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Translation of Eric Mottram’s Poem 33 in Interrogation Rooms by T. Wignesan
33. on a vu un homme courir/ de la scène de crime un homme est maintenant en train d’aider/ la police avec leurs instruments/ devrais-je dire l’enquête criminelle/ intérrogations/ ceci fait partie d’une vieille bobine un homme en train de prendre la fuite/ de leur scène contribue/ à investir son sang/ après l’assassinat un homme/ courait depuis la vieille scène/ noir Irlandais poilu/ ne tentez pas/ de l’arrêter vous-même/ ceci n’est pas une vraie bobine c’est le déchet/ un morceau d’exposition/ vous payez pour voir la même scène/ de la même série/ ceux qui ne sont pas inclus sont des privilégiés/ l’homme qui coure est un remplaçant nu/ qu’on ramena/ êtes-vous celui qui rentre/ les déchets de n’importe quelle cité/ le Berlin de Grosz se chevauche/ ce que contrôle
étroitement les réactions humaines/ mais quand Kokoschka demanda à tout le monde de s’entretuer sur la lande à l’extérieur de Dresde/ Grosz et ses malfrats lui menaçaient de faire pendre sur un lampadaire/ comme la Putain d’Art Kokoschka/ les manteaux-rouges pourchassent dans les comtés/ les nobles déversent/ le sang rouge des animaux/ ceux qui sont habillés en bleu détruisent les justes/ des prêtes prennent la fuite en compagnie des pandas/ à une proie faites collé n’importe quelle crime/ selon les règles des cannibales/ des cartes détaillent des fautes/ mais on réussit à effectuer l’assassinat
Eric Mottram from/on the States as the American Learned Societies Awardee: 1965-66. Excerpts from the correspondence - shorn of personal matter - to T. Wignesan in London.
[Note: Eric Mottram was appointed in 1960 lecturer at King’s College, University of London; in 1973 Reader, and in 1983 Professor of English and American Literature; Professor Emeritus in 1990.]
March 4, 1966: « Dear Wignesan,
Your peace news piece seems a breakthrough in many ways - style and propositions and at least making it with a magazine again. (Personally, Tom McGrath has my undying hatred for not returning my Burroughs article after repeated letters begging him to: it’s a dirty trick, if ever.) Re Ellison, his new essays in Shadow and Act are firstrate and recently he read part of a new novel on telly so he is thriving. It is difficult for him because he is attacked by his own people for not being militant - meaning he doesn’t march or physically show his protesting spirit - and he doesn’t make speeches or rants about this that and the other latest move on one side or the other. He simply generates intelligence. Liberator meanwhile deifies Malcolm - a long article in the anniversary number messianizing him, and references to He and Him and to ‘Audubon’ as if it were Golgotha. They disrecommended the Autobiography because it dwelt too much on his early life, which doesn’t actually yield to Christlike images.... The same magazine reflects black nationals’ opinion by putting down Leroi Jones as a recently-joined Village intellectual who does not yet speak to Us, the militant Muslim galvanizers of Harlem and other ghetto militants. I had dinner in Harlem with Arna Bontemps, Langston Hughes and the Sth African novelist, Richard Rive (have you read his novel? I’m afraid I hadn’t - rather embarrassing), the other night and regained my nerve a little from my last disastrous visit. But sitting waiting for the party to arrive (I was early) in a black Harlem restaurant is no pleasure, I may say. Rive seems a decent fellow and pretty shrewd about his country - he may be in England shortly - perhaps you could meet him through me (I am not suggesting you actually condescend to use my name.)
[...2 lines omitted] I was sorry to hear of the eviction and can only hope the new place is working out. But you as a Negro does not impress me! We are all black, don’t forget. My silence, by the way, was that I closed down recently in order to get the damned Pelican out of the way. It had been hanging over my head damoclesianly for two years. But now, after a gruelling period of sweats, it is more or less done and Malcolm Bradbury and I only have the dribs and drabs to think about, borderlines and all that. What a relief. But now I feel freer, with that and the Arthur Miller article for Stratford Studies behind me. I am now working on a BBC thing on McLuhan: and this I want to expand into a critique of him, Kahn, Wiener and Fuller - these men fascinate me, and will make an obverse side for my power thinkings. These latter shape up nicely, thank you. I delivered some to kids at a liberal arts college in Vermont the other day: they really dug what I was saying, really came on with good questions and additions and understood how I must have a subplot (as McLuhan told me) about love and passivity, as power forms. As Allen embraced me through his black hairs last night, I remembered what he teaches and what I have used of his way of life to reconsider values of power. He had just arrived from Kansas and from a long tour lasting since last July, with Peter Orlovsky and the insane brother Julius. He had come to collect the mail from Ted Wilentz’s and I was there having dinner. Allen chanted a new song and showed us his bus, with fridge, oven, watertank and all mod cons in which he travels about these days, recording his poems into a maginficant [magnificent?] taperecorder - he’d just made one as he came into the city and now played it back to us: a magnificent improvisatory ode. The scene will now begin in earnest, I’m assured.
Vermont I also enjoyed for the huge mountains and snows. The wilderness gave me antihuman feeling I had only once had before: in the jungles of central Malaya. Which reminds me: I see from the New Statesman that Evans is leaving his chair at Kuala Lumpur - did you know where he is going now? I’d be most intrigued to know if he’s at last leaving that country.
Well, the rest is that it is March and I have just committed myself to the Queen Mary for September and the homeward voyage. It’s hardly credible that over five months of my time has rushed away. It seems yesterday I arrived in those ghastly tropical heats of September 1965, and today it is misty and springlike. Which means summer is nearing. I have worked all winter and now I want to get out into the country a little before I go up to Buffalo in July.
All the best: I look forward to hearing from you. Eric »
[From New York University.
Letter addressed to 33, Mimosa Street, S.W.6 and re-directed to 156, Gloucester Place, N.W.1]
(c) T. Wignesan - Paris, 2017
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