28 January 2004

Eccentric :: Ezra Pound as
Delightfully Nutty :: Shithouse Rat

Ezra Pound: Pro-Fascist and a nutcase to boot Posted by Hello


I've been thinking about this since last night and I have to get it on paper before it all runs away. I want to write something authentic – something that is faithful to my intention, reflexive of my true self. Moreover, I want to write something that speaks a pure truth whether it's about me or reflects me at all. That is my goal, my intention, in this life. Ezra Pound wrote in ideograms, or so I'm told. In other words, something like Words Written on Papyrus or whatever it was called was just that. The title was eponymous to the object, the object exactly what it was titled, the work in sum precisely filling the volume of the idea which is the vessel. No more, no less. A perfect representation, an exploration of Plato's forms, if you like.

I look back on what I've written in the past and it all seems so obsequious, so approval–seeking. It seems that I was writing as a form of showmanship. It meant that I wound up writing things that were very entertaining, but very low on content. There was no residual value to them other than the momentary amusement. My work looks like an endless string of "a–horse–walks–into–a–bar" jokes. To wit: pop songs. Not that there's anything wrong with jokes (or a really good pop song, like one written by John McCrea of Cake), but jokes like that have their place and I don't think it should be in literature. Even if you're going to write humor, I think it should be at least honest, in other words, not just going directly for the laugh at all costs. Humor is an adjunct to storytelling, but not the point of storytelling. So much of my writing has been a constant construction of façade, putting up a front so that I'd be liked, accepted. What crap. I should remember that even my writing isn't about me. As the novelist John Auster says, "you make a pact with yourself to tell the truth, and you'd rather cut off your right arm than break that promise". So hereafter, as much as I am able, I'll pursue my writing with the truth as I see it as my guiding principle.

Yeah, that's a grandiose aspiration, I know. But is there any other aspiration worth having? People say "don't get your hopes up". I'd rather the adage was "get your hopes up and leave them there". You should get your hopes up, get them up as high as possible, and not let anything bring them down. People do all sorts of hopeful and optimistic things every day, things they never give themselves credit for. Like get out of bed, for example. People who have no hope and no optimism stay in bed. Just ask Brian Wilson. What seems to me to be a fundamental error in our logic is that we do all these hopeful and optimistic things moment by moment – every second of our waking day is filled with some affirmation of the undammable persistence of life, each action we take propels us further ahead in the unspoken faith that something constructive will happen – yet we still agonize over how unfair, unjust and unfulfilling life is, and conclude that we live in a land of dread. I've done it myself, and it still confounds me. I came to conclusions about the whole of reality based on my skewed (viz. depressed) assumptions: I believe that my life sucks, therefore the whole of reality sucks. That's an error in inferential logic. I know, I've gone on a complete tangent, but as I said at the outset, this has been running around in my head since last night and I feel that I have to get it on paper to clarify it for myself and to confuse the hell out of you.

Which brings me to correspondence.
[2] It seems to me that letters are a form of literature that are completely authentic as a creative expression of personality. People who aren't trained writers, as well as those who don't refer to themselves as writers, write letters. So correspondence is a considerably more open province than, say, fiction or poetry. It is therefore also more honest.
Goddammit, now I've run out of time! I have school work that I promised myself I'd get done, note–reviewing and whatnot, and I have to do that now before I go to work. I'll probably wind up looking at this tomorrow and writing another version of it that's more easily understandable.

As I am loath to waste paper, I have cut–and–pasted a poem by Ezra Pound which I have chosen at random to fill out the remainder of this page. Okay, well, not entirely at random. I chose The River Merchant's Wife because it's based in Asian culture and it's, like, Lunar New Year right now and all. And I like it. It's just so goddamn sad.

Give my best to Marie,

The River-Merchant's Wife

While my hair was still cut straight across my forehead
I played about the front gate, pulling flowers.
You came by on bamboo stilts, playing horse,
You walked about my seat, playing with blue plums.
And we went on living in the village of Chokan:
Two small people, without dislike or suspicion.

At fourteen I married My Lord you.
I never laughed, being bashful.
Lowering my head, I looked at the wall.
Called to, a thousand times, I never looked back.

At fifteen I stopped scowling,
I desired my dust to be mingled with yours
Forever and forever and forever.
Why should I climb the look out?

At sixteen you departed,
You went into far Ku-to-yen, by the river of swirling eddies,
And you have been gone five months.
The monkeys make sorrowful noise overhead.

You dragged your feet when you went out.
By the gate now, the moss is grown, the different mosses,
Too deep to clear them away!
The leaves fall early this autumn, in wind.
The paired butterflies are already yellow with August
Over the grass in the West garden;
They hurt me. I grow older.
If you are coming down through the narrows of the river Kiang,
Please let me know beforehand,
And I will come out to meet you
As far as Cho-fu-Sa.
[1] Ezra Pound was a raving pro–Fascist who was, in the clinical term, about as crazy as a shithouse rat. It takes someone like that, I believe, to create such things as ideograms. Perhaps it's the literary equivalent to minimalist art.
[2] Oh, is that where we were going, Mr. Gunn? Coulda fooled me. I thought we were taking you to the Nuthatch.

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