Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Eliot, Pound and Stevens, etc.

Billy Blogblather has left a new comment on your post "(2) on T. S. Eliot, a Heideggerian Poet?..":

I think the most perspicacious criticism of The Waste Land was written by E. E. Cummings who said: "I think it's very sad that the man couldn't write his own poem." I laughed for a week. Of course there are unforgettable lines such as: "Madame Sosostris, famous clairvoyant, had a bad cold, nevertheless is known to be the wisest woman in Europe with a wicked pack of cards." How I love those lines. So many of them, whether his or Pound's, who knows? Who cares? My oldest daughter is named Shantih after the ending on Waste Land. I was quite taken with the poem as a young man. Now I think it's a remarkably well-worded piece of tendentious crap.

            LAWRENCE:   I can't argue, or if I did my heart wouldn't be in it.  I essentially grew up reading Eliot, Pound and some others of that era, and disliked the poetry of most of the bigger names.  I tried hard to like Eliot and managed to like Prufrock and one or two few others.  I haven't found a single thing by Pound that I liked but have, from time to time, continued on in the Cantos as though they were medicine that it would be good for me to take.
            In terms of the poets themselves, which MacPherson and the New Critics think we shouldn't pay any attention to, it would be good if we didn't have to.  Unfortunately they intrude quite a lot.  Both Eliot and Pound were anti-Semitic, and of course Pound was a great fan of Il Duce.  I promised myself to read a biography of Il Duce, but have never gotten around to it.  I did, however read 2 or 3 biographies of Pound.   He was quite an entrepreneur in regard to other poets and novelists.  He knew who was talented and who wasn't, but he wasn't talented himself -- at least not in my opinion after having read a lot of his poetry.  William Carlos Williams is another poet who never wrote a decent poem, but Pound promoted him and he did well in terms of popularity.  They were poets in the sense of living the lives of poets -- much as the poets and novelists that Roberto Bolano wrote about.  Bolano never seems to rate poets in the New Critic-MacPherson sense.  It is all about who is in and who isn't.  Who gets published and who doesn't.  What they do with their lives and whether they die well or not.
            I did like Wallace Stevens . His poetry would jar me with its bizarreness.  I used to like to think about it even when it didn't make any sense.  I can still enjoy his "Sunday Morning."  Stevens was a great connoisseur of tea;  which convinced me there was something in it I was missing out on.  I tried a number of different teas over the year but could never manage.  I've given away all my tea and have an espresso maker on my desk.  Susan brings home several cans of ground espresso from Trader Joe's each time she goes there.  Life is good.
            Moving forward in time, one of the bigger names was Robert Lowell.  I liked some of the poetry in his Lord Weary's Castle, but thought the stuff in "Life Studies" absurd.  When I first read "Life Studies" I thought Lowell, whom I knew had psychological problems, had finally lost it.  If anything in it was poetry, I missed it. 
            I went through a phase where I was awe-struck by the poetry of Sylvia Plath -- at least in her Aerial, but her anger and intensity didn't seem enough to sustain my long-term appreciation.  I didn't rate Anne Sexton very high initially -- I didn't like the idea of her having learned to write in a mental institution as therapy, but she has grown on me

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