catherine De la Roche noted in their thorough 1948 study of the development of Soviet cinema:
Scarcity of film stock and often the shortness of lengths of the negative film available taught [Vertov] and his contemporaries the most rigid economy in the use of film. And this led them to turn this liability into an asset. Forced to join a series of short scenes together, they began first to fill in the gaps with sections of existing (even czarist) newsreels [sic]. They found that the juxtaposition of certain scenes created conflict between the old material and the new. By this means they enriched their work with a new and dramatic style of cinema which had none of the literary or theatrical characteristics of the work of their contemporaries in fictional production.34

Dickinson and De la Roche suggest that this shortage-based economy and tension ultimately shaped not only Vertovs aesthetic, but Eisensteins better known style of choppy cutting as well. The necessity mentioned above, they wrote, of having to use two short pieces of film, hence two different compositions, where one longer scene had been the custom before, was turned by Vertov into a virtue and by Eisenstein into a keystone of his whole theory of film construction (SC, 24). Constructivist aesthetics notwithstanding, the arrow point of Soviet cinema progress was at least partly sharpened by accident.

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2. Objectivism, Louis Zukofskys A, and Nonfiction Film


Dziga Vertov was proud to be known as the filmmaker who had infected John Dos Passos with kino-eye (KE, 174). By 1934, the American novelists debt to the Soviet filmmaker was an open secret. Dos Passoss recent novels, beginning with The 42nd Parallel (1930), had been cut up into sections that were named after Vertovs own filmic devices. Headings like Newsreel and The Camera Eye signaled textual movements between public and private perspectives: first, those of the common mind of the epoch, as broadcast in newspaper and newsreel headlines; and second, those of the more inward reflections that, by contemporary literary measures, seem sealed off from the noise of the crowd.35 The connection between Dos Passos and Vertov is clear and direct. During a visit to Moscow and Leningrad in 1928, the then left-leaning writer attended screenings of unplayed historical pictures; and he preferred them to the grander, state-backed productions of Eisenstein and Vsevolod Pudovkin. However much Dos Passos admired Vertovs use of actual scenes and people, the link between the two artists is finally superficial because it is premised on the novelists failure to hear the avant-garde filmmakers call for the cinema to undermine literature and the theater and the traditional aesthetic distinctions that they uphold (KE, 14).36 Deeper than the link between Kinoglaz and the literary Camera Eye is the connection between Vertovs newsreel montage aesthetic and the work of American poets who sought new means of combining new sorts of nonfiction materials in their epic length poems. Williams and Zukofsky are chief among those poets who drew their theory and practice from the Soviet Union, and from Soviet avant-garde filmmakers in particular. And Objectivism is the poetic movement that bound these writers in their efforts to articulate their new, second-generation modernist aims. William Carlos Williams, Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen and, eventually, Lorine Niedecker, were among those American poets who dipped into the second-wave Objectivist lexicon; but it was really Zukofsky, in consultation with Ezra Pound, who launched this updated movement in 19301931. Objectivism can be best described as a Marxist poets effort to substitute the authority of historical events for the clearly delineated natural object of that earlier movement in modern British and American poetry, Imagism.37 In many ways, Objectivism was a response to the Imagist movement that Pound had fashioned in 1913. With its unreflective emphasis on clear seeing and clear writing (Direct treatment of the thing), Imagism was a short-lived phase that had helped to orient a handful of influential American and British poets, including Pound, H. D., Richard Aldington, and, to a lesser extent, Williams himself (LE, 3). Insofar as the Objectivist emphasis on historical events over thing[s] reflects the modern documentarians militantly anti-aesthetic preference for reality itself rather than the re-enactment and artificial recreation of it, Vertov can be said to have helped American poets to sustain Imagisms referential navet, carrying it over into Objectivism.38 He did this by bringing historical events to the forefront in the visual arts, an act that required faith in technology and in utopian politics. Compared to international arts movements like futurism or constructivism, Objectivism was a fairly insular response to events in American literary history. Neverthe-

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308 less, its credo is tinged by rhetorical traces of Vertovs faith in the camera and in Soviet socialist construction. These traces are evident in the opening lines of the founding essay that Zukofsky published in a special Objectivists issue that he edited for Poetry magazine in 1931: An Objective: (Optics)The lens bringing the rays from an object to a focus. That which is aimed at. (Use extended to poetry) (P+, 12). Lens; rays; a focus; aimed: all words and terms that revolve around the idea of seeing, or optics. This notebook style opening is then followed by a list of the sorts of things, and events, that a contemporary poet might wish to see or experience. Desire for what is objectively perfect, is how Zukofsky expressed it, inextricably the direction of historic and contemporary particulars (P+, 12). Included among these particulars are a delicate glass sculpture (lifted from a poem by Marianne Moore); a musical performance; and a reference to one of the most daunting works projects of the Soviet industrial age. It is understood, Zukofsky wrote, that historic and contemporary particulars may mean a thing or things as well as an event or chain of events: i.e. an Egyptian pulled-glass bottle in the shape of a fish or oak leaves, as well as the performance of Bachs Matthew Passion in Leipzig, and the rise of metallurgical plants in Siberia (P+, 12). Eighteen years earlier, Imagists had been bent on purging poetry of abstract phrases: Dont use such an expression as dim lands of peace, Pound wrote. It dulls the image. It mixes an abstraction with the concrete. It comes from the writers not realizing that the natural object is always the adequate symbol (LE, 5). Set against the majestic blast furnaces of Magnitogorskconstructions being filmed in 1931 by visitors like Margaret Bourke-White and Joris Ivensthe error of mixing concrete with abstract forms of language seems somehow less egregious than it did when Pound drafted his Imagist donts list in 1913. With Objectivism, Zukofsky had taken the battle for clean poetic description and grafted it first against, and then into, the epochal historical and contemporary particulars of the twentieth century. Imagism was made to shrink toward its proper moment in literary history. By fashioning a movement that called for American writers to attend to what has happened and what is happening, Zukofsky attempted to capture that sense of daily momentousness that drove Soviet art during the years following the October Revolution (PZ, 71).39 And the appearance of factual materialsdocuments, letters, and newspapersin poems like the Cantos and A and Paterson suggests that Soviet cinema may have contributed to the growing sense among American modernists that Pound had been right when he stated, in 1934, that Literature is news that STAYS news.40 The paired emphases on history and montage methods of construction mark a vital conjunction between Russian cinema and American poetry; and this conjunction has gone unnoticed for a number of reasons. For one thing, poetry was not a favored medium during the political decade of the 1930s. Because many leftist critics associated poetry with counter-revolutionary varieties of formalism, those who have sought to explore a correspondence between Soviet filmmakers and American writers have tended to focus on writers of innovative American narratives. Hence the attention to Dos Passos as a novelist who borrowed openly, if only nominally, from Vertov in fashioning the Newsreel and The Camera Eye portions of his trilogy of political novels

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of the 1930s. And the novelist John Steinbeck, too, drew indirectly from Soviet filmic traditions when he imitated the newsreel portions of Dos Passoss U.S.A. (1938) in his own widely acclaimed portrait of dust bowl migration, The Grapes of Wrath (1939). Louis Zukofsky was the first American poet to have really grappled with unplayed or nonacted forms of cinema coming out of the Soviet Union. Unlike Dos Passos, and unlike Langston Hughes later on in 1932, Zukofsky did not travel to Moscow in order to gain an exposure to Soviet film.41 He was instead a beneficiary of Amkino, a communist film distribution agency that brought Soviet films to American audiences in the late 1920s and early 1930s. In the fall of 1928, Zukofsky attended a showing of Soviet films in New York. One of these films was A Shanghai Document, a silent documentary about the March Revolution, a violent and ultimately unsuccessful communist takeover in Shanghai. This film was shot in China by Varvara Stepanova, an avantgarde painter and collagist who belonged to the LEF circle; and it was directed by Jakov Bliokh, who worked earlier as the production manager for Eisensteins Potemkin. Shanghai Document bore the avant-garde nonacted film stamp in its spare use of intertitles and in its refusal of dramatized episodes. Zukofsky was taken with its arresting montage of historical footage, including some visceral scenes depicting the execution of revolutionaries. (Fig. 2) Something about the films construction seems to have spoken to Zukofsky, because it prompted him to write to William Carlos Williams about his recently undertaken epic poem, A: . . . after this evening with Amkino, I cant help but know that I will know where I am at.42 Later, in a 1936 essay on Charlie Chaplins Modern Times, Zukofsky remembered Bliokhs film yet again: [T]he mass scenes of Modern Times, he wrote, mov[e] with the newsreel immediacy and swift timing of Jacob Blokhs A Shanghai Document (P+, 62). The slap-in-the-face feeling, together with the rushed sensation, that Zukofsky took from Bliokhs film are nothing less than the hallmarks of Vertovs newsreel montage aesthetic. A Shanghai Document provided a direction for the modern collage poet because it possessed the shocking immediacy of real events. In this case, the events in question included a row of bound, kneeling prisoners being shot, one by one, through the backs of their heads, by charging executioners who seem barely able to control their actions. In addition to providing a sudden and unprecedented brush with an ultimate taboo, Bliokhs film spoke to Zukofsky as a document that was constructed not through a traditional sequential narrative, but rather through an aesthetic of contrast and collision. Zukofsky saw right away that this aesthetic could jumpstart his own poetry; and he was not alone in acknowledging the broad aesthetic significance of the nonacted newsreels being produced in Russia and Eastern Europe in the late 1920s. In an essay written in 1928, in The Exile, Zukofskys mentor, Ezra Pound, uttered rare praise for a fast-paced composite newsreel depicting modern urban life. Berlin: The Symphony of a Great City was a fifty-minute film released in 1927 by the German filmmakers Walter Ruttmann and Karl Freund. Ruttmann and Freunds film was always closely associated with Vertovs work; and indeed Vertov had had a strong audience for his newsreel films in Berlin in the mid-1920s, before Ruttmann and Freunds film was made.43 Despite the distaste that he professed elsewhere for the cinema,

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Fig. 2. Louis Zukofsky claimed to have been moved by Jakov Bliokhs A Shanghai Document, which includes footage of captured rebels being executed. Courtesy of the Moving Image Section of the Motion Pictures, Broadcasting, and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress.

