Untitled

July 17, 2012

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5 Responses to “Untitled”

  1. Thomas Davis Says:

    I will admit, Jim, to have puzzled over the cantos a little bit, but given up when the language spilled into such obscurity that I figured I was too ignorant to read them with understanding–though some of the language can be magnificent.
    The old book looking battered seems to be the perfect metaphor for Pound’s battered mind, filled with the promise of genius, but, perhaps, overused and not quite what the outside of the book promises.
    I love this.
    Tom D’Evelyn’s comments cast flies all over the place, and, like a trout, I often rise to bite at them.

  2. Tom D'Evelyn Says:

    Your posts land like perfectly cast flies on the surface of my pond, and I usually rise to take the bait. Both
    Pound and Stevens struggled with modern fragmentation and drew on meditative traditions in response.

  3. extrasimile Says:

    Tom, I actually had the book out to check those lines I had quoted from the Cantos. The worn cover, the rumpled presence of a book I have had for forty years or so, which, strictly speaking, isn’t even mine, seemed to epitomize ‘poetry’. The Ezra Pound who wrote—
    There died a myriad,
    And of the best, among them,
    For an old bitch gone in the teeth,
    For a botched civilization,

    Charm, smiling at the good mouth,
    Quick eyes gone under earth’s lid,

    For two gross of broken statues,
    For a few thousand battered books.

    —yeah, that Ezra Pound—now a battered book.
    A friend of mine took a course with one William Hull (poet, Faulkner scholar) on the Cantos on my recommendation. When she finished the course, I persuaded her to let me ‘borrow’ the book. Hey, I’ll return it when I finish reading it. One has since learned that there are some books/ writers that you never finish—Shakespeare, Dante, Plato, etc—though John, I wouldn’t presume great Ezra Pound expertise on my part. The Cantos is one frustrating provocative book. Gertrude Stein referred to him as ‘the village explainer’. This might be as good a way to characterize him as any.
    When Hugh Kenner published his big book, The Pound Era, it was argued that either you were a disciple of Pound or of Wallace Stevens. (Kenner v. Harold Bloom, Helen Vendler).This is probably a false dichotomy, but I am clearly in the Stevens camp…
    Tom, me, an old fisherman? I can’t imagine what you might possibly mean.

  4. Tom D'Evelyn Says:

    Jim is an old fisherman and knows how to cast a fly. EP had an enormous influence on me as a youngster. By the time I got to college I was talking about him with such confidence — not to say arrogance — that a professor of American lit at my college told his class, “We won’t be dealing with the old Fascist, you can talk to Tom D’Evelyn about him.” Naturally, I took offense. EP got me into Comp Lit, took me deeper into medieval studies, and showed me some of the glories of Chinese poetry. EP’s craziness is a sad, complicated story and can’t be divorced from some aspects of his literary vision. And, then, the Cantos are a “failure”: it did not “cohere,” and EP admitted this late in life. What I value most about EP’s achievement is his understanding of the complexity of the image, and how he used sound and intellect along with description to create a concrete open whole in a line or two: a concrete universal, perhaps. HIs failure was to find a form that would allow him to write short poems using his method; and it may be that by scuttling the iambic line, he doomed himself to the amorphous mass of the Cantos.

  5. John Stevens Says:

    I’m impressed. You’ve obviously read this from cover to cover many times, not least while having supper or in the bath! I only have a selection of the Cantos.


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