Sunday, May 30, 2010


As the rather Shylockian character of Meyer Wolfsheim in The Great Gatsby refers to the University..........

Ed Dorn in his long poem titled "Oxford" from his early book The North Atlantic Turbine (Fulcrum, 1967), writes in part V:

..........But I said everything ?
has been talked about
around Oxford. I was assured
it had been. I didn't say while walking
but I thought well then make up!
something! Because baby if you don't
they's gonna take all your wine away
they's gonna turn you into a state
institootion and you'll all be working
for the state just like in America
and you'll have to prove
you're useful, the most useless
sort of proof you'll ever have to make
you'd better at least start digging up
some hills
to talk about. Get laid, describe that.
the world seems endlessly interested.

The election for the Oxford Professorship of Poetry is being held now. Although Geoffrey Hill appears to be the front-runner, those eligible to vote could surprise the establishment by choosing a long-shot who is in the running, Britain's foremost Beat/post-Beat poet, Michael Horovitz.

Horovitz is the only poet except for Allen Ginsberg to have read at both the 1965 Royal Albert Hall reading, and the follow-up thirty years later in 1995. Still an active poet, performer, independent publisher, poetry entrepreneur, organizer and troubadour, his 1969 Penguin anthology, Poetry of the 'Underground' in Britain, remains one of the best collections of the alternative and innovative.

His own work continues to demonstrate a Blakean seriousness of purpose tempered with a kind intelligence and wit. Here is a brief excerpt from his elegy, published in Wordsounds And Sightlines (New Departures, 1994), for his wife, Frances, herself a fine and sensitive poet:

Night after night your muse's breath
in the trees and scrubs comes calling,
tugs me away from habit and routine
- owl cries swoop in on reveries
calling back a secret music,
the unfinished symphony
of your life and work
- how it steals upon the senses
stately, flowing, clear - the sabbath of
your poetry's leaves

Thursday, May 27, 2010

What Obama Could Do

(1) Fire Salazar and all of his epigone underlings at Interior who continued past administrations' corrupt policies of refusing to regulate permits and safety procedures. Appointing him Secretary of the Interior in the first place was like putting the fox in charge of the hen house.

(2) Order his crony, the Attorney-General (who called America "a nation of cowards" in his Feb. '09 race-in-your-face speech), to issue arrest warrants for the executives of BP in addition to the CEO's of Transocean and Halliburton, and an international arrest and extradition warrant for the billionaire Chairman of BP, Carl-Henric Svanberg, sitting on his derriere in Sweden saying things to the press like "BP is big and important...The U.S. needs BP just as much as BP needs U.S. business." Since, realistically speaking, he cannot freeze all BP assets and nationalize all oil companies operating in the U.S., he could at least expropriate and comandeer every scientific and tecnhological honcho of all oil companies, who are doubtless praising Mammon that they don't work for BP, and perhaps, just perhaps, one of them knows of and is sitting on a solution which BP does not have, if the "top kill" fails.

(3) Demonstrate some humility and compassion.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

F.R. Leavis at Gregynog, Wales, 1969

"By the close of the 17th century the conditions of Shakespeare's kind of greatness had vanished for good. Shakespeare could be at one and the same time the supreme Renaissance poet and draw as no one since has ever done on the resources of human experience, the diverse continuities, behind and implicit in a rich and robustly creative vernacular. By 1700 a transformation as momentous as any associated with the development of modern civilization had taken place, never to be reversed. The new Augustan culture represented by Pope and The Tatler entailed an unprecedented insulation of the 'polite' from the popular. There could be no reversal: the industrial revolution, which by the end of the 18th century was well advanced, worked and went on working inevitable destruction upon the inherited civilization of the people. Dickens was the last great writer to enjoy something of the Shakespearian advantage....What has been achieved in our time is the complete destruction of that general diffused creativity which maintains the life and continuity of a culture. For the industrial masses their work has no human meaning in itself and offers no satisfying interest; they save their living for their leisure, of which they have very much more than their predecessors of the Dickensian world had, but don't know how to use it, except inertly....But it is fatal to let the cultural inertness of the technological age spread and prevail till everything else is forgotten and incredible....What we are rapidly heading for is the hopelessness of America."

Dr. David Craig, Lecturer at the University of Lancaster and a Marxist theoretician, asked Dr. Leavis "how can the man in the street be helped to appreciate literature?" Dr. Leavis' answer was that he did not believe that they could. The days are gone, he said, when Shakespeare was both an author esteemed by the intellectuals of the day, and the great national entertainment as well....The study of English literature, he said, should give people a sense of the continuity of our literature and this sense should be instilled through a whole range of studies in which mediaeval ideas and mediaeval texts should be as freely discussed as the moderns, so that in studying the mediaeval period we should become aware of of the mediaeval tradition behind the development of Shakespeare. It was only towards the end of the seventeenth century that the break came between popular and sophisticated literature.

Friday, May 21, 2010

"and the hippos were boiled in their tanks"

Hippopotamus on menu at Beijing zoo

Visitors to Beijing zoo are warned not to feed the animals, but they are encouraged to eat them at a restaurant that offers crocodile and scorpion on its exotic menu.

After watching the beasts in their cages, diners at the zoo's restaurant can gnaw on the webbed toes of a hippopotamus, chew a kangaroo tail, nibble a deer's penis or slurp down a bowl of ant soup.

