Dara Wier On The Latinate And The Anglo-Saxon

Dara Wier, whose poems I’m ashamed to say I’ve only just read recently (thanks to this blog), makes a statement about hard-and-fast do’s-and-don’ts:

I never thought I shouldn’t use abstract, Latinate words, but people were telling me not to, so often. That was wrong of people. It wasn’t useful. I never tried to figure out why people did that. I don’t know why people were so against the Latinate word and so in favor of the Anglo-Saxon word. Why was this one word apparently a better word than that word? I hated that notion. I didn’t like the then all-too-pervasive alarm: Show, don’t tell. How stupid that really is.

Jacket 40 (Late 2010) : Dara Wier in conversation with Cynthia Arrieu-King

(As someone whose writing displays a marked tendency for Latinate diction rather than Anglo-Saxon wording, this made me smile, but really, the rest of the interview is great, especially how much of it focuses on the different forms and structures Wier has used from one book to the next .)

Reading Reading Between A&B

I’ve only discovered the archives of now-defunct Reading Between A&B site, and while I wish some poems were still up (say, those by Matthea Harvey, Cole Swensen, and Mei-mei Berssenbrugge, to name only three), I’m quite pleased about the poems that are still there. Right now, I’m enjoying:

  1. Brian Teare, particularly for the variable shapes of his poems: linear, structural, and sonic
  2. John Gallaher, particularly for how his themes take form in precise diction and syntax
  3. Mary Jo Bang, particularly for the assonance, consonance, and alliteration she displays

Jim Powell On Sound And Sense

I wish I could read the entire essay from which this came from:

It was Bunting who discovered in a German-Italian dictionary the translation Pound made into a slogan, “dichten = condensare” — ‘to compose poetry is to condense.’ This desiderates compression of sense, economy of means, the quest for le mot juste, for the one right word that supplants a half dozen blurry approximations, the fusion of phrase and perception that subverts habits of thought and speech to embody insight and survive, weathering the erosion of dailiness and the passing of fashionable ideas, rewarding repetition. But in poetry sound and sense are consubstantial, and compression of sense requires corporeal embodiment in the simultaneous melic condensation of verse. Memorability, durability in the mind, has always been recognized as one of the primal functions of poetic form (incantation, hypnosis, is another), and memory is a hedonist. She lives in the mind, which is a carnal thing, and wants corporeal nurture, wants in verse the carnality of a substantial music–impedance, weight, solidity, resistance: impedance like a burr to snag in recollection, resistance to outlast the corrosive blizzard of oblivion, solidity that like Yeats’ “stone in the midst of all” troubles the recourses of memory and reflection, a weight of phrase that sinks beyond the currents of ephemerality into the deeper reaches of our lives.

via Chicago Review 34:2 (Spring 1984)

Who Is Hugh Selwyn Mauberley?

If Richard Sieburth is, as I suspect, correct when he says, “To read Pound has always involved the invitation to become his student,” I’m not sure I’ve been reading Pound, at least in that sense. Or, perhaps more precisely, I have not yet accepted that invitation wholeheartedly, given my lack of confidence in dealing with Pound’s works and life. (In addition, although I don’t think Sieburth is excluding the early work in which “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (Contacts And Life)” is included, I suspect he has The Cantos on his mind more than he does those other poems and translations.) Still, I encircle Pound, occasionally listening to him read his work and always deriving pleasure from it even if I don’t (dare) read poetry aloud that way. I approach Pound cautiously, almost as if I see him in his steel cage. I am horrified at the conditions he has been subjected to but also at the man himself. I  condemn the cage but am also thankful for it, to my shame. Like Heidegger, Pound fascinates me with a strangeness I do not find comfortable; perhaps because Pound’s mental stability has been called into question, I find I easily imagine Pound to be feral and wild. To a certain extent, this excuses him more than Heidegger, though not by much. And yes, I hide my fear in judgments like these.

*****

When I took a course on literary theory a couple of years ago, one of the required readings was the fifth chapter of Brenda K. Marshall’s Teaching The Postmodern: Fiction And Theory. There, Marshall discusses (Linda Hutcheon’s ideas on) historiographic metafiction through a discussion of three novels that fit that category. One of those was Timothy Findley’s Famous Last Words, a novel that featured Mauberley as its central character. It was my first time to hear of Findley, and, to be honest, of Mauberley. Back then, I already knew of Pound’s Cantos, and I’ve read some of the Imagist work and the translations from the Chinese, but for some reason, “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” failed to show up on my radar until I read about it in the Marshall. I was at least two steps removed from it, but I pretended to know it, to at least read and understand enough for class discussion. I remember being entranced by a line from the novel that Marshall quotes: “All I have written here is true; except the lies.”