Pound spoke of Symphony as a film that will take serious aesthetic criticism: one that is in the movement, and that should flatten out the opposition . . . [to avant-garde writing] . . . with steamrolling ease and commodity.44 Zukofsky took note of this rare concession to the power of the motion picture, citing it in an essay that he wrote about Pounds Cantos in 1929. Whatever Pounds assessment of Ruttmann and Freunds cinematic rendering of modern Berlin, it was an aesthetic of unplayed immediacy on the one hand, and of bracing montage construction on the other, that offered a model for Zukofsky when he saw Bliokhs unblinking documentary in 1928. And while these aesthetics were promulgated in the context of Russian avant-garde art of the 1920s, they developed first and foremost as a response to the shortages of the Soviet Unions civil-war years. Through Vertov and other newsreel artists, the filmic tendencies that emerged from these shortages eventually found their way into American poetic theory and practice. The Objectivist movement that Zukofsky spearheaded in 1931, for example, added not only the dynamic notion of the event to the noun-bound stasis of Imagism, it also added a visual twist to the Imagist premises upon which it was based. For his new movement, the young poet had concocted an aesthetic statement that was superficially cinematic; and it was enough so that the essay that he composed for An Objectivists Anthology (1932) won notice in a September 1933 issue of Close Up. There, the film critic Oswell Blakeston summarized Mr. Zukofskys manifesto on poetry:

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An objectiverays of the object brought to a focus, An objectivenature as creatordesire for what is objectively perfect.

As Blakeston presented it, Objectivism was more or less identical to Imagism. Both movements wanted to truly delineate the object or thing. For a film critic, however, the Objectivist manifesto places a distinguishing emphasis on the objects rays and the poets capacity to bring them to a focus. It was above all the rhetoric of mechanical seeing that landed Zukofskys poetic within the province of the cineaste.45 Objectivism may or may not have deserved its brief moment in the world of film criticism. But Zukofskys poetry was in any event animated by the example of Soviet cinema. In writing A, Zukofsky openly kept the Cantos in mind as a model. And he believed that the structural complexity of his and Pounds work was due in part to their debt to new methods of filmic construction. We both partake of the cinematic principle, Zukofsky wrote to Pound in 1931, you to a greater and more progressive degree, tho it wd. be pretty hard to distinguish in either case where montage leaves off & narration begins & vice versa (PZ, 112). Here, Zukofsky seems to invoke Eisenstein more than Vertov when he refers to montage as a technique that transcends the smaller matter of the fictional or nonfictional status of the filmic material. Of the two filmmakers, Vertov was certainly more concerned with his source materials; but he was not indifferent to the question of how these materials should be joined. At times, he tried explicitly to steer his own medium toward poetry by highlighting a constructivist understanding of how the composition of a film might be based on the lines of a repeating pattern somewhat after the manner of certain verse forms. This effort to use repetition to bridge film and poetry had won him notice in Russia as the head of [a new] school of cinematic composition.46 In the matter of assemblage, however, it was Eisenstein who claimed the more sophisticated understanding of montage as a medium for combining static shots into dialectical collisions that would awaken viewers both aesthetically and politically (FF, 5, 267, 345; PCCR, 33). Embarking in 1929 on a long trip to Hollywood to study the new technique of sound film, the young director had begun to emerge as a charismatic intellectual with an international following.47 Zukofskys respect for Eisensteins inventiveness and his energy is borne out by the poets further suggestion to Pound that, in terms of montage, Mr. E., Eisenstein has nothing on us (PZ, 121). While he openly identified his writing style with Eisensteins montage method, the erudite Marxist writer seems to have been moved first and foremost by the lesser known documentary filmmakers whose work he encountered in New York City in 1928. For all of their originality and daunting ambition, the first books of A bear the mark of a writer who is beginning to know where [he is] at. In the opening lines of a poem that would take nearly fifty years to write, and one that would eventually reach over 800 pages in length, Zukofsky squared away his deep love for Bach, invoking a Carnegie Hall performance of the St. Matthew Passion for thematic grounding and for the pieces intimation of a framing design. From this canny beginning, A turns on both narrative sequences, and on more haphazardly word-driven, metonymic forms of

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312 association. Zukofsky himself used the word montage to invoke the more associative side of his poetic procedure; and he links his musical form to film because, like Vertovs work of the 1920s, the latter medium accommodates news, and particularly news of class struggle. The following words are among those heard and recorded outside of the particular performance, and the particular performance hall, that mark the time and place of As beginning:
And on one side street near an elevated, Lamenting, Foreheads wrinkled with injunctions: The Pennsylvania miners were again on the lockout, We must send relief to the wives and children Whats your next editorial about, Carat, We need propaganda, the things becoming a mass movement. (A, 3)

Unlike Vertovs, Zukofskys news reaches us through a series of dark filters. The voice that reports the events is here itself an object that merits scrutiny. While Zukofsky follows Lenin in singling out the cinema as a leading instrument of social change, he doesnt always view it as a tool that serves the greater good. Indeed, the poet almost repeats verbatim Lenins naively sincere assessment regarding the importance of cinema to the objectives of socialist construction. To his Commissar of Education, Anatoli Lunacharsky, Lenin is said to have expressed his belief that of all the arts for us the most important is cinema.48 Here, in a passage that mocks Lenins idealism regarding the possibility of Soviet world building through an emerging new filmic medium, Zukofsky asks whether the newsreel might not be used as much to suppress worker rebellion as to foster it.
The exchequer of the poor. Of all the arts the wind can blow The most important, in my opinion, is the cinema. Sorry we have to have strikes, but The whole theory of the use of gas is It makes it unnecessary to use bullets. I have been gassed myself at least 1,000 times The company is constantly experimenting on its own people. What is said to be the first motion picture in America, Made in 1870, it was called Diaphanous, And shown in the opera houses. One reel depicted the Minnesota Massacre, The other a news reel of the time Will be shown as when it duly

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Sobered and horrified the gentlemen And made small children gasp And hide their faces in their mothers shawls And the women softly weep. (A, 54)

For Zukofsky, the cinema seems to be poised between the deeply corporeal (bullets; the Minnesota Massacre) and the uncannily ephemeral (gas; Diaphanous). Whatever this poets understanding of the innate power of the moving picture, the violent yet vaporous news reel left its stamp on A. The modern American epic poem has the capacity to do more than just hold both gas and bullets, or both the Bach performance and the Pennsylvania miners strike: it has the means to weld them together into a larger guiding whole. While Zukofskys poem portrays the cinema as a medium that is less than utopian, A does suggest, in its eclectic and inclusive structure, that a future language can be constructed from the very sorts of archival fragments that filmmakers were forced to use during times of crisis and shortage. Simply put, the pieces of newsreel that make up portions of Zukofskys poem would not have been there without the Soviet tradition of unplayed film. And without the material shortages that coincided with the call to produce and distribute newsreels about the making of the new state, this tradition would not have developed in the openly modern and contingent manner that it did.

