Wednesday, November 24, 2021

Poetry, the "Avant-Garde" tradition & Pounds thoughts on Symbolism (among other things)


Tradition: 

"The imagistes admitted that they were contemporaries of the Post Impressionists and the Futurists; but they had nothing in common with these schools. They had not published a manifesto. They were not a revolutionary school; their only endeavor was to write in accordance with the best tradition, as they found it in the best writers of all time,—in Sappho, Catulus, Villon."
Ezra Pound (Imagisme)
"I came to London with £3 knowing no one... I wanted to meet certain  men whose work I admired. I have done this... Besides knowing living artists I have come in touch with the tradition of the dead."
"I was resolved that... I would know what part of poetry was 'indestructible,' what part could not be lost by translation, and,—scarcely  less important what effects were obtainable in one language only and were utterly incapable of being translated. In this search I learned more or less of nine foreign languages, I read Oriental stuff in translations, I fought every University regulation and every professor who tried to make me learn anything except this, or who bothered me with 'requirements for degrees.'"
Ezra Pound (How I Began)
"... the classic culture of the Renaissance was grafted on to medieval culture, a process which is excellently illustrated by Andreas Divus Justinopolitanus's translation of the Odyssey into Latin... if we are to understand that part of our civilization which is the art of verse, we must begin at the root, and that root is medieval. The poetic art of Provence paved the way for the poetic art of Tuscany; and to this Dante bears sufficient witness in the De Vulgari Eloquio."
Ezra Pound (Troubadours, their sorts and conditions)
"I think that the artist should master all known forms and systems of metric, and I have with some persistence set about doing this, searching particularly into those periods wherein the systems came to birth or attained their maturity. It has been complained, with some justice, that I dump my note-books on the public. I think that only after a long struggle will poetry attain such a degree of development, or, if you will, modernity..."
Ezra Pound (A Retrospect)
"The two great lyric traditions which most concern us are that of the Melic poets and that of Provence. From the first arose practically all the poetry of the 'ancient world', from the second practically all that of the modern. Doubtless there existed before either of these traditions a Babylonian and a Hittite tradition whereof knowledge is for the most part lost..."
"It is not intelligent to ignore the fact that both in Greece and in Provence the poetry attained its highest rhythmic and metrical brilliance at times when the arts of verse and music were most closely knit together." 
Ezra Pound (The Tradition)
"... futurism, when it gets into art, is, for he most part, a descendant of impressionism. It is a sort of accelerated impressionism. There is another artistic descent via Picasso and Kandisnsky; via cubism and expressionism."
"China has produced just as many bad poets as England, just as many dull and plodding moralizers, just as many flaccid and over-ornate versifiers. By fairly general consent, their greatest poet is Rihaku or 'Li Po,' who flourished in the eighth century A.D. He was the head of the court office of poetry, and a great 'compiler.' But this last title must not mislead you. In China a 'compiler' is a very different person from a commentator. A compiler does not merely gather together, his chief honour consists in weeding out, and even in revising."
Ezra Pound (Chinese Poetry)

Symbolism (among other related things: energy, form):

