Sunday, January 18, 2009

The angst of the pruney faced


Some of us have declared that they don’t care about a writer’s theories on writing so long as the work, absent an explanation , comes up to the snuff one would like it to. I do care if a poet's work add up to the sum of their theories because it's a difference between talking a good game and playing one. Sometimes the theories are more interesting and evocative than the poets’ work as an artist; Pound seemed to me to have the instincts of a good talent scout. I'm grateful for his remarks to his fellows, but I wish reading his work wasn't a path I had to go through in order to find the better poets. His protégé, T.S.Eliot, though, had poetry that surpassed his theories, giving the lie to them, in fact. For all of his stated preferences for impersonality in the stanzas, Eliot’s verse couldn’t outrun his despair. There is something felt and hurt, even moving under the abstraction of the writing, and one comes away feeling that he had hoped the layers of abstruse allusion would render the pains still and not bothersome. I doubt he succeeded, and it’s poetry’s blessing he never cured himself of his disillusion. One is almost able to forgive the anti-Semitism that creeps through the work. Not quite, but almost.

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