The sale of the dishes has caused outrage since it was reported by the Legal Daily newspaper earlier this week, with conservationists condemning the practice.

"It is utterly inappropriate for a zoo to sell such items," said Ge Rui of the International Fund for Animal Welfare."One of the zoo's missions is to foster love of animals and a desire to protect them. But by selling the meat of caged beasts, this zoo stimulates consumption and increases pressure on the animals in the wild. It is socially irresponsible."

Chang Jiwen, a legal expert at the China Academy of Social Sciences who is trying to draft an animal protection law, said: "Although it is legal, I don't think it is humanitarian. It is very inappropriate and immoral of them to sell such products. It is against the aim of the zoo."

Online comment was also predominantly critical. "Watching animals imprisoned in a limited space while eating their siblings, how would you feel?" wrote Zheng Yuanjie, a famous Chinese writer, in his microblog.

The owners of the Bin Feng Tang restaurant were unwilling to comment to the Guardian, but they have told domestic media that the meat was from exotic animal farms and its sale had been going on for several years with the full approval of the authorities.

In the wake of the negative coverage, however, staff said they would be revising the menu, which also includes set dishes of scorpion, peacock, ostrich egg, shark fin soup and other delicacies for between 100 and 1,000 yuan.

The criticism is a sign of changing times. In the past, notices on each of the zoo's animal cages included information about which parts were the tastiest and most useful according to traditional Chinese medicine. Those details have now been omitted. Copyright (c) Guardian News and Media Limited. 2010

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Fascism and Modernism

"The development from Imagism in poetry to Fascism in politics is clear and unbroken." (Donald Davie, Purity Of Diction In English Verse, 1952.)

Pound, Eliot, Yeats: the three giants of first generation English language modernist poetry. Pound, late-in-life, recants his anti-semitism, saying to Allen Ginsberg at Spoleto, 1965, it was a "suburban prejudice" and, referring to The Cantos, "I botched it." Eliot, worse, was clever and pernicious, and he never recanted, but reaffirmed, cf. his letters to Leslie Fiedler.

In After Strange Gods (1934), Eliot wrote: "Reasons of race and religion make any large number of free-thinking Jews undesirable." He did omit this sentence in a reprint after WWII, but "Gerontion" and "Burbank..Bleistein" confirm his prejudices and embody them in his poetry, sneeringly. The best biographyof TSE is Carolyn Seymour-Jones' biography of Vivienne, which brings everything into the light of day, including his same-sex affairs, and his role in committing his wife to an insane asylum (probably, she suffered from Tourette's) and keeping her there, perhaps not just for reasons of his social embarrassments, but also to spend her inheritance, because she was declared incompetent. Also, as the major acknowledged arbiter of literary taste in Britain, with politics far to the right of, say, Philip Larkin, TSE wielded enough power to keep William Carlos Williams, for example, first published in the U.S. in 1909, out of the mainstream of UK publishing until 1964, one year after Williams's death. Eliot was keen as well to keep heterosexual poets well away from Faber and Faber, and other major publishers.

Marcus Klein, in his book Foreigners (1981) was the first to point out the extremes of Eliot's anti-semitism, and Anthony Julius devoted an entire book to the subject: T.S. ELIOT, ANTI-SEMITISM AND LITERARY FORM.

But et tu, Willy?! W.J. McCormack, Chief Librarian, Edward Worth Library, Dublin (and formerly Prof. of Literary History, Goldsmiths' College, U. of London) has written a most condemnatory text, BLOOD KINDRED: THE POLITICS OF W.B. YEATS. Yeats was never exactly "liberal" in his political views, but for the most part he managed to keep his politics out of his poetry; however, as is pointed out in his Letters it is clear what his real feelings were. He supported the 1930's German race laws passed at Nuremberg in 1935, and even went so far as to accept an award from the Third Reich, the Goethe-Plakette, from Oberburgermeister Krebs in 1934. He wrote ballads for the Blue Shirts, supported Mussolini in an interview in the Irish Times, describes democracy as "muck in the yard" during the Spanish Civil War, and refers to a "Negro girl who lived near Sligo" in his childhood, noting "she is among those our civilization must reject." (On The Boiler, 1939, p. 266) Writing to Olivia Shakespear about Germany in 1934, he says "what looks like emerging is Fascism modified by religion. This country is exciting."

As McCormack points out: "Irish paramilitary politics has displayed a steady right-wing bias, even when the rhetoric was socialist." Then there were the war years, and an alliance between the IRA and Nazi Germany. Yeats wrote of "Judaism's disappearance from the historical backyard of Christianity" Despite schoolmaster Deasy's comment in Ulysses alluding to Jews in Ireland, that we "never let them in" Jewish people were in 1943 10% of the population of Dublin and Cork. Never was there a public statement from Ireland on the issue of persecution in WWII. Orwell favorably reviewed Indian scholar V.K.N. Menon's THE DEVELOPMENT OF W.B. YEATS , a book pointing out the sinister side of Yeats' politics.

"He gave comfort to democracy's enemies, to decency's enemies, to the enemies of art and culture" writes McCormack, and continues "he was fascist on (for me) too many occasions. Perhaps the hurtfulness of this judgment should be tempered by the qualification that, on many of these, he was fascist by doing nothing (p. 433). He declines to act because he cites "the Irish nation as his one and only loyalty."

The Rest Is Noise as Alex Ross titles his his interesting study of the politics in and of modern music (2007).