Tag Archives: Ezra Pound

Language Theory, Deluxe Brown Shoe Cynics & Other Wet Blanket Ratios

Word Wakers

The following excerpts are from an essay cast by poet Marjorie Perloff as excerpted in Nothing to Say & Saying It, the online blog by John Gallaher.

Language poetry, together with its related ‘experimental’ or ‘innovative’ or ‘oppositional’ or ‘alternative’ poetries in the U.S. and other Anglophone nations, has often been linked to the two Steins—Gertrude Stein and Wittgenstein (as I myself have argued in Wittgenstein’s Ladder), to Guillaume Apollinaire and William Carlos Williams, the Objectivists and New York poets, Samuel Beckett, the Frankfurt School, and French poststructuralist theory. Those who denigrate Language poetry and related avant-garde practices invariably claim that these are aberrations from the true lyric impulse as it has come down from the Romantics to such figures as the most recent Poet Laureates—Rita Dove, Robert Pinsky and Stanley Kunitz. But laureate poetry—intimate, anecdotal, and broadly accessible as it must be in order to attract what is posited by its proponents as a potential reading audience—has evidently failed to kindle any real excitement on the part of the public and so decline-and-fall stories have set in with a vengeance. Great poets, we read again and again, are a thing of the past: a ‘post-humanist’ era has no room for their elitist and difficult practices. Accordingly, the main reviewing media from the Times Literary Supplement to the New York Times Book Review now give ‘poetry’ (of whatever stripe) extremely short shrift.

"The Language poets (or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, after the magazine of that name) are an avant garde group or tendency in United States poetry that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Language poetry emphasizes the reader's role in bringing meaning out of a work."
But what if, despite the predominance of a tepid and unambitious Establishment poetry, there were a powerful avant-garde that takes up, once again, the experimentation of the early twentieth-century? This is the subject of the present study. Designed as a manifesto, it makes some of the polemic claims we associate with that short form even as it suffers from its inevitable omissions. Because I am here interested in foundational poetic changes, I shall have little to say about many of the poets who have been most important to me and whom I have written about again and again over the years—Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and Wallace Stevens, Guillaume Apollinaire and Blaise Cendrars, George Oppen and Lorine Niedecker, David Antin and John Cage, John Ashbery and Frank O’Hara.

‘To imagine a language,’ said Wittgenstein, ‘is to imagine a form of life.’ This book studies such key poetic ‘imaginings’ both at the beginning of the twentieth century and at the millennium, so as to discover how their respective ‘forms of life’ both converge and cross.

  • Language Poets Wiki: The Language poets (or L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets, after the magazine of that name) are an avant garde group or tendency in United States poetry that emerged in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Language poetry emphasizes the reader's role in bringing meaning out of a work.
  • Textual Politics and the Language Poets: "Let us undermine the bourgeoisie." So Ron Silliman ends his contribution to "The Politics of Poetry" symposium in L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E 9/10 (October 1979). Writes Gabriel Thy in response to Silliman: "Better as discard than trump. It's no accident the truck feeds millions, ignoring the silly man crammed with errors."

A Few Choice Words On The Climate Change Hoax

As solar activity drops to high risk century low,
puzzling buzzing scientists—who've for past few decades
or so—insisted planet barely missed flaming new ice age,
all the rage in the Eighties, now had dutifully traded crazy moon
white snow boots for trendy new blue swamp goloshes
as they prepped the weak and the weary for pernicious
man-made global warming trends, projected
death of civilization, unprotected
men of calculation, sober cool thinkers
fighting like cats in the Captain's Tower,
having replaced Ezra Pound and T.S. Eliot
competitively, at least two generations ago
with bursting advent of the whimpering class...

unless we stopped all modern activity,
removed it to a more needy neighborhood,
redistributed the wealth, heavy environmental taxation,
daring energy industry transfers nation to nation,
dumping energy back into the glittering soil,
boasting certain good intentions whipped
unintended consequences every time,
so peace could again perfect its reign
upon contemporary balance.

