Wednesday, September 27, 2006

old obsessions

Re-reading bits & pieces of LZ, & re-reading the MS of the LZ biography, as well as dipping back into The Cantos & Pound criticism, sets me thinking about the relationship of the 2 poets once again. Marjorie Perloff confided in me in Chicago a couple years back – as with all of Marjorie's confidences, this was very public & expansive – that she was convinced that Pound was after all the superior poet by far. As I always say, I don't do horse races – but there're times when I see her point. Very different poets. Much more sex, sensuality, drama in Pound; more rage, more exultation. A sense of giddy discovery thruout The Cantos, the continual feeling that EP is making it all up as he goes along, discovering something new in every book he reads ("a ball of fire in the reader's hands," as he describes engaged reading) & immediately dumping it into the poem.

LZ much more restrained, careful – phlegmatic, to Ez's choleric. The conceptual basics all stem from EP: 95% of LZ's critical vocabulary can be traced to EP; his very cultural vocabulary (except for Shax & Spinoza – whacking big exceptions) comes out of Pound. But there's an architecture to LZ that's missing in The Cantos, a precision of dovetailing & structuring; at the same time "A" is missing the grime, blood, & jizz of Pound's poem, & with it the exhilarating sense The Cantos give (at their best) of discovering shapes, forms, & correspondences. LZ sometimes gives one the impression of the craftsman filling in a form rather than the dancer improvising a movement. Tom Phillips v. Francis Bacon. Picabia v. Picasso.


Jessica Smith said...

there are lots of "minor literature" modes that seem useful for understanding zuk--domesticity, family, heritage, craft--this is what i like about zuk and what i much prefer to read over pound's self-indulgent expansiveness. i don't think it's a matter of who's the better poet but of who one prefers aesthetically or politically.

Norman Finkelstein said...

Not to be picky in regard to your perceptive contrast, Mark, but I think Pound said a ball of light in the reader's hands. You must have been thinking of that other great American poet, Jerry Lee Lewis.

Ben Friedlander said...

There's a lot more sex, drama, rage, and exultation in Bukowski too, and more grime, blood, or jizz than you'll find even in Pound. Not to make a negative example of poor Buk--he deserves his celebrity, if only for what he did for John Fante. But I don't see how the lack of these qualities proves anything about Zukofsky.

For my part, I feel about Pound as I do about Emerson: endlessly fascinating prose, endlessly tedious verse. Like Emerson also in that he inspired such vastly different projects as Zukofsky's and Olson's. (And before anyone--OK, Marjorie--says that Zukofsky and Olson are hardly equal to Dickinson and Whitman, well, they come closer than Pound does to Emerson.)

I'm with Jessica here: I wouldn't trade Selma Gubin's umbrellas for all the balls of light in the British Museum--an easy renunciation, to be sure, since there are far more umbrellas than balls of light there anyhow.

Cheer up, Mark: I can't wait for your bio, and I know I'm not alone in that, not by a long shot.