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The Disappearing Poet (2005)


It is nearly half of a century since San Francisco police came across a 1954 Plymouth Savoy on the north facet of the Golden Gate Bridge. On Tuesday, July 19, 1955, a dual carriageway patrol reported that the vehicle, belonging to a Weldon Kees, had been came across with the keys in the ignition. Two of Kees’s chums, Michael Grieg and Adrian Wilson, went to search the house of the missing man. There they came across, among varied things, his cat, Lonesome, and a pair of red socks in a sink. His wallet, look, and sound asleep score were missing. So used to be his financial savings-yarn e book, even though the steadiness, which stood at better than eight hundred bucks, would remain that method. There used to be no suicide existing.

No person has considered or heard from Weldon Kees since Monday, July 18, 1955. That afternoon, he called two females who knew him properly. The main used to be Janet Richards, who at that moment—a form of inferior and shapeless moments which canine the tragic—used to be heading out the door to salvage her mom-in-law from the airport. “Things are moderately injurious,” Kees stated, alongside side, “I will be capable to also crawl to Mexico. To end.” Richards used to be too distracted to present aid. “I felt love a assassin,” she later stated. Of the assorted lady he requested, on the tip of the dialog, “What keeps you going?” She had been working as a writer and broadcaster in the Bay Space and beyond. Her name used to be Pauline Kael.

Kees had met her resulting from he and Grieg ran a weekly radio broadcast on KPFA, out of Berkeley, called “In the motivate of the Movie Digicam,” on which Kael had become a usual customer. Movies were one of Kees’s passions: he had worked on newsreels in the 19-forties and had no longer too prolonged ago, in one of his loftier schemes, mooted the thought of a current manufacturing studio. It would relish the title San Francisco Movies, and, in accordance with Kees’s assiduous biographer, James Reidel, would notify “a antagonistic between artwork-house international movies and noir American B-motion photos.” Kees himself used to be toiling on a script, a ask thriller called “Gadabout,” and used to be discussing every other with Hugh Kenner, whose magisterial years as a critic, love these of Kael, were soon to come motivate. (So many renowned names enter the chronicle of Kees. He perceived to waft into their orbit for some time, then shuffle away.) But it’s no longer as a filmmaker that he would must be remembered. Nor can we even be obvious that of this kind of desire.

On January 22nd of that closing Twelve months, he and about a kindred spirits had place collectively an match called “Poets’ Follies,” a mishmash of readings, music, and dance. It used to be poised, love so many Keesian schemes, between outmoded and current, a rickety fusion of post-twenties burlesque and pre-sixties artwork occurring. Kees learn some of his work, as did a local poet by the name of Lawrence Ferling. (It would stretch, over time, into the more exotic Ferlinghetti.) A stripper used to be employed from Oakland to sashay onstage and declaim some T. S. Eliot, a pass of which he would undoubtedly beget permitted. There used to be a jazz band, with Kees on standup piano. They played a version of “I Ain’t Gonna Give No person None o’ This Jelly Roll.” Kees used to be equipped as “Mr. Weldon Kees, poet, painter, artist, etcetera, composer, critic, etcetera, etcetera, advert infinitum.”

Half a century later, what stays? Most of us beget below no instances heard of Kees. A handful can also hum and frown, then mention an anthology of verse wherein his name cropped up. Longtime readers of this magazine can also dangle a poem or two that appeared in these pages. “The Mute Poems of Weldon Kees,” edited by Donald Justice, used to be published in 1960. There has been a non secular effort to revive, or presumably design, his standing, yet the impact has been restricted. One thing about Kees, in his afterlife as in his existence, feels obvious to elude any ambitions we can also harbor on his behalf. Poets seem more readily enthused than scholars by his example, yet even that enthusiasm has a gleam of the cultish, as if Kees had hailed from (and returned to) a flickering underworld. Every so frequently, one finds a fellow-Keesian—any individual who has picked up the scent of the mysterious figure and followed the path. And that path constantly outcomes in the the same affirm. No longer to the motion photos, or to the art work; to no longer the brief reports, or to the fruitless novels; no longer even to the poems, the crucible and crown of his success. As a replacement, we are led advert infinitum: to the Golden Gate, and to the empty Plymouth; to what did or failed to happen next, and so to the reflection, as in a rearview replicate, of all that had come earlier than.

