Thursday, June 8, 2017
Wednesday, May 6, 2015
Finally, I would ask who is more readable and provides more pleasure?Pound was sane, of course, but he was more a literary critic than poet. As for poetry , I would cite Eliot as the superior influence as to how poets of succeeding generations formed their sense of what actual verse should sound like and achieve. Eliot was a better artist, Pound the better cheer leader for the movement.
Sunday, January 19, 2014
This is an interesting connection Dickinson and Pound, with two unlike personalities. Dickinson didn't care to make her thoughts clear for public consumption or to see the world differently; what she poems were notes to herself , where the solitary but active mind's penchant for irony, contradiction and a changing personal outlook on mortality, over time, were all the mattered to her. This was the poetry of a mind that, by need for personal preference, was solitary much of the time, dwelling, thinking, abstracting on much of the insoluble vicissitudes of life, those matters being nothing less than the self in the world and arguing whether one were merely existing or if the fact of one's flesh and blood constituted a benefit to the world.
She suggests, I think, the writings of Wallace Stevens decades later, and John Ashbery more decades later still, with her world so closely observed and tersely addressed that her estimations constitute a category of Ideal Types ; certainly her work seems dedicated to the short summations of proposed notions and how those notions come up short; the elision in her work , for me, is an absent middle section where the theory was applied and where it had failed. The third part of the poems are the results, the moral, the larger irony of expectation meeting the unfathomable truth that is existence, replete with a result quite unexpected. I don't think Dickinson's poems were mere jottings; they are, I believe , products of hard, concentrated reflection and it is the poet's genius that made those leaps of perception into the dense, difficult poems that are her legacy. Hers was a clarity meant for her self alone, a method of reaching conclusions on matters her imagination would not leave alone. Her short hand taught contemporary, by direct readings or the influence of other poets who arrived in Dickinson's wake, how to turn introspection into an enticingly evocative sort of poetry , a system of insight that challenges philosophy as the best method as to why life is so difficult and why we make ourselves so unhappy with the given strata of existence.
Sunday, December 1, 2013
|Onan the Librarian|
One hears arguments in support of imperfect heroes that genius will carry their reputations above and over and far, far away from the corrosive and unforgivable aspects and deeds of their lives, a notion I take under advisement for this reason: it depends on the art they create. Pound fails this simplistic criterion for reasons more subjective than they are objectively sustainable, those being that his motivation really wasn't to create things of beauty that even the boob, the numskull, and the drooling poltroon could relate to, but instead power. Bob Perelman, poet and an incredibly astute critic of modernism, pointed out the difficulty of Pound, Gertrude Stein. These writers operated under the assumption that their icon-smashing,perspective-dashing, syntax relaxing experiments were going to be the death of the old filters and provide populations with new ways of seeing. Pound, I am sure, wanted the world to see things his way, complexly, nuanced, infinitely connected to the real roiling subject of humanity, which was godless and unguided by nothing else other the critical desire to kick a homeless man in the throat, steal the pennies off a dead uncle's eyes and, most loathsome of all, desire to rule the world for reasons no more significant than what a meal at the cornet spittoon saloon will give you.
But this was something of a bad bet--the more original his vision, the harder it was for him to make people see. So it became more about power, power embedded in a charismatic man who could transform the landscape, in the world, and the psyche through major feats of willpower. Readers, viewers, butchers, wives, teachers, witless dregs no longer had a choice to vote with their feet or let their tastes guide their selection; great historical forces were at play. Or at least Pound was running his mouth and sucking up to fascist powers on whom he sought common cause and a significant stipend. His poetry seemed odious and thick as bales of mildewed hay, bloodless examples of what his theories were elaborating on. He was a Rush Limbaugh for those intellectuals who fancied themselves better than the rest of the population, who existed solely to annoy them, slow them down.
Eliot, though, is a more slippery sort to grasp. He is the brooding,sad-sack Methuselah of the generation that lacked the patience to wait the years it usually took to be jaded, aristocratically bored, permanently and fashionably melancholic, and on the other hand, a closeted racist, homophobic, Jew-baiting ass hole. Anti Semite he was, but he could make you feel his weariness, loneliness, and sadness that the world was ending badly, becoming a fetid stew of mediocre thinking and piecemeal achievement. He was a great poet and a natural pill as a human being. He is someone you would compliment for the stunning brilliance of his language and then try to slam into your truck as he left work. He was a man you wanted to admire and then spit on. That is greatness.