3.Vertov, Eisenstein, and William Carlos Williamss Paterson


It is difficult to say for sure that Vertovs documentary camera was central to the newfound Objectivist aesthetics that united a handful of ambitious and left-leaning American poets in the early 1930s (FS, 22). But Objectivism did emerge just as the first English-language reviews of Vertovs films began to surface in journals like Hound and Horn, Close Up, and The Realist in 1929. Experimental Cinema, published between 1930 and 1934, provided a radical American audience, including filmmakers and writers, with critical discussions of Vertovs films, and it also provided writings by Mikhail Kauffman, Vertovs brother and cameraman. William Carlos Williams was among those American poets who developed an interest in documentary writing, photography, and filmmaking. Apart from publishing his poetry, and writings about poetry and politics, in the aforementioned literary journals, he subscribed to Experimental Cinema, together with other journals that took up the question of visual arts and the significance of documentary methods to current work in American film, radio, and poetry as well. Hound and Horn, The Left, U.S.A., and Direction were among the magazines that placed the poet in dialogue with writings by and about Russian, British, and American nonfiction filmmakers (WCWAB, 1157). While there is arguably a documentary cast to much of Williamss writing of the 1930s, his long poem Paterson, conceived during the 1930s and written and published largely during the next decade, represents a major work of twentieth-century Ameri-

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314 can poetry that has been touched if not tailored by Soviet filmic aesthetics.49 Paterson tells the story of a town in New Jersey by cutting back and forth between passages of poetry and prose passages made up of fragmented historical documents. Some of Patersons prose fragments come from history books, while others are more anecdotal, unselfconscious notes on the order of letters to the poet, or to others, from neighbors and acquaintances. In many ways, the newsreel portions of Paterson are more personal, or daily, than the corresponding portions of the Cantos or of Zukofskys A. For Williams, this emphasis on personal interior experience was not at all antithetical to an emphasis on facts. And the effort to reconcile the two was in some ways an outgrowth of Patersons historical moment. The first portions of Paterson were written in the 1940s, amid the horrors of fascism in Europe, and amid the disillusionment that followed evidence of Stalins Great Purge of 19361939. By the late 1930s, most Americans knew that ill-conceived collectivization programs had led to the deaths of millions of Soviet farmers: many had died of famine, many of imprisonment or execution. Taken alongside the disappearance and deaths of artists including Sergei Tretyakov, Vsevolod Meyerhold, Isaac Babel, and Osip Mandelstam, Mayakovskys suicide in 1930 now seemed a grim foreshadowing of the penalties to be exacted against those artists and intellectuals who would refuse to work according to strict state guidelines. At a moment when totalitarian governments seemed to be on the rise, and, by 1939, even in collusion in Europe, Paterson followed other ambitious American arts projects in seeking a less political and more manageably personal sort of scale.50 In Paterson, there is an unavoidable inward turn that is marked by the appearance of a series of uncomfortable, accusing letters written to Williamsaddressed here as Dr. P.by a poet named Marcia Nardi (she wants Williams to praise her poetry). And while the inclusion of this personal correspondence certainly helps us to locate the poem within its historical moment, Paterson still doesnt achieve the inwardness of confessional poetry, or of Jackson Pollacks idiosyncratic drip paintings. The formal markings that make Paterson so distinctive, even as it partakes of a tradition that includes the Cantos and A, can be attributed to a number of sources; and the practice and theory of early Soviet filmmakers and critics certainly seems to be prominent among them. Williamss singular midcentury long poem in fact displays a formula for a new kind of writing that had been suggested by Viktor Shklovsky when the Russian formalist had written in 1925 that the eclectic material that went into the newsreel, or into the everyday nonfiction film, might also be of use to writers who sought to renew perception by expanding the base of the materials from which they drew. The primary raw material of cinema, Shklovsky suggested to his LEF compatriots, is not the film object but a certain method of filming it. Only a certain approach by the cameraman will make the frame tangible. But this kind of work is quite possible for a writer if he operates not with words but with more complex fragments of literary material. By using an epigraph, a writer contrasts the whole of his work with another work. By using documents and extracts from letters and newspapers, the writer does not cease to be an artist but merely alters the sphere of application of the principles of art (RSCD, 133).

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In this passage, Shklovsky is not really speaking about film or literature per se. He is talking about the artistry of construction as it applies, not to one special art form, but across the spectrum to a whole host of related forms. As he highlights questions about the significance of the materials in use, moreover, Shklovsky reveals that he is speaking first and foremost to Dziga Vertov, and to the Kinoki or Cine-Eye movement that the newsreel innovator began to launch in 1922. Shklovskys message to Vertov is that, in fostering a new brand of unplayed cinema, the revolutionary filmmaker cannot simply break with art by rejecting the actor and other stale theater conventions. What Shklovsky wants Vertov to see is that the difference between fiction and nonfiction is conventional rather than innate. The filmmakers artistry is unavoidable; it lies in methods of selection and assemblage. Vertov might cling to his belief that the actual material of nonfiction film contains an innate energy that montage can heighten.51 After all, the advocate of life caught unawares had described the Cine-Eye newsreel in 1923 as a rapid survey of VISUAL events interpreted by the film camera, fragments of REAL energy (as distinct from the theatrical), building by intervals to an accumulated whole through the great skill of montage (RSCD, 94). Vertov does acknowledge here that his newsreel practice hinges on the artful execution of montage. But he also maintains that every cinematic unit of life caught unawares contains fragments of REAL energy. For this reason, unplayed cinema is more innately dynamic than any measure of played cinema, no matter how expertly the latter is executed or assembled. Placing his emphasis on the defamiliarizing strategies that artists bring to the available materials, Shklovsky would have little patience for such a static conception of art. For him, cinema hinges entirely on modes of assemblage: The contrast between one moment and anothermontageis realised in accordance with the unifying principle of art (RSCD, 133). In his 1925 essay, The Semantics of Cinema, Shklovsky illuminates the rift between the two forms, played and unplayed cinema, that divide the best film work coming out of the Soviet Union in the 1920s. In the process, he issues an off-handed remark about possible new forms of writing. While this comment is incidental, serving to illustrate a larger discussion about art, it tells us something about Soviet literature in the 1920s; and it provides an astonishingly prescient outline of the future shape of avant-garde American poetry.52 Though the author of Art as Device lacked access to the Malatesta Cantos of 19221923, he would have found his own call to utilize documents and extracts from letters echoed in Ezra Pounds textual reproduction of the half-legible personal letters that had spilled out before him while he researched his epic poem in an archive in Italy. Following Pounds recondite but pioneering work, and building upon the earlier example of collage artists like Picasso and Braque, American poets seemed increasingly willing to imagine poems made from extra-literary materials. (By the 1930s, a growing number of writersMuriel Rukeyser in The Book of the Dead [1938], Langston Hughes in Broadcast on Ethiopia [1936]sought to structure their inventive work around the incorporation of material that had not yet found its way onto the poetic page.) Given the archival inclusiveness of his eclectic poem A, Zukofsky provides a particularly timely response to Shklovskys appeal; and

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316 Williams, with his special interest in contemporary documentary forms, seems almost to have realized the Russian formalists idea, fifteen years later, with Paterson.53 Whatever it reveals about Soviet mixed-genre writing of the 1920s, or about American collage poetry of the twentieth century, Shklovskys suggestion that writers could still be artful if they chose to operate not with words but with documents and extracts from letters and newspapers is striking in terms of the kinds of materials it elicits. Documents, letters, and newspapers amount to a sort of literary translation of the material of nonfiction film. And in the context of this essay on early Soviet cinema and American poetry, they provide us with a fairly accurate list of whats there inside Paterson. More than offering an illuminating list of materials, however, Shklovskys statement testifies to the importance of methods of assemblage in cinema and in literature both. Emerging as it does out of a dialogue with Soviet filmmakers like Eisenstein and Vertov, it returns us to the film stock shortages that engendered the bold experiments in montage, experiments that initially involved newsreel footage, and the joining together of short pieces of film that came not only from different archives, but in the case of pre-Revolutionary film clips, from different historical and ideological epochs as well. Here, the coincidence of Lenins call for newsreel production, combined with a shortage of film stock for the making of newsreels, reverberates into the American century, and into the development of new varieties of epic poetry. As a history of the Passaic Falls, Paterson is often, but not always, filled with a newsreel variety of news. Because its episodes pitch so quickly from the essential to the eccentricfrom banking and manufacturing to tightrope-walking and the pursuit of loose animalsand because these episodes are so often joined through whimsy or puns, the poem generates a kind of unpredictability that can be both liberating and disturbing to readers. Whats liberating about Patersonand what finally distinguishes it from both the Cantos and Ais the degree to which new stories and new genres are made to co-exist through the most permissive of linking strategies. Puns and other detours connect one scene to another, as do the proliferating set of metalinguistic operations that fall under the heading of metonymy. In Paterson, the story of the falls-jumper pertains to that of the bank-founder through a pun, or a mere coincidence of word sounds. The aural proximity of words that bear no conceptual kinship reminds us that, one day, we too will come to hear the roar of the river/ forever in our ears (arrears) (P, 17). Sam Patch (the jumper) and Alexander Hamilton have no more reason to pass through the same town or poem than a phrase that invokes speechlessness (the roar in our ears) has a reason to invoke debt (arrears). (In Williamss poem, speechlessness is in fact related to debt; both involve a blocking of mediums language, currencythat should facilitate, rather than inhibit, exchanges between members of a community.) Whats special about Paterson is that the poem, like the place, is a venue that admits and includes this particular blend of people, stories, and concepts without providing even the slimmest pretense of a reason for doing so. They belong together simply because they arrived here together, and the poets work is the lazy re-creation of their coincidence.

