BURIED LETTER PRESS © 20112013 Layout & design matthew C. mackey AKRONOHIO
Border Crossing by slm young Worship Art by Brian Harrell Marjorie Rawlings, Flannery O’Connor, and Me by Thomas Dukes Untitled by Dan Beall Flawed with Style by Jon Judy “These Words” by Saul Duluth The Poet in Exile: Musings on Ezra Pound and Sections I-XII of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley (Part One) by Matthew C. Mackey Against the Grain by Rob Balla
Border Crossing by slm young
I have been thinking a lot lately about borders and boundaries, about what it means to be on one or another side of things, and what it means to be unable to cross from one “territory” to another. For better or worse, enrolling in a travel writing course has brought to my attention the prominence of borders and boundaries in our lives. I see them all around me—in my gender and in the color of my skin, in my job and in my classrooms, in my memory and my in writing. The boundaries we may never be able to cross are often determined by forces that we can’t see or identify, yet these borders still affect how we perceive and interact with the world. The way I think about “my travels” is simple—my journey through life—so it is natural for me to consider reading and writing the primary forces pushing and pulling me through and across the mental landscape of my life. My travel guides are other writers, and the writers who are likely to affect my travels most are those who push through metaphysical borders. The writer who first comes to mind is the poet Jack Gilbert, who journeys through time and memory in an attempt to find meaning. Perhaps the most obvious border crossed by Gilbert is his blurring of poetry and travel writing. He and his writing inhabit places, haunt them, and then transcend the locations and territories through language. The poems become about more than the place, which, if I’ve learned anything at all, is what good travel writing should do. In “Music is the Memory of What Never Happened,” Gilbert inhabits a story told to him by his traveling companions; he “remembers” what was said but refuses to remember what was done. He, like all of us, rewrites history. He regrets. He seems to push against acceptance because of what he would rather not acknowledge. As readers, we, too, feel uncomfortable in such a “neat and clean” place, so much so that it makes us long for something simple and easy, something like the “cheese and tomatoes and bread so good it made me [us] foolish.”
His language as he lines up the possible regrets is common and ordinary, though the effect of their accumulation is stunning. By the time the reader reaches the destination of the poem, she, too, regrets how ordinary life can simply go on despite the knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors. It is the torment of the observant and thoughtful—the knowledge that these things happen, and they will always happen. There is nothing that can be done to stop them, and so we take part or we turn our eyes away, but either way, we are guilty of something. We are all guilty of something. Even if it didn’t happen to us, the memory of what did not happen exists in all of us. Trying to determine the number of borders crossed by Gilbert is probably like trying to count the stars. He finds the border of his own memory and blurs the reality of what happened. He seeks his childhood home in every faraway place he visits. He longs to live in the grief of loss rather than face an empty future. I cannot even pretend to compare myself or my writing with Gilbert’s, but I would embrace the challenge of moving through the world as he did. I recently said that my special gift was the ability to make others feel uncomfortable with my writing, and perhaps it is in that tiny room of discomfort where Gilbert and I can meet and share a plate or glass of something. Like many people, I have always been a little bit terrified of writing poetry, and like most fears, this one grew out of ignorance. I didn’t know about poetry. I didn’t know about meter or rhyme, and I didn’t know the difference between a sestina and a villanelle. I didn’t know what it meant, so I hid from it. My high school career kept me reading a great many novels, but very little poetry at all, so by the time I was in college and was supposed to know about such things, I felt so far behind the curve that I didn’t think I would ever be able to catch up. And, I suppose, I never did catch up. I jumped the track to nonfiction. I feel ashamed when I consider these truths because I am generally a person who fights against ignorance. I know from too much experience the danger of ignorance, so I recognize the border between knowing and not-knowing is the first bridge traveled on the road from tolerance to acceptance. It may seem strange to associate poetry to diversity, but is it not such a great leap. I may not
know much, but I know that reading teaches empathy—it is, in fact, one of the few ways empathy can be taught—and empathy is necessary. I pause here, as a means of avoiding the melodramatic, but empathy is the border we need to cross if anything is ever going to change. And so it is with regret that I admit that I held on to prejudice for and ignorance of poetry for too long. It was love that changed my mind, but love usually does. What I hadn’t been able to guess when I was young and ignorant was that my travels in nonfiction would take me to so many places that were similar to poetry, and these journeys would help me develop my writing voice into one that is certainly not poetic, but one that is concerned with sound and rhythm and word choice, and while I won’t pretend I write poetry (and while I may even refuse to acknowledge that I write pieces that may be considered “prose poetry”) my writing voice takes me quite close to the border between prose and poetry. I came face to face with this “accusation” last weekend when a poet who had heard me read pieces from my travelogue said that if I hadn’t been introduced as a “nonfiction writer,” he would have simply thought me, too, a poet. There is a part of me that is so protective of what I do and how I write that being thought of or called anything other than a nonfiction writer is somewhat disturbing to me, but I have to acknowledge that this comment— this compliment—reassured me in a way I hadn’t expected. There are boundaries and borders all around us. There are all sorts of lines we can’t cross because of seemingly arbitrary things—money, background, race, gender—but these borders don’t need to limit our writing. We don’t need to stand on one side of a wall and say, “I write poetry,” or “I write nonfiction.” There exists already too much division in every other aspect of our lives.
