Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Pounding Away at Pound on the POETICS list

Recent experience commenting on blogs and lists teaches me to be hesitant about weighing in on certain subjects elsewhere, so I'll stick to my own blog to do so.

I don't suppose any of the Pound scholars now commenting over on the POETICS list read much of Ronald Bush's work (he's not very noisy, preferring, I imagine, hard work to other forms of career-making), but here's something he wrote that reads more lucidly than the thick mud being churned and slung by a few folks at the moment:

"[The] ideological affiliations between fascism and modernist poetics, poetics cannot and should not be understood in terms that presuppose a straightforward reciprocity, easy synchronization, or veiled collusion... To be sure, modernism and fascism shared common backgrounds of knowledge, beliefs, and discursive practices, and at various points between 1920 and 1945 each was often aggressive in trying to appropriate, legitimate, and transform the other. The outcome was complex. Their affiliations were strong enough to encourage Pound in his attempt to write a modernist epic of the fascist experiment; but they were also problematic enough to interfere with his efforts even when he was working at the height of his powers and most wanted to do so."

"Modernism, Fascism, and the Composition of Ezra Pound's Pisan Cantos," Modernism/Modernity, v. 2, no. 3, (September 1995), p. 83

Strangely, they haven't said much about Yeats, I suppose on the grounds that he's not modern or post-modern - but some of the prose from WBY's Autobiography and Essays quoted by Golston on the subject of eugenics (let alone the more familiar fling with fascist views) is quite sickmaking. My heart sinks and I want to moralize... then I read the poems.


Speaking of lucidity, here's part of a note in Golston's book:

"I am aware of the problematical nature, at this late date, of the term 'postmodernism,' but I wish to retain it as a provisionally useful designation for a fundamental change in attitude toward the issue of poetic measure that occurred in the middle of the [twentieth] century."

And I ought to add that the remarks Charles Bernstein made a dozen years ago on Pound's fascism did, at least, get quoted on POETICS, where they are as useful as ever.


mgushuedc said...

I've had the same reaction and re-reaction to Yeats. Auden was kinder than I probably could have been calling him "silly like us." Also pretty perceptive considering the widespread popularity of both eugenics and fascism at the time.

Don Share said...

You're right about Auden! Great comment, thanks!