August 20, 2003
Little Review: Ezra Pound, Poems and Translations
[I hope to do a much fuller write-up on this book -- Pound was my first great poetic love in high school, and I had far too many ideas about this book than could fit in one paragraph -- so please accept this as "credit" for the later essay.]
The Library of America
The writings of Ezra Pound have been traditionally associated with the late James Laughlin’s avant-garde publishing venture New Directions, and volumes such as his 1949 “collected” poems Personae, his sprawling epic The Cantos, his thick book of Translations, and the slim, tidy distillation of Selected Poems with its forbidding, purse-lipped profile of the poet, have been foundational, strangely comforting features on poetry lovers’ shelves for decades. Containing Pound in a single, albeit huge, volume that made claims to completism seemed impossible, and yet Richard Sieburth – best known as a critic and translator of Holderlein – has done an amazing job of finding and logically arranging nearly everything that Pound wrote that could be called a poem or translation, including the juvenalia of “Hilda’s Book” – written for fellow University of Pennsylvania student Hilda Doolittle – to the late, moving elegy, first published in 1971, that he wrote for the brother of one of his St. Elizabeths acolytes, but which Sieburth clearly intends for Pound himself: “Out of the turmoil, Mother of Griefs receive him, / Queen of Heaven receive him, / May the sound of the leaves give him peace, / May the hush of the forest receive him.” (1203) That Pound could figure himself as a seeker of peace while being, infamously, a virulent anti-Semite and supporter of Mussolini, is just one of the conflicts that make this volume compelling; but except in the rich chronology and footnotes that Sieburth provides (there is, sadly, no introduction), practically none of this social context make its presence known beyond proclivities of style: the poet's always precise, even "macho" meters, the near absence of any intimate or autobiographical tone, and his Puritan impatience with “Symbolist” ambiguities – he was set on curing the world of the decadent “nineties.” That Pound famously considered his life-work, the 800 page Cantos, a “botch” – and took to referring to himself as a “minor satirist” during the last years of his life as he suffered crippling depressions – makes the verve, optimism and confidence of such undertakings as the reversionings of Guido Cavalcanti and Arnaut Daniel (however shackled by 19th century conventions), the robust, still fresh “Cathay” sequence, the metrical displays of “Tenzone," “Dance Figure” and "Hugh Selwyn Mauberley" and the innovative “Homage to Sextius Propertius” – all from his richest period before the 1920s - right through his passion for translating Sophocles and Confucius’ Classic Anthology, seem like an Icarian flight primed for a great, however morally distressing, fall - one that took some of American poetry’s very thirst for hearty, internationalist undertakings with it. Pound believed that all mankind needed to know of literature could be contained in a two-foot shelf, and he set out translating, for a country he thought had yet to ascend out of “barbarism,” those works that were missing; his own place on that shelf might not be that thick – all-in-all, many of these pages are taken up by trivial sequences like the “Alfred Venison” poems (Cockney ballads in support of his “social credit” ideas) and the social farce of "Moeurs Contemporaines," idiosyncratic “readers” versions of Sophocles and Japanese Noh plays, and the Confucian works which crave simplicity and wisdom but are clearly the products of a didactic, irascible and fatally undialectic iconoclast: “He said: problem of style? Get the meaning across and then STOP.” (731). Yet one can’t help to think that the appearance of this volume, which seems streamlined, coherent and responsible compared to the many pages of The Cantos that are barely readable due to stylistic infelicities and political excesses - compare his work on the Analects to the "American President Cantos" - will give readers of poetry a sense of starting over, of renewed energy in resorting through the horrific details of a long, ideologically wounded century and the myriad luminous details of a few millennia of European and Asian literature.
Posted by Brian Stefans at August 20, 2003 04:18 PM
Holy catfish! Does this book really exist (and how did they sew and glue 14,000 pages together? Or is that a typo)?
No, it's unbound -- I had to take it home in two large garbage bags.
Yes, of course it's a typo. But maybe I'll let it stand just for the image it creates.
But you better get cranking on those million poems if you're ever going to catch up!
14,000 pages! A conceptual piece is in order. Soon as the weather cools down, why not organize a two column poet's brigade to meet at a designated border town in Iraq. Each column will start with 7,000 pages each. After determining the circumference of Iraq's borders in miles, the brigades will walk in opposite direction to circumnavigate the entire border of Iraq. Page by page, the brigades will mark their walk with Pound's poems, the number for each mile being determined by 14,000 pages divided by the total number of miles. (Quick Google research has yet to determine this circumference figure).
Locating and placing the poems as temporary border marks, each marking will feature a brief brigade reading of the poem in the manner of a chorus. Morning and evening brigade discussions will focus on various issues surrounding the Pound poems of the day (legacy - literary, political, etc.) each of which will be taped. Encounters with Iraqi locals, United States military personnel, topography will also be documented. Sumerian scholars - Iraqi and non-Iraqi will be invited to reflect and contribute on the relationship between Pound, Sumeria and contemporary discourse on the lyric, translation and linguistic strategies in contemporary Iraq.
Each member of the pilgrimage will, of course, carry wireless computers and maintain a reflective blog.
I am not sure what this is all about. Or is it about how does anyone go about meaningfully and/or creatively reading 14,000 pages?
Uh oh. Looks like you'd better fix the typo.
How much does moveable type set you back? I'm considering making the jump - looking at typepad too - both blogger and typepad take care of hosting; I understand from your earlier post you're going through earthlink?
MT is free...you just need a place to host it...
Yes, Movable Type is free but you have to have access to your server -- there are perl scripts to install, and modules as well if your server doens't already have them. It can be a headache to install or very easy -- I didn't have too many problems but I've had friends who were going nuts. As it is, my upgrade to 2.64 is still pretty buggy but I haven't had the time to work out the ticks.
Typepad looks pretty interesting to me but I wonder how much you can create your own layout with it.
a couple other free blog scripts worth looking into are pmachine (if you upgrade to the pro version, there is the ability to have multiple blogs output to the same page...kind of like a newspaper site...it appears to be a nice script), b2, & xaraya (another newspaper-capable blog script)...
&, not to be too self-promotional, but i'd be willing to install MT for free if anyone decides to host through duration (the plans at duration are pretty comparable to typepad, but you get more control over your domain...also, there is the ability to one-click install pmachine, b2, various nukes (post-nuke, phpwebsite, etc.) on some of the duration hosting plans)...
well...been thinking, & might be putting together a blog hosting service (free) on the duration site within the next couple of weeks using MT...an experiment of sorts, but will see how it works out...
Nature is not anthropomorphic.
Both dreams and people crash down.
The most basic duality that exists with variables is how the programmer sees them in a totally different way than the computer does. When you're typing away in Project Builder, your variables are normal words smashed together, like software titles from the 80s. You deal with them on this level, moving them around and passing them back and forth.
When Batman went home at the end of a night spent fighting crime, he put on a suit and tie and became Bruce Wayne. When Clark Kent saw a news story getting too hot, a phone booth hid his change into Superman. When you're programming, all the variables you juggle around are doing similar tricks as they present one face to you and a totally different one to the machine.
Inside each stack frame is a slew of useful information. It tells the computer what code is currently executing, where to go next, where to go in the case a return statement is found, and a whole lot of other things that are incredible useful to the computer, but not very useful to you most of the time. One of the things that is useful to you is the part of the frame that keeps track of all the variables you're using. So the first place for a variable to live is on the Stack. This is a very nice place to live, in that all the creation and destruction of space is handled for you as Stack Frames are created and destroyed. You seldom have to worry about making space for the variables on the stack. The only problem is that the variables here only live as long as the stack frame does, which is to say the length of the function those variables are declared in. This is often a fine situation, but when you need to store information for longer than a single function, you are instantly out of luck.
When a variable is finished with it's work, it does not go into retirement, and it is never mentioned again. Variables simply cease to exist, and the thirty-two bits of data that they held is released, so that some other variable may later use them.
For this program, it was a bit of overkill. It's a lot of overkill, actually. There's usually no need to store integers in the Heap, unless you're making a whole lot of them. But even in this simpler form, it gives us a little bit more flexibility than we had before, in that we can create and destroy variables as we need, without having to worry about the Stack. It also demonstrates a new variable type, the pointer, which you will use extensively throughout your programming. And it is a pattern that is ubiquitous in Cocoa, so it is a pattern you will need to understand, even though Cocoa makes it much more transparent than it is here.
Without hope, the rest is nothing.