Worship Art by Brian Harrell Saturday nights at the Harrell house in the 1980s created a huge commotion, running around with clothes in our hands, getting ready for church the next morning. Each Sunday, the family piled into one of a multitude of cars, traveling the 20 minutes to hear the music of the Baptist church we attended. While the preaching served a purpose, the real reason I jumped from the car, bolting into the sanctuary and finding a seat up front, was the melodic art wafting from the choir loft. The music of that church became the art that inspires my person. The worship songs rarely repeated from week to week, but we all knew them well. Michael W. Smith, Steven Curtis Chapman, Amy Grant, and Sandy Patty, their talent filled my brain. While I knew I would never write songs, I constantly studied the lyrics, wanting to better myself through their poetry set to music. Sunday would commence with an anthem that resonated throughout the building, inviting strangers from the street to enter and become friends. Worship would culminate in a grand hymn at the end of service. Then when I turned 15, I joined the choir. Rehearsals involved most of my Wednesday nights. Patty and Guy would direct with passion and drive, constantly demanding perfection, but settling for excellence. Instead of the usual news radio in our car, the tape deck blared tunes of praise. Along with the songs for Sunday, we would listen to the new Christian music radio station. Influences of the Church stirred in my brain. I had already been singing the songs for Sunday throughout the school day in my head, but now I saw my writing becoming influenced too. I can remember a paper I wrote for my junior year in high school on the verge of plagiarizing one of Chapmanâ€™s song lyrics. I got an A. 23 years later, I still catch a tear falling when songs of my church past drift into my ears. I smile a quick smile, swiftly wipe my cheek, and know the songs of my youth have stayed with me. While I do not imitate them in my writing, I remember. My art influence you ask? It is worship.
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Marjorie Rawlings, Flannery O’Connor, and Me by Thomas Dukes One of the most important artistic influences in my life was the act of discovering Flannery O’Connor’s fiction my sophomore year in college. A marvelous professor, Robert Esch, had us read “A Good Man is Hard to Find” and, I think, “Revelation,” or maybe it was “Everything that Rises Must Converge”; perhaps I read the others simply because I liked the first story so much. At any rate, I had perhaps the most important “aha!” moment of my reading life since Mrs. Creaseman read Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings’ The Yearling out loud to us, a chapter or so at a time, in sixth grade. In both cases, the result was the same: I made a/the connection(s) between life and art. Hearing The Yearling, I recognized my father’s Florida Cracker dialect and accent, for the first time, not as something funny or to be embarrassed about, but as something genuine that represented a way of life now gone. The kinds of stories Daddy told me about his childhood I heard again in this novel of rural, central Florida; someone famous had cared enough to reflect my father’s kind of experience in a book. Just as in the tales from Daddy’s life, I heard a story about the high cost of growing up, its inevitability, its beauty and heartbreak. Older when I read Flannery O’Connor on my own, again I made that kind of connection. I knew the stories were funny, but O’Connor was not mocking “my” people of the rural south. Yes,
she was having some fun at their expense, but not in the way I had heard Yankees—anyone not from the southern United States—make fun of southerners. Because of my southern Baptist upbringing, I could see that O’Connor was after bigger fish. I didn’t know how to articulate my discovery—I was eighteen or nineteen at most—but I knew she loved the people she wrote about even as their devils served as agents of grace. I suspect this shock of recognition is important for any reader and certainly any writer. It is as significant as Helen Keller’s discovery that the letters she made with her hands formed the word “water” and that “water” was an actual substance, a thing represented by language.
