Wednesday, June 23, 2004

The poet as a nexus or node of voices, texts, sound bites, images: Pound was scrubbed raw in the cage at Pisa and discovered naked textuality where his self used to be. Canto 78:
Cassandra, your eyes are like tigers,
    with no word written in them
You also have I carried to nowhere
    to an ill house and there is
                   no end to the journey.
The unheeded word goes unwritten. The personal is stained by the textual and political both; remembering Lorendo di Medici "who left lyrics inoltre / that men sing to this day" slides ineluctably into nostalgia for the republic that never really was at Salo, "to dream the Republic"—from this to memories of visiting his daughter, to a Scottish translation of the Aeneid, another tale of a city founded: "and belt the citye quahr of nobil fame / the lateyn peopil taken has their name / bringing his gods into Latium". It amazes me how much of the previous Cantos keeps surfacing and resurfacing in the Pisans: attacks on usury and increasingly plaintive prescriptions for a new tax and monetary system; signature lines from Cavalcanti (E fa di clarita l'aer tremare, "and make the air tremble with clarity"); bits of Confucious ("definition can not be shut down under a box lid," from Pound's translation of The Unwobbling Pivot); restaurant names (oh, how hungry he must have been!). Mixed in with apologia for Mussolini "hang'd dead by the heels before his thought in proposito / came into action efficiently" yet ending with
But this is qualified by the lines above it, "In the spring and autumn / In 'The Spring and Autumn'"—that seems to suggest there are no righteous wars in those seasons. I will have to go to Pound's translation of Mencius to see if that's the loophole he's left for himself. Where is Pound the subject in all this? In his memories of his daughter, of dead friends? They are words now: the daughter, "'Gruss Gott, 'Der Herr!' 'Tatile ist gekommen!'; the friends, "Gaudier/s word not blacked out / nor old Hulme's, nor Wyndham's," or WCW grousing "'how the hell can we get any architetcture / when we order our columns by the gross?'" It's the repetition of key phrases and characters that suggest there's some planet to justify their orbit, but the surface of ths planet we never see. And I continue to be struck by Pound's influence in this regard. I'm reading Rodrigo Toscano's hugely entertaining Platform in preparation for his reading here Saturday. His text is a whirlpool of vocabularies from political theory, industrial catalogs, academese, pop culture, onomatopoetic nonsense, and high literature (in what seems an uncharacteristic move he informs us at the end of one poem that its quotations are taken from Milton, Ovid, and Donne). "A Beginner's Guide to Day Trading" reminds me of some of what I read in Laurie Elrick's book: a fluid and rapid attack on the illusion of subjective action offered by this seemingly direct engagement with capital. It works by overwhelming the reader with the global context that the day trader's computer screen reduces to manageable codes:
I don' care
what I said!
the client state
to the clientele


of the world
liberal schliberal


chuh' chuh'
the pace is strange
chuh' chuh'
jus' tryin' da' find a


of course not
not forgot
what it's wrought
who could
with shas
exacerbate hamas
re-tally yr. stock's loss
The political, pointy teeth of the economic maw, leaps out to bite the reader on the ass. Fragments of text assert the uncomfortable nowness of history; as Radiohead says, "This is really happening." Pound is always grasping after the past tense or prescribing for a future; as I mentioned before, the most immediate records of his suffering and remorse tend to be deferred into foreign languages. Toscano's poetry includes history in a paradoxical way: self-consciousness about the mediated (textual) nature of history and the politcal NOW attempts to render history im-mediate. His most successful strategy in this regard (one in keeping with Atelos' stated mission comes in poems which directly address the situation of poetics: he calls these "Satires" (some titles: "On a Literary Journal," "A Brief Retrospective of Chump De Ville's Poetic Oeuvre over the Last Decade," [note Chump's initials: "But CV, knowing where the goods are, goes there"]; "My target Audience, As It Is an Issue..."). When Pound foregrounds his situation as a literary one, he does so through allusion, name-dropping, or the repetition of his famous edicts for Modernism. Toscano has his likely reader's number, calls it out, and answers it himself: these poems are about the impossible situation of a poetry that wants to be praxis. From "My Target Audience":
is much like fresh gum stuck on yr. pant leg
from under a lounge booth
upon just arriving—
wearing new pants—
you can't afford

         to be party to, or declaim, or resist—


(brought up from under the dry critical cellar, encasing now
ethically sour wines, to be drunk by demoralized re-moralizing

           and thse, paired with

I won't quote the whole poem; it's on the long side. In some ways these poems remind me of Gary's great How To Proceed in the Arts, and Toscano has his own "Lester Bangs of poetry" moments:
   ...are they to be packed with paleo-moral ice to freeze—off? or
   cut out, and later ideo-pragmatically patched over? or
   pulled clear off   now

throw your pants out!



(into the crowd)
You get the idea. Fighting poetry as a commodity leaves you "Stark motha' nekid / re-vocalizing / hope". Of course the poet never had any clothes; I think Pound in the Pisans is slowly being draw toward full recognition of his nakedness, the grim joke of authorship. Toscano is pomo enough to revel in the nakedness, to demand it, to be outraged by the pants of purchased subjectivity. If his poetry's any indication, we're in for one heck of a show on Saturday. It's Pound punk'd.

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