Towlie, Towle & Bean Spasms

It often happens that I return to the same books I want that are like really expensive. Like the Notebooks of Paul ValĂ©ry. Anyway I want a copy of this slick little book so bad it makes me think it a stupid thing to want a book so bad, like I should be wanting things like sex drugs and money so bad, but I just want this little book so bad, with a nice simple cover by Joe Brainard. The cheapest I have seen so far is $300. It is collected in Ted Berrigan’s Collected Poems.


Tony Towle between Buckminster Fuller and printer John Lund, apparently my doppleganger

I began actively thinking about Tony Towle after reading a list of Kenneth Koch’s favorite books of poetry published in paperback in 1967, the year after Frank O’Hara died. But in fact, Justin Taylor mentioned Towle a couple of times on this very blog. I must have glazed over the name. Rule of threes for the win. You see. You see. You three. What is that? One of the lesser known poets of the New York School, Towle seems to have had sort of a rough go of the shaft with publication. I’m especially into this his “Poem.”

“Poem”
by Tony Towle

An engineer pushes a button in the mountains,
and another mountain lifts itself
and slides into the lake,
revealing a patchwork of interesting minerals.
The air follows us as we walk along.

Look at all this junk. My glass is cracked suddenly.
Look at the punch leaking out onto my sleeve.
That is the way I see things,
that, or locked up in storage bins, alongside one another
and hanging from my tie as from a dangling rope,
ending up in the same intrigue of thoughts,
becoming a digestible poison,
and the nerve-endings evolved to cope with danger
do not know what to tell the brain, so they think about it.

Back in the mountains. The engineer pulls a switch,
and a mountain,
making a quiet, sliding sound, lifts itself
and slides into the lake.
There is bound to be a breeze now,
we are a hundred feet in the air.
There is no shock, just a quick vibrant lift.
The air comes with us,
a warm halo of fog and icy water with no sense of motion.

A selection of Tony Towle’s work from 1965-1969 is available online.
And there’s more on his website.