But this slick idea was modified when numbers
secretly fudged melted into gosh darn goo of scandal
from burning lights of world-wide media exposure,
and strange humiliating coincidences,
major players like Al Gore and The Hague
sensing jubilant masses lampooning laughter
even as Big Al the Grand Wizard slinked away
from his own imperial carbon footprint,

only to pop up again in news to sell his failing network
to Al-Jazeera. By that time powers had changed the name
of green movement from Man-made Global warming
to Man-Assisted Global Climate Change.

Shall we say more?

Yep. Cosmological scientists fooled again. Who
do you believe now, a gaggle of government-funded white coats
with pocket calculators fighting over grant money
and other tax subsidies or your own self-serving
senses when you step out the front door
every morning? Certainty is nothing
unless nothing is certainty.

In this age of Internet,
gonzo TV and one's own dilly
dallying daily devotions, everything
he needs to consider his puny effect
in challenging the cosmos, the gifted wing,
more than a few paltry molecules at a time,
man pockets like a broken rhyme.

Isn't that why a few cozy Parisians
rounded up decades of thought,
added some of their own,
codifying existentialism
the 1940s, until a few others
shuttered Sartre's approach for chaos theory,
hamming up for the 1970s, brokering game theory
to police chance, pushing the unified field lovers
back onto existentialism's pearly-gated scientist
hunkered down among his graphs and chunks
of ice, the Yukon Valley Dolls, analyzing
a bucket of balls, which then burst off-camera
his pus-filled cyst, stunning a moth
with some butterfly cough.

I'm merely a journeyman, mind you, but I can smell
ink, the rank differences in accumulative error
between humanity's penchant for gross
speculation and visceral control
while also being limited
by his obvious lack
of precision in husbanding
dormant or active volcanoes,
residual tsunamis, bitter storms,
topical flooding, global wind patterns,
colliding rocks aimed at a rotting nuclear plant
near you and various unsavory activities of our sun,
that ultimate troublemaker, all circulating
about this planet long before we began
questioning its wobble.

Louis Zukofsky, Poet

Poet Louis Zukofsky (1904-1978)

Published on October 24, 2010

LOUIS ZUKOFSKY IS AN important American poet. Why? Because I said, so, naturally, and even though the bulk of this essay is snitched from other sources, I have split my sandwiches with this poet in question on many a toil. All italics mine. His book, A, dominated my thought back in the late 1980s, when I was still chasing a reason to be poet after already having written what I consider my best work, until I rode my elephant sling shot straight into punk rock, fickle women, and cheap booze, and friends who never knew where I was coming from much less where I was aiming to sink a mark, if any. This is my story.

The son of immigrant Russian Jews, he was born into the Jewish ghetto of the Lower East Side of Manhattan in 1904. What a headstart he had. I was raised by intelligent but socially illiterate, lingusitically stunted, financially crippled parents with little historical awareness of places and predicaments in a tiny town in SE Georgia, and I don't mean the Caucasion state in Asia. Zukofsky's conception of himself as a poet was indebted to Kaballistic Judaism, with both its emphasis on the magically transforming power of language and its division of the world into a tiny circle of initiates and a great mass of ignorant outsiders.

If Zukofsky was a New York Jewish poet, responsive to the cacophonous voice of the cosmopolitan city and determined to find a place for himself in the world beyond the ghetto, I was the epitome of plain white bread sandwich Tom Sawyer—with the crusted edges still attached. Zukofsky's route out of his festering ghetto was poetry. Mine was the result of that ever diminishing highschool diploma and the vital scream for liberty and exile I found in the wet sack and subsequent scattering of seed called making my way into the world without a clue. Leaving home within a month following a pirate's blue and gold graduation, I soon married a woman twice my age, with three kids nearly my own age, and a religion I was never built to suffer. But suffer I did for three years almost to the day under the yoke of the Jehovah's Witnesses, once removed, and a family I was ill-prepared to feed, clothe, or diminish that ridiculous notion that shibboleth shell games were all that mattered in a book so heavily translated and re-translated that no pretty monkey could ever come clean with the notion of theological typing again. Anxious for something else altogether, I hungered after something of a higher or lower caliber; it didn't matter, so Jehovah God (her phrasing) and I parted company for those three years as I sunk into a calculated misery with an initial declination of 180.

