Modernism Revisited
Transgressing Boundaries and Strategies of Renewal in American Poetry

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Modernism Revisited Transgressing Boundaries and Strategies of Renewal in American Poetry Edited by Viorica Patea and Paul Scott Derrick Amsterdam .


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His large collections are in chalk. ink and watercolour. Rebecca.Cover image: Alfredo Hernández “Classified Menina” (2007) © Alfredo Hernández.. illustrator and artist who lives in Salamanca. a promising scholar of Portuguese Philology and Translations.Paper for documents Requirements for permanence’. Cover design: Aart Jan Bergshoeff e paper on which this book is printed meets the requirements of ‘ISO 9706: 1994. 2007 Alfredo Hernández is a Spanish painter. Amsterdam . acrylic. Information and documentation .New York. “Classified Menina” belongs to a larger collection called “Las Meninas”. ISBN-13: 978-90-420-2263-8 ©Editions Rodopi B. NY 2007 Printed in e Netherlands . He is married to the linguist Pilar Alonso with whom he has a daughter.V. Salamanca.

originated in a Conference that took place at the University of Salamanca several years ago. Since then. its transgressions of boundaries and strategies of renewal. We also wish to thank all the contributors who have made this book possible for their patience and enthusiasm for a project that should generate new insights and further the vitality of current critical debate in American poetry. .ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS The idea of putting together a collection of essays on American Modernist poetry. The editors have benefited from a research grant from the Consejería de Educación y Cultura de la Junta de Castilla y León (Reference Number SA 072/04). research in this direction developed into a larger project that outgrew its initial scope and inspired new essays on the subject.


S. Grabher In Search of Words for “Moon-Viewing”: The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language in Modernist American Poetry 35 53 73 11 1 91 111 121 135 .TABLE OF CONTENTS Acknowledgements Paul Scott Derrick Introduction I. Cummings’ Poems Bart Eeckhout Wallace Stevens’ Poetry of Resistance III. E. Eliot’s The Waste Land and the Poetics of the Mythical Method Isabelle Alfandary Poetry as Ungrammar in E. Transgressing Boundaries: Some Modernists Revisited Barry Ahearn Frost’s Sonnets. Strategies of Renewal: Modernism in a Broader Context Gudrun M. In and Out of Bounds Hélène Aji Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto Zhaoming Qian Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos Viorica Patea T. Reflections on Modernity: The Aura of Modernism Marjorie Perloff The Aura of Modernism II.

not Automatic: William Carlos Williams versus Surrealist Poetics Manuel Brito Instances of the Journey Motif through Language and Selfhood in some Modernist American Poets Heinz Ickstadt For Love and Language: The Poetry of Robert Creeley Charles Altieri Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style Notes on Contributors Index 161 175 189 207 225 229 .Ernesto Suárez-Toste Spontaneous.

or to recommend known truths by his manner of adorning them. the collective need for stability. 1750). At the same time. The tension between these drives is one source of the peculiar dynamism of American life and constitutes. to seek the new.1 One of the keys to the success – at least until now – of that historical experiment which is the United States has been an energizing tension between two fundamental and opposed drives. There is the restless need. in itself. a complex strategy of continuing renewal. . 14. to challenge external limitations. to transgress all kinds of spatial. the certainty of socially-accepted beliefs and received customs. so as to give them fresh grace and more powerful attractions. either to let new light in upon the mind. and open new scenes to the prospect. III (March 27. on the part of innumerable individuals. which thereby become the locus where 1 Samuel Johnson. there is the much more conservative drive of the group. to spread such flowers over the region through which the intellect has already made its progress. to varying degrees and depths. which all make up a tradition. as may tempt it to return. or to vary the dress and situation of common objects. aesthetic and cultural boundaries. either to teach what is not known. political. All such forces and tensions are. The Rambler. projected in our works of art. and take a second view of things hastily passed over or negligently regarded.INTRODUCTION PAUL SCOTT DERRICK The task of an author is.

The contributions fall into two general groups: studies concerning individual figures (Section II) and those considering the phenomenon of Modernism within a broader cultural context (Sections I and III). and therefore politically reactionary. In Section I. Perloff suggests that although genres such as poems. and therefore unable to resist the alienation it diagnosed. She also draws attention to the non-academic interest in Modernism that is rife on the internet. where. in fulfillment of Benjamin’s prophecy. an essay that serves as an effective introduction to the theme of revisiting the Modernists. Her discussion of their letters reveals the extent to which their political and aesthetic differences strained against deep bonds of affection and mutual respect. Marjorie Perloff reflects on the fate of Modernism in the twentieth century.2 Paul Scott Derrick this evolutionary process can be beneficially experimented with (by the artist) and contemplated (by the perceiver of the artwork). paintings. The will to cultivate tradition and the drive to “make it new”. Modernism’s established artefacts continue to “stay news” and to exert their strange auratic power. as reflected in their correspondence. Next Hélène Aji provides a new insight into the problematic friendship between Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams. In the following contribution. and how their life-long exchanges affected the development of each one’s poetry. It focuses primarily on that critical period in the development of occidental culture that we usually refer to as Modernism. or was caught up in processes of capitalist commodification. Zhaoming Qian brings to light the practically . written by a number of leading academics in the field of American literature. This collection of essays. the distinction between artist and public has broken down and the “pleasure of the text” takes precedence over concerns with ideology. Section II begins with a perceptive analysis by Barry Ahearn of how those two fundamental American drives toward expansion – the breaking down of established boundaries – and containment – the maintenance of definite limits – are manifested in Robert Frost’s subtly original renovations of the traditional sonnet form. and novels have to some extent been displaced by “differential text”. the need to assimilate established forms and conventions and the equally powerful need to alter them are essential to the Modernist aesthetic. focusing in particular on claims that it was either elitist and authoritarian. is intended to interrogate this phenomenon from the perspective of twentieth-century American poetry.

in Yunnan. a native of Likiang. E. A full century has passed since the beginnings of what we think of as the Modernist Period. and elucidates the influence that Fang’s informative letters had on specific aspects of Pound’s Cantos. the influence of Eastern cultures on Modernist writers must not be overlooked. Isabelle Alfandary argues that E. Cummings’ poetic revolution consists in focusing on items of apparently minor importance such as punctuation or typography and dramatizing what has been called “ungrammaticality”. To end the section. At the same time. Grabher gives us an insightful and well-documented account of the Japanese mentality and explores the inherent spiritual qualities of the Haiku. conscious control. Cummings’ “ungrammar”. far from resulting in nonsense. intentionality – versus its opposite – spontaneity. Qian introduces us to the culture of the Naxi. S. In this respect. The Waste Land. Bart Eeckhout gives a profound consideration of the role of “intelligence” – that is. a refusal of conscious control. “inspiration” – in both the composition and the reading of Wallace Stevens’ poetry. Viorica Patea explores Eliot’s sense of tradition as a search for anthropological origins of the modern self and as a trans-cultural dialogue with the other across time in what is generally thought to be the “centre piece” of Modernist poetic accomplishment. but we are still a long way from digesting the overwhelming significance of the legacy of that first generation of poets and properly placing their accomplishment in both the American and the Western cultural heritage. The essays included in Section III were written to address that need. as is also implied in other contributions to this volume. E. Tibeto-Burman-speaking people who live in China's southwest Yunnan province. Ernesto . by the way. Eliot. Along similar lines. The next three essays offer detailed considerations of the work of T. Paohsien Fang.Introduction 3 unknown correspondence between Pound and the “Na-khi boy”. turns out to be lyrical and constitutes one more strategy of renewal in American poetry. On the basis of those qualities. she discusses the presence of oriental thought and poetry on the primarily Imagistic work of figures such as Pound. She argues that Eliot’s mythical method and his poetics of fragmentation constitute a quest for an open form and an attempt to bring forth the common language of Eastern and Western spirituality. This issue. clearly links the underlying concerns of Modernists with those of the Romantics. Cummings and Wallace Stevens. Amy Lowell and Stevens. Gudrun M. E.

inherited from the Modernists: the American tradition which saw poetry as rooted in common speech. considers how the most significant American Modernist poets appropriated the concept of the journey. And finally. The editors hope it will tempt the reader to return and take a second view of an altered prospect of a century-old phenomenon. (Whitman. provides the basis for surprising readings of some of Robert Lowell’s best-known poems. Heinz Ickstadt argues that this poet develops two strains. all make use of a journey. insightful illuminations of many familiar Modernist poems (Ahearn. Grabher.4 Paul Scott Derrick Suarez-Toste offers a stimulating comparison between Modernist and Surrealist poetics from the perspective of the concept. Williams. In a contemplative discussion of Robert Creeley’s work. Brito. often thought to be mutually exclusive. once again. Williams. Ginsberg) and the more cosmopolitan formalist tradition (French Symbolism. which he calls “new realism”. This complex approach to the semantic construction of the self. Modernism revisited: this is not another exercise in ingenious critical positionings. Stevens. He focuses mainly on the theories and works of Williams. Hart Crane and Stevens. that facilitates new knowledge and a renewed sense of the self. André Breton and Giorgio de Chirico. Ickstadt. Pound. D. H. Charles Altieri convincingly locates confessional poetry within a larger conceptual framework. The last two essays in the book reflect upon the heritage of the Modernist experiment in two important younger figures. of spontaneity. Stevens. Aji. Ashbery and the Language Poets). by Manuel Brito. The next essay. Patea. Qian). through space and language. The works discussed. by Pound. Eeckhout. Suarez-Toste) and original. His essay induces us to appreciate Creeley’s poetry from a new perspective and to reconsider our attitudes toward critical categories and generalizations. Perloff. as a reaction to what he terms Modernism’s attempt to evade the imaginary. Marianne Moore. as reflected in Surrealism through the practice of automatic writing and painting. Alfandary. This book offers an interesting mixture of deeply considered revisions of our ideas about Modernism and our received approaches to the phenomena of writing and reading poetry (Altieri. It could be that the more we think about a thing – ..

that is. as Eliot. with their Romantic predecessors.Introduction 5 especially something as slippery and ambivalent as whatever it is that equivocal term Modernism is supposed to denominate. however. Bohm’s description of the virtually unconscious mechanisms of resistance to change in science is compatible with the Modernist generations’ understanding of the set of problems inherited from the Romantics … because scientists are accustomed to using their tacit skills and knowledge in subliminal and unconscious ways. This is what the physicist David Bohm. Modernist stylistic discontinuity encourages us to solve the puzzle. the closer we get to it. reflecting on the constant metamorphoses in the overall context of science. Romantic style transposed into Modernist discontinuity. They seem to have been right. on many levels. as to emphasize the differences. And like the break. to add some unexpected knowledge to the mix and to help us to undo much of what we thought we knew before. What is Modernism? When and how did it begin? And has it ever really ended? The essays that follow do not attempt to answer these questions (which are probably ultimately unanswerable anyway). variously informed uncertainty is a condition worth pursuing. for example. refers to in a felicitous phrase as any group or society’s “underlying tacit infrastructure of concepts and ideas”. They do attempt. and as that dysfunction gradually emerged over time. in their deepest concerns. But what about what lies beneath? I would suggest that it could be just as useful for us to investigate the deeper continuities between the Modernist undertaking and the Romantic revolution. it was on the visible surfaces. there is a tendency of . the more we might perceive of what they share. The more we think about the Modernists. somehow or another to put the pieces back together again. between the surface of the skin and the surrounding air. maybe that kind of broad. inadequate and would therefore eventually become dysfunctional. What the early Romantics vaguely sensed was that contemporary constructs of the nature of human being – so strongly determined by models from the physical sciences – were. the more porous and indefinite it appears. or boundary. Pound and others were quite keen to profess. And that strong urge to reconstruct the fragments should induce a corresponding urge to reconstruct ourselves. to reformulate our generally-accepted notions of what we are and how we fit into the puzzle of the world. But then. the less we know. If there ever really was a break between them.

which was a remarkably coherent set of instructions for the dismantling of the previously agreed-upon sense of coherence and reformulating our basic concepts of how we are related to the world. Indeed. The reason why the world lacks unity.2 Modernist innovations in style address the confusion that inevitably arose from our culture’s subliminal tendency to go on working in old ways within a profoundly altered context. Because when that destruction occurs on the plane of art. Our Modernist forebears offered us a chance to begin to repair the real fragmentation and destruction that our dysfunctionality is presently engendering. written by Emerson in 1836.6 Paul Scott Derrick the mind to hold on to them and to try to go on working in old ways within new contexts. Order. and quoting. that we see when we look at nature. that I never tire of pondering on. and Creativity. He cannot be a naturalist until he satisfies all the demands of the spirit. David Peat. It demonstrates how prescient he was. Even then. New York: Bantam Books. to rehearse the skills we need to restructure and reformulate the fundamental ideas that determine how we behave toward and within the world. Picasso is said to have said. 1987. “A painting”. By the beginning of the twentieth century. it gives us an opportunity to practice how to put the broken eggshells together again – in other words. The axis of vision is not coincident with the axis of things. it was necessary for art to indicate that we needed to destroy our antiquated unconscious assumptions about what the human being is and how it functions in a universe that creates and sustains it. In the uttermost 2 David Bohm and F. “is a horde of destructions”. The result is a mixture of confusion and fragmentation. is. is in our own eye. because man is disunited with himself. Science. he was aware of what was at stake: The ruin or the blank. as a result of his deep study and assimilation of the bases of Romantic thinking. Love is as much its demand. There is a passage. It comes from his essay “Nature”. and lies broken and in heaps. 21. and so they appear not transparent but opake. . neither can be perfect without the other. as perceptions.

“Nature”. It is what can be all the ways we can be. NJ: Prentice Hall. thought is devout. so much we believed we knew. Whether achieved through submission or through 3 Ralph Waldo Emerson. who entered much later in the Romantic continuum.… In any case a thrusting towards a more adequate expression of natural experience. world is a response to thought. ed. All three dialogues – the other two deal with André Masson and Bram van Velde – are a reflection on Beckett’s own writing at the time. His effort to comprehend what Matisse and Tal Coat had done (and what he himself was trying to build on) leads him to pronounce the following telegraphic description: Total object. still struggling fully to acknowledge what it means and to accommodate all of its ramifications. and devotion is thought. 1993. This Romantic use of the mind participates in and fosters the on-going processes that insure the conditions that produce the miracle of thought.3 As Emerson was trying to explain. that he published in 1949 with Georges Duthuit. The Library of America. Deep calls unto deep. The universe is what constantly and obediently answers to our conceptions. and keep the circular energy intact. Lawrence Buell. in Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Collection of Critical Essays. ed. “Thinking of Emerson”. He had completed the first two novels of his trilogy and was feeling his way toward the third. because they also are obedient. thought is not only a response to world. Joel Porte. instead of partial object. “that we do not have a universe as it is in itself. We are still wriggling in our culture on the terms of this apparent dilemma. as revealed to the vigilant coenaesthesia. a contemporary who was one of the founders of the French Tachisme movement. “This no doubt implies”. But this implication is nothing: we do not have selves in themselves either. . The deepest acts of thought are devout. and one of the Modernist pioneers.”4 This is a radical reversal of so much we had worked for. Henri Matisse. complete with missing parts. in Emerson: Essays and Lectures. It might be suggestive to read this quote together with a passage by Samuel Beckett. New York. 47. Question of degree . 4 Stanley Cavell. 193. In the first dialogue he is reflecting on the painting of Pierre Tal Coat. The Unnamable. It comes from a text called “Three Dialogues”. Upper Saddle River.Introduction 7 meaning of the words. says Stanley Cavell.

NJ: Prentice-Hall.5 Both Emerson and Beckett. And even though he claimed that his was an art of failure. a composite of perceiver and perceived. It has been a tortuous journey from there to here: “a thrusting towards a more adequate expression of natural experience. What we need to recover. instead of acting on assumptions that we are separated. as had the Romantics before them. . an experience. to reconstruct our sense of the self (and in so doing. Someone had better be prepared for rage. as many of the essays in this volume might suggest. ed. hit the nail on the head. that Beckett also foresaw. Beckett is clearly (or not so clearly) saying. 1965. Englewood Cliffs. “Three Dialogues”. the result is a gain in nature …. By nature I mean here. to put the world back together again) before the most serious breakage had even begun to occur: It looked as if a night of dark intent Was coming. the composite of perceiver and perceived. Martin Esslin. which Beckett was still responding to in 1949. in Samuel Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays. which. an age. It could be that the present condition of the world bears witness to a larger failure. is part of an alternative pathway in Western thinking that can be traced all the way back through Hegel’s Phenomenology of the Spirit (1807) to Schelling’s System of Transcendental Idealism (1800) and at least to Herder’s On the Knowing and Feeling of the Human Soul (1778). like the naivest realist. is still unresolved today. This is a long and daunting historical process. as revealed to the vigilant coenaesthesia. The underlying tacit infrastructure of concepts and ideas that has 5 Samuel Beckett and Georges Duthuit. The Modernists were warning us. each in his own way and from the perspective of the moment in time in which he lived.” Not a bad summary of the progress of Western art since the Enlightenment. is an apprehension of all the ways we are intimately connected with the world. not a datum.8 Paul Scott Derrick mastery. if not still further to the psychology of Leibniz. isolated fragments. and not only a night. that urge to comprehend the total object. 16. There would be more than ocean-water broken Before God’s last Put out the Light was spoken.

”6 Are we now living out the final consequences of that split in our collective consciousness? The Romantics began to realize how significant it could be when its cognitive side. it is also a quest to save us from ourselves. 6 Harold Bloom. threatened to become preponderant. New York: Riverhead Books. empathy. Emerson tells us. as a result of the more evident and immediate success of Enlightenment rationality. What unifies them in a larger continuum is their essentially subversive effort to find new formulas for what we are (or to rediscover old ones). 68. . protective and nurturing care – is as much its demand as perceptions.Introduction 9 determined our culture has always rested on a fundamental schism: “what marks the West is its troubled sense that its cognition goes one way and its spiritual life goes in quite another. but this Romantic prescription to heal a world lying broken and in heaps is not that different from the remedy he offers to restore the broken health of The Waste Land: “Give. and yet our morality and religion – outer and inner – find their ultimate sense in the Hebrew Bible. less delimited model of human identity. until we satisfy all the demands of the spirit. to establish a more functional. Control. This complicated strategy of renewal may be thought of as a quest for psychic wholeness. Love – emotional response.” For both Romantics and Modernists the fragment implies the notion of the whole. The diverse speculations on the nature and evolution of Modernist poetics that this book offers just might help us to alter the axis of our vision and to see that process a little more clearly. We have no ways of thinking that are not Greek. 2004. Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?. We cannot be naturalists. Eliot may not have wanted to acknowledge it. Sympathize.


H. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. Indeed. that aura of authenticity and uniqueness that constituted the work’s distance from life and that required contemplation and immersion on the part of the spectator. 1-14. After the Great Divide.. where pilgrims from around the world may be found in quiet contemplation of the artist’s bold and unique conception.O. especially 220-24 and “On Some Motifs in Baudelaire”. By iconoclastically altering a reproduction of the Mona Lisa and .O. Modernist Cultures. 186-89. ed.O. the countless photographic reproductions.O. Duchamp succeeded in destroying what Benjamin called the traditional art work’s aura. For Benjamin’s definition of “aura”. I/1 (Spring 2005). Hannah Arendt. New York: Schocken. by exhibiting a mass-produced urinal as a fountain sculpture. Illuminations: Essays and Reflections. see “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction”. 217-52. Duchamp’s ready-mades now This is a revised version of an article that first appeared in an e-journal. in Walter Benjamin.Q.1 Duchamp against auratic art? Against the unique art object? He certainly professed to be. 1986. far from diminishing the aura of these originals. . these ready-mades are enshrined in the Philadelphia Museum of Art in a room of their own. 1 Andreas Huyssen. seem only to have enhanced it.H.. Modernism. 1968. But almost a century after Duchamp made Fountain and L.Q. Postmodernism. Andreas Huyssen writes: In the context of social and cultural theory Benjamin conceptualized what Marcel Duchamp had already shown in 1919 in L. 9-10. most of them not “originals” at all but Duchamp’s own later copies. Mass Culture.THE AURA OF MODERNISM MARJORIE PERLOFF In a discussion of Walter Benjamin’s famous “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproducibility”.

of course.”3 (4) Gertrude Stein’s writings. B. N. a volume of nearly 1400 pages that does not include the poet’s central work. B. Its editor. it is assumed. conferences. “The Rescue of W. which contains scholarly essays of unusually high caliber. he was part of a larger movement that is now undergoing an astonishing revival. must and will be read whole in courses as well as by Pound readers at large. Yeats was published by Oxford. an artist of the Modernist era. has also just brought out a superb annotated edition of The Pisan Cantos for New Directions. now running to some forty volumes. that supplements the short 1923 text most of us first read in a small Viking paperback. Chronologically. 14. 3 John Banville. illustrations. Lawrence. for example. Foster’s magisterial biography of W. are the subject of Ulla Dydo’s 2 The Duchamp websites are especially remarkable. Duchamp exhibitions. thought. Yeats”. and so on. The Cantos. Fountain dating from 1917. The Cambridge edition includes all the earlier versions of Studies. New York Review of Books. I was charged more than $200 apiece. Yeats: A Life is a great and important work. will a Selected Cantos do. As a Modernist. No longer. archival material. and empathy such as one would hardly have thought possible in this age of disillusion. books. Duchamp was. and when I recently applied for permission to reproduce these and related images in a scholarly book on Modernism. B. the Pisans. . and articles are a boom industry. evidently.12 Marjorie Perloff command sky-high prices. websites. Tout-Fait. receiving many reviews like the following by John Banville in the New York Review of Books: “W. a triumph of scholarship. Consider the following events of 2003-2004 alone: (1) The Library of America published Ezra Pound’s Poems and Translations. and very full notes and introductory material. 51 (26 February 2004). H. has published a 700page edition of Studies in Classic American Literature. (2) The Cambridge Edition of the Letters and Works of D. long considered too eccentric and incomprehensible to discuss in detail. It is an achievement wholly of a scale with its heroic subject. drafts. (3) The second volume of R. presumably because it will get a volume of its own. Richard Sieburth.2 But so is the High Modernism Duchamp ostensibly deconstructed in his experimental art.

19 January 2004. Glen MacLeod. of which more later. something of a best-seller. Viking published Lydia Davis’ new translation of Du Côté de chez Swann. “Gertrude Stein’s War”. Evanston. or Remembrance of Things Past as it was called in the Scott Moncrieff translation. won the 2004 Phoenix Award for significant editorial 4 Ulla Dydo. focusing on the single decade (1923-34). perhaps the most difficult of Modernist novels. “Rediscovering Joseph Roth”. A call for papers to supplement those by invited speakers produced. (6) Joseph Roth’s The Radetsky March (1932). 8186. The New Yorker. has become. as seen through the eyes of its military. with the remaining volumes of A la recherche du temps perdu to come in translations by different authors. In Search of Lost Time. (5) The University of Connecticut organized a large conference called “Celebrating Wallace Stevens” held in April 2004 and including poets as well as academics. 5 Janet Malcolm. that Stein’s colorful persona deserves discussion but that. now in its twelfth year of publication. 2 June 2003. once and for all. Dydo’s book lays to rest.The Aura of Modernism 13 600-page study The Language that Rises. recently regurgitated in Janet Malcolm’s5 long New Yorker profile. is evidently selling astonishingly well to what is largely a new audience. this. In The New Yorker Joan Acocella6 devoted a large portion of her essay “Rediscovering Joseph Roth” to this great novel on the decline of the Hapsburg empire. (8) The journal Modernism/Modernity. The Language that Rises. What makes Roth so unusual – and no doubt accounts for his earlier neglect – is that this Jewish writer from Galicia was a fervent admirer of the monarchy. 6 Joan Acocella. with the exception of The Autobiography of Alice B. hundreds of submissions from eager young Modernists. the myth. the work itself is unreadable. (7) In 2003. IL.: Northwestern University Press. 2003. stationed in the small garrison border towns on the Eastern frontier. . according to the organizer.4 which examines “the process of making and remaking of Stein’s texts as they move from notepad to notebook to manuscript”. Widely reviewed in newspapers and magazines. indeed of the Emperor Franz Joseph. 58-81. after decades of neglect. Toklas and one or two other prose is the subject of sixty-nine customer reviews on amazon. newly translated by Joachim Neugroschel for Overlook Press in 2002. The New Yorker.

even as the avant-garde was pronounced a failure. S. 7 Cynthia Ozick. and who were passionate about the avant-garde as represented by Duchamp or Stein. Ozick declared. that what we are witnessing today is more accurately survival rather than revival. Eliot. which held its first annual convention in 1999 and is now a major fixture on the conference scene. 121. poets.7 This essay appeared in 1989. Pound and Stevens. The critique of Modernism. But the fact is that from the 1960s well into the 90s. and even general readers committed to Yeats and Eliot. Tradition is equated with obscurantism. The New Yorker. but could be found in such bourgeois venues as The New Yorker. 20 November 1989. rather narrow-minded. Throughout the past century.14 Marjorie Perloff achievement. These are just random examples of Modernist activity on the academic and publishing front today. It can be argued. to destroy “art” as a bourgeois institution. the MSA put out a call for papers for a special double issue on a topic that would have been declared reactionary a mere decade ago – namely the poetry and prose of T. came not only from the Left that questioned its elitist. In 2003. imperialist. “in the literary shadow” of Eliot. I am thinking of Frank Kermode. “Eliot’s elegiac fragments appear too arcane. 15254. given its inability. Eliot at 101”. . so Peter Bürger famously told us. “High art”. Extreme as Ozick’s argument may seem today. “T. of course. patriarchal. its reservations about Eliot’s politics were voiced as early as 1967 by a critic who had himself written sympathetically on Eliot and edited his critical prose. depressed. “We no longer live”.” In this context. Proust and Lawrence. and colonialist tendencies. inhibited. a mere fifteen years ago. there have always been scholars. whom she dismissed as so much “false coinage” – an “autocratic. S. moreover. for that matter. too aristocratic. where Cynthia Ozick first published her scathing piece on T. “is dead. in The Sense of an Ending. the word “Modernism” was a term of opprobrium. The passion for inheritance is dead. and considerably bigoted fake Englishman”. The wall that divided serious high culture from the popular arts is breached. having grown so large it can hardly accommodate all those who wish to attend its meeting and give papers. who observed. and too difficult for contemporary ambition”. M/M is the official journal of the Modernist Studies Association (MSA). S. that the great artists of the early century never disappeared. Eliot.

1995. London: Macmillan. the making new of a true understanding of the nature of the elements of art – this radicalism involves the creation of fictions which may be dangerous in the dispositions they breed towards the world …. as have recent critics like Tyrus Miller (1991) and Peter Nicholls (1995). the spatial order of the modern critic or the closed authoritarian society … 8 And Kermode singled out Eliot as the most extreme case of this authoritarianism: He had a persistent nostalgia for closed. But from the vantage point of the twenty-first century. that modernist radicalism in art – the breaking down of pseudo-traditions. and everywhere in Pound’s writings. “Early Modernism” is Kermode’s term for the pre-World War II period as distinct from what he calls the “schismatic modernism” of the postwar era. 108. were “matched or reflected by a totalitarian politics”: It appears in fact. we may note. First. Peter Nicholls. that “totalitarian theories of form”. If tradition is. indeed.10 that Modernism was a phenomenon of the early century – indeed Nicholls follows Benjamin in taking the 8 Frank Kermode. 9 Ibid. New York: Oxford University Press. out of flux.The Aura of Modernism 15 that there was a “correlation between early modernist literature and authoritarian politics”. immobile hierarchical societies. The Sense of an Ending: Studies in the Theory of Fiction. Modernisms: A Literary Guide. Eliot’s critical essays. his “Modernism” here refers to the later 1930s. as he said in After Strange Gods … “the habitual actions. 1967. 112. Instead of [a commonplace view of reality] there is to be order as the modernist artist understands it: rigid. Late Modernism. habits and customs” which represent the kinship “of the same people living in the same place” [shades of Bloom’s ineffectual definition of a nation in Ulysses!] it is clear that Jews do not have it. but also that practically nobody now does. which he found in such key texts as Yeats’ A Vision. Berkeley: University of California Press.9 This is certainly an accurate appraisal of After Strange Gods. 10 Tyrus Miller. . 1999. but Kermode makes two assumptions that now seem questionable. the set of University of Virginia lectures Eliot published in 1938 (and then suppressed). 110-11..

indeed. authoritarianism. which is that the “totalitarian” politics of much Anglo-American Modernist writing was matched by “totalitarian” form – the “rigid … spatial order” of a “closed authoritarian society”? Do such strictures apply to the paratactic collage structure of Pound’s Cantos? To the free-wheeling performative mode of Lawrence’s Studies in Classic American Literature? To the non-linear narratives of Stein’s Tender Buttons or Stanzas in Meditation? To the pseudo-closure of The Waste Land’s final line. The rescue operation performed by Adorno’s Aesthetic Theory (1970) had not yet begun. But in the antinomian climate of the 1960s. 1984. Aesthetic Theory. trans. Kermode’s association of Modernism with reaction. was replaced in 1998 by Robert Kenter-Hullot’s much more scholarly translation. Aesthetic Theory (1998). considered rather unsatisfactory. of course. Modernist art is characterized by its resistance to capitalist commodification. always open to debate. C. as we can see most clearly in the Soviet rejection of its own avant-garde. emblematized dramatically by the suicide of Mayakovsky in 1930.16 Marjorie Perloff Modernist ethos back to the mid-nineteenth century of Baudelaire. 12 Adorno. The true Modernist artwork. . but “makes an uncompromising reprint of reality while at the same time avoiding being contaminated by it”. a resistance characterized by its opposition to a society that it nevertheless brings back into the artwork by means of indirect critique. Lenhart. 28. the reception of this important text did not begin properly until at least 1984.11 For Adorno. This translation. 1998). Shantih. “Shantih. refuses to engage in direct reflection of social surface. in the English-speaking world. London: Routledge. Adorno posits. which succeeds only in reopening the larger question of what it might mean to fish “with the arid plain behind me”? These are questions that seem vital enough to readers of Modernist texts today. Shantih”.12 This dialectic process is characterized by Adorno as negative 11 Theodor Adorno. The totalitarianisms of the Thirties – Communism as well as Fascism – worked to undermine the very foundations of Modernism. overseen by the author’s widow Gretel Adorno and his executor Rolf Tiedemann (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. it does not “want to duplicate the façade of reality”. when the first English translation of the book was published by Routledge. Periodization is. and protoFascism found a sympathetic audience. but what about Kermode’s other unstated assumption.

1981. as Adorno posits. 13 Ibid. and difficulty are essential to Modernist art. economic. and its programmatic distance from political. But whereas Adorno considers such distance inevitable. in this context. Huyssen concludes. Samuel and Shierry Weber. Cambridge. Kafka’s work.14 Fredric Jameson’s critique of Adorno’s aesthetics is even more pessimistic. Huyssen notes that “The pedestal of high art and high culture no longer occupies the privileged space it used to …. Huyssen takes as his starting point Adorno’s characterization of Modernism as insisting on “the autonomy of the art work. social concerns”. Modernist resistance cannot. The battle cry “Make It New!”. MA: MIT Press. which rigidly excludes the banalities of everyday life and rejects the specious productions of mass culture. . 36. is great in its “negative sense of reality”. “will usher in a more habitable. 256. its repudiation of all but self-evidently “high” art into the Modernist canon so that even jazz has been dismissed as merely populist. For Jameson. dislocation. for example. 218-19. which he excludes in order to define it all the more precisely in its negative”. Huyssen argues that the task of postmodernism has been precisely to challenge the “Great Divide” between high art and mass culture. The increasing commodification of social relations. is no more than a doomed effort to resist capitalist reification. “Whether these challenges”.13 Accordingly. 14 Huyssen.. trans. overcome the terrible alienation that defines the Modernist moment. In After the Great Divide (1986). Prisms. Marxist critics as dissimilar as Andreas Huyssen and Fredric Jameson have built on Adorno’s theory even as they have rejected its purism.The Aura of Modernism 17 mimesis. his image of bureaucracy is “the cryptogram of capitalism’s highly polished. less violent and more democratic world remains to be seen”. Examining a variety of postmodern art discourses. its obsessive hostility to mass culture. we have come to recognize that the culture of enlightened modernity has also always (though by no means exclusively) been a culture of inner and outer imperialism” – an imperialism that no longer goes unchallenged. its radical separation from the culture of everyday life. the impersonality and anonymity of modern bureaucracy – these create a literature that is increasingly embattled. After the Great Divide. glittering late phase. See also Theodor Adorno. fragmentation. Despite all its noble aspirations and achievements. the degradation of language at the hands of advertising.

The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. of the demise of the bourgeois ego. and. 2000.. Introduction in The Jameson Reader. in the same volume. of the distinctive brush stroke.17 Indeed. in his “Conclusion”. the “great modernist works” have “become reified … by becoming school classics. Thus. 18 Ibid. Postmodernism. eds Michael Hardt and Kathy Weeks. the seemingly realist fiction of emerging nations. or. so Jameson argues in the famous “Postmodernism” essay. 303. Postmodernism. “the high-modernist conception of a unique style. manifests an authenticity lost in the Western World – an authenticity that comes from its allegorical treatment of its respective culture. 317. but Paul Valéry has vanished without a trace. he posits. Durham: Duke University Press. but at least its admission that depth has given way to surface. a centered discourse to one that is wholly decentered. can be understood as a denial of historical change. parody to pastiche. Indeed.”18 15 See Hardt and Weeks. it seems. themselves stand or fall along with that older notion (or experience) of the so-called centered subject”.16 Modernism. Frederic Jameson “Reification and Utopia in Mass Culture” (1992).. 15. old-fashioned as it may look to those with Modernist blinkers.15 Accordingly. 17 Ibid. . and he was central to the modernist movement internationally”. “Frank Lentricchia”. Jameson raises questions like “Is T. in the pages that follow. And there is much talk. Their distance from their readers as monuments and as the efforts of ‘genius’ tended also to paralyze form production in general. “has kept Wallace Stevens alive throughout this momentous climatological transformation.18 Marjorie Perloff The dislocation of modernist narrative. Eliot recuperable?” or “What ever happened to Thomas Mann and André Gide?”. Oxford: Blackwell. moreover. S. cannot improve this state of affairs. 315-40. along with the accompanying collective ideals of an artistic or political vanguard or avant-garde. of “a self present to do the feeling”. can no longer speak to us. to endow the practice of all the high-cultural arts with an alienating specialist or expert qualification that blocked the creative mind with awkward selfconsciousness and intimidated fresh production. which represents an even further stage of what is now global capitalism. 1991. 16 Fredric Jameson. exposes the limitations of Modernism. emotion to a new blank affect. 123-48 and “Third World Literature in the Era of Multinational Capitalism” (1986). 1-35.

. and often. North concludes that “Beginning with Wittgenstein”. In Reading Jennifer Wicke. the whole complex discourse about the relation of twentieth-century art to mass culture – has done much to prompt a lively new discussion of Modernism in academic venues and scholarly journals. “the notion that truth is local and particular came into being as a reflex of the attempt to make it global and universal”. Poetry at Stake. the great modernist works like Ulysses or avant-garde poems like Blaise Cendrars’ “Prose du Transsibérien” were permeated with the language of advertising and commerce. even gender. and rather more unlikely. in 1991. it was always thoroughly contaminated by its rapprochement with the discourses of everyday life. and Carrie Noland (1999)19 have been at pains to show that far from excluding all popular culture and the realm of everyday life. Reading 1922: A Return to the Scene of the Modern. a short fifteen years ago. who may or may not give their names. Advertising Fictions: Literature. But the revival of Modernism has also been promoted by another. quarter: namely. ranging from a single sentence to 19 Michael North. 20 North. by this argument. the broader English-speaking public that communicates on the internet. They need not purchase the book in question and receive no reward other than that of finding their statements.The Aura of Modernism 19 This was written. Japan”. 1999. Jennifer Wicke (1988). how fully Jameson’s theory of Modernism has lost ground.20 Modernism. was never accurately characterized by the autonomy and elitism attributed to it. “Customer reviewers”. New York: Oxford University Press. or rather published. New York: Columbia University Press. therefore. More recent cultural critics like Michael North (1999). but do provide their locations – for example. that the “great divide”. whose Tractatus was published in England in 1922 along with Ulysses and The Waste Land. particularly in such places as the Customer Review columns of amazon. 213. Advertising. or “A reader from San Francisco” – and must have verifiable (though unpublished) email addresses – come from all over the world and remain largely anonymous with respect to age. All the more astonishing. was always more apparent than real. Princeton: Princeton University Press. as in the case of “Tepi” above. 1999. at any rate. in whole or in part. “Adriana from Vigna del Mar. Carrie Noland. business or profession. and Social Fictions. Such reconsideration of Modernist texts – indeed. Reading 1922. race. social class. 1988. Chile” or “Tepi from Kyoto.

com reviewing as possibly a new form of scam since anonymous reviewers. who may or may not divulge their real identity. New York Times. April 9. racism. documentary reports …. they are not likely to be professionals or even students. Judging from their frequently faulty grammar and spelling.22 These words have proved to be remarkably prophetic. is the invitation to make their voices and rankings heard by others. find an opportunity to publish somewhere or other comments on his work. T. from which I quote the following: What the thunder said. In 1998. in 2000. 22 Benjamin. 14 February 2004. with an Introduction by Helen Vendler. edited by Michael North. What motivates customer reviewers. Signet Books published a mass market paperback of The Waste Land and Other Poems. when the very intimation of antiSemitism. in the age of mechanical reproducibility. or colonialism was enough to keep a given author out of the literature classroom. a number of newspaper articles appeared on the subject of amazon. “at any moment the reader is ready to turn into a writer”: It began with the daily press opening to its readers space for “letters to the editor”. But there are signs that this consensus is breaking down. the distinction between author and public is about to lose its basic character. may provide five-star reviews just to hype a given book (see Amy Harmon. reproduced online. for example. 232. Thus. can now use amazon. they represent a situation Walter Benjamin anticipated when he remarked wistfully that. almost all of them granting Eliot five stars. Together. although they are generally well informed and highly literate. . Norton published the Norton Critical Edition of The Waste Land.20 Marjorie Perloff a page or two. together with their rankings: from five stars (the top) to a mere one. it would seem. these two editions have received about thirty customer reviews. A 12).21 Rather. and striving to build an ark of words by which 21 After I completed this essay. A 1. And today there is hardly a gainfully occupied European who could not. grievances. Illuminations. in to puff or trash books for personal reasons. S. “Amazon Glitch Unmasks War of Reviewers”. The author’s spouse or friends. 2001 Reviewer: cailleachx from GA USA. When Jameson asks “Is Eliot recuperable?” he is referring to the academic consensus of the 1980s and 90s. Eliot wrote “The Waste Land” against the backdrop of a world gone mad – searching for reason inside chaos.

the delightful. and interesting poems ever written. you will be when you put it down. new or old. most complicated. Not only this. Buy it and realize how well-read you are not. you probably have it anyway. the poem is one the true benchmarks for twentieth century literature. January 11. All modern literature owes to him. Lombardia Italy. If you’re not. Dante. and to ensure that future generations benefit from the disillusions of the past …. it has a definite effect on you when you read it. FL USA. this is the book you need … this is the book you want. history. Simply stated. In the end. The experience will prove to be as didactic as well as expressive due to all these allusions in the text. Weston) but mostly they are rather well known (Augustine. This is a difficult poem. S. T. create an atmosphere of civilization on the edge – in danger of forgetting its past. If you’re an Eliot fan. though sometimes obscure. Wagner). allusions. The inherent rhythms of Eliot’s speech. Buy this. but he had great imagination and a wry sense of humour. Eliot explores that greatest of human melancholy – disillusionment. He’s the one and only poet of modern man’s soul. and therefore repeating it. I . Search for your Soul. As far as the poem itself goes. to admonish the world to peace. and music that inspired Eliot to write his manifesto of the Lost Generation. to preserve the ruins of the old life. If you have any questions concerning THE WASTE LAND. but one well-worth exploring to its fullest. THE WASTE LAND is one of the strangest. Simply put. only the poet is left. Great Edition. Great Poem. Baudelaire. PA USA. Try reading an unannotated version of the poem and you will see why even TS Eliot scholars need a little help with some of the images and literary references Eliot uses. Among his “minor” works sonnets like “The hippopotamus” is worth a poem of some modern writer. and intricate word-craft. the Bible. You won’t regret it. May 12. This NORTON CRITICAL EDITION of THE WASTE LAND is an essential book for any Eliot fan. December 20. It provides you with practically every single piece of literature. 2004 Reviewer: Erik Tennyson from Philadelphia. Read him to inspire your mind! What it takes to write the greatest poem of the 20th century. some allusions fall on the rather obscure side (Middleton. 2003 Reviewer: Angelo Ventura from Brescia. It is rather difficult in that it is highly allusive. 2001 Reviewer: iburiedpaul from Clearwater.The Aura of Modernism 21 future generations could learn what had gone before.

At the same time. and although I couldn’t really understand what was going on just yet in the poem. It’s a quest of sorts.22 Marjorie Perloff remember the first time I read the lines. all the readers of North’s Norton Critical Edition testify to wanting to know more about this poem they already love. whose knowledge of and interest in post-World War I London as seen through the eyes of an American expatriate. are likely to be minimal. talks of the amazing emotional high he received from the lines. he is saying. that poetry is first of all a use of sound and language. I suppose Jameson might respond that these customer reviews testify to the thorough commodification of The Waste Land. “I think we are in rat’s alley / where the dead men lost their bones”. But why do readers today. Take the case of the American Communist poet Edwin Rolfe (1909-54). in short. what with their naïve enthusiasm and assessment of Eliot’s subject matter. It sets the philosophy of Buddha and Augustine side by side as it does with the Rig Veda and the Bible in a collage of different voices and arresting images. however naively. taken on by a persona of Eliot to find meaning amidst “the stony rubbish” that is the world. readers who. who is allotted twelve pages in Cary Nelson’s Anthology of . give pleasure. for example. When Erik Tennyson. by their own admission. This is true if we are reading The Waste Land as an index to the culture and ideology that produced it. North himself posits in Reading 1922 that The Waste Land shares a discourse radius with any number of other works produced in the same year – works in different genres like Anzia Yezierska’s Jewish immigrant novel Salome of the Tenements or Walter Lippmann’s essay Public Opinion. on the part of non-academic readers who have nothing to gain from writing their commentaries tells us something very different. continue to find the poem so fascinating? It seems that what readers look for is not the poem’s political unconscious but the charm of its distinctive rhythm and its deployment of a language that is somehow extraordinary. that line as well as many other lines and images. have never heard of most of the authors alluded to in The Waste Land. had an affect on me. On the whole the emotional tone of the poem (not to do it injustice and say what it is about) is the spiritual alienation and degradation everyone felt after WWI. It must. But I would argue that this sheer enthusiasm. “I think we are in rats’ alley where the dead men lost their bones”.

See Nelson’s selections from Louis Zukofsky.23 Rolfe’s Trees Become Torches: Selected Poems. . followed by the Collected Poems in 1997. His work. 1976) Reviewer: Aaron Peck from Vancouver. 2000 [review of the Collected Poems. These poems are.english. New Directions. which contains biographical materials. Rolfe’s political poems. receives comments like the following: Neglected Classic. see http://www. about loss and how we perceive and react to the because its sales rank is too low. ed. himself a Communist in the pre-World War II years. This book is not to be missed as it far too often is. personal and striking poetry I’ve read in this language. 551-56. bewildered / by the shipwreck / of the singular / we have chosen the meaning / of being numerous”. about failure. are important as fiery denunciations of capitalism and class stratification. March 31. forgotten elegist of the postwar era. Oppen is by far the most underrated poetic genius of the twentieth century. BC. December 5. essays on individual poems. but I think for the most part his work has been suppressed because of his un-apologetic affiliations with the communist party. especially those prompted by the Spanish Civil War and later by McCarthyism. 603-607. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1965) Reviewer: elljay from Los Angeles. 23 Anthology of Modern American Poetry. His long poem “Of Being Numerous” is the greatest example: “Obsessed. in a sense. I don’t know much about George Oppen – except to note in passing that he was among those victimized by the anti-Communist hysteria of the 50s – but he has just become one of my favorite poets for having produced this sleek little volume. Oppen is the great. whereas this poet’s exact contemporary George Oppen. But radical politics per se evidently has little appeal to the internet poetry audience. I know that sounds bold. Edwin Rolfe. published in the American Poetry Recovery Series at the University of Illinois Press in 1994. 608-19. and bibliographies. New Directions. 1969 Pulitzer Prize winner. The Rolfe volumes have not prompted a single customer review. For Nelson and his fellow editors. 2000.The Aura of Modernism 23 Modern American Poetry (2000) and receives thorough treatment on the website that accompanies the volume. George Oppen. Cary Nelson. 2000 (review of Of Being Numerous. For the online journal and multimedia companion to the anthology. must now be special-ordered on amazon. is not concerned with politics: it is some of the most honest.

27 Priscilla Wald. 28 Steven Meyer. Not many poets can say so much with so little (from the title poem): “You are the last / Who will know him / Nurse // Not know him. Amazon reviewers.24 Marjorie Perloff The poems here are extremely terse and rock-like. / A patient. 1990. Stanford: Stanford University Press. Stanford: Stanford University Press. every word is carefully chosen. The Public is Invited to Dance: Representation.28 collector-consumer (see Michael Davidson). and the result is verse of uncommon force and directness. 25 Judy Grahn. This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title What makes these Oppen reviews. and he can be winning even when he departs from form. and you owe it to yourself to find a copy. and truly memorable (and I mean this last adjective literally: I can remember this stuff after I’ve put the book down. San Francisco: Crossing Press. 1987. people. whereas most poetry disintegrates in my head almost instantly). (As he writes elsewhere: “I have not and never did have any motive of poetry / But to achieve clarity”) Oppen’s chilly. . Durham: Duke University Press. in other words. / How could one know him? // You are the last / Who will see him / Or touch him. Irresistible Dictation: Gertrude Stein and the Correlations of Writing and Science. The response to Gertrude Stein is especially interesting in this regard. remarkable is that the customers in question are calling attention to long-since published or out-of-print books of poems – books that are here praised for their language. academic criticism has emphasized Stein’s representativeness: Stein the feminist (see Harriet Chessman).25 expatriate (see Shari Benstock). The Body. It’s intense. If you’re like me and have had your share of “chatty” or selfconsciously clever wordsmiths. 1989. written before the 2002 publication of Michael Davidson’s New Collected Poems. Spartan poetry sounds like it should be chiseled in stone. 1995. as proven by the prose sections in “Route”. 26 Shari Benstock. haunting.29 Jew 24 Harriet Scott Chessman. This is the real thing. / He is an old man.24 the lesbian writer (see Judy Grahn).27 trained scientist (see Steven Meyer). and Dialogue in Gertrude Stein. 2001. Constituting Americans: Cultural Anxiety and Narrative Form. Women of the Left Bank. Austin: University of Texas Press. the integrity of their form. and their creation of a distinctive lyric speaker. / Nurse”. this is strong stuff. instinctively look for works that strike them as unique – that have what Benjamin called aura. For the past decade or so. Really Reading Gertrude Stein: A Selected Anthology with Essays by Judy Grahn.26 American immigrant (see Priscilla Wald).

of which I quote four: Modernist Classic That’s Fun to Read. The amazon. which documents Stein’s process of revision. January 17. I gave this book to my six-year-old nephew when he was starting to read. 30 Maria Damon. . but they also make apparent that hers is work that never quite fits the proposed category: in the Oxford Anthology of Modern American Poetry. and the perfection of composition and formal structure. for example. 1997. Sui Generis. TX United States. The mass-market Dover edition (1997) of Tender Buttons. 2002 Reviewer: mikhl from Ardmore. allies this Jamesian (both Henry and William were central influences) writer to such otherwise uncongenial Modernists as Eliot and Pound. elicited eight reviews. Nelson includes a single Stein work. but he kept coming back to it. The one thing that Stein inevitably was. October 9.The Aura of Modernism 25 (see Maria Damon)30 – most recently. The playfulness & intellectual rigor of the best of the Modernist movement unite in this small book of exquisite prose poems that may be read. PoMo. however. linguistically dislocated poem can hardly live up to its fighting title. PA United States. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press. Ulla Dydo’s The Language that Rises. there really has been nothing quite like them since. “Patriarchal Poetry”. But you don’t really need to be a scholar to appreciate the freshness & lovely rhythms of the poems. as a manifesto of what was to become L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poetry. Ghostlier Demarcations: Modern Poetry and the Material World. Berkeley: University of California Press. They are like nothing else that existed at the time they were written (not even the great Victorian “nonsense” poets dared to be this nonreferential) & though they have cast a long shadow across late 20c. for example. in Janet Malcolm’s New Yorker reviewers seem to recognize this. but this long. the right sentence. “tender buttons” are nipples). & on another. The Dark End of the Street: Margins in American Vanguard Poetry. “These are not poems!” he 29 Michael Davidson. BOY did he get annoyed. on one level at least. as an extended allegory of eroticism (e. both chronologically and geographically (an American in Paris) was a Modernist. her obsessive care for le mot juste. All these studies provide valuable insights into Stein’s work. Stein the proto-Fascist who wrote speeches for Marshall Pétain and protected the politically suspect Bernard Fay.g. 2002 Reviewer: Michael Helsem from Dallas. so as to bring her into the feminist fold. 1992.

Satisfied mental strain tally connective ways again. freshness.31 It is a sobering reminder in the age of cell phones. 1999 Reviewer: A reader from Portland. the “grammar” is “normative”. 29. Anyway. Palled sorts of slews o’mirage onslaught on papyrus. the best prose poem of all time. and a populist. even the appearances of our favorite poets and artists. October 22. lovely rhythms. Now that I know more about G. It leads the mind down paths it would never otherwise follow. News that STAYS news “Poetry”. even banal. Pure utter geniusness. email. Nothing seems to last more than a split second. March 19. “feisty planes of aura felt”. Belgium My random poems have been said to be Stein-like. a poem was inspired by her . one can “diagram” Joyce’s sentences. Remaining understood eras feel wrought over and through. but the sentences are more Out There than a Zen Koan. ABC of Reading. perfect pitch. Pangs of fluid energy suffer thought. Zen Koan. I’m basically a philistine. “Gertrude Stein Poeme O’Mijn”: Images realize aspects throughout. Painting daunting solid reasonable feisty planes of aura felt. I don’t have as much patience as some with Stein’s other work. Here (and here only. 1934. Pound famously declared in the ABC of Reading. OR United States. and..S.. and countless websites that make demands on our daily attention. “it’s either groovy or it isn’t”. we tell ourselves we 31 Ezra Pound. New York: New Directions. Let me now return to that “aura felt” and try to sketch in why I think Modernism exerts such power over us today. blogs. With Stein.. While “Finnegans Wake” is supposed to be difficult to comprehend. for me) Gertrude Stein had perfect pitch. as Pauline from Brussels puts it in her Stein poem. as the late lamented Beatle George supposedly said about a painting. “Tender Buttons” is. We spot an Ashbery poem in TLS or The New York Review of Books. but this book never loses its splendour. the words themselves are “normal”. Endlessly rereadable. but “Tender Buttons” is sublime. “is news that STAYS news”.26 Marjorie Perloff would sputter. 2000 Reviewer: Pauline from Brussels. . only the words are peculiar.