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While Patersons inclusiveness might seem wonderfully democratic, it also challenges us by asking whether it allows for the sorts of boundaries that make a poem artful, or a city livable. The second book of Williamss five-part epic was written in 1948. Entitled Sunday in the Park, it displays the public face of the postwar American immigrant city. The Sunday that Williams describes is in fact a mixture of pleasures and simmering crises; and most of these crises have to do with the very question of joining that haunts the poem as an epic that gathers up and strings together the episodes that drift through its frame. Patersons crisis on this Sunday stems from its inability to control coupling: soon no one in the park but/ guilty lovers and stray dogs (P, 80). The problem with the lovers and the dogs on this Sunday is the same as everyday; and it is a problem that Williams animates by reprinting a letter written by a local girl, a stranger to him, named Florence Plarey (P, 270):
Dear B. Please excuse me for not having told you this when I was over to your house. I had no courage to answer your questions so Ill write it. Your dog is going to have puppies although I prayed she would be okey [sic]. It wasnt that she was left alone as she never was but I used to let her out at dinner time while I hung up my clothes. . . . He must have come between your hedge and the house. Every few seconds I would run to the end of the line or peek under the sheets to see if Musty was alright. She was until I looked a minute too late. I took sticks and stones after the dog but he wouldnt beat it. (P, 534)

Florence Plareys story could hardly provide a sharper contrast than it does to the testimony of the young cement worker who speaks in Vertovs Three Songs about Lenin. The city that Williams chronicles in Paterson is not a place where medals are awarded for the overfulfillment of Five Year Plans. Williamss is rather a bourgeois world of dinner and loose dogs; it is a world that the poet tries to apprehend in terms of the successes and failures of emergent twentieth-century art forms like the cinema. Does the documentary camera have the power, as one of the founders of the Workers Film and Photo League put it, to expose and combat the Hollywood lies that fill the American screens, or, as Williams himself wrote, to blast away our stinking flesh of [propagandistic] news (CW, 29; WCWAB, 120)? Paterson uses a missing piece of film, an excerpt from a movie that Sergei Eisenstein tried to make in Mexico, to suggest that, while poetry may well extend the document, the camera cannot finally serve as a weapon in the class struggle (US1, 146; CW, 28).
The big guy in the black hat is too full to move . but Mary is up! . . . . . lifts one arm holding the cymbals of her thoughts, cocks her old head and dances! raising her skirts:

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La la la la! . . . . . This is the old, the very old, old upon old, the undying: even to the minute gestures, the hand holding the cup, the wine spilling, the arm stained by it: Remember the peon in the lost Eisenstein film drinking from a wine-skin with the abandon of a horse drinking so that it slopped down his chin? down his neck, dribbling over his shirt-front and down onto his pantslaughing, toothless? Heavenly man! the leg raised, verisimilitude. even to the coarse contours of the leg, the bovine touch! The leer, the cave of it, the female of it facing the male, the satyr (Priapus!) with that lonely implication, goatherd and goat, fertility, the attack, drunk, cleansed . Rejected. Even the film suppressed : but . persistent (P, 568)

In Paterson, Mustys misadventures are followed by a verse-form description of an immigrant family on a picnic. This vernacular-dotted poem (Blah! Excrementi! [P, 57]) carries another inside it: a poem that turns on an image from a lost film by Eisenstein. (Fig. 3) Mike Weaver suggests that Williams had known of the controversy surrounding Que Viva Mexico! not only through the pages of Experimental Cinema, but also through a viewing of a later attempt to salvage what remained of its footage, a version edited by Marie Seton, and shown in New York, in 1941, under the title Time in the Sun (WCWAB, 207). Here, Williams splices into Paterson not a letter from a neighbor, but an image from a film that was notorious for having been withheld from the director who had expected to cut the negative that he had shot (SE, 190). Placed where it is alongside the Musty episode and amid the sexualized description of the immigrant womans dance, the verse-form clip from Que Viva Mexico!, or, more accurately, Time

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Fig. 3. A photo still of the Mexican peon in the lost/ Eisenstein film that William Carlos Williams memorialized in Paterson. The version of Que Viva Mexico! that Williams saw was edited by the biographer and filmmaker, Marie Seton. Setons Time in the Sun was one of several films that others edited from the footage that Eisenstein shot in Mexico. (Eisenstein himself never laid eyes on the negatives of his Mexican footage.) Williams misremembered one small detail from his viewing of Setons rendering of Eisensteins film. The Heavenly man who drinks does not take his pleasure from a wine-skin. Rather, he tips back a gourd filled with pulque, a milky intoxicant made from the Magay, a local cactus. Courtesy of the Moving Image Section of the Motion Pictures, Broadcasting and Recorded Sound Division at the Library of Congress.

in the Sun, serves to mock Americas insatiable taste for sexual suppression. More than that, it challenges the very methods of assemblage that undergird both Williamss and Eisensteins varieties of modernism. Whether montage is governed by an aesthetic of linkage or one of dialectical collision, its blending of visual and conceptual joining strategies facilitates a seemingly limitless variety of syntactic possibilities (FF, 378, 4563). Montage was an unprecedented technique that was vital enough to break the frame of realism, to restore the truth of disproportion, to make the stones roar, as Eisenstein himself put it.54 (Fig. 4) Resting as they do at the interstices of visual and conceptual syntax, the expressive possibilities of montage seem to extend in all directions, to encompass all kinds of joinings. In Potemkin these couplings combine a collapsing building with a stone statue that is startled to life by a volley of gunshotsa statue of a lion that, like the proletariat, wakens and stands and speaks.55 (Fig. 5) In the bourgeois world of Paterson, as in the commercially wrecked world of Eisensteins and Upton Sinclairs failed collaboration upon Que Viva Mexico!, montage is a dissipated force.56 It is a

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Fig. 4. Eisenstein seated before a Mayan statue at the National Museum of Anthropology, Mexico City. Courtesy of the Lilly Library, Indiana University, Bloomington, Indiana.

profligate language to be contained by the very puritanical powers that, looking to the past for a model of national identity in a self-consciously American poem like Paterson, find an Anglo-Saxon measure there. Patersons proscriptions against loose dogs and modern immigrants preserve the past by inhibiting the introduction of new forms and forcesforms and forces from the Old World of southern Europe, or from older, more primitive countries like Mexico, worlds that bring with them mysterious and therefore uncontrollable expressions of sexuality. From a puritanical standpoint like

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Fig. 5. The stone lions that rise and roar at the end of the famous Odessa Steps sequence in Eisensteins Battleship Potemkin. Eisenstein claimed that he was able to heighten their expressive power by carefully calculating and extending the on-screen time of the second of the three lions. Courtesy of the British Film Institute.

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322 that of Patersons Anglo-Saxon reader, or that of the grimly prudish socialist Upton Sinclair, the images that unfold from Williamss and Eisensteins reckless montage sequences must be contained, be they flashes of Marys vulgarity, or of the peons extravagance: drinking, slopping, laughing.57 All [Eisensteins] associates were Trotskyites, and all homos, wrote a vindictive Sinclair in 1950, still seeking to explain why he withheld Eisensteins film. Men of that sort stick together, and we were besieged by them for several years (SE, 1878, 515). There are a number of ways of reading the lost image that is pasted into the Sunday park in Paterson. On the one hand, the peasant who drinks with abandon intrudes as an almost grotesque reminder of the unmanageably expressive range of modernitya range that Stalin himself sought to tame by restricting not just the avant-garde, but all formalistic approaches that made art seem challenging and complex and hence dangerously esoteric. By 1932, Eisensteins world-renowned montage practice was under increasing attack in Moscow as a mere formalistic device; formalists like Shklovsky were by then already eclipsed from the scene, forbidden from publishing their own writings since 1929 (SE, 248; SEB, 150, 168, 923, 181).58 On the other hand, we can also take the lost peasant with his spilled wine as an emblem for the inclusiveness that enables Williams to recover him amid the sterile goings-on of Paterson, New Jersey. The image fits because montage allows it to fit there; the mans heavenly gesture belongs to another medium and to another epoch; and yet it repeats and deepens the sweeping image of the Old World immigrant womana suppressed but persistent American who drinks and dances in celebration of yet another day of togetherness and rest. In Paterson, a woman named Mary stands up and lifts one arm holding the cymbals/ of her thoughts. . . . Bound up in this gesture is a pun (crashing cymbals instead of symbols); an allusion to the Statue of Liberty (stripped of its status as a symbol); and a pose that is archaic and, by Patersons lights, even archetypal. This is the old, the very old, old upon old, Williams writes: it is the hand holding the cup, the wine/ spilling, the arm stained by it. The peon in the lost/ Eisenstein film is in dialogue with all of this as he tilts his wine-skin, drinking so that it slopped down his chin[,]/ down his neck, dribbling/ over his shirt-front and down/ onto his pants. . . . Mary raises one arm, an undying cup is raised, and the wine falls down, down, down over the Mexican peasant. The spilling wine is the metonymic medium that links the peon to the scene. What he brings to this Sunday in the park is not so much the suppressed but persistent tale of Americas changing ethnographic and sexual politics, but a story that is even more deeply hidden from Williamss contemporary American readers. In the image of a spreading wine stain, this clip from a lost film restores to our past the film stock shortages of the civil war years that followed the Bolshevik Revolution of 1917. It brings us closer to a source of the modern imperative of documentation, and the belief in the power of the camera that, however transient, left its mark on the twentieth-century American long poem.