Rather the objectivists wanted, as Zukofsky declared in his Poetry essay "Sincerity and Objectification," to see the "poem as object," calling attention to itself by, for example, deliberate syntactic fragmentation and by line breaks that disrupt normal speech rhythm.
In his brief Autobiography Zukofsky reported how he began to appropriate the heritage of Western literature, first in Yiddish and then in English: "My first exposure to letters at the age of four was thru the Yiddish theaters.... By the age of nine I had seen a good deal of Shakespeare, Ibsen, Strindberg and Tolstoy performed—all in Yiddish. Even Longfellow's Hiawatha was to begin with read by me in Yiddish, as was Aeschylus' Prometheus Bound.... By eleven I was writing poetry in English, as yet not 'American English.'"

At age sixteen, Zukofsky entered Columbia University, where he wrote for and helped edit various student literary magazines. He identified with the literary avant garde (as represented especially by James Joyce, Ezra Pound, and T.S. Eliot) that saw itself as an elite committed to a revolutionary assault upon a dead bourgeois culture.

Zukofsky's first major poetic work, "Poem Beginning 'The,'" written in 1926 and published in Exile in 1928, demonstrates his commitment to a modernist poetic. "The poem's obvious predecessor," said Barry Ahearn in Zukofsky's "A": An Introduction, "is T. S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land.' In an attempt to surpass Eliot, Zukofsky pushes formal details to an excessive, but liberating, limit." "Poem Beginning 'The'" cultivates a tone of Eliot-like irony, as the poet tries to mediate between the insistently alien, Jewish particulars of his experience and an aspiration toward a broader American, "English," vaguely Christian culture.

Zukofsky, as usual
If "Poem Beginning 'The'" resonates with echoes of Eliot, Zukofsky soon abandoned Eliot for Ezra Pound, who was at once more approachable and more overpowering. Pound's warm response to "Poem Beginning 'The'" led to a flurry of letters between the two men, and Zukofsky eventually visited Pound at his home in Rapallo, Italy. Pound gave Zukofsky's poetic career an important boost by urging Poetry editor Harriet Monroe to appoint the young New Yorker as guest editor of a special issue devoted to new English and American poets.

For this Poetry issue Zukofsky invented the name "objectivists" to describe himself and the other poets—including Charles Reznikoff, George Oppen, Carl Rakosi, and Basil Bunting whose work he liked. (Zukofsky, however, never used the term "objectivism" and never claimed to be the leader of a movement named "objectivism.") Most of these objectivists also appeared in Zukofsky's An "Objectivists" Anthology, where they were joined by Pound and even Eliot.

The core group of Zukofsky, Reznikoff, Bunting, Oppen, Rakosi, and Niedecker eventually cohered into something approaching a movement, with Zukofsky established as both the principal theorist and—until World War II—the most diligent critic of and advocate for the poetry of his friends.

Objectivist verse owed a great deal to imagism. Indeed, in his preface to An "Objectivists" Anthology Zukofsky quoted Pound's 1912 Imagist credo: "direct treatment of the 'thing' whether subjective or objective." But in two respects objectivist poetry went beyond imagism. First, unlike such imagists as Amy Lowell, most of the objectivists were unwilling to treat the poem simply as a transparent window through which one could perceive the objects of the world.

Rather the objectivists wanted, as Zukofsky declared in his Poetry essay "Sincerity and Objectification," to see the "poem as object," calling attention to itself by, for example, deliberate syntactic fragmentation and by line breaks that disrupt normal speech rhythm.

Second, following Pound's poetic practice of the 1920s, the objectivist poets were at least as much interested in historic particulars as they were in immediate sensory images. All the objectivists shared Pound's aspiration to create a "poem containing history"; and Pound's incorporation into his Cantos of various historic documents showed these poets a way of incorporating history into their poems without violating the principle of objectivity.

Read it all.

A Few Sky Gray Thoughts On Politics As A Brittle Literary Device

War On Wars

A fine man and dedicated patriot named Christopher Logan honored me recently when he sent me a message inquiring, "Do you think I was being too rough with her?"