Cambridge. and although I do not know of any politicians who have become physicians overnight. have now moved on to globalization studies where Americans are now constituted in terms of a very different picture. on the occasion of 9/11. and those who succeed are those willing to reinvent themselves gracefully. and just plain political practice – means nothing.The Aura of Modernism 27 will catch it later when we have more time and that. it would seem. The reverse is also the case: I recently read that Gray Davis is now acting in a film comedy. it may be a somewhat different poem. But such delay is tricky. when theorists like Michel Foucault or Paul De Man were holding sway. who played the avuncular senior partner in the TV series L. constitutional law. for example. Interdisciplinarity. Today. I cited two new poetic texts by the British multimedia poet Caroline Bergvall. there is no such continuity: those. In a recent essay. only to have the poet send me a newer version of the manuscript. a given position could be counted on to have a life-span of at least six or seven years – roughly the time it took to complete one’s Ph. for by then. MA: MIT Press. who did American Studies a decade ago when it was fashionable to produce books with titles like Constituting Americans (Priscilla Wald’s 1995 book. As little as two decades ago. 2003. is known for the astute legal commentary he dispenses at cocktail parties. Change. in any case.D. and literary texts have become expendable. as if training – in political history and theory. I predict this too will happen. Again. So the body builder turned film-star and producer Arnold Schwarzenegger and the physician Howard Dean boast that at least they are not insiders like Gray Davis or John Kerry. no one seems to think it odd that Slavoj Zizek would produce a new reading of Christianity32 or that Giovanna Borradori’s interviews with Jurgen Habermas and Jacques Derrida. which I cited in connection with Stein above). is all. . would generate a book called Philosophy in a Time 32 Slavoj Zizek. already in proof. the watchword of the moment. Consider our current political paradigm. Law. Certainly. where the worst thing one can say about any Presidential candidate is that he is an insider. A. economics. it will surely appear in the poet’s next collection. often means non rather than inter. The Puppet and the Dwarf. Richard Dysart. whose changes I wish I could have incorporated in my citations.

the traditional genres – poem. a text that exists in various incarnations – say. Chicago: Chicago University Press. is known to English-speaking readers mainly through such scholarly texts as Teddy Hultberg’s Manipulating the 33 Jacques Derrida. available in the various poetry sound archives. 2002. 34 See Marjorie Perloff. copyrighted in 1993 in its first incarnation and constructed in stages. will the Archive be able create its audience rather than respond to an existing one? In this climate. photographic reproduction. is the staying power of such books? Are they designed to be read five years from now? And if not.28 Marjorie Perloff of Terror. eds Andrew Roberts and John Allison. the most recent installment dating from 2000. Talking at the Boundaries. print. in turn. . a nagging question arises: how many English departments at the present moment offer a course in Victorian Poetry. An important intermedia artist like the Swedish Oyvind Fahlström. and retrospective exhibition. what is the difference between philosophy in the Habermas-Derrida title and journalism? The situation in scholarship is not entirely different. novel – inevitably take a back seat to such intentionally transient art forms as performance. Consider Jerome McGann’s encyclopedic and brilliantly produced Dante Gabriel Rossetti hypertext archive. one wonders. and Contemporary Culture. installation. painting. Value. and art gallery display. and what I have called elsewhere “differential” texts – which is to say.34 A Robert Smithson earthwork like the Spiral Jetty or a Fluxus performance like George Brecht’s famed Keyhole Event – these are now known not in their original form. And poems like those collected in David Antim’s Talking at the Boundaries (1976)35 are known to younger audiences primarily through tape recordings. The archive will soon need extensive reconstruction so as to be up to date as well as easier to access. sound sculpture. Philosophy in a Time of Terror. whose radio plays of the Sixties are only now getting the attention they deserve. 35 Antim David. 1976. much less the Pre-Raphaelites? How many Art History departments? And how. 2003. “Vocable Scriptsigns: Differential Poetics in Kenneth Goldsmith’s Fidget and John Kinsella’s Kangaroo Virus”. 21-43. in Poetry. Edinburgh: Edinburgh Press. New York: Norton and Co. but through extensive documentation.33 What. digital. But even as this project is launched.

the great texts of the early century are very much there. Yeats once praised a poem by his friend Dorothy Wellelsey. 1999. Öyvind Fahlström: On the Air – Manipulating the World!. involving various technologies.38 and he describes the “Daemonic Man” of Phase 17 in A 36 Teddy Hultenberg. 18. will still be showing Malevich’s paintings and Duchamp’s ready-mades. but no one would pretend that Tennyson (1809-92) or Browning (1812-89) had loaded every rift with ore. Once. “It is all speech”. 28. and the Concrete poetry versions of specific radio dialogues. 38 William Butler Yeats. that “poetry … is the most concentrated form of verbal expression”. Indeed. “Oh”. 36. Kafka’s The Trial. Victorian careers also tended to be long and produced great quantities of poetry and prose. 37 Ezra Pound. who himself died at the age of twenty-five. “Forget about their quality. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley. I mentioned that I did not know how to approach the procedural texts of Jackson Mac Low. Letters on Poetry from W. Think of their quantity!” Nonsensical as this quip sounds. it says something important about the Modernists.36 which contains the complete text of Birds in Sweden and The Holy Torsten Nillson. It is in this context that Modernism casts such a long shadow.37 This is an unusual combination. synopses.The Aura of Modernism 29 World (1999). For even as contemporary texts enjoy an inevitable precariousness. to quote Keats. even as museums. . Reading thus increasingly gives way to a complex interactive process. Mann’s Death in Venice. or whatever large exhibition spaces will be called a hundred years from now. ABC of Reading. London: Oxford University Press. But the Modernists took very seriously Keats’ pronouncement that “The excellence of every art is in its intensity”. that I didn’t quite get their point. Theirs was the first – and perhaps the last – generation that combined a long life span and the production of voluminous works with the faith that. Joyce’s Ulysses. “carried to its highest by intensity of sound and meaning”. when I was talking to John Cage. 1964. Stockholm: Fylkingen Publishing House/Sveriges Swedish Broadcasting Corporation. people will still be reading Conrad’s Heart of Darkness. all present indicators suggest that a hundred years from now. showing no signs of going away. to cite Pound again. together with CDs. “Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree”. B. Cage laughed. critical analyses. The question is why.

by this account.’ It dulls the image. E. modified by simplicity”. Pound. D. “no adjective which does not reveal something”.30 Marjorie Perloff Vision (Yeats’ own phase). and Virginia Woolf. and often. New York: Macmillan. M. Anscombe and G. 75. who began his career as a Futurist poet named Aljagrov and wrote his first book on the avant39 40 William Butler Yeats.42 Nor is it a coincidence that the great Russian Modernist theorist Roman Jakobson. T. “Don’t use such an expression as ‘dim lands of peace. Eliot). A Vision (1937). 42 Ludwig Wittenstein. remarked in one of his Zettel. 1945. 41 Ezra Pound. Density. fiction writers (Stein. it is fair to say that writing is what these writers lived for. D. H. as in the case of such British modernists as Yeats. wrote Pound. E. autobiographers (Stein. Williams. 1970. as one who “seeks to deliver simplification through intensity. 4-5. Marianne Moore 85.”40 “Dichten = condensare. however complicated their love lives or. the Modernists were prolific in other forms of writing as well. Indeed. inevitably involved contradiction as well as complexity: Yeats especially. No. surely. himself by no means sympathetic to his literary contemporaries in Britain. Berkeley: University of California Press. 1965. von Wright (trans. S. Eliot 77. 36. Zettel. Ezra Pound.). Anscombe). Williams. They were dramatists (Stein. eds G. that Wittgenstein. is all. 141. And not just topical writing but the production of “news that STAYS news”. but also the very different Williams. Williams. translators. in this scheme of things. London: Faber and Faber. although it is composed in the language of information. H. critics (all of the above but especially Eliot and Pound). this time with the Victorians and Edwardians squarely in mind. Lawrence.39 “Use no superfluous word”. who committed suicide when he was thirtythree. All of the above produced volume after volume of poetry – but unlike so many of their post-modern successors. M.”41 Except for Hart Crane. ABC of Reading. Eliot. “Do not forget that a poem. ed. G.). T. D. editors. Writing. brilliant letter writers. H. It is no coincidence. Wallace Stevens 76. is not used in the language-game of giving information”. H. William Carlos Williams 75. the major American Modernist poets had long careers: Robert Frost lived to be 84. used poetry as the site where contradictory views and emotions could be resolved – but only momentarily. essayists. Gertrude Stein 72. for Yeats and Pound. Literary Essays. 160. . their misguided political actions. making way for the production of the next poem. S. and again. Ezra Pound 87.

21st-Century Modernism: The “New” Poetics. the language of journalism and the language of poetry.44 Art. as I have argued elsewhere. 357. And she declares: After all there is always the same subject there are the things you see and there are human beings and animal beings and everybody you might say since the beginning of time knows practically commencing at the beginning and going to the end everything about these things … it is not this knowledge that makes master-pieces. Only poetry. has nothing to do with subject matter or psychology. . “has to work in the excitingness of pure being: he [sic] has to get back that intensity 43 Marjorie Perloff. 356. say. Oxford: Blackwell. 2002. for instance. Thornton Wilder recalls her saying. the latter an act of creation. And the same holds true for painting: “A picture exists for and in itself and the painter has to use objects landscapes and people as a way the only way that he is able to get the picture to exist”. for Stein. But if there cannot and should not be a quantitative measure for such differentiation. Gertrude Stein.43 In “What are Master-Pieces” (1935). insisted on the distinction between the poetic and the referential functions of language – a distinction that has. any more than there is a great divide between high and low art.45 Here is the demand for autonomy regularly attributed to such High Modernists as Eliot and Pound but rarely to an avant-gardist like Stein. 45 Ibid.. of course. the former necessary for the creation of identity. How Hamlet reacts to his father’s ghost. “The poet”. she distinguishes between talking and writing. 1998. common sense – and this is where Pound is such a central poetician – tells us that “writing” that does not “stay news” is quickly expendable and replaceable by other writing. Not at all not at all at all. New York: Library of America.The Aura of Modernism 31 garde poet Velimir Khlebnikov. endures. come under heavy fire from contemporary critics like Stanley Fish – critics who have “proved” that one cannot pinpoint a hard-and-fast difference between. 44 Gertrude Stein. has nothing do with the nature of value of Hamlet the play – “That would be something anyone in any village would know they could talk about it endlessly but that would not make a master-piece”. held similar views. Writings. as he frequently put it. Volume 2: 1932-1946.

Stein distinguishes between the inventors and the diluters. is what happens to the arts when they are no longer considered a Big Deal. Introduction to Gertrude Stein. how does the audience process that poet’s oeuvre? Do we read Coolidge wholesale? Or select 46 Thornton Wilder. vi-vii.32 Marjorie Perloff into language”. That ugliness is the sign of the creator’s struggle to say a new thing in a new way. The question for us. she characterizes the painter as “one who was always working” whereas “others” were “following” him. and Stein always coupled intensity with the notion of work. greatness. . they were nothing if not humble when it came to their own work. who rewrote rather than revised most of his novels and short stories. Picasso struggled and made this new thing and then Braque came along and showed how it could be done without pain. For surely the aura of Modernist art is that it was made by poets and painters. then. in “Picasso”. The question is irrelevant. And after every great creator there follows a second man who shows how it can be done easily. Lawrence. There’s that word “intensity” again. their ideology. and that meant constant struggle and revision. genius: like Pound. that however questionable their politics. she assumes that the artist’s duty is to Make It New. who cared so much. for an artist can never repeat yesterday’s success. between High and Low. Four in America (1934). If there is no great divide between art and mass culture. Malevich or Mayakovsky. as when. like Pound or Williams. their racism and sexism. novelists and composers. And as Wilder further recalls: Miss Stein once said: “Every masterpiece came into the world with a measure of ugliness in it. It had to be right. New Haven. CT: Yale University Press. if art discourse is just another discourse to be placed alongside some other cultural practice like advertising. wrote four versions of even as relatively minor a text as his essay on Whitman before he was satisfied with it.”46 Struggle. 1947. if indeed a given poet no longer plans on a Collected Poems but seems content to replace each volume with another newer one so as to produce a string of works that may or may not be valuable in toto (Clark Coolidge is a case in point). “Are these ideas right or wrong?” as the narrator asks in Eliot’s “Portrait of a Lady”. innovation.

48 The reception of art. Here is an assessment posted on 21 January 2004 by a Swiss woman who read the Recherche in French but writes about it in English: 47 48 Charles Bernstein. The new century is now witnessing. unified as various interrelated symptoms of late Cambridge: Harvard University Press. even as it did at the dawn of the twentiethcentury. varied – and intense.S. A Poetics.47 And he questions Jameson’s refusal to discriminate between the many possible responses to the productions of the present: Failure to make such distinctions is similar to failing to distinguish between youth gangs. Ibid. But – and this is where those amazon. television”.. in other words. and hence it is high time to replace an aestheticist “litcrit” with a more useful and disinterested cultural history and theory. 1992. “should be at least as interesting as. as must its production. antiSandinista contras. or reviews and related internet postings become telling – it seems that artworks refuse to go away. must always factor in difference. Proust’s A La Recherche du Temps Perdu. There are currently sixty-nine readers’ reviews of Proust’s Recherche on amazon. But the crucial point is that the responses cannot be understood as the same. a form of resistance. almost all of them euphoric. and a whole lot more unexpected than. 93.The Aura of Modernism 33 one of his thirty or forty small-press books and read it in the context of the jazz musicians who have inspired his work? For Adorno. Perhaps all of these groups are responding to the same stage of multinational capitalism. a renewed sense that art matters. For more recent Left criticism. state terrorists. . as Charles Bernstein quips in A Poetics. with the methodology of anthropology whereby artworks and literary texts can be seen as so many cultural phenomena. “Poetry”. Salvadoran guerillas. The real interest of Modernist High Art. the production of art in an age of capitalist commodification could only be an act of negative mimesis. 3. is not that it can be understood as one of many cultural discourses. pacifist anarchists. weatherpeople. Islamic terrorists. in this scheme of things. even such resistance is no longer possible. but that its own discourse is so complex. Let me conclude with some recent assessments of one of Walter Benjamin’s own favorites. now in the process of being retranslated.

His book is as relevant to life as life itself. Indeed. Each new reading. Carol Haemmerli first learns of Proust from Fizdale and Gold. to be responsible for the loss of literary “quality”. . ambition. writes Riggs. is ironically reinforcing its presence. soul-searching and esthetic. stirred and surprised at Proust’s dexterity in describing the wide range of human emotions and the complexity of human interactions. no details of life go amiss. whose affinity to Proust was surely not unrelated to their shared homosexuality. Texas. whose 1980 biography of the enticing Polish pianist and society figure Misia Sert – a close friend of Diaghilev. To come to Proust via the duo-pianists Arthur Gold and Robert Fizdale.34 Marjorie Perloff Masterpiece of masterpieces! Reviewer: Carol Haemmerli from Switzerland. it seems that a whole new generation of readers is poised to take on this and other Modernist novels and artworks. love. the amazon site quotes Bob Riggs from Houston. a few years ago I read the version in French as organized by Jean-Yves Tadié – possibly the best known pundit on Proust’s work to date – and I have to say Moncrieff’s translation doesn’t stray that far from the original. I bought the Scott Moncrieff’s English version in Paris over ten years ago and I know that many soi-disant more authoritative versions have come out ever since. nostalgia. raises new “moot” (unanswerable?) questions.” The Modernist “masterpiece” – that term of opprobrium – seems to be reasserting its auratic claims upon us. Haemmerli suggests. Yet. even as Internet discourse. “A La Recherche” is to me the most important book in the history of literature. “This is the most amazing thing I’ve ever read. Immediately following Haemmerli. held. she comes to find it “the most important book in the history of literature”. writing on 4 December 2003. but once she actually reads the Recherche. I am alternately moved. Compellingly philosophical. I had been intrigued by Proust since early age. Cocteau and other artworld figures – was a charming but fairly ephemeral production. in some quarters. social climbing. politics and you cannot fail to empathise with his prose or finding new moot questions with each new reading of his work. psychological. “I just finished”. is nicely emblematic of the relation of High and Low in our time. jealousy. He talks about art. Literature is news that STAYS news. for one of my favourite books is Gold and Fizdale’s “Misia” and his name crops up all the time in it.

Such examples could be multiplied many times. Consider also the despairing comment by the speaker in “A Missive Missile”. Since they could neither complete their mission nor return without mortal danger. unable to communicate beyond it. IN AND OUT OF BOUNDS BARRY AHEARN Forms of constraint appear frequently in the poetry of Robert Frost. if only because of its ubiquity. after all. too. Poem after poem offers striking examples of imprisonment or obstruction.1 We also encounter abstract constraints. all page references are to Robert Frost. the neighbor in “Mending Wall” declines to “go behind his father’s saying” (40) and interrogate the extent of its usefulness. is not to pursue such a study. however. requires poets to work within narrow confines. The sonnet. It 1 Unless otherwise indicated. Prose. Each soul remains stuck in its age. who laments that time itself is a barrier that erases meaning from human signs. Constraint has a political face. The theme certainly has as strong a claim on our attention as his other preoccupations. My intention here. eds Richard Poirier and Mark Richardson.FROST’S SONNETS. such as the “sort of cage” (68) that once housed the madman in “A Servant to Servants”. such as the tendency to let tradition command one’s thinking. and Plays. so that “Two souls may be too widely met” (219). New York: Literary Classics of the United States. but to discuss Frost’s handling of constraint in terms of the sonnet. A study of Frost’s preoccupation with varieties of constraint could fill a book. as Frost indicates when sketching the dilemma that confronts the retinue of the princess in “The Bearer of Evil Tidings”. the “tumbled wall / With barbed-wire binding” (211) that halts the couple in “Two Look at Two” and the attic door nailed shut that obliges the skeleton to “stand perplexed” (191) in “The Witch of Coös”. Collected Poems. they “declared a village”. 1995. remaining forever “On one Himalayan shelf” (287). .

The saving grace of constraint for Frost is its inseparability from form. here the sonnet becomes associated with the defense against the dangers of excessive freedom or the collapse of vital differences. The first part of this essay takes up the sonnet as a scene of constraint.36 Barry Ahearn naturally lends itself to such topics as constraint. the title of the collection hints that this is an adolescent fantasy. and that such frustration may mistakenly lead us to use any means – even quite suicidal ones – to free us from our difficulties. The extravagant gesture of overturning or bursting through restraint marks the first poem. Of course the distinction I have drawn here between two attitudes regarding constraint is a simple one. Frost repeatedly associates life and living with formal patterns. the yearning for the absence of limitation until one reaches “the edge of doom” in “Into My Own” takes on a somewhat sinister cast. the speaker wishes it would stretch without limit “away unto the edge of doom” (15). in his first book. A similar push for release from constraint also surfaces in a very late sonnet. where the atomic bomb appears as a relief from the complications and confusions of modernity. In short. the adolescent desire to push beyond restraint anticipates the later poem’s intimation that human nature is eternally frustrated. In light of “Bursting Rapture”. whether they are . Readers who are even moderately familiar with Frost will recognize the association of the absence of constraint with death and annihilation. life without form is no life at all. The second part then looks at the matter from the opposite angle. Here we find Frost – or at least the persona in the sonnets – pushing against the bounds dictated by tradition. The ways in which Frost uses the sonnet to intimate dissatisfaction with constraint are easy to identify. It becomes a medicine that will free us from these maladies “in one burst” (362). “Bursting Rapture”. Our respect for the force and energy of the speaker is tempered by our awareness of his youth. Imagining he might “steal away” into the forest. Yet even if we acknowledge the sincerity and power of the speaker’s desire to thrust beyond the limits of his circumstances. To put it another way. freedom and commitment. cannot be so easily reduced to a facile formula. however. flexibility. Frost’s ambivalent attitude. Even if we frequently cavil and chafe at particular forms. Many poems reflect both resistance to constraint as well as a recognition of its necessity. the form can also be a bulwark. A Boy’s Will. “Into My Own”.

Just as the Oven Bird makes itself heard in “mid-summer” well after the rousing chorus of springtime warblers has fallen silent. of labor. In the first. Spenser. if we interpret that “thing” as the sonnet form itself. A. . In both cases the confrontation with constraining form becomes a test of the poet’s courage. the Oven Bird comes to the season with a somewhat raucous tune markedly less pleasing than those trilled by the springtime birds. Sidney and Shakespeare. In the second essay. It is late in summer. According to the poem. On the Sonnets of Robert Frost: A Critical Examination of the 37 Poems. or of literature. 1997. Frost himself could be the late-arriving Oven Bird. moreover. Frost contends. The sonnet I add to that total is “To the Right Person”. Frost comes well after the springtime of the sonnet. so Frost is in the difficult position of dealing with a form whose possibilities have been partly exhausted by previous practitioners. NC and London: McFarland. One can read the poem as quite self-consciously displaying itself as a sonnet coming late in the history of the form. long after the era of Petrarch. In and Out of Bounds 37 patterns of thought. the Oven Bird offers a less jaunty and mellifluous song than the previous birds. but its less melodious song is nevertheless appropriate to the season when “leaves are old”. Jefferson. the adventure of grappling with formal pattern is called “the will to pitch into commitments” (786) and “the will braving alien entanglements” (787).2 One fruitful encounter Frost had with the sonnet form is “The Oven Bird” (116). The fact that Frost wrote many more sonnets than his great contemporaries such as Eliot. The sonnet in the early twentieth century was already centuries old. the reward for dealing courageously and cleverly with a necessary constraint can be the largest conceivable. In short. 2 H. and many estimable poets had already explored the effects possible within the form. counts 28 sonnets. that such a commitment represents the path to “the profoundest thinking that we have” (719). grappling with the question of “what to make of a diminished thing”. the entanglement with constraining form is a commitment to metaphor. “The Figure a Poem Makes” and “Education by Poetry”. Maxon. The most elaborated statements of this association are found in two of his essays. Pound and Stevens (I count twenty-nine in the 1949 Collected Poems) testifies to his interest in elaborating his art within and against the confines of the form.Frost’s Sonnets. The theme of diminution is obvious. Like the Oven Bird.

When Frost takes up the sonnet. at least in this sonnet he manages to make that reduced opportunity into an occasion for a clever dramatization of his own predicament. coming late in a literary tradition offers Frost the opportunity to add that very fact to the tradition. The tailoring of a sonnet so that it seems to fit . “The Silken Tent” not only exists as a single metaphor. A close inspection of the poem reveals further similarities. Indeed. as he can and must be. secondly. many strategies for writing a sonnet had already been executed. A second way in which Frost can be said to compete with Shakespeare is in terms of grammatical structure. thirdly. It requires considerable finesse to deploy a single metaphor while preventing the subordinate parts of that metaphor from gaining too much attention. he accepts the challenge posed by constraint. Where Shakespeare tends to advance the sonnet through a series of metaphorical conceits. It could be said that Frost has an advantage over poets who wrote at its dawn. “The Oven Bird” is not the only sonnet in which Frost’s relation to literary history becomes significant. It is one of the eight sonnets in the Collected Poems that scrupulously adopts the rhyme scheme of Shakespeare’s sonnets.38 Barry Ahearn By the early twentieth century the sonnet had become diminished in several ways: firstly. In “The Silken Tent” (302) he appears to be trying to surpass one of those “springtime” singers. If Frost feels that the sonnet offers reduced opportunities for poets. the sonnet was less vital in an age when free verse had diverted some of the talent. An inspection of metaphor in a variety of distinguished lyrics shows that sustaining an intricate single metaphor for fourteen lines rarely occurs. They could not be conscious of the range and profundity of the tradition. which left fewer options for later poets. Frost’s propulsion of a single metaphor the whole length of the sonnet amounts to a tour de force. it also inhabits a single sentence. and some crucial differences. and until you have lived with it long enough you don’t know when it is going” (723). it was literally the case that fewer sonnets were being produced by the major poets. It is worth noting here the stress Frost lays on the delicate art of knowing just how far to pursue a metaphor: “It is touch and go with the metaphor. It is a devilishly difficult task. Consider first the handling of metaphor. however. this poem accomplishes the more difficult feat of sustaining a single metaphor: the woman conceived in terms of a tent.

Lines 1-4 establish the first equivalence in the metaphor (she is like a tent). since none of the 154 sonnets constitutes one sentence. lines 9-12 posit the tent’s cords as the third equivalence (they are like “ties of love and thought”). Something similar to this development occurs in the first twelve lines of Frost’s poem. The very choice of the metaphor in “The Silken Tent” also may be deliberate. the preferred rhyme scheme of British and American poets of the eighteenth century. And it is true that the twentiethcentury revival of interest in the Metaphysical Poets (and Donne in particular) predates the composition of “The Silken Tent”.Frost’s Sonnets. Even Shakespeare never tried it. each one taking up a quatrain. the rhyme scheme of “Into My Own” (15). As the “bondage” of ropes restrain the pole – yet keep it pointing heavenward – so the bondage of the sonnet form provides the arena in which Frost can triumph. This happens to be the century least friendly to the sonnet. Frost foregoes any advantage that might have accrued to him in the three centuries since Shakespeare. the case that Shakespeare is the primary rival hinted at in the poem can be further supported by noting another similarity between Shakespearean practice and this poem. for example. Frost could not have avoided noticing that resurgence of interest. lines 5-8 introduce the tent pole as a second equivalence (it is comparable to “the sureness of the soul”). Every word in “The Silken Tent” would have been known to readers in 1600. It might be objected that an equally likely candidate for consideration as the poet with whom Frost is competing could be John Donne. What does Frost insinuate by opening his first published book and offering a sonnet the likes of which has seldom been seen in literary history? In this case Frost does not seem to be vying with or referring to any . One also could find in the emphasis on “bondage” in the second part of the poem another glance at the theme of constraint. Pope published none. Even so. there are quite early sonnets where literary history also becomes pertinent. Shakespeare’s sonnets usually develop in a tripartite fashion. the elaboration of a single metaphor is more often the practice of the Metaphysical Poets. particularly constraint by a poetic form. In truth. In many of his sonnets. Frost uses heroic couplets. Although “The Silken Tent” comes relatively late in Frost’s career. In and Out of Bounds 39 effortlessly into a single sentence requires consummate skill. he meets Shakespeare on the same metaphorical and verbal ground. the elaboration of metaphor occurs in three stages. Consider. To put it briefly.

where we consider the ways in which Frost adopts the sonnet to help defend himself against or inhibit an illusory freedom. and also avoids repeating the novel rhyme schemes he himself has invented. even his own. it is usually sufficiently ample. two are Petrarchan. Of the twenty-nine sonnets. for example. and eight are Shakespearean.3 Frost frequently appears to have tried to invent a new rhyme scheme for the sonnet each time he undertook one.Frost valued the unconventional throughout his career. Frost will have none of this. lines 9 and 10) with a conventionally placed terminal heroic couplet (lines 13 and 14). One flounders into the slough of sin by accepting the argument that in the name of “honesty” and “joy” and “health” one should ignore long-standing moral codes. The way he handles rhyme in his sonnets is strong evidence in this regard. Positive results come only from an amiable contention that arises between a desire for free play and acceptance of a scrupulously defined field of action. In “Mowing” (26). three are in heroic couplets. He consistently associates collapse and confusion with resistance to form (whether ethical or literary). many people like to assume they will be happy if they can only break through certain traditional moral constraints. and associates genuine achievement with acceptance and commitment to form. We now come to the second part of the essay. However cramped the field may seem. Each sonnet is taken – at least potentially – as an opportunity to refashion the ladder of rhyme. and suggests that what many people call “freedom” is simply a relaxation or abolition of salutary restraints. we are told that the tangible effort of 3 Of the other thirteen sonnets. we note that its rhyme scheme mixes unconventionally placed heroic couplets (lines 1 and 2. Frost pokes fun at such an attitude in “Education by Poetry”.40 Barry Ahearn particular author. Frost makes the point early and often. sixteen are entirely or partially a departure from conventional sonnet rhyming. where he argues that immorality makes inroads by “using all the good words that virtue has invented to maintain virtue” (722). Frost avoids being bound by precedent. He generally avoids either the traditional Petrarchan or Shakespearean rhyme scheme. Frost suggests the yearning for the unconventional of the voice in “Into My Own”. and thus creating an uncommon artifact. . In short. By yoking the heroic couplet with the sonnet. If we glance back at “The Oven Bird”. but rather using the form as a way of indicating the rebellious mood of the speaker.

Frost. and seeing how it impinged upon conventional rules. Something” demonstrates in its very form what happens when Frost pushes beyond familiar limits. these “others”. “For Once. seemed to grapple with grander truths. Then. Not only are the line lengths and the number of lines inflated. Strictly speaking. it cannot be called a sonnet. Schooling seems to represent to Frost a necessary social function. those who allege he never sees “deeper down in the well”. Seeing more is formally expressed by adding more syllables and one more line. It has one extra line. Something” (208). “For Once. “For Once. the side apart from books. The speaker notes that these unnamed critics. it instills a general respect for fundamental accuracy and conventional standards. This theme appears frequently in Frost’s poetry. But Frost once wrote that “The chief reason for going to school is to get the impression fixed for life that there is a book side to everything” (806). but here it is tightly linked to formal constraints. Frost has accepted the challenge of the critics mentioned in the poem. Something” should not be classified as a sonnet. In and Out of Bounds 41 actual labor. and each line consists of eleven syllables. According to the textbooks. where he habitually sees “Me myself”. “For Once. Only then does it become “The wind the wind had meant to be”. however. Then. Then. His attempt to see more is exemplified in the distended dimensions of this sonnet.Frost’s Sonnets. In “The Aim Was Song” (207) the aimless efforts of the wind are finally realized when it is momentarily confined in the human respiratory system. the poem also throws off the shackles of . Frost explores the consequence of spilling over and out of our proper field of activity in what might be called a bloated sonnet. Frost’s inflation of the sonnet is consistent with the theme of the poem: crossing beyond one’s accustomed bounds. have taunted him for his alleged inability to see beneath the “shining surface picture”. Something” invites us to consider what occurs when a traditional and conventional form – the sonnet – succumbs to the pressure to be original and daring. rather than “easy gold at the hand of fay or elf” produces human felicity. Then. Knowing what we do about Frost’s literary career. Who was he to call himself a poet in comparison with Eliot or Pound? Their work. one can interpret these others as critics of his poetry who found fault with Frost’s tendency to be autobiographical and regional. was adept at exploring the other side. stressing impersonality and attention to European tradition.

The poet has done his best to remove his subjective view from the poem. “Education by Poetry” (1930): . we find that most of the time it is associated with disappointment. we may find ourselves possessed of truths that are universal. If we examine Frost’s work for other instances of this word. Neither Frost nor we know whether his attempt to stretch beyond his limitations resulted in a glimpse of truth or a “pebble of quartz”. but trochaic. the last line of the poem also hints that beyond. then. Interestingly.” Here he reaps his reward for pushing beyond his customary bounds. Since the earth’s most common mineral is quartz. the possibility that truth is no more than a “pebble of quartz” opens up disquieting vistas. Perhaps nature conceals from us the absence of the transcendent. Another unsettling possibility arises: that when we press beyond the constraints of the local and the personal. but universal by virtue of their being commonplace and banal. rather than New England lore or landscape. One notable use appears in his essay. something. Yet the line is utterly equivocal. There may be no transcendent realm at all. and once only.42 Barry Ahearn rhyme. the structures that both sustain and inhibit humanity may be the inconsequential. The extra line. Finally. The final word of the poem itself is equivocal in its vagueness: “something. but because another distortion intervenes: “Water came to rebuke the too clear water. seen “something white”. the fifteenth.” It boasts an air of portentousness but also fails to specify. The poem tells us that he has “once”. the scene of the poem is indebted to a proverb (“truth lies at the bottom of a well”) from classical Greece. he minimizes his image in the mirroring water by reducing his peering into the well of truth as much as possible while still being able to see “with chin against a well-curb”. A truth true for all – and stripped of the particularities of time and place – may be merely paltry. the effort to see without the alleged distortion of subjectivity has failed not because of insufficient effort by the poet. Yet this attempt to minimize the autobiographical element also produces a dubious achievement. represents the payoff for having listened to the admonitions of his critics: “Truth? A pebble of quartz? For once. As if to demonstrate Frost’s willingness to deviate from his customary manner. or below. Furthermore. the dominant meter of the poem is not iambic.” The use of “rebuke” strongly implies that nature is so structured that human beings should not and cannot be allowed to see through it to an underlying truth.

In “A Hundred Collars”.” (720-21) The charm of the remark lies in Frost’s perception that its speaker fails to realize how woefully lacking in specification it is. Frost also uses “something” to intimate an insidious. As the farmer burns dead brush to clear a field for planting. Generally the word crops up in Frost’s poetry to indicate a speaker is evasive or unsure. In and Out of Bounds 43 I notice another from the same quarter. Consider what happens in “The Bonfire”. but perhaps its most famous use is in “Mending Wall”. inhuman and apparently supernatural element interferes with human intent. threatening force. one of Lafe’s first remarks to Doctor Morgan is that he has forgotten “something” important he meant to ask the first learned man he encountered. terrified by “the thought of all / The woods and town on fire by me” (126). “In the neighborhood of matter space is something like curved”. The flames start to spread and the narrator struggles to contain them. “Something like. Maple supposes “there must be something / She must have missed herself” (171) in not comprehending why her parents named her so. whether it be an apple. where the “something” that “doesn’t love a wall” works to disrupt that human form in the landscape. a bend in the road. An unnamable. We can easily visualize a curved object. or to suggest a failure of definition. Similarly.Frost’s Sonnets. but what does it mean to conceive of a stretch of empty space as only “something like” curved? The deflation of “For Once. But neither her employer nor Maple herself can pin down that “something”. It appears quite often. in concluding that it has found “something” becomes even more apparent when we consider how that word resonates in Frost’s poetry. when her employer dimly discerns a connection between Maple’s character and her unusual name. and later he identifies his job with the Weekly News as being “sort of Something for it at the front” (53). and is perhaps tapped by the speaker to insert a bit of necessary free play and flexibility into his own thought. the wall (39). The narrator then invites the listening child to consider how modern warfare resembles the . the flames burst out of his control because “Something or someone watching made that gust”. or a crescent moon. But this positive slant on “something” is exceptional. in “Maple”. Something”. Then. In this poem the force of disruption is relatively benign. Isn’t that a good one? It seems to me that that is simply and utterly charming – to say that space is something like curved in the neighborhood of matter.

is implicit in every sonnet. In Frost’s poetry. with a human propensity to go out of proper bounds and produce disasters. that the presence of indefiniteness or disruption of human endeavor could also be considered a caution against inflexibility. what we withhold from others. but that they allow for a degree of flexibility. “If design govern in a thing so small”. “something” becomes a marker of human limitation. 1977. Meditating on John and Estelle’s estrangement. The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer. Frost also uses “something” in “The Housekeeper” to stand for unspoken strains and rifts that characterize domestic discord.5 but my purpose here is to focus on the last line. Then. however. 254-59 . Frost suggests that there are limiting laws. Thus it becomes all the more important to consider how Frost handles the sonnet. One might add. Something” demonstrates how exceeding the necessary bounds of form results in a quite dubious. Then. Design. “Something” here is linked with a serious violation of constraints. the intent to make a particular kind of form. is to acknowledge limits and expand them only to a certain degree.44 Barry Ahearn bonfire that can spread so quickly and so destructively from farm to town. murky vision. the housekeeper remarks that “Something went wrong” (83). or what we substitute for the unspeakable. What happens when Frost returns to the question of form and vision in a sonnet that takes care to stay within traditional bounds? One such sonnet is “Design” (275). what we refuse to admit to ourselves. The observer in “For Once. but we cannot simply fling the books aside. 1963. The wise course for humans. Richard Poirier has given a thorough and persuasive reading of the poem. 5 Richard Poirier. The “something” that wrests stone out of place in “Mending Wall” seems allied with the narrator’s intent to make his and his neighbor’s intellect more various. exist in the natural world? What the 4 Robert Frost and Louis Untermeyer. Does such intent. about which he once observed that it was “the strictest form” in which he had worked. however. what we cannot know. and tease out the implications of that “thing” being the sonnet form itself. Something” was at least allowed a single glimpse beyond his usual boundaries. Robert Frost: The Work of Knowing. 381. New York: Holt. New York: Oxford University Press.4 “For Once. We are free to explore what lies beyond the “book side to everything”. then. It is variously what we do not know. Rinehart and Winston.

however. as we have already seen. he indicates. human designs of all sorts are as much an adaptation to surrounding circumstances as any other species’ adaptations. The speaker in the poem thinks he perceives a possible design – indeed. Frost claims that metaphor “goes on to the profoundest thinking that we have” (719). In and Out of Bounds 45 presence of the “If” raises is the question of whether a sonnet’s design is the result of human intent alone or whether it partakes of universal laws. But is the design of a sonnet any different from design in nature? That is. are human beings any different from the rest of nature? The last line. But how to do so? In “Education by Poetry”. to make the physical world of mud and dust.) Frost prefers to believe in an essential. For the Darwinist. as Frost well knew. deprives humanity of any special distinction. or is human intent fundamentally different from the rest of the natural world? This question deeply intrigues Frost. and white spider. wants to maintain humanity’s exceptional status. Human designs are therefore inseparable from the flow of natural developments – which are not the product of consciousness. A Darwinist would allow humanity no more and no less a role than any other organism. And consequently it deprives humanity’s productions of any special distinction. Are they intertwined. Frost. opens up the difficult question of how human intentions relate to nature. a malevolent design – in the conjunction of the white moth. rather than the ideal world of “gods and angels”. ranging from the smallest to the largest.Frost’s Sonnets. where Frost broods over the disastrous consequences that ensue from seeing “our images / Reflected in the mud and even dust”. Furthermore. a distinction he wishes to retrieve. in short. I find someone now and then to agree . Darwinism. perhaps even one and the same. Frost argues that in essence human thought itself is metaphorical: I have wanted in late years to go further and further in making metaphor the whole of thinking. the measure of humanity. from the least complex to the most sophisticated. A poem such as “Design” would have been unthinkable before Darwin. it raises disquieting questions about the role of humanity in the universe. Since Darwin’s theory of natural selection removes a designing God from the universe. white flower. (His most explicit criticism of the collapse of the distinction between nature and humanity is found in “The White-Tailed Hornet” (253-54). crucial distinction between humankind and the rest of nature. We have chosen.

Frost’s comments in “Education by Poetry” and “Design” suggest humanity fundamentally differs from the rest of nature. or all thinking except scientific thinking. one in which species do not vary over time. the sonnet can be read as a dissent from Darwin. Or. . The poem that follows “Design” in the Collected Poems also bears on this issue. human understanding of reality consists of continually making comparisons. since the beads in this type of chain are each identical. The poem notes the “peril” that has beset birds over generations and the danger attendant on making one’s self a target by singing. The possibility that the moth and the spider are capable of such comparative feats is never even considered. Indeed. The concept of a chain of descent is more in keeping with a pre-Darwinian view of natural order. therefore. The poem is “On a Bird Singing in Its Sleep” (275). but the scientific is easy enough. Taken together. The image of the bead chain supports such a concept. is metaphorical. Yet the song has persisted through uncounted generations “On the long bead chain of repeated birth”. The speaker in “Design” differs from the moth and the spider in that he observes their conjunction and wonders how that conjunction relates to him. the formal regularity of the sonnet can be seen as a reflection of a universal principle of orderliness fully recognized by and within human consciousness. Human consciousness appears to differ from other kinds of consciousness in that it compares structures. a flaw that will ensure its demise as a species? The poem seems to offer a different view of natural selection. The mathematical might be difficult for me to bring in. The bird’s song weaves through “the interstices of things ajar” – a phrase suggestive of the random physical processes endangering well-established species. one with another. In short. a sonnet clearly about natural selection. (720) Even if Frost does not make the effort to bring mathematical thinking under the umbrella of the metaphorical. Is the bird’s song. at least in respect to thought.46 Barry Ahearn with me that all thinking. the claim remains that all human thinking but the mathematical is metaphorical. The image of the bead chain is quite at odds with the Darwinian premise of random changes in the physical world offering advantages to some species but discommoding others. except mathematical thinking. to put it another way. It presents a universe displaying a degree of solidity and stability incompatible with universal flux.

One strong reason for designating Frost a Platonist is that material manifestations in the universe appear to be suggestive of both form and chaos. recognize some degree of coherence. Biographical Sketches of My Literary Life and Opinions. And since one cannot find in Nature itself a settled propensity toward one or the other. “If I were a Platonist”. Nature can be allied with design and continuity as is the case in “On a Bird Singing in Its Sleep”. Other living things exemplify and make use of coherence. at least in his sonnets. and as a repetition in the finite mind of the eternal act of creation in the infinite I AM” (Samuel Taylor Coleridge. all form is merely accidental and temporary. Frost figures nature as the “black and utter chaos” (740). It would be but a short step from this position to a quasi-Kantian notion that God has so structured human consciousness that it alone among natural creation directly reflects divine being. Frost hesitates to echo Coleridge’s assertion in Biographia Literaria that the Imagination reflects God’s creativity. In and Out of Bounds 47 Thus a Frost sonnet can be allied with perceptions of coherent order and possibly intentional design. but he often seems on the verge of making such a declaration. If it is merely an accidental production by human beings.) One finds the clue to that supernatural realm by perceiving in human consciousness the reflection of that supernatural order. I suppose. Biographia Literaria or. is what makes him something other than a Platonist. Of all Frost’s sonnets. eds James Engell and W. Princeton: Princeton University Press. Yet Frost here does not address the question of how form can appear at all.6 He stakes all on coherence in the universe. for how much less it is than everything”. He prefers it so. but they lack the capacity to reflect on it. Frost is arguably a Platonist. Jackson Bate. “I should have to consider it. 7 “The primary IMAGINATION I hold to be the living Power and prime Agent of all human Perception. (Otherwise. but he can say with certainty that humans. he writes. 304). 1983. . 6 In “A Letter to ‘The Amherst Student’”. He cannot say with certainty that this coherence is a divine manifestation (although its divine origin is strongly implied). then one must posit a supernatural realm from whence coherence radiates. because it becomes the canvas upon which he can – as a human being – “assert” form. The reduction of form to just a small human production. then how are we to distinguish it from the supposed forms thrown up by “chaos”? Some form of Platonism seems called for to explain how form can appear and be recognized as such. by virtue of the fact that they can compare designs.Frost’s Sonnets. but it can be used quite contrarily in a poem such as “Once by the Pacific” (229). he remarks.7 The ambiguity of nature – and our relation to it – preoccupies other sonnets.

decisive part of human nature. Once again. in Pope’s translations of the Iliad and the Odyssey) while at the same time containing it within the equanimity. Even as the poem’s rhyme scheme and meter contain nature.48 Barry Ahearn this is the one that most starkly indicates that nature alone cannot be depended on to reflect coherence. but to produce. poise and balanced order of the heroic couplet. The poem permits natural disruption and overflow in the face of human constraints because here natural force aims not to destroy. The poem verges on the apocalyptic in several respects. are eleven syllables long. eighteenth-century poets could accommodate remarkable images of violence (for example. he is also anxious about the more immediate future: what may happen later in the day. The association of nature with disorder occurs in other sonnets. The poem recognizes that this central aspect of nature – one that frequently rebels against the controlling formulae that human custom or law may attempt to impose upon it – is also an important. The implication is that the human element in the universe stands opposed to natural dissolution. however. as it anticipates God drawing creation to a close. Here nature displays flux. This departure from the established pattern of ten-syllable lines may be an acknowledgment of the pressure exerted by threatening nature. chaos. such as “Putting in the Seed” (120). In terms of literary history. In addition to the concern this shows for the future harvest. thus reminding us of a nineteenth-century anxiety about the loss of coherence brought on by the decline in religious faith. The poem sketches a problematic relationship between nature and humanity. and even annihilating tendencies. that the rhyme scheme depends on heroic couplets. He addresses his . in which nature displays disorderly tendencies while humanity represents order – but with interesting exceptions. The poem suggests that the human is associated with planning and orderliness. Furthermore. It is worth noting. The last two lines of the poem. it directs us to the eighteenth century. it also must respond to natural flux. we are cautioned that we must be flexible within the zone of constraint. the human relation to nature becomes more intimate and complex than it was in “Once by the Pacific”. however. The poem rather obviously alludes to Matthew Arnold’s “Dover Beach” in lines ten and eleven. since the speaker is about to venture into his field to plant seeds. randomness. most pointedly in the reference at the close of the poem to the termination of the material universe.

a single sentence that stretches into nine lines. stays indoors to manage such domestic arrangements as the supper anticipated in the second line. that this pressure for order is reflected in the vocabulary of the poem. orderly division of labor. Of these. obedient to a traditional. human arrangements. and then his wife. Even a cursory reading of “Range-Finding” reveals that the poem presents the notion that the human capacity for destruction – for calculated savagery – surpasses nature’s. Since Frost often recognizes the close correspondence – but not identity – between nature and human nature. The conservative rhyme scheme reflects the speaker’s obsession with order. Yet the power of nature to disrupt human order also is acknowledged when the octave overflows its bounds. The same obligation to be responsive to natural exuberance produced the twin eleven-syllable lines concluding “Once by the Pacific”. “A Soldier” (240). Consider also the depiction of the seedling as a human infant being born. In and Out of Bounds 49 wife. “No Holy Wars for Them” (361) and “Bursting Rapture” (362).Frost’s Sonnets. “RangeFinding” is the one that most thoroughly addresses the issue of the relation between nature and human nature in terms of destruction. and worries that he. The first eight lines limit themselves to only two rhymes. There are four sonnets that discuss this side of humanity: “Range-Finding” (122). it is reasonable to ask what happens when he takes up the issue of the destructive element in human nature. but this domestic feature now appears in the field. The speaker cautions his wife that he may be seduced by a nature that calls us away from our human arrangements. The imposition of dining table food fragments (the crumbs) on the plant is another instance of the poem trundling domestic vocabulary to the field. The speaker seems to be so keenly aware of the human need for order. . This vocabulary metaphorically turns the natural landscape into a human scene. Nature’s order is characterized as different from. It has an “arched body” and sheds “the earth crumbs”. may become too much of a “Slave to a springtime passion for the earth”. damage both to humans and to natural objects. The first half of the poem. “Tarnishes” is more appropriate to the family silverware. It domesticates nature. and certainly looser than. leaves the second sentence one line short of being a sestet. The vocabulary in the poem’s first three lines deliberately emphasizes the damage done by human warfare. who. in such images as “the soil tarnishes with weed”.

Although the poem initially presents nature as peaceably going about its business in the midst of a battle. it then notes that nature’s uninjured creatures are indifferent to the damage inflicted on other natural features. “Putting in the Seed”. The phrasing evokes nursery rhymes and similarly benevolent attempts to assure children that nature is fundamentally benign. but that empathic abilities (being metaphorical) distinguish us from nature. is evident in the word “greet” itself. Nature. “On a Bird Singing in Its Sleep”. but we have it within us to exercise compassion. humans can at times act like spiders. Frost remains cautious about assigning an origin to that extra quality. When the poem at its conclusion shifts its attention solely to the spider and its web. it turns out. however. there may also be implicit in the poem an ethical basis for favoring the empathic virtues over the combative ones. to eat the fly. When we consider the poem’s treatment of humanity. But the attempt is so transparent that it fails.50 Barry Ahearn The poem thus offers a common and sentimental view of nature. since he recognizes the danger of being fixed in a commanding metaphor. Taken together. Empathic qualities are presumably ones that depend upon an ability to compare another’s plight or situation with one’s own – a metaphorical act. More important. the intent of the spider. “Once by the Pacific”. humanity comes off no worse than nature. “Design”. as the occasion requires. The poem implies that predatory instincts are ones that ally us with nature. He prefers to remain free to slide from one metaphorical stance to another. The rest of the poem. a quality beyond the capabilities of spiders. lacks the capacity to be empathic. So the line illustrates the aggressive and predatory aspect of nature. . one that emphasizes nature’s comparatively peaceful propensity. and “Range-Finding” suggest both thematically and formally that even though human beings are part of nature. The martial virtues may require only the perception of difference. there remains something over and above the merely natural for which a positivist view of reality cannot account. Yes. We are implicitly praised for having qualities absent from nature (such as empathy and pity). we discern another attempt to bolster the sentimental view of nature in the observation that the “spider ran to greet the fly”. even friendly. but at the same time we are reminded that we are capable of organized brutality in the form of warfare. calls this view into question. Indeed. however.

8 Frost and Untermeyer. he added a caveat: “and that mainly by pretending it wasn’t a sonnet”.Frost’s Sonnets. It is one measure of Frost’s significance as a poet that this simple formula – dramatized frequently in his sonnets – led him to profound questions about our place in nature and our capacity to grasp reality.8 Frost’s comment captures both the commitment to form he found absolutely necessary as well as his sense of the equally necessary resistance to formal constraints. It was a typical comment from a poet who wanted to maintain boundaries without feeling cramped by them. In and Out of Bounds 51 When Frost wrote to Louis Untermeyer that the “sonnet was the strictest form which I have behaved in”. 381. The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer. .


POUND AND WILLIAMS: THE LETTERS AS MODERNIST MANIFESTO HÉLÈNE AJI Two boys went to Harvard. 516. and became an insurance executive. One or the other quality cannot be assigned to either poet in order 1 Hugh Kenner. Stevens). he just persisted in being in a kind of amazing autarchy. led him to poetic aphasia and political stridency. Stevens: Eliot. Williams: Pound. . Two of the other major Modernists are defined by their activity as poets (Eliot. the Pound/Williams connection is one that cannot be reduced to this antagonistic view. Both wrote poetry. 1971. impersonal versus personal. one is altogether excluded from the field of poetry and sent back to the profession he practiced to survive (Williams). Berkeley: University of California Press. who according to him became not just someone. social versus individualistic. One stayed home afterward. None of them had the luck to be able to live on money they had not labored for and Williams was a poet in the same right as Eliot or Stevens. One stayed home afterward and became a physician. It is as neat as a laboratory experiment. etc. a member of the community or a writer of poetry. if one reads Kenner’s lines. one could suggest. never became a poet. that. worse. More interestingly. which outlines the dichotomies long used to define American Modernism: local versus expatriate. but himself. The other went abroad. The other went abroad.1 Is it “as neat as a laboratory experiment”? Hugh Kenner’s statement seems at first sight to be a homage to Pound. never became a professional. The Pound Era. and became Ezra Pound. and became a banker and publisher. The one who “became Ezra Pound”. Two boys went to Penn.

and more specifically and controversially. in what turned out to be. as they bear witness to the tensions between two conceptions of poetry. their achievements. the letters are a manifesto for American poetry. and in Pound and Williams’ cases. None of the letters predating 1907 have been recovered and some were destroyed by Pound’s friends at the end of the war. Strikingly enough. in In’hui (Special Issue: William Carlos Williams). the ambivalence of their commitments. because they trace the debate that took place during Pound’s St Elizabeths years. for Williams at least. Pound and Williams confronted their opinions. Hugh Witemeyer. but it never reached publication. 1996. . 3 Pound/Williams: Selected Letters. with a hiatus from 1941 to 1945 due to World War II and Pound’s allegiance to Fascist Italy. A friendship? Amazingly enough. ed. A stronger sense of coherence emerges from the exchanges and discussions between the two poets and provides a better understanding of their particular brands of Modernism. Others that have been omitted are important.54 Hélène Aji to oppose them without betraying the multifaceted quality of their poetic enterprises. Their letters mark the turning points of their careers and to this extent constitute a fascinating methodological instrument to define the demands at the origins of their works: in the sense of Engels and Marx. and above all the seminal nature of their all-encompassing visions. For fifty years. 14 (Winter 1980). a life-long collaboration and struggle. as well as Marinetti. “Lettres d’exilés. Hugh Witemeyer’s edition of the selected letters3 gives numerous samples of the texts that were exchanged between the two poets from 1907 to Williams’ death in 1963. la correspondance entre William Carlos Williams et Ezra Pound”. a debate that raises the issues of 2 Emily Mitchell Wallace. 24-61. The letters are the material manifestation of a link between two individuals. after their first meeting as students at the University of Pennsylvania. their choices. this correspondence also works on the notional level. the letters allow us to reassemble the scattered fragments of a poetics that is diversely formulated and exemplified in the poems and in the essays. a complete edition of the letters remains to be produced: the project started by Emily Mitchell Wallace2 numbers more than five hundred items. of American poetry. New York: New Directions.

23). predominantly aesthetic in the early period. . to influence him as he did others. on “provincial” America. You deal in political symbols instead of actual values. especially in the field of politics and economics: 9 Ag OK Dr Pedagogue 2 simple questions 1 What do you think of Gesell? 2 Whomm do you agree with? y Ez4 Pound’s ironical and condescending tone is one to bear in mind when considering the correspondence. cannot be separated from the ethical stance. Nevertheless. August 1946 (Selected Letters. You talk about things (which you yourself have sufficiently damned 4 Pound to Williams. poetry. government is a major subject for the aging poet. right or wrong. The manifesto appearing in the letters. like the following note. and to wage war. they also bring to light Pound’s lasting commitment to his pre-war ideas. if weak since you step outside the means of poetry very often to gain a point. Thus Williams to Pound on 30 October 1946: But you make an ass of yourself for all that – by misjudging the difficulties and successes of others: it was stupid of you to attack the President of the United States as you did – plain stupid …. regret. ed.Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 55 failure. and your work strikes along the path with some effect. which finds its way into Witemeyer’s selection. as it shows his desire to assert his superiority over Williams. through Williams. which in time comes to rule over all other considerations. Pound’s anti-Semitism and at times anti-American declarations are omnipresent in the letters (to Williams and to others). Pound’s attitude during the war and the undermining of many of his theories by political involvement invert this power relationship. and forgiving and which remains central today. demonstrating the centrality of these ideological decisions in the whole of his work. but it also almost annihilates the correspondence: the two friends’ lives diverge and Williams’ legitimate disapproval tinges the fewer letters that are composed in the post-war era. However. Witemeyer.

to take up the title of Pound’s 1912 book of poems dedicated to Williams. They do not simply constitute documents to ascertain biographical details or even to reconsider the evolution of the two poets’ works: more generally. “Doppelgänger: Ezra Pound in His Letters”. the letters are traces of the existence of two men who. they give the reader an outlook on the major aesthetic revolution that took place in the first part of the twentieth century and shaped the evolution of the arts for the decades that followed. Materer’s observations on the status of the letters as prosaic Doppelgängers for their other modes of discourse. through his wife Floss. Timothy Materer. 241-56.7 And indeed. an examination of the Pound/Williams correspondence reveals parallel reflections and echoing decisions that might form the roots of a wider 5 6 Ibid. not a hunk of bacon fried too crisp.56 Hélène Aji in the past) instead of showing things themselves in action. 241-42. ed. In spite of the tensions. many crises and mutations. were “the two halves of what might have made a fairly decent poet”. XI/ 2 (Fall 1982). 11 September 1920 (Selected Letters. She especially documents the later years and the persistence of the link after Williams’ death. 42). . for both poets. which true poetic achievement demands.. in Pound’s words. I doubt that you’ll be astute enough to do it – or indeed that you’ll ever again have the opportunity due to your present position …. I want to rescue you (for myself) because I need you – I being one of the few who would be benefited – but I want you whole.6 The letters are often “ripostes” rather than responses. A magnificent opportunity still exists for you if you can ever bring yourself back from your excited state to the calm. laying emphasis on the spontaneity of their responses to each other’s criticism and provocations. 7 Pound to Williams. Witemeyer. The details of this paradoxical friendship have been unfolded in Emily Mitchell Wallace’s account of these “exiles’ letters”. or maybe thanks to them. the good in you. the letters have been kept in the poets’ archives and they provide an outline for the development of modern literature.5 This letter shows well the ambivalence presiding over the exchanges between Pound and Williams and it confirms. in Paideuma: A Journal Devoted to Ezra Pound Scholarship. Inscribed in the chaotic history of two wars.

1954. questionings and solutions to the challenges met by art at the turn of the twentieth century. 11 6 November 1928 (Selected Letters.Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 57 comparison between the two poets. Literary Essays. but at the same time they explain and explicate the tensions in the poems. ed. he stresses his criteria in terms of the mot juste and a natural syntax. Ezra Pound et William Carlos Williams: pour une poétique américaine. and that Williams’ response is more often a defense than an assertion. when Pound clearly devoted all his energies to the humanities. This relationship mirrors the personal interaction that developed in the Penn years. S. 9 19 December 1913 (Selected Letters. 10 Ezra Pound. Untying the Gordian knot of Modernist strategies. Pound’s essay “Dr. 23). whereas Williams uncomfortably pursued the double career of a young poet and a student of medicine. One observation would be to notice that most of the aesthetic criticism proper is from Pound to Williams. 2001. Paris: L’Harmattan. ed. The total strategies at work in the Cantos and in Paterson find themselves unfolded and motivated in terms other than referential compression. they lay emphasis on a number of themes and their inscription in the poetic text. that is. The letters give a condensed formulation of many issues addressed in the poetic and critical work of both poets. 38998. Witemeyer. Witemeyer. as prescriptive texts allowing for the presentation of common debates. ed. Pound’s criticism is at times laudatory and focused on the major issues of the Modernist revolution: about Williams’ “La Flor”. 95). The obvious locus for this poetics in the letters lies in the literary criticism bearing on each other’s works.9 The complexity of the exchange increases when it takes place simultaneously in the letters and in the public field of reviews. Williams’ Position”10 in The Dial of November 1928 triggers Williams’ gratitude. London: Faber and Faber. T. diluting them perhaps at the same time as problematizing them. the marginal text of the letters is the theoretical radicalization in agonistic terms of Pound and Williams’ pragmatic poetics. the proof of an esteem which lays the ground 8 See Hélène Aji. Williams’ appraisal of Pound’s achievement is more often than not positive and respectful. .”11 In the end. but also his recognition for the literary position defined by his friend: “I like your writing in what you have said of me as well as anything I have seen of yours in prose. Eliot.8 but my aim here is to stress the status of the letters as a Modernist manifesto.

ed. In Williams’ letters. 1957.”12 This distinction made by Williams between himself as “an imperfect reader” and Pound as this ideal reader is one that actually mirrors the imbalances in their relationship and paradoxically seems to support Pound’s ascendancy. as they show the relevance of and perform Williams’ poetics. Williams lends himself to his friend’s criticism. Although this is a state of affairs against which Williams would often rebel. . Thirlwall. 14 June 1932 (Selected Letters. a man who has looked into almost every book that exists. for Pound to assess and understand – if he can: Returning to the writing of verse. even as he states the intrinsic relationship he wants to establish between poetry and the quotidian. ed. such moments as the one that follows are part of an ars poetica. 13 Williams to Pound. it is also a situation that he tacitly recognizes. in a letter of 21 May 1909: Is there anything I know about your book that you don’t know? Individual. 119). and the pattern is one of advice or compassion being sought by Williams. 324. Witemeyer. John C. while I at best have been a very imperfect reader. 12 12 April 1954. which is the only thing that concerns us after all: certainly there is nothing for it but to go on with a complex quantitative music and to further accuracy of image (notes in a scale) and – the rest (undefined save in individual poems) – a music which can only have authority as we – 13 Willingly then. The tension between his activities as an overworked doctor and the demands of his poetry lead Williams to both envy and criticize Pound’s mode of living and writing. leading to a number of ambivalent statements in the letters. putting himself on the receiving end of encouragement (even if its proleptic nature turns it into a rejection of his present work) as well as pitiless comments (on his admittedly very conservative and rather naive first poems). original it is not. Up to a certain point.58 Hélène Aji for their collaboration: “You are a reader. Whatever readings are to be found. New York: New Directions. thus. Pound to Williams. in The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams. the contingencies of daily living interrupt the flow of thinking and writing. Great art it is not. Poetic it is – but there are innumerable poetic volumes poured out here in Gomorah …. they are mainly Poundian readings of Williams.