Reading O’Connor, I and my reading life began a new, higher phase; my intellectual life and my life as a writer, in a sense, had begun.
Untitled Mammy when I nurture, Burdon when I sing,
Marquis De Sade in morals, Jesus anything. Cohen when I make love,
Ikkyu when I drink, Vonnegut for humor, Stalin when I think.
Flawed with Style by Jon Judy
Official, approved biographical sketches of Raymond Chandler, the not-unsung-butnowhere-near-sung-enough poet of blood, babes, and booze, say that he lost his job as a corporate executive due to the Depression. It was a bit of face-saving synchronicity. He actually lost his job because he was an alcoholic pussyhound who kept disappearing for days at a time with his secretary. It just so happened that it was during the Depression. It also so happened that he was one of that special breed of American who is adept at reinvention. The ability to tear the paper from the typewriter and put in a fresh sheet has long been a defining characteristic of this country. It’s one of the reasons Chandler inspires me: He went from being a snooty, pretentious product of the English public schools, to wealthy executive, to, in his mid-forties, the poet laureate of crime. He chose the Chandler he wanted to be. Another reason Chandler inspires me is that he was a hell of a writer in spite of himself. He cleaned himself up after his termination long enough to become one of the great American authors of the twentieth century. Hemmingway was more prolific and had more critical acclaim, Faulkner and O’Connor were more respectable, and, even within Chandler’s own genre, Hammett was more gifted, but Chandler worked hard to make the most of what he had: a whole lot of brains but not much natural talent. Straight out of college, he wrote the kind of drivel that most precocious, wannabe writers crank out in their youth, punctuated here and there with some pretentious essays. After losing his job, he picked up some dime novels and thought, “How hard can this be?” He read some stories, tried re-writing them, then compared his versions to the originals. What had come out better
through his filter? What had come out worse? In this slow, methodical way, he became one of the greats, even though his collected works fills only several thousand pages, and most of those are shit. And Chandler knew he was full of shit, which is, I think, another inspiring quality. Most of us are so bad at self-awareness. I know I am. Well, I think I am. Much like his writing ability, Chandler wasn’t normally given to self-knowledge, but he worked at it and often succeeded in spite of himself. Just a most cursory examination of his biographies will tell you he was blind to some of his glaring defects – his misogyny, his latent homosexual tendencies, his inability to grow beyond childhood betrayals and traumas – but he understood and owned most of his defects. For example, Chandler was arrogant. Totally. And he owned it. Once, after he had submitted what he thought was a final draft of his masterpiece, The Long Goodbye, to his agent, one of his agent’s subordinates foolishly sent Chandler a list of criticisms. Ray’s initial reaction was outrage – who was this peon to challenge Raymond Thornton Chandler, goddamn it?!? Chandler calmed down, realized the criticisms were good ones, rewrote the novel, and fired his agent. Right or not, he said, his ego demanded kid gloves. And check out this great excerpt from a letter to an editor at a magazine for which Ray was writing. It was in regards to a copy editor who had seen fit to fix Chandler’s grammar: By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive. The method may not be perfect, but it is all I have. I think your proofreader is kindly attempting to steady me on my feet, but much as I appreciate the solicitude, I am really able to steer a fairly clear course, provided I get both sidewalks and the street between.
We’re all flawed, but we ain’t all flawed with that kind of style. I sometimes go on drunken benders and bang the secretary – figuratively, but still. I have a few brain cells to rub together. I’ve written my share of pretentious crap. Hell, I’m doing it right now. I’m as full of shit as anyone, with a list of flaws I’d like to fix and/ or own that is as long as Marlowe’s goodbye. And when on sleepless nights I hear the encroaching steps of what will be one doozy of a midlife crisis, it’s the thought that Ray spun some of those qualities into gold that inspires me to the big sleep.
