I also already mentioned that, at the end of the night, getting little support from his friend or Olson to help him on what has turned into a bad trip, he calls his wife, who is at home in the Lower East Side, and she talks him down, This, by now, should suggest how ineluctably the poet is connected to his East Village support network. In the yo-yo movement, though, two other key signifiers of Sanders' future direction are evident. In each moment of outward roaming, Sanders' projects himself into a distinct past, as when "Once I spoke Akkadian, building a mud brick hut // by the River Euphrates" (47). But the last life cycle he enters is this, "I was a Hasidic store owner on Hester Street // in the Lower East Side" (ibid.). In other words, he is experiencing the back story of his own neighborhood.
He returns to the house in which he is staying and engages in this cryptic dialogue.
On the table was a jade and silver cross …
I asked the O, "what is there to hold on to?"
He handed me the cross
I tasted it and felt it melt in my mouth (48)
(Let me say, as an aside, and to add another feather to this consideration, that a number of mystical moments take place in front of a Russian Orthodox church in Beatnik Glory. These are not Christian visions per se and do not solicit faith in Jesus. Rather my sense is that they suggest two things. That reality contains visionary dimensions and that the older religions possess a charge that is far greater than that of Goof Parades and New Age ceremonials.)
However, to return to Gloucester, the upshot of the "cross questioning" is not the suggestion that Sanders should fall on his knees and embrace that old time religion, that he must recognize, while advocating leftist causes, the value of grounding argument and pageantry in the progressive sides of America's religious and civic traditions. The upshot of both together, cross and sojourn as a Hassid, is that he, in a fragmented way, is seeing that the epic verse he has in him must work first with the common experience, drawing on his present milieu (notated by his call to his wife), tying back to its lower-class cum socialist cum anarchist roots (the Hassid), and written in the most reachable, plain spoken style (the cross symbolizing a writerly catholicism, lower case "c").
Upshot final: America: A History in Verse, which presents U.S. history as a way to provide the next generation with a more solid grounding (more solid than he possessed in his first days of being a young rebel) in the radical history of Turtle Island. To spice it with thumbnails of heroic figures who battled for a cooperative society. To lace it with a resonant use of symbols and antically coined phrases, such as "military-industrial surrealists" or, to denote a setback for the forces of reaction, "the rolling of cap-eyes." To infuse it with passion, at times a maddened intensity of anger and love. All this, I argue, is constructed in "Mane," as conceived one night in Olson's Gloucester. And this is why I construe this center-drift as the record of an epiphany, "a forward-glancing one," to employ Ernst Bloch's terminology.
This forward-glancing form is not the retrograde, sad-sack epiphany featured in Dubliners, whereby a protagonist recognizes her or his weakness or has impending mortality confirmed; but an epiphany in which the underbrush is cleared and one sees the road. All that is necessary is taking one first step onto the highway. A Guthrie step, a Holiday step.
I refer to singers here, not just because Sanders had been one, but because the two mentioned took the same tack. They put their writing and singing skills toward a conscious politicization of the folk and jazz idioms, whether performing at Town Hall or Café Society.
11. Sanders' Cherished Program
I have no more to answer to in this essay, except to get to the review of Revs of the Morrow, for I believe I have, as far as you are willing to swallow my argument, shown why Sanders broke with his mentor and shuffled about the tradition of the American long poem. Shown also, perhaps, that this new stance is signaled most authoritatively in "Poseidon's Mane," and prepared for in the study of a generation, reflected in Tales of Beatnik Glory. In Revs , he simply, with grace and aplomb, moves inexorably forward on the same path.
I don't think I have to tick this off in any detail, beyond saying that aside from the extraordinary center-drift "Mane" (whose exact working will be described in a minute), the book contains a series of lyric and dramatic productions, further forwarding Sanders' cherished program.
There are true-life portraits of progressive saints (Tactic B). See his depiction of Emma Goldman and his nervy, indelible painting of Rachel Carson, describing how she finished Silent Spring and then went out to defend it from corporate flaks all while she was enduring increasingly savage treatments for her inoperable cancer.
To see him satirically castigating the puffed up pretensions of America's charter governing class (Tactic C), consult "The Impeachment of George Bush – A World Wide Party," which does not imagine the dour proceedings of a Senate trial, but rather the aftermath of its success, an infectiously described jumping jamboree in which, macabrely enough, "500,000 legless humans from U.S. and Chinese land mines // clicked their crutches to the beat as // Stevie Wonder's 'Superstition' played from giant helicopters." Even the animal kingdom gets to groove, when "the birds in pet shops // suddenly knew 'All you need is love"' (58).