Contrary to Eliot. a token gesture of benevolence to reinforce the demand for love of the farewell: “me ama” (‘love me’) is Pound’s basic claim. Williams contradicts Pound where Pound becomes more idiosyncratic and less innovative. Witemeyer. ed. desiring to be admired and cherished but apparently reluctant to let his friend stake his domain in Modernist poetics. still the source of influence. It is perhaps this authoritarian. what triggers Williams’ insurrection against “il miglior fabbro” (Eliot’s dedication of The Waste Land to Pound) is his perception of the risk that this best worker would take if he lost sight of his artistic duties and discarded his former attachment to aesthetics in favor of politics. 16 The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams. In the end. again selforiented. Thirlwall. like an afterthought. 14 15 Selected Letters. ed. . London: Macmillan. 324. 14-15. Williams does not leave it to Pound to shape his style and turn his poems into a Williamsian version of The Waste Land.Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 59 And remember a man’s real work is what he is going to do. Language. As Pound’s Cantos seem to sink into aphasia. by constantly rebelling and doing so poetically. See Jean-Michel Rabaté. Sexuality and Ideology in Ezra Pound’s Cantos. nor does he turn back to more classical forms and themes as soon as Pound’s aura has faded. 1986.15 Williams’ reproof about his desire to maintain his influence is doubled by the stylistic choice of the colloquial and by the formal choice of phonetic spelling: “Dear Ez: Ain’t it enuf that you so deeply influenced my formative years without wanting to influence also my later ones?”16 “Ain’t it enuf” is a reminder of Pound’s past battle for a natural language and of the discrepancy between this past poetics and the work in the making in the later Cantos: Williams’ claim for a late coming of age is also a way of situating himself in the line of their former manifesto. removed from the Poundian strategies as well as precluding any possible return to pre-Modernist conventions. to come back to Kenner’s comparison. somewhat condescending stance of Pound’s that triggers Williams’ rebellion and is at the root of his developing a specific form of Modernist poetry. not what is behind him. beyond the poetic. Avanti e coraggio!14 The encouragement comes as a post-script. when Pound’s innovations in spelling were still new and still legible. not yet the vehicle for dogmatic statements.

whereas they evidence Pound’s increasingly static posture in “Kulchur”. but one might wonder about the results of a comparison between the industrial suburbs of New York and the tiny Italian Riviera town of Rapallo or the secluded castle of Brunnenburg. throughout their correspondence. a maker’s patent. 69). which allow the critic to think about the position of the poet in the world. What had started as a manifesto in the making has turned into an ideology. his part in the chain of events. the debate between leaving to distance oneself from the “provinces” of the USA. bringing him back to the real world of plural techniques: “Dear Ezra: . what is the number of your patent?”17 After all. (Pound’s option) and staying in “contact” with the matter of the poem in situ (Williams’) underpins the exchanges between the poets. Williams’ protest underlines this. Rutherford is nothing like London or Paris. Williams begins to resent the certainty with which Pound delivers his opinions.. a creator’s power. Rebels to your point of view – Hell. . his exile becomes permanent and his poetics less and less fitted to a country of immigrants and equal opportunity than to the agrarian society which the United States might have been at some point but has since drastically evolved away from. the letters are historical documents. A short history of the correspondence An exceptionally rich source for the understanding of American Modernism.60 Hélène Aji Not seeing the balance to be sought between commitment to art and commitment to the world. this is only a mild and belated reaction to Pound’s constant reminders. etc. the domain of his influence. Pound’s authority has turned into authoritarianism: from the early 1920s on.. Pound acts as if he possessed the sole key to the truth.. of Williams’ (and all Americans’) provincialism. Whereas Pound has given up on America temporarily only. as rules rather than options. the development of mass marketing. the outbreak of modern 17 Spring 1926 (ibid. The industrial rise of the beginning of the century. As such. the correspondence between Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams spans the whole of their poetic careers and reflects the major events and mutations of the twentieth century. The letters outline Williams’ conquest of an avant-garde position worked out from within. Be it in poetics or in politics. Revolving around the issue of a poetics for America. from Pound’s move to Rapallo in 1924 and his increasing involvement in Fascist politics.

A Lume Spento. New York: New Directions.20 The period from 1907 to 1920 covers the formative years of both poets. the Federal Reserve Banks constitute a Legalized National Usury System. then for London.Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 61 wars. As Pound points out in Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. the necessary dialogue. Paterson. Every one of us is paying tribute to the money racketeers on every dollar we earn through hard work. . the month was more temperate Because this beauty had been. Witemeyer. 207. if her colour Came against his gaze. Tempered as if It were through a perfect glaze He made no immediate application Of this to relation of the state To the individual. the richest country in the world. 121-26. I is our Government.19 And as evidenced in Book II of Paterson. 47-51. In 1908. The letters start as Williams is an intern in a New York hospital and Pound accepts his first job at Wabash College in Indiana. 1958. between aesthetics and ethics. the confronting of capitalism and communism are all among the preoccupations that inform the correspondence and the poetry of both men. Collected Shorter Poems. where he 18 19 Selected Letters. the poet has now to link the enjoyment of beauty to the institutional conditions of its existence: Thus. after having been dismissed from Wabash. where he publishes his first book of poems. whose Customer No. ed. bearing some relevance to the economic situation: In other words. 1984. the economic cycles of boom and bust. 74. 20 William Carlos Williams. which since the advent of Modernism has seemed so obvious. London: Faber and Faber. Ezra Pound. the rise of totalitarian states. 1-5. the Poundian notion of “usura” is an attractive one. no letters have been retrieved from their university years. 211-15 and 283-86. Pound leaves for Venice. their young rivalry for the love of Hilda Doolittle and Pound’s failure to complete his doctorate in Romance Languages. This is no doubt one of the reasons why Hugh Witemeyer’s chronological organization of the letters18 is extremely useful and relevant: the dates show the coincidence between personal and collective evolution.

his hometown. and on the distance provided by exile. Their dialogue as editors includes a debate on poetic creation. the need for the poet to work to make a living. which it most certainly was not. they meet again in London. . and Pound’s multicultural and multilingual project of the Cantos. as Williams returns from further studies in Leipzig. Therefore the opposition seems obvious between Williams’ “plan for action”21 involving the integration of the vernacular in the American poem. which Pound had published in 1913. the Great War seems to have brought about a new awareness in Pound. 1. but to create or compose a culture. In 1910. a provocation to his friend. Yeats and Dorothy Shakespear. Pound writes Ripostes (1912). Williams’ response lies in The Tempers. Pound’s The Egoist. Eliot. The bone of contention seems to be the work of T. and 21 Williams. Meanwhile. The Great War is the time of an intense cooperation between the two poets. B. those that his friend so much despised. an Imagist book.62 Hélène Aji moves in the literary circles and enjoys the relative financial freedom his parents provide him with. the necessity to move away from the mournful contemplation of the decay of civilization and the importance of inhabiting the American terrain to bring about a truly American revolution in the arts. Williams also publishes his first poems. Williams’ Others. which prefigures the disagreements of the 1920s and 1930s. S. through publications in their respective journals. Pound insists on the formative nature of a cosmopolitan life. which brings him closer to Williams’ original (although vastly neo-Romantic) preoccupations over the part to be played by the poet in the world. But according to Witemeyer. and starts his practice in Rutherford. The period between 1921-1932 sees an evolution in the main topic of the letters. When Williams sinks stronger roots in Rutherford by marrying Florence Herman and buying the big house at 9 Ridge Road. This European stay does not seem to have marked Williams so much as Pound’s sojourn in New York in 1910-11 and the conversations that take place in the context of the first rise of the American arts. Williams opts for the autochthonous voice of a poet who does not make it his task to reassemble the remains of world culture. This is where Pound has him meet W. Paterson. or in The Little Review and in Poetry. the period sounds like a Poundian monologue. Because many of Williams’ letters have been lost.

Beinecke Library. Man Ray. Pound to John Henri Buchi. H. is there too. is to invent the American idiom through the Flaubertian notion of the mot juste.Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 63 as is apparent in the correspondence. in the dislocation of discourses on Pound’s. these events make such an attitude untenable. in the talk of poor folk on Williams’ side. Their parallel editing experiments with The Exile and The Dial lead Williams to this statement: “It is a delight to me to feel a possible bond of workmanship being exercised between us today. Williams in New York in 1927. Jean Cocteau. Pound declares that Williams is “the best prose writer and best poet of America”. As both poets feel the historical need for a greater 22 23 Williams to Pound. If Williams had previously been able to turn a blind eye to Pound’s enthusiastic allegiance to Italian Fascism. Nor does it make him deny the importance of his 1924 stay in Paris. Constantin Brancusi. A Voyage to Pagany (1928).”22 Moreover. ed. Folder 271). 16 April 1928 (Selected Letters. is dedicated to Pound. this does not prevent him from publishing Spring and All and The Great American Novel with William Bird’s Three Mountains Press in Paris. they start digging into American history. Witemeyer. this contrast is rather superficial. George Antheil. Box 6. Peggy Guggenheim. In a letter to John Henri Buchi. Philippe Soupault and Fernand Léger. since the 1920s are years in which Williams directs a lot of attention toward the experiments being carried out in Europe. At the same moment. The autobiographical novel in which Williams draws an account of this adventure. . D. if unfulfilled. 27 September 1934 (YCAL MSS43 Series 1. If Williams claims to be attached to the development of American letters. Roosevelt as President of the United States. they share the same enthusiasm for young composer George Antheil. whom Pound helps give a concert in Paris in 1926. selecting heroes for In the American Grain (Williams) and the “Jefferson and Adams Cantos” (Pound). where Pound introduced him to James Joyce. Ford Madox Ford. whereas Pound’s desire. Young poets such as Louis Zukofsky or Charles Reznikoff attract their attention. a number of issues become more crucial and more radical. showing in different manners a similar distrust for American capitalism. Ernest Hemingway. The difference lies in where the poets intend to find this idiom. Yale University.23 Nineteen-thirty-three is a turning point for many reasons: with the coming to power of Hitler in Germany and with the election of Franklin D. William Bird. 81). Louis Aragon.

Williams writes: Nov.25 The end of World War II. 1941 Dear Eazy: Your brutal and sufficiently stupid reference to meat lying around on the steppes at this moment is quite an unnecessary flight of fancy. ed. Even if Williams helps Pound to join the authors’ team at James Laughlin’s New Directions.. Although Williams does not believe in the insanity plea and has ambivalent feelings for his friend. nicknamed “Lord Haw-Haw”. Witemeyer. . The disagreement reaches a climax with Williams’ criticism of Pound’s Guide to Kulchur (1939). postal services with Italy are interrupted – something which according to Witemeyer24 probably prevented a formal break between the two friends. both of them unwillingly re-enacting the Romantic project. he writes him long sympathetic 24 25 Selected Letters. 209. no more. going as far as attacking him publicly for his Radio Roma speeches in an essay entitled “Ezra Pound. Pound is seduced by the charismatic figure of the Duce. I used to think you had a brain. 26. It looks more like round steak every time you try to reveal it. With the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 dragging the US into the war. as both express in the letters (and in their poetry) their interest in the theories of Social Credit. drawing a parallel with pro-Nazi propagandist William Joyce. Ibid. Pound’s arrest in Italy. he constantly tries to warn his friend against his political commitments.64 Hélène Aji involvement in social and economic action. stay in the Army prison camp at Pisa and incarceration in St Elizabeths Hospital for the criminally insane mark the resumption of the correspondence. 126. Thus in the first lines of a letter that never reached Pound and was returned to the sender. their consequent political choices in fact threaten their friendship. you’ll find far more solidly encased in your own head. Pound tries to live out the dream of the poet as prophet. Lord Ga-Ga!”. Here the political is also a sign for the poetic and each poet’s vision of his mission: while Williams envisions himself as a man among men. Whereas Williams is clearly attracted to the Left out of compassion for the very people he is looking after as a doctor.

and a photograph by Richard Avedon materializes the central importance of their friendship. but soon he resumes his activities in the relatively comfortable surroundings of the penal hospital. Hugh Kenner). John Berryman. when his own health problems prevent him from traveling to Washington D. Paradoxically. In spite of four books of poems. and the Jews. he never publicly denounced it.Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 65 letters to alleviate his isolation. and in contrast with the apparent despair of the “Pisan Cantos”. Witemeyer points out that as Williams does not fail to notice at the time. . Lawrence Ferlinghetti. The rest of the correspondence is very sparse. even though Pictures from Brueghel 26 Ibid. When Pound is finally discharged. He regarded his broadcasts as legitimate and patriotic exercises of free speech protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Pound has not recanted: He was also utterly unrepentant. St Elizabeths has indeed become the “Ezuniversity” Pound had wished for. and many young poets and critics gather around him (Robert Lowell. Segregationists (John Kasper). Williams therefore finds it difficult to keep in touch with his friend and only rarely visits until 1954. he does not enjoy the same success as Pound. Paterson V (1958) and Pictures from Brueghel (1962). which are most certainly far more innovative than Pound’s later cantos (Section: Rock-Drill in 1955 and Thrones in 1959). Pound again harasses Williams with accusations of provincialism. in spite of all conflicts. etc. He believed that he had been right about Mussolini. The Desert Music (1954).C. Roosevelt. or far-right leaders. the roles are soon reversed because of Williams’ successive strokes and his political worries during the McCarthy era. Others.26 Recovering his former energy. poets come for advice (Charles Olson). 213-14. but far-right extremists also come to honor his lasting political commitment. the last person he visits is Williams. Friends come to visit.. He recanted none of his former views or actions. Journey to Love (1955). Although this phase had started with Williams in a superior position. Pound’s response is laconic at first. lack of culture. the four Pound letters one finds integrated in Paterson date back to this period. are well-known anti-Semites. Although he probably did not learn of the Holocaust until after the war. on the condition of leaving the US not to return. to Williams’ disappointment.

Confucius to Cummings. 21 May 1909 (Selected Letters. the masses have to bear the imprint of the poet to reach a higher state of awareness and freedom. The difference lies in the fact that for Williams this adventure in the end remains individualistic. if symptomatic of potentially general movements. Exiles’ letters Even a cursory reading of the letters allows one to distinguish recurrent themes that are part and parcel of Pound and Williams’ Modernist manifesto. Pound tries to act upon the masses. includes a late poem by Williams. Neither an anarchistic rebel nor a nihilistic philosopher. Both Pound and Williams are seeking a form of wisdom that would create a balance between their involvement with the world and their involvement with the poem. The aporetic conclusion of such efforts seems. . relates the formal liberation of poetry from the constraints of fixed meter to a desire to free America from the cultural imperialism of Europe. in our post-modern days. but it does not cancel the value of such an impulse to insert art into life. From this stems their fundamental disagreement over the manners of their poetic revolution: while Williams advocates discrete local action. 4. Witemeyer. Pound and Williams’ mission. and Pound’s last anthology.66 Hélène Aji contains a poem. 15). the issue of the poet’s position in space becomes central. Collected Earlier Poems.27 Pound sees himself as a creator – this gap triggering the constant exchanges and irreconcilable conflicts. in or “out of touch”28 is at the same time a geographical preoccupation and a 27 “The Wanderer”. apparent in their discussions of the meaning of poetry and the poet’s duties. fully aware of his mission in the world. Because America is this wild untouched territory to be either inhabited (Williams) or conquered (Pound). 28 Pound to Williams. 1951. So it seems that when Williams sees his mission as the creature’s duty to “be a mirror to this modernity”. in William Carlos Williams. “To My Friend Ezra Pound”. Their fascination with the heroes of American history corresponds to a revision of tradition in terms of presence and vividness. the poet is to be an agent for the construction and cohesion of the city – able to turn deconstruction and incoherence into coherent modes of functioning. being close or remote. ed. New York: New Directions. They first of all outline a utilitarian vision of the poet. whereas for Pound. commonplace. two intrinsically linked areas of activity.

53). characteristically enough. but to overcome the feeling of disconnection that Europe inspires in him: Europe seems closer since we have been there but – again – it seems infinitely further off: so great has my wish to be there become intensified by the recent trip …. . Either I must be a tragic ass. with Pound truly believing that Williams ought to “leave Rutherford to see a human being now and again”. 29 30 18 March 1922 (ibid.32 In Pound’s mind. The exilic work of Pound and Williams is one that also takes into account the alienation of the poet in the industrial world of the twentieth century.29 However.. 184).. Once Pound has chosen agrarian Italy over capitalistic America.. health and disease. I live a very obscure but very complete life in my own petty world. They are not to be ignored. 69). Paterson.Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 67 mental one.31 and in the Preface to Paterson: Sniffing the trees. the issue for Williams is not to see human beings (his work provides him with this experience). the opposition between Europe and America is as radical as the opposition between good and evil.30 The source of his unease. or nothing – or an American – I scarcely know which is the worst. for something new and not “made new”. boils down to being “American” – the paradoxical signifier for a break from European decay and the hope. 31 6 November 1936 (ibid. The contrast between the flamboyant life of the exile and the humble existence of the local is expressed in a 1936 letter to Pound: You see. Williams to Pound. albeit guilt-fraught. 3. just another dog among a lot of dogs. I know its smells and its bouquets. 32 Williams. the relationship becomes fixed. What else is there? And to do? The rest have run out – after the rabbits. 23 December 1924 (ibid.

Pound tries to lend a space to Williams in The Exile – 33 Robert Casillo.”34 From the blood metaphor comes the idea that America’s disease is genetic and hereditary. 35 Spring 1926 (ibid. This alienation is crystallized in the difficulties met in publishing. where you come from or where I come from. since the latter tries to transcend rather than suppress the American condition. The Genealogy of Demons: Anti-Semitism.”35 Over and over again. you never have had to. Witemeyer. Contrary to Pound’s accusations. 1988. but his work to promote himself and other artists is simply less showy. you can idealize the place (easier now that Europe is so damn shaky) all you like. If Williams is not an exile. 38). Evanston: Northwestern University Press. but you haven’t a drop of the cursed blood in you. but not as fatal conditions: “You talk like a crow with a cleft palate when you repeat your old gag of heredity. analyzed by Casillo in The Genealogy of Demons. Fascism and the Myths of Ezra Pound.33 pervade his letters to Williams and forecast their recurrence in the poetry: “There is a blood poison in America.. Therefore he contradicts Pound in his advice to Zukofksy. 34 11 September 1920 (Selected Letters. Williams refuses to remain expectant of future success. These metaphors. from the artistic crowd. ed. in time and in thought.68 Hélène Aji Just as he claims the status of the exile par excellence in the very title of his journal. but an issue of culture and its possible transformations in transmission. This eugenic and untenable position clashes with Williams’. where civilization can be recovered. he sustains the notion that the only way for “real” Americans to avoid contamination is to leave the country for Europe. and you don’t need to fight the disease day and night. . 78). something Pound has to fight against in the present to insure an assumed future health. What is inherited is not inscribed in the body. His objection to Pound is that time and place do matter. Williams insists on the need for the American poet to send his message from the land he is claiming. the view of the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor is what will help the young poet forge his style as American. he still acknowledges the fact that his profession separates him. This closeness to the land does not however preclude alienation and the feeling of standing apart. The issue of helping each other publish is a constant preoccupation in the letters.

even if Williams is for some time sympathetic to Social Credit. This must mean something. He said he’d be mighty glad to have a canto. What shall you say about me? That I have a volume of verse which I have been in the process of making for the past ten years. because money is scarce for the arts and the poet. 14 June 1932 (ibid. 134). It is also on this that Pound and Williams radically differ. the economic system has to be reconsidered and revised. Williams proves more tragic and lucid in his assessment of the situation: the hardships indeed are the concrete expression of the serious poetic stakes.. and another 50 later …. I mentioned to West that you had more or less objectionably asked me if I was doing this (publishing editing Contact) in order to offer you a mouthpiece – I told him I had told you to go to hell.39 36 37 Pound to Williams. Whereas Pound tries to set up his project “Bel Esprit” to financially support poets. 15 March 1933 (ibid. 38 6 November 1928 (ibid.. Williams again formulates his attachment to the poet’s economic independence and worldly work. 63).38 But where Pound assigns his difficulties to the system.37 What is of course most striking is the way these considerations are hinged on Pound’s fundamental economic theories. size about 50 pages …. Not being able to publish.. either in the academies or out. prose (in your case perhaps verse. resorting to letters to voice this powerlessness also paves the way for the formulation of his poetic manifesto in and through this correspondence. that he thought them great. (His name is Willyum Bird). 50 dollars down to author.36 – whereas Williams gives him the possibility to expound his ideas and exhibit his poetry in Contact – Contact can’t pay for verse or anything else. No doubt it means that my conception of poetry is not that of my contemporaries. 95). .Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 69 Cher Bull: There’s a printer here wants me to supervise a series of booklets.. or whatever form your new stuff is in). and more specifically Eliot. that is the best collection of verse in America today and that I can’t find a publisher – …. 39 Williams to Pound. 119). 1 August 1922 (ibid. Gen.

ed. apparent in the letters.70 Hélène Aji Because the correspondence includes a radical consideration of language and its uses. but also underpins the formal experiments led by Williams in terms of visual presentation of the poem.40 but “My Dear Old Sawbukk von Grump” prefigures his contempt for America. typography and the inclusion of small drawings prefigures the ideogrammic method at work in the Cantos. “deer Editur” signals a letter in which he submits his poems to Pound’s criticism. is at the core of the Modernist aesthetics. ed. describing the deer-like lightness and bull-like fertility of the artistic life. in The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound (1907-1941). it stands out as an ars poetica. This extends to the choice of writing material: letter paper with or without heading (significantly: a portrait of himself by Gaudier for Pound. 84). which beyond the personal stakes. and for the failure (“abortions”) of publication in that country. for Williams’ alienation. Witemeyer. 1950. and its foregrounding. The very plurality of meanings pertains to the essence of language. 145. This confers special import to the correspondence. 162). 44 21 November 1956 (The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams.41 On Williams’ side. postcards.. London: Faber and Faber. becomes the field for formal experiment and the very locus for its theorization. to irregular spelling and the manipulation of signifiers.. Paige. as well as a historical document: it actually constantly transgresses the rules of letter writing with the major aim of multiplying and diversifying the possible means of communication. 43 6 November 1936 (ibid.44 In the same way. D. to numerous strategies that allow the poets to push back the limits of language and to turn their text into a performative as well as versatile tool for more than direct reference. Thirlwall. 28 January 1919. . This gives a new meaning to the notion of the mot juste. ed. etc. 22).43 but “Dear Assen Poop” hails his detestation for Pound’s obstinate and foul commitment to neo-Nazi ideology. 182). D. The play they indulge in on the modes of addressing each other charges the salutation and its variants with meanings otherwise attributed to nouns. “Deer Bull” opens a letter full of affection and joy. a sheet off his prescription pad for Williams). as it comes to imply a quest for precision but not for univocal meaning. On Pound’s side..42 “Dea Rezra” is a light pun announcing a letter full of plans and hope. 42 25 June 1928 (Selected Letters. In what was to become the major tenet 40 41 19 December 1913 (ibid.

Refashioning language. the world at large. the correspondence fits the bill of both poets’ demand for an integration of the vernacular into the literary text as a means of freeing the text from the constraints of an aestheticized written mode. a mode of meaning. 12 September 1920. in Pound’s words. they either favor the British accent to debunk it – “Wot bloody kind of author are you save Amurkun (same 45 46 Ezra Pound. ed.46 The humor in Pound’s puns and neologisms is brutal. Pound transforms it into a weapon aimed at the literary world. which is what has caused accusations of opaqueness and hermetism against Modernist poetry: the discourse is affected by ambiguity and more openness is left for interpretation than would have been originally intended. the issues of interpretation and the possibilities of orienting this interpretation through formal devices.. but to the inner riches lying in punning and neologizing. 28 January 1919. but where Williams uses this strategy to underline the quiddity of language. Blast. and in his caricature of American accents. 229). the poets also foreground the subjectivity in any discourse. . See Pound to Williams. “So much for your kawnscious or unkawnscious” (ibid. “All sorts of ‘projects’ artoliteresque in the peaceconferentialbolshevikair” (Selected Letters. criticizing and instilling ideas in an almost subliminal way. and 22 November 1922. creating conceptual networks that progressively compose a tense Modernist manifesto. the text is turned into an unsettling hybrid.Pound and Williams: The Letters as Modernist Manifesto 71 of Modernism and a problematic feature of Postmodernism. psychoanalysis. “Vortex”. In their transliterations. for instance. ed. etc. What happens occasionally in the letters is in fact a frequent occurrence in the poetry. Witemeyer. including Europe. 34). 1 (June 1914). the “primary pigment of poetry”. Paige. less attentive to language and its modes than to his personal aims and demonstrative moods. he proves less observant than Williams. “Yourup” (The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound (1907-1941).45 the poets resort not only to the exterior potentialities of foreign languages. There is of course a drawback in this method. where both praxis and theory collapse into one condensed formulation. The letters adumbrate the associative mode that structures both the Cantos and Paterson. But in a more general way. 154. 4). By turning each utterance into a speech act of major consequences for the construction of meaning. The new words in the new form echo from one letter to the other and from the letters to the poetry.

The letter. In their letters. 85). ed.. . the material trace of an utterance to be revived in reading. at the same time as the evolution of poetry. becomes this delayed speech act. 10 November 1917 (Selected Letters. Witemeyer. lemme tell ya what I done las week”. but enacted. Williams to Pound. 30).48 The assault on the supremacy of British English and the desire to found an American tradition lies in fact at the root of the poets’ project and is the main source of American Modernism (probably starting with Emerson and Whitman). 25 June 1928 (ibid. evidencing the written text as the place where the loss of presence and the ambiguities of presentation are to be not merely represented. as well as the poem. 47 48 Pound to Williams.72 Hélène Aji as me)?”47 – or transcribe the American accent to underline its specificities – “And now. me old frien’. Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams outline the mission of the American Modernist poet.

agent for the copyright holders. 110. and 1947 book. “The Romance of K’a-2mä-1gyu 2mi-gkyi”. 713. I am grateful to Mary de Rachewiltz. 674. as sources of such passages in Cantos 101. But was Rock the first to introduce Pound to Lijiang and its ethnic culture?1 But was Rock the first to introduce Pound to the culture of the Naxi. In Pound’s Cantos there are beautiful passages about Lijiang and its Naxi inhabitants. Terrell. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. 1993. the Beinecke Library of Yale University. “The 2Muan-1bpö Ceremony or the Sacrifice to Heaven as Practiced by the Na-hki”. copyright © 2006 by Mary de Rachewiltz and Omar S. and the Lilly Library of Indiana University. an ethnic group in southwest China? Did Pound ever come into contact with a Naxi native? Rock and Pound corresponded in the late 1950s. While most of the letters exchanged between them are lost or buried among uncatalogued Joseph Rock papers in Hawaii and elsewhere. and 113. 112. Carroll F. Many have attributed this renown to the legacy of the American botanist Joseph Rock (1884-1962). A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. The Ancient Na-khi Kingdom of Southwest China. 104. Few are aware of Ezra Pound’s contribution. Thanks are due to Pao-hsien Fang for permission to quote from his cards to the Pounds and letters to Peter Goullart. 1 Carroll F. his 1948 essay. . Pound. Pao-hsien Fang. My research for this essay was aided by a grant from American Philosophical Society. Terrell and others have correctly identified Rock’s 1939 bilingual narrative. one from Rock to Pound (dated 3 January 1956) has been discovered in the Ezra and Dorothy Pound’s previously unpublished letters. are printed by permission of New Directions Publishing Corporation. for providing photocopies and photographs of the letters and cards.PAO-HSIEN FANG AND THE NAXI RITES IN EZRA POUND’S CANTOS ZHAOMING QIAN Lijiang in southwest China has been a favorite tourist attraction ever since its inclusion in the list of UNESCO’s World Heritage sites.

. and Josefine Fang. 1957. Giovannini of the Catholic University of America.74 Zhaoming Qian Beinecke Library of Yale University.3 Fig. Yunnan. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. Courtesy P. who graciously shared with me her discovery of this letter in the Beinecke Library. the Na Khi. sent me a letter written by Prof.2 In it Rock refers to a “Na-khi boy” and two of his papers on the Naxi given to Pound through Professor Giovanni Giovannini of the Catholic University of America: My friend Pao-hsien Fang. 272. in Ezra Pound and China. they keep no catalogued or uncatalogued correspondence between Rock and Pound. and Plotinus”. Courtesy Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library of Yale University. “‘Why Not Spirits?’ – ‘The Universe Is Alive’: Ezra Pound. Joseph Rock. Was Pound acquainted with Rock’s Naxi friend? He certainly was. Zhaoming Qian. Giovannini told Fang that he had given you two of my papers on the Na-khi among whom I lived for 27 years. According to Sheila Connor. 2003. 1: The Fangs to the Pounds. In the letter Mr. 3 I am indebted to Emily Mitchell Wallace. H. ed. a source of Joseph Rock papers. a Na-khi boy whose parents I used to know for many years in Likiang. The Beinecke Library keeps two Christmas cards Pao-hsien Fang and 2 Emily Mitchell Wallace. G. the Archivist of the Arnold Arboretum Library in Boston.

On the back of this 1959 New Year’s Day card Pao-hsien (Paul) Fang acknowledges Pound’s return of several books. respectively (figure 1). but the note points toward Paohsien Fang’s familiarity with Pound’s interest in the hexagrams from the I Ching (Book of Changes) and with his on-going project on the Naxi for the final cantos:4 Dear Poet. Italy. The Lilly Library of Indiana University preserves an additional greeting card from the Fangs to the Pounds. I would give fifty to the study of the Book of Changes.Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos 75 his wife sent the Pounds in 1957 and 1963. alluding to Confucius’ “If many years were added to me. Please let us hear from you! Merry Christmas & Happy New Year Paul Josefine Paula. according to Olga Rudge. People’s Republic [of China]. Peter. Anna. Maria. Is the design of 八 卦 [hexagrams] in this greeting card appropriate? I wish more cantos from you will resurrect 麗 江 [Lijiang]. Pound’s daughter Mary de Rachewiltz in Brunnenburg. On its back Pao-hsien Fang writes: 4 Pound’s interest in the hexagrams from the I Ching (Book of Changes) began perhaps in the mid-1950s when he wrote in Canto 102/749: “50 more years on The Changes”. dated 1959. after the Revolution [of 1911]. one of Christmas 1959. David. Pound and Rudge made hexagrams together every day. In 1962-72. first thing after breakfast” (Pound Papers at the Beinecke Library). The Cantos. and might therefore manage to avoid great mistakes” (all page references to the Cantos are from Ezra Pound. John-Michael Fang Recently. Thank you for these books you sent back and the beautiful binding with your precious signature. has dug out a fourth greeting card from the Fangs to the Pounds. Republic [of China]. 1969). Commune etc. Were they Pound’s Naxi sourcebooks? This is unclear. New York: New Directions Press. “usually in the morning. .

Pound’s side of their correspondence. a retired professor and scientist. the greeting cards Pao-hsien and Josefine Fang sent the Pounds have up to this moment remained mixed up with the Pound-Achilles Fang materials at the Beinecke Library and the Lilly Library. After taking a master’s degree at Ohio State the following year.D. we discovered him. Pao-hsien Fang 方 寶 賢 (1923-) left home at age fifteen to attend a middle school in the provincial capital Kunming. At that time the Kunming-Burma Road that covered most of the trip from Lijiang to Kunming had not yet been finished. living with his wife Josefine and youngest daughter Teresa at Belmont. where he first learned Mandarin Chinese.5 What do we know about Pao-hsien Fang? How did he get to know Pound? Born to a Naxi merchant family in Lijing. Part of the problem seems to have been confusion of Pao-hsien Fang with Pound’s best-known Chinese friend. in Mary de Rachewiltz’s hand. . Yunnan Province. the Harvard scholar Achilles Fang (1910-1995). in physics at the Catholic University of America in Washington D. Pao-hsien Fang came to the US and entered Ohio State University in Columbus. Naxi. we had to find Paohsien Fang. Pao-hsien Fang told me in a recent interview in his beautiful Belmont home (figure 2). he preferred traveling on foot. 5 The backs of both the 1957 and the 1963 cards from the Fangs at the Beinecke Library are labeled. Pao-hsien Fang’s role as a source of Pound’s cantos about the Naxi has long gone unnoticed. Indeed. a language quite different from his mother tongue.76 Zhaoming Qian We follow your work with gratitude: my beloved country and my beloved village will be immortalized through your pen and your words.C. It would take about eighteen days to walk from Lijiang to Kunming. To our delight. While other Naxi villagers would ride horses or mules up and down tremendous mountains. and through him. as a special student. he started to work for a Ph. Pao-hsien Fang’s name has been missing from all Pound biographies. “Not Achilles Fang”. 方 寶 寶 Were the Fangs reading Cantos 101 and 104 of the Thrones? In order to answer this question and solve other puzzles. Massachusetts. In 1949.

The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius. New York: New Directions. The Unwobbling Pivot. More than once or twice they took their oldest daughter Paula and son David with them to the 6 See Pound’s Cathay. to meet an American poet incarcerated on charges of treason for making antigovernment broadcasts in fascist Rome. New York: New Directions. Rapallo: Scuola Tipografica Orfanotrofio Emiliani. had translated into English Confucian books such as Ta Hio: The Great Learning (1928) and The Analects (1951) and classic Chinese poems by Li Po and others (Cathay. The Analects. Seattle: University of Washington Bookstore. in Personae: The Shorter Poems. Figure 2. 1915). Photo by Teresa Fang In the next five or more years Pao-hsien and Josefine Fang visited Ezra and Dorothy Pound countless times. Early in 1953. who in 1952 became their firstborn Paula’s godfather. 1954. Ta S’eu/Dai Gaku: Studio Integrale. rpt. Professor Giovannini took Pao-hsien Fang to St Elizabeths Hospital in southeast Washington D. By introducing Pao-hsien to the couple. Giovannini knew how profoundly the poet Ezra Pound and his wife Dorothy were interested in China.D. The poet. a window to a little-known ethnic Chinese culture. 1928.6 As a family friend and a regular visitor. Confucius: The Great Digest. Ta Hio: The Great Learning of Confucius. 1915. 1942. Walton Litz. Cambridge: Harvard University Press. 2003.C. Among their mutual friends was Catholic University English Professor Giovanni Giovannini. who held a Ph. . 1951. he secretly hoped to open a new window for them. eds Lea Baechler and A. 1970. Qian with the Fangs. Giovannini told Pao-hsien Fang. from the University of Graz (1948) in Austria and was working for a master’s degree in library science at the Catholic University of America.Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos 77 There he met and married Josefine Maria Riss from Austria.

This was the first time he confided to Pound that he was not a Han Chinese but a Naxi man from Lijiang.78 Zhaoming Qian government hospital. and Fenellosa’s essay on “The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry” (edited and published by Pound in 1918 and 1936). A trade edition of Pound’s Confucian Odes. Ernest Fenollosa (1853-1908). . The Hall of Mirrors: Drafts and Fragments and the End of Ezra Pound’s Cantos. the English novelist James Hilton (author of Lost Horizon). The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry.”7 Those were the years when Pound was trying to bring out a bilingual edition of the Confucian Odes with a Chinese seal text and a sound key. had fascinated the American botanist Joseph Rock.9 One day. when Pound began quoting Fenollosa and marveling at the Chinese character in primitive form again. however. a man of few words. which flourished from the eighth to the eighteenth centuries. surprised the eloquent American poet by remarking that his people. San Francisco: City Lights Books. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press. In a letter to the Fangs of 6 January 1959. Forgotten Kingdom. Its beautiful landscape.8 With a visitor originally from China. 24. Terrell terms an “image of the archetypal holy city”11 and Peter Stoicheff describes as “a symbol of an earthly paradise”12 in Pound’s Thrones (1959): 7 8 See the complete letter from Dorothy Pound to the Fangs below. New York: Simon and Schuster. 93. Paideuma. delighted their young children. ed. E’s.10 And it would soon be turned into what Carroll F. “The Na-khi Documents I: The Landscape of Paradise”. III/1 (Spring 1974). Ezra Pound. Pao-sien Fang. 10 James Hilton. 1995. had the world’s only surviving pictographs. The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius. the Naxi. whose green lawns. 12 Peter Stoicheff. was published by Harvard University Press in 1954. Lijiang was the center of the ancient Naxi kingdom. Terrell. remains unpublished and is held at the Beinecke Library. naturally he would talk endlessly about Confucius. On Ezra Pound’s birthdays Josefine would make a special kind of cake she knew the poet was fond of and it was Paula who would carry it to where the Pounds received their visitors. along with a unique culture. 11 Carroll F. 1955. Pound’s manuscript for a projected bilingual edition of the Confucian Odes with a Chinese seal text and a sound key. Peter Goullart. Yunnan. Dorothy Pound recalled one of these friendly visits: “Paula may remember bringing EP his birthday cake at St. 9 Ernest Fenollosa. Lost Horizon. like a public park’s. 1936. 1933. London: John Murray. and the Russian journalist Peter Goullart (author of Forgotten Kingdom). on the borders of Tibet.

. 746. Canto 112. the two aces Mint grows at the foot of the Snow Range 13 79 and Drafts and Fragment (1969): By the pomegranate water. its pictographic writing and religious rites in particular. 13 14 Canto 101. so do “the waters of Stone Drum” and the “Jade stream” ( ). at age eighty-one. Lung Wang’s the clear discourse as Jade stream Yü4 ho2 14 The “earthly paradise” over Lijiang is real. The “Snow Range” remains as majestic and serene as it has ever been. many springs are at the foot of Hsiang Shan By the temple pool. Legge. Since 1973 he regularly returns to his hometown Lijiang (meaning “Beautiful River”) once a year. and so does the Hsiang Shan (meaning “Elephant Hill”) standing between the Old Town and the New Town. In 2004. he made his thirty-second trip.Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos at Li Chiang. was less interested in the Naxi landscape than the Naxi heritage. Pound. 804. the snow range. a wide meadow and the 2dto-1mba’s face (exorcist’s) muy simpático by the waters of Stone Drum. but just as Giovannini had expected. however. Pao-hsien Fang testifies. in the clear air over Li Chiang The firm voice amid pine wood. Pao-hsien Fang is too modest to consider his role as important. his visits to St Elizabeths served to open Pound’s eyes to a China beyond the Chinas of Fenollosa.

Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press [1865] 1960. according to the Russian journalist. A Na-khi Tribal Love Story”. 5 vols. See also Joseph Rock. entries for the Naxi pictographs for the “moon” and “night. as far as Pao-hsien Fang can remember. the Naxi people “believe simultaneously and sincerely in Buddhism. 83-84. a life”. “The 2Muan-1bpö Ceremony or the Sacrifice to Heaven as Practiced by the 1Na-2khi”. Paris: Pierres. Joseph-Anne-Marie de Moyriac De Mailla. 1963. Pound reproduces two Naxi pictographs. Among the dozen or more Naxi pictographs drawn for Pound. Roma: Istituto Italiano per il Medio ed Estremo Oriente. Ancestral Worship (Confucianism). Similar to the Han Chinese. From that point onward. 18 See also Rock’s posthumous work.15 and even Achilles Fang. Taoism. 17 Canto 112. The Chinese Classics. 805. 67-68. Did the Naxi believe in Confucianism? Or did they believe in Taoism and Buddhism? An answer to this question is given by Peter Goullart in Forgotten Kingdom. A 1Na-1Khi-English Encyclopedic Dictionary. In Canto 112. as Rock puts it.19 Having left home at a young age. 13 vols. Monumenta Serica: Journal of Oriental Studies of the Catholic University of Peking. . for “fate’s tray” or.16 and for the “moon”: Winnowed in fate’s tray neath luna 17 Although both pictographs occur in Rock’s “The Romance of K’a2 mä-1gyu 2mi-gkyi” and “The 2Muan-1bpö Ceremony”.18 Pound was equally curious about Naxi people’s religious practices. are those for the “sun” ( ) and the “moon” ( ). 169 and 179. “The Romance of K’a-2mä-1gyu 2mi-gkyi. These eleven-hundred-year-old pictographs are preserved in Naxi Dongba (“2dto-1mba”) scriptures as an aid to the recitation of various religious rites. 1777-85. Pound was of course eager to see the world’s only surviving pictographs. it is safe to assume that Pound had learned first from Pao-hsien Fang. [and] Animism”. 16 Joseph Rock. Pound would ask him to draw a few Naxi signs and teach him how to pronounce them. Part I. XIII (1948). Histoire générale de la Chine. “a large winnowing tray made of the small bamboo” embodying “a fate. Bulletin de l’Ecole Francaise d’Extreme-Orient. 10. Forgotten Kingdom. whenever Pao-hsien Fang showed up at St Elizabeths Hospital. XXXIX (1939).80 Zhaoming Qian de Mailla.” 19 Goullart. resulting in a new direction in his Late Cantos. Pao-hsien Fang 15 James Legge.

a monk. as he did Goullart. Referring to 2Muan 1bpö and 2Ndaw 1bpö in a recent letter to me. .21 and then. Bpo means white. A little later. but I anticipate. into Canto 112: If we did not perform 2Ndaw 1bpö 20 Pao-hsien Fang remembers chatting with Pound numerous times about Naxi funeral rites. Nonetheless. with 2Ndaw 1bpö.Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos 81 was. from funeral ceremonies for natural deaths to those for suicides.20 Their conversation would move from one familiar rite to another. He might well have first shared this knowledge with Pound. Through casual conversations. We visited his monastery. prepared his grandfather’s funeral: “I remember him [Shenlou Hutuktu] well. Pound would soon read about 2Muan 1bpö and 2 Ndaw 1bpö in Rock’s “The 2Muan-1bpö” and about 2H!r-2la-1llü 3k’ö in Rock’s “The Romance”. administered to bring peace to the roaming spirits of lovers who had committed suicide to escape arranged marriages.” Surely. He would have told him. In a letter of 10 September 1962. the Lijiangborn physicist had accidentally prepared Pound for Rock’s treatments of these subjects. Fang evidently had a fresh memory of his grandfather’s funeral. Pound too would appreciate the simplicity with which he elucidates the two Naxi rites. he spent no less time chatting with Pound about his people’s singular ceremonies – 2Muan 1 bpö or Sacrifice to Heaven and 2Ndaw 1bpö or Sacrifice to Earth. on his early visits to St Elizabeths (1953-55).” 21 Canto 98. . Pao-hsien Fang would share with Peter Goullart his personal knowledge of his grandfather’s funeral ceremonies. or “2H!r-2la-1llü 3k’ö”. and at the death of my grandfather he stayed in our house for two months to help with the preparations for the funeral. which his grandparents and parents performed at least twice annually in those years. Another topic that would arise in their conversation was Naxi people’s funeral rites. unable to illuminate his people’s religions. Pao-hsien Fang explains: “Muau means heaven or sky. He was a good friend of my grandfather. In the Naxi language the adjective follows the noun. Ndaw means earth or land. 711. stayed in his parents’ house for two months to prepare his grandfather’s funeral. frankly. the “wind sway”. who appeared in Goullart’s The Monastery of the Jade Mountain. . that a friend of his grandfather’s. 2Muan 1bpö found its way first into Canto 98: Without 2muan 1bpö . he informed Peter Goullart that Monk Shenlou Hutuktu of the Monastery of the Jade Mountain.


Zhaoming Qian
nothing is solid without 2Mùan 1bpö no reality22


H!r-2la-1llü 3k’ö surfaces in Canto 110:
H!r-2la-1llü 3k’ö of the wind sway, The nine fates and the seven, and the black tree was born dumb, The water is blue and not turquoise When the stag drinks at the salt spring and sheep come down with the gentian sprout, can you see with eyes of coral or turquoise or walk with the oak’s root?23

For John Peck, Canto 110 with 2H!r-2la-1llü 3k’ö presents a “suicide night world”.24 For Emily Mitchell Wallace, this canto “focuses not on the manner of death or ways of dying, but on ways of responding to the death of a loved one and to the possibilities of life after death”.25 Whatever the interpretation, Canto 110 reveals a shift in Pound’s Confucianism, a parting from Canto 13, where Kung is quoted as saying “nothing of the ‘life after death’”.26 In 1955, after he earned his Ph.D. from the Catholic University of America, Pao-hsien Fang moved to Philadelphia to take an engineering job at Philco. That fall Joseph Rock returned to the US mainland, the East Coast, from Hawaii (where he was a Research Professor in Oriental Studies at the University of Hawaii) and paid Pao-hsien a visit. Rock had been a friend of Pao-hsien’s parents before Pao-hsien was born. While in Lijiang in the 1920s and 1930s the botanist-explorer had borrowed sums of local silver dollars from the elder Fang, which he had chosen to pay back in the early 1950s by sending checks of American dollars to Pao-hsien at Ohio State and the Catholic University of America. Before departure on his 1955 visit, Rock took from his briefcase two of his monographs on the Naxi –
22 23

Canto 112, 804. Canto 110, 797. 24 John Peck, “Landscape as Ceremony in the Later Cantos: From the Roads of France to Rock’s World”, Agenda, 2 (1971), 50-60. 25 Wallace, “‘Why Not Spirits?’ – ‘The Universe Is Alive’...”, 252. 26 Canto 13, 59.

Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos


“The Romance of K’a-2mä-1gyu 2mi-gkyi” and “The 2Muan-1bpö Ceremony” – and signed them to Pao-hsien. Believing that these rare papers would answer most, if not all, of Pound’s trying queries about Naxi pictographs and religious rites, Pao-hsien Fang sent them to St Elizabeths Hospital through Professor Giovannini. As the opening of Rock’s letter of January 1956 to Pound suggests, later in 1955 Pao-hsien Fang forwarded to Rock a letter by Giovannini, informing him how Pound had gotten these monographs and how much Pound had been impressed by his lifelong commitment to saving the Naxi pictographic language and literature. Pao-hsien must have enclosed a note, encouraging Rock to write back to Pound in incarceration at St Elizabeths Hospital. In any event, it was Paohsien Fang, together with Giovanni Giovannini, that had put Pound in touch with Rock, initiating a correspondence between the two older men in the next few years. In the summer of 1956, Pao-hsien Fang left his job at Philco and returned to Washington D.C. When he resumed his visits to St Elizabeths, Pound would keep him longer for his Naxi lessons. At age seventy Pound had started to learn a new language. One of his regular visitors, David Gordon, remembered seeing on one wall of Pound’s St Elizabeths room Naxi pictographs copied from Rock’s monographs.27 What Gordon did not know is that Pound had a private tutor for his Naxi lessons. During these sessions Pound would pick a word here and a word there from “The Romance of K’a-2mä-1gyu 2mi-gkyi” or “The 2Muan-1bpö Ceremony” and ask Pao-hsien Fang to pronounce them and explain their meanings. Pao-hsien Fang’s copy of “The Romance” bears some of his glosses and corrections for Pound. On page 9, for instance, above the phonetic symbol “1Yu-” is the English word “sheep” in Pao-hsien’s hand. From the Naxi pictograph for “shepherd”, a figure with a sheep’s head , Pound could have guessed what “1Yu-”, in Rock’s 1 “ Yu-boy”, meant. Pao-hsien Fang’s gloss here points to Pound’s insistence on making certain what each part of a Naxi compound word signified. In “The Romance” Rock provides the original pictographic text of the suicide story of K’a-2mä-1gyu 2mi-gkyi and her shepherd lover 2Ndzi-2bö-1yü-2lä-1p’"r with translation, transcription, and explanatory notes. Pound’s close attention to that page turns out to have been on one of the romance’s protagonists.

Terrell, “The Na-khi Documents I: The Landscape of Paradise”, 94.


Zhaoming Qian

Rock’s phonetic system with hyphens and superscripts is meant to help Western readers pronounce unpronounceable Naxi pictographs. Still, Pound would want to hear the words spoken by a Naxi nativespeaker. By 1948, it is worth noting, Pound had acquired a copy of Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary with a phonetic key for each character.28 Using it as a guide, he successfully transcribed the “singing syllables” of the Confucian odes. Yet, whenever the Fangs’ fellow student at the Catholic University, Veronica Huilan Sun came, Pound would implore her to read aloud a few Confucian odes.29 He would, of course, take advantage of Pao-hsien Fang’s knowledge of Naxi. His alertness to Naxi phonetics is evidenced by Pao-hsien’s gloss to the Naxi word for “cuckoo” on page 53 of “The Romance”. In describing the pronunciation of this Naxi word, Rock acknowledges that “The word 3gkye-2bpu is the most difficult to pronounce; it is really 3tgkye or 3tkhye”. In the margin next to this comment is given in Pao-hsien Fang’s hand “eng geek”.30 No doubt, it was at Pound’s urging that Pao-hsien Fang facilitated the “unpronounceable” Naxi word. On that same page, one will notice, Pao-hsien Fang corrects a mistake in Rock’s description of the Naxi pictograph for “three months of spring” . His copy shows that the number “four” in “four horizontal lines” below the moon (meaning “month”) is crossed out and changed to “3”. Going through passages in Rock’s monographs with Pound, Pao-hsien Fang must have facilitated far more unpronounceable words and corrected far more inaccuracies than those that have been recorded. It is a pity that Pao-hsien’s copy of “The 2Muan-1bpö Ceremony” with more of his glosses has not been found. As Pound’s daughter Mary de Rachewiltz testifies, “The 2 Muan-1bpö Ceremony” at Brunnenburg, Italy, is not Pao-hsien Fang’s, but Peter Goullart’s, given to Pound or her husband Boris.31

R. H. Mathews, Mathews’ Chinese-English Dictionary, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1944. 29 Humphrey Carpenter, A Serious Character: A Life of Ezra Pound, Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988, 797-98. 30 Pao-hsien Fang has some reservations about Rock’s symbols for Naxi sounds. In describing Naxi words, he uses instead a phonetic system established by his uncle Guoyu Fang, a renowned scholar of Naxi language and literature. For that system, see Guoyu Fang, Naxi xiangxing wenzi pu (A Dictionary of Naxi Pictographs), Kunming: Yunnan People’s Press, 1979. 31 In her reply of 22 September 2004, Mary de Rachewiltz writes: “There’s no sign of P. H. Fang in any books here (am I right in remembering a Xmas card to EP with

Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos


The few recorded examples, nonetheless, are sufficient proof that Paohsien Fang was to Pound more than a helpful interpreter of Rock’s monographs on the Naxi. To say that during Pound’s St Elizabeths years he served as an authentic tutor on things about the Naxi is an understatement. The friendship between the Pounds and the Fangs continued to thrive after Pound left St Elizabeths and returned to Italy. In mid1958, upon hearing from Giovannini (or from James Craig La Drière, another of Pound’s academic friends at the Catholic University of America) of Pound’s release from St Elizabeths Hospital, Pao-hsien Fang apparently asked about the two Rock monographs he had loaned to Pound, for on 15 July Pound wrote to Pao-hsien Fang from Boris and Mary de Rachewiltz’s castle at Brunnenburg, Italy to assure him that his copies of “The Romance” and “The 2Muan-1bpö Ceremony” were not lost or given away:
Dear Fang I have found your Mùen Bpo & K’A MA gyu in my luggage. Are you in a hurry or do you merely want to know they are safe. Sorry for confusion. Greetings to G. Giov. & La Dr. & auguri [best wishes] for the most recent edition of the Fang. Cordially E. Pound

Of course, Pao-hsien Fang was not in a haste to get back the two monographs. Nonetheless, before he had a chance to tell Pound in writing that he could keep these papers as long as he wished, Dorothy had already put them in the mail to the US. When the package from Brunnenburg arrived, Pao-hsien Fang opened it to find his copy of “The Romance” newly bound with a hard cover and with a note in red ink by Pound on the front endpaper:
Sorry the binder has omitted
photo of family with several children???) The Muan Bpo [here] has EP’s initials on cover. The various books & articles by J. Rock were given to Boris by Peter Goullart who was in Tibet [Lijiang] with Rock.”

Rock’s dedication to Fang. Ezra Pound Aug 1958 (figure 3)

Zhaoming Qian

Fig. 3. Pound to Fang, 1958. Courtesy P. H. Fang.

During the years 1955-58 Pound had used “The Romance” so frequently that its signed soft cover had been worn off. Pound thought Rock’s dedication would mean a lot to Pao-hsien Fang. Unexpectedly, however, Pao-hsien Fang valued Pound’s signature far more dearly than the botanist’s. This appreciation is evident in Pao-hsien’s note on the back of his 1959 card to the Pounds: “Thank you for these books you sent back and the beautiful binding with your precious signature.” To this day Pao-hsien Fang holds that Lijiang was brought alive to the outside world not by Rock, as most would think, but by Peter Goullart and Pound. To him Goullart’s and Pound’s Lijiang is far more palpable and joyful than Rock’s. After he had read Forgotten Kingdom (1955), Goullart’s first book about the Naxi, Pao-sien Fang was so thrilled that he promptly wrote to the Russian author to say how grateful he was for an “obvious affection” shown there for his native land. “I cannot say the same about Dr. Rock”, he continued, “not because he is restricted to archaic writings, but because I had one occasion to meet him in the U.S. when his only adjective about Likiang seems to be ‘primitive’.” In the late 1950s and early 1960s, Pound was also corresponding with Peter Goullart. Having learned from his Australian friend Noel Stock that the author of Forgotten Kingdom would travel to Italy, he wrote Goullart on 5 August 1958: “AND (again if Stock is correct in

Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos


your itinerary), we should be delighted to put you up here, probably for more nights than you will be able to spare.” Clearly, Pound had read Forgotten Kingdom with delight, for he had recommended the book to many friends: “We offer you five readers of ‘Forgotten Kingdom’ collected in one locale.” To write the paradise over Lijiang authentically in his final cantos Pound was anxious to take advantage of all accessible sources on the topic. His letter of August 1958 to Goullart confirms that at that point he was collecting more books and papers about the Naxi by Rock. He asked Goullart how he could “get copies of [Rock’s] Na Khi stuff”. “I wd/ be grateful for the information. Have had to send Fang’s copies back to him, and have now only the Muan Bpo”, he explained. Back in January 1956, as his first letter to Pound demonstrates, Rock offered a short list of his publications on the Naxi, which included “2 vols by the Harvard Press, entitled The Ancient Na-khi Kingdom of S. W. China” and “2 vol. on the Naga Cult and related ceremonies”. Nevertheless, it was not until the winter of 1958 that Pound finally acquired Rock’s Naxi materials beyond “The Romance” and “The 2Muan-1bpö Ceremony”. This we have learned from a letter Dorothy Pound wrote to the Fangs on 6 January 1959, a reply to the Fangs’ postcard of a family photograph. The letter opens with reference to de Rachewiltz’s children Walter and Patrizia and their castle at Brunnenburg, followed by Pound’s message:
Dear Famille Fang, We were most interested in the family Fang Photograph. Thank you. Only 2 children here, 11 & 9 years. The boy goes to school in Merano – the girl is still going to the village. Mrs. Fang may know Merano? We are close to the frontier – the mountains are huge – at present snow half way down. The Castello is very ancient, built on Roman foundations – we have, luckily, good wood stoves. Ezra very often reads to us after tea time his own Cantos – and the Odes; but cold weather rather slows him up. He sends messages – that Goullart got to London, & has arranged for publication of another book with Murray that B. de R’s (see enclos.) book is most important. His newest book is from a different papyrus than the old Badge & has excellent illustrations.

an account of life in Taoist and Buddhist temples before the founding of the People’s Republic. and should be useful in contacts in Rome. E’s. as we are in touch with them. de R’s”. Pound himself wrote Paohsien from Brunnenburg to announce that he had indeed gotten a set of The Ancient Na-khi Kingdom in two volumes.88 Zhaoming Qian Have you any idea of Rock’s whereabouts? He seems to have disappeared again! You can always get news of us from G. Speaking of Rock’s “newest book”. Giovannini. BUT the more we correlate the better. Also can he stop at my daughters Mary de Rachewiltz. He perhaps never passed the poet’s message to Rock. his birthday cake at St. Pound The physicist had no more news of Rock to offer Pound. printed not by John Murray but by Cox and Wyman in 1961. Before Christmas of that . Hoping you are all well. signaling his continued pursuit of the botanist’s works on the Naxi: Dear Mr Fang I have at last got hold of Rock’s “Ancient Kingdom” with its fine photographs. Eight months later. In that letter he again asked the whereabouts of Rock. Not that Rock needs them. Goullart’s book is very lively. Have you his Vienna address? Can you urge him to contact the Forschungsinstitut in Frankfurt? The widow Frobenius is a friend. although by late 1958 that title was no longer new. the most important “B. Paula may remember bringing EP. on 25 August 1959. Schloss Brunnenburg-Tirolo MERANO Italy. most sincerely Dorothy Pound The book Goullart had arranged for publication in London was The Monastery of Jade Mountain. You could also ask Rock about Goullart who stayed with him in Li-Chiang Cordially yours E. and my name useful there. I think Dorothy had in mind The Ancient Na-khi Kingdom of Southwest China (1947). [?] My son in law is doing nicely in Egyptology. and with our very best wishes for 1959.

