Sunday, May 30, 2010
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
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
(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
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
Saturday, May 1, 2010
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).