“These Words” In the poem, “These Words,” the poet, Saul Duluth, discusses his dissatisfaction in language, posturing that as words fall between two people, they lose their vitality and often tend to be lifeless or dull. He writes, I don’t want the word standing between us, a dull tonic through which touch is diluted. I don’t want a symbol either, sober, going this way or that way without change.
Later in the poem, the poet writes that he wishes language “to be fire. / Yes, of course, fire! / Are you listening? / Tongues scorching / the forest […]” and feathers falling ceaseless and open over your empty body, as a spell cast from the lips
of the ocean, ready to swallow the delicate lines of your coast. This particularly is of interest as it sheds light on the poet’s personal life. Recent studies have revealed that the poet suffered dramatically from the unexpected loss of his parents in a boating excursion. It is reported that he refused to speak for several months. At this time, Duluth was living in Paris, and many of his closest companions, including the Italian sculptor Giacomo Bugiardini, and French acrtress Zelle de Merle, distance themselves from the poet as he was prone to outbursts of anger and drunkenness. Of his group in Paris, Duluth was eventually only to remain on speaking terms with de Merle, reportedly having a lengthy “onagain-off-again” affair with the actress after his publication of The Bones. It is clear from his disappointment or perhaps frustration with language as an insufficient means of conveyance that he would consider words to be a “dilution” or a “sober,” unchanging manifestation of reality. The poet’s battle with alcoholism can also be clearly linked to his poetic allusions during both his drunken episodes as well as his sober routines. Finally, the poet shifts the emphasis from “words” to “you”, pointing out that while he wants language to be manifested in a fiercely animated capac-
ity, he also wants the recipient(s) or “you” to occupy a position of passivity, referring to the audience in such ways as, “your empty body,” and “I want you to be a slender leaf.” Here, one can see the blur between language and meaning. Duluth is posturing the insufficiencies in words to be anything but words. In a letter sent to de Merle, he writes, “F-o-x is nothing more than F-o-x.” Furthermore, the receiver of his words becomes something other than simple receiver, presumably since he wishes words themselves had more physical presence or at least more concrete effect over physical entities, he would imagine the receiver would, by necessity, transform. He concludes the poem with these lines: I want you to be a slender leaf as my figure slightly caresses your subtle edge, or if I let a fox out of my mouth to chew your soft waist, but fall as they may, these words here and some there. The irony of his poem is not lost on the poet. Of course, as his title suggests, these are only words or “figures” he offers, and they too will most likely fall “slightly” some here, some there, having only minimal effect.
The Poet in Exile: Musings on Ezra Pound and Sections I-XII of
Hugh Selwyn Mauberley by Matthew C. Mackey
There is no question about the remarkable influence and clout Ezra Pound commands over the world of modern poetry. His innovative writing and enthusiastic support for the arts helped change the face of literature and spurred a new era of modern art. His technical skill is demonstrative of mastery, and his approach to poetry still haunts literary critics to this day. Among the brilliance of his time, including W.B. Yeats, William Carlos Williams, T.S. Eliot, H.D., and many more, Pound possessed an uncanny propensity to stand out among his peers, and even though his skill and spirit allow him to stand on his own, it is not here that he separates himself. The poet emerges as one of the most dominant figures of twentieth century poetry by embracing the role of an exile. Crossing borders wherever he found them, Pound stole, amalgamated, pieced, layered, and assimilated anything in order to fulfill his maxim to “Make it new.” Pound’s self-imposed expatriotism, not only from geographical locations, but also from literary traditions, allowed him both freedom and exposure as he carved his trail into the modern frontier Pound spent the majority of his controversial career as an expat, searching, engaging, and refining a new aesthetic. Pound was constantly evolving as a poet, and he borrowed, incorporated, changed, and developed aesthetics from his contemporaries, modern and classical art, mythologies, translations, and medieval prototypes. Pound’s hunt for his white whale of poetry took him all over the world, relocating to the soil of several countries and traipsing through the minds of many great thinkers. In each “place,” Pound collected clues, strategies, and techniques to form his poetic vision. Pound creates a sort of disinheritance as a poet for his aesthetic in the long poem Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. Much like William Carlos Williams’s Kora in Hell, Pound forges his own ideal of art and the artist. In Contemporary Literary Criticism, Pound’s poem and its relevance as biographical history is discussed:
Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, a long poem permeated by the polemical tone of Vorticism, decries the tragedy of the First World War and the ambivalence of postwar English society. Through his caricature of Mauber ley, rendered in conventional verse forms, Pound eschews the purely aesthetic concerns of his earlier writing in favor of a greater social consciousness, marking a decisive shift in his self-identity as a poet. (“Ezra Pound” 299) In what some consider to be his most definitive work, Pound delivers a clear and decisive character, forged not only for Pound himself as the artist, but for the art of poetry as well. Wendy Stallard Flory observes that, “The writing of the Mauberley sequence was a decisive stage in the evolution of Pound’s thinking about his role as a poet” (Flory 321). Rigorous and fervent interaction with artistic movements in Europe and Asian traditions led Pound to the creation of a modern poetic ideal. In Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, Pound establishes the poet in exile which redefines his identity and his approach to poetry. Pound was able to achieve what others could not because he was quick and constant to exile himself. As an expatriate, Pound was able to study first hand European movements, which dramatically affected the art world, and come in contact with other enthusiastic minds. In short, Pound was able to explore and discover a plethora of approaches, which he amalgamated into his own style. During the work of Mauberley, Pound was intrigued with the author Henry James, a seminal progenitor of the modern novel, and may have fashioned his Mauberley after the principles outlined in James’s novels, most likely The Ambassadors. Pound even goes as far as to describe his Mauberley as, “an attempt to condense the James novel” (Caraher 43). And while Pound’s work certainly relies on some of the ideas borrowed from James, Pound begins to discover an amalgamated poetic, granting him the ability to appropriate sources into his own work. Mapped out in Mauberley, and finally coalescing in his masterwork The Cantos, Pound’s idealist rendering of artist as exile is beginning to take shape. In a lecture series on early twentieth century poetry, Dr. Zhaoming Qian remarks of Hugh Selwyn Mauberely:
[It] has frequently been regarded as a turning point: it is a farewell at once to the British shore and to his aestheticism which played a large part in his poetry up to 1920. He was to move to Paris first and Rapal lo, Italy, next, and he was to focus on writing his modernist epic The Cantos. (Qian, “Vorticist Pound”) It is clear that in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley Pound begins to forge ahead as an artist, breaking new ground and mapping his excursion along the way. Pound, Mauberley, and Character: The Exiled Poet There is much debate in literary criticism as to whether Pound is indeed the Mauberley character, and compelling arguments are made for both the unification and separation of character and poet. Brian G. Caraher writes in his discussion of the poem, “No one, single, lyric voice or persona predominates within the numerous sounds and echoes of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley” (Caraher 46). Caraher proposes that the poem can be considered “dialogic” as it is mainly a self-parodic or “two-voiced” dialogue (Caraher 46). Robert Casillo in “Pound and Mauberley: Eroding the Difference” points out, “The controversy itself confirms each point of view and emphasizes that, for all their differences, the psychological resemblances between Pound and Mauberley are often intimate and profound” (Casillo 43). Mauberley is presented as an artist, and we should rightly assume that as an artist himself, Pound invested a part of his persona into the character. It may just as well be of value to refer to the speaker of the poem as “the artist” for whether it is Pound or Mauberley the moniker is fitting. Regardless of Pound’s direct or indirect representation of self as character, the usefulness of Mauberley must be considered. Pound himself states, “Of course, I’m no more Mauberley than Eliot is Prufrock… Mauberley is a mere surface" (Ramazani, Ellman, and O’Clair 348). This “mere surface” may be more appropriately dubbed a “mirror” surface, not the person himself, but a reflection. It is important to see the significance in the creation of character. Just like Joyce’s Dedalus or Eliot’s Prufrock, Mauberley allows Pound remarkable detachment and involvement. The poem is a creation of two images dialoguing back and forth with high energy. It is
clear that Pound and Mauberley share obvious similarities, but still Pound creates Mauberley as a character exiled from himself as a writer. This is unique in that it allows Pound two voices to speak to one another, and allows the characters to act separately from one another if need be. Both Mauberley and Pound feel disinherited from the current time and location. Mauberley opens with the lines: For three years, out of key with his time, He strove to resuscitate the dead art Of poetry; to maintain the “sublime” In the old sense […] (1-4) Here also we can sense Pound’s direct involvement in the poetry as he discusses his attempts to “resuscitate the dead art.” The place of such disdain, as later elaboration will show, is London, and already we are told that the artist is “out of key with his time.” The point of interest