*****

Around a year later, reading James Longenbach‘s The Art Of The Poetic Line, I encountered Mauberley again (Longenbach also talks about the poem here and calls it “probably the best poem ever written about midlife crisis”), focusing this time on the formal elements of the poem and not so much the character himself.

*****

This morning, listening to the Caedmon Recordings of Pound reading the poem, I misheard the first line of the second stanza of the Siena Mi Fe’; Disfecemi Maremma section. Instead of hearing Pound intoning, “For two hours he talked of Gallifet,” I heard instead “For two hours he talked of Gallifrey.” I then thought of how Pound’s poems, like the best poems, are always bigger on the inside. I also thought about Pound claiming, “All ages are contemporaneous in the mind,” wherever that came from. I also saw Pound as the Master but couldn’t and wouldn’t sustain it.

*****

I’m reading a really old (first published 1955, first paperback edition 1974) piece of criticism on Mauberley, this blue box book. I’m not really all that interested in the kind of literary genealogy characteristic of these kinds of “source and influence studies,” but reading the book, I almost feel like I’m travelling in time and meeting Mauberley again, not where he was originally but some other place, when people were studying Pound without feeling the need to apologize for his Fascism, the way I always feel like I have to, even when I’m just all alone, reading Mauberley and thinking about it.

*****

These are the last words of Famous Last Words:

Text by Timothy Findley

Nathaniel Mackey

From “Sight-Specific, Sound-Specific…,” Mackey says, related to these :

Language’s ability to perform is variable and site-specific, mind, ear, eye, air, page, and other sites conducing to particular powers and effects. Ezra Pound’s “phanopoeia, melopoeia and logopoeia,” echoed by Louis Zukofsky’s “sight, sound and intellection,” touches on this multisitedness to an extent, but by congeries of apprehension something more multiple and involved than a trinarism is gotten at. Taking not only eye, ear, and mind into consideration but acknowledging mind’s eye, mind’s ear, and, further, mind’s nose, mind’s tongue, and mind’s touch as well, to say nothing of synesthetic amalgams and exchanges, considerably complicates the mix.

Also:

I try to write poems whose words perform on multiple fronts. I’m as attentive, to speak only of two such fronts, to the placement of words on the page (the use of variable margins, intralinear spacing, page breaks, and such to advance a now swept, now swung, sculpted look, a visual dance down the page and from page to page) as I am to the rhythms and inflections with which they’re to be read when read aloud. It’s not that the former serves as a score for the latter, as Charles Olson, Denise Levertov, and others have insisted. Such placement, to the silent reader, can suggest the unfolding of thought or composition (its hesitancies, tenuities, accelerations, leaps, and so forth) while speaking, by way of the eye, to a mind’s ear that hears every line break as a caesura, every break between sections or pages as an amendment or an addendum or even a new beginning, additional space between words as a pause. This is the poem performing on the stage the page amounts to (and on the stage the reader’s mind amounts to by way of the page). I don’t, however, feel obligated to read the poem aloud in the manner such placement might suggest—obligated or even able. What, after all, do varied margins sound like? (What, for that matter, does an unvaried margin sound like?) To avail oneself to graphic amenities peculiar to the page is not to disallow the poem behaving differently when read aloud but to recognize that it does. The ultimate untransmissibility of vocal dynamics (timbre, accent, pace, volume, inflection, and so forth) by print—and vice versa—makes variance inevitable. The poem’s articulation is as various as its locations.

Hank Lazer

On line breaks (SOURCE):

Initially, the form of Portions, due to the very short lines, made me think more fully about the multiple possibilities of line breaks – the way the line break offers both a discontinuity and a space through which one reads to connect. In some ways, the condensed form allowed me to try some of the quick compression, turns, and fusion that I found in my readings of Celan. While some of the lyrical pleasures of Days can also be found in Portions, the latter has less of an insistence upon melopoeia or traditional modes of lyricism.

On “Musicality In Poetry“:

My first suggestion is that “meaning” and “musicality” are inseparable, coincidental, and simultaneous. It’s not that a poet “has something in mind” and “tries to express it.” The poem is the thinking, is an embodiment, a highly specific incarnation and manifestation of an interval of consciousness. While I don’t mean to suggest that poems do not have meaning, I do think that viewing a poem as an object to be re-stated in terms of a theme or an underlying idea amounts to a kind of linguistic strip-mining – a process that extracts an element at the expense of the overall verbal terrain.

Poems don’t have to be about something; the poem itself is a primary thing in the world. I think of poems – as in the best of Creeley – as intervals of consciousness. And the musicality of the poem – including shifts in direction, shifts in tempo, playing off of similar sounds – is intrinsic to the embodiment of a particular interval of consciousness.