Greenpoint, October, 2015

Saturday, October 29, 2011


Kleine Welten VIII (Small Worlds), 1922
There's a small but fine show at the New York Public Library's Main Branch called "A Century of Art." Mostly small format photographs and prints from the Library's collection from 1911-2010. The Kandinsky print (right) reminded me somehow of Percival and Paul Goodman's Communitas: Means of Livelihood and Ways of Life. This collaboration between brothers Paul (poet, novelist, playwright, social critic, and on and on) and Percival (architect and urban planner), first published in 1947, is utterly unclassifiable. In one sense, it's a book about rational urban planning, offering, among other ideas, a proposal to sink the traffic lanes of Fifth Avenue from 34th to 59th streets below ground and cover it with a pedestrian mall: Dig the Big Dig!

More than that, it's a poetics of the ways architecture, infrastructure, biology, and psychology meet and compete. Pick up a copy ($1 on, if for no other reason, for the wacky and wonderful illustrations like the one at left.

Paul Goodman considered himself a poet above all. While the book does not include any poems, a couple of quick line breaks make it easy to see the poetry behind the prose:

Citizens of the Thruway
That stretches from coast to coast
Must Go, Go
Not too fast and not to slow
Above all, they must not stop.

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