is the creation of Mauberley. Pound uses Mauberley to express his lamentation, or in this case, a eulogy for the artist. Most likely Mauberley is commenting on the death of E.P. In the original publication the initials “E.P.” preceded the section title “Ode pour l’Election de Son Sepulchre.” It could be argued that Mauberley was in fact created to comment on the struggles and failures, the life and “death” of the artist Ezra Pound at the time, which would suggest his forfeiting of a previous poetic aesthetic. As the first section of the poem continues, Mauberley tells us that “he had been born/ In a half savage country, out of date;/ Bent resolutely on wringing lilies from the acorn […] (6-7). Here the speaker shows that the artist, striving for art (lilies) in an increasingly hardened world (acorns) has been unsuccessful, and mourns that “He passed from men’s memory […]” (18). As the sequence of poems continues we can understand why. In sections II and III, Pound unfolds his confrontation and resulting exile, especially with the current social conditions. As an artist, the speaker speculates that the tastes of the “civilized world” are not accustomed to real art. The speaker identifies with Flaubert, considering him his “true Penelope.” John J. Espey makes the connection between Mauberley and his Penelope by saying, “Flaubert had performed great engineering
feat[s] huge labor[s] of drainage and sanitation, and who had thus affected a return to distinction, order, and clarity” (qtd. in Casillo). This is precisely the goal of the artist in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, the lilies that Pound sought. Vision of Society and the Social Artist: A Half Savage Country F.R. Leavis points out that, “The second and third poems introduce the modern world of mass production and leveling down, a world that has destroyed the traditions and is hostile, not only to artists, but all distinction of spirit” (Leavis 319). Section II starts with, “The age demanded an image/ Of its accelerated grimace,/ something for the modern stage, […]” (21-23). Here the speaker begins to describe desires proportionate to the society they rise from, and those being for cheap imitations or “the classics in paraphrase!” (28). The artist believes in “obscure reveries/ Of the inward gaze” (25-26) or rather serious introspection and application, even going so far as to say it is better to lie than to create reproductions. Ultimately, he states in the closing of this section that a mass produced “mould in plaster” was demanded over the carefully constructed “sculpture” of rhyme in lasting alabaster. Mauberley like Pound is in fact living a self-imposed exile from social attitudes. Continuing into the third section, the speaker delivers more commentary on the state of art in an unwelcoming society. The section is in essence a list of things “passing” or being “replaced” by a “tawdry cheapness.” Concluding with “What god, man, or hero/ Shall I place a tin wreath upon!” (59-60), Mauberley is expressed as being concerned that perhaps no one is capable of wearing the artistic crown or the “Muses’ diadem” from section II. Again, this is ironic and perhaps a little arrogant if we consider that the first section may be a eulogy for Pound as an artist. Section IV illustrates Mauberley’s point about society through a commentary on the Great War. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley was published
two years after the signing of armistice, which officially ended the fighting of the First World War. Pound was able to see firsthand the atrocities, ignorance, and uselessness of the conflict before Mauberley was released. As a result, Mauberley is tinted with Pound’s contempt for an ignorant society. The poem grieves those who walked eye-deep in Hell believing in old men’s lies, then unbelieving came home, home to a lie home to many deceits, home to old lies and new infamy; usury age-old and age-thick and liars in public places. (72-77) As much as it laments those trapped in the war machine, section IV is also a social commentary. Pound uses the character Mauberley to discuss the “wastage as never before” (78) of war and the liars, public speakers, and usurers that would sacrifice the young in order to achieve savage agendas. Section V comments perhaps on Ezra’s outrage concerning the deaths of artists, sacrificed for civilization’s sake. He suggests that a civilization is no good if it deems lives as mere expenditures. Sections IV and V carry a significant weight for Pound. In the war, Pound loses his close companion Henri Gaudier-Brzeska, French artist and sculptor, whom Pound admired. Robert Casillo points out that “Pound on the one hand blamed the war for virtually destroying English civilization, yet saw Gaudier’s death a sign of that already decayed civilization’s hostility to art” (Casillo 48). Pound saw in Gaudier-Brzeska much talent, potential, and vision wasted in the trenches of an imbecilic war. As Mauberley comments in section V: There died a myriad, And of the best, among them For an old bitch gone in the teeth, For a botched civilization […]. (86-89)
He furthers the disparagement by saying the war was fought “For two gross of broken statues,/ For a few thousand battered books.” Here again the artist is disinherited, and it is a welcomed distancing.