For the creation of a new iconography (also Tactic C), we can reference his mention of the "Share-Flower," which opposed military might. The revolution, then, will be buried in a catalog of flower references. He submits this idea most forcefully in the book's opener, "To The Revolutionaries Not Yet Born." Here, using the same salient term, he distinguishes between those pushing for justice, peace and an expanded utopia, "the Workers of the Rose," and the state they eventually hope to reach, the "cradle-to-grave society of the Sharing Rose" (11). Both invoke this flower because it occurs in a standby phrase of American radical lore, Goldman's demanding "bread and roses." So, Sanders' rudimentary (in the sense of still being in the process of being worked out) system of symbols is, in line with what I take to be the poet's concern for an historical continuity in left history, a reworking of one already resplendent in our socialist/anarchist past.
12. Use of Center-Drift in Revs
But let's move to the last point, the writer's development of a new literary device, the center-drift. As suggested, according to this usage, every piece following the key one acts as a foil to it, shifting the reader's remembrance and understanding of the core text.
If, as noted, the center-drift in Revs is "Poseidon's Mane," whose content we know, the first poem to throw it into relief, immediately following, is "Lawn of Jars." It runs in entirety.
The melted eyeballs are on the lawn where the child of leisure learns croquet
You can only see them reflected in the expensive gas guzzler that brings Uncle Fred from Dayton
The eyes of Hiroshima cannot weep but the time-track is ankle deep in jars to hold the tears (53)
How does this inflect what has gone before? Simply enough. The thesis of this poem is that the violence the U.S. has perpetuated, no matter what the excuse, whether justified (in fighting Japan) or not, haunts the middle class, who – this is the ultimate tragedy – are deaf to the banshee cries of the slain. The special danger of not hearing is that the "victim" will not know (or will know only lies about) about her or his country's history and, hence about the foundations of his or her life.
(The reader of "Lawn" can't be expected to be aware of what I am about to note, but I believe when Sanders says the eyes are only visible "reflected in the expensive gas guzzler," he is alluding to the fact that gas was behind Japan's entrance into the war at Pearl Harbor. In America II, he puts it, "and so it was that the Japanese // starved for oil // (the U.S. embargo was forcing // it to use some 12,000 tons of oil // from its reserves each day) // sneaked an armada // toward the American fleet" (43). Further, my own suggestion that the bombing might be justified, since, according to U.S. apologists, it saved so many lives, it also refuted by Sanders. He explains that sheepish, bamboozled Truman, who had been well out of the loop, so that when he took over from Roosevelt, he knew nothing about the bomb, was herded by military top brass into dropping the the device on civilian targets. In fact, as Sanders explains, the original plan, when Roosevelt had been alive, was to present only "a demonstration of the bomb // with notice to Japan they'd get it next // if they didn't surrender" (119).) But, how does this poem tie in with "Mane"? The connection is not through oblivion, the tyke oblivious, Olson oblivious, but on the question of awareness. It may seem to the casual reader that in "Mane" Sanders' temporary LSD-induced flights to other times (to Egypt and the New York City Jewish quarter) were cut-and-dry records of typical acid trips. This would be a realist reading. A reader more familiar with Sanders' other writing might surmise that the mention of the Hassid is a presage of the poet's immersion in historical studies. Now, with this new poem in her or his sights, a different complexion is cast on the interpretation of his yo-yo-ing experience. It seems being a radical poet is being open to ghosts. Stirred more by common people's experience, such as that of a man constructing a brick hut or a small shopkeeper, than by pharaohs or presidents, the progressive artist connects beyond the present with a long tradition of resistance and is stirred to redress current wrongs not only to improve the world as it is, but – and this was Benjamin's insight, drawn from Jewish traditions -- as some compensation for what was ruined in the past, the sparks of which still stand somewhere, clinging to the world. It is the bleak darkness of the rich, of those, at least, who are comfortable and self-satisfied, to be riven from these pasts. While Olson, Weaver and Sanders, no matter how much they differ in individual perspective, all deeply partake of the past, and share that longing. To repeat, "Lawn," once registered, leads the attentive reader to a new, added aspect of the center-drift. This is not the place to take such a discussion much further, but let me add one final, briefer example of how this works. Some readers of "Mane" might feel a nagging, moment of doubt concerning the validity of Sanders' experience. After all, here was an epiphany arrived at, not via such avenues as meditation or as part of a determined spiritual quest, but on drugs, a fast-track, no-sweat way to enlightenment. Coming across a further poem in the book, "Chewing Coca Leaves" will not heal these doubts, but it will force forward another thought on "Mane." In "Chewing," Sanders notes how mild hallucinogens have been a part of many indigenous lifestyles, "the natives chewed the leaves // to calm the hunger and fatigue // that form so many strands // in life's harsh lanyard" (56). He notes that taken in moderation, these leaves proved more a health tonic than a debilitating influence, "Those who chew coca leaves // through their lives // show no physical deterioration from it" (ibid.). In their untreated, pristine form, the leaves are to be distinguished from the harder, export article, "Refined cocaine // is a right wing drug // chewing coca leaves with lime // is an ancient song of the people" (57). With this poem under her or his belt, the reader again has to rethink various motifs of "Mane." Against my position, it might be said that any well-planned book of lyrics slowly builds to a unified impression, for, in this sense, each new poem rewrites the one before. But Sanders is risking all, not to create such a gestalt, but to modify, poem by poem, a single holistic center-drift that, by the end of the book, has become almost as many nuanced as, suggested before, the waved-tossed, cut-up, glass city.