Thursday, February 16, 2012
Friday, September 23, 2011
Unlike Frank O'Hara, dead too young, but with such a large and full body of brilliant--yes, brilliant--lyric poetry left in his wake. O'Hara, influenced by some ideas of modernists, got what Pound tried to do exactly right: he mixed the vernaculars of High and Low culture in the same stanzas with an ease that seemed seamless, he juggled references of Art, TV, movies, jazz , theater along with the zanily euphemized gossip of his love life, and was able to render complex responses to irresolvable pains of the heart--and heartbreak is always a close kin to his rapture--in lines that were swimming in irony, melancholy, crazy humor. This is poet as eroticized intelligence.
Eliot had better luck combining the two virtues: The Sacred Wood and some of his other critical assessments have merit as purely critical exercises, self-contained arguments that don't require Eliot's work to illustrate the point. Eliot's poems, as well, stand up well enough with out his criticism to contextualize them for a reader who might other wise resist their surface allure. The language in both genres is clear and vivid to their respective purposes. It can be said of Eliot, though, that he was attempting to run interference with the critical reception of his own poetry by supplying a good amount of writing dedicated to form, or seeming to form, a substantial theory of his. A neat trick, this, since the popular critics and attending academics cannot begin their post mortems on Eliot's verse without first engaging what he had to say about the practice and purpose of poetry; in some sense he swayed opinion to regard his work favorably. The point, though, is that one is required to deal with Eliot first on his own terms; his ideas color your findings regardless of the position you take.
Pound, again, to my maybe tin-ear, really sounded, in his verse, like he was trying to live up to the bright-ideas his theories contained: The Cantos sound desperate in his desire to be a genius.
Friday, December 4, 2009
It seems obvious to me that he reveled in the difficulty of his work. His innovations as poet, for me, are worth studying in line with his critical pieces, but beyond their importance in establishing a time line, the language , the style, the attitude has not traveled well through the decades. He seemed like the brilliant critic and tireless promoter of new talent who put himself in competition with his fellows, IE Joyce, Yeats, Eliot, Stevens, Williams, et al. Pound believed art was the process through which a substitute priesthood of painters and poets can perceive the world, and it was the artist who could correctly provide the inspiration and spiritual means to change the way reality was constructed and lived in. He was attracted to strong leaders with pronounced visions of a Better Future, was attracted to the notion of violently blowing up the artifacts of the past in order to forge a new order from the ground up, and it was apparent to everyone that he aligned himself with such leaders. He desired to be considered among the scarce select who would show the way to the new dawn, whether they wanted to or not. Pound was fascinated by chaos, turbulence, severe intrusions of alien forms usurping dictions and definitions of older ideological husks and having them be transformed to some strange array of notions that are a vision of a Future not all of us will be able to live in. Frost , although over- estimated, is an acceptable minor poet and a canny careerist, neither of which are offensive to anyone who understands the need to make a living. He was content to be a passive witness to the state of things built by hand running down, subsuming a cynicism in a lyric version of sparely detailed plain-talk that could, at times,produce a stunning insight into the feeling of how the body aches as it ages.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Eliot had better luck combining the two virtues: The Sacred Wood and some of his other critical assessments have merit as purely critical exercises, self-contained arguments that don't require Eliot's work to illustrate the point. The problem with his criticism was that it was less a system of thought than it was a nice articulation of resentments or one liners that weren't further developed. Eliot, the Royalist, the Anglo-Catholic, the anti-modern Modernist, thought himself too busy to explain himself, and reveals the conservative impatience for inclusiveness; things simply have gotten worse in our culture once alien hordes began infiltrating our borders. It seemed to him so obvious a matter of cause and effect that the relative succinctness of his views, articulated in aesthetics, needn't dwell on what everyone already knows. The criticism would be the equivalent of how he described "The Waste Land", a species of rhythmic grumbling.
