Tuesday, June 08, 2004

More Cantos today: I plan to finish the "Draft of XXX" and maybe push a little beyond. The book's been lying face-down on my desk and I have to say that the back cover copy is a little obnoxious. "Delmore Schwartz said about The Cantos: 'They are one of the touchstones of modern poetry.'" Well, okay. But then: "William Carlos Williams said: '[Pound] discloses history by its odor, by the feel of it—in the words; fuses it with the words, present and past, to MAKE his Cantos. Make them.'" I kind of like the Heideggerian "discloses," but the rest of it feels overwrought. The insistence on "making" seems hyperbolic; what poem isn't "made"? (Poeisis, to make—we get it!) Then there's a quote on the bottom ascribed to John Crowe Ransom: "Pound's Cantos is a modern classic that everybody has to know." By this point I'm ready to join the Jimmy Doesn't Read book group. But I am, in fact, a modernist scholar in training, so that gets me to flip the book over again and stare at that big black cover. THE CANTOS OF EZRA POUND. Somehow more impressive than any blurbs. The Alps.... And there's all that history—not the history in the book, but the poetic history it makes possible: Oppen, Zukofsky, H.D., Olson, right up through Du Plessis, Watten, and Bruce Andrews. So I open it, and I read:
                    Night of the golden tiger,
And the dry flame in the air,
                    Voices of the procession,
Faint now, from below us,
And the sea with tin flash in the sun-dazzle,
                    Like dark wine in the shadows.
"Wind between the sea and the mountains"
 The tree-spheres half dark against sea,
                    half clear against sunset,
The sun's keel freighted with cloud,
And after that hour, dry darkness
Floating flame in the air, gonads in organdy,
Dry flamelet, a petal borne in the wind.
Gignetei kalon.
A beautiful thing is born.

One of the first poems I ever wrote that got positive attention, when I was fifteen or so, was called "Night Canto." It won some high-school prize. I thought "Canto" was a magical word.

No comments:

Popular Posts