Of the Center

Hayden Carruth, as quoted by Don Share on his blog :

"Pound is the leader, at the very forefront. Yet because of that, paradoxically he is at the center too: so much - one is inclined to say everything - comes from him. We at the center have a difficult time, often enough; always defining and redefining our position, entering correctives to the debonair pronouncements of the extremes. Not rationalism, we say somewhat acidly, but let us at least be reasonable; not positivism, but not enigma either; and in the matter of fashion, yes, we are friends with Robert Lowell, but we are friends with Robert Creeley too. It is a difficult work. But we take comfort from knowing that Pound is one of us, a man of the center, and that the love of proportion and justice requires, not a baser passion, as some assert, but on the contrary, as in his writing, the strongest and purest passion of all."

-- Hayden Carruth, "On a Picture of Ezra Pound," Poetry, May 1967

Holding such views about the "center", perhaps Carruth should be made an honorary member (sadly posthumous) of the Plumbline School. I know Joseph Duemer has spoken of him.


Mairi said...

Caruth declares Pound's work 'not an enigma' but I distinctly remember coming away from a Norton Anthology driven modern poetry course knowing that Pound was the man who liberated The Waste Land from the mire of Eliot's imagination and that he was the author of the absolutely unintelligible Hugh Selwyn Mauberly. The TLS and the New Age, to name only two examples, agreed with my assessment when the poem first came out but the world and I have since come to our senses. It may be obscure but it isn't, as the anonymous TLS reviewer claimed, 'needlessly obscure'. No doubt age, experience and the education provided by Eliot and Leavis and countless others doing for Pound what Andrew has done for Kit Robiinson's Seventh Street in today's posting have helped to change our minds.

Joseph Duemer said...

I spent a productive week in grad school working my way through all Mauberly's allusions. It's a pretty dense thicket sometimes, but I think that once you internalize Pound's library it's perfectly clear. And one is unlike to find more elegant treatment of the four-line stanza than in "Mauberly." It helps to think of the ballad tradition and its refinement in the art song. Interesting, isn't it, that poems that start out obscure wind up -- after a generation or two of glossing -- wind up being taught to undergraduates without much trouble.