Harry Weldon Kees used to be born in 1914 in Beatrice, Nebraska. That can presumably well presumably also be significant ingredient about him. As an grownup, he gravitated to hubs and hotbeds, on every coasts, yet one infrequently ever gathers the sense, on finding out the testimony of his colleagues, of a man alongside side his coronary heart in the metropolis. For the mid-century artist of any form, the town used to be inescapable. Even while you chose to no longer dwell there, you had to grapple with the thousands and thousands who did. But the figure slit by Kees—visibly so, in many images of him—suggests no longer an insider but an outsider, any individual from out of town who can also crawl away the score collectively at any time. He blended and drank with writers and painters, but he below no instances resembled them. It used to be as if the artistic stare were surplus to necessities; or, rather, as if to don the outer crust of an insurance coverage agent or an promoting man—to conduct oneself love the steady Nebraskan citizen that Kees can also beget stayed to become—struck him because the slyest of disguises, enabling him to travel his poems below the door, with out being noticed or making a scene.

Kees got here from German stock, and he entered a world of unexcitable prosperity. His father used to be John Kees, who ran the F. D. Kees Manufacturing Company, makers of hooks, handles, cornhuskers, and varied objects of hardware, and who at one time held the presidency of the Nebraska Producers Association. He used to be a temperate soul, courteous and compact, with an no longer going width in his finding out tastes. He used to be married to the agency-jawed Sarah, a more intrepid presence in the consciousness of her son; any of us would duck our heads, presumably, earlier than a girl so gripped by her clannish past that she joined a society entitled American citizens of Royal Descent. Kees—an easiest shrimp one, one is unsurprised to learn—used to be educated at Beatrice High College. He used to be additionally a Boy Scout with a knack for telling ghost reports, and a film nut, whose overview of a speaking list (the first he had ever considered) used to be published in the Beatrice Day to day Sun. His boyhood unfolded in what he called the “civilized, orderly, and luxurious world of the Wilson-Harding-Coolidge years.” Lusher for some than for others, one can also add, and what matters is that Kees the poet, when recalling Kees the shrimp one, rubbed some of the most shine off the delusion, as in a poem called “1926”:

{: .atomize one} The porchlight coming on again, Early November, the needless leaves Raked in piles, the wicker swing Creaking. All the method in which by the heaps A phonograph is taking half in Ja-Da.

{: .atomize one} An orange moon. I eye the lives Of neighbors, mapped and marred Bask in any the wars ahead, and R. Insane, B. alongside side his throat slit, Fifteen years from now, in Omaha.

{: .atomize one} I failed to know them then. My airedale scratches on the door. And I am motivate from seeing Milton Sills And Doris Kenyon. Twelve years outmoded. The porchlight coming on again.

How would the editors of the Day to day Sun feel about printing that? One imagines them wilting below the sardonic violence of the 2d paragraph, which spreads into the fond, friendly stitching of the assorted stanzas (Sills and Kenyon were film stars of the duration) love a creeping stain. As so frequently with Kees, essentially the most needling line is the plainest: “I failed to know them then.” What a ravishing steadiness it strikes, implying every “my childhood used to be cushty, resulting from you set up apart a seek recordsdata from to, stored away from such mortal things,” and additionally, “how shrimp I knew of the realm—a world we ought to know—and of the harm it will wreak.”

In the fall of 1931, Kees went on to Doane College, in nearby Crete. There he acted, wrote, and played piano in a jazz trio—taking the affirm of every other Nebraska boy, Spangler Arlington Brugh, who would soon crawl away gradual every his affirm and, understandably, his name, and reappear in Hollywood as Robert Taylor. After a brief sojourn on the College of Missouri at Columbia, Kees entered the College of Nebraska at Lincoln, in 1934. At the same time as he arrived, his first brief chronicle, “Saturday Rain,” used to be published in the Prairie Schooner, a literary journal of some heft, edited by a professor on the university named Lowry C. Wimberly. For the subsequent Twelve months, Kees labored on a novel, “Dead Parade,” which used to be below no instances published, and of which no copy exists. Provided that he used to be deep correct into a groove of Joyce and Dos Passos—Wimberly is described in one letter as wearing “a doublebreasted robinseggblue suit with clarkgable pockets and a shirred motivate”—the loss is no longer insufferable.