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Notes
1. Michael Denning discusses the worker correspondent genre in American literature during the 1930s, as well as the proliferation of the so-called mushroom mags that fostered proletarian writing during that decade. See The Cultural Front: The Laboring of American Culture in the Twentieth Century (New York: Verso, 1996), 1401, 2034, 21129; hereafter abbreviated CF. See also Cary Nelson, Repression and Recovery: Modern American Poetry and the Politics of Cultural Memory, 19101945 (Madison: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989), 1046. 2. For a discussion of Vertovs efforts in Three Songs about Lenin to combine diverse materials and principles including new sound technologies, filmic intertitles, the Constructivist mapping of sounds over images, and the use of oral testimonials, see Vlada Petric, Vertovs Cinematic Transposition of Reality, in Beyond Document: Essays on Nonfiction Film, ed. Charles Warren (Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 1996), 27194; hereafter abbreviated BD. See also Vlada Petric, Constructivism in Film: The Man with the Movie Camera (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1987). On the early uses of sound in American films, see James Lastra, Sound Technology and the American Cinema: Perception, Representation, Modernity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2000). 3. It is probably not an accident that the first worker to tell her story in a Vertov film should have been constructing a hydroelectric dam, and particularly one that had become an international emblem of Soviet industrialization. Vertov had long been interested in the idea of electrification, and he had been asking for state support for a film on that subject since 1922. See Margarita Tupitsyn, The Soviet Photograph, 19241937 (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1996), 14. Through the use of the newsreel camera, moreover, electricity can literally extend the reach of the worker correspondent, bringing testimonials, together with the appearance of widespread worker participation, to remote areas with high rates of illiteracy. Vertovs confidence in the power of nonfiction cinema is bound to his Leninist confidence in the epistemological consequences of electrification: light will metaphorically enlighten the Soviet populace. 4. See Dziga Vertov, Three Songs about Lenin (Moscow, 1934). Vertov had his own moment of glory as a recipient of the Order of the Red Star, in 1935, for his outstanding contribution to Soviet culture (BD, 288). The award was actually a source of confusion for the filmmaker because Three Songs was critically acclaimed outside of the Soviet Union and yet scarcely noticed within. Vertov believed that Lenin was beloved by all and that the Soviet public wanted to see his filmic tribute to the father of the Bolshevik Revolution. He never understood why a Stalinist bureaucrat would confiscate such a glowing tribute to Lenin on the night of its debut. 5. Zukofsky provides these beginning dates for A in a letter to his mentor, Ezra Pound, dated 12 December 1930. See Pound/Zukofsky: Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky, ed. Barry Ahearn (1981; New York: New Directions, 1987), 78; hereafter abbreviated PZ. For an account of Patersons many false starts, see Christopher MacGowan, Preface in William Carlos Williams, Paterson (New York: New Directions, 1992), xxi; hereafter abbreviated P. To his publisher, James Laughlin, Williams wrote in 1943: I write and destroy, write and destroy (P, xi). 6. Zukofsky quotes Henry Ford in A6. See Louis Zukofsky, A (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1978), 256; hereafter abbreviated A. Of poetry, Ford remarks: I read poetry, and I enjoy it/ If it says anything,/ But so often it doesnt say anything (A, 26). Karl Marxs writings, passages from Das Kapital and passages from his personal letters as well, are woven throughout A8 (A, 46, 43105). Zukofsky does not always quote Marx verbatim; in places, the poet alters Marxs words, often by distilling lengthy passages. In Zukofskys hands, Marx often sounds more humanistic. 7. See William Carlos Williams and James Laughlin: Selected Letters, ed. Hugh Witemeyer (New York and London: W. W. Norton & Company, 1989), 64. 8. See Mike Weaver, William Carlos Williams: The American Background (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1971), 102; hereafter abbreviated WCWAB. 9. The film historian Jay Leyda offers these first-hand appraisals of the international impact of Soviet cinema. See Jay Leyda, Kino: A History of the Russian and Soviet Film (1960; Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1983); hereafter abbreviated K. Leydas description of a full-to-bursting

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324 avant-garde tradition comes from his recollection of his first viewing, at the Eighth Street Playhouse
in New York, in 1930, of Vertovs The Man with a Movie Camera (K, 2512). Leydas comments about Potemkin and about the broadly explosive impact of Soviet filmmakers of the 1920s can be found in his essay, A Correction (1983), in K, 16. Films were sometimes called living photographs when they circulated, as novelties, in Europe and Russia at the end of the nineteenth century (K, 23). 10. See Annette Michelson, Kino-Eye: The Writings of Dziga Vertov (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1984), 86; hereafter abbreviated as KE. 11. See Sergei Tretyakov, Symposium on Soviet Documentary: S. Tretyakov, V. Shklovsky, E. Shub, and O. Brik, trans. Elizabeth Henderson, in The Documentary Tradition, 2nd ed., ed. Lewis Jacobs (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, 1979), 29; hereafter abbreviated as SOSD. 12. Tretyakov does not simplify the complex stances of either Eisenstein or Vertov in his analysis. To begin with, he does not deny that Vertov assigns a special ontological status to the raw material that he captures with his newsreel camera (the material itself is most important, [SOSD, 2931]). Eisenstein was certainly less polemical about facts than was Vertov, but, as a Revolutionist who placed stock in the momentousness of daily events, he began his career believing that art could and should be somehow anchored to reality. See Marie Seton, Sergei M. Eisenstein (New York: A. A. Wyn, Inc., n.d.), 66; hereafter abbreviated SE. The master of played cinema came to filmmaking from the Soviet theater, where he had worked not only with Tretyakov, but also with the inventive constructivist Vsevolod Meyerhold. In his work with both of these innovators, and in his earliest efforts with the camera, Eisenstein had indeed tried to weave facts into his theatrical and then filmic productions. He staged Tretyakovs play, Gas Masks, in the Moscow Gas Factory; and, working on a play based on a Jack London story, The Mexican, with Meyerhold, he proposed that actors perform a real boxing match before the audience. For his first film, Strike (1925), moreover, Eisenstein conceived of a riveting montage sequence, splicing the butchering of a live bull over the staged rifle massacre of striking factory workersa controversial sequence to be filmed by the accomplished newsreel cameraman, Eduard Tisse (SE, 669). 13. Katerina Clark writes that many members of the avant-garde used science as a legitimating authority in order to perpetuate a confusion between aesthetic and political vanguards in the Soviet Union. See Katerina Clark, Petersburg, Crucible of Cultural Revolution (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1995), 43; hereafter abbreviated PCCR. In Clarks view, it was this need for political legitimacy that led avant-garde artists of the early 1920s to seek out the views of Viktor Shklovsky, a young formalist whose work represented a scientific approach to literature and language study (PCCR, 43). 14. While noting that LEF devoted more attention to cinema than to any other art form, Annette Michelson discusses Tretyakovs and Shklovskys roles in the avant-garde journals debates regarding the classification of Vertovs and Eisensteins approaches to film (KE, xlviixlviii). 15. Tyrus Miller argues that Shklovsky sought to alter discussions of Soviet cinema in a manner that bypassed the plainly inadequate distinction between fiction and nonfiction film. See Tyrus Miller, Documentary/Modernism: Convergence and Complementarity in the 1930s, Modernism/Modernity 9.2 (April 2002): 2278; hereafter abbreviated DM. In Millers view, the distinction between fiction and nonfiction is bound to yet another view of Soviet film as a medium that hovers between realist and modernistic treatment[s] of the film narrative (DM, 228). Shklovsky succeeded in altering the terms of the discussion by shifting Soviet film away from these old distinctions and relocating its dividing line between the presentation of familiar and raw material. While the material of film was not important in the way that Vertov claimed it to be, Shklovsky knew that the presence of ostensibly raw materialin Vertovs case, current events placed on the screenwould refresh the use of defining filmic devices such as montage. Films like Vertovs bridged modernistic and naturalistic impulses because they used the material of current events in service of defining modernist devices such as montage (DM, 228). See also Shklovsky, in SOSD, 33. 16. See Viktor Shklovsky, The Semantics of Cinema, in The Film Factory: Russian and Soviet Cinema in Documents, 18961939, ed. Richard Taylor and Ian Christie, transl. Richard Taylor (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Ltd., 1988), 133; this volume hereafter abbreviated RSCD.

