Editors’ Preface for Paideuma 36

The essays in this volume of Paideuma have been arranged chronologically by poet, beginning with two essays on Ezra Pound and continuing through H. D., Mary Barnard, and Charles Reznikoff, concluding with several figures associated with the post-war generations that first came to prominence in The New American Poetry. The chronological presentation is not entirely adequate to the material surveyed: the last essay, by Tony Brinkley and Joseph Arsenault, looks at recent poems by Rosmarie Waldrop, Barbara Guest, and Alice Notley, but with a conceptual framework established through close readings of Hegel, Wordsworth, and Wallace Stevens. Since the first essay in the issue, by Robert Stark, digs deep into the archive of Scots dialect poetry to illuminate the antiquarian diction of Pound’s earliest poems, the eight essays form a circle of sorts, beginning and ending with the eighteenth century. But the twentieth century is emphatically on display here: as traumatic event for Aimee Pozorski, as material culture for Kaplan Harris, as a confluence of social forces for Andrea Brady. History also informs Patrick Barron’s essay on Edward Dorn’s western landscapes, while Sarah Barnsley discovers a poetics of history in the Imagist landscapes of Mary Barnard and H. D. In Barnsley’s account, poetry becomes “a series of compressed, ground-up moments carrying marks of other moments much as sand carries traces of all contact with rocks and waves.” For Sean Pryor, poetry is instead a series of moments of instruction—vexed and vexing ones, since he is looking at Pound’s late cantos.

The essays are as various and complementary in method as in subject. Several of this volume’s authors draw on archival material, none more so than Andrea Brady, who surveys and reads the John Wieners papers at nine institutions. Robert Stark and Kaplan Harris instead turn to print culture, the former historicizing Pound’s “jargoning,” the latter “the ubiquitous presence of pills” in the work of Ted Berrigan. Sarah Barnsley’s rich account of Mary Barnard’s poetics makes judicious use of manuscript material, while Aimee Pozorski’s powerful reading of Charles Reznikoff’s Holocaust looks at the author’s source materials and notes in light of trauma theory. Critical theory also informs Patrick Barron’s reading of Edward Dorn, which demonstrates the value of Henri Lefebvre’s The Production of Space for ecopoetics. Tony Brinkley and Joseph Arsenault read Hegel, and also, to a lesser extent, Heidegger and Deleuze, but the theory most important for their essay is Wordsworthian. That poetic practice implies a theory is a key tenet for Barnsley too, and also for Sean Pryor, who examines the pedagogy of Pound’s “Ezuversity” and discovers a fissure, another reason why the Cantos “cannot make it cohere”: “the pedagogic structure of guidance and instruction is in conflict with the occult structure of illumination and revelation”; “the poem brings the great ball of crystal, only to discover that this avails nothing, for the crystal cannot ever be lifted, entered, or known.”

We are also happy to be publishing seven reviews encompassing primary texts by Ezra Pound and Ernst Fenollosa, and new scholarship on Pound, George Oppen, Black Mountain poetics, and the modernist occult.

With this double issue Paideuma shifts to a biannual format (the journal has been a de facto biannual since volume 14), and for the foreseeable future the year’s two issues will be printed together as a single annual. Our primary aim is to streamline the publication process, in order to get the journal back on a regular publication schedule. We believe that this format is best suited to the goal. Note that the date range assigned to this volume brings the current issue in line with the current calendar year. Volume 37 will cover the year 2010 and feature an eighty-fifth birthday tribute to Mary de Rachewiltz edited by Richard Sieburth. We also look forward to publishing in this forthcoming volume essays by Joshua Clover, Evelyn Haller, Sean Pryor, and Jeffrey Westover.

Announcing Paideuma Volume 36

We are pleased to announce the publication of Paideuma Volume 36. To order, please visit our main website (here) or click on the Ordering tab of this blog.

