How to do ersatz Ezra Pound:

I’ve had the misfortune of reading Ezra Pound’s The Cantos, and, while complaining about them to a friend, she explained how to produce ersatz Pound:

Start with something nautical. Then hyphenate two words that are only tangentially related to each other. Then use that word to describe something that it has nothing to do with, making it seem like a brisk, obscure metaphor. For extra points add a second line containing the name of a Greek hero and invoke an out-of-fashion God in the middle of a mundane line about the blandness of the morning gruel/porridge. If it reminds you of Barth meets Game of Thrones, you’re doing it right. If not, add an additional grizzled old man and a reference to the Iliad. (The Odyssey is an almost, but still, a miss.)

I wish I’d written down her spontaneous production of mock-Poundian verse.

4 responses

  1. “I wish I’d written down her spontaneous production of mock-Poundian verse.”

    That of course should have been the point of this post, without you have claim and no action; as they used to say: Hic Rhodus, hic salta

    Your friend have just enough education to mock Pound, but sadly not enough to understand him. I don’t fault anyone for not understanding obscure and esoteric poets, but I dispose those who mock their betters.

    “If we never write anything save what is already understood, the field of understanding will never be extended. One demands the right, now and again, to write for a few people with special interests and whose curiosity reaches into greater detail.”

    -Ezra Pound, Canto XCVI.

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    • Your friend have just enough education to mock Pound, but sadly not enough to understand him.

      Ahhhhh yes, the classic Modernist calumny: you’re not smart enough to like it, which we can tell because if you were smart, you would like it! It’s a beautiful Catch-22, but one, alas, that I don’t buy.

      If we never write anything save what is already understood, the field of understanding will never be extended.

      I would reply that if we’re trying to be deliberately obscure about a point that’s not tremendously important, we shouldn’t be surprised that people don’t care to understand us (except under pain of academic punishment!).

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    • I disagree, anonemiss. In order to mock something well, you must first understand it. Additionally, one can (and should) occasionally mock even the things one loves. This explains much of my behavior towards the writer of this blog.
      – The Friend.

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  2. First, thank you for excepting my sharp comment, others would just as easily delete stuff they don’t agree with.

    Second, I would never say ‘smart’, intelligence is a deeply flawed concept invented by the same people who brought us: the divine right of kings, women inferiority to men, white man supremacy, and other discredited concepts. I was talking about knowledge. Indeed it is a modern problem (note the lower case ‘m’). The problem starts with schools that refuse to teach children anything except that their own opinion, even on subjects they don’t KNOW, have a value. The problem is compounded by an informational overload that prevent us all from deep thought. I touch on these subjects on my blog, if you think I am on to something please take a look.

    Thirdly, and most importantly, your friend made a very witty remark at the expense of a man who had a tragic life and is little remembered today. I am sure she made a big impression on her listeners. I just wanted to give Ezra Pound the chance to reply to her directly from the grave. You seem not to notice that the quote is from the Cantos (Pound’s hardest work) and yet the idea is written in the most plain English without any ambiguity, that in itself is an answer to your friend, but the text itself answers her: Pound is trying to extend the field of understanding.

    Lastly, you put Pound’s observation on its head when you think that he “deliberately obscure” his writings, what Pound is saying is that he will not explain his work. This is not done to leave lesser humans behind, he actually was a Humanist, but to explain you have to use analogy with something that is understood, but that would taint the thought and limit its reach. Pound is leaping forward without looking back to make sure we are behind him. As I said above: I don’t fault anyone for not understanding obscure and esoteric poets, but what an ugly brutish world are we leaving to our children filled with mockery and empty wit.

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