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Fourth Draft of Asia

ASIA. In wave after wave, peoples flooded out from the disturbed heartland of Asia. In the pre-literate world the sea of languages was protean, an unreformed elemental source. The legendary gate of Alexander stands like a door upon the chaos of the potential, of all that has not been recorded. Just where the hero on the verge of his given godhead would invade and conquer the source – there, not only the orgies of megalomaniac splendor and the new wisdom of naked masters of Yoga but also the desolation of a spectral storm in which sweeping the vacant plains the sound of perishing armies rang.

The rage of Love appeared to me to be a convulsion of the sea, driven by storm winds or shaken by upheavals of the under Earth, itself an ocean of rock and fire. War, love, and the poem shaped by history as expressions of the deepest forces and cleavings (adherence in their being kindred) of Man’s inner Nature Hidden. In 1950, America had become possest by a demonic necessity, the hidden content of her victory in the Second World War – it was a nightmare: the phantasm of a blinding fear of communism and of the depths of Asia.

And from China, in the inspired poetry of Mao-Tse-Tung, there were signs of the ancient empire of the Mongols reawakening. Working in sections from an essay by Robert Payne on Mao’s poetry which had appeared in Horizon and quotes from his translations of Mao and consulting a fifth of Cutty Sark, in An Imaginary War Elegy I began to compose in terms of this obsessional war that today, sixteen years later, has taken over the soul and spirit of America. But this phantasm empire of Asia was for me the ambitious extension of a personal identity held “so that there is a continent of feeling beyond our feeling” as it came to me in Apprehensions. After the inspiration of William Carlos Williams’s Paterson in 1946, 1948, 1949 had opend the way with its great images of the roaring waters, the divorce, the geologic strata of a history, and the consuming and welding flames, in which extensions of meaning were generated, I tried in An Essay at War to draw from and set into motion the elements of my own life-experience – the death of Jamie de Angelo in 1950 and a rock crystal pitcher see in the Hapsburg Exhibition of 1951, the form of elements in commotion, clouds, fire, smoke, the sea, and the house hold kept (the work of art) in the midst of catastrophe.