CONTENTS

Preface

Essays

Robert Stark, “‘Toils Obscure An’ A’ That': Romantic and Celtic Influences in ‘Hilda’s Book'”

Sean Pryor, “Particularly Dangerous Feats: The Difficult Reader of the Difficult Late Cantos”

Sarah Barnsley, “‘Sand Is the Beginning and the End / of Our Dominion': Mary Barnard, H.D. and Imagism”

Aimee Pozorski, “Traumatic Survival and the Loss of a Child: Reznikoff’s Holocaust Revisited”

Patrick Barron, “Unmasked Representations of Space in Edward Dorn’s ‘The Land Below’ and ‘Idaho Out'”

Andrea Brady, “Making Use of This Pain: The John Wieners Archives”

Kaplan Harris, “Gender Performance, Performance Enhancement, and Poetry: Reading Ted Berrigan After Viagra”

Tony Brinkley and Joesph Arsenault, “‘This is where the serpent lives': Wordsworthian Poetics and Contemporary American Poetry”

Reviews

Ronald Bush (Ezra Pound: Canti postumi, a cura di Massimo Bacigalupo)

Robert Kibler (Ernest Fenollosa and Ezra Pound’s The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry, A Critical Edition, ed. Haun Saussy, Jonathan Stalling, and Lucas Klein)

Mariacrstina Natalia Bertoli (Ezra Pound, Language and Persona, ed. Massimo Bacigalupo and William Pratt)

Joseph Conte (Anne Day Dewey, Beyond Maximus: The Construction of Public Voice in Black Mountain Poetry)

Justin Parks (Peter Nicholls, George Oppen and the Fate of Modernism)

Lara Vetter (Mark S. Morrisson, Modern Alchemy: Occultism and the Emergence of Atomic Theory)

In Memoriam

Paul Montgomery, 1936-2008 by Massimo Bacigalupo

Giano Accame, 1928-2009 by Massimo Bacigalupo

G. Singh, 1926-2009 by Massimo Bacigaluopo

Omar Pound, 1926-2010 by Tim Redman


Cover: William Aikman, Allan Ramsay. Courtesy Scottish National Portrait Gallery. The website of the National Galleries of Scotland includes the following caption beside this portrait:

Allan Ramsay began his career in Edinburgh as a wigmaker; he went on to become a bookseller, successful poet and an important member of Edinburgh’s literary and artistic circles. He was a close friend of the artist, William Aikman, and this portrait was owned by another friend, Sir John Clerk of Penicuik. Clerk wrote on the back of the canvas, imitating Ramsay’s verse: “Here painted on this canvas clout by Aikman’s hand is Ramsay’s snout.”

Preview of Paideuma 36: Tony Brinkley and Joesph Arsenault

Tony Brinkley

Tony Brinkley and Joseph Arsenault’s “‘This Is Where the Serpent Lives’: Wordsworthian Poetics and Contemporary American Poetry,” presents a complex application of Hegelian dialectic and Wordsworthian poetics onto the poetry of Wallace Stevens, Rosmarie Waldrop, Barbara Guest, and Alice Notley. Operating on destabilized terrain, Brinkley and Arsenault propose that deitic gestures found in Wordsworth are explored to interesting limits of potentiality, first in Stevens, and later in Waldrop, Guest, and Notley. A central question of their essay is: “Can we see a Wordsworthian poetics of this sort in contemporary American poetry?” Their answer:

The this is a universal, indifferent to its content, indifferently night or day, house or tree, [as] Hegel writes, but the deixis of the poems we are considering is hardly indifferent in its reference. The ‘body-bags’ in Waldrop’s poem turn recent history into deitic insistence – not insistence on the specific referent, but grammatical insistence, as a shifter. …Whatever the deictic gesture refers to is added to the referring, presencing gesture…so that when Waldrop writes “what can I do but tie ribbons to the idea of body and its wholeness,” we think of war mementos (a yellow ribbon among other possibilities, tied around a car antenna for example).

