Ezra Pound: Canto LXXXII

If the previous Canto was about composers, this one is about poets. At first I thought it was a narrative about a sort upper class, English house visit – only this one happened to include friends of Algernon Swinburne. But then Whitman gets named dropped and it’s hard to find two more different poets than them (arguably all they share in common is that they are both great poets and wrote a lot, if often obliquely, about sex). But it still seems like, in large part, the over educated fragments of educated English people (‘Lytton’ is mentioned; Lytton Strachey? Is this the Bloomsbury circle?).


Ezra Pound: Canto LXXXI

A much shorter one than its immediate predecessor (which was over twenty-five pages). It is much concerned with Spain, but a contemporary Spain (and some anti-Catholicism; there is much Catholicism here, he writes, but no religion).

It is a crude and comic Spain and it is mocked by somewhat uncouth English speakers (I’m not sure whether the English speakers are British or American). I was imagining Fawlty Towers – a working class Englishman and his incompetent Spanish servant.

I don’t think I’ve remarked on this before, but high modernism tends to mix its pretensions with close reading of lower class/working class speech and slang. Joyce’s ear for the Irish manner of speech in… well, everything he wrote. Stein’s well regarded rendition of early twentieth century African-American speech in Tender Buttons. And The Wasteland, for all of its reputation of being a bastion of arcane learning, is chock full of lower class English speech.

Ezra Pound: Canto LXXX

It’s been almost three years since I last wrote about one of the Cantos, but it felt good to be back.

Maybe it was distance, but I was struck by the natural similarity between this one and The Wasteland. Pound famously edited Eliot’s masterpiece and some scholars think that it was almost to the point of co-authorship. But also, by this time, The Wasteland was rightly admire as one of the crowning works of the century and could, ironically, have been a reciprocal influence on Pound’s later works. I’m not going to guess here, though. Just something to think about.

The bad news: LXXX is pretty fascist.

Multiple references to Mussolini (some ever so slightly veiled, like a reference to ‘the Duke’ – il Duce, of course, being his nickname). More than a little anti-semitism. Blum (clearly Leon Blum, the Jewish Prime Minister of France) defends a bidet (implicitly attacking his masculinity and sexuality), in Pound’s estimation and is negatively compared to the collaborationist Petain, who, as Pound writes, defended the Verdun. The Sadduccees are mentioned in connection to Eliot, for some reason that I won’t pretend to understand.

In the beginning, I thought it might be about music. Finlandia was mentioned and a few lines, so was Debussy (leading my to think that ‘Finlandia’ is not a reference to a country, but to Sibelius’ tone poem). Later, Bach and Gluck get name dropped.

This canto feels, for long stretches, like the tale of young man, traveling to world (mainly Italy, France, and then England) and seeing historical sights and places associated with writers and artists and then relating them to himself and his understanding. I’m not sure if I’m explaining myself well here. I love history and when its comes to my mind or I’m in a place that I can relate to something I know from history, it feels very present (almost Faulknerian).


We were driving back from one of the titular hot springs of Glenwood Springs, Colorado when was passed this bookstore. My better half saw the look on my face and said, let’s pull over.

It’s not a large bookstore, but doesn’t try to completist, but instead on having a nice selection. In classics and in poetry it had essays and poetry by the American philosopher of the outdoors, Wendell Berry, as well as a lovely looking edition of The Count of Monte Cristo. In sci fi and fantasy, there was Joe Abercrombie’s The Blade Itself.

The largest single section were the racks of periodicals stretching down the length of the store and part of the back wall. Very near the door were their lit mags, including Lana Turner Journal, one of my favorite publications.

My better half also pointed out a large-ish selection of nudie mags – at least twenty different ones, partially covered by the shelf and wrapped in plastic. In these modern days, you don’t see that much anymore.

Reading Poetry Is Not Like Reading Prose

It’s books like this that make it both difficult and besides the point when people ask me how books I read in a year or a month or a week or whatever. I love this book. Every so often I pick it up and read through some of the poems. In fact, I just did it.

What I didn’t do is read systematically through it from cover to cover.

Instead, I read a few and was inspired to read a chapter from the second book of The Tale Genji, which I had started and then set down after finishing the first book. I did this because Murasaki is one of the featured poets.

I am also thinking of going back and finding some other books in my collection by Japanese women poets (names, Salad Anniversary and Collected Poems of Chika Sagawa).

Reading poetry is a different thing than reading novels or nonfiction. It’s a different kind of attention and is done at a different kind of pace.

Happy Independent Bookstore Day!

Kensington Row Bookshop

A few highly recommended local bookstores (with the exception of some university bookstores that are run by Barnes & Noble, there are no chain bookstores in DC) around the area that you might want to consider visiting in honor of Independent Bookstore Day. If you live in the area. If you don’t live in the area… well, use your phone. You can do all sorts of things with your phone these days. Google something. Or Yelp it. Don’t make this my problem.

Politics & Prose: Kind of the godfather of local indie bookstores. It’s got a really nice poetry section; second only to Bridgestreet Books, in that respect. Also, go downstairs and check out the discounted books – walk down and make a sharp left.

Bridge Street Books: I already mentioned the poetry section, which is both large and well-curated (with an eye towards promoting contemporary and conceptual poetry). It’s also really big on leftist/critical theory type stuff, filling it’s current affairs, lit crit, philosophy, and politics shelves with books in that vein. Curation, really, is the key to what makes this place great.

Kramerbooks: It’s not my favorite, in terms of the selection (not a small selection, necessarily, just not always my cup of tea), but… c’mon. This place is an institution. Gotta love it.

Busyboys & Poets: Up there with Kramerbooks and P&P in its locally iconic status. Lots of stuff on grassroots organizing, race, immigration, economics, etc. Not just liberal, but activist in nature. Technically, it’s run by Politics & Prose. For years, it was run by an awesome nonprofit called Teaching for Change and I didn’t realize that had changed until I looked up the website for the bookstore. Now I’m feeling kind of bummed out.

Capitol Hill Books: This is my neighborhood bookstore. Quintessential, piles of books in danger of collapsing on the perusers. Funky and friendly. But don’t piss off the owner.

East City Bookshop: A relatively new bookstore with some really comfy places. A little mainstream for my taste, but some excellent curation in its small poetry section.

Upshur Street Books: This place is out of the way for me, but it’s worked really hard to be both a neighborhood and citywide cultural touchstone. A focus on works by writers of color and great symbiosis with the bar next door, which regularly holds book/author themed happy hours.  Selection is small, though.

Second Story Books: It’s almost big enough to get lost in and has lots of really (and sometimes pricey-ish) old tomes, as well as offering legitimately rare, antiquarian books.

Kensington Row Bookshop: Not actually in the District, but in the cool little antique row area of Kensington, Maryland. Lots of events and a great focus on kids.

Poetry Month, 2017

Chosen, they say, because ‘April is the cruelest month.’

I have been remiss this year. Not that I really do that much to celebrate it. I’m actually an introverted kind of fellow. In my professional life, I can be as hail-fellow-well-met as the next flak, but in my personal life, I am something else. And poetry is part of my personal life. And I’ve been sick, I’ve been busy, I’ve been traveling, I’ve been dealing with urgent personal matters, and then I look up and April is almost over and National Poetry Month with it.

‘For this revolt of thine, methinks, is like another fall of man.’

If don’t celebrate National Poetry Month, what does that say?

I’ve read a good deal of poetry, though I haven’t finished any new collections. I brought a selection of books by the sometimes crazed nineteenth century English pastoral poet, John Clare, with me on a trip. I rediscovered my copy of the partly Kenneth Rexroth edited Women Poets of Japan (which  contains, I have heard, at least one poem by a fictional Japanese women who is actually Rexroth himself, which feels more problematic than it used to). I read the latest edition of Poetry (the magazine). I read a bit from that strange, Japanese collection, Cat Town.

Maybe this was month for turning inside one’s self. Which, while valid, is poor timing.