Monday, April 21, 2014

Some of my favorite poets were assholes

Ezra Pound,  was a politically reprehensible and one of the worst major poets of the 20th century. Traitor, reactionary, race-baiter, I have no sympathy for a man who's ambition had more to do with having power and influence over whole populations rather than poetry itself.

 He was, though, an idea man about the craft and art of the poem, and some of his criticism remains relevant. The way we discuss the quality and function of the image and the modifiers that do and do not attend it in context draw heavily from his notions about ridding ourselves of the weight of literary history and devising a poetics that can can help the reader perceive the world in new ways.  Pound didn't wan to stop there, of course, he desired to rule the world and aspired to be The Boss. Bully and self-aggrandizing creep he may have been (and traitor) but some of ideas, at least, had value. He wanted poets to have the trifecta of  prestige items with power, the pen, the scepter, the   sword.

 Eliot , Thomas Stearnes, was  in league with Pound as anti-semite and race baiting neurotic who disguised his bigotry in a tradition of genteel Classicism, but I will defend him as a poet; too much of his images, his cadences, his drifting allusions hit the mark ; he is one of those writers who had an especially strong gift for getting the elusive essence of alienation , dread, spiritual desolation in a dehumanizing culture in his poems without turning them into padded, freighted dissertations. It is one of the tragedies of contemporary literature that Eliot, whom I think is one of the strongest poets of the last century, should happen to be, politically,a callous and malicious monster. Even dried up white guys who are lousy with non whites and are barely able to conceal their frothing anti-antisemitism can, at times, describe a mood or provide nuance to  circumstances that transcend their repulsive politics and personalities. 

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