Showing posts with label Robert Frost. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Robert Frost. Show all posts

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pound or Frost?

I'm not a fan of either poet, but of Pound intrigues especially me . His fabled difficulty seems more willful than inspired , more determined than originating from a flash of an idea that would spark a firestorm in how poetry is read. His theories, his proclamations as to the duty of the writer to lead the race to a higher standard of perception, were the writings that galvanized and polarized a generation or so of writers who followed or argued with his lead; his poems, though, were stuck in an abstruse inertia. This is distinct from abstract, a quality where there is an actual idea being deployed and which, in turn, can be parsed by a reader with due diligence. There is no argument with how important Pound is to the reformation of literature and advancing the Modernist aesthetic, but some one who was so obsessed, in theory, with reconfiguring language arts so that a new generation of readers can have fresh perceptions of reality and discover means with which to change it, Pound seemed seduced by the legend he was making for himself and delved headlong into his admixture of projects without a sense of how his materials and sources would come to make a generalized sense of themselves.

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.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Frost Bitten

Robert Frost is better than Edgar Guest, I suppose. But he drives me crazy with all these slant rhymes and pastoral silences. I wish he could make me think that there was something horrible going on over that hill, in that cabin covered in the snow, in that grove of trees, by that still lake highlighted by moonlight. But he doesn't, and too bad. This is a world of someone who doesn't need the company of others,and that, frankly, is so quaint it's insufferable.There are those who will rightly protest the unfairness of my dismissal of this revered poet and correctly point out that are poems he's written that are darker, more complex than the winter and fall landscapes I characterize his verse as. But it's to no avail.

All the same, I just never cared for Frost's brittle diction and solitary pluming of his darker side; if there was something horrible going on behind the shrewdly arranged stillness of his poems, and if that something were in his house, then it was all in his head. I thought it was corny and contrived and airless when the nuns had us all parse his efforts and then write papers on the constant presence of death that pulses under the surface of his unadorned lines, but even at that age I distrusted the writers' persona. Bitter, depressed and solitary he might have been, but there also seemed to something machine-made about his poems; it was an easy style for the larger public to like and for the critics to praise and extol upon without seeming like they're blurbing merely for the sake of being quoted. The result, in my next to worthless opinion on the matter, is a poet who is over rated, over praised, over anthologized. I have never cared for the old boy's brand of grumpiness, and I never will.