Pound, Eliot - two great toy-grabbers ("fighting in the captain's tower" - over their toys). & thus between them establishing the tone of Professional Seriousness in modern poetry... Stevens, Crane at the other end of the toy-grabbing scale - different characters - the one too disinterested, the other too bohemian (which comes to the same thing, just about). WC Williams maybe around the midpoint on this toy-grab scale...

The grabbing-of-the-toys, of course, is the betrayal of art, the self-betrayal of the artist - since (according to Schopenhauer, Simone Weil, et al.) art is the release from, the suspension of, acquisitive desire... Yet this betrayal is forgiveable, due to art's doubleness : both desirable object & the (contemplative) quenching of desire...

Magazines, anthologies being essentially toy collections... Pound & Harriet Monroe (according to Peter O'Leary's recent article) instigated the diffident Zukofsky to grab for the toys (by way of branding them : mine, ours)... thus we have "Objectivism" : which is an aesthetics of the poem as perfect toy ("object", "rested totality", etc.)... & so the Langpos & the Conceptuals, in turn, learned from this model how to brand & grab...

I reflected on these things a little bit in an old poem called "My Byzantium" (in Way Stations). Here's an excerpt :


I wanted the toy bird,
I wanted to be the bird,
I wanted to sing like him,
I wanted to turn my back and
return to the womb -

the apple of her eye,
the only one, the pure one.
And after the long siren wail
and the freeway lotus
comes nostalgia's

In the beginning
I wanted Jamie Freeman's agate,
the one he found in the dirt, glinting
like the color of light in earth caverns, threaded
with spirals, like a map. Envy
burned - until I conceived
a ruse: he could play with my fire
truck in exchange. I relished
his innocence, I gloated over my prize,
I despised myself.

He could never pronounce his "Ys" - yellow
was "lello". We laughed. We called him
mudpie - he was a molder of clay,
always caked in black dirt.

Berryman hit the nail (about poetry, & Henry) : His Toy, His Dream, His Rest.

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