Saturday, May 8, 2010

how I read Ezra Pound

How do you read him? Or do you read him? Yes, he turned into a fascist fruitcake. Yes, his CANTOS are mostly thick with gobbledegook. Or maybe not. I'm really too uneducated and too un-worldly to know for sure. Perhaps academics can penetrate just what the hell he was on about through all that stuff.

I don't look for sense in Pound's poems. I don't care what the poem is about. My sensibility doesn't work like that. The very idea of trying to understand the references or the meaning of a Pound poem has no purchase on my brain. I don't care! I don't want to know. I don't want to think when I read a Pound poem or any poem. I want to experience. I want to be entertained. I want to be zapped into another realm of being. A form of transcendence. And for me, no one provides that kind of experience like Ezra Pound.

Oh, there have been other great poets, from all eras. Many of them, like Keats, find a way into my soul. Many provide moments of transport. Even some contemporary poets are good enough to be entertaining, instead of profound and artsy. “Entertaining” – to attain entrance. That's how I would break it down. When a poem allows you to slip into another dimension. An aesthetic moment of stunning, soul-leaping quality.

As far as I'm concerned, no one has ever come close to Pound's flawless cadence, to his images that spiral into vortices of pure beauty.

I'm not going to provide any excerpts of Pound's poetry here. For one thing, I can't be bothered. And I think it's better that I don't. For those open to reading him, I prefer that you discover those special moments on your own. Yeah, you'll have to wade through a swamp of junk. But when the poem opens onto those splendid lines, the skies part, the stars tremble...and the gods reclining just out of our view are glad they made a world.


  1. What frightens me is how many fail to see the allure of fascism as it was seen by people like Pound. We remain uninoculated against it, and therefore susceptible.

    In Italy, the books are actually illegal, Germany as well, so we hide the philosophy in the dark -- but there, hidden buried, it might sprout anew someday. What we should do is read it and refute it for each generation anew, less that evil one day return and burden us again.

    "Fascism sees in the world not only those superficial, material aspects in which man appears as an individual, standing by himself, self-centered, subject to natural law, which instinctively urges him toward a life of selfish momentary pleasure; it sees not only the individual but the nation and the country; individuals and generations bound together by a moral law, with common traditions and a mission which suppressing the instinct for life closed in a brief circle of pleasure, builds up a higher life, founded on duty, a life free from the limitations of time and space, in which the individual, by self-sacrifice, the renunciation of self-interest, by death itself, can achieve that purely spiritual existence in which his value as a man consists."
    -- Benito Mussolini

    It's the dark shadow of poetry carried too far and with no sense of responsibility. An attempt to impose one's own vision of the good upon all others with no sense whatsoever of one's own limitations. How ever real it seems, our own fallibility must always remain central to our conception of the world. That's the other 1% of my philosophy that tempers the rest. It's the part I'm most certain about, my own fallibility.

  2. Yes, Pound turned into (or had chronic susceptibility to becoming) a crazy Fascist. But I separate his artistry from his politics and perversions. The fascist things in his Cantos I just ignore. Just like with Dostoevsky and his anti-Semitism (and not getting a job). Or Heidegger and his ties to Nazism -- again, his thought has practically nothing to do with politics. At least the part of it that interests me -- Being as being.

    Pound was the greatest word smith who ever lived, in my opinion.

  3. To clarify: I'm less interested in what Pound said than how he said it. His technique -- perfect rhythm, amazing images. But it gets complicated. Those images are part of what he says. I guess what I'm getting at has to do with theme. Most of those themes are either unattractive to me or go way over my head. I'm not well-read enough to track all of his historical and artistic allusions.

    His re-setting of translated Chinese poems are sublime.

    So...I'm an aesthete, not a political person, really.