The Rest Is Noise Festival: Ezra Pound discussion

I am ashamed to say that I don’t actually know much about Ezra Pound. I haven’t read much, or maybe any, of his poetry, but he has one of those names that seems known and mysterious at the same time. I imagine him in his historical context before I know anything at all about what he wrote or said.

Yesterday at the Southbank Centre’s The Rest Is Noise festival, I spent all day learning about things, and hearing about books I should read or re-read (in the case of the book of the same title). That included a very good panel about Ezra Pound, which had Helen Carr and Sam Riviere speaking about Pound’s poetry and its place in the mood and environment of the early 20th Century.

The panel mixed biography and poetry a bit – some biography, a few poems, a bit more biography, and Riviere’s poems. It felt like sitting in on a good conversation in many ways, so it was fine that it was quite unstructured. The biography focused on the part of Pound’s life before he became a fascist, perhaps for ease and perhaps because of the time periods under review on this particular weekend of the festival (roughly through 1925).

Riviere focused on reading Pound’s poems from Lustra, which you can read online here. Riviere’s key point about these poems was about the acidity and cruelty of these poems, and wondering whether there this foreshadows his drift towards fascism. For sure, this is not someone who is in love with the “average man” – there is no concept of the noble peasant here:

The Garden
En robe de parade.

LIKE a skein of loose silk blown against a wall
She walks by the railing of a path in Kensington

And she is dying piece-meal

of a sort of emotional anaemia.

And round about there is a rabble

Of the filthy, sturdy, unkillable infants of the

very poor.
They shall inherit the earth.

In her is the end of breeding.
Her boredom is exquisite and excessive.
She would like someone to speak to her,
And is almost afraid that I

will commit that indiscretion.

The concept of the unkillable child is really fascinating, and there are so many other similar lines. Riviere’s question was something along the lines of whether these are just voices that he uses for his poetry, versus an actual place that he inhabits. I don’t know enough about Pound – perhaps no one does – to answer definitively, but it is an interesting question: whether slight shifts in our artistic (or even daily) attitude have major repercussions and moves later.


National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist list announced

Why is it that award lists are so addictive? This one is good, as usual, even if the title of the organisation is a mouthful.

Love this quote

Above all avoid taking the advice of men who have no brains and do not know what they are talking about.

Good advice from Sherwood Anderson.

Who needs Vietnam books? (The Millions)

One of the best things I’ve ever done is convince a professor to teach a guided reading on Vietnam in my last year of university. We read a lot of classics on Vietnam, and the course was excellent. This post reminds me that I need a refresh

Just getting started…

Hi everyone. I’m sort of starting this blog thing, and just added a Twitter account. Would be great to be followed!

John Burnside has a book of stories

I read books because I like the cover, or because I read about them somewhere, or because the fact that the book won a prize is advertised on the front cover. That’s basically why I bought John Burnside’s book of poems last year, Black Cat Bone: it had won the TS Eliot Prize, and it says so in a little box on the cover. This tactic of book-choosing generally works pretty well, and it did in this case.The writing in this book is spare, but beautiful, with eye-catching beginnings, like this one to “On the Fairytale Ending”:

Begin with the fend-for-yourselfof all the loves you learned about
in story books;

and this one, from “Creaturely”:

The only gift is knowing we belong
to nothing.

(The rest of the poems are good too.)

In short, I really liked BCB, and I decided I wanted to watch Burnside’s career progress. So I did what I do with everything else I don’t know how to remind myself to follow: I set up a Google alert.

That Google alert brings in some weird stuff, but it also brought this great Economist review of a new book of short stories by Burnside, which I am very excited about.

The Pushkin industry

This was an interesting article on Pushkin, talking about the industry of Pushkin, and giving a good biography of him.