"As Dante writes of the sunlight coming through the clouds from a hidden source and illuminating part of a field, long before the painters had depicted such effects of light and shade, so are later watchers on the alert for colour perceptions of a subtler sort, neither affirming them to be 'astral' or 'spiritual' nor denying the formulae of theosophy."
Ezra Pound (The Wisdom of Poetry)
"I do not mind the term inspiration, although it is in great disfavour with those who never experience the light of it..."
Ezra Pound (How I Began)
"... good art can NOT be immoral. By good art I mean art that bears true witness, I mean the art that is most precise. You can be wholly precise in representing a vagueness. You can be wholly a liar i pretending that the particular vagueness was precise in its outline."
"This very faculty for amalgamation is a part of their [major poets] genius, and it is, in a way, a sort of modesty, a sort of unselfishness. They have not wished for property..."
"We might come to believe that the thing that matters in art is a sort of energy, something more or less like electricity or radioactivity, a force transfusing, welding, and unifying. A force rather like water when it spurts up through  very  bright sand and sets in swift motion."
Ezra Pound (The Serious Artist)
"I believe in... a rhythm, that is, in poetry  which corresponds exactly to the emotion or shade of emotion to be expressed..."
"I believe that the proper and perfect symbol is the natural object..."
"I believe in trampling down of every convention that impedes or obscures..."
"I think there is a 'fluid' as well as a 'solid' content, that some poems may have form as a tree has form, some as water poured into a vase. That most symmetrical forms have certain uses. That a vast number of subjects cannot be precisely, and therefore not properly rendered in symmetrical forms."
"Eliot has said the  thing very well when he said, 'No vers is libre for the man who wants to do a good job.'"
Ezra Pound (A Retrospect)
"A painter must know much more about a sunset than a writer, if he is to put it on canvas. But when the poet speaks of 'Dawn in russet mantle clad,'he presents something which the painter cannot present."
"... one does not want to be called a symbolist, because symbolism has usually been associated with mushy technique."
"All poetic language is the  language of exploration. Since the beginning of bad writing, writers have used images as ornaments. The point of Imagisme is that it does not use images as ornaments."
"Once I saw a small child go to an electric light switch and say 'Mamma, can I open the light?' She was using the age-old language of exploration, the language of art. It was a sort of metaphor, but she was not using it as ornamentation."
Ezra Pound (Vorticism)
"Whistler said somewhere in the Gentle Art: "The picture is interesting not because it is Trotty Veg, but because it is an arrangement in colour.' The minute you have admitted that, you let in the jungle, you let in nature and truth and abundance and cubism and Kandinsky, and the lot of us. Whistler and Kandinsky and some cubists were set to getting extraneous matter out of their art; they were ousting literary values."
"An image, in our sense, is real because we know it directly. If it have an age-old traditional meaning this may serve as proof to the professional student of symbology that we have stood in the deathless light, or that we have walked in some particular arbour of his traditional paradiso, but that is not our affair."
"The image is the  poet's pigment; with that in mind you can go ahead and apply Kandinsky, you can transpose his chapter on the language of form and colour and apply it to the writing of verse."
"Vorticism is an intensive art. I mean by this, that one is concerned with the relative intensity, or relative significance of different sorts of expression."
Ezra Pound (Vorticism)
"The vorticist maintains that the 'organising' or creative-inventive faculty is the thing that matters." 
Ezra Pound (Affirmations)
"A true noun, an isolated thing, does not exist in nature. Things are only the terminal points, or rather the meeting points, of actions, cross-sections cut through actions, snap-shots. Neither can a pure verb, an abstract motion, be possible in nature."
"And though we may string ever so many clauses into a single compound sentence, motion leaks everywhere, like electricity from an exposed wire."
"All truth has to be expressed in sentences because all truth is the transference of power. The type of sentence in nature is a flash of lightning. It passes between two terms, a cloud and the earth. No unit of natural process can be less than this. All natural processes are, in their units, as much as this. Light, heat, gravity, chemical affinity, human will, have this in common, that they redistribute force."
"... all apparently negative or disruptive movements bring into play  other positive forces. It requires great effort to annihilate... in Chinese the sign meaning 'to be lost in the forst' relates to a state of non-existence... There is in reality no such verb as a pure copula, no such original conception: our very word exist means 'to stand forth, to show oneself by a definite act.'"
"Metaphor, the chief device of poetry, is at once the substance of nature and of language."
"Only scholars and poets feel painfully  back along the thread of our etymologies and piece together our diction, as best they may, from forgotten fragments. This anaemia of modern speech is only too well encouraged by the feeble cohesive force of our phonetic symbols. There is little or nothing in a phonetic word to exhibit the embryonic stages of its growth. It does not bear its metaphor on its face. We forget that personality once meant, not the soul, but the soul's mask."
Ezra Pound (Chinese Character as a Medium for Poetry)

Technique: 

["few rules": "direct treatment of the thing, whether subjective or objective"; "to use absolutely no word that did not contribute to the presentation"; "as regarding rhythm, to compose in sequence of the musical phrase, not in sequence of a metronome";]
Ezra Pound (Imagisme)
"Indeed vers libre has become as prolix and as verbose as any of the flaccid varieties that preceded it. It has brought faults of its own. The actual language and phrasing is often as bad as that of our elders without even the excuse that the words are shovelled in to fill a metric pattern or to complete the noise of a rhyme-sound."
"Let the candidate fill his mind with the finest cadences he can discover, preferably  in aforeign language, so that the meaning of the  words may  be less likely  to divert his attention from the movement... Let the neophyte know assonance and alliteration, rhyme immediate and delayed, simple and polyphonic, as a musician would expect to know harmony and counterpoint..."
"The term harmony is misapplied in poetry; it refers to simultaneous sounds of different pitch. There is, however, in the best verse a sort of residue of sound which remains in the ear of the hearer and acts more or less as an organ-base."
"Translation is likewise good training, if you find that your original matter 'wobbles' when you try to rewrite it. The meaning of the poem to be translated can not 'wobble'. If you are using a symmetrical form, don't put in what you want to say and then fill up the remaining vacuums with slush."

Prose: 

"It is the almost constant labour of the prose artist to translate this latter kind of clarity into the former; to say 'Send me the kind of Rembrandt I like' in the terms of 'Send me four pounds of ten-penny nails.'"
Ezra Pound (The Serious Artist)
"Flaubert  and De Maupassant lifted prose to the rank of a finer art, and one has no patience with  contemporary poets who escape from all the difficulties of the infinitely difficult art of good prose by pouring themselves into loose verses."
Ezra Pound (Vorticism) 
"To begin with matters lying outside dispute I should say that Joyce has taken up the art of writing where Flaubert left it. In Dubliners and The Portrait he had not exceeded the Trois Contes or L'Education; in Ulysses he has carried on a process begun in Bouvard et Pécuchet; he has brought it to a degree of greater efficiency, of greater compactness; he has swallowed the Tentation of St. Antoine whole, it serves as comparions for single episode in Ulysses."
"Joyce's characters not only speak their own language, but they think their own language."
"Rabelais himself rests, he remains, he is too solid to be diminished by any pursuer; he was a rock against the follies of his age; against ecclesiastic theology, and more remarkably against the blind idolatry of the classics just coming into fashion. He refused the lot, lock, stock, and barrel, with a greater heave than Joyce has yet exhibited; but I can think of no other prose author whose proportional status in pan-literature is not modified by the advent of Ulysses."
Ezra Pound (Paris Letter)

See also: