There are so many different Ezra Pounds: the expatriate poet, founder of Imagism, redactor of The Waste Land, explicator of troubadours — exponent of Social Credit, Vivaldi, Chinese ideogram — secretary to Yeats, servant to Mussolini — a poet half Futurist, half Pre-Raphaelite — translator, composer, editor, pedagogue, critic … and sometime crank. It’s in that last guise that Pound recently surfaced on Esquire‘s website, in John H. Richardson’s genealogy of the Tea Party Movement. Here is a choice excerpt:
I’m not saying the Tea Partiers are all racists or anti-Semites. On the contrary, I’m certain that most of them are not. But in the dream logic that moves masses of people, the Ezra Pound Connection explains everything. A populist social movement inspired by the elitists at the Chicago School of Economics? A president who is supposed to be a socialist and also, at the same time, a craven servant of Goldman Sachs? It all makes perfect sense when you start from the “patriotic poet” who was also guilty of treason, who was famous both for his kindness and his cruelty.
Does any modernist poet have a scrapbook as interesting as Pound’s? Here’s another clipping for it.
We are very happy to learn — belatedly — that Danette DiMarco won the 2009 President’s Award for Scholarly Achievement at her home institution, Slippery Rock University. The announcement notes her scholarly focus on Victorian and 20th-century feminist authors, adding that she has also published pedagogical work on the teaching of writing to first-year students (link). We are especially happy to see her work for the NPF singled out.
“‘Misfortune’s Monsters / The Human … Race’: Mina Loy’s American Lineage and an Urban Poetry of Economic Deprivation” appeared in a special issue of Sagetrieb devoted to women poets of the 1950s (Sagetrieb 19.3). As DiMarco notes, Loy spent many years living near the Bowery and was often consumed with money problems of her own. The four poems central to the essay’s argument — “On Third Avenue,” “Chiffon Velours,” “Hot Cross Bum,” and “Lady Laura in Bohemia” — are sharply observed and sharp in their address. DiMarco situates these poems in a lineage of critique that includes the work of the Nuyorican Poets Cafe (DiMarco pays particular attention to Denise Duhamel, Janice Erlbaum, and Maggie Estep). Here is an excerpt; the quotes come from John Kenneth Galbraith, The Affluent Society (1958):
Historically, sociologists and economists have two basic labels to describe the poor: case or insular poverty. Galbraith states that case poverty “is commonly and properly related to some characteristic of the individuals so afflicted.” It is due to “some quality peculiar to the individual or family involved” and assumes that the afflicted have not “mastered” their “environment.” Galbraith argues that people have assigned the term case poverty to describe those whose “sufferings” are the result of “deficiencies, including the moral shortcomings.” …
Unlike case poverty, insular poverty “manifests itself as an ‘island’ of poverty” where those involved “have been frustrated by some factor common to their environment.” Those suffering from case poverty often live amidst wealth while those experiencing insular poverty live among many of similar cast. … Although case and insular poverty are seemingly distinct, at least as Galbraith defines them, the separation is less real than one might like to think. In fact, when regions experience poverty because of environmental factors, the characterization of the population as disabled is often not long to follow. The group’s monstrous experience becomes naturalized as a necessary component or characteristic of that group.
Although Loy does not use “case” or “insular” to characterize the poor, her work reveals an understanding of the inner workings of both concepts. It is this effort to ever render the poor as monstrous that some of Loy’s later poems address. Her poems expose how stereotypes of the poor are reliant upon containment; in addition, her poems show that ideological boundaries must be maintained in order to perpetuate specific capitalist system.
It’s a great essay; DiMarco’s recognition is richly deserved.
Frederick Moody and Craig Saper have put a scanned facsimile and transcription of Bob Brown’s Words online on Connexions. Words was published by Hours Press in 1931 in a very limited run of 150 copies. Saper has also brought out Words in a paper version published by Rice University Press.
We learned about this development from Al Filreis, who shares his excitement on his frequently updated blog.
A few years ago, Sagetrieb published an article on Bob Brown by Craig Dworkin, “‘Seeing Words Machinewise': Technology and Visual Prosody” (Sagetrieb 18.1).
Dworkin begins his article with an epigraph from Brown:
Writing has been bottled up in books since the start. It is time to pull out the stopper.
The article focuses on one of the ways that Brown tried to pull out that stopper— a “reading machine” allowing poets to collaborate in the creation of texts, called “readies.” The readies, Dworkin explains, “are a relatively rare moment of visually based writing aimed at ‘carrying the word to the eye,‘” as Brown saw it. The results were eventually gathered in an anthology, Readies for Bob Brown’s Machine (1931).
While the readies “reflect the male modernists’ often literal phallocentrism and its exceedingly bizarre physiological equation of sperm and spinal fluid,” Dworkin’s overall interest in them is to return attention to their “formally progressive presentation…which still seems remarkable today.” It would seem from their reprint of Brown’s Words that Moody and Saper concur with Dworkin.
Last week came the wonderful news that Rae Armantrout won the National Book Critics Circle Award for poetry, for Versed, her fourth volume with Wesleyan and her tenth overall. You can read the announcement on Critical Mass, blog of the National Book Critics Circle Board of Directors (link), and see a video of Armantrout reading from the book on the website of the National Book Foundation, which administers the similar-sounding National Book Award (link). Armantrout was a finalist for the latter prize, along with Ann Lauterbach, who — like Armantrout — was a featured reader at our recent seventies conference (the winner, Keith Waldrop, was a featured reader at our earlier sixties conference).
Armantrout’s award sent me back to her 1992 essay “Feminist Poetics and the Meaning of Clarity,” now part of her Collected Prose, first published in Sagetrieb. The essay was a sequel to her earlier “Why Don’t Women Do Language-Oriented Writing?” (published in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E in 1978). The earlier essay was posed as an answer to the title question. The later one flipped the script by using the title to proliferate questions. That proliferation — and the questing intelligence behind it — is very much a part of Armantrout’s appeal. Even when the questions are leading, the invitation to think is welcome.
Here are some of the last sentences of the Sagetrieb essay — a statement of poetics in Socratic form:
What is the meaning of clarity? Is something clear when you understand it or when it looms up, startling you? Is readability equivalent to clarity? What is the relation of readability to convention? How might conventions of legibility enforce social codes? Does so-called experimental writing seek a new view of the self? Would such a view be liberating? Might experimental writing and feminism be natural allies? I think questions are most useful when left open. I will merely assert that there is more than one model of clarity.
It’s nice to see another model of clarity get official recognition!
Steve Evans of the NPF’s Editorial Collective will be giving a talk this Monday at The Poetry Project in New York City. The talk draws on his ongoing research on digital technology and poetics. Evans has also presented this work in two seminars for the University of Maine English Department, where he is an Associate Professor and the Graduate Coordinator. (Information about those seminars, “Listen! Poetry in the Age of the MP3,” can be found at his website, Third Factory; links here and here).
The Poetry Project gives the following announcement in its Program Calendar:
In the mid-1980s Steve Evans did a serious stint under the headphones, listening to, cataloging, and transferring the decaying reel-to-reel collection that the Archive for New Poetry at UCSD had acquired from Poetry Project hero Paul Blackburn. Ever since, he’s been following and, when possible, contributing to the ongoing conversation about the analysis and interpretation of poems not just as printed texts but as voiced structures whose meaning can be “sounded” as well as seen. In this talk, Evans will share his recent thinking on the topic with special reference to Paul Blackburn’s practice as devoted “audiographer” of his age.