From here on, the rhythm of Kees’s existence followed no steady beat. His experiences were peripatetic at easiest—delayed graduation at Lincoln, graduate college in Chicago—and the restiveness stayed in his blood. On a whim, even though partly in pursuit of a college buddy named Ann Swan, he headed west, to Los Angeles, originally of 1936. If there were hopes that Brugh, now a principal particular person, would welcome a fellow-Nebraskan and ease him into Hollywood society, or a job on the lot, they were mercurial dashed. Reduction in Lincoln, Kees spun out his time on the manufacturing of a current recordsdata to the affirm, sponsored by the Federal Writers’ Project. There he made a buddy in Norris Getty, who remembered Kees as a ferocious editor—“an precise deal of pencil lead used to be ragged away.” Next, as if trying something else that got here to mind, Kees began a degree in library science on the College of Denver. There, on October 3, 1937, he married Ann. He renowned the cushty match in a letter on the eve of the wedding earlier than passing on to matters of better weight, such because the clientele of the Denver Public Library.

All all over again, there would possibly well be a spectral, significantly Jamesian advice of a man who manages to be absent from his dangle existence. At the same time as we sieve the proof of the poems, the reports, and the correspondence, their creator is a long way from the list; we are love homicide detectives, chalking a white outline spherical the house where Weldon Kees venerable to be. Politically, he tilted to the left, but his undemonstrative bearing, love his suit and brogues, told a more upright epic. Robert E. Knoll, who place collectively “Weldon Kees and the Midcentury Technology,” a resolution of Kees’s letters with a running commentary, points out that “he can also beget looked love a ‘pinko’ to Gage County, Nebraska, but to the urban crowd of The Unusual Masses, which he learn, he used to be Dilapidated Guard.” Photos display him reluctant to smile, armed with a cigarette as if with a dagger, and graced with a orderly mustache: thus equipped, he got here nearer than any varied American author, residing or needless, to taking a stare love Howard Hughes.

The Keeses stayed in Denver, with occasional escapes. I especially love the degree-toned document that he despatched of Portland, Oregon: “I believe it no longer going that there has been any sexual intercourse there in some years.” In the meantime, his brief reports were attracting detect. Surely one of them, “The Lifetime of the Tips,” appeared in “Most efficient Short Tales” in 1941. Some Keesians beget argued the case for the fiction, viewing it as a intrepid success that must dawdle alongside the poems. The ardent Kees scholar Dana Gioia has edited a group of forty-three tales and sketches, all of which provide off a bitter particularity that feels advanced to shake. The one Kees novel that we dangle, “Tumble Quarter,” done in 1941, is a dexterous addition to the genre of the campus saga. Its youthful protagonist takes a instructing post at a Midwestern college, and soon succumbs to the bleary epidemic of disillusion that infects his colleagues. No publisher used to be whisper with Kees’s effort (it grew to become available easiest in 1990), and what it leaves gradual is shrimp better than the reek of provincial converse—tart, little scenes served up by the narrator love a shot of rye. “He used to be about thirty-eight and looked love the form of particular person that constantly orders the fruit cup on the sixty-5 cent dinner.” “There used to be a noise from the loo, and a gnarled shrimp lady, carrying a dark oilcloth score, emerged and walked by the room.” Photos love these have a tendency to waft, unattached, by a web page of Kees’s prose. If they must score a house, they need a poem.

At some indefinable level, Kees summoned the nerve, denied to weaker writers, to strip down the workings of his talent and eye what functioned easiest. “I’m no longer doing what I must enact; is somebody?” he requested in a letter of 1938. A Twelve months and a half of later, in every other letter, he answered his dangle plea: “I were writing moderately quite poetry.” Impress that there’s never for all time a declaration of intent, no banner raised: merely a furtive decision to observe down the mutter that will easiest enable him to explain his mind, or to dramatize the minds of others. By 1941, he had accrued thirty-nine poems, adequate to beget a e book, “The Final Man,” which two years later at last crawled into print. From the hole poem, “Subtitle,” we feel ourselves to be in the presence of a Masonic notion: a civilly coded plot to shift spherical the furnishings of our day-to-day lives, and to stare what the rearrangement brings by task of enchantment and possibility.

{: .atomize one} We ask these items easiest: All gum ought to be positioned below the seats Or swallowed mercurial, all popcorn sacks Needs to be left in the foyer. The doorways Will remain closed at some stage in The performance. Pleasurable seek the advice of Your programs: stare that There are no longer any exits. This is A prime precaution.

