Another Graduate of the Ezuversity

Vizenor-EP

Click on the image for a legible view.

Interesting to see Ezra Pound acknowledged as a teacher by Gerald Vizenor, who includes him on the dedication page of Favor of Crows. The page also includes “In a Station of the Metro” as an epigraph.

Vizenor’s book collects fifty years of his haiku, with a fine introduction that pays homage to the form using two words crucial for Vizenor’s work, “fugitive” and “survivance“:

Haiku scenes are tricky fusions of emotion, ethos, and a sense of survivance. The aesthetic creases, or precise, perceptive turns, traces, and cut of words in haiku, are the stray shadows of nature in reverie and memory.

The original moments in haiku scenes are virtual, the fugitive turns and transitions of the seasons, an interior perception of motion, and that continuous sense of presence and protean nature.

Haiku was my first sense of totemic survivance in poetry….

And here are a few of Vizenor’s haiku from the autumn section:

broken fence
horses browse in the orchard
crack of apples

autumn wind
garage doors open and close
wings of a moth

chilly night
crickets chirp in a down spout
last words

Duncan and Sagetrieb

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(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In addition to remembrances of, essays on the work, and what were then unpublished documents by Duncan, this issue included an interview conducted by Michael André Bernstein and Burton Hatlen.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.

“methenamine eases the urine”

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From the December 11, 2012, edition of the New York Times (link)

Belatedly posting this odd sighting of Ezra Pound, which appeared in the letters column of “Science Times,” the Tuesday section of the New York Times. It responded to an article (link) that reported that antibiotics were proving ineffective in treating urinary tract infections in men, with harmful side effects when the treatment was prolonged. The letter writer, Ronald Macaulay (Emeritus Professor of Linguistics at Pitzer College, Claremont, CA), noted that methenamine is readily available as an alternative. His letter concludes: “Ezra Pound gave thanks for the benefits of methenamine in ‘The Pisan Cantos,’ in the days before antibiotics were common.” Not your expected authority, although I suspect no other literary figure has ever mentioned the drug (the OED, for instance, gives the same reference in its definition, the only non-scientist so cited).

Pound’s thanks for the drug comes in the first of the Pisan cantos, in a passage that is often cited, though not for this particular line:

and Mr Edwards superb green and brown
in ward No 4 a jacent benignity,
of the Baluba mask: “doan you tell no one
I made you that table”
methenamine eases the urine
and the greatest is charity
to be found among those who have not observed
regulations (74/454)[*]

The_Pisan_Cantos_300_452As Richard Sieburth notes in his annotated edition of The Pisan Cantos, “Mr Edwards” is Henry Hudson Edwards, an African American serviceman and fellow prisoner. On account of his race, Edwards is figured here as a Baluba mask, an African artifact of the sort Pound learned about from Leo Frobenius. The table, made from crate, is immediately linked to the “methenamine”: two instruments of kindness that Pound upholds with his allusion to Corinthians. “And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.” Greatest, perhaps, because it came to Pound from outside, faith and hope having been his inner resources. Charity, perhaps, for the rhyme with “benignity,” which, in light of the drug, can be seen as an easing of the poem’s own malignancy, an easing of the infection of anger (the gift table having served as a writing surface).

I find it meaningful that Pound credits the drug itself with charity, not the medic who dispensed it: my thought is that he wanted to avoid associating his guards with kindness, Perhaps, too, he wanted to hint at an Axis benignity. Only nine lines before, a German pharmaceutical factory is mentioned: “and the Farben works still intact.” This is the infamous I. G. Farben, broken up after the war for its role in various war crimes; and since its name means “colors,” there may be a tie-in too, poetically speaking, with the charity of Edwards, especially since Edwards is then described in terms borrowed from the German “works” of Frobenius.

The Wikipedia entry for the underlying chemical describes methenamine as a “white crystalline compound” having “a cage-like structure,” noting further: “It sublimes in a vacuum at 280 °C.” A description that serves quite nicely for the poem too.

Note

* [Back to text] Unfortunately, the indentations in the poem are lost in this blog format. Clicking on the linked reference will take you to a reproduction of the page.