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17. In his 1925 essay, The Semantics of Cinema, Shklovsky questioned Vertovs militant newsreel aesthetic and placed a premium on the emerging device of montage: The Cine-Eyes [Vertovs newsreel film group] reject the actor and think that in so doing they are breaking with art, but the actual selection of moments to be filmed is itself a deliberate act (RSCD, 133). 18. Soviet newsreels, and the newsreel aesthetic devised and articulated by Vertov, influenced Zukofsky and Williams both directly and indirectly. Zukofsky saw and responded to documentary films that were made in the Soviet Union and shown in New York. See Weaver, WCWAB, 121; see also below. Williams modeled some of his own documentary practices and aesthetics after those set forth by groups like the Workers Film and Photo League (WFPL). On Williamss interest in the WFPL and in other radical movements among American photographers and filmmakers, see WCWAB, 558, 11521. One of the founders of the American branch of the WFPL, Samuel Brody, discusses Vertovs importance to his vision of this militant organization. See Tony Stafford, The Camera as a Weapon in the Class Struggle: Interview with Samuel Brody, Jump Cut 14 (30 March 1977), 28; hereafter abbreviated CW. For a discussion of the WFPL as an international organization, one that took its beginnings in a Leninist propaganda initiative of 1921, see Heather Puttock, From Class Warfare to the Building of a New Social Order: The (Workers) Film and Photo League as Microcosm of the 1930s, masters thesis, University of London, September 1997. Puttocks thesis is available to readers at the British Film Institute Library in London. 19. That Zukofsky wanted to write his poetry into history is suggested by some of the names that he proposed for his poetry movement, Objectivism. Poets, 1931 . . . or U.S.A., 1931 . . . or what do you suggest? he asked Pound in 1930. Or Objectivists, 1931, or The Third Decade . . . (PZ, 69). Zukofsky was much more restrained than Williams in his embrace of the militant camera. Though he claimed to have been inspired as a poet by an unflinching documentary portrayal of a failed communist uprising in China, he chose Eisenstein and his calculated montage method as a model for his own poetic procedures. Williams, by contrast, squeezed the bullets from Vertovs militant suggestion that his newsreel method amounted to a Revolutionary cameras attack on bourgeois cinema and through it the very bourgeois structure of the world (KE, 39). Williams wrote a blind introduction to a book of poems in 1939, calling in it for a violent poetic purge of the sort of false news that was then associated with Hollywood in radical filmmaking circles: The epic poem would be our newspaper, Pounds cantos are the algebraic equivalent but too perversely individual to achieve the universal understanding required. The epic if you please is what were after, but not the lyric-epic sing-song. It must be a concise sharpshooting epic style. Machine gun style. Facts, facts, facts, tearing into us to blast away our stinking flesh of news. Bullets. This introduction can be found under the heading, Introduction to Book of David Ruth, among the poets papers at SUNY Buffalo (WCWAB, 120). That Williams should have rhetorically embraced the militarism maintained by Samuel Brody does not mean that he went so far as to share with Brody a Vertovian belief that the film medium was at its most effective and powerful level when its raw material was reality itself rather than the re-enactment and artificial recreation of it (CW, 28). Far from sharing Vertovs utopian militarism, the author of Paterson was less sanguine about the possibility of meaningful political reform after 1939 than even the young liberal poet, Muriel Rukeyser, who made the following modest claim at the end of her long poem, The Book of the Dead (1938): Poetry can extend the document. See Muriel Rukeyser, U.S.1 (New York: Covici Friede, 1938), 146; hereafter abbreviated US1. 20. See Seymour Stern, Hollywood Bulletin, Experimental Cinema 1.2 (June 1930): 13. Stern reports that this term was used derisively by Hollywood filmmakers who saw two of Eisensteins films, Potemkin and Ten Days That Shook the World [also known as October] in 19291930. Directors, cutters, picture-people variously employed (scenarists, continuity editors, etc.), whose views were sought in course of conversation and discussion, also severely criticized the cutting. They wanted to know why Eisenstein cut back and forth so much and so fast. Soviet films have become known here as the pictures with choppy cutting (13). Some Hollywood critics viewed Russian editing methods as derivative of earlier, more primitive American efforts like D. W. Griffiths. Griffiths Intolerance clearly was an influential film for early Soviet filmmakers (K, 1423; 2102). But many American and British treatments of Soviet film have overstated Griffiths influence on Eisenstein at the expense of compatriots such as Lev Kuleshov and Dziga Vertov.

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21. In her biography of Eisenstein, Oksana Bulgakowa notes that, by 1927, the phrase Russian montage was widely used overseas. Russian filmmakers were for the most part unaware of their international fame. See Oksana Bulgakowa, Sergei Eisenstein: A Biography, trans. Anne Dwyer (1998; San Francisco: Potemkin Press, 2001), 83; hereafter abbreviated SEB. Kenneth MacPherson, editor of Close Up and a great admirer of Eisenstein, believed that Soviet developments in montage marked the arrowpoint of progress in film. See his editorial, As Is, Close Up 3.3 (September 1928), 7. 22. See A. Dovzhenko, My Method, related to L. Linhart and trans. by K. Santor, Experimental Cinema 5 (1934), 23. Eisenstein claimed to have worked in a similar fashion. Struggling to explain to his American financial backers why he needed so much footage for a film that he was shooting in Mexico, the director wrote in 1932 that, for the making of his last masterpiece, October (1928), he had had to cut around 80,000 meters of footage to 2,100 meters (SEB, 1334). 23. Edited primarily from Switzerland, Close Up aspired to a kind of internationalism as the first English-language journal devoted entirely to the art of the film. See Anne Friedberg, Introduction: Reading Close Up, 19271933, in Close Up, 19271933: Cinema and Modernism, eds. James Donald, Anne Friedberg and Laura Marcus (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1998), 10. Close Up enjoyed a strong readership in the U.S. and in England from 1927 to 1933; the poet H. D. and the novelists Bryher and Dorothy Richardson were among the writers who subscribed to the magazine. 24. MacPherson, As Is, 12. 25. John C. Moore, The Experimental Film and its Limitations, in Close Up 9.4 (December 1932), 2812. For an account of Eisensteins early formative exposure to Kuleshov, see Richard Taylor, Eisenstein: A Soviet Artist, in The Eisenstein Reader, ed. Richard Taylor (London: British Film Institute, 1998), 3. Kuleshov was really the first Soviet filmmaker to write in a systematic way about montage. In a 1917 essay titled The Tasks of the Artist in Cinema, he said: The essence of cinema art lies in the creativity of the director and the artist: everything is based on composition. To make a picture the director must compose the separate filmed fragments, disordered and disjointed, into a single whole and juxtapose these separate moments into a more advantageous, integral and rhythmical sequence, just as a child constructs a whole word or phrase from separate scattered blocks of letters. See Lev Kuleshov, The Tasks of the Artist in Cinema, in RSCD, 41. Eisenstein ultimately distinguished his method from Kuleshovs by claiming to have based his more dialectical montage principles on collision rather than on linkage. See Sergei Eisenstein, Film Form: Essays in Film Theory, ed. and trans. Jay Leyda (1949; New York: Harcourt Brace & Company, 1977), 368; hereafter abbreviated FF. 26. Vertovs reference to cinematic hurricanes of movement comes from his early essay, WE; VARIANT OF A MANIFESTO (KE, 9). Written in 1919, this essay was not published until 1922. His later, related reference to [h]urricanes of facts comes from his 1926 essay, The Factory of Facts (KE, 60). 27. In his early manifesto, WE, Vertov wrote: WE are cleansing kinochestvo [new cinema methods] of foreign matterof music, literature, and theater; we seek our own rhythm, one lifted from nowhere else, and we find it in the movements of things. . . . Saws dancing at a sawmill convey to us a joy more intimate and intelligible than that on human dance floors (KE, 7). On Vertovs early work with Kinonedelia and Kinopravda see Seth R. Feldman, Dziga Vertov: A Guide to References and Resources (Boston: G. K. Hall & Co.: 1979), 110. Feldman argues that Vertovs defining experiments with cutting and motion begin as early as 1919, during his assemblage of footage for Kinonedelia #30 (45, 20). Vertov suggested something similar when he wrote in 1924: My first experiments in assembling chance film clippings into more or less harmonious montage groups belong to this period (of Kinonedelia) (KE, 42). 28. Eisenstein was not the first Soviet filmmaker to have fooled journalists and historians with the verisimilitude of his filmic productions. In The Last Bolshevik, a film about the uses and misuses of cinema under Lenin and Stalin, the French filmmaker Chris Marker reveals that a respected French publishing house mistook a film-still taken from a 1920 theatrical staging of the storming of the czars Winter Palace for an actual photograph of the epochal event. In his study, Marker locates the precise frame of the recreation film in question and he matches it to the historical photograph that graces the cover of the French book, Histoire de la rvolution russe. See The Last Bolshevik (France, 1993).