Joe Arsenault

Tony Brinkley and Joe Arsenault have worked together for years, and the conversation that led to this article began as a thought experiment on Paul de Man, who wrote that literary criticism became literary theory when literary critics embraced linguistics. The linguistics de Man had in mind was Saussure’s and its engagement with arbitrary signs. As a point of departure, Brinkley and Arsenault wondered what might happen if they adopted de Man’s insight but instead substituted indexical for arbitrary signs. On the one hand, this seemed to them to be imperative as they were working with historical realities (at the time, the Shoah). On the other hand, an emphasis on arbitrary signification seemed to lead to hopeless misinterpretations of many of the poems they cared for most (de Man’s impossible reading of Shelley’s “Triumph of Life” for example). From this, an interest in the deictic gestures of Wordsworthian poetry developed, of how the poetry says “of what we see in the dark / That it is this or that it is that.” And so the essay followed…

Tony Brinkley teaches English at the University of Maine where Joseph Arsenault works as a program manager in Surface Engineering. Their other co-authored articles included “Toward an Indexical Criticism” (Postmodern Culture 5.3) and “Traumatized Words” (Sagetrieb 16.3).

Preview of Paideuma 36: Sarah Barnsley

Sarah Barnsley‘s article, “‘Sand Is the Beginning and the End / of Our Dominion': Mary Barnard, H.D. and Imagism,” explores a poetics of history in the Imagist landscapes of these two poets. The article makes good use of the archive, offering unpublished work by Barnard for attentive reading. Using the metaphor of sand, “a substance [that] lends itself well to poetic appropriation,” Barnsley develops a particular understanding of perspective and of Barnard’s and H.D.’s articulation of time through sensitive and perceptive examinations of their poems.

Barnsley fully and thoughtfully pursues the versatility of sand in the poems of Barnard and H.D., which she sees sometimes as Imagist “‘verbal grit,'” while at other times as simultaneously “solid and liquid” or even “fruity.” The porous texture of sand allows it to adhere to poetics with startlingly adaptive ease that results in fascinating new readings of these poets.

Please enjoy this short excerpt from Barnsley’s essay:

For Barnard and H.D., sand possesses a translucence replete with possibilities, from the “reflecting sands” in “Shoreline” to “grains…clear as wine” in “Hermes of the Ways.” Theirs is an elegant yet raw poetic program, producing a spare poetry that is both coarse and irregular in places, like a handful of sand grains, yet that conceals a portal to the sublime when perceived as a whole, like the awe-inspiring visual spectacle of the beach that has enthralled poets particularly since the Romantic period.

Sarah Barnsley is a Tutor in English and American Literature at Goldsmiths, University of London, where she is also Director of the English distance-learning program. Her other scholarship on Mary Barnard includes the recently-published “Mary Barnard’s ‘North Window': Imagism and the Pacific Northwest” in Western American Literature 44.3 (Fall 2009). Additionally, she is completing a book manuscript, “Mary Barnard, Late Imagist,” and co-organizing a Mary Barnard centenary event to take place in June 2011 at Reed College, Portland, Oregon.

NPF Conferences

During the past few months, we’ve been assembling programs from the National Poetry Foundation’s past conferences. The NPF began hosting conferences in 1980 when it held the Sixth International Pound Conference at the University of Maine campus. While not an NPF event, this conference paved the way for three decades of NPF conferences. In the ’80s, NPF conferences mainly focused on centennial celebrations of Modernists such as H. D., Marianne Moore, Ezra Pound, and William Carlos Williams. In the ’90s until the present, the NPF has held “Decades” conferences, reflecting its expanded dedication to modern and postmodern poetry and poetics.

For a chronological listing of NPF conferences, with complete programs, see our new blog (link here).

Preview of Paideuma 36: Patrick Barron

Patrick Barron‘s essay, “Unmasked Representations of Space in Edward Dorn’s ‘The Land Below’ and ‘Idaho Out,’” offers keen close readings of these poems in the larger discussion of the history, geography, and politics of the American West. Although “it can be quite problematic to apply theory to Dorn’s work,” as Barron admits, his application of Henri Lefebvre’s space representation theory provides a new, productive lens through which to understand these poems. Working with issues of space and ownership in the West, Barron deftly maneuvers his way through Dorn’s politically charged poetic landscape.