Editors’ Preface for Paideuma 37

As part of our showcase of the new volume of Paideuma, here is our editors’ preface — more previews to come soon:

For this special volume of Paideuma, we go back to our roots with an eighty-fifth birthday celebration of Mary de Rachewiltz, an important member of the scholarly community that gave rise to this journal and made its continued publication possible. De Rachewiltz’s contributions to the field are substantial. In addition to her magisterial translation of the Cantos (I Canti [Mondadori, 1985]), she is the author of a beautiful memoir, Ezra Pound, Father and Teacher: Discretions (New Directions, 2005). After having long labored at Yale’s Beinecke Library, where she lent her special familiarity with her father’s work to the organization and cataloguing of its Ezra Pound Archive, she has made a permanent home for Pound scholarship at Brunnenburg Castle in the Italian South Tyrol. We are pleased to honor her here with a portfolio of documentary material edited and introduced by Richard Sieburth.

Mary de Rachewiltz’s long relationship with the NPF began in 1985 at the Ezra Pound Centennial Conference, where she sat on a panel with Hugh Kenner to give a talk entitled “Remembering Pound the Poet.” She was also part of a roundtable at the end of the conference that included Robert Creeley, Donald Davie, Allen Ginsberg, Hugh Kenner, James Laughlin, Marjorie Perloff, M.L. Rosenthal, Olga Rudge, and Walter Sutton. At the William Butler Yeats-Ezra Pound Celebration Conference in 1990, she gave a keynote address, “A Pilgrim to Erin Shrines,” and was part of a discussion group that included Kenner, Sutton, Peter Dale Scott, and Carroll Terrell. Her first contribution to an NPF publication appeared in H.D.: Woman and Poet (1986). She subsequently contributed to three special issues of Paideuma, festschrifts for Mary Barnard (1994), Carroll Terrell (1997), and James Laughlin (2002).

In her 1994 tribute to Mary Barnard, de Rachewiltz described Barnard’s Assault on Mount Helicon as “the most dignified, informative and sincere literary memoir I have ever read.” This is a statement Evelyn Haller might apply to de Rachewiltz’s own Discretions. Haller’s “Shadows on the Rock: A Book in American English Ezra Pound Gave His Daughter” is the first of four scholarly essays that follow the portfolio edited by Sieburth. A shorter version of Haller’s essay was printed in the proceedings for the 17th International Ezra Pound Conference. We are happy to include the full text here, in conjunction with Sieburth’s portfolio. The other three essays are also appropriate to this context. Sean Pryor’s “‘How Will You Know?’: Paradise, Painting, and the Writing of Ezra Pound’s Canto 3” looks at Pound directly in a reading of Canto 3 as an early attempt to “write paradise.” Jeffrey Westover and Joshua Clover look at two Poundian themes: economics and history. Westover (who, like Pryor, is appearing in Paideuma for the second time) brings fresh insight to Lorine Niedecker’s work by reading it in the context of local history. “‘My Sense of Property’s / Adrift’: Attitudes toward Land, Property, and Nation in Lorine Niedecker” juxtaposes colonial and native attitudes about ownership. Clover’s “‘A Form Adequate to History’: Toward a Renewed Marxist Poetics” closes the issue with a programmatic statement on poetry’s significance for theory. His perspective is global, with examples (Apollinaire, Frank O’Hara, Rolf Dieter Brinkmann) drawn from three stages of capitalist development.

Paideuma 38, slated for publication in 2011, includes articles by Ondrea Ackerman, Russell Brickey, Natalie Gerber, Matthew Hofer, Charles Kraszewski, and Catherine Paul, as well as an interview with Basil Bunting conducted by James Laughlin and Lawrence Pitkethly, prefaced by Richard Swigg.

—Tyler Babbie, Alison Fraser, and Benjamin Friedlander

There is also a preface by Richard Sieburth to the portfolio he edited. We will give some excerpts from that in the coming days.

To get the word out about this volume we are pleased to be able to offer it at a special discount. Paideuma subscriptions for individuals are $30 a year domestic and $40 outside the U.S. Through March readers of this blog can purchase Paideuma 37 (and our previous volume, 36 [link]) at the low price of $20 (or $30 for orders outside the U.S).

To order, please call Gail Sapiel at  207-581-3813 or send her an email at gail [dot] sapiel [at] umit [dot] maine [dot] edu.  Tell her that you read about the new issue on the blog to receive this promotional discount.

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: 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.”