746.Pao-hsien Fang and the Naxi Rites in Ezra Pound’s Cantos 89 year he received his copy of Pound’s Thrones. With profound admiration and gratitude. he re-emphasizes the value of Pound’s imaginative work to the Naxi people: “I appreciate so much the work of Pound with his imagination and his profound thoughts. And North Khi. which has published a 100-volume translation and annotated edition of the Ancient Naxi Dongba Manuscripts. but I enjoyed so immensely these moments I visited Mr. the star-discs sewn on her coat at Lichiang32 and 104 – Na Khi talk made out of wind noise. Naturally. After he had read the Naxi passages in Canto 101 – With the sun and moon on her shoulders.” Similarly. especially those about the Naxi. 758. in a recent letter to me. Canto 104. he wrote on a Christmas card he was sending to the Pounds: “We follow your work with gratitude: my beloved country and my beloved village will be immortalized through your pen and your words. I am not engaged in the field of literature. people in Lijiang would be very interested and very grateful to Pound’s work and your up-to-date scholarship. Its first volume on “Heaven-worshipping Rite: Return of the Ancestors” corresponds to Rock’s “The 2 Muan-1bpö Ceremony”.”34 32 33 Canto 101. not to be heard amid sounds of the forest but to fit in with them unperceived by the game33 he remembered once again how Pound had attentively listened to his Naxi stories. he is never at a loss to express his high regard for Pound’s Cantos. making him very proud of his native land. . Thus in a letter to Peter Goullart of September 1962 he observes: “No doubt you have seen some of his cantos.” Although Pao-hsien is not a literature man. 34 In that letter Pao-hsien Fang also offered to introduce me to experts at the Dongba Cultural Research Institute in Lijiang. even with very limited resources. Today the resources have been vastly expanded. Pound and listened to his extolling expressions about our beloved land and people.

By then he had actually stopped communicating with the outside world.90 Zhaoming Qian Without hearing from the Pounds. The memorable Naxi passages in the final cantos can be viewed as his responses to Paohsien Fang’s appreciative notes: By the pomegranate water. his dialogue with the Lijiang native was destined to endure. Pound never acknowledged Fangs’ greetings. Pao-hsien Fang continued to send them Christmas cards for several years. Nonetheless. “From the Fangs/ Christmas 1963”. 804-805. Lung Wang’s the clear discourse as Jade stream Yü4 ho2 Artemisia Arundinaria Winnowed in fate’s tray neath luna 35 35 Canto 112. simply. many springs are at the foot of Hsiang Shan By the temple pool. in the clear air over Li Chiang The firm voice amid pine wood. The last of these is signed. .


Current critical debate discusses contemporary poetry in terms of the Pound, Stevens or Williams’ era, forgetting T. S. Eliot, the poet who presided over the literary scenario for almost half a century. Eliot’s bookishness, political conservatism and religious leanings, together with the Modernist cultivation of an erudite, culturally charged idiom, have constituted a serious source of critical discontent. For the adepts of Marxist hermeneutics, his work came to represent “a privileged, closed, authoritative and exclusive form of discourse”.1 In the Seventies and Eighties, Modernist high art came under attack, and was perceived as inimical to the democratic ethos. The popular argument against high culture was that it had turned its back on egalitarianism, advocating an art for the initiated few and expressing elitist disdain for the masses’ lack of cultural preparation. Difficult Modernist aesthetics, soon branded as “aristocratic”, were considered foreign, divisive, and difficult. In this context, tradition, culture, order or the spirit of Europe, values that Eliot embraced, became a way of getting around social inequalities and class privilege. To the postmodern sensibility, Eliot had become an example of formal and intellectual closure, having apparently little to contribute to the new experimental and open forms. The new poetic idioms initiated an overt rebellion against Eliotic Modernism. According to prevailing misapprehensions, Eliot would have imposed poetic propriety at the expense of the more intuitive, visionary aspects of imagination. Eliot’s notion of impersonality was

Terry Eagleton, Criticism and Ideology, London: Verso, 1985, 145-51. Perhaps the fiercest attack launched on Eliot is Cynthia Ozick’s “T. S. Eliot at 101”, New Yorker, 20 November 1989, 119-54.


Viorica Patea

soon misunderstood as a way of repressing the subjective and instinctual dimensions of selfhood. To him emotions and feelings would have been subsidiary to reason, order, authority and form, concepts banned from the postmodern agenda. Eliot’s concept of impersonality has been misinterpreted as a way of fitting the psyche into the Procustean bed of the willful ego. From this vantage point, Eliot ceases to be the champion of a unified sensibility and becomes, ironically, the advocate of a dissociation he so strongly combated. Yet Eliot affirmed time and again the emotional, unconscious roots that lie at the foundation of art, and considered that the recovery of the ability to feel was the guarantee of cultural vitality. In spite of promoting the idea of the poet as a highly conscious craftsman, Eliot showed that poetic creation is in essence a much more irrational, uncontrollable process than the Romantic poets ever ventured to admit in their postulates. As a point of fact, his oeuvre is a confrontation of the rational and the irrational. Much more intensely than his Romantic predecessors, he recognized the workings of the unconscious to which the poet is exposed and which he cannot control.2 Eliot reminds us that the poet is under “the obligation to explore, to find words for the inarticulate, to capture those feelings which people can hardly even feel, because they have no words for them” and to go “beyond the frontiers of ordinary consciousness”. His task consists in “making people comprehend the incomprehensible”.3 The correlate of purifying “the language of the tribe”4 is to enlarge the range of feelings, “to extend the confines of the human consciousness and to report of things unknown, to express the inexpressible”.5 Moreover, Eliot’s sense of tradition allowed for anthropological, historical, psychological and literary realities that include the primitive, archaic and unconscious as integral parts of artistic

For Eliot the Romantic definition of poetry as an “‘emotion recollected in tranquility’ is an inexact formula”. In his seminal essay “Tradition and the Individual Talent” (1919) he proceeds “for it is neither emotion, nor recollection, nor, without distortion of meaning, tranquility. It is a concentration which does not happen consciously or of deliberation … it is a passive attending upon the event” (Selected Essays, London: Faber and Faber [1951], 1972, 21). 3 T. S. Eliot, “What Dante Means to Me”, in To Criticize the Critic, London: Faber and Faber, 1985, 134. 4 T. S. Eliot, “American Literature and American Language”, in To Criticize the Critic, 54. 5 T. S. Eliot, “Johnson as Critic and Poet”, in On Poetry and Poets, London: Faber and Faber, 1986, 169.

T. S. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method


expression. As early as 1919, he sustained that the poet “should be aware of the stratifications of history that cover savagery”6 and explore the primitive, pre-logical regions out of which myth rose, and which constitute the unconscious foundations of our psyche. His visionary incursions into the past yield a search for anthropological origins. This essay argues that the theoretical premises of the mythical method led to the exploration of worlds of otherness in quest for the spiritual foundations of the modern self. Both Joyce and Eliot resort to mythical and allusive strategies in an attempt to enact psychological conflicts and processes of consciousness. Eliot’s new poetics draws on the comparativist method of anthropology and psychology and shares their universal vocation. This quest for an open form is best illustrated by The Waste Land and is at the same time an attempt to bring forth the common language of Eastern and Western spirituality. Heavily influenced by cubist aesthetics, the mythical method lays the basis of a new poetics that recognizes the cultural “other” at the foundation of the European self. Eliot’s great claim was that art is a transformation of personality. “Escape from personality” implied a creative process in which the personal had to be decreated, exposed to something other than itself and transformed into a new transpersonal reality through the medium of language. Creativity involved a “struggle – which alone constitutes life for a poet – to transmute his personal and private agonies into something rich and strange, something universal and impersonal”.7 Artistic creation was above all an endeavor to go beyond the limits of selfhood. Primitivism, myth and anthropology Eliot conceived artistic creation as a retrieval of the unconscious, irrational, primitive psychic energies that modern man with his rationalistic prejudices has eradicated from his present consciousness. In an early essay, he argued: “primitive art and poetry can even, through the studies and experiments of the artist or poet, revivify the contemporary activities.”8 Like Laforgue and Gourmont, two of his poetic models, Eliot considered that the unconscious is the
6 7

T. S. Eliot, “War-Paint and Feathers”, Athenaeum, 4668 (17 October 1919), 1036. T. S. Eliot, “Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca”, in Selected Essays, 137. 8 Eliot, “War-Paint and Feathers”, 1036.


Viorica Patea

fundamental source of aesthetic creation9 and that the function of art lies in liberating man from bondage to his egoistic interests. The French symbolists’ notion of art as primarily a form of artistic selfpurgation and quest for the artist’s true hidden self was to exert a lasting influence on Eliot’s theory of impersonality – for him the transformation of the personal into the impersonal also entailed a mystical process of stripping and purification. For Gourmont real life took place at the level of the unconscious, where emotions responded to the stimuli of new sensations. “Personality”, a term Eliot was to borrow from him later and which he used loosely, was not the genuine self, but a mask of received attitudes one had to get rid of, since it stifled life with its automatic conventions. Gourmont, like Eliot after him, conceived art as a process that brought about the stripping of the stereotype. To be impersonal, presupposed a deliberate effort to break up conventional modes of perception of a contingent, superficial personality, a puttingoff of dead stringencies of an old self so as to prepare the way for a visionary process. Echoing Gourmont, Eliot remarked: “the personality is distilled into the work, it loses its accidents, it becomes … a permanent point of view, a phase in the history of mind.”10 Like Jung, Eliot affirmed the essential link between art, archaic spirituality and the structures of the unconscious. Sensitive to primitivism and mysticism, yet equally conscious of countervailing systems of beliefs, Eliot argued that modern art was made possible by the rediscovery of myths, religious symbols and archaic modes of consciousness that survive in the unconscious structures of the psyche: “the prelogical mentality persists in civilized man, but becomes available only to or through the poet.”11 Given the fact that “our lives are mostly a constant evasion from ourselves”, the essential powers of poetry “may make us from time to time a little more aware of the deeper, unnamed feelings which form the substratum of our being, to


For Laforgue and Gourmont’s influence on Eliot, see Jean Michel Rabaté, “Tradition and T. S. Eliot”, in The Cambridge Companion to T. S. Eliot, ed. David A. Moody, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994, 216-19, and Grover Smith, The Waste Land, London: George Allen and Unwin, 1983, 9-21. 10 T. S. Eliot, “Humanist, Artist, Scientist”, Athenaeum, 4667 (10 October 1919), 1015. 11 T. S. Eliot, “Conclusion”, in The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism, London: Faber and Faber, 1987, 148n.

T. S. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method


which we rarely penetrate”.12 Primitive cultures were an inspirational source for modern art: “some study of primitive man furthers our understanding of civilized man, so it is certain that primitive art and poetry help our understanding of civilized art and poetry.”13 The role of the poet, who is endowed with shaman-like powers, consisted in reawakening the unconscious contents of our mind and in putting them to the service of poetic creation: “The artist … is more primitive, as well as more civilized, than his contemporaries, his experience is deeper than civilization, and he only uses the phenomena of civilization in expressing it.”14 At no point did Eliot emulate these forms of atavism, but instead integrated them into modern consciousness in an effort to breach the rupture of a “dissociated sensibility”. His own poetry deals with those primitive energies – ecstasy and terror – that cannot be approached by pure intellectual means and have been dismissed from the daylight experience of civilized man. Linked to the retrieval of archaic fantasies, mystical participations and primitive energies, modern art implied a retrieval of the invisible roots of our conscious thoughts and the assimilation of “the stratifications of history that cover savagery”.15 In 1923, almost two years after the publication of Joyce’s Ulysses and a year after the publication of The Waste Land, Eliot hailed Joyce as the discoverer of a new artistic technique, “the mythical method”, which held for him “the importance of a scientific discovery”.16 In Ulysses, Joyce used the Homeric argument of the Odyssey as the informing structure of the contemporary adventures of Leopold Bloom during his one-day wanderings through modern Dublin. Eliot defined the mythical method as a “continuous parallel between contemporaneity and antiquity” which implied “a way of controlling, of ordering, of giving shape and significance to the immense panorama of futility and anarchy which is contemporary history”.17 Regardless of what the mythical method might have meant for Joyce
12 13

Ibid., 155. Eliot, “War-Paint and Feathers”, 1036. 14 T. S. Eliot, “Tarr”, The Egoist, V/8 (September 1918), 106. 15 Eliot, “War-Paint and Feathers”, 1036. 16 T. S. Eliot, “Ulysses, Order and Myth”, Dial, LXXV/5 (November 1923), 483; reproduced in Selected Prose of T. S. Eliot, ed. Frank Kermode, New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovitch, 1975, 177. 17 Ibid., 177.

21 Eliot found in anthropology and psychology the fountainhead of a new poetic idiom.18 Frazer’s encyclopaedic compendium of classical texts.. Eliot.20 Eliot recognized Frazer’s indelible impact on the literary and psychological circles of his generation. The Waste Land is the poetical illustration of Eliot’s historical sense and what it means to write with “a feeling that the whole of literature from Homer … has a simultaneous existence and composes a simultaneous order”. 98. Unlike Joyce. but a “vision” or a “point of view”. a mind that “abandons nothing en route”. 20 Ibid. 16. The Golden Bough brought “its light on the obscurities of the soul from a different angle” and gave evidence of “the agony of spiritual life”. Eliot. With its montages of overlapping traditions. 21 T. “A Prediction in Regard to Three English Authors”. His interest in Frazer. “Tradition and the Individual Talent”. 14. S. 178. The Waste Land shares the anthropological aspiration of setting up correspondences. More importantly. and The Golden Bough”. Eliot was indirectly expounding the structural principles that informed his own poem.. XXI/6 (February 1924).22 He challenged scientific claims to explain 18 19 Ibid. Eliot emphasized. Frazer had shaped the contours of the “contemporary mind” and extended its consciousness “into as dark and backward an abysm of time as has yet been explored”. 29. since it did not present a “theory”.96 Viorica Patea in “Ulysses. Vanity Fair. had been made possible by the new discoveries in “psychology … ethnology.19 conceived as a repository for individual and collective memory. folklore. Order and Myth”. The new literary method. The poem flows over multitudes of points of view and establishes links between different sets of beliefs that lie at the foundations of “the mind of Europe”. Its atemporal nature is endowed with an almost Jungian blend of mythic time and psychological history. immemorial rites and faiths. analogies and equivalences between different cultures belonging to various temporal and cultural perspectives. 22 Extensive reading in anthropology and psychology during his Harvard years provided Eliot with material for cross-cultural comparison. Eliot believed The Golden Bough was “the complimentary [sic] work of Freud” and of greater “permanence”. Eliot did not resort to a specific myth. anthropology and the theories of sociologists like Durkheim and Lévy-Bruhl as well . but to a web of classical and anthropological sources. comparative religions.

quoted by Manju Jain. Baudelaire. Hayward Bequest. Webster. 127). and Comparative Religions. 25 T. T. reviving those “truths long since known to Christianity.25 In its search for origins. Its allusive strategies and shifting points of view present a kaleidoscope of inner experiences and dramatic moments of consciousness of a mind that struggles to retrieve a lost legacy.24 Like Frazer’s Golden Bough. Ovid. Eliot. S. Marvell. “London Letter”. . Eliot and American Philosophy: The Harvard Years. Moreover. Wagner. 1992. Cambridge]. Eliot’s poem presents a quest for the continuum of modern consciousness. a search for “that vanished mind of which our mind is a continuation”. 453. Eliot disapproved of Frazer’s theories. but mostly forgotten and ignored”. Janet and Charcot prefigures many of the concerns expressed in The Waste Land. S. Shakespeare. Dial. And in an age in which traditional religious forms no longer expressed the inner mysteries of being. Eliot admired his comparative method. Eliot decried modern man’s loss of a vital relationship with symbols that once formed an active part of his cultural heritage. The Waste Land shares the common aspiration of sociology and comparative religions.T. religion. LXXI/4 (October 1921). Verlaine – into the more remote beginnings of Eastern culture – the Upanishads and Buddhism – and further back into the more primitive past of archaic myths.23 Frazer’s evolutionary framework was for him a mere mystification of religious experience. in his poetic transpositions. he argued that psychology brought about a scientific re-discovery of ancient truths. like Comte. Eliot adopted Frazer’s strategy to find an underlying pattern to the heterogeneous elements of different cultures. distinguished three stages in man’s evolution: magic. have a task … unique among sciences: that of interpreting into one language an indefinite variety of languages” (“The Interpretation of Primitive Ritual” [Ms 13. which consists in “interpreting into one language an indefinite variety of languages”. S. and as the positivistic psychology of Ribot. positivist or empirical perspectives. feeling that he reduced archaic religions to a complex of irrational superstitions that could be surpassed only by progress and the certitudes of scientific reason. 24 “Sociology. Yet although he criticized Frazer’s interpretive model. Dante. Virgil. Spenser. The Waste Land looks beyond the founding monuments of Western tradition – Homer. Religion evolved from the superstitious explanations by which primitive man tried to explain natural phenomena. and science. 23 Frazer. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method 97 mythico-religious phenomena from sociological. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Thomas Stearns Eliot: Poet. 446. Eliot: A Study in Character and Style. according to Eliot. yet it also suggests the existence of a continuous vital. the plot and symbolism of the poem. 79-80 and Ronald Bush. London: Eyre and Spottiswoode. 1984. documents a process of breakdown and reintegration that occurs in the individual psyche. New York: Oxford University Press. Weston’s From Ritual to Romance and Frazer’s The Golden Bough. On the similarity between Eliot’s aesthetics and Jungian theories. Unless otherwise indicated. New York: Harcourt Brace. Eliot: The Design of His Poetry. 72-75.98 Viorica Patea recast them into “a form and a language understandable by modern people to whom the language of Christianity is not only dead but undecipherable”. 27 Both David A. Eliot: From Skepticism to Surrealist Poetic 1909-1927. the exploration of consciousness presupposes concern with a collective cultural heritage. 1950 was the first to associate the metaphoric transformations of The Waste Land with Jung’s archetype of individuation and integration of personality (19-51. S. 50. 28 See Eliot’s own note to The Waste Land in The Complete Poems and Plays 19091950. buried life that rises to the surface. S. S. Eliot. VII/168 (30 March 1932). see also William Skaff. “The Search for Moral Sanction”.27 Furthermore. Elizabeth Drew in T. Eliot saw in myths the symbolic expressions of psychological patterns that point the way towards spiritual development and release from confining patterns of existence. The Waste Land bears out the archetypal meanings and psychological significations of fertility and vegetation rituals mentioned in Jessie L. all page references are to this edition. . 1980. 69 argue that The Waste Land. The parallel between antiquity and contemporary history allows for a realistic portrayal of modern life. T. S. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.28 26 T. The Listener. 1962. Moody. which center around the quest for a source of inner vitality and the need to inquire into the fount of life and regeneration provide. The process of breakdown and integration of the individual psyche is projected onto the background of a larger quest for cultural values of a ruined civilization struggling to retrieve its spiritual sources. The Philosophy of T. 1986. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. Their myths and legends. 87-90).26 The open-ended quest for consciousness in The Waste Land In Eliot’s work myth is inextricably bound to history and provides the key to the chaotic reality of modernity. while simultaneously advancing a cultural critique.

projected onto the seasonal alternations of winter and spring. Plagued by an indefinite sense of loss and deprivation. S. regenerated personality for whom the meaning of life is different from mere getting and spending. Life exhausts itself in the vulgarity of physiological materialism. Its language is that of commercial transactions and military strategies. In the world of Albert and Lil. 175). as if trying to give an answer to the haunting question that resounds insistently in the space of the poem: “Do / You know nothing? Do you see nothing? Do you remember / Nothing?” (l. The voices in the “waste land” perceive themselves as the living dead – “we who were living are now dying / With a little patience” (l. unguided by love and ethical values that could bring them freedom. The poem traces the inner journey into the depths of the personal and cultural past. 7) is composed of a compendium of mechanical gestures devoid of freedom. “Are you alive. The text gravitates around the narrator’s awareness that he is “neither / Living nor dead” (l. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method 99 The central experience of The Waste Land gravitates around the age-old pattern of death and rebirth that lies at the foundation of mythical narratives of wounded gods and their symbolic processes of regeneration. 126). The modern characters of The Waste Land are spectral inhabitants of an unreal city in which “the nymphs are departed” (l. The stories of their destinies. Automatic. are metaphorical expressions of psychological processes which involve the death of an old ignorant self. Apathy is linked to forgetfulness and a paralysis of feeling. 121-23). 39-40). The theme of The Waste Land is a quest for a buried self and a buried life. human relations are dominated by the dynamics of the marketplace or those of a battlefield. Love has turned into a power game. mechanized forms of life impose their constricting norms on the inner reality of selfhood and create a lifeless sensibility. and a difficult question. Unconscious of the cause of their suffering and oblivious of their fundamental desires and fears. the typist and the young man carbuncular. or not?” (l. they are tortured by the “dry sterile thunder without rain” (l. love or ethical values. Their “little life” (l. 342). Modern men and women act out assigned parts in the play of life and participate in a drama they do not understand. . the surrender of its materialistic egocentrism and the emergence of a new. 329-30).T. they drift like pawns on a chessboard.

“That corpse you planted last year in your garden. Life lies suspended in the apathy of a safe forgetfulness. The stirrings of spring unearth the personal memories and recollections of literary experiences. feel and express feeling: “What are the roots that clutch. despite the coming of April.100 Viorica Patea The people in “the waste land” lead a subterranean existence. 415). 366). Their bodies lie buried or drowned. and their regeneration in spring is still uncertain. / Has it begun to sprout?”. Shakespeare resound in the consciousness of the lyric “I”. The space of the poem is haunted by a series of questions and injunctions which mark the progressive stages of a mind struggling to escape its own inability to remember. epistemological or existential connotations incite spiritual ventures and quests of inner plenitude. The regenerating energies of nature set up a psychic parallel. “who is that on the other side of you?” (l. 71-71. “New Modes of Characterization”. 39. Walton Litz. They bring the poetic narrators in touch with suppressed realms of feeling and make them relive the inner meaning of these fragments that span in non-chronological fashion the course of civilization from its remote origins to the present. in Eliot in His Time. and drives its dormant contents into being. The revivifying spring rain brings the intuitive longings of “memory and desire” (37) that disturb the placidity of an inert consciousness. Princeton: Princeton University Press. withdrawn to the minimum expression of mere survival. Lines from Dante. 19-20.29 This experience will be kept alive by Ariel’s and Philomel’s songs. each confirms a prison” (l. Like Kafkaesque characters they wait for something they do not know yet vaguely intuit: “thinking of the key. 1973. 112. Marvell. that repeatedly disturb the lethargy of the present with their promise of metamorphosis and transcendence. the recurrent and transformative energies of the poem. 7). The ecstatic vision will be followed by other insistent calls and epiphanic moments. ed. what branches grow / Out of this stony rubbish?”. illustrated in the symbolic opening of the poem. so the drama in The Waste Land begins with a personal reminiscence and the desire to regain the brief moment of spiritual and erotic fulfillment lived in the hyacinth garden. Just as the brief vision of the Grail awakens in the quester the urge to retrieve it. Their metaphysical. Verlaine. . 29 Robert Langbaum. the traditional month of passion and rebirth. 4. Wagner. Their lethargic spirit animates metaphorically “dull roots” and “dried tubers” (l.

nightingales and spirits of the air. in which seeds are interchangeable with corpses. And casual encounters in the modern city – “Stetson! / You who were with me in the ships at Mylae!” (l. the Augustinian prayer. haunted identities. 30). Her descent into the winter is an ascent beyond fear towards transcendence. 135) – takes on connotations of ancient purification rites. which typify coherent and integral parts of consciousness. she lets herself slide down a mountain slope and experiences an unexpected moment of ecstatic freedom. Their actions and gestures partake of an archetypal penumbra. Surrounded by symbols they do not quite understand. / Shantih shantih shantih” (l. overcoming her fears. The game of chess translates into a game of death and life. the inhabitants of the waste land repeat unawares fragments of archaic myths and legends that lie at the foundation of Frazer’s and Weston’s rituals. whereas the contemporary scenes of lovelessness indicate the desecration of these mysteries. the Buddhist sermon and the impersonal admonition to “Hurry up please it’s time”. of . turns into an unknowing participation in mystery ceremonies of cyclic religions commemorating the drama of a slain god. Even a banal activity like gardening. the lyric “I” assimilates the words of prophets and saints and the non-human utterances of thunder-gods. S. Unknowingly. an unconscious parallelism to Dante’s spiritual pilgrimage in which the road to the summit of Paradise passes through the abyss of the Inferno. but a promise of rebirth and metamorphosis. The personal reminiscence of the love encounter in the hyacinth garden seems a surviving episode of an ancient initiation ritual. The inhabitants of the waste land overcome their insignificant existence to the extent to which they become aware of the spiritual significance of their lives and. In the final meditation of the poem. Dayadhvam.T. Death by water is not a drowning. archetypal realities and symbolic deaths. Damyata. as Langbaum remarks. they relive mythic scripts. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method 101 Hence. 70) – bring strange recognitions of former lives and awaken the wastelanders’ awareness of their multiple. prefigures the course of the mystic way in which “the way down is the way up”. 433-34). the prophetic promise “And I will show you fear in a handful of dust” (l. a rite of passage. Marie’s banal reminiscence of a childhood scene in which. mobilize psychic energies and prepare the speaker’s ultimate awareness of “Datta. A bath – “The hot water at ten” (l.

30 The wastelanders acquire their identity by melting into remote characters and reliving their experiences. Phlebas the Phoenician. By means of these multiple identifications. the ancient and modern seller of currants. among many other instantiations. 101. buried or drowned gods. They undergo unconscious identifications with literary and legendary figures of the past: those in quest of the Grail. the Tarot oneeyed merchant and Mr Eugenides. The narrative voice is successively and simultaneously identified as Phoenician sailor. Anthony and Cleopatra. Ferdinand and Miranda. The lyric narrator is an “I” who accounts for the voices he hears within himself and those he hears in the world and who lives out the many literary quotations of the past.102 Viorica Patea the archetypal structures that imperceptibly inform their daily routines. the typist and the young man carbuncular. and a modern exile. while his voice modulates into that of a modern Londoner. 180) coexist in the same space with Dido and Aeneas. His mind moves beyond the tonalities of a personal inner voice towards the integration of the “other”. They are based on a new concept of personality influenced by Bradleyian theories of subjective-objective centers of experience or Jungian presuppositions of a universal substratum that underlies personal consciousness. the Shakespearean Prince. the narrative subject recognizes himself in the 30 Ibid. The insomniac woman and her silent interlocutor. Hamlet and Ophelia. treachery and cruelty. a medieval Florentine lost in Dante’s limbo. Eliot’s wastelanders are collage portraits in which the lineaments of contemporary men and women draw on those of mythical or literary personages. the idealized pastoral couples of Spenser or the impatient lover of Andrew Marvell. whose experiences they re-actualize across time. He takes on the personality of the Grail quester. Tristan and Isolde. tarot card figures. . Fisher Kings.. And awareness of their archetypal identifications breaks the closed circle of the solipsistic personality and delivers it from the opacity of history. The modern couples reenact old dramas of love or lovelessness. the Fisher King. the modern Thames daughters and “the loitering heirs of city directors” (l. Albert and Lil. perpetuating the same age-old stories of betrayal. an ancient Greek. hanged men. a psalmist. Ferdinand. a Baudelairean ghost. or the violated Philomel.

Referred to by the indefiniteness of the personal pronoun. Tirupati: Sri Venkateswara University. 1976. as “zones” or “fields 31 Charles Altieri. “Eliot’s Impact on Twentieth-Century Anglo-American Poetry”. “he who was living is now dead”. The Peace Which Passeth Understanding: A Study of the Waste Land. By conceiving the poetic persona as an assemblage of many psychic registers. and points of view. 198-99.T. referred to in the Rig Veda as “the third whenever two plot in silence” (see Nageswara Rao. the “third” may contain an implied reference to the Vedic rain and thunder god Varuna. S. The first-person narrator of The Waste Land is deprived of a name or a concrete history. 76). He creates a new space in which to record the self’s multiple identities and posturings.31 Eliot’s strategy of impersonality undermines the ego’s effort to impose a single univocal prism onto the flux of reality. the ever present other “who walks always beside you”. 32 As Nageswara Rao observes. S. scraps of conversation and personal memories. convincingly argues that Eliot’s theory of impersonality and the objective correlative enabled him to achieve a more sophisticated dramatization of psychic forces and inner conflicts. transforming the poetic text into a cubist site where complexes of feelings and cultural representations are at play. . registers. Eliot renounced the convention of a stable lyric voice and the allsufficiency of a single consciousness in order to create a poetic persona who assumes a plurality of voices. a vortex of many registers and voices. the resurrected god. he appears in the guise of an unknown phantom companion. The “third” is an archetypal deity who blends the image of an archaic god with that of Christ or of a Vedic thunder and rain god. 59). Moody. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method 103 other across time: “You! hypocrite lecteur! – mon semblable. in The Cambridge Companion to T. “that on the other side of you”. the god of righteousness. yet fail to recognize. It is a composite “I”. and the ongoing dialogue between the various cultural projections of selfhood. And so is the “other”. masks. Eliot avoids specification and carefully eludes an exclusively Christian reading. whose existence the wastelanders vaguely intuit. historic and cultural identities.32 Not confined to a specific time period or culture. “the third who walks always beside you” (48). Eliot. whose subjectivity emerges out of literary quotations. ed. this transcendent figure is not limited by a concrete system of belief. or obliquely by a number. – mon frère!” (l. historical recollections.

149). Within the framework of these montages.36 It is a strange poem in many ways. reality and myth. dialogic conception of art and/or selfhood in which “the personal to oneself is fused and completed in the impersonal and the general. With its poetics of fragmentation. predictive relations. dramatic action loses its linear progression and ceases to compose mere sequences. Stanley Sultan. 70 (1930). since there is no lance and no Grail. Eliot’s innovation was “to make narrative an introspection” (The Waste Land. appear obliquely. not extinguished. Joyce.104 Viorica Patea of consciousness” – in Kenner’s phrase33 – Eliot illustrates his essentially open. non-linear space of interior life and reproduces the simultaneities and synchronicities of consciousness. The Invisible Poet: T. as travesties rather than as actual characters. S.34 The quest for a new form and language The Waste Land also presents a quest for a new form. a geometry that shapes the non-discursive. such as the Fisher King and the Grail quester. 35 As Grover Smith remarked. developed. Eliot defied formal completeness and did away with categories such as plot. Oxford: Oxford University Press. in which words lose their prescribed. 599. expanded. Words Alone. and more itself by becoming more something not itself”. but enriched. 181. the question is not formulated and the quest remains inconclusive. And the main protagonists. Eliot. New Haven: Yale University Press. Eliot. Action is intermittent. Eliot. S. It alone holds them together and preserves the great diversity of their culturally heterogeneous nature without imposing a uniform order.35 The open structure of the collage endows these fragments with a dynamic character generating new possibilities of meaning. . 1959. and the notion of a unified character. narrative sequence. 117. As Barthes 33 Hugh Kenner. 34 T. It refers to legends whose central symbols are missing. Modern poetry is foremost a poetics of absence and discontinuous syntax. 36 Denis Donoghue. The new poetics resorts to cubist aesthetics and privileges a complex mode of ever-shifting temporal dislocations. The new experimental form rescues reality from the flux of photographic naturalism and re-composes it into a new geometry of interpenetrating. narrative and rhetorical discontinuities and unexplained alternations of past and present. 35-36. “Poetry and Propaganda”. See also. and Company. the The Waste Land resembles in Donoghue’s words “the subplot of a lost play”. 1987. The Bookman. New York: Harcourt Brace and World. intersubjective elements. 2000. Like Joyce.

39 Michael Levenson. The poem gravitates around an absent center that survives in memories.39 Eliot recasts the journey of the soul through the desert of ignorance. 40). unfinished sagas and discontinuous adventures. It advances through symbols and motifs that are but new instantiations of a lost theme that survives in “broken images” and “withered stumps of time” (38. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. modern language is “a fragmented space. Words Alone. allusions. These vestiges. 128. that once introduced remain suspended and inconclusive. Their allusive strategies. reaching out for “what has been lost / And found and lost again and again” (136. pagan rituals. lost vestiges. Their allusive reverberations open them to something beyond themselves. symbols. “hints and guesses”. and haunting traumas. They present mere polyphonic variations of interrupted voyages. do not advance the narrative thread but establish instead a web of new associations. biblical journeys and modern expeditions.37 The Waste Land expresses the nostalgia for a unity no longer possible. sufferance and thirst for worldly aspirations into a new language that borrows the technique of non-figurative visual arts. no middle and no end. The various 37 38 Roland Barthes.T. London: Cape. draw on different sources and lost forms of consciousness. towards a “unified sensibility” that redeems their discontinuous syntax. They challenge us with their potential meanings and the need to restore them to a continuous syntax. S. 1967. transcends the boundaries of a single culture and epoch. these “fragments I have shored against my ruins” (50).38 Words are signs. Donoghue. analogies. A Genealogy of Modernism. which melt into the present consciousness of the narrating voice. The poem does not advance by virtue of its dramatic action but by digressions. . 54-55. The Waste Land is a skein of many interweaving paths construed of fragments of history. or as he will say in The Four Quartets. 201. The poem exists as an ensemble of fragments. and repetitions. made of objects solitary and terrible because the links between them are potential”. segments. of “conscience and consciousness”. Action becomes archetypal. medieval legends and romance. the textual and textural suggestiveness. Writing Degree Zero. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method 105 observes in Writing Degree Zero. 128). Eliot’s poetics is primarily a poetics of memory of lost forms. Their argument or arguments have no beginning. 1984.

In his classical view. time periods and geographical realities. which affirms the existence of an underlying universal. at the frontier between myth and reality. Eliot tells one story as he tells different stories. but dynamic elements that seek their correspondences in other contexts and cultures. conceived as a cover-up of power-controlling relations. mythical and psychological time. yet his fragments are not closed worlds. epoch or civilization. At their points of inflexion. the present decay of eastern Europe.41 an arbitrary invention of a solipsistic imagination and individual will. opening new perspectives and setting up bridges between isolated points of view. but a transpersonal reality that goes beyond the limited reality of the ego. The word for Eliot is not mere “lexis”.106 Viorica Patea narratives unfold simultaneously in the depths of history. They proceed simultaneously in antiquity and in the modern world. Donoghue. the Antarctic expedition. Their different strands are different phases of a quest that continues in different contexts. Illuminations. the approach to the Chapel Perilous. . Eliot did not share the postmodern suspicion towards universality. The journey to Emmaus. Eliot’s world is discontinuous and disrupted. Narratives exist only as fragments. New York: Schocken. segments. past and present become contiguous and reveal their synchronicity. communal identity. As Walter Benjamin asserts. They imply the existence of a common psychological experience that persists in different cultures cutting across time. 1969. and take on the shape of an internalized quest for consciousness. the moment of redemptive grace briefly lived in the hyacinth garden and repeated in the encounter with the third are all sequences of the same story. the existential disorientation of the modern dispossessed and the nihilistic doubts that beset the Grail quester. The diverse. 130-31. heterogeneous nature of these fragments is subsumed by a universal unifying principle. Truth is not limited to a definite culture. “the plurality of languages implies an original unity”. Words Alone. the universal alone is a safeguard for human integrity and solidarity. 82. “DA” and “shanti” transcend the parameters of the 40 41 Walter Benjamin. threads. Their proliferation is not a purposeless repetition of isolated fragments of narrations encapsulated each in its specific diversity.40 In Eliot’s work the ultimate unity is to be found in the reality of the revealed Word. These multiple forms do not construe the syntax of a paratactic ontology.

They are also three forms of giving. those centered on the individual’s relationship with the absolute. As in Eastern and Western mysticism. The Word is not an expression of fictive constructs of the egotistical sublime. “the key” which breaks the closed circle of the narrative first person and destroys the walls of its pride. nonobjectified consciousness.” – are the three incarnations of the Word that dispel the illusion of maya or egocentrism. The revealed truth leads to “the frontiers of consciousness beyond which words fail. Eliot integrates various countervailing faiths. of self-control and acquiescence – “The boat responded / Gaily” (49) – to the dictates of the spiritual. The Word is understood as existential observance of ethical principles: selfsurrender to the superior exigencies of love – “The awful daring of a moment’s surrender”. Eliot. such as Vedanta and Christianity. “Give. in the felt experience of “the heart of light” (38). control” into an existential philosophy of being in which the Word has to be lived out and actualized in time. the Lord of Creation. S. the I-persona recognizes itself in a reality other than itself. Eliot’s Word transcends the scope of the Christian Logos and reconciles the tenets of Christianity. though meanings still exist”. in On Poetry and Poets. In its substance. the limits of words are vanquished in illumination. discloses to his disciples in the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad. Existence with its irrevocable choices is re-examined in the light of these ideals. The three imperatives are spiritual exercises congenial with the teachings of Buddha and Christianity. 30. and finally. In The Waste Land the life-giving rain falls metaphorically in the form of the revelation of the Word which Prajapati. with Buddhism 42 T. sympathize. S. of universal compassion. The three declensions of the Thunder – “Datta. . Buddhism and Vedanta – with a more modern existentialist discourse. He develops the imperatives of the thunder. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method 107 individual mind and embody the plenitude of a non-dual. DA is the essence of the Ultimate Being and the universal law fundamental to existence. summed up in the final question: “what have we given?” (49). “The Music of Poetry”. Dayadhvam.T. in whose unity all distinctions are transcended. Damyata. Eliot resorts to archaic myths and Hindu thought in order to widen the scope of Western Christian culture in an attempt to articulate the language of their common spiritual values. but of value.42 where the “I” abandons itself to the mysticism of love and discovers its indissoluble unity with the other.

108 Viorica Patea which. obviating the existence of a deity. the refugees of the Russian revolution and the modern dispossessed. The divine. trans. 1996 and to the more recent issues raised by Jean-Luc Marion in Being Given: Toward a Phenomenology of Giveness. Eliot’s dying gods corroborate the spiritualist assumptions of existentialism. The revelation is not a horizontal 43 Eliot’s conception of giving presents similarities to the theories of Erich Fromm. “the third”. Although the metaphysical and transcendent referent is invisible. The “third” reflects the hidden “hooded” face of the self.43 grace. The Christian story belongs to the same pattern as that of other cyclic religions in which the death and rebirth of a semi-divine being is an eternally recurring myth. which translates life in terms of giving. understood as mercy. His comparative methodology does not privilege one system of belief over the other. in Givenness and God: Questions of Jean-Luc Marion. New York: Fordham University Press. it is an essential element in the ontological definition of being. It represents the spiritual that cannot be quantified according to the laws of the physical world. 2005. compassion and love as spelled out by the injunctions of the Thunder. and love. “He” is the “other” par excellence. Jeffrey L. is concerned only with the path of salvation. Kosky. . just as the “I” is inseparable from the “you”. Standford: Stanford University Press 2002 and Ian Leask et al. the “hooded” god is bound to “the hooded hoards”. faiths and cultural representations. transcendent aspect is inseparable from the human. The “other” is man’s spiritual projection. They are united by a relationship of phenomenological continuity. the other’s “hooded” unrecognized identity can be apprehended only in fellowship across time and space. To Have or to Be?. logical-empirical explanations or differences of gender: “When I count. man’s hidden spiritual identity in the image of God. there are only you and I together / … / I do not know whether a man or a woman” (48). The different appellations of the transcendent – “He”. which does not conform to Cartesian categories nor lend itself to physical. In turn. The crucifixion is part of an ampler fertility cycle that includes the resurrection of a “planted corpse” in a garden whose “blooming” is threatened by the “sudden frost” (39). Unbound by cultural or temporal strictures. New York: Continuum. and “that on the other side of you” – are various metaphoric expressions of the spiritual dimension of existence. Eliot’s notion of the divine cuts across time.

in “The awful daring of a moment’s surrender / Which an age of prudence can never retract” (49). By recovering the archaic past and the spirituality of Eastern religions. In his apology for a unified sensibility. Upanishadic spirituality is in consonance with the teachings of Buddha and the Christian message of self-denial and renunciation. despite the tangible values celebrated by “an age of prudence”. which becomes real in the act of giving. His aim was to reinstate the numinous dimension eradicated in our frame of mind by the arrogance of a hypertrophied rationalism. The ethical Hinduism of the Upanishads conceives life as a form of “being”. but through love. which no longer conceives life as a moral struggle and replaces the spiritual with abstract intellectualism. The philosophy of the Masters of Life insists on the importance of abandoning all possessions. which conceives existence in terms of empiric realities and strips the world of spiritual values and feeling. not of “having”.T. He also questions modernity’s claims to temporal superiority. nor can it be defined by the gains accumulated over the years. S. or in legacies consigned “under seals broken by the lean solicitor” (49). but a vertical apparition that disarticulates the objectifying structures of human understanding. it goes against the postulates of an “age of prudence” and reveals. that material loss and renunciation are spiritual gains. Man defeats fate not through the material evidence of his possessions. deliverance from the endless suffering brought about by worldly aspirations and the insatiable cravings of the ego lies in the path of knowledge. Eliot counters modern scientific thought. To live a safe life is to live an inessential one. self-denial and ascetic discipline. Eliot’s Poetics of the Mythical Method 109 phenomenon. The mythical method was his remedy for a . To have is not the premise of to be. For both. Eliot returns to the primitive myths of Frazer and Weston in order to overcome the paralyzing isolation of the European tradition. Eliot denounced the dominance of scientific rationalism. In consonance with existential premises. on the contrary. Human value is not a function of “I am what I have” but of “I am what I give”. including the ego and individual will. The “I” is not that which it possesses. Meaning in life does not depend on external factors mentioned in obituaries “in memories draped by the beneficient spider”. he defies the evolutionary optimism and rationalist prejudice of Western culture.

anchored in the belief that: “the hope of perpetuating the culture of any country lies in communication with others”. Platonism and Christianity. and give us more understanding of the world in which we now live”. 1977. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. “The Social Function of Poetry”. and of our own limitations. S. Yet in spite of his staunch Europeanism. Eliot’s whole oeuvre is a transcultural dialogue with the “other” across time. 23.47 44 T. but in a “constellation of cultures”. Hinduism. Eliot. 192. . before and after his AngloCatholic conversion of 1927. in On Poetry and Poets. He argues that we must “make the effort to enter those worlds of poetry in which we are alien”46 in order to find the true identity of our own poetic visions. he constantly went beyond the confining boundaries of a self-sufficient Euro-centrism. Christianity and Culture. 602. since “[they] make us more conscious of what we are. 46 Eliot.44 And his poetic work is an attempt to articulate the universal language of the common spirituality of East and West.45 Eliot stressed the importance of broadening the horizons of selfhood by contact with the unfamiliar and foreign. Eliot did not believe in a culture. 47 Eliot. “Johnson as Critic and Poet”.110 Viorica Patea dissociated sensibility and for the split between poetical imagination and positive thought. 45 Eliot. self-enlargement and self-realization. There is little doubt that Eliot’s ideal order and sense of tradition are essentially Western and foremost Christian. “Poetry and Propaganda”. throughout his life. 132. The encounter with foreign cultures or with the past of one’s own tradition is the threefold path to self-understanding.

Harvard Wake. he could not help spacing out and splitting words and clauses. V (Spring 1946). E. E.POETRY AS UNGRAMMAR IN E. either maximalizing or minimalizing them – always dramatizing ungrammaticality. Cummings is well-known to the public for his typographical eccentricities. speaking plainly. E. The essence of poetry is ungrammaticality. Cummings’ grammar. Far from disregarding classical prosody. especially after his friend William Carlos Williams first drew attention to his esoteric typography and convincingly related it to his poetic language. Interestingly enough. Cummings’ grammar of deviations is inseparable from his poetry and is one with his style. as some critics have argued. My thesis here is that ungrammaticality constitutes a strategy of renewal of American poetry.1 Cummings’ diminutive typography. E. E. as described by Williams. E. E. E. 20-23. as stylistics has tended to demonstrate. E. Cummings wrote few prose poems. The fact that his poetic works 1 William Carlos Williams. Cummings exploits the potentialities of poetic form and plays on linguistic differences. stands as the objective correlative of his grammar. but the poetic line by definition interrupts the linearity of language. CUMMINGS’ POEMS ISABELLE ALFANDARY E. Poetry in general can be regarded as an ungrammatical practice of language. Cummings’ poetry stems from a grammatical intuition and stands as an exploration of poetic difference. Cummings’ ungrammar or. immortalizing him as “lower case cummings”. and even when composing prose poems. E. E. The movement of the line contradicts and thwarts that of the sentence. “lower case cummings”. Not only does poetic language essentially differ from ordinary language. E. .

George J. 713. means writing in all the meanings of the term: writing in the etymological sense of the graph – the Greek word gramma originally means an engraved letter. it makes it possible for the reader of a written text to distinguish among meaningful linguistic units and utter them intelligibly. T. ed. letters lie at the heart of Cummings’ grammar. This definition of grammar. 3 Irene Fairley. His visual poems. For typography serves and guarantees syntax. Cummings and Ungrammar. Cummings is a poet of the letter. Cummings’ grammar of deviations results in deviations of meaning. By ungrammaticality. which he obviously did not appreciate it at all. E. Cummings’ 2 E. S. Grammar. Cummings. What E. E.3 should not be distinguished from the concept of “Unmeaning”. the two dimensions are interrelated. and taken up by Irene Fairley in her study entitled E. E. E. Complete Poems 1904-1962. 1975. E. “Beautiful”. E. Indeed. “Ungrammar”. Cummings’ poetry except for his typography. E. Cummings does with and to syntax is to manipulate and transform signs and units.2 lies in the accidents. A grammarian poet. 1991. or what Cummings calls “unmeaning” in one his late poems. Eliot declared that he liked E. and counterpoints of his ungrammatical grammar. The concept of grammar should be made clear. Firmage. a letter and a text – and in the usual sense of the rules of combination of linguistic units. Cummings experiences the sensitivity and sensibility of the printed sign. Cummings and Ungrammar. It is no coincidence that his literary career actually began after the First World War with the purchase of a typewriter. I mean the poet’s idiosyncratic typography as well as syntactic irregularities.112 Isabelle Alfandary should sometimes be reduced to such a minor device as the lower case is no misunderstanding and is perfectly consistent with his poetic grammar. the poems he calls “poempictures”. as E. E. New York: Watermill Publishers. according to Cummings. as well as his syntactic poems result from the same poetic logic. a word coined by the poet himself in his notes. Meaning. New York: Liveright. which originates in the lower case “i”. however. Cummings’ poetry constantly demonstrates. E. does not rely only on a farfetched etymological basis. By silently redoubling its latent order. serves as syntax’s assistant. contingencies. .

4 Written after the accidental death of his father in 1926. the English language – distorted and disfigured – is obliquely and intensively meaningful. the poet pays moving hommage to Edward Cummings. singing each morning out of each night my father moved through depths of height this motionless forgetful where turned at his glance to shining here. E. In an ungrammatical sonata and poetic tombeau. its potential implications and actual effects on meaning. Cummings’ grammar never verges on a private language.Poetry as Ungrammar in E. Cummings’ Poems 113 insistence on the physicality and arbitrariness of the linguistic sign. Lifting the valleys of the sea my father moved through griefs of joy. Complete Poems 1904-1962. makes him the poet of the Gutenberg Galaxy par excellence. this poem is Cummings’ longest.his april touch drove sleeping selves to swarm their fates woke dreamers to their ghostly roots and should some why completely weep my father’s fingers brought her sleep: vainly no smallest voice might cry for he could not feel the mountains grow. . praising a forehead called the moon singing desire into begin joy was his song and joy so pure a heart of star by him could steer and pure so now and now so yes 4 Cummings. E. Exposed to the contingencies of the line and the letter. 520. that if(so timid air is firm) under his eyes would stir and squirm newly as from unburied which floats the first who. as is obvious from the poem “my father moved through dooms of love”. even though it can neither be paraphrased nor easily translated. E. a Unitarian minister: my father moved through dooms of love through sames of am through haves of give. it is always understandable.

if every friend became his foe he’d laugh and build a world with snow. no cripple wouldn’t creep one mile uphill to only see him smile. his anger was as right as rain his pity was as green as grain septembering arms of year extend less humbly wealth to foe and friend than he to foolish and to wise offered immeasurable is proudly and (by octobering flame beckoned) as earth will downward climb. scheming imagine.114 Isabelle Alfandary the wrists of twilight would rejoice keen as midsummer’s keen beyond conceiving mind of sun will stand. My father moved through theys of we. singing each new leaf out of each tree (and every child was sure that spring danced when she heard my father sing) then let men kill which cannot share. so naked for immortal work his shoulders marched against the dark his sorrow was as true as bread: no liar looked him in the head. freedom a drug that’s bought and sold . passion willed. let blood and flesh be mud and mire. Scorning the pomp of must and shall my father moved through dooms of feel. so strictly (over utmost him so hugely) stood my father’s dream his flesh was flesh his blood was blood: no hungry man but wished him food.

When he was a student at Harvard. Cummings’ strategy does not compete with grand Romantic lyricism but adopts a mode of minor. ungrammar can be regarded as a strategy of renewal in American poetry. especially Keats and to a lesser extent Longfellow. implicitly referring to the Romantic capitalized “I”. maggoty minus and dumb death all we inherit. to doubt a mind. But the result soon proved sterile and illusive. it soon became clear that he had to find his own way of writing poetry. E. he was an admirer of the Romantic poets. that of the lower case first person singular. a heart to fear. Cummings had to free himself from the bonds of tradition and from his literary forefathers. Cummings’ Poems giving to steal and cruel kind. E. E. to differ a disease of same. diminutive lyricism. Concentrating on the contingencies of poetic writing was the way he found to grow out of Romanticism. Cummings’ poems. the lower case “i”. without giving up his lyrical ambition. implies both a typographical and syntactical difference within the realm of the English language. for the voice can be traced in the poetic graph. Even supposedly abstract linguistic entities convey emotion. . To become a poet – to become himself – E. conform the pinnacle of am though dull were all we taste as bright. bitter all utterly things sweet. Of course. all bequeath and nothing quite so least as truth – i say though hate were why men breathe – because my father lived his soul love is the whole and more than all 115 Therefore. ungrammar – and this is probably Cummings’ main innovation – proves lyrical. he began imitating those he acknowledged as his masters. So his poetry can be read as a “Song of Myself” in a minor mode. Indeed. For rewriting Romantic poetry was neither desirable nor possible. What can be regarded as the matrix of Cummings’ grammar. Although Cummings despised all “isms”. but attempted to write a poetry of his own. Even if he cherished Romantic lyricism.Poetry as Ungrammar in E. The lower case “i” minimally and movingly resounds in E. Cummings did not have as a primary goal the renewal of the American poetic idiom.

116 Isabelle Alfandary The lower case poet focuses his attention on typography. . E. instead of preventing us from understanding. on the contrary. Cummings’ poetry derails and eclipses syntax at the same time: the English language is de-territorialized on the page. he insists on the poet’s need to master his own language in order to escape or to unmake it. Cummings astutely started out wondering how to say it. his aim is to make English sound different. the obstacle of ungrammar gives us access to 5 E. But in your case. which is often either suppressed or neglected by most poets. He wants to put his mother tongue out of tune. In 1953. E. Paradoxically. displacing conventions. 1969. Cummings’ poems apparently deal with minor concerns. E. New York: Harcourt. Brace and World. negligible devices and local phenomena. and the mother tongue made to sound foreign and yet understandable. His poetic revolution is not a thematic but a grammatical one. Selected Letters of E. let me make a suggestion / why not learn English? It’s one of the more beautiful languages. 222. To renew the canon.5 Syntax is more than just a means. the meaning of which is understandable in spite of its deviant grammar – or perhaps thanks to its deviant grammar. which can be learned. because his grammar reflects language. W. Dupee and George Stade. E. Even if his poetic language rings false from time to time. I don’t read manuscripts or give advice. but only you can learn the language through which you can hope to become a poet. And (like any language) it has a grammar. Cummings does not attempt to devise a new instrument – namely a private language. eds F. E. he does not reject syntax. etc. E. Whether Cummings’ grammar shatters or reinforces English grammar remains an open question. E. E. Cummings. Cummings. Nobody can teach you poetry. at the same time as it reflects upon language. Such is the case in “my father moved through dooms of love”. Even his lexical innovations and word-creation techniques are derived from his grammar. Before or instead of wondering what to say. His poetic revolution can be termed speculative. syntax. it constitutes the raw material of grammar. dissolving rules. However. he writes: Being neither a scholar nor a critic. in a letter to a young poet who was seeking advice. Cummings does not renew poetic diction or imagery. By disfiguring signs.