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29. Clark discusses constructivism as an aesthetic movement and as a cultural phenomenon in PCCR. On constructivism and avant-garde film in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, see Annette Michelsons Introduction to KE, xvlxi. Graham Roberts notes that, beginning in late 1922, the constructivist designer and photographer Alexander Rodchenko began to collaborate with Vertov on the filmmakers Kinopravda newsreel series. See Graham Roberts, Forward Soviet!: History and Nonfiction Film in the USSR (London: I.B. Tauris, 1999), 226, 33; hereafter abbreviated FS. Kinopravda #14 (issued November 1922) in particular evidence[s] . . . the Vertov/Rodchenko collaboration that earned criticism from censors and even from fellow newsreel makers for being too visually complex (FS, 25, 33). Seth Feldman suggests that Vertovs work began to gain its visual complexity in 1919, several years before the filmmakers formal collaboration with Rodchenko (see note 26). 30. Mixed in with Lenins reflections on the ideological uses of cinema were some fairly unambiguous instructions, including the following: the production of new films imbued with Communist ideas and reflecting Soviet reality should begin with the newsreel. Anatoli Lunacharsky served as Lenins Commissar of Education during the early years of the Bolshevik regime. Many of Lenins best known statements about the importance of cinema and of newsreel in particular have been taken from conversations recorded by Lunacharsky. See Anatoli Lunacharsky: Conversation with Lenin. I. Of All the Arts . . . (1925), in RSCD, 57. Nonfiction film, Lenin knew, was important not only because it could reach those recalcitrant and often illiterate Russian peasants who resisted modernization and collectivization, but also because it spoke to the USSRs growing international audiencea global body of sympathizers that was beginning to include artistic luminaries from America and from Europe. 31. Writing as the Hollywood correspondent for the film journal, Experimental Cinema, Seymour Stern observed that the American filmmakers who evaluated Soviet films were unaware that, during the Revolution there was no filming at all in Russia and hardly any equipment, and that whatever equipment there was, had been sabotaged by the fleeing bourgeois owners of the few small preRevolutionary studios. See his Hollywood Bulletin, Experimental Cinema 1.2 (June 1930), 12. See also Roberts, FS, 15 and Peter Kenez, The Birth of the Propaganda State: Soviet Methods of Mass Mobilization, 19171929 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 1067. 32. See A. Lemberg, Reminiscences of an Old Cameraman, in Bolshevik Visions, ed. W. G. Rosenberg (1984; Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1990), 389. Lembergs recollection of bartering rations for film stock is quoted in Roberts, FS, 19. 33. Alexander Arossev, Stages of Progress, in Soviet Cinema, ed. Alexander Arossev (Moscow: VOKS, 1935), 289. 34. Thorold Dickinson and Catherine De la Roche, Soviet Cinema (London: The Falcon Press Ltd., 1948), 22; hereafter abbreviated SC. 35. See John Dos Passoss introduction to The 42nd Parallel (1930; New York: Modern Library, 1937), quoted in Note on the Texts, in Dos Passos, U.S.A., eds. Daniel Aaron and Townsend Ludington (New York: Library of America, 1996), 1268; hereafter abbreviated USA. Dos Passos admired Vertovs unplayed films, but, despite Vertovs welcoming observation in 1934 that Dos Passoss work involves a translation from film-vision into literary language, the American writer seems to have had a poor grasp of the de-aestheticizing impulse that lay beneath Vertovs Kinoki project of 1924 (KE, 174). For example, the novelist used The Camera Eye sections of U.S.A. to represent the inner experience of characters, as in the following interior monologue delivered by a wounded twenty-one year old soldier: the raindrops fall one by one out of the horsechestnut tree over the arbor onto the table in the abandoned beergarden and the puddly gravel and my clipped skull where my fingers move gently forward and back over the fuzzy knobs and hollows . . . (USA, 420). In contrast to the surfacey Newsreel sections that represent the common mind through a barrage of newspaper headlines and snippets from popular songs, The Camera Eye offsets observers interiors as precious dramatic spaces within U.S.A. Montage, or the art that Vertov described as a technologically driven theory of intervals, or as a more high flown theory of relativity on the screen, is for Dos Passos a mechanism that preserves the traditional distinction between interior and exterior forms of consciousness (KE, 41). 36. Dos Passos expressed his admiration for unplayed films in a letter to E. E. Cummings written in 1928: The great thing is that [the makers of unplayed films] have little money for elaborate studio work and have to use actual scenes and people and inventive photography. See The Fourteenth

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328 Chronicle: Letters and Diaries of John Dos Passos, ed. Townsend Ludington (Boston: Gambit, Inc.,
1973), 386. 37. Zukofsky wrote three essays on the Objectivist movement in 1930 and 1931. Two of these essays appeared in Poetry magazine in 1931; and the three together can be found in his collection of critical essays, Prepositions +. See Louis Zukofsky, Prepositions +: The Collected Critical Essays, ed. Mark Scroggins (1967; Hanover, NH: Wesleyan University Press, 2000), 128; hereafter abbreviated P+. The Pound/Zukofsky correspondence is also a good source for those interested in puzzling out Objectivism and its relation to Imagism. In his letters to Pound, Zukofsky discusses Objectivism as a poetic movement that turns on events, and consequently history, rather than on Imagist things (PZ, 71). William Carlos Williams also considers Objectivism in relation to Imagism in his autobiography. See The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams (1948; New York: Random House, 1951), 2645; hereafter abbreviated AWCW. Like Zukofsky, Williams spoke of the Objectivist poem as an object in history (AWCW, 265). In doing so, he may have been suggesting that, in the late 1930s at least, writers of poems should share with their camera-laden partners the focussed social and political objectives of the documentarian. Pounds list of Imagist directives first appeared in Poetry magazine in 1913; it is reprinted in Ezra Pound, Literary Essays of Ezra Pound, ed. T. S. Eliot (New York: New Directions, 1968), 35; hereafter abbreviated LE. 38. The quoted phrase is from Samuel Brody, who is remembering a statement by Vertov. Brody is translating and paraphrasing part of an essay that appeared in the late 1920s, in French, in an issue of Henri Barbusses Monde (CW, 28). 39. Robert Maguire writes that, during the Revolutionary 1920s, so urgent and exciting were the claims of life themselves that a concept of literature developed wherein writers began to value inclusiveness above all else; in many cases, writers assemble[d] a great variety of styles, manners, and subjectsboth literary and nonliterarywithout distinguishing them very carefully. See Robert A. Maguire, Red Virgin Soil: Soviet Literature in the 1920s (1968; Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 2000), 69; hereafter abbreviated RVS. See also below. 40. Ezra Pound, ABC of Reading (1934; New York: New Directions, 1987), 29. 41. Langston Hughes traveled through the Soviet Union for one year, beginning in June 1932. Together with twenty-two other African American writers, actors, and students, Hughes had been invited to Russia by the Meschrabpom Film Corporation to help make a film about race in contemporary America. By Hughess own account, Black and White was based on a script that was deeply flawed from the start: [The story] would have looked wonderful on the screen, Hughes conceded, so well do the Russians handle crowds in films. . . . [But it] was not even plausible fantasybeing both ahead of and far behind the times. See Langston Hughes, I Wonder as I Wander: An Autobiographical Journey (1956; New York: Hill and Wang, 2000), 79. Despite the Soviet states large investment in this project, including its coverage of the expenses of visiting Americans, the film was never made. Hughess impressions of his year in the USSR can be found in an essay entitled Moscow and Me (1933). See Hughess Good Morning Revolution: Uncollected Writings of Social Protest by Langston Hughes, ed. Faith Berry (New York: Citadel Press, 1992), 719. Hughes provides a lengthy and detailed account of his travels in the Soviet Union in the second volume of his autobiography, I Wonder as I Wander. During the early 1930s, even Ezra Pound was sanguine about the Soviet experiment; and he suggested to Zukofsky that the younger poet should visit Moscow. Zukofsky agreed that Rhoosia was a good place for young artists, but he declined to go (PZ, xvxvi). 42. See Zukofskys letter to Williams, 22 October 1928, in the William Carlos Williams Collection at SUNY Buffalo. This letter is quoted in Weaver, WCWAB, 121. 43. Graham Roberts writes that, in 1929, Vertov was angered by German reviews that suggested that Vertovs work was an extension of Ruttmanns (FS, 90). Citing The Man with a Movie Camera, Vertovs famous day-in-the-life study of Moscow, the American reviewer Harry Potamkin made the same claim in 1930. See Harry Potamkin, The Compound Cinema, ed. Lewis Jacobs (New York: Teachers College Press, 1977), 623. Vertov rightly insisted that the day in the life method had been an integral part of his own aesthetic since 1924, several years before Ruttmann and Freund made Berlin: The Symphony of a Great City (FS, 90). 44. Ezra Pound, quoted in Louis Zukofsky, Ezra Pound, in P+, 70.