It's less about what one can call his "despair" than what his operating premise has in common with the post modern aesthetic: Eliot, the Modernist poet extraordinaire, perceives the world the universe has having any sort of definable center, any unifying moral force formally knowable by faith and good works. There is despair in the works, behind the lines--one responds to them emotionally and intellectually--and the power behind the images, the shimmering surfaces the diminished, de-concretized narrator feels estranged from, comes from a felt presence, a real personality. Eliot , though, turns the despair into a series of ideas, and makes the poetry an argument with the presence day.
There is pervasive sense of everything being utterly strange in the streets, bridges over rivers, strangeness at the beach, and we, it sounds, a heightened sense of voices, media, bombs, headlines competing for the attention of some one who realizes that they're no longer a citizen in a culture where connection to a core set of meanings, codes and authority offers them a security, but are instead consumers, buyers, economic in a corrupt system that only exploits and denudes nature, culture, god.
Eliot conveys the sense of disconnection brilliantly, a modernist by his association with the period, though at heart he was very much a Christian romantic seeking to find again some of the Scripture surety to ease his passage through the world of man and his material things. There has always been this yearning for a redemption of purpose in the vaporous sphere, and much of his work, especially in criticism, argued that the metaphysical aspect could be re-established, recreated, re-imagined (the operative word) through the discipline of artistic craft. Modernists, ultimately, shared many of the same views of postmodernism with regards of the world being an clashing, noisy mess of competing, unlinked signifiers, but post modernism has given up the fight of trying to place meaning in the world, and also the idea that the world can be changed for the better. Modernists , as I take them in their shared practice and aesthetic proclamations, are all romantics, though their the angle and color of their stripes may vary. Romanticism, in fact, is an early kind of modernism: the short of it is that there is a final faith in the individual to deign the design of the world, and in turn change its shape by use of his imagination .
Eliot's poems, as well, stand up well enough with out his criticism to contextualize them for a reader who might other wise resist their surface allure. The language in both genres is clear and vivid to their respective purposes. Pound, again, to my maybe tin-ear, really sounded, in his verse, like he were trying to live up to the bright-ideas his theories contained: The Cantos sound desperate in his desire to be a genius.
Monday, January 28, 2008
A Portrait of the Man and His Work.
Volume I: The Young Genius, 1885-1920.
By A. David Moody. (Oxford University Press. $47.95.)
Pound the poet, the propagandist, the editor, the talent scout, all dutifully reported and examined by A.David Moody, a literature professor and literary biographer. William Carlos Williams had opined that the self-created Pound was certainly a genius but added that he was, as well, “an ass”. I was grateful to read this in this slow moving biography , if only to know that it wasn’t just me that thought him as someone who it was more work than it was worth to know.Moody's thesis seems to confirm my suspicions that the greater part of Pound's genius, as it were, lay in his massive appreciation in the genius of others. He was, in my view, a first rate talent scout and an enthusiastic supporter of new and revolutionary work. I will admit that there are those few poems written by his hand that I've actually liked, but as the review suggests, his most radical writing wasn't just dense difficult by a daunting learnedness, but because the writing was a melange of styles , emulations, parodies and voices that collectively couldn't pierce the veil of self-imposed obscurity. The difficulty seems a self-fulfilling prophecy; purposefully abstruse verse with little aid to the curious, and a built in rationale for further lacerating the rubes for their failure to "get" what he was getting at. Like Ayn Rand, Pound's central belief was in genius that was dictatorial and not obliged to make the new ideas comprehensible . One got with the program or be trampled by the revolution to follow. Pound is one of the most fascinating men in American literature, and he'll no doubt continue to vex generations of bright poets to come. But that is something we who think literature should , by default, have "progressive" leanings will have to grin and bear. Like or not, Pound revolutionized Poetry coming into the 20th century just as D.W.Griffith created the modern film narrative style with his epic and naively racist Birth of a Nation. Much of the time great work doesn't come from morally unambiguous personalities.
Wednesday, August 1, 2007
Frost , although over estimated, is an acceptable minor poet and a canny careerist, neither of which are offensive to anyone who understands the need to make a living.