E. 2). he calls it “the grammatical system of a language”. Verbs. Boston: Heath and Company. In “my father moved through dooms of love” linguistic categories are systematically exchanged. The Violence of Language. Cummings’ transformative grammar not only conveys the dialectics of substance and generation but dramatically performs it: “singing desire into begin” (l. Radical alteration in word order is one of the more conspicuous and crucial ways that the rules of language can be violated. 782 and 634. Syntax in fact draws the line between what is correct and what is not. 132. Only the poet has the privilege of escaping – only temporarily and to a certain extent – the 6 7 Roland Barthes. 12. the poet undermines the linguistic order and emphasizes its arbitrariness.Poetry as Ungrammar in E. To make Ezra Pound’s imperative “MAKE IT NEW” his. Linguistic order determines the nature of our ideas. 20). 9 Franz Boas. 18). The fundamental illusion is to believe that as speakers we are free to say anything and to say it the way we choose. “singing each new leaf out of each tree” (l. Cummings’ grammar is a creative critique of the illegitimacy and “violence of language”. Cummings’ disrespect for word order – “Me up at does” or “quick i the death of thing”. 1990. E. adjectives and adverbs are used as substantives: “through sames of am through haves of give” (l. 8 Cummings. Cummings’ Poems 117 unprecedented meaning. “Language”. By frustrating the speakers’ expectations. 5). “shining here” (l. 49). the poet violates language order in the two meanings of the term: “order”. 1978. Cummings literally makes grammar new. Jean-Jacques Lecercle. E. means organization and imperative. E. The linguist Franz Boas has a term for it. “my father moved through theys of we” (l. By violating syntax. London: Routledge. the form of our perceptions. Ungrammar expresses the unknown intensity of Edward Cummings’ love. as Roland Barthes defines it. Paris: Seuil. Complete Poems 1904-1962. .9 Each language imposes a set of means or norms on its subjects to express certain aspects of experience that would have been left out in another language. is both creative and critical. 48). 1938. E.6 E. as JeanJacques Lecercle calls it 7. Leçon. to quote the first lines of two of his poems8 – his misuse of parts of speech. sometimes taken up as a burden: “my father moved through griefs of joy” (l. 33). “scorning the pomp of must and shall” (l. “forgetful where” (l. in General Anthropology. Genitive forms are recurrent. what has to be said and what must not be said. 6). E.

10 Randall Jarrell calls E. If E. they essentially give the poem its rhythmic frame. 15. Esoteric punctuation is both a critical and an æsthetic part of Cummings’ ungrammar. 1976. There is no way out for Cummings. Even when playing on syntax. 13 Ibid. Quoted in Paul Diehl.11 What Cummings’ subversive grammar underscores is that conventional language order does not necessarily describe the world in a relevant way – certainly not in as relevant a way as the lines “septembering arms of year extend” (l. exchanging parts of speech enriches meaning and makes it more precise. In fact. Mille Plateaux. E. As Irene Fairley notes. meaning always pervades. As Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari insist. E. everyone is supposed to comply with the requirements of language. he remains within the confines of the system. Sonnets and Meters. Cummings’ syntactical irregularities tend to make the English language more regular. as in one of E. one who intoxicates us on a clear liquor no government has legalised with its stamp”. 128-29. Far from ruining meaning. The Renewal of Abstraction: E. E. If significance is lost at some point. 40). Cummings constantly experiences linguistic alienation: “you doesn’t take your choice Ain’t freedom grand. only brief and more or less controlled disruptions. The University of Texas at Austin. 120.118 Isabelle Alfandary obligation of syntax without being considered a social outcast. Cummings “a magical bootlegger or moonshiner of language.”12 The logic of language alienates the linguistic subjects. 636. those who do not are relegated to a mental hospital. 36) or “proudly and(by octobering flame” (l. but since they are combined with rhyme and alliterative patterns.13 There the word order is inspired by the syntax of Old English. some of E. why isn’t “september” or “october”? Other deviations tend to extend the possibilities of the English language by taking up and freely declining archaic forms and structures. PhD Thesis. E. correcting some of its inconsistencies: if “dance” is both a noun and a verb. 1980. typography does not play its traditional role in reinforcing “the guarantee of syntax” as Mallarmé 10 11 Gilles Deleuze and Felix Guattari. Cummings is very fond of ungrammatical excursions outside the linguistic order. Complete Poems 1904-1962. . Symmetrical and repetitive deviant structures enable the reader to capture meaning. E.. 12 Cummings. Cummings’ Sentiment. Cummings’ early poems – “All in green went my love riding”. Paris: Minuit.

let us consider “D-re-A-mi-N-gl-Y”. Cummings unveils the phenomenological powers of punctuation marks that make signs dramatically appear and disappear in space and time. the poet shatters the linearity of language.. eds Henri Mondor and G.15 an emblematic example of a typographic performance. Stéphane Mallarmé writes: “il faut une garantie – / La Syntaxe” (“we need a guarantee – / Syntax”). E. By splitting words into meaningful syllables such as prefixes and suffixes.. 14 In Le mystère dans les lettres. By putting typography in the poetic foreground. excessively played upon. not a replica of the title. As Marianne Moore remarks: “we have.14 but turns out to be a factor of disorder and unmeaning.:. but a more potent thing. in Œuvres completes. 385. 1945. To conclude. as described by Ferdinand de Saussure. Cummings’ Poems 119 calls it. a replica of the rhythm – a kind of second tempo. E. Jean-Aubry. by resorting to run-on-lines and the caesura. E. the poet sheds a new light on punctuation. Paris: Gallimard. which is abundantly.Poetry as Ungrammar in E.:. and makes meaning happen before our eyes and in our ears and mouths. and especially its envoi: D-re-A-mi-N-gl-Y leaves (sEe) locked in gOld aftergLOw are t ReMbLiN g . scan the page and reflect the poem itself. 15 Cummings. The poem ends with a series of punctuation marks that stand beneath or beyond language. . 838. Complete Poems 1904-1962.

E. 1984. Mass.120 Isabelle Alfandary uninterfering like a shadow. ed. 50.”16 Punctuation makes sheer. Cummings. Cummings’ grammar turns out to be a happening of multidirectional. absolute rhythm happen. Boston. gigantic filiform ampersand of symbolical ‘and by itself plus itself with itself’. in the manner of the author’s beautiful if somewhat self-centered. E. K.. Hall and Co. (reprinted in Critical Essays on E. replacing and renewing classical prosody and reinventing rhythm and lyricism in a minor key. LXXX/1 (January 1926). 16 Marianne Moore. accidental meaning.: G. . Dial. 46-47). Guy Rotella. E. “People stare carefully”.

) Nor do we give enough thought to the word ‘intelligence’. was the easier. But. Stevens apparently thought better of his first impulse and inserted that treacherous little modifier “almost”. it has seldom received the careful attention it deserves. Only Eleanor Cook has sufficiently lingered over it to observe that We do not always give enough emphasis to the word ‘almost’. (As if Stevens ever supposed the intelligence did not have a vital role in reading poetry. no doubt. Cook is right. 1 Wallace Stevens. As an editorial endnote in the revised edition of Opus Posthumous shows. being an inveterate qualifier. New York: Vintage.2 Interestingly. 3 Stevens. Stevens seems to have grappled more with the formulation of his tenet than Cook was able to know at the time of her observations in the late nineteen-eighties. Princeton: Princeton University Press. comfortably provocative and dogmatic statement to make. ed. 197. 1990.WALLACE STEVENS’ POETRY OF RESISTANCE BART EECKHOUT One of the most frequently quoted aphorisms from Wallace Stevens’ seductive “Adagia” proclaims that “Poetry must resist the intelligence almost successfully”. what Stevens originally jotted down in his “Adagia” – pace Cook’s parenthetical disclaimer – ran quite simply: “Poetry must resist the intelligence successfully. Poetry Word-Play and Word-War in Wallace Stevens. 4. Bates. revised. Opus Posthumous. then.1 Although most critics seem to agree that this remark constitutes a crucial poetic credo for Stevens. 1988. Milton J.”3 This. and corrected edn. 2 Eleanor Cook. 326. Opus Posthumous. . enlarged. For it is not the intelligence alone that gives meaning to poems. any more than the intelligence alone gives meaning in general.

Princeton: Princeton University Press. that “The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully”. which tends to be simply wrenched from its context. Stevens wrote the poem. 1991. The importance of the little insertion increases even as we look at the second occurrence of Stevens’ premise – for he was sufficiently charmed with his epigram to recycle it – in the first two lines of “Man Carrying Thing”. 7 Stevens.5 Yet one should not fail to observe how the opening lines function within the overall narrative of the text. New York: Vintage. until The bright obvious stands motionless in cold. 1990.122 Bart Eeckhout to emphasize the importance of Stevens’ inconspicuous little adverb. until he winds up shockingly with: A horror of thoughts that suddenly are real. 351. almost invariably referred to only because of its eye-catching opening statement. He then swerves in an extended. 186.4 A remarkable poem in its own right. 350-51. Leggett’s extensive analysis – based on a comparative study of Charles Mauron’s Aesthetics and Psychology (1935) – in his Wallace Stevens and Poetic Theory: Conceiving the Supreme Fiction.6 After stating. in 1945. The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens (1954). nevertheless. 6 Quoted in Alan Filreis. Wallace Stevens and the Actual World. J. “Man Carrying Thing” is. 110-19 and George S. We must endure our thoughts all night. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press. almost self-hypnotizing parenthesis about the relation between “parts not quite perceived” and “the obvious whole” or between “the primary free from doubt” and “a storm of secondary things”. in a delicately timed enjambment. 1987. 5 The two most important exceptions to this rule of neglect are B. 150-52.7 4 Wallace Stevens. though not to deny the process of doubt leading up to it. Collected Poems. After all. 2001. . both of them too vague to identify – as if resisting the intelligence were merely the natural corollary of mimetically recording semi-obscure sense impressions. Lensing’s recent commentary in Wallace Stevens and the Seasons. Stevens proceeds by first giving us an “Illustration” of a “brune figure” at dusk and “The thing he carries”. in direct response to his Ceylon correspondent Leonard van Geyzel’s request that he explain “the genuine difficulty that arises out of the enigmatic quality that is so essential a part of the satisfaction that a good poem gives”.

may be summed up by one embracing statement: “The poem must resist the intelligence / Almost successfully … until / The bright obvious stands motionless in cold. even if (and perhaps because) it will be hard to come by. despite its typically wayward course. the emotional heart of a lyric by Stevens is likely to be found in the middle of the poem” (Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire. In one of several possible readings. 44).” Such a reading only underscores the importance of the word “almost”: at the end of the day (or. It bestows.9 Ambivalence is not merely one in a whole series of characteristics of Stevens’ writings. 1984. the nightmarish night) some “bright obvious” will come forth. first of all. . he does not therefore want it to be ultimately defeated. in its densest and most complex embodiments it is itself responsible for resisting the intelligence almost successfully. the opening and ending of this short lyric seem to form a direct.Wallace Stevens’ Poetry of Resistance 123 This surprising ending reflects back on the poem’s opening claim in more ways than one. overarching connection. 9 Tony Sharpe. In this case. from one point of view. an unnerving prefiguration of death. 176. in this case. a “horror of thoughts” that desperately needs to be staved off and defended against. but must be understood now to involve. something clearly understood (even if we are also made to pause and wonder about the possible disparity between visible obviousness and rational intelligence). which means that if Stevens wants the intelligence to be resisted. as Tony Sharpe has suggested. which can no longer be supposed to refer neutrally to any rational capacity or thought process whatsoever. Something “obvious” suggests. seemingly dispassionate meditations acquire their force and feeling. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. a specific affective value on the earlier word “intelligence”.8 What is more. 2000. and even if the wish that it stand “motionless in cold” may be at once heartfelt and. 8 One of the valuable guidelines distilled by Helen Vendler from years of reading experience is “never [to] trust beginnings in Stevens. meandering through a series of appositive qualifications. Wallace Stevens: A Literary Life. so that the entire text. because of the long conspicuous parenthesis that builds the central part of the poem. the “horror of thoughts” breaking out toward the end of the text turns out to be the emotional center of gravity from which the preceding. at least in part. he continues to long for the serendipity of some sort of intelligence. London: Macmillan.

first and foremost. Wallace Stevens Revisited: “The Celestial Possible”. 12 Janet McCann. in the contemplative quiet of his reading chair. Opus Posthumous. Stevens’ social habit of reserve to the point of bluntness and his unwillingness to ingratiate himself are notorious and well-attested. New York: Twayne. more importantly. The Wallace Stevens Journal. too. 202. ix. One critic has even opened a book-length study by announcing that “Wallace Stevens’ poetry is about resistance”. A perusal of Stevens’ own comments in the marginalia of the Huntington [Library]’s first purchase [of books owned by the poet] shows that he usually marked to refute. Serio and B.124 Bart Eeckhout Rather than say that “Man Carrying Thing” is “finally unintelligible”. 11 Stevens. eds John N. 13 (1989). Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press. the need for resistance. 230.14 It also displayed. “Lyric Resistance: Views of the Political in the Poetics of Wallace Stevens and H. Music and the Line of Most Resistance. 1994.10 I would argue that it illustrates the necessity of patiently weighing each word in Stevens’ claim that poetry should resist the intelligence almost successfully. 13 Melita Schaum. London: Prentice Hall International. 1942. 14 Artur Schnabel. this was even an asset. as are the interpretive hurdles he liked to raise to his own work in his correspondence. “Resistance is the opposite of escape”. wrote Stevens in his Harvard lecture on “The Irrational Element in Poetry”. Stevens’ most common attitude was in many ways a tough-minded one. 1995. . Professionally.13 Certainly it also found multiple forms of expression outside the writing of poetry. To resist is not to cancel or destroy.11 and the explicit sociopolitical context of the Depression era in which he made that statement can only convince us of the seriousness of his observation. as Alison Rieke has done. “the habits of a dialectical reader …. 136. J. “Wallace Stevens in the Classroom: ‘More Truly and More Strange’”. His private library not only contained such items as pianist Artur Schnabel’s tellingly entitled Music and the Line of Most Resistance. poetic. only secondarily to assimilate. As a daytime lawyer with far-reaching responsibilities he had to live by means of a skeptical. nor to deny or elide.12 And Melita Schaum has called Stevens’ concept of resistance at once “personal. 10 Alison Rieke. and political”. casuistic mind that interiorized resistance. But at home. in Teaching Wallace Stevens: Practical Essays. Princeton: Princeton University Press. he was given to a more than occasional spell of recalcitrance. We should not overlook.”. Leggett. D.

or the palm at the end of the mind on the edge of space. promising way can be highly pleasurable and addictive. fatal. 20 (1996). one of the limits of reality presenting itself in Oley. Huntington Library”. whether it is the listener in “The Snow Man” beholding “Nothing that is not there and the nothing that is”16 or “The Motive for Metaphor” which is defined in response to something that is first identified as “vital. is not only a labor but a consummation as well”. Much of this addictive pleasure derives from what Stevens himself called “a laborious element. I think. we come across limits and liminal situations at every point throughout the collected poetry. 10. a blackbird marking the edge of one of many circles. when it is exercised. 16 Stevens.Wallace Stevens’ Poetry of Resistance 125 and almost never to imitate.17 One major reason why Stevens’ numerous critics are being pulled back to the same poems over and over again is the fact that these texts leave them spell-bound by a sense of being on the verge of understanding something momentous – a sense that in its own insistent. This thematic focus is further enhanced by Stevens’ well-attested predilection for the most archetypical binary divisions. an old philosopher on the threshold of heaven.18 It involves the taking of interpretive risks. Wallace Stevens Collection. It suffices to look at some of the poems’ endings to see this process at work. 17 Ibid.”15 This resisting mind is everywhere on display in the poetry. The Collected Poems. His stance before a text was dialectical: he questioned everything and rejected more than he accepted. for Stevens’ poetry is full of limits and questions of liminality. which. 288. which. the latest freed man sitting at the edge of his bed. fascinates precisely because of the tension it enacts between intelligible thoughts and a counterforce that is constantly in the process of undercutting or resisting intelligibility. . of the essence. 165. The Necessary Angel: Essays on Reality and the Imagination. “Checklist: Second Purchase. flocks of pigeons winging their way down into darkness. New York: Vintage. 1951. dominant” and then mystified by the simple letter “X”. My choice of verb here – to limit – is. 18 Wallace Stevens. The Wallace Stevens Journal. this is immediately obvious from a wealth of liminal scenes: whether it is twenty men crossing a bridge into a village. at its best. At the most straightforward thematic level. 15 Robert Moynihan. 76. a facing up to the risk of opacity that itself both engenders and endangers – which is to say.. arrogant. limits – Stevens’ poetry.

has often followed up this interest in liminality. After all. but also his diverse ways of enacting and realizing those subjects at a more formal and aesthetic level. start by denouncing the delimiting quality of the very label – have if anything been concerned with questions of limits and the instabilities of binary systems of opposition. content and form. . the slippery connections enabled by syntax. In the words of Rodolphe Gasché. moreover. The ubiquity of such poetically pedigreed oppositions in his work may even count as an important reason for his relatively smooth assimilation into the poetic canon. matter and mind. summer and winter (or their transitions. center and margin. it may indeed be read in a tradition that reaches back to Immanuel Kant. Critics with a penchant for poststructuralist theories have been especially eager to analyze Stevens’ poetry for its ability to elucidate or enact the difficult and shifting (“undecidable” and “aporetic”) relationships between inside and outside. earth and sky). “Deconstructionist” critics in particular – who will often. sun and moon. And few have so variously and unpredictably tapped the delimiting effects of titles. spring and fall). whose traditional topoi he so inventively and extensively developed as to become their twentieth-century American master. as we might expect.126 Bart Eeckhout such as day and night. Questions of liminality and demarcation. 28 (author’s italics). Derridean deconstruction has shown a marked interest in how “The outside of the text is precisely that which in the text makes selfreflection possible and at the same time limits it …. or indeed a single line). MA: Harvard University Press. few other poets of his day and age have so consistently explored the question of what it means to begin and end a poem (or a stanza. world and self. Few have so humorously walked the thin line that separates sense from nonsense. one of the principal spokesmen for the movement. Inventions of Difference: On Jacques Derrida. deconstruction proceeds from and at the limit of the text.”19 Insofar as Stevens’ poetry can be integrated into the history of philosophy. Cambridge. inform not only Stevens’ subject matter. sea and earth (or sea and sky. arguably the first modern philosopher to have 19 Rodolphe Gasché. or reality and the imagination. Stevens’ criticism. 1994. or the manifold opportunities for registering shifts and discontinuities in tone and voice. Far from being an operation in the limits of the text. signifier and signified. characteristically.

inextricably a nexus of inclusion and exclusion. Any interest in transgression presupposes an interest in limits and in this respect. In ways that are alternatively or even simultaneously fascinating and frustrating. or historical connotations. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Wallace Stevens’ Poetry of Resistance 127 insisted that the finitude of our human existence – the fact that we are all embodied. that finitude realizes reality (and our perception of it) by limiting it. as Douglas Mao does. To study how this poet – with his deeply felt humanistic project of offering an alternative to traditional religions and ontological thinking – gives aesthetic and intellectual expression to this transient awareness. The phrase “constitutive constraint”. in this tradition. Limitations. certainly. which always hovers at least on the horizon of his thoughts. Solid Objects: Modernism and the Test of Production. and they do so irrespectively of the powerlessness we may feel over against the radical contingency and absurdity of those fates. 1993. We easily associate the concept of transgression with that of sexual desire. Stevens’ poetry may be said to be full of transgressive impulses.21 Yet Stevens’ desire is more often than not of a 20 Judith Butler. sensuous. . coined by Judith Butler in a completely different context. 1998. remains one of the more rewarding adventures to be undertaken in the reading of modernist poetry. of possibility and impossibility. as ever so many constrictions and privations. 21 Douglas Mao. the term does not very often apply to Stevens’ poetic agenda. Bodies That Matter: On the Discursive Limits of Sex. mortal beings – does not merely limit reality (and our perception of it). To the extent that transgression carries implications. vulnerable.20 might be borrowed here to remind us of how limits may be regarded as at once enabling and constraining. 258. xi. liberating and oppressive. and to note the personal satisfactions and disappointments it was temporarily able to provide him with. Wallace Stevens’ poetry moves in and out of this awareness. which in its deep structure always depends on a transgressive impulse. They produce even as they restrict our fates. Yet the more accurate term in his case may well be that of resistance. of breaking rules or limits so as to achieve an external goal (often one entailing a kind of empowerment or emancipation). are not viewed as principally negative. but as the necessary and productive conditions for human existence. “the [twentieth] century’s great poet of desire”. Instead. New York: Routledge. And it is true that Stevens may be called.

through the repetitions of learning in infancy. Frank Lentricchia. Desire in Stevens is usually the force or élan vital that drives poetic invention.24 He knew that his feats of topsy-turvydom. 222. Opus Posthumous. one that seeks to be sufficient unto itself. Stevens must devise strategies of resistance rather than of transgression. to be able to keep tapping the wellspring of inspiration. . Northrop Frye once formulated this feature of Stevens’ poetry with special reference to the fourth and final section of “Peter Quince at the Clavier”: You’re never quite sure just what you are hearing … when you read a poem of Stevens saying “beauty is momentary in the mind – but in the flesh it is immortal”. eds Mario J.23 He appears to have been fully aware of what Wolfgang Iser has called “one of the important findings of psycholinguistics – namely. Barbara Johnson. Frank Kermode. Edward Said. That’s not what he’s supposed to say.25 The meaning of his 22 Northrop Frye. at times heavily idealized. Imre Salusinszky. Toronto: Toronto University Press. in Identity of the Literary Text. He’s supposed to say it’s momentary in the flesh. Geoffrey Hartman. 25 Stevens. 24 Wolfgang Iser. he observed. and to keep this driving force vital and active. but it’s immortal in the mind. 1987. “It is necessary to propose an enigma to the mind. New York: Methuen. however counterintuitive. and J Hillis Miller. ed. The mind always proposes a solution”. One of the most striking ways in which he continues to resist our intelligence – and here I return to my exfoliation of the poet’s aphorism – is by inverting our most deeply entrenched patterns of expectation. 527. 36. His is a poetry of sense-making. has been structured. would eventually be brought to signify by the reader. Valdes and Owen Miller. Stevens is a master of the topsy-turvy who likes to shortcircuit the neural channels by which our brain. “Feigning in Fiction”. Harold Bloom. 1985. the fact that all linguistic utterances are accompanied by the ‘expectation of meaningfulness’”.22 Stevens rarely gives us what he is supposed to say according to the protocols of common sense. of constantly exploring “New senses in the engenderings of sense”. 23 Stevens. and autotelic kind. people just blink. In an interview. It is a value in itself.128 Bart Eeckhout desexualized. 194. The Collected Poems. Interview in Criticism in Society: Interviews with Jacques Derrida Northrop Frye.

”28 Not surprisingly. 251. which is only a form of the reason) is a jealous mistress. he realized. A mind that examines such a poem for its prose contents gets absolutely nothing from it. by their exceptional clarity. The reason (like the law.”27 And toward the end of his life. . “and 26 Wallace Stevens. say. other ways of producing great art – by inventing images that strike us. There are. 28 Ibid. Letters of Wallace Stevens. then. because its sole purpose is to fill the mind with the images & sounds that it contains.Wallace Stevens’ Poetry of Resistance 129 texts. suggests that it does: in an ongoing temporal process of meaning. their immediately elucidating power. 305. no doubt. and the purely musical seductions of language. he still remained loyal to this principle when noting (about George Santayana’s swerve from poetry to philosophy): “It is difficult for a man whose whole life is thought to continue as a poet. Holly Stevens. derived from a verb. ed. But we have not exhausted Stevens’ formula yet. London: Faber. “A poem need not have a meaning”.26 Several years later.. their strong and direct emotional impact – but they do not produce the sort of art to which one necessarily feels a strong urge to return. Stevens’ art is to be situated at the opposite end of the imaginative spectrum – that of the Big Tease.. and you are supposed to feel as you would feel if you actually got all this. There is a point at which intelligence destroys poetry. Stevens again argued that “poetry must limit itself in respect to intelligence. His early explanation of “Domination of Black” is famous in this respect: I am sorry that a poem of this sort has to contain any ideas at all. in a letter to his friend Barbara Church. To Stevens. We still need to come back to the question of “intelligence”. 761. Stevens was occasionally willing to go so far as to deny any relevance at all to the aspect of meaning in his writing. he then claimed. the call for resisting the intelligence certainly also meant a call to make room for other types of readerly response. 1967. the feelings. You are supposed to get heavens full of the colors and full of sounds. in a letter to another correspondent. 27 Ibid. in particular those governed by the imagination. existed where the noun in English.

33 Stevens. as one of his lesser-known epigrams contends: “One reads poetry with one’s nerves. never”. against this fall by mobilizing a 29 30 Stevens. nor the intelligence. high mountains. William Bevis has shown how Stevens tried to defend himself. happiness.130 Bart Eeckhout like most things in nature often does not have”. and the titillations and tintinnabula of verbal music in the writing and reception of poetry. 34 Stevens. After all.. Opus Posthumous. 198.”33 As “Man Carrying Thing” also demonstrates. at various points throughout his life. 487. Opus Posthumous.29 To be sure. Harmonium. But emotionally we arrive constantly (as in poetry. Stevens was frequently haunted by the oppressive horrors of spinning thoughts. early and late. . Ibid. In “Of Mere Being” – the poem that taps so well into the critical nostalgia for teleological scenarios that it is presented time and again as Stevens’ final text. 247. specifically in the days of his first volume. the mind. though it is really of uncertain date – he observes: “You know then that it is not the reason / That makes us happy or unhappy.”30 Apart from wanting to clear space for the imagination. 141.32 and in his “Adagia” he explained why this should be so: “We never arrive intellectually. that ultimately procure satisfaction – unless satisfaction is precisely to be found in artfully resisting these jealous mistresses. “It can never be satisfied. when his poetry was more clearly and more happily rooted in a post-symbolist. But the insistence that poetry should be so much more than a mere matter of posing conundrums to the intelligence remained with him all his writing life. consciously avant-garde tradition of art for art’s sake. 32 Stevens. historicizing analyses have helped us realize how such defenses of an organically naturalizing and radically aestheticizing poetic ideology were more common at the earlier stages of his career. or by what Emerson famously called the real “Fall of Man”:34 the fall into consciousness. was obsessed with the fundamental dissatisfactions of his mind’s innate restlessness. he sighed at the conclusion of “The Well Dressed Man with a Beard”. 201. Stevens. The Collected Poems.”31 It is not the reason.. vistas). 189. 31 Ibid. Stevens was obviously also motivated by a recurrent and deep distrust of the satisfying potential of the rational mind. feelings. The Collected Poems.

Margaret Dickie. and the wish to transplant this insatiable desire onto his readers and critics. 39 Emily Dickinson. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press. 1990. In Alain Suberchicot’s recent formulation. Margaret Dickie. then. Barbara M.36 but that still – perhaps by its very nature – often eludes us. and we have the poetry to bear witness to this. The incessant desire for freedom in literature or in any of the arts is a desire for freedom in life. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. On Extended Wings: Wallace Stevens’ Longer Poems. “The reason can give nothing at all / Like the response to desire”. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1963. 36 Helen Vendler. Stevens’ “figures of instability find their origin and finality in the exercise of a freedom – that of not responding to the analyzer. 37 Stevens. while of course having captured his desire”. 1988. Frank Lentricchia. 1991. . The Collected Poems. Paris: L’Harmattan. Wallace Stevens: The Intensest Rendezvous. Frank Lentricchia. Modernist Quartet.40 35 William W. Mind of Winter: Wallace Stevens. Johnson.37 and in his lecture on “The Irrational Element in Poetry” he invited us to see how “the desire for literature is the desire for life. Thomas H. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University.35 Just as often his mind would remain caught in its endless vortex. 1990. MA: Harvard University Press. as Emily Dickinson called it. was in some deep sense frequently also the wish to inject his poetry with an insatiable desire. Fisher. ed. so that he could linger in desire itself – that “sumptuous Destitution”. 231. but that this state was not easily reached and often came at a premium. and George Lensing. Wallace Stevens: The Intensest Rendezvous. The insatiable quality of Stevens’ mind points us back again to the great subject of desire in his work – a subject that has been treated from diverse angles and with very different biases by such critics as Helen Vendler. Cambridge. 1969.Wallace Stevens’ Poetry of Resistance 131 Buddhist-like “no-mind”. Bevis. Barbara Fisher. 218. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia. 952. 1998. Opus Posthumous. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. 3 vols. 38 Stevens. Stevens wrote in “Dezembrum”. 40 Alain Suberchicot. Treize façons de regarder Wallace Stevens: Une écriture de la presence. Lyric Contingencies: Emily Dickinson and Wallace Stevens. Fisher. 1994. III.”38 Such an incessant desire for freedom made him particularly prone to deferring satisfactions and gratifications. Barbara M. Meditation and Literature.39 The wish to resist the intelligence almost successfully. 202 (my translation).

mine etymologies. Others like Marie Borroff. 204. Stevens testified to being pleased by “a play of thought. however. . 1988. 53. A staunch Leavisite by training. arguing that Stevens is more profitably served by studying the latter. but two of the more general ones may be mentioned. 43 Maeder.45 This wealth of realizable possibility is to a great extent the result of a rhetorically brilliant 41 Frank Lentricchia. Eleanor Cook. Eleanor Cook. Vendler opened her first major study. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. Wallace Stevens’ Experimental Language: The Lion in the Lute. Ariel and the Police: Michel Foucault.43 The second effect of Stevens’ credo and practice. The case of Helen Vendler. On Extended Wings. and all of these principally formalist and aestheticist critics have collectively demonstrated how rewarding the close scrutiny of Stevens’ complex and many-layered style can be – how indeed “The pleasure of exegetical sleuthing is unlimited for anyone who wants to pick apart grammatical constructions. or exploit the secondary denotations of words given in the Oxford English Dictionary (as Stevens reportedly did)”. Poetry WordPlay and Word-War in Wallace Stevens. 1999.132 Bart Eeckhout The effects on criticism of Stevens almost successful resistance to the intelligence have been too various to list here. Stevens and Moore. 42 Marie Borroff. The Necessary Angel. by pitting against each other the two poetries identified by Stevens as the poetry of the idea and the poetry of words. Frank Doggett and Dorothy Emerson have probably coined the aptest phrase for this textual dynamic by calling Stevens a poet of “a realizable possibility”. Language and the Poet: Verbal Artistry in Frost. It has to do with the unusual degree to which critics of this poetry are being interpretively enfranchised. 4. “A Primer of Possibility for ‘The Auroras of Autumn’”. 1979. 45 Frank. Beverly Maeder. Doggett and Dorothy Emerson. The first effect is that Stevens has been a most welcome poet for critics with a preference for formal over content-oriented analysis.44 A similar play of supplying meanings is what he actively sought to set off in his own readers. 13 (1989). half-mockingly crowned “Queen of Formalism” by Frank Lentricchia. London: Macmillan. 44 Stevens. Wallace Stevens’ Experimental Language. have followed suit. and Beverly Maeder42 (coincidentally all women?). some meaning that we ourselves supply”. William James Wallace Stevens.41 is exemplary. has turned out to be even more striking. some trophy that we ourselves gather. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 109. The Wallace Stevens Journal. Recalling his own experience of reading La Fontaine.

The Renewal of Literature and Poetry and Pragmatism. that helps to explain why Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese were able to simultaneously praise and damn Milton Bates’ study. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press. the uncontainable textual effect of a compositional practice that allowed latent meanings to proliferate beyond the control of authorial intentions. Boston: G. 1988. It is this irreducible excess of signification. desirable and satisfactory as they are as correctives to the frivolousness and pretentiousness of some of the more freewheeling interpretations that have been bandied about. 44. to remain inside the process of thinking. ran through William James. Wallace Stevens: A Mythology of Self. eds Steven Gould Axelrod and Helen Deese. often undecidably. this boiling cocktail of authorial and textual intentions. Writers in this 46 “Introduction: Wallace Stevens: The Critical Reception”. Milton J. commonsensical portrait of Stevens – with all the strengths and weaknesses that commonsense understandings usually possess”.46 Indeed. as providing “a beautifully researched. . 1988. One such explicit appropriation of Stevens’ liberating resistance to the intelligence is to be found in two of Richard Poirier’s books.Wallace Stevens’ Poetry of Resistance 133 manipulation by Stevens. and to dissolve the self. in his opinion. but it is also. which is responsible for a sometimes dazzling over-determination. To some readers. and found its best twentieth-century representatives in Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens. Hall. Bates. nevertheless have their own limitations. but to discover how to move. According to Poirier. But others have made it a central argument in their defense of the value of reading literature. Wallace Stevens: A Mythology of Self. and can do the poetry a disservice by suppressing the exciting mental fertility and freedom it is able to spark off in its readers. in Critical Essays on Wallace Stevens. to resist security of meaning. 47 Richard Poirier. where a case is made for the idea that to read literature is to learn to live in transition. The Renewal of Literature: Emersonian Reflections. forms the essence of a pragmatic American tradition that started with Ralph Waldo Emerson. the liberty made available by Stevens’ poetry can be frightening and unsettling.”47 Such a stance. K. evidently. to work in ways that are still and forever mysteriously creative. to act. 18. “We do not go to literature to become better citizens or even wiser persons. New Haven: Yale University Press. 1985. commonsensical readings of Stevens.

Poetry and Pragmatism. Columbia. I refer the reader to my book. 139. London: Faber. . For a more extended discussion of the materials proposed in this essay. MO: University of Missouri Press.49 48 49 Richard Poirier. Wallace Stevens and the Limits of Reading and Writing.48 That Stevens can stand as an epitome to this tradition is one more telling indication of how far he managed to go in his poetic attempts at resisting the intelligence almost successfully. 2002.134 Bart Eeckhout tradition argue for “the virtue and necessity of vagueness”. 1992.

I expected them to send me some information about the practical details concerning my prospective stay in Japan. reproduced in O’Keeffe. When Horiuchi took me to the 1 Georgia O’Keeffe.IN SEARCH OF WORDS FOR “MOON-VIEWING”: THE JAPANESE HAIKU AND THE SKEPTICISM TOWARDS LANGUAGE IN MODERNIST AMERICAN POETRY GUDRUN M. Please come to Japan. been perfectly organized. Details are confusing. It is only by selection. upon the order and the payment by the Society. by elimination. and was granted a two-month scholarship with the non-verbal implication that it would be considered impolite to turn down the offer of a second month.1 In 1989 I applied to the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science for a one-month scholarship to do research in Japan on the Japanese haiku and Zen Buddhism. When they didn’t.” To my second letter after another three months had passed without notice I never even received an answer. had meanwhile found an apartment in Tokyo for me and had prepared in detail everything for my stay in Japan. 1991. Naturally. GRABHER Nothing is less real than realism. by emphasis that we get at the real meaning of things. . 180. New York Sun. Chicago: Chicago University Press. 1916-1929. and received a two-line answer: “Everything will be arranged here. and the Critics. Stieglitz. of which I had no idea. The way things were handled by this Society in the following months before I began my research in Japan was to become a foreshadowing of my encounter with the haiku there. I wrote them what I considered a polite and subtle letter of inquiry. 5 December. my host professor. “‘I Can’t Sing So I Paint’”. 1922. Barbara Buhler Lynes. indeed. Mr Horiuchi. Everything had. ed.


Gudrun M. Grabher

office of the Society on my first day in Tokyo, I was cordially greeted with gifts, smiles, and bows, and with the comment: “And thank you for your letters of inquiry.” “You are welcome”, I replied, realizing that I had immediately become part of this code of politeness, whose semantics I would never as much as catch a glimpse of. For several years I had studied Zen Buddhism and the art of the haiku from whatever scholarly source was available in the Western hemisphere. Upon my departure for Japan, therefore, I assumed I knew a little about the haiku. Upon my return from Japan I knew that I knew nothing, understood nothing, and had grasped nothing about this shortest, seemingly simplest, and most precise form in world literature: the haiku. But this was not the sort of Socratic insight where the realization of one’s very limited scope of knowledge leads to the search for more knowledge. Rather, it was the frustrated insight that some things are, indeed, incomprehensible, utterly and ultimately impenetrable. Horiuchi was not only my host, but a professor of English and a published haiku poet himself. I soon found out how popular the writing of haiku still is in contemporary Japan. Millions of people are doing it: elementary schools experiment with children in their writing of haiku, housewives found haiku societies, and daily newspapers offer competitions and awards for the best haiku. The haiku is not a thing of the past, but is very much alive. Since everyone seemed to be writing haiku, I did it too, or so I thought. When Horiuchi one day asked me about my haiku writing I shared two of my poems with him. The first one was about a nameless bird. “What kind of a bird was it?”, he asked. “I don’t know”, I said, “that’s why it is a nameless bird”. He repeated the question, ignoring my answer. Patiently, I tried to explain to him that the word “nameless” was significant, intentional: no name, no identity. He seemed utterly puzzled. After a pause, he wanted to know what the bird looked like. Was it big or small; was it black, or of another colour; was it silent; did it sing; did it move, fly, hop; was it beautiful, young, old, weak, strong? How should I know? And did I care? My bird was nameless, and I was proud of my attribute. During our conversation, where the pauses grew longer and the communication tenser, we both became more and more irritated. After a long silence Horiuchi finally asked – in despair: “Was it a crow?”

The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 137 We left the unidentifiable bird and moved on to my second haiku. It was September, very hot and humid, and I had tried to express my sense of the air, which seemed thick, smouldering, almost visible. In my haiku, which I had written in German, I had called it “zerschnittene Luft”. That was not easy to explain to Horiuchi, and somehow we got caught on the expression “cut air”. “Cut”, he pondered, “Cut into pieces”. “This is not what I meant at all”, I thought to myself, “this is not it at all”, growing painfully aware that not only my sense of the air was being butchered but my whole haiku as such. But to prevent any further escalation of misunderstanding, I conceded: I guess one could say so, in a way, of course, it’s different in my own language, but …. Horiuchi nodded and his mind seemed to work on the image. And after a long time he asked: “Who cut it into pieces?” – I sadly concluded that my haiku was no haiku. I did my scholarly research at the “National Museum of Haiku Literature” in Tokyo and my more practical research by visiting Zen Buddhist temples (both for men and women), and by talking to haiku poets and scholars of the haiku. Among others, I was invited by a senior professor and poet to Nagoya to interview him about the art of haiku. We spent four hours talking, him talking, that is, with one single sentence on the haiku: “A haiku must be beautiful.” My enlightenment, or deeper insight, concerning these examples of total misunderstanding between East and West came only much later. Nevertheless, this will not be the paper of a moonstruck person, as might be gathered from the title. Rather, “moon-viewing” will serve as a central metaphor in a twofold manner. “Moon-viewing” is a central motif in Japanese haiku poetry, charged with numerous meanings and implications. Here is an example of such a “moon-viewing” haiku, written by the famous Matsuo Basho:
The moon swiftly fleeting, Branches still holding The raindrops.2

“A finger is needed to point at the moon”, says D. T. Suzuki, “but when we have recognized the moon, let us no more trouble ourselves


Matsuo Basho, The Way of Silence: The Prose and Poetry of Basho, ed. Richard Lewis, New York: The Dial Press, 1970, 33.


Gudrun M. Grabher

with the finger”,3 the finger standing for language. And this captures the second, and major implication of “moon-viewing” for the following investigation into the impact of the haiku on Modernist American poets’ skepticism towards language. Language is no adequate means to capture reality; it is merely a means to lead us towards a recognition of it.

A finger is needed to point at the moon. But when we have recognized the moon, let us no more trouble ourselves with the finger. D. T. Suzuki In retrospect, the failure of our mutual understanding when discussing my haiku, which were no haiku, slowly but gradually began to make sense. For the haiku poet, the frog is a frog, the moon is the moon, rain is rain, and a bird is a bird; the thing is what it is, and it is named. A nameless bird, of course, to him is something that is not, and air cut into pieces – as fond as the haiku poet may at times be of the irrational – is beyond imagination, is an image butchered by


Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism, New York: Schocken Books, 1970, 96.

The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 139 senselessness before any reflective mind can even attempt to butcher it through analysis. The target of the haiku’s language is the concrete object, which is nothing but what it is. “A rose is a rose is a rose is a rose”, says Gertrude Stein, and never in literature, as has been argued, has a rose been as red before. “Is not the rose ‘the mystery’ in its isness or in its suchness, without making it rely on a stranger?” asks Suzuki in comparing the Western to the Eastern approach to nature, and continues: “What we can say generally about Western poetry on nature is that it is dualistic and personal, inquisitive and analytical”.4 And when Hemingway – playfully, provocatively, pathetically? – altered Stein’s line into “a rose is a rose is an onion”, he manifested the example of the poetic mind gone astray – according to haiku standards. Or rather, of the poetic mind interfering with the perception of the object. (By the way, several critics have pointed out the striking similarities between the eloquent-silence strategy of the haiku and the iceberg technique of Hemingway, both leaving the essential that is unsayable floating underneath the surface of the few words that are said.) In spite of certain similarities between the layered shape of a rose and that of an onion, a rose is a rose and not an onion. When Gertrude Stein, in the documentary film When this you see, remember me by Perry Adato, says, “I was trying to name objects without using their names”, this statement seems to run against the principle of the haiku. However, where Stein and the haiku poet meet is in their understanding of the function of language in relating to the exterior world. D. H. Kahnweiler is certainly right in observing about Gertrude Stein: “Cubism tried to give a representation of the exterior world which is no longer an imitation, and the literature of Gertrude Stein in a certain sense is, in my opinion, the same.”5 Stein not only concentrates, like Cubist painters and haiku poets, on simple objects by using simple words; she uses language in such a way that it does, indeed, represent rather than imitate. Stein, like the haiku poet, caresses the word; as Sherwood Anderson poignantly remarks, she captures the sound, taste, smell and rhythm of each word.

Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, Zen and Japanese Culture, Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company, 1988, 266. 5 Perry Adato, When this you see, remember me, Documentary film about Gertrude Stein, 1970.


Gudrun M. Grabher

What, then, is a haiku? The formal aspect of its threeline/seventeen-syllable structure is significant only for its Japanese context of language. The question about the meaning and function of a haiku is central. It has been argued that the most important key concept to an understanding of the spiritual attitude of the haiku poet is the concept of shasei, which originally derives from Chinese painting and means to depict the exterior world such as it is, without adding ornaments. Masaoko Shiki, one of the great theoreticians of the haiku, adopted this concept from Chinese painting and made it central to his theory of haiku poetry. Like the painter, the poet photographically paints a picture of reality as he has seen, felt, touched, smelled, heard, that is, perceived it through his senses; and he paints this picture by means of his words.6 Matsuo Basho, the seventeenth-century Japanese haiku poet, considered to be the greatest artist of this genre, says: “In writing, do not let a hair’s breadth separate your self from the subject. Speak your mind directly; go to it without wandering thoughts.”7 Translated into the words of the Imagists, this means “direct treatment of the thing, whether subjective or objective”. In order for a haiku to come into being, the poet must be in touch with the world, through common, simple, small, everyday things and occurrences, must be able to see and understand them in the context of the whole, be able to capture them in simple, precise, and concise words, in order to share with others the feelings that have been evoked in him by this dramatic moment of the ordinary. The sharing of those feelings is central to the idea of haiku writing. Says William J. Higginson: “We know that we cannot share our feelings with others unless we share the causes of those feelings with them …. Stating the feelings alone builds walls; stating the causes of the feelings builds paths.”8 Therefore the haiku poet looks for verbal means to get across his feelings rather than state them. This is reminiscent of T. S. Eliot’s concept of the “objective correlative”: “The only way of expressing emotion in the form of art is by finding

See Karlheinz Walzock, “Die Dinge und das schauende Ich. Haiku als geistige Haltung”, in Deutsch-Japanische Begegnung in Kurzgedichten, ed. Tadao Araki, Munich: Judicium Verlag, 1992, 69. 7 Quoted in William H. Higginson, The Haiku Handbook: How to Write, Share, and Teach Haiku (1985), Tokyo and New York: Kodansha International, 1989, 10. 8 Ibid., 5.

a chain of events which shall be the formula of that particular emotion. a situation. therefore I am”. in touch with the world through our senses. Hamburg.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 141 an ‘objective correlative’. and literally. 1969.” As I mentioned earlier. analytical thinking. 12 Higginson.”9 Interestingly enough. The Haiku Handbook. in Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. 11 Ezra Pound. which has been called “the first published hokku in English”. as Higginson did in his 1989 book. which “in its deepest. London: Faber and Faber. Eliot. Suzuki then begins to qualify the term “intuition” by replacing it with the word “feeling”. New York: New Directions. Eliot’s “objective correlative” has. Sabine Sommerkamp. 51. the essential thing for the haiku poet is to get in touch with things. It is. Ontologically speaking.12 One might alter Descartes’ principle into “I sense. “A Retrospect”. 1984. as Sabine Sommerkamp remarks. been defined as a stylistic element very similar to the traditional haiku. as well. its most fundamental quality is to come directly in touch with Reality. the haiku poet manages to make the reader get in touch with the world. And through his verbal images. more to the point. by experts of the haiku such as Motohiro Fukase and Soho Kumashiro. their true being. Der Einfluß des Haiku auf Imagismus und Jüngere Moderne: Studien zur englischen und amerikanischen Lyrik. discursive. such that when the external facts. he argues that “‘intuition’ can have various shades of meaning. S. which must terminate in sensory experience. “Hamlet”. and most basic sense” he thinks is more apt. S.10 In an essay published in 1912 Ezra Pound had remarked: “I believe in an ‘absolute rhythm’ … in poetry which corresponds exactly to the emotion or shade of emotion to be expressed. 145. 1935. or into “I feel.”11 Not much later. Higginson is right in arguing that we are first. the April 1913 issue of Poetry magazine printed his poem “In a Station of the Metro”. 9. PhD Thesis. therefore I am”. appropriate to add an explanation of the Japanese (Zen) understanding of feeling. 10 . perhaps. are given. in other words. in Japan T. He says: 9 T. broadest. When Suzuki agrees with the general opinion that the Western mind tends more towards logical. the emotion is immediately evoked. a set of objects. 144. as I did in my comparison of Emily Dickinson’s poetry to the haiku of Basho. in Selected Essays. whereas the Eastern mind seeks to find truth intuitively.

in being itself. in and for itself.13 A certain haiku attitude is the prerequisite for being able to write a haiku. the object is. T. as Kenneth Yasuda remarks. in and for itself. the Japanese mind. with Selected Examples (1957). For the haiku poet the direct experience. The form of the color red is red – as we see it. n. Grabher the experience the human mind has when it is identified with the totality of things or when the finite becomes conscious of the infinite residing in it – this experience is the most primary feeling which lies at the basis of every form of psychic functioning we are capable of. History. like Zen. and representation of the object suggests as little imposing of man’s mind on it as possible. Tuttle Company. Rutland. Our intuition in whatever form or sense still reminds us of an intellectual residue. 219. too. treatment. The form of the crow.14 To realize what the object is. in its unity and oneness. abhors egoism in any form of assertion”. probably the most difficult aspect of the haiku to understand for the Western mind. The Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature. The highest poetic creativity is achieved if the poet manages to express his inner 13 14 Suzuki. Zen and Japanese Culture.142 Gudrun M. And yet. for which the thing in and for itself is ultimately unknowable according to Kant. for whom the Cartesian ego constitutes the world. through its senses and understanding. is. In regard to the direct treatment of the thing. He then goes on to say: The form of ‘direct experience’ is the realization of what the object is. and Possibilities in English. this means that the poet needs to be open for the experience. Haiku. epistemologically. Kenneth Yasuda. and yet it tries not to interfere as a self with the suchness of the object. What is essential for the haiku poet. It is an experiencing of what. so that it becomes unique …. 1987. is the crow. as Yasuda implies. is that there is “no ‘ego’ on the part of the author aiming at its own glorification. 13. according to D. its objects as well as its subjects. VT and Tokyo: Charles E. seems to concede that the experience of the object does involve the human subject. as Basho saw it. . This may be a crucial point of understanding or misunderstanding for the Western man. 1. must display “a readiness for an experience for its own sake”. Suzuki.

Hulme called “a brother. 256. an unexpressed author”18 – to actively participate in the construction of its meaning. as it is meant to give insight into truth that lies beyond time as well as space. roused his feelings. . Through its brevity the haiku creates a dramatic stage. Tokyo and San Francisco: Japan Publications.. Stripped of the unnecessary and redundant. As Daniel C.16 A haiku must be short. but not the kind of question that my haiku had raised in Horiuchi.19 The image of a haiku represents a moment in time that is the eternal. Buchanan puts it: Many haiku are beautiful word pictures. One Hundred Famous Haiku. that is redundant. 17 William Carlos Williams. 18 See Sommerkamp. This disciplined approach to language is also emphasized by William Carlos Williams: There’s nothing sentimental about a machine. Der Einfluß des Haiku.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 143 feelings “altogether devoid of the sense of ego”. Buchanan. the reader being left to fill in the idea and make his own interpretation. When I say there’s nothing sentimental about a poem I mean that there can be no part. and provided insight into their suchness. It dwells in timelessness. but not elaborate description. 1973. 225. 247. 1969.17 But it is precisely this conciseness. 7. to use Jorie 15 16 Suzuki. as in any other machine. in Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams. There is much understatement and omission. 19 Daniel C. 49. E. Zen and Japanese Culture.15 The haiku poet is never explicit and elaborate about what is going on inside him. He contents himself with the objects that have stirred his attention. This emphasis on timelessness in the haiku is significant because the concrete image that is captured in time is being zoomed out of its temporal existence and cast into an image frozen in timelessness. this economical use of language that requires the reader – whom T. the images of the haiku seize the essential only. and in such a manner that they raise questions in the reader. inviting the reader to participate in the action. it is anti-temporal or trans-temporal. Ibid. “Introduction to The Wedge”. and: A poem is a small (or large) machine made of words. New York: New Directions. The present moment is thus “forever stillborn”.

“A Letter to Matsuo Basho”. an instant … in the simple.20 That the stillborn moment manages to carry us beyond the limits of time and space is expected by Pound as well: [The image is] that which presents an intellectual and emotional complex in an instant of time …. 20 Robert Aitken. or winter. everyday way of being here and now. just as all is as it is. VII/2 (1984). movement: that movement which. however. . 23 Vladimir Devidé. not. so to speak). It is the presentation of such a ‘complex’ instantaneously which gives that sense of sudden liberation. 35. Or as Robert Aitken puts it: So the moment of the haiku could be said not to move but to be. 4. which we experience in the presence of the greatest works of art. autumn. Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism. 15.144 Gudrun M. A Zen Wave: Basho’s Haiku and Zen. “A Retrospect”. Tokyo and New York. that sense of sudden growth. The movement in stillness of the thing itself. empty and without self.21 The sense of timelessness in the haiku is derived from the Zen understanding that everything is momentary (and as such eternal. There are huge dictionaries of kigos because it is not always clear which word signifies which season. 140. because it is not relative. and that it always contains a word to signify the season.22 Vladimir Devidé has summarized the essence of this seemingly paradoxical aspect pertinently: “Just as the experience of haiku is a moment. thus it is – in an opposite way – that every period of time is just a moment. this word being called kigo. Grabher Graham’s words from her poem “San Sepolchro”. an eternity without permanence and beyond. Studia Mystica. the fact that it is always about nature. 22 See Suzuki. ideas about it. summer. not concepts of it. as Wallace Stevens put it.”23 What has not been mentioned yet about the haiku is one of its most obvious features. the season is simply mentioned by its name: spring. 1978. 21 Pound. is inseparable from stillness. Very often. that sense of freedom from time limits and space limits. totally.

loneliness. The very word ‘koan’ is an illustration. that is. again. 24 25 Suzuki. the moment of gaining insight into the true nature of things. remains eloquently silent. is by far more difficult for the Western mind to grasp is the paradox often inherent in the presentation of an image. It avoids all intellectual abstractions and conceptualizations. This unity with the universe is expressed in Zen by the word samadhi. And through their immediacy the reader gets involved. Zen and Japanese Culture. A Zen Wave. 226. this simultaneity of binary opposites strives towards the achievement of oneness. into their suchness or mystery. feelings. As Aitken remarks: “Our Zen practice takes us deeply into this complementarity of aloneness and oneness. This paradox derives from the Zen koan. The most profound analysis of the connections between Zen and the haiku has been given by D. man and nature. Suzuki calls this “the mystery of self-identification and universal interpenetration or interfusion”. the perceiver and the perceived.” 25 I will say more about this in my later discussion of Cummings’ poem “loneliness / a leaf falls”. light and dark. He begins with the central idea of Zen. which is one reason for the brevity of the haiku. Reality is for human beings epistemologically the realm of the unknowable. In order to be ready for this kind of intuition. namely satori or enlightenment. which is a question posed in such an irrational manner that it is meant to lead the reader to step beyond the boundaries of logic in order to gain insight into truth. . or rather. of the oneness of subject and object. 89 (see also 27). Zen and Japanese Culture.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 145 What. No wonder Eric W.24 and he tries to combine aloneness. T. Thus. etc. motion and motionlessness. Aitken. which Suzuki explains as “the state of one-pointedness. the haiku gives us images reflecting those intuitions. he argues. 265. the poet must be selfless so that he may embrace the universe as a whole. with oneness as unity. Ultimately. Although.26 Feelings can never be put forward through conceptualizations. and besides the images themselves. Suzuki in his book Zen and Japanese Culture. time and timelessness. of concentration”. we can get in touch with it through our intuition. One of the most famous and most often quoted koan is the question: what is the sound of one hand clapping? In a haiku we often come across the simultaneity of silence and sound. 26 Suzuki.

revised edn. ourselves undivided from the object. Blyth calls the moon nature [etc. 28 Quoted in Suzuki. The moon does not get wet nor is the water disturbed. The Wordless Poem: A Study of Zen in Haiku. it shows the thing as it exists at one and the same time outside and inside the mind. but this law is not something different from the thing itself. is a very special and essential mirror image. perfectly subjective. Although its light is extensive and great. n. Sunday. haiku poets often do not just content themselves with accidentally catching sight of the moonlight. Zen and Japanese Culture. “Key Words to Understanding Japanese Culture: Kiku and Sakura”.27 As contradictory as it may sound. 29 Kenkichi Murano.p. quoting from Dogen’s Genji Koan: Gaining enlightenment is like the moon reflecting on the water. our falling leaf nature.29 Because the moon has such a special significance. the moon is reflected even in a puddle an inch across. Haiku is the revealing of this preaching by presenting us with the thing devoid of all our mental twistings and emotional discoloration. or rather. H. And Suzuki comments: “What Dr. The whole moon and the whole sky are reflected in a dew-drop in the grass. both in Zen and in the haiku. Each thing is preaching the law [Dharma/sic] incessantly. the object in its original unity with ourselves …. our cherry-blossom nature. It is a way of returning to nature. which is also a favoured mirror-image of gaining self-knowledge. very often they wait for a particular night to wander out into the darkness for the purpose of viewing the moon. in one drop of water …. As Kenkichi Murano explains. Grabher Amann calls his study of Zen in Haiku “The Wordless Poem”. therefore. Suzuki appreciates R. Amann. no place: Haiku Society of Lanada. 1978. 228. into one’s self that is no self. is] no more than the suchness of things. to our moon nature. in short to our Buddha nature. Blyth’s definition and explanation of the haiku: A haiku is the expression of a temporary enlightenment. 31 July 1983. in Mainichi Daily News. Rather.146 Gudrun M. into the suchness of things.”28 The moon. 27 Eric W. . in which we see into the life of things …. this silence evokes an insight into the mystery of being.

