Wednesday, June 11, 2008

On monotony

The significance of any work of art or literature is a root significance that goes down into its original motivation. When this motivation is merely a desire for money or publicity, or when this motivation is in great part such a desire for money directly or publicity as means indirectly of getting money, there occurs a pervasive monotony in the product corresponding to the underlying monotony in the motivation.

The public runs hither and thither with transitory pleasures and underlying dissatisfactions; the specialists say, "This isn't literature." And a deal of vain discussion ensues.

The monotony in the product arises from the monotony in the motivation.

[Ezra Pound, "Small Magazines," The English Journal, November 1930]


RH said...


Thank you for this reminder from Ol' Ez.

Enjoying your blog. Mine is a bit sporadic in its postings. mine is Mnemosyne's Memes, at

Poets trying to find a way to reengage is exciting; full of pitfalls, yes, but they arise from our ignorance of those subjects with which we try to engage, and the answer to ignorance is always learning. Why write poems that, as Milosz writes, are

A connivance with official lies,
A song for drunkards whose throats will be cut in a moment,
readings for sophomore girls.

Pound was, among other things, prodigiously learned in a way most post-MFA workshop poets are not and worse do not trouble themselves to become. It is not so much a matter of writing for "money or publicity" (or tenure!) as it is a failure to be motivated by much else, a failure that is a kind of romantic depression that sounds a recognizable lyric note much applauded by the literary mainstream. And I might add — the list is tragically long. And lengthening — destroys poets.

Anyway, my 2 cents...

All the best,

Richard Hoffman

Don Share said...

Great comment, Richard - and it's great to hear from you!

Thanks & best, as ever,