December 17, 2014

Essay "The New Word" by Harry Crosby

Editor of the famed Black Sun Press in Paris, Harry Crosby committed suicide shortly after this manifesto appeared in Transition in 1929.

Harry Crosby
The New Word

The New Word is the serpent who has sloughed off his old vocabulary.

The New Word is the stag who has rid himself of the old wood of his antlers.

The New Word is the clean piercing of a Sword through the rotten carcass of the Dictionary, the Dwarf standing on the shoulders of the Giant (Dictionary) who sees further into the Future than the giant himself, the Panther in the Jungle of Dictionary who pounces upon and devours all timid and facile words, the New Word is a Diamond Wind blowing out the Cobwebs of the Past.

The New Word is a direct stimulant upon the senses, a freshness of vision, an inner sensation, the egg from which other words shall be produced, a herald of revolt, the new tree thrusting above the dreary court-yard of No Change, a jewel upon the breast of Time, the Eve that stands naked before us, the challenge flung in the face of an unadventurous public, the reward of the discoverer, the companion of the prophet, the simplicity of the unexpected, the girder bridge towards a splendid future, the tremendous concentration and internal strength of a Joyce, the defiance of laws. ,. violator because he must advance alone, gentle as a guide, because he must get others to follow him. His poetry may be less pleasant than that which came before it, but it will at any rate be more honest since he must prove it workable at least for himself. It may be more difficult because more metaphysical since he is preoccupied chiefly with meaning, but a meaning inevitably rhythmical and poetical since it is a barren life reborn, touched and shaded with accent, inflamed with his own soul and molded into a temporary or an eternal form that is a symbol of peace and reconciliation between the inner nature of a man and the external world without him.

There will not be many who will be able to go the whole way, to complete the entire cycle that identifies at its close the ideational world of man, that begins with him, with the presumably impersonal world, that ends with him. If it will be argued that the poets who travel only a portion of the way sing as well and more than those who go beyond, since they are less likely to lose themselves in philosophical pitfalls, that a cheerful poet clears a little road just long enough for rambling but not long enough to lead him astray, and that the way of analysis is the way of destruction, I can only answer that if one is faithful enough, constant enough, the analysis will induce the synthesis, the poet will come home: and he will have tramped the whole road, he will have seen. By taking the universe apart he will have reintegrated it with his own vitality; and it is this reintegrated universe that will in turn possess him and give him rest. If this voyage reveals a futility, it is a futility worth facing.


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