Please enjoy this short excerpt from Barron’s article:

Dorn’s spatial practice in much of his poetry — the way in which he perceives everyday space – is almost always accomplished through wandering over long distances, often by car. …Dorn’s laconic poetics, however, tends to construct knowledge of the production of space in the West through an insistent unmasking of representations of space. He encourages exploration into and beyond known limits, and embraces increasingly complex fields of geographic awareness.

Patrick Barron’s poetry, essays, and translations have appeared or are forthcoming in a number of journals, including Poetry East, Ecopoetics, Two Lines, The Worcester Review, The North Dakota Quarterly, Interdisciplinary Literary Studies, and The Greenwood Encyclopedia of American Poets and Poetry. His books include Italian Environmental Literature: An Anthology and The Selected Poetry and Prose of Andrea Zanzotto (U of Chicago P), for which he was recently awarded a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts  (read the press release here). Barron was featured on Adam Penna’s Best Poem blog (read it here). He is currently an assistant professor of English at the University of Massachusetts, Boston.

The NPF is no stranger to scholarship on Dorn’s work. To see the Table of Contents from Sagetrieb‘s special Dorn issue, click here.

Preview of Paideuma 36: Sean Pryor

Sean Pryor‘s “Particularly Dangerous Feats: The Difficult Reader of the Difficult Late Cantos” explores the relationship between the reader and Ezra Pound’s late cantos. The article, which deals with the pedagogical concerns of Pound as expressed by The Cantos, naturally arose “from the always strange but stimulating experience of trying to teach Pound,” as Pryor puts it, especially the later cantos.

Pryor traces readers’ difficulty and frustration with the late cantos by beginning with W. D. Snodgrass, who complained in a review that “life with Ezra has become more and more to be a daily mid-semester test.” It is clear even to the most naïve observer that Ezra Pound’s “Ezuversity” has no fluff courses or easy As. As Snodgrass expressed, this creates a sometimes frustrating tension between reader and poem. However, this tension goes both ways, Pryor argues:

To offer explanations to the novice whom you have abandoned is to confess an inability to abandon your novice. This is the fundamental tension to which Snodgrass [and others] respond, a clash between the poem’s compulsion to judge and its compulsion to teach. The poem is actually in desperate need of its reader, and that need is often most visible when the poem mocks, abuses, or damns the reader.

“Particularly Dangerous Feats” was developed out of a larger project on Pound and Yeats, which will appear in W.B. Yeats, Ezra Pound and the Poetry of Paradise (Ashgate Press 2011). Sean Pryor teaches English at the University of New South Wales in Sydney, Australia. His research focuses on modernist poetry and poetics. His next project is on a poetics of fallenness in the twentieth century, which will examine W.H. Auden, Pound, Wallace Stevens, Louis Zukofsky, and others. Pryor also has another article on Pound forthcoming in Paideuma 37, titled “‘How Will You Know?': Paradise, Painting, and the Writing of Ezra Pound’s Canto 3.”

Preview of Paideuma 36: Aimee Pozorski

Aimee Pozorski’s essay, “Traumatic Survival and the Loss of a Child: Reznikoff’s Holocaust Revisited” grew out of her interdisciplinary work at Emory University from 1998-2003, where scholars from the Emory University Psychoanalytic Institute and the Graduate School of Arts & Sciences talked regularly with one another about trauma and traumatic history.

As a humanities scholar who also took courses at the psychoanalytic institute, Pozorski began wondering about repeated references to murdered children in post-Holocaust literature. Her background in psychoanalysis, a field that trained her to notice stumbling blocks and repetitions as signs of trauma, provided Pozorski with a unique conceptual apparatus to bring to bear on her observations. She noticed that contemporary authors seem to stumble on references to dead and dying infants in the most unexpected places, and subsequently questioned what that “stumbling” might say about our culture at large in the wake of the Holocaust. Such questioning led her to the Mandeville Special Collections Library at UC-San Diego, which houses Reznikoff’s archived papers. Here in the archive, she noticed Reznikoff’s concern about dead infants in history — in Reznikoff’s drafts, in the margins of testimony, in scribbled notes to himself to “follow mother & child.” Such a discovery led Pozorski to conclude in this article:

