8.22.2008

One quality that shows clearly in Pound, and that you don't see much of in the extra-large milkshake of today's scene - he was, sometimes literally, hungry. This hunger sharpens (though not necessarily clears) his vision, and his cantankerousness. The motor of history is poverty... injustice, resentment... hunger. He went for insidious, crackpot solutions - but he was also attentive to the violence, the crisis, the scar-lines of the social complex. & so he ended up staggering - stupidly, absurdly - into the arms of Mussolini & the war itself.

The question of how society achieves justice - if it's possible at all - is the political question. The 20th-century authoritarian regimes dismissed the merely human-scale problems of human rights, equality, human imperfection, the conflict of interests, on behalf of fraudulent mass "solutions". But much of our literary culture either takes the forms of government and liberal democracy for granted, or assumes a cynical attitude of academic scepticism & dogmatic ideological righteousness. Neither attitude makes for an atmosphere conducive to a flourishing "civic" poetry (others - "activist" poets - will disagree with this). On the other hand, maybe this atmosphere is also latent with opportunity for some new kind of civic (poetic) speech.

Pound would have found a lot of poetic fodder in the current banking crisis.

2 comments:

Jane_says said...

I think he was hungry for ego-gratification. There's lots of ego out there, never fear.

Henry Gould said...

Yes indeed, there was THAT hunger too...