36. the second (1912-1914) by Pound. is the group denominated ‘imagists’ in London about 1910. To say less. Eliot would observe in retrospect: “The point de repère usually and conveniently taken. To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings. on the image to be rendered in its particulars.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 147 At the beginnings of the Imagist movement in 1909 the haiku had already been in the air. in particular against the Genteel tradition. In Austria and Germany. accompanied by the author’s article “Les Èpigrammes lyriques du Japon”. this was to become the cornerstone of Modernist poetry in general. and for an internationalization of literature. So when the Imagist movement began to take shape. above all.”31 The realization that the verbosity of language in recent poetry had lost track of things in themselves rather than capturing them would result in the Imagists’ emphasis on new rhythms. for example. Apart from the strong interest in Japanese wood carvings. 1965. 30 31 See Sommerkamp. However. haiku poetry and French Symbolist poetry known in America (for example his “Art of the East. on the hard and clear rather than the blurred and indefinite. was to say more. the first (19091911) marked by T. Hulme. S. Der Einfluß des Haiku. the exact rather than decorative word. common speech. felt his words crumble in his mouth like mouldering mushrooms. on concentration (programmatic points of Imagism as proposed by Amy Lowell in the Preface to Some Imagist Poets). as the starting-point of modern poetry. Eliot. As T. S. and the third (1915-1917) by Amy Lowell. and.30 The introduction of the haiku conveniently met the Americans’ desire for a reform of poetry. where the first haiku translations into French by Paul Louis Couchoud appeared in 1906 in the magazine Les Lettres. the haiku had first entered Europe through France. T. the works of Basil Hall Chamberlain (including his 1902 essay “Basho and the Japanese Poetical Epigram”) as well as those of Lafcadio Hearn. E. 58. Hugo von Hofmannsthal. they believed. London: Faber. the freedom of choice of subject. an American living in Japan and striving to make Zen Buddhism. in its three stages. the poets’ skepticism towards language had even been labeled as “Sprachskepsis” from the beginning of the twentieth century. published even earlier than Chamberlain’s) had already left their traces. . Review and Studies in New Japan”.

to creating poem-pictures. 673. as granted by Williams. 36 E.34 I would like to concentrate on the loneliness poem here: 1(a le af fa ll s) one 1 iness36 Won’t you come and see loneliness? Just one leaf from the kiri tree. Cummings. 1993. as important as to the painter himself. 4 (October 1995).32 or was at best admitted in things. Firmage. Grabher The concentration on the thing as such would be poignantly expressed by various poets in similar though distinct manners. Cummings: Complete Poems 1904-1962.33 And Michael Dylan Welch has illustrated how. E. Knopf. The idea of the thing was excluded altogether from poetic contemplation. especially in his later poems. 35 Basho’s poem written in 1692 is quoted in Welch: “Henderson explained that ‘The kiri (paulownia) is noted for dropping its leaves even when no breath of wind is stirring’”. New York: Alfred A. 116. 33 See Sommerkamp. 1994. Cummings”. 95-120. George J. In theory. 156. Cummings displays striking similarities to the haiku poet through his particular employment of images. But Cummings was the one to come closest to painting his pictures with words. “The Haiku Sensibilities of E. The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. Mitchell Morse has called Cummings’ “loneliness / a leaf falls” “in spirit a perfect haiku”. E. as proposed by Stevens in “Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing itself”.148 Gudrun M. For Pound as for Williams and Cummings it was essential “to paint the thing as they saw it”. painting the thing was equally important to all of them. Der Einfluß des Haiku. ed. E. New York: Liveright. . SPRING. 534.35 32 Wallace Stevens. 34 Michael Dylan Welch. E.

So Cummings has managed to make an ontological statement about the human being through the word loneliness. though stressing the subject-ness of both man and nature rather than the common subject-ness of the former versus the objectness of the latter. and luckily. the one both spelt out in the seventh line as well as graphically depicted as the numeral 1. The lonely I has identified itself with the falling leaf. that is to the lowercase i in the final syllable “iness”. 10 . The emphasis on the “one” in loneliness is as striking as the arrangement of two letters each in the lines depicting the image of the one leaf falling. Incidentally. suggesting duplicity in unity. this grand I is reduced to a small i. the Cartesian ego as the measure of all things. which happens to be identical with the letter l when printed by the typewriter. epistemological way the two I’s together may also signify that even though man may. In a more sophisticated. The personal pronoun “I” is capitalized in the English language and thus marks its central position in the world. one. (October 2001). it may imply that a unity of man and nature has been achieved. where two l’s. that is to be lonely. First. as visually spelt out by Cummings. Yet this sense of unity is irritated by the fact that it is two ones standing side by side.37 The arrangement of the letters of the concrete image visually reflects the movement of the leaf falling from the tree. the number l not only equals the letter l but resembles the capital I. However. Rather. that is “ones”.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 149 Through the concrete image of “a leaf falls” Cummings illustrates the abstract idea of loneliness. To be lonely is to be “al-one”. the twoness of the ones or the oneness of the two ones is by no means unequivocal. It is this twoness contained in the natural image that creates a bridge to the one-ness or loneliness of the human being. when the grand I realizes that to be I is fundamentally to be one. Grabher. in analogy to the haiku. 127-39. are standing side by side. so that the word loneliness. The bridging of the gap is achieved exactly in the middle of the poem. that is. The empathy with the falling leaf may even intensify the sense of loneliness. this unity is realized as a unity in diversity. comes to read as “to be I is to be one is to be al-one is to be lonely”. SPRING. However. “I paint (my poems) therefore i am”. it embraces a number of different meanings. Through the ambivalence of this – both formally and 37 See also Gudrun M. achieve a sense of unity with nature. through empathy. The visual presentation of the word loneliness mirrors its interior semantics.

Grabher semantically – central line. remarks that “the relation of certain beautiful faces in a Paris Metro Station to petals on a wet tree branch is not absolutely clear”. which even more strongly emphasizes this oneness in its double meaning. 159. New York: Greenwood Press.38 Finally. Arthur E. ed. But when John G. a syllable or dash that marks the transition from one image to another. Fletcher. There is only one single incident in the poem where the pattern of one versus two is interrupted. ed. Fletcher. namely in the first line. The very word ‘koan’ is an illustration …. 113. “The Orient and Contemporary Poetry”.150 Gudrun M. might be identified as the kireji of the haiku. although not everybody has been convinced of the genuine haiku-ness of this poem. Here. 1968.40 38 39 Aitken. which evokes a paradox that is meant to help the reader transcend the boundaries of logical thinking. Petals on a wet. black bough. loneliness and concrete image. This parenthesis does exactly do that: introduce the concrete image. This is ko. Cummings does full justice to the ZenBuddhistic idea of the koan. As mentioned earlier. Ezra Pound’s poem “In a Station of the Metro” is generally considered the first published haiku in English. are further stressed by the fact that the image is inserted into the word “loneliness” through its parenthetical position between the first l or one and the word one. the opening parenthesis. Michael John King. which is added as a third mark. A Zen Wave. 89ff. 40 Ezra Pound. . London: Faber. Robert Aitken explains the literal meaning of the koan as follows: Our Zen practice takes us deeply into the complementarity of aloneness and oneness. the sameness that is beyond equality and inequality.39 it seems to be more this reader’s problem than that of the poet: In a Station of the Metro The apparition of these faces in the crowd. The Collected Early Poems of Ezra Pound. 1977. John G. Christy. the unity and oneness of man and nature. in The Asian Legacy and American Life. for example.

vitality. implies a subject by whom this apparition is being perceived. 1960. is paralleled.42 The emphasis is clearly on the faces.41 Pound combines. Moreover. Austin: University of Texas Press. which captures the fast. reveal their inherent connection. London: New Directions. he is probably reflecting Fenollosa’s criticism of our understanding of a sentence: “The … definition. “Ezra Pound and the Haiku”. The Fortnightly Review. black bough. the word “apparition”. ephemeral flowers on the dark. And yet. NS 96 (September 1914). And the choice of word emphasizes the self-revelation of the things rather than the human subject seeing these faces. and longevity of human beings”. In terms of colour language. 89). momentary appearance and disappearance of the various faces. “Vorticism”. College English. was for him the beginning of a language in colour. by the wet. It is against this black background that the colours of the faces as well as of the 41 Ezra Pound. he [Fenollosa] dismisses because of its arrogant subjectivity which postulates that the form of the sentence is an adjunct of ego function. But it took him a whole year to succeed in condensing the originally thirtyline poem into this famous two-liner. Ideogram: History of a Poetic Method. which entails their “superposition” as Pound demands in his “Vorticism” essay.”43 The anonymous crowd. the tiny. Pound had suddenly been struck by seeing one beautiful face after another. As Richard E. Géfin. . of course. 43 Laszlo K. according to which a sentence is a uniting of subject and predicate.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 151 It is well known that one day. 46171 (reprinted in Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir. the image of the petals seems clear enough. wet limb not only compare with the momentary faces in the crowd. in the second image. then. XXVI/7 (April 1965). This. or separates – depending on how one may read the kireji of the semi-colon at the end of the first line – two images that seem to contradict each other. out of which these faces are flashing up. Looking for appropriate words to capture this impression he realized that it presented itself in “splotches of color”. 523. When Pound presents his images in a linguistic form that is not a sentence. but they also contrast with the size. which on a closer look. The flashing up of these faces is well expressed by the word apparition. 1982. 42 Richard Eugene Smith. Smith remarks: “In Pound’s poem. however. in the La Concorde station of the Paris metro. by using the noun rather than a verb Pound manages a truly direct treatment of the thing. 28.

Tokyo: Charles Tuttle Company. which solely adapted the formal aspects of the haiku. The apparition of the faces. Her first two poems with a Japanese topic appeared as early as 1912. beyond time and space. At the same time. the motion suggested in the first image takes on the meaning of time passing quickly. their momentary flashing up. Zen and Japanese Culture. in nature. Amy Lowell was well acquainted with Japanese art and literature from an early age through her brother Percival. as opposed to the eternal recurrence of natural processes. suggests the fast motion of people in the busy metro station of the metropolitan city of Paris. the motion of natural growth. who had spent several years in the Far East as a diplomat and published books about Japan. oh!45 44 Amy Lowell. the cyclical motion of nature as such.44 Another reads: On the temple bell Perching. were published as “Lacquer Prints” in the third anthology of Some Imagist Poets in 1917 and later included in her book Pictures of the Floating World in 1919. Pound has. 205. conveys motionlessness. “On the Temple Bell”. Grabher petals make themselves visible. in Suzuki. of the temporariness of human life. which only lasts. created a moment of insight. the bough with its petals seems static. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. In sharp contrast. sleeps The butterfly. But the juxtaposition of these two images contains much more than this contrastive painting of colours against a dark canvas. Once this insight into the meaning of the second image is achieved. 1925. it silently and secretly does contain a sense of motion. One of these poems is “Peace”: Perched upon the muzzle of a cannon A yellow butterfly is slowly opening and shutting its wings. into the ephemeral flashing up of beauty. 45 Yosa Buson. 1988. through the cycle of death and rebirth. fifty-nine short poems. 248. however. Then followed the twenty-four poems of “The Anniversary”. The Complete Poetical Works of Amy Lowell. indeed. Her first real haiku. . the change of seasons.152 Gudrun M.

She offers just enough through words to make the reader grasp a moment of truth in its complexity and paradoxical nature. whereas the butterfly’s existence is a silent one. and signifies not only life but happiness as well. is also typical of human life: we dance over a volcano altogether unaware of the possibility of a sudden explosion. 46 47 Suzuki. she has replaced the bell in Buson’s poem. Der Einfluß des Haiku. just like Buson’s butterfly. . the image of the butterfly seems to be prevailing. which she obviously knew. destruction. their opening and shutting. an object favored by the poetic imagination. The cannon. which it contains as a possibility. The slow motion of its wings. Moreover. peaceful motion in tune with the peacefulness of nature as such. however. Suzuki even attributes magnitude and dignity to this insect. however. the end of time. 249. This silence is threatened by the mere image of the cannon’s muzzle. Lowell certainly offers insight into the closeness of happy. the explosion of the cannon. Lowell seems to present the simultaneity of peacefulness and the threat of sudden destruction by means of the juxtaposition of these two images. Suzuki’s interpretation of the Japanese poem also fits Lowell’s: “This utter unconsciousness of the events to come. unexpected death. Therefore the two images also imply the notion that human life may be as temporary as that of a butterfly in nature. and. strongly contrasts with the sudden motion of the cannon. with the cannon. giddy. Perched on the cannon. ugliness. is associated with noise. Zen and Japanese Culture. though. whereas the cannon is man-made.47 Rather. Lowell’s is not asleep. indirectly.”46 The possibility of a sudden explosion is even more obviously contained in the image of the cannon. Sommerkamp. In contrast to Buson’s butterfly. could at any instant interrupt and destroy this peacefulness. while it must not be overlooked that the butterfly is a creature of nature. I would not agree with Sabine Sommerkamp. In spite of this difference. So Amy Lowell steps inside the things she presents without offering their semantics by means of description. which in contrast to the evanescent butterfly signifies power. which is only there as a possibility. The slow opening and shutting of the butterfly’s wings is a natural. unselfconscious. Its yellow colour contrasts with the darkness and blackness of the cannon. death. though. 99. good or bad.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 153 Since Lowell’s poem bears the title “Peace”. beautiful life and sudden. unconscious. in seeing the butterfly as a clear symbol of hope for peace.

277. it is also emotionally charged because of the emphasized “so much”. Rather. His things do not become alive. Grabher The poet often considered to be the least successful in directly treating the thing so as to reveal more than can be said in words is William Carlos Williams. which is triggered off by the preposition “beside”. without really getting across what it is that he has seen in them. their whiteness here evokes an image of static. he even prevents the reader from looking inside the thing. The images of the red wheelbarrow and the white chickens could well have sufficed to make for a true imagist poem. he also imposes his subjective view on it by starting the poem with the comment “so much depends upon”. He does paint what he sees. to make the thing impenetrable. Thus Williams does no more than place one thing seen beside the other. as this glaze seems to create a barrier. New York: A New Directions Book. He is not only too descriptive with his image (of the red wheelbarrow). The Collected Earlier Poems of William Carlos Williams. and what it was that struck him about them. . His famous red wheelbarrow poem is an example. But by adding the glazing rain to the wheelbarrow Williams not only literally remains on the surface of the thing. 1966.154 Gudrun M. but he seems to see only the surface of things: The Red Wheelbarrow so much depends upon a red wheel barrow glazed with rain water beside the white chickens48 Williams fails in more than one respect. dead objects. Nor are Williams’ chickens in any sense alive. motionless. Not only is this a subjective interference with the direct treatment of the thing. nor do they offer insight into a truth that is wordlessly contained 48 William Carlos Williams.

EastWest-Review. for instance. Benet and N. . 1313. The poem that is frequently quoted as the paragon of haiku similarity is “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. suggesting a very conscious perception of the landscape. The only moving thing Was the eye of the blackbird. It might as well have been seven or thirteen. 5. the concrete. Wallace Stevens.”50 In this poem Williams neither catches the idea in the thing nor the thing itself. the motionlessness of the mountains against the hardly noticeable motion of the bird’s eye. And because of the emptiness of the images. 92.53 It is a perfect picture of nature: the image of the snowy mountains contrasted with the blackbird. not only conveys the satori of Zen. the hugeness of the mountains against the tininess of the blackbird’s eye. It is white against black. one might ask. I will concentrate on a discussion of the images in number I: Among twenty snowy mountains. according to haiku theory. Otake. The Collected Poems. R. 534. This. 53 The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. “The Haiku Touch in Wallace Stevens and Some Imagists”. it presents”. no conclusion. But they seem to have been counted. New York: Oxford University Press. On the other hand. Pearson. II/2 (Winter 1965-1966). sensuous material to be intuited must stand alone.51 did manage to achieve something “like / A new knowledge of reality”. The majestic grandness of the snowy 49 William Carlos Williams. 52 Masaru V. as Masaru V.49 he did not stick to this principle here. Otake has described it. “A Note on Poetry”. The Japanese Haiku. it often even manages to put into words the “metaphysical reality of nothingness”. Why twenty mountains.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 155 in the images. eds W. The contrast of the images is as extreme as possible. presenting “Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing itself”. And Yasuda is right in criticizing him: “There can be no commentary. H. 1938. Even though Williams had himself declared that “all art is necessarily objective. in Oxford Anthology of American Literature. Stevens’ poetry. 51 Stevens.52 Stevens captures this essence of nothingness in his poem “The Snowman”. 153. as has been observed by several critics. 50 Yasuda. It doesn’t declaim or explain. is of no significance. the introductory comment “so much depends upon” is all the more redundant.

stirring one’s emotions and feelings. especially because of the word snowy and its colour white. by this moving thing that is only the eye of a bird. moreover. provides a moment of insight into the majestically impending ever-presence of death to the looking eye that is part of a thing already tinged by death. manifesting once and forever the death that is. The color white of the snowy mountains is the colour of death. stirred. but in a sense death. Apart from referring to motion. Implicitly. The nuance in motion as compared between the mountains and the bird’s eye is subtle. of the idea of death in the metaphysical sense. But the reflection of the moonlight in the water does not disturb its smooth surface. nor does the moon get wet.156 Gudrun M. it also means to move in the sense of touching. it could be argued. even seeming fusion. this whiteness is reflected in the blackness of the bird. of the eye/I of man and the eye/I of the blackbird. but in such a paradoxical sense that they may ultimately be interchanged. the bird perceives the death that is already inherent in its very own being. . having been moved. The snowy mountains are not moving. this is a perfect example of moon-viewing. one might therefore argue that the poet expresses an identification of human being and nature. and only alive in a paradoxical sense of speaking the language of death. though it is still alive and moving. the eye of the beholder is present in the poem. This eye/I – in both its manifestations – is alive since it is moving. too. In a sense. in the concrete death as inevitable potential contained in its very existence. The black colour of the bird in itself signifies death as well. For long after the blackbird may have died the mountains will still be residing in the same spot. In the second image it is not the bird that is perceived as moving but only its eye. The word “moving” in the English language. bears a second connotation. Yet their encounter. Grabher mountains signifies not only motionlessness. In looking at the snowy mountains as externalized image. hardly recognizable. Therefore motion versus motionlessness juxtaposes life and death. In analogy to the haiku. Like the moon.

and.54 then this ladder remains forever suspended in mid-air. Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press. as in O’Keeffe’s painting. If language. it conjures up Wittgenstein’s notion of the ladder. because of the finger standing for language. in the Tractatus. is a ladder that must be thrown away and reinvented again and again in every single attempt to gain insight into the suchness of reality. sighing for the moon. . This painting reminds us of the quote by Suzuki about the finger pointing to the moon. he proposes that language is capable of picturing reality in a positivistic sense. “Ladder to the Moon”. but not what it is.The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 157 Georgia O’Keeffe. 1996. then. 2006. Vienna. I will start my conclusion with one of her paintings. it is those pictures which are the least meaningful as well as the least interesting. It is well known that according to Wittgenstein we can only say how a thing is. Wittgenstein’s Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary. as Marjorie Perloff has demonstrated. like the essence of things. any kind of abstract conceptualization is beyond language and should be left to silence. Since I began my article with a quote by Georgia O’Keeffe. A haiku may be seen as a manifestation of a ladder in this sense. And even though. simultaneously. Everything had been 54 Marjorie Perloff. On my first day in Tokyo Horiuchi took me to the office of the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science. Ladder to the Moon (1958) © VBK.

carefully chosen and juxtaposed letters (ladders) of inquiry. Munich: Iudicium Verlag. which according to the moment of enlightenment in Zen Buddhism evokes such images.56 Though intellectually not understood. “you are welcome”. smiles. whose semantics I would never as much as catch a glimpse of. 54-55. 1992. that is self-less. which has succeeded in reacting immediately to the consciousness”. is a letter (ladder) of inquiry. In his introduction to Suzuki’s Die große Befreiung. and bows. Der Einfluß des Haiku. in Deutsch-Japanische Begegnung in Kurzgedichten. “Haiku – die Höflichkeit den Dingen gegenüber: Der Frankfurter Haiku-Kreis”. realizing that I had immediately become part of this code of politeness. “Haiku – die Höflichkeit den Dingen gegenüber”55).” “You are welcome”. ed. Their inquiry expresses politeness towards the things (as suggested by the title of an article by Erika Schwalm. consisting of few. And things have their way of responding. C. I replied. Politely approached. G. Jung observed that “the haiku. The self. is grateful. seems to provide an answer of nature. It is inevitable that I should conclude with a poem: 55 Erika Schwalm. things are willing to share their suchness with the poet and the reader. And have I learned something since then? Maybe this: that a haiku. I was cordially greeted with gifts. this semantics of politeness has grown on me.158 Gudrun M. Grabher perfectly organized. and any haiku-like poem. 30. and with the comment: “And thank you for your letters of inquiry. Tadao Araki. 56 Quoted by Sommerkamp. .

But is it a haiku? .The Japanese Haiku and the Skepticism towards Language 159 bird – nameless my impoliteness towards the softness of your feathers. Gudrun M. Grabher The poem consists of three lines and of exactly seventeen syllables.


used fragmentation in a gesture that was deliberately transgressive and at the same time reflected accurately the perception of the world they lived in. “Death is the mother of beauty”. 1962. NOT AUTOMATIC: WILLIAM CARLOS WILLIAMS VERSUS SURREALIST POETICS ERNESTO SUÁREZ-TOSTE “April is the cruellest month”. Cubist. While many identifiable Cubist fragments qualify as quotation in Genette’s sense1 – most conspicuously the newspaper pieces. “It Must Be Abstract”. or even deliberately edited. no matter how decontextualized – that is one of fragmentation’s defining features – or inexact. whether attached or painted – the effect in poetry is remarkable because Modernist poetry is so open to a variety of styles and registers that it lends itself to absolute confusion between an original poem and its borrowed lines. Dadaist. “Make it new”. Surrealist. and often his own specific stance within the Modernist canon. sometimes in radical contradiction. But a mere quotation recalls its author and his spirit. Whatever the fragmented quality of their own discourse. 8. During the first half of the twentieth century writers and artists. Fragments are first and foremost instrumental in composing a new whole whose first impact must be obvious fragmentation. “No ideas but in things”. a stanza composed exclusively of lines taken from other poems.SPONTANEOUS. such as 1 Gérard Genette. This is particularly true of poets who favored this sort of ambiguity. Palimpsestes. Modernist poets favored quotation as a specific form of fragmentation. the introduction of other writers’ fragments – identified as such or not – enriched their work at multiple connotative levels. as in the cento. but each one also acquires a special relevance of its own. Paris: Editions du Seuil. which are sometimes in perfect harmony with each other. We easily recognize the Modernists in their fragments. .

2 Patricia Willis and John Hollander. which in itself demonstrated the interpenetration of contemporary developments in the arts. Satie. 1998. “The Great Parade: Cocteau. Ann Arbor: UMI. ed. . Some major works have already received serious coverage from the point of view of avant-garde poetics. both across the arts and across political frontiers. I have shored these fragments to build up a case for the influence of Surrealist poetics on Modernist poets. none of them easily classifiable according to traditional notions. Such hybrid figures as Jean (Hans) Arp or Marcel Duchamp belong indistinctly to several arts.162 Ernesto Suárez-Toste Marianne Moore. 120. S. 1993. specifically the role played by Surrealism in the issue of form-versus-meaning. Picasso. a poem that cannot be fully understood outside its very special milieu in the Paris of Cubist-Dadaist creativity: “if the hallmarks of Eliot’s poem are its fusion of tradition and experimentation. Marianne Moore: The Art of a Modernist Master”. XXXI/1. Nationality became a mere accident at a time when nations were at war but artists collaborated as never before.2 I intend to base this essay on an analysis of different quotations taken from Modernist poetry and criticism. Artists and poets who had fought on different sides during World War I were now enthusiastically exchanging ideas and experimenting with every aspect that lent itself to experimentation. has been assessed as a poem that benefits from a synergy between the arts. these too are the features of Parade.”3 The 1920s and 30s indeed constitute a most interesting milieu on both sides of the Atlantic. with capital contributions to art and literature as well as a decisive influence on subsequent artistic manifestations. for instance. in Marianne Moore: The Art of a Modernist (1990). best exemplified by the competition between Williams and Stevens. Eliot”. first as a writing technique and then as a dictatorship of the unconscious. Massine. especially since Modernism spans both Dada and Surrealism. Joseph Parisi. “Symposium. the everyday and the extraordinary. in Mosaic. and the impact of automatism. The Waste Land. some of whose poems could qualify as successions of borrowings. The traditional distinctions between the arts were abandoned and many other artificial categories and barriers were pulled down. 3 Nancy D. I hope this focus will help us better understand the complex interaction among interwar movements. Hargrove. 84. Diaghilev – and T.

Perhaps a more interesting question about all this newness is how it was received by critics of its age. New York: New Directions. save of course the fact that “new” meant something very different for each and every one of these poets. it was work …. the calculated viciousness of a money-grubbing society such as I knew and wrote against. ed. . vulgar rationalism and chop logic were the quintessential causes of our horror and our destructive impulse.William Carlos Williams versus Surrealist Poetics 163 Though William Carlos Williams’ position concerning America’s import of Surrealism experienced substantial fluctuations. familial.6 In these circumstances. Intellectually. … this refusal was directed … against the entire series of intellectual. “Make it new”. made him both an enthusiastic follower and a rigorous judge of Surrealism. and civic. socially. There is little to discuss about it in this context. moral and social obligations that continually and from all sides we perceived to be weighing down upon man and trying to crush him. 1986.5 The stupidity. unite with those of another”. 158. it was all duties: religious. New York: New Directions. It can hardly be denied that the impact of historical events produced remarkably similar effects and reactions on writers and artists on both sides of the Atlantic: Apart from the incredible stupidity of the arguments that attempted to legitimize our participation in an enterprise such as the war. 161. to which we shall return later. morally. and this urge for renovation is thoroughly summarized in Pound’s dictum. Novelty meets skepticism in Richard Aldington’s review of Joyce’s Ulysses. The Autobiography of William Carlos Williams. Suffice it to say that Williams’ insistence on locality. A Recognizable Image: William Carlos Williams on Art and Artists. 6 William Carlos Williams. 8. 1978. 1967. the renewal of poetic language became a major issue for these writers. Qu’est-ce le que le surréalisme?.4 This conciliatory statement synthesizes Williams’ ambivalent coupling of enthusiasm and boredom with the Surrealist project. Cognac: Le temps qu’il fait. or at least the translatability of every aspect to America. in the form of his provocative as well as sensible “don’t try this at home” warning: 4 William Carlos Williams. when the base is the same. Bram Dijkstra. in 1941 he conceded that “concepts originating in one milieu may. 5 André Breton. everything I wanted to see live and thrive was being deliberately murdered in the name of church and state.

feeling a praiseworthy contempt for whatever literary achievement might result from this …. 9 Breton. much emotion. Joyce’s superior culture allowed him to write this way. and from Dadaisme to imbecility it is hardly that. 480-83. By the end of the first day we were able to read to one another about fifty pages written by this method and to compare the results …. Qu’est-ce le que le surréalisme?. S. flaws of a similar nature. and even claiming it as being as closer to Eliot’s own style. 333.8 a vindication of order – then far from obvious – in Ulysses.9 1920 is also the date of publication of William Carlos Williams’ Kora in Hell: Improvisations. Dial.”7 Aldington was worried about the dead end this model might represent for future generations lacking Joyce’s cultural background. The most interesting aspect of Aldington’s review for us is. This was in the early 1920s. Joyce to Dadaisme is but one step. in “Ulysses. Order. James Joyce”. S. From his point of view. “The Influence of Mr.164 Ernesto Suárez-Toste “From the manner of Mr. 32 (1921). if they adopted the eccentricities and dislocations of Ulysses. 15. a considerable assortment of images of such quality as we had not been able to obtain for a long time. I began to cover sheets of paper with writing. but paved the road for a plethora of cheap imitators who would bring disaster upon British letters. “Ulysses. and. Eliot. Order. and Myth”. Eliot wrote. a few pieces of sharp buffoonery. here and there. … I decided to obtain from myself what one tries to obtain from patients. . however. just a few years after Breton and Soupault had begun experimentation in automatic writing. but also. that T. There were similar faults of construction. LXXV/5 (Nov 1923). an illusion of extraordinary verve. over which the subject’s critical faculty exerts no control … and which represents spoken thought as exactly as possible …. He described the process of composition of these pieces in terms that easily recall Breton and Soupault’s experiments: 7 Richard Aldington. a very special sense of the picturesque. English Review. defying the popular association between Joyce’s work and Dada. in both cases. that is a monologue flowing out as rapidly as possible. the results of which were published as Les champs magnétiques in 1921: Preoccupied as I still was at that time with Freud. 8 T. and Myth”.

given the advice he gave to Fred Miller in 1935: write. if necessary. 14.11 Williams’ tearing up of discarded materials comes as no surprise. Open the hatch and put a firecracker into it. 1978.12 Perhaps this is also what Breton was thinking about when he described his feelings toward his automatic writings as “praiseworthy contempt” above. Tashjian admits that “In [How to Write] of 1936. Linda Wagner-Martin. he revised his poems carefully. the poem as object”. 1920-1940. 1976. 11 William Carlos Williams. what 10 Williams. Hence the collection of poems gathered under the title Kora in Hell: Improvisations would seem a purer form of automatic poetry than Breton’s. but write lots and lots. as best as you can string it out. without missing one day. write drivel. but then. “How to Write”. I didn’t change any. As early as 1978 Tashjian associated Williams’ recipe for Kora with Breton’s automatic writing in William Carlos Williams and the American Scene. Be it nine in the evening or three in the morning … I’d write it down …. whereas Williams directly discarded the poems he considered unworthy. Not a word was to be changed. Williams tacitly acknowledged Surrealist automatism even while reconciling the practice with his own penchant for precision poetry. “canalize[d] them first in order to submit them later. for a year. then. William Carlos Williams Review.10 Not changing anything was all-essential to his project because the first step must not be to make what has been written under a quasihallucinatory state conform to rules. put the paper before me. 132. write crap. to the control of the reason”. 13. “Williams and Automatic Writing: Against the Presence of Surrealism”. See Tashjian. though. “Williams and Automatic Writing”. New York: New Directions. and write anything that came into my head. The Autobiography. ed. My perception of William Carlos Williams’ relationship with Surrealism has been greatly enhanced by Dickran Tashjian’s writing on this poet. I’d write nothing planned but take up a pencil. Yet. XX/1 (Spring 1996). Something will come out.William Carlos Williams versus Surrealist Poetics 165 I decided that I would write something every day. 158. strangely enough. in Interviews with William Carlos Williams. What rules? Rather the writing should be carefully examined for the new and the extraordinary and nothing rejected without clear reason. 99. Surely no genius writing in these conditions would be allowed to get away without discarding something. Breton is known for his radical automatism. but I did tear up some of the stuff. 12 Tashjian. One question remains unclear. Berkeley: University of California Press. .

The surrealists claim to be mere “registering machines” whose mission is to share. Therefore we honestly return the talent lent to us. on close examination. to make visible. and their automatic pieces different from literary texts. Freud-oriented. to orchestrate. the Surrealists considered themselves mere vehicles. their yielding to whatever is most admissible and legitimate in the world: the divulgation of a certain number of properties and facts not less objectionable on the whole than the others …. we who have not submitted ourselves to any process of filtering. but without any pretension to exclusiveness or genius. in appearance. and in this sense he can be claimed as representative of Modernism: 13 Breton. The question of literary value is a major breach between both groups. whereas the true automatic poet is more a medium than a craftsman. not one”. who through our work have been content to be the silent receptacles of so many echoes. and no trace of the stylishness that betrays “a poet” in the – for Breton – outdated sense of the word. This concept is directly linked to automatism by way of the unconscious.13 The writers of the past listed in the Surrealist Manifesto as protosurrealist – but unlucky to have lived before Surrealism – are mildly accused by Breton of literariness. 15-16. whereas the Surrealists appropriated Lautréamont’s motto “Poetry should be made by all. They defend this automatic work as “legitimate”: To you who are writing them. Jung-oriented. and you are naturally distrustful of them yourself. and practices a passive receptiveness rather than a permanent virtuosity. Poetically speaking. . the essence of that absurdity being. they are above all distinguished by a very high degree of immediate absurdity. these elements are. modest registering machines that are not hypnotized by the pattern that they trace. as strange as to anyone else. Qu’est-ce le que le surréalisme?.166 Ernesto Suárez-Toste is a genius? Here we touch upon what is probably the most irreconcilable issue between Modernists and Surrealists. of being proud of their skill. There is no ego involved in automatic writing. Williams resists this passiveness. since the writer in Modernist poetics is a gifted creator and craftsman. we are serving perhaps an even nobler cause.

between chance. aligned with his own profession. 1992. in William Carlos Williams. beset by neuroses and sublimations. The classical author. and is rather “a small (or large) machine made of words”? Tashjian proposes that Williams’ love of concreteness and locality. The kind of freedom that consists of blindly obeying every impulse is in reality a form of slavery. Raymond Queneau.” to use his own expression. New York: New Directions. “Williams and Automatic Writing”. the OuLiPo leader.15 In any case. 16 See Margueritte S. led him to a poetics of physiology. No strictness should interfere with the flow. 13. a verbal outpouring of the mind.William Carlos Williams versus Surrealist Poetics 167 Dismissing Freud’s view of the artist as ‘a born weakling’. and this gap also becomes unbridgeable when automatic poetry is at stake. responding to the pressing issues of the day – a stance that Williams required as a poet against the onslaught of the economic Depression. How are we then to reconcile Kora in Hell with the notion that the rest of his poetic production was not salvaged from “drivel” and “crap. and freedom.14 It seems evident that no agreement is possible about the role of the poet. ‘an abler man than Freud’ who marked the poet as a prophet. Williams endorsed instead the ideas of Jung. The Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams. 11. supported by Williams’ own bodily metaphors for the act of writing. . the opposition between a machine and the result of a bodily function seems to lie in its artistic deliberateness and internal organization. either. who when writing his tragedy 14 15 Tashjian. 178. you’ve cut the life-giving artery and nothing ensues but rot”. opposed automatism in the following terms: Another false idea that is current nowadays is the equivalence established between inspiration.16 Williams’ boastful disregard for rules cannot apply to his entire production. the exploration of the subconscious. a visionary leader ‘by a magnificent organization of those materials his age has placed before him for his employment’. Ibid.. 99-100. automatism. Here the artist was not passive but rather engaged in action. Murphy. A Tradition of Subversion: The Prose Poem in English from Wilde to Ashbery. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press. 1969. but automatism does not guarantee any valid results. Another clear instance of this can be found in Williams’ “The minute you let yourself be carried away by purely … ‘literary’ reasoning without consulting the thing from which it grew. and liberation. for a comparative account of Kandinsky’s concept of “improvisation” applied to Williams. It is easy to perceive Williams’ Kora in Hell as a literature that springs from the inner self.

eds Harry Matthews and Alastair Brotchie. 242. a situation that Williams also denounced: “To hell with them …. “Chance”. 97. Thirlwall. regardless of the poet’s most exquisite intentions and pursuit of faithfulness. La révolution surréaliste. Hugh Witemeyer. ed. 1 (1 December 1924). 1957.”18 Moreover. .19 Very much the same could be said against dream transcription in poetry. since memory imposed a rational filter at the moment of execution. The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams. the other great Surrealist method of research into the unconscious. 1989. 18 Quoted in William Carlos Williams and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. 19 Max Morise. London: Atlas Press. For him the proliferation of full-time dreamers who could produce dream-poems at will on a systematic basis was nothing short of fraud. With this emphasis on the unconscious the Surrealists became obsessed with the flow: “The trouble with the French at the moment is that they’re so fixed on the first stage of placing words on the page … that they forget there is a second phase.21 due to the fossilization of their method. In December of 1924 Max Morise published a piece in the first issue of La révolution surréaliste in which he questioned the viability of dream-painting as a way toward the unconscious. the unconscious …. Williams was also skeptical about dreams. and so that “effort of second intention” ruined the suspension of consciousness and hence the painting’s aspirations to automatism. insane and worst of all tiresome”.168 Ernesto Suárez-Toste follows a certain number of rules that he knows. A similar denunciation also came from within the Surrealist ranks. New York: Norton.”20 Eventually Williams would define them as “degenerate. A Recognizable Image. a poet we possibly feel more at home with. though it cost its author a good reprimand from Breton. in OuLiPo Compendium. ed. “Les yeux enchantés”. rational phase we meet Williams the objectivist. In his second. 27. it is interesting that the charge of predictability is for him the most serious of the three. John C. 20 William Carlos Williams. 1998.17 The Surrealist tyranny of the unconscious is what Queneau is complaining about here. New York: McDowell. is freer than the poet who writes whatever comes into his head and is the slave of other rules he is unaware of. 123. the poet of plums and 17 Jacques Roubaud. 221. 21 Williams. Everything must be tapped into the subconscious.

Hillis Miller. “Art/Lit Combines. having read Schnapp’s article. 1966. Another Magritte painting plays the same trick with Ceci n’est pas une pomme. it is there. Both being works of art about perception. there is no risk of missing its symbolism. a question remains whether the objects are entirely replaceable by others with the same effect. 27. In La trahison des images René Magritte presents us with the all-too-famous image of the painted pipe underlined by the legend Ceci n’est pas une pipe. in Profession. or. Needless to say.William Carlos Williams versus Surrealist Poetics 169 wheelbarrows. Schnapp. 1998. Nothing would change – I wrote then – if Williams had used a green artichoke. 23 Jeffrey T. and thus the concept of wheelbarrow is completely inconsequential in the poem. . if we are to believe J. I cannot help feeling that perhaps all it takes is a convincing article on wheelbarrow symbolism to make me change my mind. In fact. Magritte always held that his objects were never symbols for anything. and epistemology. And yet. no depth. When a Pipe Is Only a Pipe”. 1995.23 and I have begun to reconsider to what extent the choice of the object is irrelevant. As an undergraduate student I once wrote that the wheelbarrow itself is all-important because once it is in the poem. in front of the poet’s eyes. 37-50. ready to be the object of his gaze. New York: Abrams. 5. representation. 24 A. In “The Red Wheelbarrow” Williams presented us with the equally famous red wheelbarrow glazed with rainwater beside the white chickens. NJ: Prentice-Hall. but the choice of a wheelbarrow is entirely accidental. Nonetheless Jeffrey Schnapp has written an interesting discussion about pipe symbolism for surrealist painters. Hillis Miller. no interaction of subject and object – just description”. Hammacher. no dialectical structure. and the effect is. Englewood Cliffs. no reference to a world beyond the world. rather than about pipes or wheelbarrows. in Williams there is “no symbolism. M. When the poem is not about an object but rather an object itself. Introduction to William Carlos Williams: A Collection of Critical Essays. To an extent. of course. the same.24 22 J.22 But one must wonder to what extent this is possible. René Magritte. no pattern of imagery. commentaries presuppose that there can be a substitute for the image in the form of interpretive texts – or at least that the image is translatable into words. and rejected psychoanalytic readings of his paintings: Magritte was opposed to hidden or symbolic content.

the truth is that they share more than would be apparent to the reader of traditional literary history. however. Any counter-argumentation of that sort would be aimed mostly at exposing such radical objectivism as a well-intentioned cul-de-sac. Dead. Albert Gelpi. almost utopian. ed. 1985. The polarity was recognized from the outset. though.” For Williams “here” seems to refer to a very deep gap between a symbolist Old World chained to tradition and his own Objectivist/Imagist America. frozen. This tension between Symbolist and Imagist modes has crystallized in an apparently irreconcilable opposition between such axioms as “No ideas but in things” and “It Must Be Abstract” (and of course their respective fathers). The most successful inheritors of either tradition have proved all the richer for their contamination. for a Spanish poet of Williams’ day to return the compliment by mocking stars and stripes. here yellow and red are simply autumn. and Albert Gelpi has synthesized this feeling in the Williams/Stevens duality: Symbolisme and Imagism proved to be the most important and longlasting influences in modern poetry precisely because they assumed dialectical roles within Modernist poetics. tired of worn-out symbolism. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.25 But no matter how recognized it was when used to pigeon-hole different poets.170 Ernesto Suárez-Toste I believe that very much the same could be said about Williams and the choice of the wheelbarrow as object. “Stevens and Williams: The Epistemology of Modernism”. both are only different sides of the same renovation project. empty symbolism became the common enemy. as in the case of Williams and Stevens. . In fact. 12. It would not be difficult. and while Williams and Stevens adopted diverging approaches in the fight against it. fostered mainly by the Williams/Stevens 25 Albert Gelpi. Such a purist split between Symbolist and Objectivist poetics is unpractical. in Wallace Stevens: The Poetics of Modernism. Symbolism of some sort. Williams’ emphasis on locality and imagism can be summarized in this brief aphorism: “And what do I care if yellow and red are Spain’s riches and Spain’s noble blood. this dialectic has been much harder to remember when speaking about different periods or even fluctuations in emphasis within the work of an individual poet. seems necessary.

“Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction: A Commentary”. 28 Harold Bloom.”26 On the opposite front. Both are striving to free the language from what they consider a degenerative sclerosis. 27 Wallace Stevens. 1963. The Visual Text of William Carlos Williams. freed it. à abolir l’éternel poids mort de symbolisme et d’allegorie”. Englewood Cliffs. Ashbery wrote in 1962 that his purpose in poetry was “à restituer aux choses leur vrai nom. 29 Mike Weaver. 1957. “The Ideas in the Things”. For evidence of this we can turn to the way successors of one or the other have reconciled rather than radicalized positions. and the correct naming of things without allegorical motive”.30 Weaver’s 1971 definition is virtually an exact replica of Ashbery’s. in William Carlos Williams: Man and Poet.29 Let us focus briefly on John Ashbery. . Mike Weaver has characterized Williams’ objectivist poetics as the search “for a new plasticity in meter. n11. 1983. Williams has not rid his work of metaphor. 141. yet outside the existing conceptions of it and he can do this only by fabricating his own fictions. 141-51. Unlike these. ed. if not to Williams. Orono: National Poetry Foundation. See also Denise Levertov. Opus Posthumous. “Ashbery and the Individual Talent”. New York: Knopf. Carroll F. 179. 1971. a poet who has repeatedly been aligned in American literary history as a worthy successor to Stevens.”28 Presented in this way there is ground to question the irreconcilability of Williams’ and Stevens’ positions. he has reconceived metaphor. in American Literary History. Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press. Sayre has written very emphatically against this: “One of the great heresies of Williams scholarship is the belief that Williams strived to rid his work of metaphor …. 26 Henry M. 77. William Carlos Williams: The American Background. Terrell. 21-22. rather. Sayre. 123. Henry Sayre and Denise Levertov have warned against considering Williams anti-metaphorical. IX/1 (1997). ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. even Stevens’ adage “Reality is a cliché from which we escape by metaphor”27 takes on a new meaning when we consider his “It Must Be Abstract” from the perspective offered by Harold Bloom in his analysis of Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction: “The possible poet has the power to abstract or withdraw himself from outworn conceptualizations of reality. 1983. and to live in the world. Marie Borroff. 30 Quoted in James Longenbach.William Carlos Williams versus Surrealist Poetics 171 rivalry and literary historians intent on maintaining the gap. in Wallace Stevens: A Collection of Critical Essays. NJ: Prentice-Hall.

if you must – show that his only major dissent had to do with the Surrealists’ Freudian devotion. but his experiments in automatic writing – or quasiautomatic. The Letters of Wallace Stevens. Beyond the simple writing of sentences on a page. 1966. for that alone would be new. ed. The reason for this. In 1953 he referred to the future of poetry with a worried. New York: Knopf. that discrimination qualifies as his “second phase” of composition. If the Surrealists thought themselves vehicles rather than artists. Both were also doomed to clash on formal aspects. especially Kora in Hell. Though Williams did not correct. the Modernists in contrast had a very clear awareness of literary value.172 Ernesto Suárez-Toste Concerning formal innovation. Holly Stevens. is known to us due to his own autobiographical accounts. . The movement’s dogmatism was obviously not for Williams. placing themselves at opposite extremes of the Modernist canon. he certainly made a selection with qualitative criteria in mind. is a certain prejudice toward the Surrealist phenomenon. as in the case of Williams and Stevens. but there is no such irreconcilability between Symbolism and Objectivism 31 Wallace Stevens. Stevens railed against gratuitous distortion in Williams’ poetry. what is the next generation to like? Pretty much the bare page. with no pride in craftsmanship. very much as Williams himself had done before against Surrealism. E.”31 In general terms. 800-801. it can be said that Williams’ ambiguous relationship with Surrealism is clearly perceptible in his statements about it. not merely in his display of a favorable or critical attitude in specific documents written within a short period (sometimes there is a definite ambivalence within a single text). a clear reticence to endorse the Surrealist program as it arrived in America (considering that for Breton partial militancy was unconceivable). Cummings. the poetics behind this similar method demonstrate an altogether different concept of the role of the poet and the question of literary value. While the differences with Breton’s automatic writing are somewhat negligible. I believe. and somewhat prophetic reflection: “If the present generation likes the mobile-like arrangements of the line to be found in the work of William Carlos Williams or the verbal conglomerates of E. to the point that there was even a constant competition among some of them. but also in his essays concerning the importance of the unconscious. The process of composition of most of the work collected in Williams’ Imaginations.

As part of the Modernist quest for the renewal of poetic language. . replicating in a way early conservative criticism of Joyce and closing a circle that was opened with Aldington’s admonition against making it too new. which is not the same as to say that symbolism must disappear altogether or that a poem ought to be all surface. both share the need for new metaphors. though they certainly agreed on the need to reformulate those connections. On a more purely formal level. Not even Ashbery truly advocated this radical degree of unachievable severing of connections between form and content.William Carlos Williams versus Surrealist Poetics 173 as they would have us believe. however. They share more common traits than they would have liked to admit. it is clear that Stevens wholeheartedly disapproved of the radical experiments with the poetic line practiced by Williams and Cummings.


Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation.INSTANCES OF THE JOURNEY MOTIF THROUGH LANGUAGE AND SELFHOOD IN SOME MODERNIST AMERICAN POETS MANUEL BRITO In the eighteenth century. the notion of the journey evokes a sense of “planetary consciousness”. This was a decisive period for the development of efforts to formalize and provide a methodological framework for new empirical concepts. it was only in order to highlight the importance that scientific studies had acquired during the age of the Enlightenment. 9. The celebration of this metamorphosis achieved through travel itself and the consequent contact with the Other has scarcely been 1 Mary Louise Pratt. In this context. “including the consolidation of bourgeois forms of subjectivity and power. to use Mary Louise Pratt’s terminology. when Voltaire provocatively argued for the definitive disappearance of poetry from the pressure of empirical disciplines such as mathematics and medicine. the inauguration of a new territorial phase of capitalism propelled by searches for raw materials. This sense of planetary consciousness was clearly marked by intersecting processes like the “emergence of natural history as a knowledge structure and the momentum toward interior. 1992. .1 All of these elements contributed to a transformation of the self that was involved in a new process of “world-making”. the attempt to extend coastal trade inland. and national imperatives to seize overseas territory in order to prevent its being seized by rival European powers”. as opposed to maritime. exploration”. London: Routledge. Pratt’s observations point to both social and economic changes. which brought about the emergence of a whole new culture.

Firstly. The Journey Narrative in American Literature: Patterns and Departures. William Carlos Williams and Wallace Stevens.176 Manuel Brito studied in American poetry. the substantial journey symbolizing Romanticism and attachment to humankind – emerging in different guises like solidarity. However. Hart Crane. Initially we may discern the recurrent tendency to consider language as the point of departure for a new journey and as an aesthetic principle that facilitates a new knowledge. She herself only studies two poets. D. Secondly. Janis P. The journey in American poetry is approached according to the conceptual models originating in particular periods. Stout2 pointed out as recently as 1983 that travel as a subject matter had not attracted much attention within critical studies on American poetry. . He instead becomes concerned with the transcendental consequences derived from his search. 1983. Marianne Moore. My discussion reflects the difficulties of elucidating the different imaginative and formal framings of works belonging to the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Generally. we do have numerous instances of poets embracing the journey through diverse and perhaps challenging forms that responded to their own dynamic contingencies. I will discuss diverse authors and formal patterns to show the variety and richness of these intersecting processes encouraged by the continual search and exploration crystallized in Modernist American poetry. the twentieth-century Modernist American poets inherently exhibit a poetry that accommodates uncertainties and plays with the displacement of the self in relation to its cultural references. Stout. friendship or nation – can easily be traced in the American poetry written in the second half of the nineteenth century. If the American writer confronted sophisticated questions – exploring the relationships between the self and otherness and casting doubt upon these relationships – his concept of the journey has little to do with entertainment. in whose work the journey becomes a Modernist exploration of the constructs of language and self. exploration and return. Hart Crane and Wallace Stevens. anecdotal descriptions and materialistic purposes. Westport: Greenwood. With these concepts in mind.. the most obvious confirmations of this mode are provided in Modernist American poetry by Ezra Pound and later by H. The poets under consideration 2 Janis P.

this outcome. The new Modernist literary discourse went beyond the American boundaries and adopted an interdisciplinary approach. I assume. A first plausible step might be the emergence of a new morality issuing from this contact between the self and the Other. but it also becomes a paradigmatic target by which to discern the differences among individuals. It is no coincidence that his main poetic work. that in American poetry the journey is based on a pivotal point characterized by a revelatory encounter between language and the world. E. It may lead us to an ambitious task: “By replacing the search for ontological whats with the question of how or for whom such whats make a difference. Elliott. By this I mean that in American poetry values ascribed to individualism concomitantly belong to a communal field. resembling Homer’s Odyssey: 3 J. interaction and a reevaluation of all cultural conditioning. The approach of this article is intentionally broad in order to include the significance of the journey in exploring the self. playful rotations of identity and a conscious tendency to social participation departing from individuality are the most readily identifiable intentions informed through language and its formal presentation. which reaffirms its approach to society through language itself. Ezra Pound became the foremost proponent of the new poetic idiom subversive of the ideologized concept of culture. then. XXIX/3 (Summer 1998). He also favored cultural interrelationships as the basic reinforcement of the new consciousness. . really points to the nature of political power and the importance of language in our lives. His support for the idea of trans-nationality caught on rapidly throughout continental Europe. in New Literary History. Language stands out as a territory that brings together the central and the marginal. starts with the poet’s journey. This new morality proposes reconciliation. which superimposes many levels of reading. The Cantos.”3 Ultimately. and the continual renewal of poetic modes. 32425.The Journey Motif 177 share a striking convergence analyzed in this essay – the creative power of the self involved in a journey. Acknowledgements of the self and the Other. The word is the means to communicate with the Other. “From Language to Medium: A Small Apology for Cultural Theory as Challenge to Cultural Studies”.

163. Not surprisingly. prominent contemporary American poet Charles Bernstein points out that Pound’s “disembodied ideas” are essential to the sound and sense of all the voices in the United States: “These voices now speak of and for themselves. Tomo I. and winds from sternward Bore us out onward with bellying canvas. the trim-coifed goddess. we went over sea till day’s end. 1999. Circe’s this craft.4 Starting with these early lines. his poetry has always invited a variety of approaches and re-readings. A Modernist and innovator by temperament. Cantares completos. and We set up mast and sail on that swart ship. 41. Madrid: Cátedra. 3. “Pound and the Poetry of Today”. Then sat we amidships.. 1986. though marked by darker shadows. Pound’s fragmentary lines reject explicitness and require of the reader a continual quest. D. London: Faber. precluding appropriation but entering into that larger collage – a text without center but constantly site-specific – that is poetry in English. in his “Introducción” to Ezra Pound. and our bodies also Heavy with weeping.”6 4 5 Ezra Pound. Bore sheep aboard her.178 Manuel Brito And then went down to the ship. whose poetic selves tended to join in a community embarked upon an exploratory voyage. he adopts an epic tone that is maintained throughout the book. For instance. Javier Coy also focuses on this aspect and points out that Pound’s non-reductive intentions allowed him to be open to any sphere of human experience. Set keel to breakers. . I would like to mention Coy’s bilingual edition of The Cantos as the most comprehensively annotated volume of Pound’s poetical work in Spanish. Chicago: The University of Chicago Press. forth on the godly sea. is also manifest in his work. 1994. and a liberating capacity of the self and language. Pound’s coincidence with H. The Cantos. and William Carlos Williams. 6 Charles Bernstein. in My Way: Speeches and Poems. As an individual he tries to recapture and revive the multiple suggestions that had gone unnoticed in the cultural history of humanity.5 Now the intended Modernist journey is characterized by historical and cultural synchronicity. wind jamming the tiller. Pound is intensifying his aspirations to respond to the world in some new way. Thus with stretched sail.

9 Ezra Pound. Michael J. for instance. He discovered how to relate Disney to Jules Laforgue or Linnaeus and especially how to re-unite all languages as the most defining cultural artifact for the individual to discern the light: “A little light. Pound did not submit his translations to the authority of the original text. of individuals. . Holmes. 29. “Blown of the winds whose goal is ‘No-man-knows’”.9 Pound’s regenerative role in American poetry is unquestionably appreciated by most critics. King. 796-97. Collected Early Poems of Ezra Pound. 1985. yet he also remained socially conscious. as was the case with Oliver W. his hermeneutics lead one to an appreciation of the inevitable blend of the individual and his social significance in American poetry. “That Pass Between the False Dawn and the True”. Longfellow. 8 The Cantos.The Journey Motif 179 Moreover. his support for diverse literary and artistic movements and of individual practitioners can be 7 Ezra Pound. His editorial work. When Pound’s journey comes to an end in The Cantos. Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. Pound remained a strongly individual poet. Throughout his life. It is true that Pound is not searching for the consolidation of a nation. due to the simultaneity that undermines the contours of a narrative self. Imagism and later Vorticism. like a rushlight / to lead back to splendour. he acknowledges that his “notes do not cohere”. He made it clear that translation was for him a perpetual process of discovery. both writing in the nineteenth century. His poem. London: Faber and Faber. begins and ends with the same line.”8 He detached language from rhetoric and metaphor. the self from the routine. New York: New Directions. although Pound’s strategy is affected by multiple cultural leaps or meanings in conflict. his most revealing assertion is to urge the artist to consider the nature of man. as did Henry W. ed. Eliot. Paradoxically. 1976.7 where the unknown provides access to the romance of the self who has embarked on a continual struggle for self-fulfillment. nor for the resuscitation of earlier literary schools or modes. Despite Pound’s elitist approach to literature. Yet he insists on the concept of wholeness and ultimate integration in humanity. 47. ed. S. but he has learnt that the clue is “to see”. involved with artistic movements in which individualism was at stake. T.

including statesmen. . H. 21. D. H. D. followed by her separation from Richard Aldington and her becoming pregnant by the musician Cecil Gray. narrated in Notes on Thought and Vision. ultimately gives the impression that the self tends inevitably to be integrated into an “Overmind”.’s trip to the Scilly Isles. Angelo. San Francisco: City Lights. Hilda Doolittle is a clear example of Pound’s powerful presence in the new American poetic scene. Her earlier life had been somewhat frustrating. and joined Imagism. she adopted his acronym..11 10 Albert Gelpi.10 The poems in this volume use enigmatic fragmentary language. D. which marked her and reflected her visionary states. H. which suggests the recurrent presence of the Emersonian “Oversoul” in American poetry: Over-mind artists usually come in a group. Ghiberti. she was attracted by the Moravian visionary sense of the self. E. Hulme. starting with Pound’s fateful breaking off of their engagement. There were the great Italians: Verrochio. Her journey to these islands initiated her new literary commitment.180 Manuel Brito exemplified by numerous references. explorers. who would later disown the child she bore. Pound’s intimate friend. was intensely affected by these experiences and her journey to the Scilly Isles served to reassert the American transcendentalist consideration of the self. D. 11 Notes on Thought and Vision. though the ultimate result concords with the Modernist emphasis on exploring all the possibilities of the self and the symbolic consciousness in perceiving reality. Introduction to Hilda Doolittle. Albert Gelpi points out in his Introduction to Notes on Thought and Vision that “collapse gave way to coherence and alienation to participation in a cosmic scheme”. H. Unlike her colleagues. and men and women of curious and sensitive development. 11. H. Notes on Thought and Vision. a movement he developed in 1910 along with T. 1982. D. the lot that preceded and followed da Vinci. being greatly influenced by the Moravian spirit. is a variation on Modernist self-transformation.

like Marianne Moore. D. a journey resonating with allusions to past cultural achievement. in American Poetry: The Modernist Ideal.. Moore extends this argument and prepares the reader to discover what she mysteriously propounds. New York: St Martin’s. one of her main innovations. be outgrown so as to reveal a renewed language and a newly constituted identity. “H. eds Harold Bloom.’s case it is a manifestation of vision and revelation following a painful catharsis. H. D. Moreover. always went back to being a witness to an intimate journey. assuming that poetic and psychic effects are created through the act of writing. We can probably use this pearl. appropriating Greek and Egyptian mythologies as a cultural dynamic. though in H. of necessity.12 In other contexts.13 Though adhering to these universal claims. (Hilda Doolittle)”. . 25. Poe or Emerson as “an interest in dreams giving access to eternity”. did her best to constantly redefine herself. D.’s poetry the group as community had a great significance. 12 13 Ibid. 50 David Seed. H. D. But so far I have passed through these two. her crucial difference from other Modernists consists in her visionary approach. D. Her inter-textual references pave the way for the internal journey.The Journey Motif 181 In H. for concentrating and directing pictures from the world of vision. The island and the body were conceived as closed spaces which should. she used simple diction and preferred a precise visualization of scenes and objects closely following Imagist aims. 1995. This was undoubtedly a result of her childhood as a member of a large family and of the Moravian religious community. Clive and Brian Docherty. conceive the journey as a way of solving the mysteries of language itself. her visionary side follows the transcendentalist constant in nineteenth-century American poetry present in Dickinson. I am in my spiritual body a jelly-fish and a pearl. as I said earlier. Being a representative practitioner of Imagism. which serves to recuperate her most intimate self: Probably we pass through all forms of life and that is very interesting. the idea of identification with the jelly-fish and the pearl might convey the concept of emotional cloistering. as a crystal ball is used. other Modernist poets. When not construed in visionary terms. Indeed.