Damned if I know. She doesn't seem to be backing down, and is remarkably patronizing in her own right. Let's face it. Some people just don't get it, won't get it, can't possibly get it until IT affects them in some very personal way, very detrimental way. Perhaps a few quotes from Thomas Jefferson, J. Quincy Adams, John Wesley, Bishop Sheen, Winston Churchill, and Mohammed himself will get her attention, but probably not. Because she's of the mindset right now that it is better that 100 guilty terrorists go undetected than one innocent Muslim be given a second glance in an airport line. There's no defeating that logic in these sad, post-modernist, politically incorrect, globalist times since it parallels the romanticism that our own US legal system is grounded in, and pumps out through the state media. For better or for worse, smiley-faced Pollyannas will always be with us. You and me? We just keep plugging. In due time, we might be prepared to be of even greater service to those who criticize us now...

Q: Thank you for not attacking me but providing me with the information. But your quick turn to the passive-aggressive has not provided much in the form of education. I'll investigate anyway.

Pamela, I'm not here to educate you. One liners on Facebook will never get that done. There is a wealth of information out there just for the picking. You are correct. You must do the investigations, yourself. Take no single source as truth, or at least not until you have determined the source as reputable over a string period of time. That's the best any of us can hope to do. But what seems to be at issue here on this thread is whether or not this question of a global jihad in its myriad of forms is a matter of personal opinion, anecdotal evidence, or mere genuflection, but rather of determinable fact by a tough, keen look at all the evidence available. Propaganda is very tough nut to parse with mere cursory efforts...

And I suggest to you that Mr. Logan has the right beat on the issue, Laurie. News that screams forth everyday from all corners of the planet where Islam is actively pursing more territory, more corpses, more power under the guise of sharia, is not a mere blip on the screen. The signage of Islam on the march is everywhere. Signs, signs, everywhere are signs. Perhaps you know the song, perhaps not. But the point is, there's a whole lot more to this Islamic muffin than just some flour and a handful of blueberries.

Gabriel: Information is not knowledge.

Kirsten: This is an often misconstrued concept! But, to quote: Knowledge is Good.

Gabriel: Prudence is better. And all things being equal, innocence is best...

Bruce: Well I didn't want to say anything but I am glad you know this.

Gabriel: Well dear public, feel free to expose me to what else you and yours might speculate I need to know. The nasty truth is not as mysterious as we've been led to believe. GATHER OR DIVIDE. The whole point of my imaginary punk rock band is to suggest that each one of us must make the play. Bystanders be damned. Ignorance is bliss, twice the fun, bur perilous in spoilage. Our retaliation?

Inherit a role. Allow it to count. Face the music. And realize that this is the only rule by which we know ourselves as intricately as our detractors do.

Josh: Correlation does not imply causation!

Karl Popper

Gabriel: Obviously correlation is a more pertinent state of affairs, since to put matters in terms Karl Popper might appreciate, scientists can explain First Cause, but we are stuck with all pending correlations.

Maybe that was Wittgenstein, not Popper, but since they exchanged thoughts with fabulous animosity, the pending correlations in this case are probably nothing more than the dollars and cents of an ego economy - commonly called hubris - rather than the clarity that some uncertainty principle might avail us when the necessary light we might require to accept a generality at the sufferance of a specific is corrupted by political motivations.

In other words, all politics is tainted, and plagued with guesswork, but I am a survivor of my own knowledge, not yours. Might I bother this page with a correction? scientists CANNOT explain...well, that unintended typo effectively puts the skid into this thread. After fielding a few snarky remarks from leftist associates and reading some of the neck-snapping snorts of some rightie cohorts, I feel compelled to state:

Politics is just as irrational and existential a belief system as religion, at times just as pernicious, at times just as comforting, both springing from a loose structure of competing droves. In fact, we know today, there is little difference between politics and religion in its abstract condition or its peculiar habits. Superstition and misconception dominate both. Empty rhetoric imposes and services both.Spalding Nix

Faith is central to each creature as we struggle with imperfection in the teleological realm, and faithlessness is punished in one form or another at every turn. There is no certainty but uncertainty, and there is no uncertainty like certainty. We thrash about with words to form ideas that deceive us with words no matter where we spend our coins. No realm is satisfied, and logic is quickly sold to the highest bidder. Some might even say there is no rational distinction between politics and religion, but are merely similar thorns on the same blighted rose bush...

Like Ezra Pound, I cherish the right of every man to have his ideas judged one at a time.