It would possibly well presumably well presumably be tricky to explain over with a cinema after this and never suffer a crackle of disquiet. Kees used to be below no instances the more or much less particular person to inform “Fire!” in a crowded theatre, but he can also were the form to croon it in the ear of an usherette. He makes it his industry to set up apart us at our unease.

This is to no longer claim that the industry constantly succeeds. More than half of the poems falter and fail, both resulting from they try too onerous (“Are you able to hear the worthless morning’s mirth?”) or resulting from they lunge disastrously on the surreal (“Impromptu unicorns save ballets, / Applauded by bourgeoisie in negligée”). Quiet more of them are so profoundly in hock to the work of Kees’s masters that they barely evince any a must-beget indicators of their dangle. The wistful crucial of “Placed for your hat, place for your gloves. / But there isn’t any love, there isn’t any love” will seemingly be issued easiest by any individual whose bedside table creaked with too worthy Auden and MacNeice, while the debt to Eliot collapses into blatant homage: “Elizabethans had/ Sweeneys and Mrs. Porters too.” And yet, now and then, something current reveals by—a gaze of a dented mind, buckling below terrors every immanent and unexplained. Warnings are delivered, in language as crawl as an affirm of enterprise memo, to the watchful:

{: .atomize one} Pull the curtains to the sill, Darken the rooms, slit the total wires. Crush the embers as they fall From the demise fires: Things are no longer going properly.

Were things going properly for Kees? To snort that he used to be obtained with initiating palms when he moved to Unusual York, in 1943, would possibly well presumably well maybe be pushing it, but he used to be for crawl obtained. Partisan Overview had already published his poetry and criticism, and on previous trips the ultimate introductions had been made. Even then, as early as 1940, his proud reports from the cultural core were dotted and distanced with mockery: “Mr. and Mrs. Dwight Macdonald entertained a grab out community of their chums last evening at their Greenwich Village house, the honored out-of-town company being Mr. Richard Eberhart, Mr. Morton Dauwen Zabel, and Mr. Weldon Kees. Those latest were Mr. and Mrs. Lionel Trilling, Mr. and Mrs. Walker Evans, Mr. Philip Rahv . . . ” And hundreds others. Three years later, the name-drops had obtained an acid tinge. At one score-collectively, an argument develops in regards to the upright pronunciation of Randall Jarrell’s name. (“Accent on the last syllable, says Edmund Wilson.”) At every other:

{: .atomize one} There were of us there you below no instances anticipated to stare, love Graham Greene, taking a stare love a pasty elderly edition of one of his weaker heroes; and of us you view were permanently settled in sanataria, love Jean Stafford, taking a stare more ravaged and nervous than you had view ability; and of us you view were in Europe, love Janet Flanner and these that failed to moderately appear to match in to a score collectively for Stephen Spender, love Clifton Fadiman and Max Lerner. . . . When of us left, they stated, What a delicious score collectively! Thanks so worthy. See you soon.

That coda is the actual existing of horror: no longer appropriate Kees’s dangle distaste however the Hamlet-love horror that we now beget got all felt, moderately , on the chance of drowning in society—despite the fact that it is a society that has welcomed us, and wherein we must profitably swim. Kees remained on the East Run for seven years, and yet, in accounts of that end, he looks love a man who below no instances unpacked. “By the iciness of 1949-50 I would beget settled for Atchison or Lone Pine, Ark.,” he told a buddy. The sociable solitary is an with out complications pained but removed from queer breed; one distinguishing attribute is that farewells are with out end on the level of being made.

The loneliness got here with a twist. Sight that on the Macdonald soirée he used to be “Mr. Weldon Kees.” A month earlier than going to Unusual York, he had written to Norris Getty, “Ann and I are setting apart: that is one merchandise.Her address will seemingly be 418 E. Middle, Douglas, Wyoming.” The asterisk referred to a postscript: “Please snort nothing of this.” But again, the Keesian upheaval used to be no sooner registered than hushed up. Four months later, the rift used to be it looks healed (“Ann and I are collectively again and beget a remarkably frigid house on lower Fifth Avenue & 10th avenue”), but we know no more of its causes than we enact of the wartime draft classification that marked Kees as 4F, describing him as “psychologically unfit for service.” Searching back, what is excellent in regards to the cataclysm of 1955 is that it took see you later to come motivate. He by some ability view to be it his accountability, as a scion of the Kees Manufacturing Company, to wrest and tamp his miseries underground—a guarantee, pointless to claim, that they’d finally explode. There’s no more volatile compound identified to man than that of decorum and despair.

