Unreal Nature

March 3, 2017

And the Cloak Floated

Filed under: Uncategorized — unrealnature @ 5:29 am

… Come, my songs, let us speak of perfection — We shall get ourselves rather disliked.

This is from ‘ “Teach, Stir the Mind, Afford Enjoyment” ‘ (1952) found in The Complete Prose of Marianne Moore edited by Patricia C. Willis (1986):

… America’s imperviousness to culture irks him [Ezra Pound]; but he is never as indignant as he is elated.

Instruction should be painless, he says, and his precept for writers is an epitome of himself: teach, stir the mind, afford enjoyment. (Cicero’s Ut doceat, ut moveat, ut delectet.)

Hugh Kenner says, “The whole key to Pound, the basis of his Cantos, his music, his economics and everything else, is the concern for exact definition” — a passion shared by T.S. Eliot, Mr. Kenner adds — “a quality which neither has defined.” What is it? A neatening or cleancutness, to begin with, as caesura is cutting at the end (caedo, cut off).

[line break added] For Dante, it was making you see the thing that he sees, Mr. Pound says; and, speaking of Rimbaud, says there is “such firmness of coloring and such certitude.” Mr. Pound admires Chinese codifyings and for many a year has been ordering, epitomizing, and urging explicitness, as when he listed “A Few Don’ts” for Imagists:

Direct treatment, economy of words; compose in the sequence of the musical phrase rather than that of the metronome.

… Affirming Coleridge’s statement that “Our admiration of a great poet is for a continuous undercurrent of feeling everywhere present, but seldom anywhere a separate excitement,” Mr. Pound says Dante “has gone living through Hell and the words of his lament sob as branches beaten by the wind.”

William Carlos Williams is right. “Pound is not ‘all poetry.’ … But he has an ear that is unsurpassable.” “Some poems,” Mr. Pound himself says, “have form as a tree has form and some as water poured into a vase.”

… Unending emphasis is laid by Ezra Pound on honesty — on voicing one’s own opinion. He is indignant that “trout should be submerged by eels.” The function of literature, he says, is “to incite humanity to continue living; to ease the mind of strain; to feed it” (Canto XXV):

What we thought had been thought for too long;
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
We have gathered a sieve full of water.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
The dead words, keeping form.

… As for comprehension of what is set forth, the poet has a right to expect the reader, at least in a measure, to be able to complete the poetic statement; and Ezra Pound never spoils his effects by over-exposition. He alludes as follows to the drowning of a Borgia:

The bust outlasts the shrine;
The coin, Tiberius.
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .
John Borgia is bathed
at last. And the cloak floated.

… As for “the problem of style. Effect your meaning. Then stop” (Book Fifteen, XL).

In “Salvationists,” Mr. Pound says:

Come, my songs, let us speak of perfection —
We shall get ourselves rather disliked.

My most recent previous post from Moore’s book is here.

-Julie

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