Wednesday, December 05, 2007

reading

Okay, enough of this personal revelation jazz – who wants to know about my crappy dental work, my frustrated musical ambitions, or my obsessions with various Scandinavian-Viking types? Instead, enquiring minds want to know – Lattaesquely – what have you been reading, Mark?

Oddly enough, not much poetry at the moment, save for a breathless dash thru the later Cantos; covering maybe 50 pages a day, reading my own annotations but not pausing to look up unfamiliarities; finding more in Thrones & less in Rock-Drill than I had remembered, but letting the poem/s stir up all sorts of questions: the pace of reading in the long poem, as opposed to the standard contemp. slim vol. of lyrics; in Pound's case particularly, the question of truth-value – bluntly put, how does one factor into one's judgment of the poem – personal, aesthetic – the question of whether or not Pound's whole rhetorical/formal structure stands in support of an ideology that's an unpleasant sack of shit?

Johnson's Life of Richard Savage.

Jennifer Ashton's From Modernism to Postmodernism: American Poetry and Theory in the Twentieth Century (Cambridge UP, 2005) & Kevin Pask's The Emergence of the English Author: Scripting the Life of the Poet in Early Modern England (Cambridge UP, 1996).

Today's hasty & desultory stroll past the stalls fetched up, for a mere two bits, a faded copy of William H. Pritchard's Lives of the Modern Poets (Oxford UP, 1980). What an anomolous book: WP name-checks Barthes & Derrida & the whole poststructuralist crew, even quoting Foucault on the death of the author, but still persists in writing a genial series of biographical-critical studies of the 9 guys (yes, guys – that if anything dates the book the most) he sees as the most important of the "moderns": Hardy, Yeats, Robinson, Frost, Pound, Eliot, Stevens, Crane, & Williams. Entirely unstupid criticism, woven much more closely with life-stories than Dr Johnson's model text, in which brief biography was followed by character sketch which was followed by critical analysis.

I have a pipe-and-brandy-snifter fondness for this sort of book, criticism leavened with narrative, with what used to be called (& still is, in New Yorker circles) "human interest." I'll send a bright but iggerant undergraduate (tho not a grad student) who wants to know something about modernism to Julian Symons's Makers of the New: The Revolution in Literature, 1912-1939 before I'll send her to Peter Nicholls's Modernisms: A Literary Guide. God help me, I even entertain fantasies of someday writing such a book on the second generation of American modernist poets, & their late/post-modernist offspring.

2 comments:

Simon said...

I wish my copy of the Cantos had clever annotations I wrote the first time through. :(

Mark Scroggins said...

Wish the annotations I'd written in my copy of the Cantos the first time thru were *clever*...