13. Grooms' Cover
And, appropriately, there is a replica glass city on the book's cover. It's vintage Grooms or, should I say, Red Grooms in a vintage mood, portraying the street in front of a 1940s Times Square grind house. Sanders' name and the book title are on the marquee, patrolled past by a group of characters who seem to have popped off a pulp novel of the era. Dead center is a brazen hood. Well, I'd call it brazen to pocket a stolen billfold while standing eye to eye with a cop, while wearing a mask to boot. But maybe the female cop is actually a costumed member of the Daughters of Bilitis (the '40s lesbian rights group), got up that way as a flirtatious tease. The frame is further crowded with other Forty Deuce denizens, such as the usher, jaded ticket seller, a tall man from the circus and a suicide blonde, entering from the right, with a smile smothered on her lips.
This is certainly a visually arresting and provocative view, but Grooms is making a larger point. Back in the '40s, all the intertwined, underground subcultures: gays, druggies, petty hoods, fetishists, had spaces that offered an actual refuge from the norm. Though their get-togethers may have been invaded by the cops, their lifestyle was not influenced by an outside media, nor were their appearances stolen from them by fashion's style captains. So they had a great measure of integrity, granted them also in the cover portrayal
Looking at Grooms this way suggests a common center to his drawing and Sanders' poetry. Both artists depict a generation in flux, what the establishment would call scandalous flux, in that their movements, embroilments, political leaps and building of Bohemias, which, as a speaker in Beatnik Glory envisions them, would create, "permanent revolutionary structures ... not just psychedelic barricades at street corners," would work toward a turnabout in the overall social structure (III, 440). Sanders' large subculture works explicitly towards this goal, Grooms' only implicitly, if at all. But the hipsters on the cover, at least, consciously stand apart from the social juggernaut of capitalism and anti-communist Puritanism of their day.
14. Conclusion
A fitting cover, then, to a lively volume, which works by addressing an audience, one whose political and cultural needs Sanders uncovered in Beatnik Glory, and whose resolve to fight for a better world, one organized along socialist lines, he seconds and encourages by offering road maps that trace paths in three directions. He looks back to the past by reminding readers of great fighters, such as Rachel Carson, whose struggles may not have been fully appreciated. He offers excoriating comments on the present, knocking the foibles and follies of our present ruling elite. And, in his exordium, he gazes at the future and writes for firebrands still riding in their prams.


Works Cited
Stanley Aronowitz, "Literature as Social Knowledge," in Mikhail Bakhtin, ed. Amy Mandelkehr (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1995.
George Katsiaficas, The Imagination of the New Left: A Global Analysis of 1968 (Boston; South End Press, 1987)
Charles Olson, The Maximus Poems (New York: Jargon/Corinth Books, 1960)
Frances Fox Piven, "The Urban Crisis: Who Got What and Why," in The Politics of Turmoil: Essays on Poverty, Race and the Urban Crisis, eds. Richard A. Cloward and Frances Fox Piven (New York: Vintage, 1975)
Edward Sanders, America: A History in Verse, Volume 1, 1900-1939 (Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 2000)
--- America: A History in Verse, Volume 2, 1940-1961(Santa Rosa, CA: Black Sparrow, 2000)
--- Revs of the Morrow (New York: Libelum, 2008)
--- Tales of Beatnik Glory (New York: Thunder's Mouth, 2004)
--- Thirsting for Peace in a Raging Century: Selected Poems 1961-1985 (Minneapolis: Coffee House Press, 1987)