It is an introverted poetry. Her use of inventiveness and play is a requirement for reading a journey. The reader feels obliged to retranslate them into understandable terms. where the articulation of writing is questioned. The contemporary relevance of Modernist poetry lies in its ability to play with the intra-systemic 14 Marianne Moore.14 Moore is not telling a story rooted in reality but is fascinated by questions and possibilities. these unparticularities praise cannot violate. . This strategy reveals meanings from the other side. re-conceptualizing the sense of authority by allowing individuals to perceive conflicts in social communication. in such steadiness never deflected. meticulously and precisely delineating objects and people. It is true that she never renounces her own self but offers an option for exploration. While some of Moore’s poetry has conventionally been studied as Objectivist verse. 142. One has seen. I think the strong presence of irony and wit cannot be observed as a fixed hermeneutics searching for an objective aesthetic experience. demanding that we resolve the mysteries of its language. exemplifying one of the most subversive Modernist issues. Charles Altieri suggests that approaches to a poetic journey can neither be made from a Kantian perspective nor by analytically studying the corresponding emotions. how by darkness a star is perfected.182 Manuel Brito Once we accept her proposal. Steadfastness the darkness makes explicit? Something heard most clearly when nor near it? Above particularities. quite similar to Post-structuralism: the self engaged in an incessant voyage of differences and displacements. we find subtleties manufacturing the uncertainties of the world: Messengers much like ourselves? Explain it. 1967. Star does not ask me if I see it? Fir that would not wish me to uproot it? Speech that does not ask me if I hear it? Mysteries expound mysteries. The Complete Poems of Marianne Moore. New York: Macmillan.

like “A Traveler Born” and “White Buildings”. often articulated around a specific work. Critical Inquiry. In this context. lizard-like.15 Moore insists that above particularities we have the unparticularities reaching beyond exact references and analogies. “to keep attention focused on appearance and thereby to fascinate us by what remains ‘other’ to the discursive and categorizing audience”. in fact the stylistic founding often invokes this subjective one. reworks these issues.The Journey Motif 183 resources that constitute its essence. “Poetics as ‘Untruth’: Revising Modern Claims for Literary Truths”. New Literary History. 321. XXIX/2 (Spring 1998). even as the subjective origin impels the stylistic founding into being. Crane’s laborious lines cannot be reduced to simple autobiographical reflections. but must be assigned to the larger context of American poetry. often mixed in the artist’s psychic life..16 This is directly related to the significant presence of the bridge as a metaphor for delving into the experience of life itself and into the complex relationships between human beings. and those weeks of May With distance. facilitating a highly symbolic poetic voyage towards the discovery of the self and language arising in the context of Modernism. I am not arguing that Crane was Whitmanesque. The ambiguity between these two origins is irreducible.” In this sense. green as Pernot . and the origin of identity. but rather that he discovered the Other through his own self. often it is as if the stylistic founding structures the subjective origin retrospectively. some of Crane’s poems. XX/1 (Autumn 1993).. – The Dane at Paris. are quite close to Whitman’s rhythmic and prophetic tones. . Modernist artists and poets follow the same impetus to explore the mutual seduction of self and language. On another level it involves the founding of a subject. 74-75. sexuality and gender. its smashing fall. its wet inferno – 15 Charles Altieri. Hart Crane’s journey entailed the same ontological strategy visible in Walt Whitman. From the beginning. this staging of a stylistic origin is a familiar trope in high-modernist manifestos and memoirs. and registers the connection between style and subject: “On one level it concerns the founding of a style. Hal Foster in “Primitive Scenes”. They were committed to determining the nature of otherness. This Connecticut rain. Quite typically. 16 In effect. but these two stanzas provide his own particular vision of a journey: Of sailors – those two Corsicans at Marseille.

and the symbolic journey of the poet’s development. It is no simple matter to evaluate the significance of this fact. 18 Stout.184 Manuel Brito Enforces memory – prison. He was particularly skilled in capturing elements inherent in American culture and fusing them into an ecstatic whole that would stand in relation to personal and communal reflections and provide a taste of a different aesthetic pleasure. 147. 1958. half-literal. The Complete Poems of Hart Crane. perfume of women. final apple-math of ripe night fallen! Concluding handclasp. . Yields and is shielded. 178. This is a fruitful American objective – the quest for a new language and consciousness founded on individuality: The imaged Word. Complete Poems. cider. and the fountain – Oh. but the basic characteristics of the journey in Crane are quite clear – the ideas of movement and travel are included in his poems to speak about his 17 Hart Crane. and is folden in the echoing mountain . Stout distinguishes three kinds of journey in Crane’s poetry: “the journeys of the historian poet. summer-swollen. half-recognizable. it is. New York: Doubleday Anchor. that holds Hushed willows anchored in its glow. Crane took his life during a sea voyage home after a stay in Mexico on a Guggenheim fellowship. illustrating this constant in American poetry. 114. Folds. The journey for him is an appeal to a new consciousness that comes through the experimentation with words.”18 The third type is clearly connected with the self.17 The most stunning references concerned with this journey are Crane’s shadowy memories.19 Crane’s position can be framed as follows: language awakens us and allows us to see the world in the self-affirmation of words. It is the unbetrayable reply Whose accent no farewell can know. whose possible alternative meanings are linked to personal vision.. Janis P.. The Journey Narrative in American Literature. Interestingly enough. 19 Crane. contemporary journals of withdrawal or escape. wrapt in traffic flame.

it is the basis for all possibilities and it is surely the most individualistic and instrumental road to consciousness. Williams argued for his most playful suggestion. accounts for radical changes in poetical structure and invites the reader to consider the poem as a dream. a confrontation which could potentially destroy Williams’ illusions. This is nothing really new. too. He placed his trust in the categorical activity of language: “we must listen to the language for discoveries we hope to make. There is some documentary information available on this journey. In fact. This same optimistic ambition for a poetic inclusiveness of space and time is also present in William Carlos Williams. this assumption is connected with his main contribution – to provide an American tone and rhythm to his poetic lines and to be attached to the most immediate activities. since this same aspect was offered as a valuable alternative by the Surrealists. his extended relationship with some of his contemporaries implied a wide range of influences. Asserting the self-sufficiency of Americanness. Selected Essays of William Carlos Williams. A Voyage to Pagany. written. significantly. 1954. New York: New Directions. He reevaluated texts written by American expatriates specifically related to the American national experience. Clearly.The Journey Motif 185 opposition to being vulnerable to external forces and his optimism intrinsically bound up with language. Then.E.”20 For him. persons and objects. formulated as a sort of challenge. Pound encouraged Williams to take a sabbatical year from his medical practice and face his fears of leaving Rutherford. so deeply grounded in this small town. His illustrative essay. beginning with Ezra Pound’s invitation. . The substance of Williams’ position is visibly intelligible in his semi-autobiographical story. E. “The Poem as a Field of Action”. language takes exploration for granted. Williams immediately shifted his attention to exploiting dialectal American English. Cummings’ The Enormous Room. Though Williams never adhered publicly to artistic or literary movements. enabling Williams to discover what was genuinely American in poetry. Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also 20 William Carlos Williams. on one his trips to Europe. 290. Harry Levin refers to the following books: John Dos Passos’ Three Soldiers. this voyage to Europe was extremely productive.

New York: New Directions. 22 William Carlos Williams. 1964. Williams.23 Like many of his contemporaries.186 Manuel Brito Rises. In his poem. there are only the parts. The hallmark of his poetic tone was neither Pound’s 21 Harry Levin. 203-204. the author enjoys a silence which has become “largest / and longest”. Williams developed a poetry close to Imagism.21 Williams de-substantiated these fictional works. “On the Road Home”. The Collected Poems of Wallace Stevens. Toklas. The Collected Earlier Poems of William Carlos Williams. reading them as stories written by earlier travelers who used their European experiences to speak about the American self and its values. Later on. New York: Alfred A. George Oppen included him in the Objectivist project. Out at the prow with the sea wind blowing. 1970. 23 Wallace Stevens. Finally. and Djuna Barnes’ Nightwood”. Gertrude Stein’s The Autobiography of Alice B. The point was to write and read in a new way. 3. “‘There is no such thing as the truth’”. Stevens was notoriously obsessed with the role of language. Introduction to William C. 1951. x. A Voyage to Pagany. This notion is brought to the forefront again during another journey in “The Wanderer”: But one day. for the unexplored routes of the word within the Modernist frame of interpretation. is subsequently completed by: “‘Words are not forms of a single word. . Wallace Stevens is my last representative of the Modernist journey into self and language. Knopf. his first assertion. crossing the ferry With the great towers of Manhattan before me. The underlying unity among the different discourses of modernity is the self. This essential Williamsian aspect emerged from a journey that allowed him to perceive the close relationships between the self and language. and Williams was engaged in a defense of the vernacular.’” By the end of the poem. I had been wearing many questions Which she had put on to try me: How shall I be a mirror to this modernity?22 Being a mirror of his contemporaries. / In the sum of the parts. Williams’ main journey was the quest for the unexpected. New York: New Directions. and its treasure resides in everyday immediate experience.

. XVIII/.. a poem depicting a return from a voyage to Guatemala. Modernism did not reestablish a full understanding of human behavior. This same aspect is alleged in “The Search for Sound Free from Motion”: The world as word . that is. Speaks as you speak. Stevens’ words are not deterministic but fully flavor individualistic procedures because the role of the self is to disclose the reasons and unreasons of human actions. Like other distinctly American poetic journeys. 161-62. in “Arrival at the Waldorf”. much rather. transcends 24 25 Ibid. Among these the most relevant is to make pertinent meanings. but reflective stillness.24 in which poetry emerges from the wild country of the soul. Stevens’ excursions are explorations of selfhood constituted by language. Imagination turned any linguistic gesture into discursive practice. The world lives as you live.. He conceived of the poet in the Modernist era obsessed by newness as “an engineer trying to build. Stevens renounces any literal representation of his experience and focuses on writing “One wild rhapsody a fake for another”. it hid the complexities of the literary in the labyrinth of language.2 (Spring 1997). in its objective fabric a new always new world”. yet balances The syllable of a syllable. 268.The Journey Motif 187 radicalism nor Williams’ vernacular prosody. He declares a profound respect for the word. a creature that Repeats its vital words. 241.26 He advocated a special sensitivity to the poly-semantics of language and considered that a poet is a poet.. Ibid. “An Unpublished Letter on Modernism and American Poetics”. Indeed.25 This delicate stillness and reflection in Stevens’ poetry becomes a particular confession of his purposes. in its structure. William Carlos Williams himself warned against foreign elements in poetry and felt “tripped and knitted by philosophers”. . to build in the form of his verse. New England Review. 26 William Carlos Williams.

Many of the poets considered here linked their journeys to new formal explorations. especially their tendency to generate a journey that becomes a mythic narrative of the self and the language of the Poet. Imagination and the real were brought together and in their bizarre juxtaposition led to an inevitable journey of exploration of language. Indeed. I began by saying that language and selfhood are essential issues in American poetic journeys. Language as terra incognita delineates individual maps of subjectivity.188 Manuel Brito objectivity and subjectivity. American poets have developed the particulars of personal approach and diversity. . They are also pivotal elements of poetic renewal.

distinguished two lines of tradition in American poetry: the one dedicated to the idea of a natural language which saw poetry as rooted in common speech. 1985. This is a revised version of an article that first appeared in Anglistentag 2002 Bayreuth: Proceedings. Marjorie Perloff. in Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.1 The poetry of Robert Creeley is an interesting case in point since it does not seem to belong to either of them. the Language Poets. It appears to be solidly in the camp of common speech. eds Ewald Mengel et al. Trier: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag Trier. embracing the idea of the poem as artifact. the second tradition from the French symbolists to Stevens and then. The Dance of the Intellect: Studies in the Poetry of the Pound Tradition. Of these two traditions. Perloff sometimes seems to prefer the former. 1 In conversation. 1996) closer to the Language Poets. as something perhaps gained from the colloquial but as also set against it and any notion of natural roots and origins. at other times the latter – perhaps for the simple reason that they cannot be so easily arranged to form an opposition. and to Ginsberg and the colloquial stance of much contemporary ethnic poetry on the other. . 17-28. the other. by way of Ashbery to the Language Poets.FOR LOVE AND LANGUAGE: THE POETRY OF ROBERT CREELEY HEINZ ICKSTADT Not very long ago. The tradition of speech ran from Whitman to Pound and Williams on the one hand. Perloff remarked that she is aware of not having been always consistent in her discussions of Creeley’s poetry. 2003. 1992). See also Marjorie Perloff. in the democratic soil of the colloquial. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. in a polemic on behalf of that new avant-garde. Time and again Creeley has stressed his rootedness in the speech of people in the lower ranks of life: farmers. placing him in the context of natural speech and in Wittgenstein’s Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press.

Therefore. the linguistic context of his childhood and his youth.”3 They also play with a variety of traditional forms and topics: mythological material as we know it from Pound and Williams. the care he invests in the rhythmic and sound patterns of each line. the delicate structure of his poems. as normal and as 2 As he wrote in a letter to Olson (19 May 1952): “Well. shouted. . the rest I don’t know. etc. 1982. another working in some garage in Acton. or couldn’t find those flip answers my friends could. The Collected Poems of Robert Creeley.190 Heinz Ickstadt workers. Poetry. And. outcasts. 406. But speech. for that matter. poems of sexual encounters. and felt. I heard the craziest. seems to have the function of a day book: a record of everyday activity. his poems do not bear out an aesthetic ideology of the perfect product because many of them are not and do not want to be finished: they are jottings down of a thought. and fell. language poets and their critical supporters have been among his best friends: Charles Bernstein wrote an illuminating essay on Creeley and so. with him. as a kid. some critics have called him indiscriminate. of domestic harmony and conflict. my friends: one was in prison the last time I heard. 222). 1987. shy & unfamiliar – often started by any words too hard. the language of the commonplace. rock of sorts. since Creeley evidently does not seem to be selfconscious in the selection of his work: the trivial and playful are placed next to the reflective and self-reflective and the intensely emotional: poems of love and anger. 3 Robert Creeley. ed. of an observation. did Marjorie Perloff. of course. the constructedness of poetry. his moral sense of craftsmanship solidly place him in the camp of those who embrace the artificial character. I heard everything. Berkeley: University of California Press. Yet. of moods or eccentric whims. John Wilson. or whatever – the deepest. reading through his Collected Poems and the volumes that came afterwards. I came up from the bottom. I am not going to toss out the one thing I got from it: speech. As much as his insistence on craftsmanship seems to be a Modernist idea. or they resemble Wittgensteinian aphorisms like: “What / by being not / is – is not / by being.2 Yet at the same time. In fact. now. but also of the poetry of troubadours and their vocabulary of courtly love. No man is going to get me to let that go. most permanent contempt for any ‘written’ word any man ever wrote” (Robert Creeley’s Life and Work: A Sense of Increment. one may understand the massive criticism of more traditional critics that has accompanied Creeley’s poetry from the beginning. yes. then. Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press.

and Olson – mentors through and against whose work he defined his own aesthetic practice. the centrality of vaginal or oral holes to be filled by love. 13).5 Here Creeley seems indeed part of a tradition that runs from Whitman to Pound. of one’s very own individual “measure” that would “score the life of the mind and body”. The Collected Essays of Robert Creeley. They equally emphasize language as a medium of sensuous reflection (a unity of physical and mental process). at the same time that it is a place where reality is found and created through language. condensed by an extreme verbal economy. Chicago: A Capella Books. which in this heavy Roman style evokes the sexuality embodied in its shape. Berkeley: University of California Press. 107. whose word paintings they evidently echo. Creeley’s poems range from a concretely sensual/visual rendering of situations and objects to highly abstract constructivist patterns. 5 Robert Creeley. “there”. like the poem “Numbers”. Williams. and they equally see the poem as linguistic object. is part of the real and constitutes its own reality. 6 Richard Kostelanetz. or by the quasi4 “Creeley no longer wants to perfect the isolated poem. Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes. Like Stein and some of the objectivist poets. and then upon the fact that all four letters are literally touching each of their adjacent letters”. dedicated to Robert Indiana. “depends”. 1989. As language object. “then”.The Poetry of Robert Creeley 191 necessary as breathing4 – where every breath counts. Indiana’s most famous painting. In this and in several other respects they seem closest to the poems of William Carlos Williams. His short poems are like snapshots of a life experienced as a process of reflection through the eye/I. as Richard Kostelanetz has pointed out. . “again” which are related “in a system to pointing” (as Stein phrased it at the beginning of Tender Buttons). 29. The ethos of craft or of the hand-made is paradoxically part of an effort to find (and therefore also at times misses) the linguistic embodiment of a very personal rhythm of breathing. They also always seem to straddle the line between the casual and the wellmade. “upon tilting the letter 0. “Love” (1966). the poem. Creeley eliminates hierarchies of syntax and vocabulary and upgrades unimportant classes of words: especially personal pronouns and prepositions of spatial and temporal location like “where”. 1993.6 Indeed. but to sustain the writing from day to day” (Robert Creeley’s Life and Work. so that the selection of the best would falsify the record. “here”. like other objects.

liberates the rose from its accumulated layers of clichéd meanings to a pure essence: its being.192 Heinz Ickstadt sexual act of speech points to Creeley. yes. which proclaims a return to the body: Yes. I always wanted. thinking. This is still in the vein of Williams. 378. 8 Creeley. since only through their ironic re-use could words of love express love again. if this is the right word. whose poetry is centered. Charles Altieri has demonstrated the constructivist impulse of Williams’ poetry in his analysis of the most concrete and seemingly least constructed of Williams’ poems. and writing as much as in the knowledge of the used-upness of words. 231-36. The Collected Early Poems (1938). I always wanted. embody a notion of love. In “Numbers”. for instance. but also an almost violent tension between perceptual concreteness and reflective abstraction. that’s what I wanted. with Creeley we seem to follow the movement of a mental eye/I – an act of perception that is at the same time an act of reflection. as readers. seem to follow the movement of the eye. a seeing through the mind’s eye. to return to the body where I was born. in the case of Williams. there is not only the tension between the simple vocabulary of everyday speech and intangibly abstract phrases like “convenience to assumptions”. And yet. Creeley opens Pieces (the cycle of his poems of which “Numbers” is a part) with Allen Ginsberg’s “Song”. If.7 Creeley’s abstract (perhaps also abstract expressionist) tendencies are much more conspicuous. once again. New York: A New Directions Book. in the congruence of loving. if we think of his “The rose is obsolete” which. Therefore reading his poetry is a rather paradoxical experience. its beauty and energetic thrust which can thus.8 To return to the body (not in nostalgic yearning for a return into the safety of the uterus but in the consciousness of one’s own physical 7 William Carlos Williams. in translating Juan Gris’ cubist painting into language. . a “moving in the mind’s patterns”. Collected Poems. to be sure. we. 1951. “The Red Wheel Barrow”.

“Robert Creeley’s Epistemopathic Path”. to attain a sense of wholeness precisely through the capture of fragmented moments (moments of experienced fragmentation: a chaos of particulars). And that is THE form. to see the world in its concrete particularity and yet in and through the mind’s eye. 10 William Carlos Williams. Since the moment is a temporal position. Therefore the second obsession of Williams’ aesthetic refers to the need to belong to a concrete linguistic. and even more so with Creeley. to be in the world and part of it through acts of language. this is what he calls measure – an individual sense of coherence worked out of the very flow of experience. It seems to imply permanence and stasis and would thus seem to be opposed to the concept of the Moment. 1984.”12 In other contexts.The Poetry of Robert Creeley 193 existence) and be at the same time within the mind’s movement. its spatial equivalent is the category of place. the “instant’s possibility”. or it. 11 Creeley. Orono. and even geographic environment. Collected Essays. “to know what he is at the exact moment that he is”10) resonates in Creeley’s poetry as a linguistic preoccupation with the processual “Now” of experience. Terrell. in the immediacy of the moment of perception. 105. Collected Poems. place is most of all an experiential category where living and writing converge in the act of creation: “I want the poem as close to this fact of living as I can bring it. But with Williams. yet also as moving away from. that is the whole thing. Williams’ effort to develop in a field of incessantly changing experience a language that would register instantaneously the movement and ongoing transformation of the perceived object as well as of the perceiving self (“recording the force moving”. me. New York: New Directions. . he writes: “The local is not a place but a place in a given man – what part of it he has been compelled or else brought by love to give witness to in his own mind. Imaginations. “catching the evasive life of the thing”. cultural. 479. Williams in five interrelated areas: firstly.”11 And in a brief “Note on the Local”. Carroll F. 1970. to be isolated from the world (from self and other) and at the same time tied to it via acts of communication. ed. 80. 12 Creeley. to gain “peaces” from “pieces” as Altieri put it9– these paradoxes are part of an aesthetic that at once continues and pushes beyond that of Williams. in Robert Creeley: The Poet’s Workshop. 146-47. as whole as it can get. I see Creeley as tied to. or the local: “Here”. 9 As quoted by Harald Mesch. Maine: The National Poetry Foundation.

14 “The drive to ‘clear the circle’. is creating itself momently in one’s attention to it. even of chance. Fourthly. In that way there is nothing mindless about the procedure ….13 As with Williams. This implies an open-endedness that also relates to the processual notion of an open form: Williams’ idea of the poem as a field of action. in front of the car.’. “The simplest way I found to make clear my own sense of writing”. “we must understand what is happening. had a musical model in Jazz. Williams and Olson suggested a method of writing. permitting ‘the thing’ to ‘come of itself’ corresponds to the improvised art of jazz.14 especially in the rhythmic syncopations of Bebop. visibly. the unexpected stumbling into a place where creativity occurs. Famously. as much as Williams. meeting any exigency that might arise on its own terms. Creeley’s aesthetic – more than that of Williams – connects here with an experiential existentialism shared by a whole generation keen on developing structure out of process. English: The Journal of the English Association. . an art which has always interested Creeley. as it were. “‘For W. in the sense suggested. 58. to ‘hack’ a way out from a given centre.” one sense of his meaning I take to be this necessary attention to what is happening in the writing (the road) one is. for Creeley. Mind. thirdly. 50 [Summer 2001]. he has insisted that his poems are always ‘telling something to myself. “attention” is a keyword. there. risk-taking would be another. moment and place are part of the process of the experience of living. or Olson. ‘Yet Complexly’: Creeley and Williams”. that I didn’t have the knowing of previously’” (Alice Entwistle. C. a sense of unity through the free play of improvisation. following. and if one does assume it. The road. the thrust of the open form is a matter of energy – the energy of the imagination related to energies of the body. which. Pound. as engaged. permits experience of “order” far more various and intensive than habituated and programmed limits of its subtleties can recognize. There is no reason it should go on forever. is to use the analogy of driving. he explained in an interview. 137). associates the power of the poetic drive with male sexual energy) but also to the life-giving energies of breath. especially to its sexual push (Creeley. The intensities and energies of living and writing were part of a process that discovered energy in 13 Robert Creeley. it very often disappears all too actually. or Olson’s concept of projective verse are indispensable for Creeley. When Pound says. W. San Francisco: The Four Seasons Foundation. 1970.194 Heinz Ickstadt Therefore. A Quick Graph: Collected Notes and Essays.

literally. and their physical 15 Williams. Creeley was eager to push this a step further. that they had. whether figurative or non-figurative. has been most radically explored in Stein’s Tender Buttons. The Collected Early Poems. like the famous second version of “The Locust Tree in Flower”: Among of green stiff old bright broken branch come white sweet May again15 Although this is still part of the Imagist tradition. of course. gives them the quality of paint. already begun to move away from the insistently pictorial. in fact.The Poetry of Robert Creeley 195 the medium. but is also noticeable in some of Williams’ poems. the isolation and equal treatment of individual words independent of their syntactic status and function emphasized their materiality. their shape and body as “things in themselves”. the linguistic material itself. 93. The energizing of words by a reduction of their semantic as well as their pictorial function and the discovery of their materiality. and – just as Williams had done – he took his cue from contemporary painting: Possibly I hadn’t as yet realized that a number of American painters had made the shift I was myself so anxious to accomplish. . at the same time that it blurs the distinctiveness of the visual image through condensation and abstraction. to a manifest directly of the energy inherent in the materials.

in the notion of concreteness. Collected Essays. acts of violence – that. what Creeley calls the “anonymity of song”. has a quality almost of the exhibitionist. And yet he cannot be called a confessional poet. domestic quarrels. paradoxically. the very notion of the paradox does not seem to allow for such easy reconciliation – as Creeley must have been aware from the example of one of his favorite poets. Fifthly. Creeley seems to assume a much more relaxed relationship between the personal and the common: It is. in the sense that Olson had found it in Whitehead. on many occasions. was clearly much on their minds. . in an Introduction to a selection of Whitman’s poems. Hart Crane. 18 Ibid. the personal which makes the common insofar as it recognizes the existence of the many in the one. It is only through the insistence on the particularity of the individual or personal experience.. of the individual or personal rhythm 16 17 Creeley.196 Heinz Ickstadt manipulation in the act of painting itself. as Creeley put it.18 However.. who had tried to gain from the condensed pattern of personal suffering the mythic structure of a wholeness achieved through the reconciliation of opposites. since they render the unity of physical and mental movement and energy in the abstract concreteness of dynamic form: the improvisationally developed pattern of a verbal dance.16 This shift. 483. more even than Williams’ poetry. Ibid. It seems to draw the reader into a sphere of intimacy – of sexual encounters. In my own joy and despair. body functions. “toward a final obliteration of (him)self”. 3. Process. Creeley’s projects a private world that arises in and from particular instances of place and time. This tension between a private or personal particular and the nonparticularity of the common can be noticed from early on. I am brought to that which others have also experienced. It made him argue in the early 1960s that it was precisely through insistence on a scrupulous localism that the particular can be condensed and abstracted into an impersonal common. 369.17 More than a decade later. since his poems do not explore and display self but seek to push beyond the limits of self – even. away from the visual sharpness of the image to an energy of sound and rhythm heightens the abstract quality of Creeley’s poems.

isolation. penetrate. and Creeley aspires to approach the ‘place’ of this event in a preconceptual state of consciousness …. the intensity of desire. or it. pain. or merging two particulars into one. the separateness of the particular gives rise to the need to obliterate the isolated self in the act of poetry as much as in the act of love. sex”.The Poetry of Robert Creeley 197 of breathing. finding the non-intentional path to the ‘occasion’ means pushing the threshold of consciousness – at once centrifugally and centripetally – beyond the limits imposed by the ‘universe of discourse. Creeley’s “personalized versions of love.’) to involve language as closely as possible in the act of thinking / thinking the things and at the same time thinking this thinking) which moves around the ‘place’ where subject and world merge” (Mesch. me. a sense of the self’s as well as the poems’ interconnectedness with World and Other through measure – the found pattern of an improvisational order. “This non-intentional relation to the world”. the poetic record of his sexual and emotional relationships with women. as Harald Mesch argues. speaking. emptiness. fill. the very centrality in his oeuvre of poems of love (For Love was the title of the second volume of poetry he published) have therefore larger implications. in the very movement of experience. before all conceptualization. Creeley’s concern is to bring language closer to the ‘place’ where the subject and the world are still one (‘I want the poem as close to this fact [of living] as I can bring it. says Harald Mesch. linking up to. the world and the self mutually bring each other into existence. 74). is unconditional love: ‘To be in love is like going out-/side to see what kind of day // it is. not as separate “self” but in relation to a “you” as much as to a constantly changing sense of “here”: that is. mostly assumes the form of a woman – a mythical archetypal being as well as 19 “For Creeley. of passion and energy. in this sense. that keeps life as well as writing going. In this dialectic. to a particular moment and a particular place that constantly changes and that therefore has to be constantly caught. the desire to merge. Division.’ The world for Creeley. thinking that a concrete singularity of vision can be achieved.’ by pushing them further into the world (thinking things) as well as deeper into thought (thinking the thinking of things). . They link the particularity of individual experience to the larger issues of poetic form as well as to a vision of interrelatedness. particularity runs the risk of separateness and isolation – unless it seeks to define itself relationally. In the preconceptual experience of ‘occasion’. “Robert Creeley’s Epistemopathic Path”. At the same time.19 The separateness of the isolated particular creates the need to break through the shell of the self by relating. It is sexual energy. the absence of wholeness become the very locus of desire.

Carroll F. Orono. follows a similar argument. call it intercourse”. in an essay on Robert Creeley’s “Poetics of Duration”. becomes explicit in one of Creeley’s most beautiful love poems.’ For Creeley. 20 21 Ibid. which he chose to call “The Language”: The Language Locate I love you somewhere in teeth and eyes. and the virtually ever-present invocative use of the word ‘here. “Hearing ‘Here’: Robert Creeley’s Poetics of Duration”. it can be observed that the ‘you’ of Creeley’s texts operationally signifies the reader reading the poem.21 This correlation between the sexual and the textual. in Robert Creeley: The Poet’s Workshop. between love and language. ‘Love’ requires a spontaneous and complete openness on the part of the subject vis-à-vis the object. Charles Bernstein. 89. Charles Bernstein. 1984. .20 From a slightly different angle. “Language is the literal territory of interpersonal exchange. Maine: The National Poetry Foundation. bite it but take care not to hurt. Terrell. Preliminarily..198 Heinz Ickstadt a human being of flesh and blood …. Words say everything. the persistent address to the (a) second person – ‘you’. you want so much so little. he writes: It is in this context that three central features of Creeley’s poetry can be understood: the pervasiveness of lyric love poems in complete or vestigial form. the love poem becomes an occasion for envisioning the possibility of relation(ship) as a textual issue. ed. 64.

Therefore the poem suggests the possibility of love and of poetic speech. however. At the same time the mouth of speech connotes emptiness – a hole to be filled in order to be whole again. the poem gives a sense of meditative weightiness.22 199 The poem. . namely: “I love you” – words that say in fact nothing unless the act of speech becomes real in the physicality of loving (“bite / it but / take care not / to hurt”). I heard words and words full of holes aching. Speech is a mouth. To fill. most of which consist of mono-syllabic words and. To restore a language that has been emptied out into cliché by over-use. with the exception of the first line of Stanza 5. fill. the fifth stanza in repeating the phrase “I love you” seems to return to the poem’s beginning – a variation of its first part. achieves its stumbling hesitancy of speech and reflection through the structure of its lines. of two and three syllables per line. to fill the aching holes of words with their lost meaning relates the act of speaking and the act of lovemaking. 283.The Poetry of Robert Creeley I Iove you again. makes the orality of speech – the open mouth that receives yet also gives – a quasi-vaginal organ of living/loving communication. The words that “say everything” are presumably said by the speaker in response to what he sees “some. In the first stanza. then what is emptiness for. which addresses a “you” who is a partner in love as well as in communication. the words: “I love you” are not uttered but are what the speaker reads in the face of his beloved. Collected Poems. The eight stanzas of three lines each can be seen as forming two parts (the first four stanzas being one sentence)./ where in / teeth and / eyes …”. Since they almost all receive equal stress. but also an awareness that 22 Creeley.

ed. despite his vision of experiential flow and poetic openness. Creeley’s poetry abounds with such failures of love. its energy is one of transformation. with the unexpected assault. It seems to echo Whitman’s notion of the physicality of words – words that the poet can make “sing. “speech”. as in this poem: Hello With a quick jump he caught the edge of her eye and it tore. 1904. taking “care not to hurt” gives way to an urge to assault. kiss. when. . to hurt and take possession. a failure of language. after all. Boston: Small/Maynard. in which thinking is done bodily. down. its written-ness disguised in the concrete vulnerability of speech as stammer. It is explicitly sexual mostly when it fails – as in “The Raper from Passanac” where “rape” results from a failure of communication. ripping. 16. An American Primer. too.23 except that the materiality of language that Creeley achieves through the emphasis of stress and intricate sound patterns (Locate – love – some. Although for Williams.200 Heinz Ickstadt both might fail. but it is not sensuous. and that the holes in words and bodies aching to be filled will stay empty – articulating nothing but the desire to be filled by/with love. teeth – eyes – bite – it) is offset by their condensed thought-fullness. the act of imagination is an act of love tied to cosmic processes of procreation. The poem may stage its abstract argument bodily. By equating “language”. but 23 Walt Whitman. do the male and female act…”. in the attempt to overcome separateness. Horace Traubel. Creeley comes close to Williams’ idea of a language that would give physical shape to thought. dance. As Creeley himself has pointed out on several occasions. and “love”. She shuddered. he is a Puritan in temperament and introspective rigor.

it marks the limits of self but also possibilities of seeing. windows”. next to the topic of love. most of all. “Robert Creeley’s Windows”. a metaphor of the mind’s eye. of establishing relation. yet always also kept away from). to what purpose? How heavy the slow world is with everything put in place. did you. such efforts to reach out or to break through the confinement of self tend to end in disaster – in feelings of anger. and depression. Collected Poems. guilt. mirrors. This would seem to be the implication of the abundance of windows and mirrors in Creeley’s poetry. lift all that. frustration. II/1 (Fall-Winter 2002). So. with the white church alongside. In that sense. and. Marjorie Perloff writes in a recent essay. Marjorie Perloff. 189.The Poetry of Robert Creeley to his vantage he held by what flesh was left.25 The window is a borderline between inside and outside. it is the self’s enclosure in its own emotional and mental processes that is most pervasive: its separation from the world as if by glass (to be looked through. . although it is precisely here. at the same time. it duplicates the eye and is. silvered.24 201 Especially in Creeley’s early poetry. Creeley has been especially sensitive to domestic thresholds – doors. Bridge. for example. marking a place where the world perceived through the eye is (re)created in reflection: The Window Position is where you put it. that the need to go beyond “self” finds its most passionate expression. where it is. 286. Some 24 25 Creeley. “from the inception of his career. “Indeed”. where failure is blatantly evident. that large tank there.

My Heinz Ickstadt face is heavy with the sight. 28 The loss of one eye during early childhood may partly account for the almost desperate intensity in Creeley’s metaphorical linkage of the physical and mental eyes: “… the brain surfaces in the eyes directly. in the last line. I can feel my eye breaking. that “the microscopic glass – the human eye – cannot ever really capture what is seen in the macrocosmic one”27 is an ambivalence impossible to resolve. thus anticipating his own death as part of the material order of things. In both readings.28 26 27 Creeley. “fall”. Whether.26 Things perceived have their place where they are and yet are replaced by the mind’s eye in a relational network of composition. the speaker’s breaking eye becomes part of an imagery of falling and dying. the window – like the abyss in Whitman’s “A Noiseless Patient Spider” – implies the self’s ultimate failure to reach beyond itself. In one case. 190. Collected Poems.202 man walks by. it is the inevitability of death that makes the creative power of the mind’s eye irrelevant. “breaking”. in the other. a leaf of yellow color is going to fall. as a metaphor of resignation. lifting the materiality of things to the mind’s eye. it is the doubt that the mind’s eye can ever grasp the world in its reflective perception. the second. “dropped”. upward. downward. a car beside him on the dropped road. The poem seems to be dominated by two movements: the first. The physical eye is like the brain surfacing. 284. It all drops into place. If you put . or whether it signals. Perloff. “drops”. that it remains selfenclosed even in its ability to create pattern. It’s where the brain comes literally. “Robert Creeley’s Windows”. following the gravitational pull of all material things toward death: “heavy”. Outward from its own physical place.

29 In other words.The Poetry of Robert Creeley 203 Yet it is easy to imagine that the eye “heavy” with the knowledge of all material things’ movement toward death will come to accept death as the very condition of its being. 193. “Robert Creeley’s Windows”. before we thought to know it. the weather. “‘For W. you put your finger in your brain” (quoted in Entwistle. The forms shift before we know. dark and light. Creeley ‘felt breaking’ – is now integrated into a space ‘simple’ in its lack of fixed boundaries and divisions. Space is no longer divided into inside and outside. The mind again. ‘it is there here here. W. sluggish. up and down. It is by the recognition of the limits of self that the self becomes limitless and the world seen through the mental eye the only one that is available. ‘Yet Complexly’: Creeley and Williams”. . With reference to one of Creeley’s later window-poems. 142). the world revealed in the pattern of the mind’s movement is the only one there is – a common world to be rediscovered from moment to moment and from place to place. 29 Perloff. Perloff notes that The window looking out on the world disappears as do doors and mirrors …. at earlier moments. to be sure. the heat rises – the whole beach vacant. Rather. the waves. the sun grows lower in the faded your finger into your eye. the manner of mind in the body. yet a space of self that is more than self: LISTLESS.’ … The window – the poet’s eye which.’. C.

sea and wind” – also a sameness. it would be foolish to draw from the particularity of this poem a generalizing conclusion. Only the children.30 The reflective tone of the poem stands in contrast to the very ordinariness that it depicts: a hot summer day at the beach. the sea. “another day”).204 sky. “vacant”. Collected Poems. mind and body. their insistent particularity. they in fact qualify the movement of the mind that. the poem progresses to the particular: to the movement of “children. Of course. looking out of other eyes. But it seems possible to argue that at this later stage of Creeley’s creative development. relations to the world and others have settled into more stable form and the consciousness of holes and the need to fill them have lost their painful urgency. Washed out – the afternoon Heinz Ickstadt of another day with other people. “waves”. 442. The tensions and paradoxes (between self and other. and the intensely insistent energies of 30 Creeley. “weather”. the slight wind move with the same insistent particularity. but not the temporal sameness of everyday but of the energy those share. “sluggish”: although these are attributes that are syntactically connected to the beach. “Listless”. . signals its presence through abstraction and generalization: “the manner of mind / in the body”. From such stillness accompanying the generalities of the common and the everyday (“other people”. mental and material world) that have marked Creeley’s poetry from early on can now be more easily reconciled. although it cannot follow the shifting forms.

the many do indeed cohere.The Poetry of Robert Creeley 205 the particular made part of the harmonic pattern of commonness so that in the less isolated singular. .


1 I call this a “presentational realism” because the emphasis is not on accuracy to the object but accuracy to the felt moment of perception. My story begins with an account of the two basic refusals on which Modernism was founded. Then we can trace what the first generation Modernists made of these refusals and the problems this created for the ensuing three generations. I agree that it is a significant breakthrough in relation to Modernism. . xxvii.) The stylistic refusal consists in the poets’ turning from ideals of sensitive description and symbolic representation to pursue instead what seemed a new presentational realism intended to combat the Realism that Yeats called Stendhal’s “mirror dawdling down a lane”. but one that is best appreciated by considering it an intensifying of certain orientations within Modernism. Editor’s Introduction.MODERNIST REALISM AND LOWELL’S CONFESSIONAL STYLE CHARLES ALTIERI Critics concerned with Lowell’s confessional style usually treat it as some kind of anti-Modernist or post-Modernist breakthrough. 1936. the second psychological. Against this dramatic backdrop we can specify the distinctive qualities of Lowell’s efforts to remake his Modernist heritage. Oxford: Oxford University Press. The Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892-1935. This realism resides not in picturing the real but in composing what the world elicits from the subject: the moment of presentation is also the moment of realization. 1 Willliam Butler Yeats. (One could call the second one “ethical” if that rubric had not been horribly cheapened by overuse. I Modernism’s first refusal is essentially stylistic.

ed. The very promise that art could provide witness to the experience of value rather than merely report on it made it tempting to have the signs of witness even when the text’s flesh was in fact weak. Change was fraught with the dangers of lapsing back into habit. T. 6. and then of posturing at the new in compensation. London: Faber and Faber. . 11. Poetry even has the advantage over science in this respect because its focus on formal elements proves capable of sustaining that witnessing over time. He tried to show his audience that mass and weight and uniformity of visual surface were all illusions. 3 Ibid. the work makes the world appear against a background of ignorance so that the world takes on the mode of gift or reward in relation to the struggles of consciousness. And he explored various ways that both classical forms and a decidedly un-classical personality might be seen as aspects of the life painting shared with things rather than serving as impositions upon pure objectivity.208 Charles Altieri Paul Cézanne was the exemplar of this realism for painters because he so clearly made Realism an experimental mode. S. would have to have an imaginativeness much more closely allied to the spirit of scientific experiment: “The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he has discovered something …. Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. The discovery as experienced takes the form of revelation: as Heidegger might put it. He does not bank on being a charming fellow personally. “from the Puritanical revolt to Swinburne”.. Ezra Pound was the most articulate spokesperson for the new Realism in poetry.2 A poetry adequate to modernity. acts of the mind upon seeing rather than the intense consequences of sight giving access to the world. The connection between claims to make 2 Ezra Pound. the audience not only reads about the discovery but also participates in its energies. on the other hand. This new realism was not without its problems. Eliot. Painting becomes a war upon inherited habits of seeing. as reducing poetry to “merely the vehicle … the ox-cart and post-chaise for transmitting thoughts poetic or otherwise”. 1960.”3 And discovery qua discovery has to be distinguished from the report of a discovery. He viewed his heritage. Pound could claim that both scientists and artists do not so much describe situations as bear witness to discoveries. Because writing can stress its testing of the capacities of linguistic experience to handle an emerging reality.

were mere echoes . nor will it sufficiently engage the distinctive affective energies that such strategies could evoke. For those writers impersonality was necessary for two reasons – to escape relying on charm and personality as a substitute for making the work itself a vital confrontation with the real. with no need for personal witness. Now we tend to think of this principle as an evasion of moral responsibility in order to treat the work as a coherent end in itself. Any assessment of Modernism that does not have a strong formal component is not very attentive to the phenomena. I would say that this crisis was a sense of increasing distance between the values the dominant classes idealized and the imaginative states that writers found capable of generating intense affects without the chilling incursion of self-loathing. more psychological demand on Modernism – that it establish means of clearly distinguishing personal stances that earn their own authority as witnesses from those that rely on personal charm or rhetoric to bolster the authorial role and hence supplement what is lacking in the message.Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style 209 it new and opportunities to posture in concealing the old then leads us to the second. But if we look carefully at the work of Eliot and Pound and Williams and Loy and Moore. Most claims to personal sincerity seemed a mask for hidden or inexpressible interests or provided evidence that the persons themselves were hollow. we can defend a quite different story. projecting this impersonality as a response to a substantial cultural crisis. Yet an account of internal energies specific to lyric will not sufficiently account for the pressures on the poets to reject more explicitly personal voices. So I propose an alternative hypothesis. There are many ways that this resistance to posturing in the name of authenticity took hold. Impersonality would allow poetry’s allegiances with the scientific spirit to resist the tendencies to rhetoric and oratorical selfcongratulation that were also fundamental aspects of its heritage. I prefer to concentrate on the widespread Modernist critiques of the entire domain of rhetoric because the psychological stakes are easy to dramatize and the demands to change approaches to the medium of poetry quite striking. Here I risk falling into the temptation to provide formalist answers to questions driven by social concerns. and to foreground the power of art as a productive force in its own right to generate the internal energies that could give character to individual works pursuing the new realism. Consider the ideal of poetic impersonality. Speaking most broadly.

Sound there only produces false consciousness. Everyone concerned with poetry will recognize writers’ resistance to such behavior. there is more truth in the silence that focuses attention on the empty gestures of sincerity. At the other pole. It is as if the love4 Lacan. First there is his well-known description of “the mirror phase” in development. the greater the likelihood that playing these roles will be psychologically charged events. But such conditions rarely come to the foreground in discussions of poetics – I think because we lack a concept clearly designating what impersonality was invented to oppose. Only Lacan shows how one might appreciate those aspects of Modernism caught up in the cultural struggle against two idealized modes of authority – that of the first person offering sincere judgments that turn out to be mostly selfcongratulation. not Modernism. I make this borrowing because only Lacan offers a powerful parallel to Modernist critiques of rhetoric that is capable of linking how we feel about making meanings and how we project identities and identifications. and that of public figures manifesting analogous forms of self-flattery in the form of moral and political generalizations. Lacan claims that our fundamental sense of subjective identity depends on the fact that infants form selfimages in relation to the adoring maternal gaze.210 Charles Altieri of their culture without any internal demand for irony and for cultivating a sense of difference. and I hope my account of the imaginary dimension in the life of the psyche will prove useful without making us dependent on any other Lacanian concepts. The less that identity is governed by established roles and authorities. does not historicize his account: he wants to explain the psyche. writers were appalled by the lack of self-consciousness when people (including themselves) carried the gestures of sincerity into public life by relying on personal authority to utter moral pieties or to impose dominant social values on complicated particular situations. To provide that concept I have to rely on notions I originally encountered in Jacques Lacan but have modified for my own use. I claim no fealty to Lacan.4 Lacan accomplishes this by elaborating three aspects of the role the imaginary plays in the satisfactions we encounter when we perform ourselves semantically. The film The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (1965) perhaps caught this aspect of twentieth-century sensibility best when the hero turns off the sound on a TV as a politician goes on about morality. of course. . But one can historicize his arguments by concentrating on those historical moments where class mobility puts identity most in flux.

Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style 211 laden whispering of the child’s name became a mirror promising that the child could find his or her own satisfactions in an inner life depending on projections by another. But that very contingency of identity generates considerable desperation. we risk the collapse of our entire investments in producing meaning for ourselves. Lacan matters for me because he in effect creates an intimate social psychology out of Hegelian themes. and only an image dependent on making attributions about what another desires. But what seems capable of giving substance is again only an image. One must sense the fleetingness of images and so be aware that what binds the ego to fluid experience is at best a delicate filament. especially harrowing ones where there might be only that name to rely on. The ultimate irony is that for Lacan desire is not something that can be the stuff of images. the other fundamentally a matter of how we handle our own desires. Where the father-figure’s naming of the child depends on achievements in the social world. He has a great figure of the psyche being put in a frying pan so that its edges take shape – that is the birth of the “hommelette” to which the agent becomes fiercely attached because he takes it as the ego. It is very easy then to become terrified of losing substance for the self – especially since the other whose desire is desired is always capable of changing its orientation. One is fundamentally social. It seems that if we are not aggressive about warding off the claims of others. as well as warding off the internalized others that threaten our images of substantial selves. Then the ego is presumed to control the very forces that in one contingent moment produced the illusion that one could be the master of desire. The second and third aspects of this Lacanian concept involve our desperate attempts to construct stable images in unstable situations. Desire is endlessly mobile. Notice that the basic identification pattern is triangular: one finds in the mother a figure of desire for the self that one then internalizes as an ideal for oneself. We desire the desire of the other so that we may imagine ourselves as substantial beings. the mother’s naming appears to locate a private source of identity so stable that it promises to persist through all social conditions. He dramatizes how compelling our need is for others to provide the desire through which we claim . In adult life our basic temptation remains the shaping of identity in relation to the anticipated desire of others. and desire can be endlessly strange.

But in this case it may take indirection to find direction out. even though they might better approach what is really happening if they could let themselves enact various fragments of sensibility appropriate to actual conditions. No wonder poets would be attracted to a doctrine of impersonality so that they might purchase some distance from this human comedy. we can at least get the story pointed to Lowell.5 Poetry could for the most part avoid the imaginary by investing entirely in compositional rather than rhetorical energies. Eliot too was a reader of Hegel. Faced with the likelihood that efforts to express subjectivity do little more than invoke an imaginary domain intended to confirm self-images by projecting them as worthy of desire. But the force of expression shifts from being a property connected to the sincere subject as witness to truth to being a property of the productive energies made objective in the art work. 1950. If we now turn to historical circumstances. S. Hence the belief that a new lyric realism could concentrate on perfecting the medium so that “very varied feelings are at liberty to enter into new combinations”. . Poets could keep the notion that art is expressive.212 Charles Altieri substantial selves. Those claiming sincerity in public and in private matters can be seen as somewhat blindly binding themselves to images of the self. Selected Essays. II This talk about the force of the object will not seem a propitious way of talking about the emphasis on subjectivity in Lowell’s confessional poetry. And those claiming righteous moral and social authority become figures eager to elicit the desire of another so that they can sustain the exalted sense that they envision they should have because of their social standing. 7. Eliot. New York: Harcourt Brace. and hence presses out new forms of spirit that pervade the work and become inseparable from its formal choices. he thought he could directly emphasize the capacity of the lyric to provide versions of writerly presence not bound to images of substantial selves. The very success of Modernism in putting the imaginary in a kind of limbo also created a major problem for poets 5 T. and he clarifies why we so aggressively maintain so illusory a phenomenon as a self-image.

but it cannot readily have these voices form and maintain sympathies and commitments directly pursuing improved social conditions. Constructivist aesthetics can develop a variety of voices and can make us keenly aware of the dangerous indulgences these voices elicit. But the Modernists could not within Constructivist parameters adapt the rhetorical stances necessary for convincing others that in fact something might be done to increase social justice or even to elicit sympathy for the oppressed in ways that did not ultimately serve the imaginary interests of those doing the oppressing. I am not arguing that Constructivist Modernism lacked a sense of history or an empathy with social conditions produced by industrial capitalism. Writing that successfully evades the imaginary might also block itself from addressing those aspects of sensibility in which the imaginary becomes a vehicle for projecting social roles that poetry might accomplish. it may take the imaginary to supplement imagination when poets are concerned specifically with how they can affect readers’ involvements in public life. So poets returned to seeking ways of dealing positively with the roles the . While imagination and the imaginary are quite distinct. prevented any direct alignment of art with the sympathies necessary for social progress. Perhaps then the darkening of sensibility that plagued almost all the major Modernists in the nineteen-thirties stemmed in large part from their discovery that the Constructivist aesthetics on which they had come to rely might make it impossible to develop sufficient frameworks for identifying with those suffering from social injustice. By the late nineteen-thirties the limitations I suggest were becoming increasingly obvious. Nor could the poets readily develop possible identities that might do something about that situation.Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style 213 following in its wake. indeed their distrust of any medium not grounded in actual sensation. it may have to develop those modes of presence that depend on the activity of a positioned speaking voice as it works its way through various possible identifications and identities. a sense of history because it was obsessed by a compelling need not just to account for itself historically but to find from within history direct energies and patterns which might better equip individuals to deal with what seemed inescapable dark times. On the contrary. and increasingly painful. Their distrust of concepts and of images. For if poetry is to have social force beyond an elite community. it might have had too rich. or at least too fine.

Stevens tried to indulge the powers of the imaginary while orienting them toward the social on the level of process rather than on the level of images and roles. One large group of poets. That is. (Ashbery can be seen as bringing Auden’s performative voice into endlessly intricate combinations with the depersonalized theatricality of the Stevensian imagination). Bishop and Ashbery both tried to emphasize an imagining that was not primarily oriented to figures of the substantial self. Those more sympathetic with Modernism’s critical sensibilities took a somewhat different tack. Many of the major innovations in American poetry from the late 1930s to the present intended to continue Modernism’s reliance on objectified witnessing. and the American Auden. while also resisting New Critical tendencies to have imagination sustain both truth claims and moral visions. This way of casting the historical situation enables us to honor what I think are major achievements by Wallace Stevens. Each of these writers works out distinctive ways of honoring the force of the imaginary while using the resources of art to separate that force from the images and social roles whose authority is usually reinforced by our self-projections. . Enormously indebted to Stevens for the necessary resources. Oppen lacks Steven’s rhetorical flair. typified by those publishing in The Masses. but now in the service of constructing aspects of agency that bring the theatrical dimensions of the imaginary back into play while finessing its tendencies to sustain illusory subject positions. And Auden’s deep distrust of vanity of all kinds led him to a performative mode in which imaginary identities are replaced by a process of constantly testing whether one can take responsibility for the process of valuing established by poetic voice. he located sociality in learning to appreciate how we share investments that are grounded in the very ways we experienced their intensities. took the most direct path: they embraced rhetorical stances and tried overtly to provide images of just and noble behavior that a population might emulate. but he is a master at rendering complex situations that eliminate any possibility of selfcongratulation. And Oppen’s version of fluid yet critical inhabiting of social fantasies lives on in the links between objectivist poetics and Language writing.214 Charles Altieri imaginary plays in our lives. George Oppen. These enterprises frame fundamental directions taken by subsequent generations of American poets.

