Wednesday, December 14, 2011
Poems & Translations
Purchased at the late, lamented discount bookstore at the outlet mall. I was actually out there over the weekend, looking for some winter shoes (no luck). It was depressing to see that the store had been replaced by a Levi's outlet.
I think I first read Pound as an undergraduate. As I recall, we read him during my final semester, in a course on Modernist Poetry. We read Eliot, Williams, Pound, Stevens, Marianne Moore. I am pretty sure that's all we read. We spent most of our time on Williams and Stevens, less time on Eliot, even less on Marianne Moore, and more or less dismissed Pound as being too difficult to bother with.
There are many reasons not to want to read Pound, his execrable politics being the number one reason, but to dismiss him as too difficult for a graduate level course in English should not be included among them. This happened again in graduate school. I was asked not to include him on one of my orals lists because the committee member overseeing that list did not want to engage with the Cantos.
Part of this resistance to the work (aside from the politics) has to do with the fact that everyone assumes the most important work Pound did was in the Cantos. This may be true, but the Cantos are certainly not the most pleasing of his works. His translations are readable, entertaining, profound even, and his lyric poems are dazzling in their rhythmic complexity.
Maybe it is because this work falls into a bit of an academic black hole. First, it's not allusive enough to send young scholars to the library to track down all the references. Second, much of it is drawn from non-western sources, so there are few American experts in the field to take an interest. And then, of course, there's the politics.
There's really no defending his politics, but there are plenty of reasons read the work.
from Poems and Translations
This is the grave of old Zuk
who wasn't really a crook
but who died of persistance
in that non-existence
which consists in refusing to LOOK.