As we briefly mentioned back in February, in our announcement of the joint release of Sagetrieb 20/Paideuma 40, Sagetrieb has concluded its run as a scholarly journal, with the work it covered now encompassed by Paideuma. In the coming year we are going to revisit the contents of the journal in celebration of the work done by the hundreds of scholars who contributed to it in its two decades of production. A complete list of contributors is now available at the Sagetrieb blog (here). Below is an excerpt from the introduction to that final issue, explaining our decision and recounting in some of the journal’s history:
With the present volume, Sagetrieb now ceases publication. Burt helped to plan this conclusion and he hoped to see it through; his gathering of new essays on George Oppen was intended for the final issue. The work of the journal will continue, however, as it has for the past half-decade, within the pages of Paideuma, whose expanded mandate since volume 35 has covered all poetry in English from the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Yet despite this continuity, the end of the journal will be met with sadness by the scholars it long served, who will remember a time when no other venue was available for their work. That the situation is so greatly improved makes the discontinuing of the journal a bittersweet sign of its success. Today, serious study of H.D., Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, the Objectivist poets, the language writers, and other once-marginal individuals and groups can be found in a broad range of journals, including the most prestigious in our discipline. Within this new environment, the maintenance of two journals, never easy, ceased to be necessary. Moreover, the division of subjects between the two, ever evolving, had become quite fuzzy in recent years, fuzzy enough to make a combining of efforts logical as well as thrifty. Our decision to end Sagetrieb (unofficial for some time, as no new issue has appeared since 2006) was difficult to reach, but seems inevitable in retrospect.
Sagetrieb Vol. 1 Issue 2
A brief history of the two journals is perhaps in place here. Paideuma was founded in 1972 as the journal of Ezra Pound studies. Under the editorship of the late Carroll F. Terrell, it created a forum for exploring critically and sometimes poetically what Hugh Kenner, at just that moment, was formulating as the Pound era. There was room in those early years for references to the other modernists and to the younger poets indebted to Pound, but their relationship to Pound dominated — little appeared on those figures independent of him. Sagetrieb was thus formed in 1982 to provide an ampler forum for exploring the Poundian version of modernism and what was coming to be called postmodernism (“the poets of the Pound-Williams tradition” as Sagetrieb’s early mastheads put it). As it evolved under Burt’s editorship, however, Sagetrieb delineated a field of study for which Pound alone could not account — a point touched on by Kaplan Harris in his reflections on the journal, published here as part of this final issue. With Paideuma’s own, recent evolution away from a single-author focus, Sagetrieb’s vision of the field became, de facto, Paideuma’s as well. What began, then, as an elaboration of the Paideuma project became, in the end, a corrective to it, producing as its final achievement a changed Paideuma with a more capacious view.
In retrospect, the turning point came in 1993, at the first of our decades-themed conferences, on the poets of the 1930s generation, dubbed “The First Postmodernists.” For four days in Maine, the writers of Paideuma and Sagetrieb engaged in a shared dialogue that crossed and recrossed the lines of commitment defining the two journals, implicitly calling into question the need for such boundaries. Ten years down the road, in volume 32 of Paideuma, then-editors Laura Cowan and Joseph Brogunier registered some of the implications of that dialogue, revising the journals’ mandates: Paideuma would thenceforth expand to cover all the modernists of the Pound era and Sagetrieb would be a journal devoted to the postmodern. In the long term, however, this would not prove a workable distinction. Quite apart from the arbitrariness of the line dividing the two literary periods or the fact that so many of the earlier figures worked well into and even past the lifetimes of the later ones, there was an insistent need for scholarship in which the two periods were taken up together. This holistic if not totalizing impulse kept faith in its way with the journal’s original inspiration, Pound’s poem containing history. Even the name Paideuma points toward a productive engagement with these tangled periods. As Pound notes in the text we print on the inside cover of each issue, the word Paideuma denotes “the tangle or complex of the inrooted ideas of any period” — and “period” itself is surely one of those ideas. Taken together, Paideuma and Sagetrieb describe a single epoch, the long twentieth century, now extended into the twenty-first. The plethora of that epoch is the proper subject of the new Paideuma, and this has been its mandate since volume 32.
Nathaniel Mackey and Penelope Creeley at the ’80s conference in Orono. Photo (c) Star Black 2012.
Hearty congratulations to Nathaniel Mackey, awarded the 2014 Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize! The announcement came a few months ago, but the current issue of Poetry magazine has “made it new,” featuring a “Ruth Lilly Poetry Prize Portfolio” (link). The portfolio includes an essay on Mackey’s poetry by Don Share (link) and five Mackey poems (1, 2, 3, 4, 5).
Nathaniel Mackey was one of the keynote poets at our summer 2012 conference Poetry and Poetics of the 1980s (link). His reading for us was phenomenal. We also had the pleasure hearing Mackey read in the fall of 2003 as part of the New Writing Series, hosted here at the University of Maine.
We are long overdue in announcing the combined publication of Paideuma 40 and Sagetrieb 20.
Information for ordering copies of the journals can be found HERE.
In the present volume—simultaneously published as Paideuma 40 and Sagetrieb 20—the National Poetry Foundation’s two journals are are joined in their labor for the first time within a single cover, in celebration of the late Burton Hatlen, Sagetrieb’s longtime editor.