Each of these poets returns to a version of the new realism. That is. there came to the fore a set of poets – O’Hara. and the confessional Lowell – who engaged the force of the imaginary in quite distinctive ways. the poem accommodates the real because consciousness is visibly in the act of composing a world in which it can stage itself as dwelling – simultaneously as art and as objects of the senses that deal regularly with objects. This now not so new new realism still cultivates the intimacy available when objects become inseparable from intentional acts. and Creeley could not be content with this dream of transpersonal transparency. The new realism does not provide a purer world of impersonal renderings. Cézanne showed how perception freed from habit might be considered an impersonal process: there is a logic to seeing that stands bare when sight is isolated from all personal memory and all projection into a desired future. O’Hara. So far I have told a tale of explicit influences and acknowledged models. but they alter the role the imaginary plays in relation to that realism. That is why Meyer Schapiro once wrote that no one could desire to eat an apple in a painting by Cézanne. transpersonal process by which it renders the life of the eye. but personality for him is primarily a matter of the force and sense of care pervading the vision: personality pervades the painting but does not alter the ideal. or at least almost to Lowell. But the heritage of Modernism is more complicated than that. they were not content to model . Creeley.Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style III 215 And so I come to Lowell. Even though they shared a Modernist sense of the interplay of the eye and the mind in producing the immediacy characterizing the real. But in the work of these poets this realism can no longer be opposed to the imaginary. Rich. Poets like Lowell. Certain persistent pressures and certain abiding resources in the stylistic and psychological orientations of Modernism were far less explicit. Think of how O’Hara’s and Creeley’s and Plath’s quite different characteristic styles all share this sense of immediacy caused by but expanding beyond the compositional acts that render the world for the art object and the art object as within the world. Personality remains important to Cézanne. But as those overtly committed to Modernism exhausted the explicit possibilities in Modernist styles. Plath. Rather the constructivist aspect of Realism turns out to make the imaginary present at every level.

The new new realism is not the overcoming of habit but the mark of the failure of what habit should sublimate or repress: the new poetry is burdened by the very psychological forces that account for its intensity. as if the account of the imagination’s need for substance came out of the workings of the imaginary. the interpretation of what one sees. Jasper Johns. and the interpretation built into any presentation of what one sees. Perhaps the best way to generalize is that for all these poets the new realism becomes less the heroic achievement of Cézanne’s or Pound’s liberation from habit than the insistent residue of what the public modes of the imaginary cannot handle. IV Lowell’s confessional style seems to me the most direct mode of engaging this sense of the imaginary as ineffable burden. who would show that even if perception is free from subjectivity.216 Charles Altieri the lyric on the life of the eye supplemented by the force of personality. Hence the visual analogue for their work is not Cézanne but their contemporary. Impersonality seems now not an alternative to rhetoric but rhetoric by other means. as if we might find there everything repressed by social life. They regarded immediacy as already suffused with the kinds of ineffable desires that made interpretation necessary. So the . The new new realism constitutes a call to replace Phenomenology by a psychology aware that the idea of “cure” is itself an imaginary construction harkening back to fantasies no longer active in the world inhabited by these poets. One could still tell a Lacanian story about the traps that the imagination sets by eliciting our dreams of substantial selves. one aspect of the investments and the pains emphasized by this new realism. But one would have to tell the story somewhat differently. and that frustrated any effort to form interpretive judgments in so crude a medium as language. restores the personal – not as something that can itself be interpreted but as something that emerges as productive of ineffable differences between the order of sight and the order of how we engage what is seen. The new version of the new realism cannot rest in Phenomenology because it is so burdened by pain and incompleteness. Their images did not so much appeal to the eye as project the incompleteness of vision in a world inescapably permeated with desire requiring and frustrating interpretation.

Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style 217 intimate. and totalizing feel of the blend of imaginary and real becomes more important than any teleological account of the imaginary’s desires for substantial identity. She’s in her dotage. Look at how the opening stanzas present their details so laconically that they raise questions about why just these details and not others were chosen to set the scene: Nautilus Island’s hermit heiress still lives through winter in her Spartan cottage. the sonnets in History another. 6 It should not be surprising that it was critics dwelling in this literary culture who decided that the impersonal was merely an evasion of the personal in the name of art. But even this kind of critical assertion somewhat fails to capture the spirit of the times because it tends to be too eager to tie the psyche to concepts and conclusions. Lowell’s new realism would articulate the core of phantasmatic activity giving sensations their distinctive personal feel. . her sheep still graze above the sea. Her farmer is first selectman in our village. she buys up all the eyesores facing her shore. And where the old new realism can be seen as fundamentally epistemic in its claims to provide knowledge. Her son’s a bishop. this realism is committed to needs that involve demands for sympathy.6 Where the old new realism would emphasize the direct rendering of sensation. The important thing about the confessional style is that it does not so much create grounds for dismissing the impersonal as it elicits ways of reading those activities as continuous with more overt modes of problematic but inescapable personal investment. “Skunk Hour” typifies one aspect of the imaginary in Lowell. Thirsting for the hierarchic privacy of Queen Victoria’s century. pervasive. Consequently impersonality cannot be a “cure” because impersonality is impossible: the putatively impersonal is simply an imaginary or rhetorical shifting to a different level of the personal. and lets them fall. with all the ambivalence produced by that oxymoronic insistence.

Collected Poems. In this situation playfulness with surfaces is also asked to perform other kinds of psychological work. 2003. as if the speaker had to express an amusement with himself that we find out is also a defense against going beyond the surfaces. Obviously. nothing that does not call out for analyses and nothing that will stand still for such analyses. So much energy. so that even in the most objective segments of the poem the selections are ineluctably the act of a subject. The opening four words could be all nouns until one sorts them out. we understand better the pressures the details are under. … A red fox stain covers blue hill. .7 One could find substantial themes here – preeminently the relation of survival to the internalizing of autumnal landscape. And the i sounds of the first two lines play beautifully against the framing a’s. so that the changing of the leaves becomes something like a cry of pain. But two features displace the lyric energies to another plane. Strauss and Giroux. eds Frank Bidart and David Gewanter. so little apparent cause. as “Skunk Hour” shifts to the speaker’s own plight. Here end-stopped lines almost alternate with enjambed ones. and the second stanza’s short lines seem especially conscious of the force of transition. At first glance the last stanza celebrates a level of identification promising psychic wholeness and a capacity for sympathy on which a sense of community can be built: 7 Robert Lowell. But Lowell is brilliant at holding off any sense that the psychological situation can ultimately be thematized. New York: Farrar. Lowell learned from Williams that a Modernist realism requires careful attention to line endings. and visibly the act of a very needy subject projecting onto what otherwise might be objective. Then there is the delightful yet somewhat disturbing playfulness of these lines. since it is these that in effect fix the units of perception and define tensions among these units. In effect there seems nothing that is quite itself. One is that contingency of detail.218 Charles Altieri The season’s ill – we’ve lost our summer millionaire. Even more important is the strange energy within this overtly casual presentation. 192. Then the tightening end-rhymes of the second stanza beautifully complement the “eyesores” / “shore” internal assonance.

Lowell wants his audience to recognize the fundamentally flawed and needy presences generating most significant speech acts. The skunk provides a figure for a courage that comes only by tearing away imaginary defenses so that one comes in touch with something like primary biological needs. We do not just recognize symptoms. Modernist impersonality would treat such speakers as personae in order to establish distance from their imaginary needs. Identification with the skunk as victim is inseparable from the trappings of priestly authority involved in the position at the top of the stairs. so even this process of attempted identification renders reason problematic. So even when Lowell tries to understand the imaginary. We both recognize and imagine symptoms. and will not scare. But now I have to admit that the contradictions are probably intended because they emphasize the instability of identity that undermines projections about selfknowledge. 8 Ibid. an ideal of sympathy with the speaker probably has to be distinguished from an idea of sympathy compatible with moral judgment. Yet the poem cannot reach this level of being without supplementing it by purely imaginary role-playing. . he remains in its grip: the projection of sympathy reinforces the ego needs that get him into trouble in the first place. drops her ostrich tail. Analogously.. She jabs her wedge-head in a cup of sour cream. I once thought it was a telling criticism of Lowell to point out that this play of imaginary desires undercuts the resolving claim to selfknowledge that the skunk mediates. Lowell’s confessional style is the antithesis to such objectification. It dramatizes the possibility that an individual’s imaginary projections are not to be judged or pitied but to be seen as the necessary precondition for constituting specific values.Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style 219 I stand on top of our back steps and breathe the rich air – a mother skunk with her column of kittens swills the garbage pail. as if the psyche conformed to epistemic criteria. 192.8 Lowell wants identification with the skunk to reward the sustained confessional labor of reducing the self to raw need.

from imaginings confined to one’s projections of one’s distinctive agency. Bernstein. there emerges the possibility that the entire sonnet can be a plausible instance of connections made in the development of a single moment of thinking as the imagination strives for a focal point. Near the Ocean and many of Lowell’s sonnets are efforts to stage other. Adorno: Disenchantment and Ethics. At best there would have to be endless confessions endlessly talking by one another in a reciprocal procession of guilt and shame. This sense of limitation did not lead to Lowell’s repudiating the imaginary or seeking a position from which he could state his needs ironically.220 Charles Altieri V I think Lowell soon realizes some of the limitations of his confessional style. or better. more interpersonal and hence cultural dependencies for the imaginary life. And the reader then virtually has to envision the poem as an appeal to share 9 Jay M. 2001. activating the condition of “injured and injurable animals”9 by taking responsibility for our particular damaged positions within social life provides a basis for a mutual compassion and perhaps the only trustworthy terms for mutual recognition. it will produce the possibility of projecting a politics of shared need and shared fears. But he eventually began to write as if there could be a partial escape from the emphasis on individual imaginings. As Jay Bernstein puts it. New York: Cambridge University Press. One comes to those modes of awareness by direct capacities for sympathy in which subjectivity is almost simply a medium (rather than composer). . This sense of present-ness then makes it possible to stage subject and object as inextricably linked: the logic of the image as the presentation of an emotional and intellectual complex in an instant becomes employed for a new new realism that sets the moment against the single image. Where constructive artifice had been. And while this route will not produce specific political agendas. To demonstrate this aspect of Lowell’s sense of the imaginary I want to isolate two features of the sonnets. 38. First he seeks a more intense and immediate realism by forgoing the artifice of complex metonymic adjustments by which the segments of “Skunk Hour” cohere. The very reasons that it affords a rich and challenging appeal to sympathy with the singular agent make it very difficult for that agent to find any terms at all for social life. For the Union Dead.

the ape. My second feature involves the politics of this shift in focus. then to step off like green Union Army recruits for the first Bull Run. chaos. . The speaker then plausibly speaks for 10 Lowell. his green new steel helmet. He must test the possibilities of a politics of directed sympathy. the girls … fear. to march absurdly locked (unlocked to keep my wet glasses from slipping) to see the cigarette match quaking in my fingers. the too tall marmoreal Washington Obelisk. The sonnets on writers and historical figures read as if they were Annie Leibowitz photographs attuned to how characters might want to be remembered while expressing their vulnerabilities. the Obelisk “too tall”. The demonstrators are the ones alienated enough to record the irritating features of the cityscape. “The March 1” presents a good example: Under the too white marmoreal Lincoln Memorial. If I am right about Lowell’s investments in the imaginary. amplified harangues for peace – lovely to lock arms. glory. sped by photographers. met by the other army. Collected Poems. the withering autumn sky. and the reflecting pool “too long”? One answer is that Washington is just that kind of city – a city off-scale. And this alienation creates the possibility that these are the people who can also appreciate fully the new possibility of a sense of community fostered by the presence of so many like-minded people.10 Why is the memorial “too white”. But who treats the city this way? This is a more promising question for the poem because it calls attention to the basic trait of the speaker. the Martian. and those allied with him in the peace march. the notables. the hero. 545. Lowell cannot rely on arguing for political ideas. his new-fangled rifle. gazing into the too long reflective pool. so that the shared neediness becomes inescapable. the remorseless. the reddish trees. And he must accomplish this by capturing fundamental anxieties that he does not resolve but heightens.Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style 221 that moment – not for its truth but for its seductive capacity to link sympathetic feeling to the site where the mind finds itself energized by the object of attention. rout … our green army staggered out on the miles-long green fields.

The agents can realize that this sense of sharing has to be explained on different terms than apply to fictions of what keeps the self unique. the ideal of mutual sympathy provides access to the kind of pragmatic reasoning that can take place entirely in social terms. These experiences in turn are sharply intensified when we see the opposing army. The resulting contrast between “us” and “them” cannot provide a thematic resolution for the poem. One cannot be sure that any particular person can suspend his or her concern for the “individual” story. The poem can be resolved by this one detail because that sensation. And. the poem so hews to aspects of that experience that it does not promise more than loose bonds of sympathy. as Modernism tried. and interests. defines how the “other army” occupies the visual field without any doubts about the situation.222 Charles Altieri the crowd. The “green” now is literally the color of the helmets that serve metonymically to identify the soldiers. perhaps most important. But at its best. as the confessional style does. Rather it seeks to socialize the imaginary by locating shareable terms in the very tendency to pity the self. especially in his sense of the vulnerability figured by the “green” army of recruits emboldened only by their alienation. or better that collective realization. nor to succumb to its terms. so that one can develop the opening mutual sympathy provides. Politics can best begin in the naming of shared disillusion: that at least helps resist the disillusions that will almost inevitably follow. or experiences as the crowd experiences. without the need for epistemic validation. But attention to how the sensory details build a collective experience provides a mode of self-awareness about vulnerability and need that at least can create sympathetic bonds establishing a partial sense of shared experiences. At its worst this ideal only intensifies cries of victimage so that plausible redress or address becomes impossible. The poem’s sense of beginning manages neither to deny the imaginary. It may be possible to organize another “green” army capable of initiating small revolutions in how we imagine ourselves imagining . And on this basis they can begin to speculate on how everyone’s different versions of the imaginary may reveal sufficient common threads to provide an interest in efforts to reduce general human suffering across the board. For this army does not need metaphors. needs.

.Modernist Realism and Lowell’s Confessional Style 223 the political domain. There is as yet no better plausible image for the work of poetry.


she is the author of Ezra Pound et William Carlos Williams: pour une poétique américaine (2001) and William Carlos Williams: un plan d’action (2004). Cummings (1996). Subjective Agency: A Theory of First-Person Expressivity and Its Social Implications (1994) or Postmodernisms Now: Essays on Contemporaneity in the Arts (1999). He is the author of Zukofsky’s “A”: An Introduction (1983). Hélène Aji was Associate Professor in American poetry at the Université de Paris-Sorbonne until 2005 and is now a Professor of American Literature at the Université du Maine. She is the author of E. Isabelle Alfandary is Associate Professor at the Université of Paris 10 Nanterre where she teaches American literature. and William Carlos Williams and Alterity (1994).NOTES ON CONTRIBUTORS Barry Ahearn teaches American Literature at Tulane University. The Correspondence of Ezra Pound and E. E. She is currently working on a biography of Ezra Pound and on a book on performance and procedural poetry. In addition to a number of articles on Modernist and contemporary American poetry. . Author of Painterly Abstraction in Modernist American Poetry (1989) as well as Self and Sensibility in Contemporary American Poetry (1984). The Selected Letters of Ezra Pound and Louis Zukofsky (1987). She is currently working on Gertrude Stein and John Cage. She is the editor of a special issue of Annales du monde anglophone on “Ezra Pound dans le vortex de la traduction” (2002) and of Ezra Pound and Referentiality (2003). Charles Altieri teaches twentieth-century American Literature at the University of California-Berkeley. Cummings (2002). He has edited The Correspondence of William Carlos Williams and Louis Zukofsky (2003).E. his most recent book is The Particulars of Rapture: An Aesthetics of the Affects (2004).

Gudrun M. critical editions of works by Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickinson. He has edited Traditions and Innovations (2004). Grabher is Professor and Chair of the American Studies Department at the University of Innsbruck. His most recent book is a detailed study and translation into Spanish of Emily Dickinson’s first fascicle. With Dr Ragg he recently co-organized the first major European conference on Stevens entitled Fifty Years On: Wallace Stevens in Europe (2005). 1999). She is the author of Emily Dickinson: The Transcendental I (1981). He is Program Director of the Flemish interuniversity M. Literature and Society (co-edited with Bart Keunen. an issue on Wallace Stevens and British Literature (Spring 2006). Das lyrische Du: DuVergessenheit und Möglichkeiten der Du-Bestimmung in der . Nerter. He is the editor of Zasterle Press and the magazine. He has also co-authored a number of bi-lingual.A. The Urban Condition (as principal co-author and co-editor at GUST. Currently he is working on little magazines of innovative poetry in the United States.226 Modernism Revisited Manuel Brito teaches American Literature at the Universidad de La Laguna. with Dr Edward Ragg. For The Wallace Stevens Journal he has guest-edited the special 25th anniversary issue (Fall 2001) as well as. Paul Scott Derrick is Associate Professor of American Literature at the University of Valencia. His published books include Wallace Stevens and the Limits of Reading and Writing (2002). in American Studies and one of the codirectors of the Ghent Urban Studies Team (GUST). and Insights and Bearings (2007). He is the author of Thinking for a Change: Gravity’s Rainbow and Symptoms of the Paradigm Shift in Occidental Culture (1994) and “We Stand before the Secret of the World”: Traces along the Pathway of American Romanticism (2003). and A Suite of Poetic Voices (1992). 2001). His main fields of interest are Romanticism and American Transcendentalism and their manifestations in subsequent American literature and art. and Post Ex Sub Dis (as principal co-editor at GUST. La poesía temprana de Emily Dickinson: el primer cuadernillo (2006). Bart Eeckhout is Associate Professor of English and American Literature at the University of Antwerp. Dr Eeckhout has also published Dutch translations of Stevens’ poetry. He is the author of The Poetry and Poetics of Robert Duncan (1988). 2002).

and Faces of Fiction (2001). T. Ezra Pound. The Futurist Moment .Notes on Contributors 227 amerikanischen Dichtung (1989). S. Englische und amerikanische Dichtung (2000). Sylvia Plath and George Orwell. She has edited a conference volume for the third international conference of the Emily Dickinson International Society. Free University. and co-edited American Icons: Transatlantic Perspectives on Eighteenthand Nineteenth-Century American Art (1993). including The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage (1981). Marjorie Perloff is Sadie Dernham Patek Professor of Humanities Emerita at Stanford University and 2006 President of the MLA. Cummings’ poems. He is the author of Der amerikanische Roman im 20. Nathaniel Hawthorne. S. Currently. Eliot’s The Waste Land (2005). as well as a translation of E. Eliot. she is the president of the Emily Dickinson International Society. She is the author of various studies on Emily Dickinson. La apología de Whitman a favor de la épica de la modernidad: El Prefacio de 1855 de Hojas de hierba (1999). E. a study on Whitman. Her published books include Entre el mito y la realidad: Aproximación a la obra poética de Sylvia Plath (1989). Ralph Waldo Emerson. Her most recent book is on T. Walt Whitman. and on contemporary fiction. Viorica Patea is Associate Professor of American Literature at the University of Salamanca where she teaches twentieth-century American poetry and nineteenth-century American literature. She is a co-editor of Semantics of Silences in Linguistics and Literature (1996). and various edited collections of essays such as Critical Essays on the Myth of the American Adam (2001). as well as The Emily Dickinson Handbook (1998). She is the author of numerous books. Heinz Ickstadt is Professor Emeritus and former Director of the John F. and Ceremonies and Spectacles: Performing American Culture (2001). He has published widely on literature and culture of the nineteenth century in the US. on American Modernism. More recently she has been working on a book about Aesthetics of the Unsayable in American Literature. He has also edited Crossing Borders: InnerAnd Intercultural Exchanges in a Multicultural Society (1997). Berlin. Jahrhundert: Transformation des Mimetischen (1998). Kennedy Institute for North American Studies.

Moore. He is the author of Orientalism and Modernism: The Legacy of China in Pound and Williams (1995) and The Modernist Response to Chinese Art: Pound. Pedagogy (2004). He has edited a volume of essays on Ezra Pound and China (2003). He obtained his PhD in American poetry with a dissertation on Elizabeth Bishop and Surrealism. Mosaic. His main publications – on Elizabeth Bishop and John Ashbery – have appeared in Studies in the Humanities. . Stevens (2003).228 Modernism Revisited (1986). Radical Artifice: Writing Poetry in the Age of Media (1991). The Vienna Paradox: A Memoir (2004). At the moment he is preparing his dissertation for publication. and Differentials: Poetry. Among her most recent contributions are 21st-Century Modernism: The “New” Poetics (2002). Zhaoming Qian is Research Professor of English at the University of New Orleans. Poetics. and Poetry On and Off the Page (1998). Atlantis and Style. besides many other scholarly papers. Wittgenstein’s Ladder: Poetic Language and the Strangeness of the Ordinary (1996). Ernesto Suárez Toste teaches American Literature at the University of Castilla-La Mancha.

186 Barthes.. remember me. 16. 32. Personae. 180. 4. 34. auratic. 93. 58. 77 Banville. Hannah. 184. 14. Richard. 11 Arnold. 47 Bates. 130. 220. H. John. 57 Aldington. 164 Allison. Jackson. 16 aesthetics. 162. Charles. 21. Milton J. 139 Adorno. 12 Barnes. 147. 126. Jean (Hans). 146 Anderson. George. 192. 144. 63 Aragon. Tadao. 104-105. Sherwood. 1. 150 Aji. 127.. 189. 94.INDEX Acocella. Deutsch-Japanische Begegnung in Kurzgedichten. 26. “Dover Beach”. 104. 11. John. 103. ed. 11. 137. “The Influence of Mr. Louis. 182. 176. 144. ed. 26. Biographia Literaria. 70. 2. 22 aura... 48 Arp. Hélène. 17. 190-94. 65 Axelrod. 91. 19. 121. Djuna. 18. 214 Athenaeum. 93. 173. 34 avant-garde. 117 Basho. 16. 133 Baechler. Saint. 61. W. 55-57. G. John. Wallace Stevens: A Mythology of Self. When this you see. E. 4. 59. 24. Lea. Joan. 11. Richard. 30. ed. 148 Bate. Nightwood. M. 182. 140-42. 158 Arendt. 80 Anscombe. 171. 60. Robert. Steven Gould. 70 Ashbery. 94 Auden. 189.. Perry. 145. 214 Augustine. 140. 167.. The Wordless Poem. 59. 183. 21. Charles. 213 Aitken. 30 Antheil. 63 Araki. 162 ars poetica. James Joyce”. 33. Writing Degree Zero. 97 . 163.. W.. ed. A Zen Wave. Matsuo. Leçon. Eric. Critical Essays on Wallace Stevens. 193 Amann. Matthew. Roland. 173. 98. 28 Altieri. 191 Avedon. Theodor. 2. 17. ed. Illuminations. Aesthetic Theory. 133 Baudelaire. Zettel. 139 Animism. 13 Adato.

6 Borradori. 171. William W. 44. Walter. 214 Bloom. 213 Carpenter. 181 Blyth. Wallace Stevens. 27 Borroff. 146 Buddhism. Peter. 5. ed. George. 4. 7. 153 Butler. Yosa. The Unnamable. Georges. Frank. Caroline. 80. American Poetry.. OuLiPo Compendium.. Jay M. 198. 137 Buell. 147. W. Collected Poems. ed. 7 Beckett. 33. Judith. 51. 32 Brecht. 18. 158. 132. A Serious Character. 127 Cage. Stanley.. 88. André. 98 Buson. My Way: Speeches and Poems. 28 Breton. 220 Berryman. 145. 5 Brancusi. Robert. Robert. Elizabeth. ed. “Three Dialogues”. Language and the Poet. Constantin. 68 Cavell. 20. 106. Buddhist.. Daniel C. 29 Buchanan. 128. 27 Bernstein. ed. John. and Creativity. The Genealogy of Demons. 150. John. 135-38. 11. Oxford Anthology of American Literature. 175. 29 Capitalism. 146 Boas. 168. Keyhole Event. Order. Samuel. 63 Braque. 117 Bohm. 9.. 143 Buchi. R. Lawrence. 107. Where Shall Wisdom Be Found?.. 101. John Henri. 171 . 24 Bergvall. Harold.. 178. Illuminations. 168 Browning. 101. ed. Giovanna. Marie. H. 110. 33 Bernstein. 2. Ralph Waldo Emerson: A Collection of Critical Essays. 21-22 Bidart. 107. boundary. 9. 8 Bel Esprit. 97. David. Charles. 1. 105. A Poetics. 155 Benjamin. 33. Ronald. Alastair. 203. 84 Casillo.230 Modernism Revisited boundaries. Women of the Left Bank. ed. 22. S. T. Qu’est-ce le que le surréalisme?. 130-31 Bible. 163-66 Brotchie. 63 Buddha. 24. 23. 15. 65 Bevis. 63. 61. 152. Humphrey. 144. Franz. 11. 17. 109. Eliot. 7 Bürger. Bodies That Matter. 177. 106 Benstock. R. Science. 172. Robert Lowell. 190. 218 Bishop. Mind of Winter. Shari. 7.. 2. One Hundred Famous Haiku. 69 Benet. 14 Bush... Adorno.

27. 139. 17. 28 . Hart. 104. ed. 16. 16. 150 Church. A Quick Graph: Collected Notes and Essays. 116. Christianity. 47 collage. 77. 69 Cook. Samuel Taylor. 97. 4. 183 Creeley. 4. 113-17 Cummings. The Complete Poems. The Collected Poems. 200. 162 Coleridge. Alighieri. Blaise. 162. Confucius. Basil Hall. Talking at the Boundaries. 215. The Asian Legacy and American Life. E. 176.Index Cendrars. 183. 13. Joseph. 121. 23 Comte. 129 Cocteau. “Poetics of Duration”. 30. 215. 145. 190. 212. 132 Coolidge. 24 Chirico. 198. 148-50. 161-62. 74 Conrad. 113. Darwinism. 46. Harriet. The Dark End of the Street. Dadaist. Sheila. 118. 161 Damon. 192 Cummings. 207. 22. 28. Complete Poems 1904-1962. “Numbers”. The Public is Invited to Dance. 196. Barbara. 173. 110. 3. Jean-Martin. Biographia Literaria. 22. “The Window”. 109. Pieces. Poetry WordPlay and Word-War in Wallace Stevens. Maria. 32 Couchoud. 184. 215 Contact. August. Antim. 97 Chessman. 40. “A Traveler Born”. 75. 185. 2. 147 couplets. 103. 208. Edward. 66. 198. 191. 178 Crane. Giorgio de. 21. 194. 78 Connor. 33 Communism. 82. 48 231 Coy. 184. Cantares Completos. Robert. Javier. “The Language”. 147 Charcot. 97-98. 100-102 Darwin. Paul. Cubist. 92. 219. 107. 11120 passim. 191-92. 164. 172.. 220. 39. 178 commodification. Eleanor. 189. Arthur E. 4 Christian. 66. 139. 34.. 102. Selected Letters. 192. 45 David. 107. E. 192. 16. 110 Christy. 215-17. 113. Clark. 25. 61. For Love. Communist. Paul Louis. 63. Charles. 185. The Enormous Room. 222 Confucianism. 104. 22. “White Buildings”. 29 constructivist. “Hello”. 2. 97 confessional. 213. 197.. 189-204 passim. 93. 103. 108. Jean. 25 Dante. 19 Cézanne. 216 Chamberlain. “my father moved through dooms of love”. 201 Cubism. Heart of Darkness. 183. 117 Dada. 45. 196. 80. 4.

12. 208. 141. 181. 105. 27. 85.. 57. Three Soldiers. Clive and Brian. 209. Literary Essays of Ezra Pound. 30. F. Words Alone. 164. 62. 1. 112. S. Paul. T. Howard. After Strange Gods.. 62. 5. A Recognizable Image. 27 Eagleton.. 181 Doggett. 97. 73. 32. 116 Durkheim.. Sergei Pavlovich.. S. Michael. Bram. 34. 110. W. 141. 14. Vladimir. 134 The Egoist. 208. The Language that Rises. 91-110 passim. Mary. Gilles. Margaret. 25. S. 164 Dickie. 13 De Mailla. René. 7. 140. 29. Eliot. 11. 132 . 15. 53. Jacques. The Social Func- Davidson. 162. Eliot. 28 Descartes. Ghostlier Demarcations. Cummings. 185 Drew. Paul. 14. Selected Letters of E. 27 de Rachewiltz. The Renewal of Abstraction. 133 Deleuze. 118 Derrida. The Four Quartets. 57. T. 98 Duchamp. 137. 126. The Complete Poems and Plays 19091950. Histoire générale de la Chine. John. 59. 104-106 Dos Passos. 13 Dysart. 95. 179. 118 Dijkstra. 76. 163 discontinuity. 41. 15. Lyric Contingencies. Lydia. Denis. Frank. Richard. 104-106 Docherty. 84. Émile. 95 Eliot. 96 Duthuit. 98. 95. 25. 144 Diaghilev. 120.. Criticism and Ideology. 131 Diehl. Philosophy in a Time of Terror. Elizabeth. 24 Davis. 12. ed. E. 141. ed. 87.. 57. American Poetry. 30. 8 Dydo. 69. Critical Essays on Wallace Stevens. 131 Dickinson. 107. Christianity and Culture. 9. Ulla. John. 179. ed. 25. 147. discontinuous. 5. 75. 141 Devidé. 27 Davis. 212. 3. 80 De Man. 128. 110. 18. 39 Donoghue. Wallace Stevens and the Limits of Reading and Writing. Joseph-Anne-Marie de Moyriac. Georges. eds.232 Modernism Revisited Donne. 88 Dean. 20-22. 63. 162 Dupee. Bart. 91 Eeckhout. 37. Gray. Marcel. Helen. Mille Plateaux. On Poetry and Poets. 162 The Dial. New Collected Poems. Selected Prose of T. Emily. ed. 31. 92. Terry. 27 Deese. The Poems.

6. 28. 72. “What Dante Means to Me”. 194 233 Fahlström. “Portrait of a Lady”.. Alan. 132 Emerson. 97. “Tarr”. ed. Artist. A Dictionary of Naxi Pictographs. George J. 47 Engels. “American Literature and American Language”. Pao-hsien. N. 112. 107. Michel. 164. 98.. 104. Ford Madox. 99. “Tradition and the Individual Talent”. 110. 54 Entwistle. 54. “The Music of Poetry”. 20. Bernard. 162. 177 Emerson. Complete Poems 1904-1962. Cummings and Ungrammar.. Biographia Literaria. 180-81 Engell. 78 Ferlinghetti. 101. 148 Fish. “Ulysses. 107. E. 93. 96-98 Freud. E. 65 Filreis.. 68. 13 Frazer. 31 Fisher. 97. 80 Fang. 79. 183 Foster. 91. 95. 150 Ford. 130. Sigmund. 12 Foucault. 76. “The Search for Moral Sanction”. 151. Wallace Stevens. 132. 96. E. 194. 109. E. 96. Achilles. “War-Paint and Feathers”. Wallace Stevens and the Actual World. 131 Fizdale. 32. “London Letter”. 203 Esslin. 3. 92 Elliott. “Humanist. 29 Fairley. 84 Fang. Fascist. Freudian. Barbara. 68 existentialism. R. 60 Fay. 22. 103. 8 The Exile. 1.. 90 Fascism. 92. 95. 95. Guoyu. Order and Myth”. 34 Fletcher. 63 Foster. 110. 133. 104. Alice. 25 Fenollosa. 118 Fang. 105. 193 Franz Joseph.Index tion of Poetry. Oyvind. 19. John G. Ernest. “Shakespeare and the Stoicism of Seneca”. Sir James. 110. 104. 172 . 16. To Criticize the Critic. Friedrich. 27. 95. Stanley.. Scientist”. 132 fragmentation. 112. 92. Hal. “A Prediction in Regard to Three English Authors”. 63. The Waste Land. Ralph Waldo. 96.. 92. 9. 89. 94. James. 16. 98. Cummings. Irene. 16667. 122 Firmage. 108. 147. ed. 6-9. Samuel Beckett: A Collection of Critical Essays. Robert. “Johnson as Critic and Poet”. 93. 73-86. 96. 94. 96. 59. The Golden Bough. Dorothy. Emperor. The Chinese Written Character as a Medium for Poetry. “Poetry and Propaganda”. 93. Lawrence. 3. 161. 100. 3. ed. E. J. Martin. 92. 17. 94. 63. The Use of Poetry and the Use of Criticism.

45. 35. “The Bonfire”. 37. “A Missive Missile”. 40. 35. “The Oven Bird”. Collected Poems. 151 Gelpi. 98. 4. “Mending Wall”. 38. 41. 118 Guggenheim. 218 Ghiberti. Inventions of Difference. “Bursting Rapture”. 43. “Maple”. 83. Albert. ed. Cecil. “Two Look at Two”. 34 Goldsmith. 35. “Mowing”. 77. 49. 151 Géfin. 36. Palimpsestes. 50. Kenneth. 141 . Allen. “A Letter to ‘The Amherst Student’”. “The Bearer of Evil Tiding”. 45. “A Soldier”. 149. 108 Frost. 94 Grabher. 86. 80. Peter.. 44. 70. A Boy’s Will. Prose.. 35. 28 Gordon. 35-51 passim. The Monastery of the Jade Mountain. Robert. David. 80. 192 Giovannini. “The Aim Was Song”. 79. 81. Remy de. 84-89. 39. 41. Erich. Robert Lowell. 45. 170. Rodolphe. 192 Guattari. “No Holy Wars for Them”. 180 Gris. 189. “The WhiteTailed Hornet”. 144 Grahn. Motohiro. 133. 83 Goullart. 44. and Plays. Gérard. Then.. 48. “Putting in the Seed”. Wallace Stevens: The Poetics of Modernism. Lorenzo. 128 Fukase. 43. 18 Ginsberg. André. 49. Introduction Notes on Thought and Vision. “A Hundred Collars”. Giovanni. “A Servant to Servants”. 132. 42. 44. 36. 74. 180 Genette. 36. 1. Northrop. 81 Gourmont. 24 Gray. 161 Gewanter. 35. 46. 35. 78. “Into My Own”. 39. 159 Graham. 85. 35 Frye. Peggy. “The Witch of Coös”. “Range-Finding”. Jorie. Collected Poems. Really Reading Gertrude Stein. The Letters of Robert Frost to Louis Untermeyer. 44. 43. 126 Gaudier-Brzeska. Felix. 44. 43. Ideogram. 38. 43. 88 Gold. 49. 49. 50.234 Modernism Revisited Gasché. 78. Something”. To Have or to Be?. David. “For Once. 47. ed. 46. Forgotten Kingdom. 30. 73. “Design”. Henri. “Education by Poetry”. 63 Fromm. Judy. Laszlo K. Arthur. 50. Gudrun. 37. 51. Juan. 40. “The Silken Tent”. “The Housekeeper”. 2. 93. 180 Gide. 40.

220. Notes on Thought and Vision. 18 Hargrove. 143. 18 Janet. 162 Harmon. 169 Hardt. 8 Herman. 180 Habermas. 28 haiku. 179. The Haiku Handbook. A. 128 Hearn. 131 Joyce. Hinduism. 169. E.. 119 Johns. 78. Andreas. On the Knowing and Feeling of the Human Soul. 118 Jean-Aubry.Index H. 211 Hemingway. F. 180-81. 212. 180.. Jurgen. 181.. Manju. 42. 75 Iliad. 63 Hofmannsthal. 128 Jain. 96. 170. 46. William J. 48 image. Lafcadio. 61. Eliot and American Philosophy. 211. 142. 186 Herder. 181. 33. 17-20. 110 Johnson. 138.. Hugo von. 97 Jakobson. 170. S. 147 Hollander. 17. M. Imagist. 162 Holmes. Lost Horizon. 140. 26. René Magritte. 132. 164. 95. 147 Hegel. 191 Iser. T. Adolph. Jasper. The Holy Torsten Nillson. Michael. Geoffrey. 163. 3. 179 Hulme. 139. 29. 195 Indiana. T. Teddy. 29. G. 140-41 Hilton. 135-59 passim Hammacher. Shenlou. William. 155 Jarrell. James. 63. 62 Higginson.. Samuel. The Jameson Reader. Pierre. 137. 26. Phenomenology of the Spirit. 107. or. ed. 135.. 133 Jameson. 137.. 1. 22. Fredric. W. Nancy D. 152. 81 Huyssen. The Cultural Logic of Late Capitalism. 152-53. G. Ernest. 147. 92. 3. 8. 109. 103. Thomas H. 139-47. 30. Hegelian. 20 Hartman. 223 Imagism. 104. 195. 93. 29. Amy. Birds in Sweden. Postmodernism. 180 Hultberg. Barbara. 63. 30 James. 176. 153-56.. 154. Florence. 143-51. Robert. The Poems of Emily Dickinson. 128 Johnson. 216 Johnson. 62. 185. After the Great Divide. 28. James. Randall. Roman. 196. The Sun Also Rises. 29 235 Hutuktu. Öyvind Fahlström. 147. Finnegans Wake. Johann Gottfried. 110 Hitler. 29. John. 108. D.. 178. 97 Japanese. 11. Wolfgang. 78 Hindu. Manipulating the World. 155. 27. 58. 30. 173. Oliver W. 17 I Ching. 186. Ulys- . 124. 147. 4. 63.

. 100. 95. Jacques. Wallace Stevens and Poetic Theory. 167 Kant. 14. H. 128. Dictionary of the Avant-Gardes.. 185. 182 Kasper.. 102 Kafka. 151 koan. Michael John. 216 Laforgue. 191 Kumashiro. 16667. 100 Kahnweiler. 59. Franz. 65 Keats. 210. 94. 128. The Way of Silence. John. D. 4. 76. Studies in Classic American Literature. 96. A Genealogy of Modernism. 26. 65. John. James Craig. ed. 141 Kunming.. Jean de. The Violence of Language. Denise. Lucien.236 Modernism Revisited Lacan. The Chinese Classics. 98. 84 La Drière. Hugh. 12. Harry. 142. 137 ses. H. Lawrence. 158. Cambridge Edition of the Letters and Works of D. 150. 93. Vasili. 16. 30. 27 Khlebnikov. Robert. 94. 31 King. 108 Lecercle. 15. The Sense of an Ending. 131 Lentricchia. 29. 132 . Eliot. George S. ed. James. Fernand. John. 64. Jeffrey L. 32.. 179 Kinsella. 139 Kandinsky. 122. Givenness and God. Annie. 16 Kermode. Wallace Stevens and the Seasons. B. 47. 210. 14. 166 Lawrence. D. 115 Kenner. Selected Prose of T.. 101 Language Poets. 15 Kerry. 29. 132. The Collected Early Poems of Ezra Pound. Jean-Jacques. Jules. J. Lacanian. Kafkaesque. 96 Lewis. 64 Jung. 131 Levenson. 16 Leask. William. James. Michael. 19. 179 Langbaum. ed. Immanuel. The Pound Era. 221 Lensing. Ian. 63 Legge. 104. 211. Leibowitz. Richard. S.. The Invisible Poet. 145-46. Kantian. 29. 150. 124.. 211. 18. 12. Frank. John. 28 kireji. 105 Levertov. Carl. H. 122. Modernist Quartet. Ariel and the Police. The Trial. Velimir. 95. Teaching Wallace Stevens. 171 Levin. 150 Kosky. 17. 29. 98. 189-90 Laughlin. Jungian. 65. 79-80 Leggett. 186 Lévy-Bruhl. 85 La Fontaine. Soho. Isidore Lucien Ducasse. 53 Kenter-Hullot. 95-96. ed.. 128. 108 Kostelanetz. Robert. 117 Léger. Frank. Richard. 168 Lautréamont. 16364 Joyce. 126.

32 Mallarmé. 179 Lippmann. and the Critics. 7 Matthews. Le mystère dans les lettres. 89. 29. 29 237 Maeder. 118-19 Man. Near the Ocean. 7 Materer. Ewald. H. 37 Mayakovsky. 179 Lowell. 3. Robert. Harry. ed. 122 Maxon. 73. 32 Mengel. André. Jerome. Carl. Wallace Stevens’ Experimental Language. 75-79. “Peace”.. Wadsworth. 18. 100. 91 The Masses. Glen. Public Opinion. Thomas. Wallace Stevens Revisited. Solid Objects. Amy. Stieglitz. 184 Mesch. Being Given. A. Beverly. Timothy. 23 McGann. 132 Magritte. Ray. 84 Matisse. 100. 168 Mauron. 221. Barbara Buhler. 124 McCarthyism. 220. For the Union Dead. 82. 29 Mao.. Eliot in His Time. 193. 102 Marx. Mina. Janet. 25 Malevich. “Skunk Hour”. 62 Litz. “The Anniversary”. O’Keeffe. 28 MacLeod. 209 Lynes. 135 McCann. 207. Walter. 152. 214 Masson. Jackson. Walton A. Steven. “Lacquer Prints”. 218. Personae. ed. 4. 13 Mac Low.. James. 217.Index Li Po.. 24 Michelangelo. ed. Vladimir. liminality. 127 Marinetti. 39 Meyer. Kasimir.. 212. Karl. Harald. 16. Filippo Tommaso. 152. 171 Longfellow. 125. Irresistible Dictation. 97. 115. 152. Aesthetics and Psychology. Marxist. 153 Lowell. 22 The Little Review. 63 Mann. R. H. 152. On the Sonnets of Robert Frost. 54 Marion. 220 Loy. 13. 54. Douglas. 169 Malcolm. 125. H. Charles. 220. Andrew. 215-21 passim. 77 Longenbach. 85-87. The Complete Poetical Works. Death in Venice. 147. 77 Lijiang. 90 liminal. 108 Marvell. OuLiPo Compendium. “The March 1”. 56 Mathews. Pictures of the Floating World. René. 180 . 197 Metaphysical Poets. 65. 17. Stéphane. 1916-1929. 126 Linnaeus. Jean-Luc. Janet.. Henri.

167. 170-71. 120 Morise. ed. 106. 24. 98. 152. 99. 23. 26 New Yorker. 127 Modernism/Modernity. 88 Mussolini. Fred. ed. 214 Otake. Anthology of Modern American Poetry. 105. Owen. 146 Murphy. 94. 208-209. Charles. Max. 48. 93. 63. Modernisms: A Literary Guide. Margueritte S. 91 Nicholls. 220 New York Review of Books. 191. 148. Cary. Marianne Moore: The Art of a Moder- Middleton. 119 Moody. 183. 162. 188. Reading 1922. 19 North. 14. 22-23. 209. 96. 97 Ozick. 13. The Cambridge Companion to T. George. John. 25. 215 Parisi. 108. 3. 95. 89. 93. 60. 148 mot juste. Identity of the Literary Text. 157 objective correlative. 15. 28. 91. 207. 168 Morse. Scott. mythical. 196 Oppen. 4. 6. 103. 106. 1. 74-84. ed. 209. 30. Carrie. S. 103. 98 Moore. 70 Moynihan. 101. 95. ed. 109. 65. 212-15. 157. 181-3. 31. 19. 119. 86-90 Nelson. 21 Miller. 25 Neugroschel. Peter. 195.. 96. 176. 165 Miller. 53.238 Modernism Revisited Naxi. 13 New realism. 128. 132. 187. 197 . 128 Miller. 26. Cynthia. 31. 120. 73. 191. 194. A Tradition of Subversion. Mitchell. 169 Miller. Robert. 57.. modernist. 167 Murray.. Joachim. 210. 191.. Joseph. Eliot: Poet.. 135. 71. 65. Hillis J. 13 Moncrieff. 72. 25. 192. 26. 4. 13. 12. 91 painting. Benito. 190. Georgia.. 182. 13. 2. 186. 140-41 Objectivism. Poetry at Stake. 15 Modernism.. 186. 14. 34 Mondor. Tyrus. 208. Michael. 102. Objectivist. 19. 214 Odyssey. 21517. 111. 125 Murano. David A. T. Eliot. Marianne. 18. 196. 4. ed. S. 4. 169. Masaru V. Kenkichi. Henri. 170. 166. 127. 177 Olson. 3. 168. Thomas. 15 Noland. 222. “People stare carefully”. 78. 22 O’Keeffe. 20. 11-19.. 22. 170. 104. mythic. 87. 155 OuLiPo. 168 Ovid. 67 myth. 196. Late Modernism. The Complete Poems. 140. 182. 162. 7. 29.

89. F. Wittgenstein’s Ladder. 105. 183. 11. 110 poetics. 108. Ezra. 65. 34. A la recherche du temps perdu. The Renewal of Literature. 13. 47. Gaudier-Brzeska: A Memoir. A Lume Spento. Section: Rock-Drill. 28 Proust. 53-72 passim. 187. 78. 150 Pratt. 141. 209. 76. 104. 33. Alexander. 12. Radical Artifice. 61. 57. 78. 78. 3. 162 Plath. 62. Marshall. 54. 201203. 214 Poetry. 178. Science. 175 Pre-Raphaelites. N. 78. 151. Guide to Kulchur. 150-52. 47. 28. and Creativity. 13. 77. 190. 4. 157. 29. 239 216.. The Tempers. 29-32. 12. 73. 39. 35. 179. 4. 3. 189. 75. 64. 163. 77. H. 65. 12. 141 Poirier. 82 Perloff. 194. 88 Pound. 31. 215 Plato. Ta S’eu/Dai Gaku Studio Integrale. 141. Robert Frost Collected Poems. 77. Sylvia. 62. 17-18. Thrones. 186. 37. Literary Essays. 87. 63. 133. 77. 61. 12. Ta Hio. 198. 48 Postmodernism. 66. 6 Peck. 33. Ripostes. 25. Collected Shorter Poems. 185. Pisan Cantos. 93. The Analects. Prose and Plays. Hugh Selwyn Mauberley. ed. Remembrance of Things Past. Marcel. 61. 189. 41. 40 Phenomenology. The Great Learning of Confucius. 14-16. 155 Peat. 177. Cantos. 91. “In a Station of the Metro”. 59. Confucius to Cummings. 167. The ABC of Reading. 44. 171. 1. 117. 76. The Classic Anthology Defined by Confucius. 133-34 Pope. 26. 65. Dorothy. 71. Richard. 5. 210. 14. Oxford Anthology of American Literature. 89. 62. Pablo. 208. Order. 172. 124.. 73-90 passim. Robert Frost. ed. 1. Cathay. 179. 77. 189 Pétain.Index nist. 150. Imperial Eyes. 162 Pearson. 65. 57. David. 147. 2. Marjorie. John. 82. 25 Petrarch. 144. 170. Platonism. 71 Pound. 13 . 141. The Unwobbling Pivot. 77. In Search of Lost Time. 216 Picasso. 80. Collected Early Poems. 162. 70. Poetry and Pragmatism. 30. 148. 32. 37. 57-60. 176-80. 16. 208. 3. 8. Selected Cantos. 189-91. Mary Louise. 166. The Dance of the Intellect.. 73. 77. 9. Petrarchan. Confucius: The Great Digest. 30. 13. Poems and Translations. 12. Du Côté de chez Swann. 179. 26. 6. 77. 87.

37-39. 40. 77. Dante Gabriel. 27 Seed. 124 Sert. Andrew. 94. Mark. 3. 37 Sieburth. 102 Sharpe. 141. 176 Roosevelt. Radetsky March. 63 Ribot.. 88 Rolfe. 123 Shiki. 62 Shakespeare. John N. 92. The Peace Which Passeth Understanding. von. 167. Adrienne. Eliot. 124 Schelling. 64. William. 158 Schwarzenegger. The Visual Text of William Carlos Williams. Music and the Line of Most Resistance. 169 Schwalm. 168 Reznikoff. 28 Rock. 97.. 22. F. Eric. 115. ed. S. 59. Henry. Alison. 97 Rich. 35 Rieke. The Ancient Na-khi Kingdom of Southwest China. Nageswara. Robert Frost. 5-9. 124 Schnapp. Melita. Wallace Stevens. ed. 119 Sayre. Collected Poems. 140 Sidney. 65 Rossetti. Ezra Pound and China. 124 Roberts. Criticism in Society. Joseph. Philip. 39. Artur. System of Transcendental Idealism. Olga. 34 Shakespear. 94 Rao. Joseph Frances. Meyer. Imre. and Plays. Jeffrey T.. Ferdinand de. David. 12 Skaff. Teaching Wallace Stevens. Romanticism. The Waste Land. 8 Schnabel. Cummings... Richard. 168 Rabaté. Tony. 103 La révolution surréaliste. 128 Santayana. 120 Roth. ed. Masaoko. Guy. and Contemporary Culture. Zhaoming. 98 Smith. Raymond. J. Dorothy.240 Modernism Revisited Salusinszky. George. ed. Misia. 93. 104 Smith. 145. 63. 75 Said. 181 Serio. 129 Satie.. Erika. Prose. 155 Saussure. 168 Rudge. Jean-Michel.. 100. 151 Qian. 31. Trees Become Torches. ed. Collected Poems. 102. 74 Queneau. E. Arnold. The Philosophy of T. 28 Rotella. Jacques. 128 . Grover. 215 Richardson. 13 Roubaud.. Shakespearean. 115. W.. Edwin. 171 Schapiro. 73. Edward. Charles. William. 23 Romantic. Poetry Value. 23. Théodule. Franklin D. 162 satori. Critical Essays on E. 215 Schaum. 73-89 passim. Hamlet.. Richard E. ed.

124. 122. Veronica Huilan. Opus Posthumous.. Janis P. Toklas. 30. “Adagia”. 85 Stade. 14. 187. 12134 passim. “The Irrational Ele-ment in Poetry”. 125. 214.. 163. 16.Index Smithson. 188. 155. “Arrival at the Waldorf”. Alain. 212. 4. 162. 144. George. 144. “Man Carrying Thing”. 130. 157. D. 53. 155. 130. 2. Holly. 129. 4. 83. 137. 91. 13. 116 Stein.. 86 Stout. The Journey Narrative in American Literature. 18. 63. 130 Stock. 138. 148. 191. Zen and . 25-26. 187. 141. 37. Treize façons de regarder Wallace Stevens. Harmonium. “Domination of Black”. T. ed. 42. 143. 186. and Company. Philippe. 141. 175. “The Search for Sound Free from Motion”. 69 Sommerkamp. 148. 129. Stanley. 131. Spiral Jetty. 131. 4. 102 St Elizabeths Hospital. 79-81. 35-41. 217. 128. 220-21 Soupault. Four in America. 171. 139. E. 98. 32. Tender Buttons. 28 Social Credit. 191. 131 subjectivity. 44. Robert. 158. Notes Toward a Supreme Fiction. 54. 171. 161-73. The Collected Poems. “Peter Quince at the Clavier”. 176. 12-14. Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism. 158 sonnet. ed. 131. 176. 130. “Dezem- 241 brum”. 186. 130. 195 Stevens. 172 Stevens. “The Motive for Metaphor”. Cummings. 103. 64. 186. 122. 130. 148. 77. 16566. Wallace. 155. 124. 78 Suberchicot. 6465. Joyce. 51. 155. Stanzas in Meditation. 151. 153. 104 Sun. “Of Mere Being”. 120. 121. Selected Letters of E.. Eliot. 185 Suzuki. 84 Surrealism. “The Well Dressed Man with a Beard”. 195. 1. “On the Road Home”. 37. 97. 16. 13. 186-89. Der Einfluß des Haiku auf Imagismus und Jüngere Moderne. 184 Stoicheff. 2427. 128. Die große Befreiung. 124. Edmund. Peter. 121. Letters. The Hall of Mirrors. 164 Spenser. 125. “The Snow Man”. 170-72. 186. “Not Ideas about the Thing but the Thing itself”. 16. 216. “Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird”. 3. 30-32. Noel. 71. 46-47. Surrealist. 147-48. Gertrude. 172. 162. 220 Sultan. Sabine. The Autobiography of Alice B.

56. 74. 165. 131-32.. 122 van Velde. 200 Untermeyer. Vorticism. 153 Swinburne. 97. 97 Voltaire. 128 Valéry. 97. 148 Wellelsey. John. 83. 97 Weeks. 25. 169-73.. 179 Wagner. Carroll F. Bram. 28. 170. ed.242 Modernism Revisited Valdes. Andrea. Emily Mitchell. 20. 123 Verlaine. Jean-Yves. 98. Linda. 140 Weaver. 78. 34 Tal Coat. Mario J.. ed. John C. ed. 94. 100 Verrochio. ed. 54. 7 Taoism. 26 Traubel.. 4. A Companion to The Cantos of Ezra Pound. 4. Symbolism. 71. 80. Wallace Stevens: Words Chosen Out of Desire.. 171 Thirlwall. 180 Victorian. Louis. 139. Paul. An American Primer. 168 Tibet. Richard. 100 Wagner-Martin. 198. 88 Tarot. From Ritual to Romance. 151. Tibeto-Burman. On Extended Wings. 193. ed.. Dickran. Mike. Upanishadic. 78. Dorothy. Identity of the Literary Text. The Selected Letters of William Carlos Williams. Leonard. Algernon Charles. 98 Japanese Culture. 18 Welch. 21. Karlheinz. Michael Dylan. 7 Vanity Fair. 27 Wallace. Robert Creeley.. 167 Tennyson. 3 Tiedemann.. Helen. 70. 51 Upanishad. 101. 165 Wald. 14246.. 152. 131. 29 Weston. 109. 189 Tachisme. 29-30 Virgil. 102 Tashjian. 18 van Geyzel. 175 vortex. 96 Vedanta. 82 Walzock. 29 Terrell. William Carlos Williams. Rolf. Alfred. William Carlos Williams and the American Scene. ed. 171 Webster. Pierre. Jesse L.. 24. Paul. 208. 107 Vendler. William Carlos Williams. 16 Times Literary Supplement. Horace. Constituting Americans. Taoist. symbolist. 107. Walt Whitman. 103. 73. 7 Tadié. Priscilla. 21. 109 . French Symbolist. Interviews with William Carlos Williams. François Marie Arouet. Kathy. 85. 58-59. 44. 97. 147.

Interviews with William Carlos Williams. 186 Willis. 57. 190 Witemeyer. 185. Others. 54-72. 4. 154. “The Red 243 Wheelbarrow”. 29. Journey to Love. “Song of Myself”. The Selected Letters. 178. 183. 66. 162 Wilson. Zettel. A Vision. 111. Patricia. ed. Pound/Williams: Selected Letters. 202. 209. ed. Letters on Poetry from W. 196. 165. 193. 185-89. 135. 172. 148. 65. 62. 154. The Japanese Haiku. G. 70. 154. Spring and All. 30 Yasuda. Advertising Fictions. “La Flor”. ed. Thornton. 190-96. 143. 65. 76. 65. 163. 207. 19 Wilder. 203. 207. Imaginations.. 186. Robert Creeley’s Life and Work.. In the American Grain. Autobiography. 169. 161-73. “The Poem as a Field of Action”. 54. 15. 191. 61. Zettel. 32 Williams. 63.. “The Locust Tree in Flower”. William Carlos Williams and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. Kenneth. Yeats to Dorothy Wellesley. 202. 65. 1. 30 Woolf. 78. William Carlos Williams and James Laughlin: Selected Letters. Slavoj. 147. William Carlos. 157. 115. 65.. 22 Yunnan. 72. 155 Yeats. The Desert Music. H. Salome of the Tenements. 31. 62. 23. 67. Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus. 132. A Voyage to Pagany. 3. Selected Essays. B. 27 Zukofsky. 185. Paterson. The Oxford Book of Modern Verse 1892-1935. ed. 189. 163. “A Noiseless Patient Spider”. Kora in Hell: Improvisations. 142. 63. 164. 14. “The Wanderer”.Index Whitman. 168. 53-72 passim.. 186. 32. Hugh. 91. The Collected Earlier Poems. 2. 62. 189-90. William Butler. 200. 84 Zen Buddhism. 165. Wicke. 30 Yezierska. Anzia. 58. 32. 62. 30. 218. 30 Wright. 136. John. 57. 143. 200. Louis. 195. Ludwig. 155. 4. ed. 12. 168. 29. A Recognizable Image: William Carlos Williams on Art and Artists. 168 Wittgenstein. von. 19. Walt. 59. Jennifer. 158 Zizek. Virginia. 74. 71. 15. 176. The Puppet and the Dwarf. 30. 63. 63 .

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