Society has given up her artists to scorn, as the first three sections tell, and to wasted death as sections IV and V elaborate. Poem VI, Yeux Glauques, comments on the source of the issue leading to the war and ultimately the unfortunate perception of art within society. Pound’s concern for this section, as critic Frederick J. Hoffman points out, “is with public attitude toward native talent and the forms that talent assumed, was forced to assume, because of that attitude” (Hoffman 340). The majority of criticism is largely directed to the age of Gladstone, Ruskin, Buchanan, who preferred Tennyson over Burne-Jones and Swinburne. Through the use of Mauberley, Pound successfully illuminates the beginning of the stale and rigid cultural milieu of the late Victorian era. Taken in conjunction with the next section, “Siena Mi Fe’; Disfecemi Maremma,” these pieces combine to deride “many artists of the 1890s [who] were deficient in courage and unsound. They were made so because of great errors of taste committed by the genteel arbitrators of the aesthetic consciousness” (Hoffman 340). Together these sections ultimately describe the circumstances leading to a self-imposed exile. It is here that the artist has disinherited himself from his current artistic and geographical community, and like Mauberley, Pound eventually flees London (the backdrop for the poem). As Casillo says, “Pound contemptuously abandons London, having failed, as in America, his cultural mission” (Casillo 54).
*TO BE CONTINUED NEXT ISSUE*
Against the Grain by Rob Balla By the time I had entered elementary school, my white, Christian, working class but upwardly mobile parents had moved us out of Chicago and into a remarkably WASPish North Shore suburb. Sure, racism, sexism, homophobia, and religious intolerance bothered me, but not enough to do anything or speak out about it. After all, suburbia is the homeland of the status quo. Who was I to raise a single, solitary voice? However, there was this little voice inside me that told me that these things were not right, and that someone should say something. One day on the way to soccer practice in the back of a minivan, I told my friendâ€™s dad that President Reagan and Colonel North were both lying about the Contras. He laughed. Later in US History, I spoke up timidly that I thought the early settlers were a bunch of jerks and that Manifest Destiny was not just wrong but downright evil. I was given a detention for arguing with the teacher. Then one night at dinner, I muttered under my breath that my Catholic mother was morally void because she unquestioningly allowed religious doctrine to guide her every decision. I was sent to my room. I was
almost kicked out of the house. I learned to keep quiet when my thoughts ran counter to the norm. But then in 1990 Bad Religion released Against the Grain. Here was my battle cry. Here were white, middle-class guys fed up with the world around them. They were pissed off and screaming it to anyone who would listen. They were willing to stand up and speak out. Punk music in its most general sense was about making heard those who were being drowned out by the dominant, controlling forces in society. It was about speaking unpleasant truths and bringing into the light unsettling realities that many would have preferred remained hidden. Against the Grain covered a multitude of issues. Bad Religion was pissed off about so many things, and the album reflected this in its contents. The album covered the environment (“Unacceptable”), atheism (“Faith Alone”), and abortion (“Operation Rescue”), but the title track really hit home: “I seek a thousand answers I find but one or two / I maintain no discomfiture my path again renewed / Against the grain … I maintain against the grain” That’s where and when I found my voice. And I haven’t been quiet since. Today, when I write, I write with a purpose in mind. Usually it is to challenge someone’s notion of what is acceptable, what is tolerable. The smaller, weaker, quieter voices must be heard. Especially when they run against the grain.
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Published on Nov 18, 2013
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