Whether through strategy or accident, it is Reznikoff’s perception of the deeply felt bond between mother and child that leads him to “follow mother & child” from the transcripts of the Eichmann and Nuremberg trials to the lines of his Holocaust. In following mother and child to this very place, Reznikoff finds death and survival in an image that constitutes simultaneously a literary figure unearthed in history and a literal fact unearthed from the grave. Such a reading, I hope, allows us not only to reconsider Holocaust as an Objectivist masterpiece, but also to reconsider Objectivism itself, caught as it is between objectivity and emotion when it comes to matters of life and death.

Just as she grappled with repeated references to infanticide in canonical literature during the last decade, Pozorski has recently shifted her focus to the repeated, and often criticized, figure of the falling man in post-9/11 literature. Current President of the Philip Roth Society, she is also at work on a monograph under contract with Continuum Press entitled, Roth and Trauma. She has published articles in Philip Roth Studies, Studies in American and Jewish Literature, MELUS, The Hemingway Review and Connecticut Review. Most recently, she co-edited, with Miriam Jaffe-Foger, the special issue of Philip Roth Studies entitled, “Mourning Zuckerman.”

Preview of Paideuma 36: Kaplan Harris

Kaplan Harris‘s “Gender Performance, Performance Enhancement, and Poetry: Reading Ted Berrigan after Viagra” dives into Berrigan’s world of speed and sex, bringing new considerations to bear on The Sonnets and “Things to Do on Speed” via the historical archive and gender theory. Turning to print culture, Harris provides a new contextual framework for Berrigan’s world of poetry and pills.

Harris has work in American Literature, Artvoice, Contemporary Literature, the EPC, Jacket, and The Poetry Project Newsletter. (Click on the links to go to the articles.) He is also editing, with Peter Baker and Rod Smith, The Selected Letters of Robert Creeley for the University of California Press.

Earlier this year, Harris was a guest blogger at Lemonhound — read his post here.

Please enjoy this brief preview of Harris’s essay:

Because speed was marketed to uphold an ideal structure of gender, i.e. to make a man more manly, the abuse of speed for the socially non-beneficial activity of poetry (which is surely less beneficial than military, business, or athletic activities) can be understood as an abuse of such masculine ideals…. But changes in gender performance and performance enhancement are not the same thing. Even if Berrigan does not adhere to the acceptable uses of speed, he still enjoys the advantage of the speed industry’s “rhetoric of enhancement” when fashioning his poetic persona.

Preview of Paideuma 36: Robert Stark

Robert Stark’s “‘Toils Obscure, / An’ A’ That’: Romantic and Celtic Influences in Hilda’s Book,” takes a look at Ezra Pound’s chewy jargon by examining his predecessors, most notably Robert Burns, Allan Ramsay, and James Whitcomb Riley. While Pound’s “odd spellings are usually calculated…to estrange the reader,” Stark views Pound’s archaisms in Hilda’s Book as a revelatory glimpse into the lexicon of a poet who never truly, even in The Cantos, abandoned these first impulses.

Applying his findings to Pound’s “Voriticism,” Stark writes:

This language suggests that Pound is consciously seeking an aesthetic impulse from his subject matter: it powerfully imitates the chirruping of the birds themselves. …Though the image might confuse at first, Pound’s usage is consistent with the precise nature and historical development of the language he employs; the special religious sense governs the meaning of the poem subtly and surely, in a vital rather than ornamental fashion. The language and the strange diction conspire to release these songbirds from the spell of Romantic and post-Romantic introspection…and result in a new but tentative poetic register.

Robert Stark is a poet and scholar at the University of Balamand in Lebanon, working on a book of verse and a book-length study of the legacy of the 1890s and Ernest Dowson in particular, provisionally entitled “‘All My Blood in Pawn': from the Decadence to the Dream Songs.” His recent work can be found in current or forthcoming issues of The Journal of Modern Literature, The Journal of Browning Studies, and Almost an Island: A New Anthology of Fife Writings.”