In the case of Kees, easiest about a chums realized what used to be going on. “As a social being,” Janet Richards wrote, “he used to be silly, joking, and constantly in steady spirits.” Any reducing of these spirits, and the drawbridge used to be pulled up, as Richards makes crawl: “I below no instances heard him focus on with, or reply to, a profundity. As a replacement, Weldon can also notify all his trivialities collectively at some stage in an evening, and on the style dwelling you felt you had appropriate glimpsed the grave.” Handiest in the poems enact the glimpses originate as much as multiply. Nowhere else, in existence or in artwork, did Kees seem at liberty to grasp his disgrace and to display its unsavory spoils. His 2d e book, “The Tumble of the Magicians,” got here out in 1947. Technically, it leapt adroitly ahead from the first. Spiritually, it plunged downward and barely paused for breath, as these fragments point out:

{: .atomize one} Men we once honored fragment an inclination peep. We will have the option to enact nothing better than mourn. The women we cherished will marry them, and die. —“5 Villanelles.”

{: .atomize one} “—Your face is below no instances crawl. You constantly stand In charcoal doorways in the needless of evening. Portion ofyour face Is long gone. You snort, ‘Moral to be by with this damned world. Contagious fogs blow in. Christ, we can also die The strategy in which deer usually enact, their antlers locked, Rotting in snow.’ —“Lady at Slow evening.”

{: .atomize one} Handiest a suburban house with the entrance door initiating And a canine barking at a squirrel, and the vehicles Passing. The corpse moderately needless. The accomplice in Florida. —“Crime Club.”

Those last traces relish an queer yet obvious kinship with the loss of life of Charlotte Haze, in “Lolita”—the dire circumstance cutting, all but comically, by the restful, properly-stored day. By then, Kees had forsaken fiction, yet the epic impetus failed to abate; as an various, it used to be filtered, in concentrated produce, into the poems. It used to be these which served to inform his American reports, pouring forth his annotations of urban mores—the backchat, the outfits, the migraine-heavy local weather, and the vain makes an strive to loosen the town’s grip—and mixing them, tumble by tumble, with the coolness of his injurious dreams.

No longer that Kees uncared for his occupation. In a single Twelve months, 1943, he came across work at The Unusual Republic, thanks to Alfred Kazin, then moved to Time, where he reviewed first books, then music (which allowed him to interview one of his enduring heroes, Fats Waller), and lastly cinema. The duty soon obtained him down, as did the motion photos: “Our readers don’t must hear you groan,” his editor stated, which used to be, and stays, an even level. So, being Kees, he switched to making movies. He used to be employed by the Paramount News Carrier to write scripts for newsreels, at seventy-5 bucks per week. If he used to be unqualified to lend a hand his country, the least he can also enact used to be to present it a suitable list of what the combating meant; as brutal footage got here in from Iwo Jima, in the spring of 1945, Kees (whose duties now integrated enhancing) and the the leisure of the Paramount workers worked twenty-hour days to render it match for public consumption. The used to be singled out for praise by James Agee.

As if that were no longer adequate, Kees began to coloration. One is torn between marvelling at his facility in disparate media and questioning what stages of uncertainty he can also abdominal. “Why don’t you need to to be a success?” requested Truman Capote, to whom such diffidence used to be impossible. Kees offers a cussed case; there are few accusations more withering than that of dilettantism, and his dangle multitasking looks to were powered by self-exasperation. But any amusement on the sever and swap of his interests ought to be tempered by the nagging fact of his competence. He used to be lucky, hitting town in time for the upward thrust of the Unusual York College, but he used to be additionally rapid to learn, befriending Hans Hofmann, writing with grit and sympathy of Motherwell and Miró, and succeeding his buddy Clement Greenberg as artwork critic of The Nation, in 1949. Most in form of all, he purchased a 1938 Plymouth from Put Rothko. “Seems quite love an unmade mattress in a Bowery fleabag,” Kees wrote. He named the vehicle Tiresias.

