Thursday, August 04, 2005

More grandipoiesis

Very lovely thinking this morning on Henry’s part about the long poem & its relationship to authoritarianism. He has this on LZ, which I think is spot on:
Zuk set himself up as Pound's dialectical flipside (Pound/Zuk, not Olson/Zuk is the real antinomy). But the Mallarmean extremism is not that different from Pound's aesthetic liminality. Wanting to be like Shakespeare : but being a sweet Shakespeare in a kind of muted Joseph Cornell music-box.

And this, a bit earlier:
Pound's attitude stemmed from a decisive technical problem or contradiction. His classicism/archaism, Nietzschean/pagan power-worship was applied as a literary weapon to chastise & excoriate failed (European) civilization. But the role of the Nietzschean avenger-prophet was deracinating : it uprooted Pound from his own American background. He was unable to draw on or benefit from the liberal-democratic alternative to the wasteland of decadent & war-ravaged Europe. So he ended up as zoo exhibit in Pisan cage & Washington nuthouse : fighting a war with the new democratic power which had already rendered his authoritarian allegiances irrelevant.

But then, where does that leave the "long poem"?

Olson, Zuk & WCW came up with their alternatives. Crane had already done something completely different.

I guess we part company in those final sentences, if in minor ways. The way I read it, LZ begins “A” so much under the spell of The Cantos that it’s not inaccurate to make an equation of it: “A” = Cantos – Social Credit + Marx. (& with a somewhat – but only somewhat – different range of cultural references brought into play.) He “comes up with” an alternative, or rather, grows into an alternative, rather late in the game – sometime in the 40s, I’d hazard – and it’s only after that point that the poem becomes something else altogether: a plotting of lived contingencies (including history) and historical recurrences upon a rigorously patterned formal armature. So I don’t think in the early “A” that LZ is seeking an alternative to EP at all, only trying to correct his political blindness with the “correct” way of thought.

Yes, Crane did something completely different in The Bridge (which I went back and re-read this afternoon); but isn’t there a certain authoritarianism lurking as well in that Shelleyan-Whitmanesque über-myth? It leaves me strangely unmoved (tho some of his clunkier circumlocutions resonate with the more otiose bits of The Prelude), and I wish I could see more of Joyce there – especially his sense of humor, which is after all the heart & soul of Ulysses. Crane reads to me like the kid who’s gotten fixated on Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, & can’t get past all that angst.

I wonder about Crane: Henry’s the first case I’ve happened upon in yonks of a living poet under 50 (right?) who’s actually found sustenance in Crane’s work. (Of course I’m living in a hurricane-ridden cave…) It’s certainly not the case of a “gateway” poet in the sense Kasey talks about (& here I think about all the 19-year-olds who are crazy about Cummings & Bukowski) – it takes a very special young writer to glom onto Crane’s wild, elegant, and rather difficult diction. But how many people out there are still reading Crane: reading him, that is, as a living poet to learn from, rather than someone to write an article about?


Anonymous said...

me me!

I'm reading Hart Crane___
(and Henry Gould)
and Alice Notley

in the midst of
seeking what wets my whistle
to make a long poem
of my own____

all of the above
resonating so much more
harmonically than
LZ or CO
or EP

Josh Hanson said...



Archambeau said...

Jennifer Moxley came up to me at one conference or another, after I'd given a paper on Yvor Winters in which I'd mentioned Winters' disaproval of Crane's poetry. "I love Hart Crane," she said "and his poetry means everything to me." I think I can see why, when I read her work, so let's file her with Henry as a Crane-ite under 50.

Jet-lagged and disoriented, but back in the USA,


Kasey Mohammad said...

I admire and enjoy Crane a great deal too. I know what you mean about the romantic angst, but he pulls it off for me in the same way that, say, Morrissey does. Well, maybe not quite that well, but nearly.

I think Crane is the second stage of gateway poet, on the same level as Stevens, Auden, maybe Barbara Guest and assorted "ellipticist" poets. The big difference between second-stage gateway poets and first-stage gateway poets is that there are critical arguments for not "moving on" to a third stage which may be considered cogent, if not persuasive, by those who have themselves gone to a third stage, in a way that arguments made by persons who have not gone past a first stage will not be to either second- or third-stagers. Also, third-stage readers are probably statistically more likely to continue engaging with second-stage gateway poets than either third- or second-stagers are to continue engaging with first-stage gateway poets.

"I've got it all written down. I'll show you sometime."
--Navin R. Johnson

Henry Gould said...

Kasey, is there a Shriner's club for poets? What's the Secret Handshake of the 3rd Degree?

Kasey Mohammad said...

Come on now, Henry, you didn't think it would be that easy to find out, did you?

Anonymous said...

Mark - I like this ongoing discussion, though I do think it may be beneficial to occasionally take it down to micro comparisons: a line of Crane next to one of RJ's next to CO etc. In other words, the tendency to make the overarching statement re any of these guys tends to forsake what might make things more transparenet and concrete with the quote of a line or two. Going on the assumption here that what is true in the large abstract sense will also be manifest in the local manifestation. Otherwise I think things fade into "the grandiose sweep" of big statements.
"Just the facts, ma'am."
Stephen V