Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Had a pleasant visit with John Beer of Bridge magazine yesterday—his parents live in the area and we got together for some coffee. Bridge is an arts magazine based in Chicago but by no means provincial, especially now that they're about to quadruple their print run. Look for the magazine in your local bookstore.

Trying to explain to myself what nature has to do with language in pastoral. Is language like nature? Can I simply take the various metaphors on hand treating language and books like natural objects (Leaves of Grass, anyone?) at face value? Or is some theory possible, plausible? Keep running up against my own resistance every time the words "nature" and "poetry" meet: my interest in pastoral is really social and literary. Nature is important in its capacity as Being and non-identity: it's the model for any object that demands to be treated as an end in itself. So I'm just extending the categorical imperative to birches and wetlands? In revising my Pound chapter, I'm arguing that Pound moves from a highly subjectivist view of nature as that which is to be shaped by a knowing subject's techne (with Mussolini as arch-subject), to an encounter with nature as negativity: exposed to the elements he discovers the fragility of his own subjectivity and the need to treat both natural objects and literary objects (the moment of "objectification" in a text, to use Zukofsky's term) with new respect. Pound preaches a kind of objectivity in many of his writings, anticipating his buddy WCW's "no ideas but in things," but only in extremis does he discover the ethics of what we might call ecological objectivism. His relationship to his language changes: just as "when the mind hangs by a grass blade / an ant's forefoot shall save you," so shall language that breaks free from historical overdetermination (the "vortex" that the language of the earlier Cantos gets poured through) provide refuge for a troubled mind. Approaching an object aesthetically is more ethical than approaching it conceptually or in the service of production. But such an ethics only goes as far as refusal. Maybe a later constructivist like Ronald Johnson could be said to try and build with nature/language in a new way, natura naturata, while respecting the otherness of his objects, not making them subservient to a totalizing myth. Bricolage, eco-lage.

Someone gave me a copy of last month's Paris Review: what a cumbersome, stuffy magazine it is! Maybe worth reading for the interviews: Les Murray, Shirley Hazzard, Charles Simic. They don't seem to print a facsimile of the writer's first draft of something any more, which is a shame. That's one of the more enjoyable features of Lungfull!—along with the waterproof cover.

No comments:

Popular Posts