In the meantime, he schooled himself in gouache, oil, and, most profitably, collage. He had four one-man reveals on East Twelfth Street; his work used to be picked for the Whitney Annual repeat, in 1950, and hung beside that of Picasso, Mondrian, and de Kooning on the Kootz Gallery that identical Twelve months. No person must design extravagant claims for what used to be, in any case, a group of visual experiments; nor, alternatively, is there any trigger for embarrassment in viewing the —the rough bulbousness of a conventional Kees, with its bestiary of Miró-timid shapes, treading the verges of abstraction. In accordance with James Reidel, in “Vanished Act: The Existence and Art of Weldon Kees” (2003), Kees the painter “felt freer than he did as a poet.” If that is the case, it used to be resulting from he lacked the ability to prepare or curb that freedom. On the salvage page, he mastered some of essentially the most treacherous poetic kinds, incuding the sestina and the villanelle; on the canvas, such suavity used to be beyond him.

Kees and his accomplice spent worthy of 1949 in Provincetown. There he ran a cultural forum, filled with painters and writers, and loaded with public debates on American responsibility, Soviet kinds, and, appropriate to lighten the tone, “What Is an Artist?” One is infrequently taken aback to search out that, by 1950, the Keeses had had adequate. Unusual York and its outposts had drained the couple dry, and vice versa. In the fall of that Twelve months, they purchased a current vehicle and drove across the country—a pilgrimage recorded in the intellectual Hopper-love plainness of the poem “Travels in North The USA”:

{: .atomize one} And presumably the cities one below no instances sees are easiest, Preserved, a long way flung, and merely names and distances. Cadiz, Kentucky, “renowned for the quality of hams it ships, The dwelling of properly off planters,”. . .

{: .atomize one} . . . Here is Milpitas, California, filling stations and a Ford Assembly plant. Listed below are the washboard roads Of Wellfleet, on the Cape, and summer light and dirt. And here, now textured love a blotter, love the going years And subtle to stare, is where you are, and where I am, And where the oceans quilt us.

Such used to be Kees’s idea of a gallop: an adventure with out the thrills. As soon as the 2 of them made it to San Francisco, the ruefulness gathered tempo. Kees pursued new projects: scoring one experimental brief film for a buddy, and taking pictures every other, “Hotel Apex,” of his dangle devising. He despatched suggestions for cartoons to Charles Addams, who suitable refused them. A bunch of poems, “A Breaking and a Demise,” used to be despatched to publishers, and racked up twenty rejections in a row. “If the issue of poets continues to aggravate on the the same galloping charge it has been in latest years,” he wrote to a couple chums,

{: .atomize one} let’s crawl down into the abyss. It received’t be a terribly awful abyss: there’ll be a form of charming & steady things in it: appropriate no poets, that’s all. Perchance we need a Byron to score the public attracted to poetry again, even though Byron’s public wasn’t to any extent further attracted to poetry than of us nowadays are: they were attracted to Byron. I don’t know what of us are attracted to nowadays: but I’m capable of bet, and it ain’t moderately.

That is largely the most efficient of Kees the correspondent: traditionally acute, casually appalled, demotic to the level of bluesy because the mood turns dark. By an irony too provocative for any poet, the one e book that did appear alongside side his name on the backbone used to be “Nonverbal Communication,” by Jurgen Ruesch and Weldon Kees. Ruesch used to be a Swiss-born psychologist on the Langley Porter Clinic, in Berkeley. Rapidly after arriving in California, Kees had been requested to aid Ruesch with the taking pictures and cutting of a documentary on the interaction of mothers and kids; it went properly, and the closing flowering used to be a extensive-layout e book—many of of images of human behavior and inhuman objects, interspersed with an educational text whose wry polish smells inescapably of Kees: “When of us are on my own, they regularly behave as in the occasion that they were in company; and when in company, they regularly behave as in the occasion that they were on my own.”

All of this stored Kees every paid and entertained, but that used to be inadequate. Ann had begun to drink heavily, and the booze used to be laced with paranoia. The nationwide mood seeped into her. She claimed that the phone used to be tapped, and that F.B.I. agents lurked outdoors the house. In Reidel’s dispiriting words, “To bewitch the looks of normalcy, Kees claimed to be too busy, to be plagued by a frantic schedule.” But even his marvelous manners and chin-up assurances (“In between convulsions, I’m working away at poems,” he told a buddy) can also no longer conclude a travel of such proportions. On September 22, 1954, he wrote about Ann to Conrad Aiken:

{: .atomize one} About eight or nine months ago she obtained to ingesting better than you, me, Malcolm Lowry and Tallulah Bankhead place collectively. . . . Two nights a high quality MD spherical the corner shot her beefy of sodium amytal, and rarely she would beget a lucid moment. . . . Finally, on Tuesday morning I obtained bewitch of one of many few psychiatrists spherical here of any staunch aid on such instances and she or he at last agreed to signal herself in at Langley Porter Clinic. She improved a very good deal there, but left against advice after three weeks. We are now separated and she or he has agreed to a divorce, and I am hoping she can seemingly be all appropriate. We were married for sixteen years and a form of it used to be no longer so steady.

