AFC 2004/004: MS 03.04.72

Carta de Alan Lomax para Woody Guthrie
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Larga carta mecanografiada en tres hojas, para Woody Guthrie. Fragmentos de esta carta aparecen en las biografías de éste.


Pontevedra, Galicia, Spain,
Dec. 5, 1952

Dear Woody,

At the foot of the town there is a little harbor. Outside is the Atlantic. From there it's a straight sheet to New York. But tomorrow I'm heading the other way. My herat kinda aches about that because in twenty days it'll be my second Christmas away from home and I've been homesick a long time. But I'm bound and determined not to come back to the states until I've got something to show for my long stay--more than grey hairs and a bit of a stoop and a scar in the left side. I'm on the next to the last lap now. In six or nine more months, if the world holds together, I'll be straight with myself.

When I left the states, I'd decided to do two things---publish the folk music of the world all together in a big handsome set of thirty or foty long playing records---and to do my big book on the Negro singers like Vera Hall and Doc and Big Bill which has been half finished. I thought I'd get a lot of good records in Europe with people anxious to publish them. Actually I've found two years full of headaches---and have had to do almost all the editing and half the collecting personally. Ireland I did. Scotland summer before last. And I've been in Spain which is the rishest [∫ic] territory for folksongs in the west since July, trying to take down just a little bit of the real thing. I'll tell about the later. Main thing is I've got about twenty hours of my job within sight of being finished. And in a couple of months I'm going to sit down somewhere where it's warm and owrk on my book until it's done, licking my back where all the knives went in and the hole where the bank account used to be.

Aver since I left home, especially ever since you and Margie wrote me those long consolatery letters, I've thought about writing to you. In fact I think of you a hell of a lot. Where they say in books that people think about Fifth Avenue, the Statue of Liberty, the big plains, Beale Street or some place, I keep remembering a few people---Carl Sandburg, Frank Dobie, Pete, Aunt Molly, Elizabeth and Woody Guthrie. You know me well enough to know that I've always liked poets and writers better than anybody--and that of course includes all the ballad singers. They are the people I like to be with. They were always the ones who warmed up the room. And of all the people I've met on my rambles, looking for poets, you are the one who meant the most to me, you were the one who corresponded most closely to what kind of a poet and writer I felt belonged in the United States.

I know I've told you that a hell of a lot of times. Maybe my telling you that has even messed you up a bit, turned you aside from what you most wanted to do. But I don't believe it. First time I heard you speak and sing on that benefit in New York you were a writer spinning it out in talk instead of writing it down. I'd known Aunt Molly and how she regretted not having learned how to write as well as talk and I thought--This is another one of the Aunt Molly's--the novelist who hasn't ever bothered to write a novel... Nothing of yours that I've ever read has changed my opinion that you write closer to the American bone than anybody else---well, better say the southwestern bone. And you know you're all alone in that because there isn't anybody else who's written anything worth a dain about our part of the country.

My editor said when he read your big book---That man is as good as Melville, but it would cost me 25,000 dollars to prove it and I can't afford that---Well, I don't know about Melville. But I do know about Mark Twain and Whitman and you're cut out of the same material... Your bigbooks are the way Tom Wolffe's were before he rain into somebody who could help him cut them. You'll find that person... Or else you'll burn a lot of the fancy trimmings off inside yourself and cut them yourself. And when that happens, wheter now or later, those books will be big books, the first honest hardhitting writing about the southwest. If I hadn't been afraid I'd be swallowed up in the job and never be able to get around to my own work I'd have offered to give you a hand. Of course I don't know whether I would have been accepted by you or whether we would have got along, but I'd like to tell you now it's something I've thought of then thousand times in the night as the most important way I could spend my time. That is help you get your books into print.

The house of earth---tghe hunt for gold---the book about the marchant marine---all that stuff is gold and must be minted. It's especially important now that the leaders of our benighted country--the big army men--are coming more and more from out where wer were born---where it was sissy to feel anything--where fist fights and gunfights were the only thing respecte besides oil ranches and cattle ranches. Nobody has written a good book about thosehdass [sic] middlewestern and southwestern towns that are producing the types who won't mind carrying at bomsbs, with all the trying nobody has written a good book about cowpunchers and nobody has even started to do anyting about the oilfields. And that's just what you were born for---kicked around for---stemped on for---made hard as nails for. Look at me lecturing somebody---with all my priviledges and dough I can't even write one book yet---but I'm boing to. For the first time in my life I've got stomped on and the crap is going out of what I think and put down on paper a ittle. I've alway been jealous as hell of you because you didn't have the crap to contend with---you had a lot to say and you could just sit down at a typewriter and let rip.

People tell me you have been sick a lot and that you and Margie aren't living together any more. The sick part is bad. What is the matter and why the hell don't the doctors cure you. You're the thoughest guy I ever met almost... Write and tell me.. The Margie part is worse. I reckon it's just not possible for two people to get as close as you and Margie and me and Elizabethgot without separation just about splitting you in two. Maybe our modern system of love--loving the outside--loving the soul---loving the mind--loving the political opinions---loving to be with--loving to have babies by---loving to make love to---all of that may be more kinds of loving that it's safe to have with one prerson. Here is Spain and in France and In England and in old fashioned countries and out in the country in America and I suspect in Russia, the people don't expect or get so much from love. But in America where love has been built up into the thing that will console you for losing your job and losing your roots and having to leave your home town and selling all your friends for money--LOVE LOVE LOVE--we're all kind of weakened down and victimized by something that may be impossible anyhow. It's happened to me now twice---then I discovered that the beautiful woman on whom I focused all this, never really wanted it at all, and ran off looking for something al lotsimpler from somebody else. Of course it's especially bad with writters because we give love a bigger build up than anybody---but our women can't stand it--neither the build up nor the disillusion that's bound to come later anyway. And we can't santd the let down from our owb suyper big dreams.

Of course I never did unersatnd why you all had all those bodies There never was any palce to put them in your appartment. And to leave a guy at home alone all day trying tow rite a novel and look after four little kids just wasn't human. I never did undrestnad that about Margie---who otherwise seemed so sensible and so nice that once or twice I thought about trying to make off with her myself.

but Jesus, Woody, just go and read about Dostoyevskii or Tolstoy or Stendhal or Dickens or any of the big novelists, and you'll see that what you've got to contend with is sort of normal and a regular part of what life dishes up to guys who're trying to do something damn fine and damn big. You're one of those people, those big people. And you won't let the sickness and the separations throw you for long

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How to cite

Ascensión Mazuela-Anguita, "AFC 2004/004: MS 03.04.72", Fondo de Música Tradicional IMF-CSIC, ed. E. Ros-Fábregas (accession date: 16 May 2021),