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45. See Oswell Blakeston, An Objectivist Anthology, by Louis Zukofsky, in Close Up 10.3 (September 1933), 2934. 46. See Alexander Bakshy, Dynamic Composition, Experimental Cinema 1.1 (February 1930), 2. 47. Eisenstein left Moscow accompanied by an assistant and a cameraman who were to help him glean information about sound film for the Soviet film industry. From the outset, in Berlin and in Paris, the Bolshevik artist seemed right at home in European modernist circles. He exchanged ideas with James Joyce, Kenneth MacPherson (the Close Up editor), Jean Cocteau, and Paul Eluard, as well as with Fernand Lger and a host of other visual artists, many of whom were just beginning their own experiments with film (SEB, 94106). After crossing the Atlantic, moreover, Eisenstein found montage to be a welcome new subject of inquiry at American universities. Beginning his long journey from Boston to Hollywood, he lectured at the Fine Arts Department at Harvard; co-taught a seminar with John Dewey at Columbia; and he spoke on montage to an appreciative audience at the University of Chicago (SEB, 1089; SE, 165). 48. Lunacharsky, Conversation with Lenin, in RSCD, 57. 49. Michael Denning places Williams in the vanguard of those American writers who pushed the cause of proletariat literature during the 1930s (CF, 2134). Story collections such as The Knife of the Times (1932) and Life along the Passaic (1938), Denning notes, read like miniature versions of Dos Passoss U.S.A. (CF, 213). During the decade when he devoted himself to fiction, working on a trilogy of novels together with these stories, Williams sharpened his ear for vernacular speech. It was Williamss commitment to representing particular classes and ethnic groups in historyand to telling lost stories like that of the Paterson silkworkers strike of 1913that led him to think about the role that documentary practices might play in his poetry. Even as he moved away from stories and novels and back toward the writing of poetry, Williams relied on his ear, strengthening his capacity to render the dialects that he encountered in New York and in his practice as a New Jersey physician. Among his preliminary drafts for Paterson are a series of vernacular sketches that he published in a collection called The Broken Span in 1941. Here, in a selection titled For the Poem PATTERSON [sic], Paterson, New Jersey emerges as an assemblage of working class voices: Her milk dont seem to . . / Shes always hungry but . . / She seems to gain all right/ I dont know; You are a typical American woman/ you think men grow on trees; Doc, I bin lookin for you/ I owe you two bucks. Some of these voices eventually found their way into Paterson. See William Carlos Williams, The Broken Span (Norfolk, CT: New Directions, 1941), n.p. 50. Marie Seton discusses the Hitler-Stalin non-aggression pact of 1939 and its impact on Eisenstein and on the arts more broadly in the Soviet Union (SE, 3978). Jay Leyda discusses foreign reactions to the agreement (K, 3567). 51. Ezra Pound held a similar belief; he pieced together the Cantos out of those organic textual fragments that contained what he called the radiant gist. 52. The LEF writer Osip Brik was among those who suggested that nonfiction cinema should model itself after existing trends in Soviet literature of the 1920s: [W]e want to achieve in cinema the same thing as in all our literary work, that is, to train people to value facts, documents, and not to value an artistic invention inspired by these documents. . . . (SOSD, 36) Some of the most generically inventive Soviet literature of the 1920s was published in the periodical Red Virgin Soil, a selfstyled literary and scientific-publicistic journal begun in 1921 with the backing of luminaries including Vladimir Lenin and Maxim Gorky (RVS, 3). Red Virgin Soil featured documentary and ethnographic writings by correspondents including the LEF poet, Vladimir Mayakovsky; and it contained special sections for the reprinting of newly discovered archival materials or memoirs (RVS, 19). Because history itself seemed so consequential to Soviet readers and writers of that decade, nonfiction genres, including the notebook, the diary, the travel memoir, and interpretive journalism assumed a special prominence in the pages of Red Virgin Soil (RVS, 69). 53. Beyond Paterson, moreover, there extends a tradition of American collage poetry that includes the Maximus Poems of Charles Olson, a historical epic thick with quoted, and performatively misquoted, letters and documents, together with other distinctive writings, including those of Paul Metcalf, whose Apalache (1976) narrates the settlement of North Americas eastern reaches entirely through passages excerpted from other writers texts. Blending the literary documentary tradition with con-

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330 temporary critical theory and the avant-garde poetics of the LANGUAGE movement, Susan Howe is
renowned among those who bring textual collage practices into the twenty-first century. In books like Singularities (1990), and in essays on documentary filmmakers including Chris Marker and Dziga Vertov, Howe not only ensures that the historical collage text remains a vibrant component of American poetry, but she also points to its structural affinities with the theory and practice of nonfiction film. See Susan Howe, Sorting Facts; or, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Marker, in BD, 295343. In her essay, Howe places herself within a poetic documentary tradition that hinges on the associational assemblage techniques of, not only twentieth-century American writers like T. S. Eliot, H. D., Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, Charles Olson, and John Cage, but also those nineteenth-century writersHerman Melville, Emily Dickinson, and Walt Whitmanwho us[ed] montage before it was a word for a working method (BD, 331). Howes observations about the affinities between American writers and European and Soviet filmmakers have helped to spark my own study of the historical relationship between Soviet film and the twentieth-century American long poem. 54. Eisensteins ideas about realism and proportion are central to his understanding of montage as a modern method of assemblage; see note 55. Most of his appreciation for the power of pre-capitalistic artistic directives stems from his study of traditional Japanese art forms and the Japanese ideogram. But the inventive director and theorist was also fascinated by the artistic and cultural traditions of Mexico. The lessons of disproportion, for example, resound in Eisensteins assessment of the weirdness, absurdity, disproportion, and scale of the Mayan statues that he encountered by matchlight in a blacked-out night museum in Chichen Itza. See Eisensteins Immoral Memories: An Autobiography, trans. Herbert Marshall (Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1983), 178. See also Inga Karetnikova and Leon Steinmetz, Mexico According to Eisenstein (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1991), 1801. Inga Karetnikovas book contains a photograph of the director seated before, and almost within, a giant Mayan stone statue in another darkened museum, this one in Mexico City. (Fig. 4) The photo suggests that, although Eisenstein never was able to edit his Mexican film footage, his theories of montage were fully alive for him while he was working in Mexico. The director and theorist seemed himself to be experiencing a liberating sense of pre-capitalistic disproportion among the men, women, and stones of that country. 55. In his essay, The Cinematographic Principle and the Ideogram (1929), Eisenstein compares montage methods to Japanese ideograms and to traditional Japanese art forms such as mask carving and Kabuki and No theater (FF, 2844). Eisenstein argues here and in another essay, The Unexpected (1928), that these pre-capitalistic forms preserve the emotional truths that are destroyed by realism, the conventional art system that attends capitalism (FF, 267). Much as capitalism brings with it a false consciousness regarding the truth of economic exploitation, realism brings with it a false set of visual and aesthetic standards. In Eisensteins view, montage ruptures these standards, awakening eyes and minds, by setting static forms in conflict. One example that he provides comes from the Japanese ideogram for scream. This compound picture word consists of two elements: a large, stylized mouth set beside a childs body. Placed in rapid sequence on the movie screen, pairs of disproportionate images like these might help a film to achieve an unprecedented emotional immediacy (FF, 2830). This is how Eisenstein discusses his use of the stone lions in Potemkin in his essay, A Dialectical Approach to Film Form. Here, the director lists and illustrates many different varieties of montage, including a subcategory of artificially produced images of motion. According to Eisenstein, the stone lions provide illogical examples of such images of motion (FF, 55). It is illogical to suggest that an icon literally made of stone would be so moved by a massacre that it has to stand and roar in protest; but it is also a sign of the expressive range of montage. Marie Seton also discusses the stone lions in her biography of the filmmaker. According to Seton, the director was out scouting scenes with his cameraman, Eduard Tisse, when the two discovered a set of three lion statues in a garden at a former czars palace in Alupka. Tisse was initially more excited than Eisenstein about the possibility of filming and combining shots of the three statues. Once the lions had been filmed, however, Eisenstein saw that he could achieve a powerful effect by arranging the three shots the sleeping lion, the awakening lion, the rising lionin sequence against the silent thunder of the Potemkins firing guns. He discovered that, by correctly calculating the length of the second shot, which needed to be longer than the other two, the marble would become dynamic and even [the] stone [could be made to] cr[y] out in protest (SE, 83).

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56. The conflict between Sinclair and Eisenstein over the editing of Que Viva Mexico! is chronicled in a number of places. Seymour Stern and other leftist critics took Eisensteins point of view in a series of articles about the incident that were published in Experimental Cinema. Hound and Horn publisher Lincoln Kirstein turned a memorable phrase when he said, in 1932, that it would be staggering to rob Que Viva Mexico! of Eisensteins final fingering (quoted in Seton, SE, 236). Other accounts sympathetic to Eisenstein include Oksana Bulgakowas biography of the director. Eisenstein himself was wisely circumspect regarding the incident. That the director should have been deprived of the opportunity to edit his own footage seems wrong, but some versions of the incident do portray Sinclairs side of the story, making his actions seem understandable if unjustified. For accounts that cast a soft light on Sinclair, see the novelists own autobiography, American Outpost: A Book of Reminiscences (New York: Farrar and Reinhart, 1932). See also Sergei Eisenstein and Upton Sinclair: The Making and Unmaking of Que Viva Mexico!, eds. Harry M. Geduld and Ronald Gottesman (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1970). 57. Paterson invokes its normative Anglo-Saxon reader through the very immigrant vernacular voices that negatively establish an Anglo-Saxon measure for Americanness. In American Outpost, Upton Sinclair spoke proudly of the good hard shell of Puritanism that protect[ed] [him] against the black magic of the modern Babylon. On the very next page he made his first mention of his surprising involvement with an Eisenstein moving picture (Sinclair, American Outpost, 889). Sinclair seems to have been both fearful and respectful of the power of Eisensteins montage method. In a 1931 letter to L. I. Monosson of Amkino, he acknowledged that much of Eisensteins work depends upon cutting and arrangement; see Sergei Eisenstein and Upton Sinclair, eds. Geduld and Gottesman, 867. 58. In the early to mid-1930s, when Eisenstein returned to Moscow from Mexico, Stalins aesthetic purges had begun to coincide with sexual reforms. In March 1934, the Soviet Union passed a law that made homosexuality a punishable offense. Large numbers of artists were among those arrested for sexual offenses in major cities like Moscow, Leningrad, Odessa, and Kharkov (SEB, 1656).