It breaks the coronary heart to stare a writer roll out the Hemingway onerous-man line love this, as if quite toughness in the prose can also discontinue the realm from caving in. By then, Kees used to be touchdown punches easiest on himself. His eagerness for trace current ventures, social and inventive, swelled correct into a more or much less fever. He moved correct into a shrimp house, on my own, on the age of forty, and began to forge current and startling friendships. The affirm used to be soon a parody of the bachelor pad: dark towels in the loo, dark sheets on the mattress. Kees took a lover, a divorcée named Jerry MacAgy, but confessed to being wearied by the intercourse. He view himself unleashed from a marriage, but nobody who cherished him can also fail to detect the mania in that release. In accordance with Michael Grieg, “I felt it used to be on the tip of his tongue: ‘If I failed to feel it used to be in injurious taste, I would unburden myself. I am in despair. Let’s crawl off where I’m capable of inform you about it.’ But he below no instances did.” Kees’s elderly mom wrote to her son to commiserate: “I believe egg nogs no longer much less than three instances a day would give you strength. Just a few graham crackers with them.”

Kees used to be removed from Nebraska, by this level, and beyond the reach of eggnogs. The path to the Golden Gate Bridge lay initiating and straight. Whether or no longer he leapt into the water on July 18, 1955, a foggy day, none of us will seemingly be obvious that. His consideration had prolonged been caught by suicides, equivalent to that of Hart Crane. On the assorted hand, of us dangle his musing on the figure of Ambrose Bierce, every other laconic, disenchanted citizen of San Francisco, who had upped and disappeared to Mexico in 1913. Reidel, on the tip of his biography, cites an alluring document from a girl named Toni Barrett, who as quite girl had identified Kees; she says she noticed him again in Unusual Orleans, with a blonde on his arm, in 1962. A BBC tv documentary on Kees, broadcast in 1993, integrated an interview with the author Pete Hamill, who drank with a stranger in Mexico and later claimed that he used to be Weldon Kees. These apparitions are very no longer going to neglect, yet what can they add to our recordsdata of a man who gave the impact, even when alive, love a natty and dissatisfied ghost?

There is one gaze. Now we beget his name, and, must the authorities divulge, we can also offer a close description:

*{: .atomize one} Robinson at playing cards on the Algonquin; a thin Blue light comes down yet again outdoors the blinds. Grey males in overcoats are ghosts blown past the door. The taxis go the avenues with yellow, orange, and red. This is Immense Central, Mr. Robinson.

Robinson on a roof above the Heights; the boats Mourn love the lost. Water is slate, a long way down. Thru sounds of ice cubes dropped in glass, an osteopath, Dressed for the links, describes an outmoded Intourist tour. —Here’s where outmoded Gibbons jumped from, Robinson.

*{: .atomize one} Robinson walking in the Park, admiring the elephant.

Robinson procuring the Tribune, Robinson procuring the Instances. Robinson Asserting, “Hey. Sure, that is Robinson. Sunday At 5? I’d love to. Barely properly. And also you?” Robinson on my own at Longchamps, searching on the wall.

{: .atomize one} Robinson alarmed, below the impact of alcohol, sobbing Robinson In mattress with a Mrs. Morse. Robinson at dwelling; Choices: Toynbee or luminol? Where the sun Shines, Robinson in flowered trunks, eyes in opposition to The breakers. Where the evening ends, Robinson in East Aspect bars.

{: .atomize one} Robinson in Glen plaid jacket, Scotch-grain sneakers,

Sad four-in-hand and oxford button-down,

The jeweled and restful look that winds itself, the brief-

Case, covert topcoat, clothes for spring, all preserving

His sad and accepted coronary heart, dry as a iciness leaf.