Find below an excerpt from our editor’s preface to the current volume:
The testimonials and essays that follow only begin to indicate Burt’s enduring influence on his former students and surviving colleagues. Edited by his longtime friend Demetres Tryphonopoulos, the Festschrift is further enriched with a version of Burt’s last editorial project: a selection of essays on George Oppen. At the time of his death, Burt was shaping these essays into a sequel to his own George Oppen: Man and Poet (1982), a foundational collection, a few of whose contributors also appear here. In his introduction to that vol- ume, Hatlen summed up his editorial perspective nicely—words well worth recalling in the context of this Festschrift: “If criticism is (as I believe) a dialectical mode of discourse, then disagreements such as those which appear in this volume should be welcomed as opening to further critical work. In any case, my goal here has been to let a hundred voices sing.” With the present volume, Sagetrieb now ceases publication. Burt helped to plan this conclusion and he hoped to see it through; his gathering of new essays on George Oppen was intended for the final issue. The work of the journal will continue, however, as it has for the past half-decade, within the pages of Paideuma, whose expanded man- date since volume 35 has covered all poetry in English from the twen- tieth and twenty-first centuries. Yet despite this continuity, the end of the journal will be met with sadness by the scholars it long served, who will remember a time when no other venue was available for their work. That the situation is so greatly improved makes the discontinu- ing of the journal a bittersweet sign of its success. Today, serious study of H.D., Marianne Moore, William Carlos Williams, the Objectivist poets, the language writers, and other once-marginal individuals and groups can be found in a broad range of journals, including the most prestigious in our discipline. Within this new environment, the main- tenance of two journals, never easy, ceased to be necessary. Moreover, the division of subjects between the two, ever evolving, had become quite fuzzy in recent years, fuzzy enough to make a combining of efforts logical as well as thrifty. Our decision to end Sagetrieb (unofficial for some time, as no new issue has appeared since 2006) was difficult to reach, but seems inevitable in retrospect.
H.D. (Hilda Doolittle) by way the Beinecke Rare Books Library
When thinking back to Sagetrieb’s long legacy of special issues devoted to single authors, one would be remiss not to remember the journal’s devotion to the modernist poet H.D. (1886-1961), of which four issues were devoted solely to scholarship on her work (more than any other single author).
In the first of these special issues, Sagetrieb 6.2 (Fall 1987), edited by Rachel Blau DuPlessis, Bruce Boone wrote a spiritual exegesis on H.D.’s work entitled: “H.D.’s Writing: Herself a Ghost.” While the piece is brief in page count, its probings into the mind and work of H.D. run deep. It begins with Boone acting as host to the spirit of H.D. The piece then slides into a kind of interpretive channeling of both text and of life, making what seems to this reader an argument for a reading of the life-text (or body of texts) that could only be done by a true devotee:
Do you believe you’re dead when you’re dead? Far from it! she’d answer — returning from Egyptian Karnak to London, presenting in exclamatory haste her great discovery to her friend Pearson — London is Karnak — you know? Meaning partly the Blitz is going on outside her window. When a roof falls down on you in London, this reveals something (think of Virginia Woolf resolving on, successfully attempting suicide because of an intuition that comes to her: this is WWI all over again!) And when ruins come to light in the sand — that’s when you know something.[…] Negating vampires emerge from the tomb in the form of H.D.’s mystical wish that meaning exist where none is or can be. […] Experience means the present for the French author. For her, a glistening goal!
In closing, and in true homage to H.D., Boone reaches out, and through, to the historical and epistemological limits of thought, the slips and hollow of interpretation. He then asks:
Will those who read these words of mine when I’m dead one day empty them of the meaning I intend for them — in fairness proportional to me — as I’ve done with her?
(by way of The Poetry Foundation)
In keeping with our celebration of the work of Sagetrieb, and with the recent release of Lisa Jarnot’s biography Robert Duncan, The Ambassador from Venus and the publication of The Collected Early Poems & Plays, it seemed apt to look back at the special issue of Sagetrieb 4.2-3 (Fall/Winter 1985) which was dedicated to the life and work of Duncan. Contributing authors included Robert Creeley, Ronald Johnson, George Butterick, and many others.
In addition to remembrances of, essays on the work, and what were then unpublished documents by Duncan, this issue included an interview conducted by Michael André Bernstein and Burton Hatlen. We find in this interview Duncan, near the end of his life, speaking openly of the many strifes and trials undergone by him and his fellow Black Mountain poets in the name of poetry. He also speaks at length about his writing process, and in the selection below he speaks directly about the collage method learned from his lifelong partner Jess Collins:
RD: Certainly the collage method is how I saw Pound. Well, when I say “certainly,” I think Pound didn’t see himself using the collage method. There is a good deal of the reincarnation method in The Cantos. Collage is not reincarnation: it is the fact that everything is in the universe so you know that way out beyond your understanding of it everything has a harmony and I don’t think that is something Pound ever . . . nor do I, either, surely none of us do, have a full picture at the present moment. [. . .] Let’s say we’ve got a photographic level which is always very important but I think that photographic level leads to other levels of the spirit.
Later Duncan talks too of the strong influence (or counter-influence) of Pound on his own line and syntax:
RD: When I sent Heavenly City, Earthly City to Pound, he wrote back and said, “Why do you still have to go through that? I thought I went through all that, and you would never have to do it.” And yet in my talks with Pound, the one thing I wanted test him on . . . I knew that he had rejected Finnegans Wake with disgust, absolute disgust, and I knew why but I wanted to ferret it out. Because where Pound has an uncompromised line, I have a constantly compromised line and finally break syntax so that there’s not even a commitment to syntax, and that means every phrase can be compromised by the coexistence of other phrases.