Friday, April 30, 2010

Quote du Jour: Some Lucid Pound


As one soul who fell into the world in the midst of the shitstorm known as the post-war baby boom, Donald Hall’s brilliant book, Their Ancient Glittering Eyes, with its intimate portraits of Robert Frost, Dylan Thomas, Marianne Moore and Ezra Pound (among others) is particularly significant. With the exception of Dylan Thomas, who had already committed his public suicide when I was very young, these poets were all still alive in those years when I was first discovering my love of poetry. Collectively they formed what was at that time the Poetry Establishment. I only wish that Hall had also had experiences which would have allowed him to include e. e. cummings in the mix.

It is true that Pound was considered crazy and pretty much discounted by the time I have memories of him, but he loomed large in the pantheon, nonetheless. Pound may have been an ex-patriot fascist nutcase where it came to politics, but as an artist he was both brilliant and crucially important to the development of Modernism. Today's QdJ, from Hall’s interview with Pound, is an example of the perceptive intelligence underlying the madness:

Interviewer: Your work includes a great range of experience, as well as of form. What do you think is the greatest quality a poet can have? Is it formal, or is it a quality of thinking?

Ezra Pound: I don’t know that you can put the needed qualities in hierarchic order, but he must have a continuous curiosity, which of course does not make him a writer, but if he hasn’t got that he will wither. And the question of doing anything about it depends on a persistent energy. ...The transit from the reception of stimuli to the recording, to the correlation, that is what takes the whole energy of a lifetime.

(How could any poet look more American than does Pound in the portrait above? And don’t it make your brown eyes blue?)