{: .atomize three}

It is that single note “accepted” that brings you up brief and lets the poem fan out. It points no longer appropriate to the regularity of Robinson’s dangle days and years but to the engulfing chance of a thousand Robinsons available, in the subway and on the streets, all ticking their lives away love his soundless look. The poem, entitled “Aspects of Robinson,” is_the_portrait of the postwar man of affairs: neither laborer nor magnate, but keeping steady—and, in the foundation blush, taking a stare purposeful—within the guts inappropriate. He is every thing that Weldon Kees dreaded, as well to every thing that he suspected he must be.

There are four Robinson poems in all, relationship from 1944 to 1949: “Robinson,” “Aspects of Robinson,” “Robinson at Home,” and “Touching on to Robinson.” All however the last were published in The Unusual Yorker, and it is from this quartet that Kees’s standing, equivalent to it is, continues to waft. This looks to me fully appropriate. In monitoring Robinson, the poet shrugs off the indulgence, the trying out of downhearted or rancorous attitudes, that smothered his earlier verse. Scholars beget renowned a Robinson every in Céline’s “Trudge to the Fracture of the Evening” and in Kafka’s “Amerika,” even though every of these creations give off a obvious whiff of the reprobate, whereas Kees’s man is nothing if no longer official. Nothing, clearly, can also be his finest role; he’s the more or much less fellow whom we scarcely detect unless he has quit the premises, leaving easiest crumbs of his existence. “The canine stops barking after Robinson has long gone,” runs the hole hexameter of “Robinson,” which proceeds to score more proof:

{: .atomize one} The pages in the books are smooth, The books that Robinson has learn. That is his favourite chair, Or where the chair would possibly well presumably well maybe be if Robinson were here.

{: .atomize one} All day the phone rings. It will seemingly be Robinson Calling. It below no instances rings when he’s here.

The poem additionally mentions a first accomplice. I surprise whether Robinson married again, and whether his 2d accomplice, presumably, took to drink love Mrs. Kees, and to seducing youthful males; did the leisurely Anne Bancroft learn these poems in preparation for “The Graduate”?

As a long way as we can inform, Weldon Kees below no instances left the shores of The USA. His poetry turns frequently in opposition to Europe, and one can readily list him in the footsteps of his expatriate idols, equivalent to James, Fitzgerald, and Eliot. (He additionally revered Flaubert and latched at once onto Chandler; whatever else you snort of Kees, his taste used to be immaculate.) Bask in them, he grew immune to a explicit stress of American hopefulness. Here is Emerson, in an essay called “Illusions”: “In the lifetime of the dreariest alderman, cherish enters into all significant points, and colours them with rosy hue. He imitates the air and actions of of us whom he admires, and is raised in his dangle eyes.” That is the antithesis of Robinson, whose fancies pull him down, and for whom rosiness is existing in a whiskey bitter. The unfortunate are most onerous to tolerate when they force their discontent upon the the leisure of us, but Kees used to be too courteous for that; he merely lacked the Emersonian gift of upright levitation—every thing that tells the Robinsons of this world to snap out of it, embrace their wives, snort a prayer, and test their stock costs. We must never be misled, by the enigma of his vanishing, into overrating Kees, both as a man or as an artist; he used to be a prime minor poet, yet that very stature, collectively alongside side his ceaseless lusting to be varied or better than he used to be, makes him a representative figure of his time. Here is how he closed a tribute to the painter Arshile Gorky, in 1950:

{: .atomize one} For the length of his occupation, terminated by the artist’s suicide in 1947, Gorky gave the impact better than ordinarily marked by a strive against to score at his dangle identification. . . . Perchance Gorky, now that he’s safely needless, will fetch the recognition denied him when he used to be in a affirm to care.

The actual person-feeling here is too bitter for comfort, and the one real alleviation we can offer, fifty years since Kees made his exit, is to witness the quality of his dangle strive against. It used to be fitful but below no instances unsuitable; it bore the designate, in the verse, of a talent and patience that he used to be seldom capable of wield in his non-public ache; and, in opposition to the tip, it glimmered with enticing rumors of tranquillity. Who knows, if Kees had survived—or if he restful survives, at a hale ninety-one—where this questing son of Beatrice, Nebraska, can also beget came across current existence:

{: .atomize one} But regardless of loss and guilt And hurricanes of time, it will seemingly be built:

{: .atomize one} A refuge, permanent, with bushes that coloration When the total varied cities die and go. ♦

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