Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Pound for Pound: The Do's and Don'ts . . .

“It is better to present one Image in a lifetime than to produce voluminous works.”

“Pay no attention to the criticism of men who have never themselves written a notable work.”

“Use no superfluous word, no adjective, which does not reveal something.”

“Don’t retell in mediocre verse what has already been done in good prose. Don’t think any intelligent person is going to be deceived when you try to shirk all the difficulties of the unspeakably difficult art of good prose by chopping your composition into line lengths.”

“Don’t imagine that the art of poetry is any simpler than the art of music . . . .”

“Be influenced by as many great artists as you can, but have the decency either to acknowledge the debt outright, or to try to conceal it.”

“Let the candidate fill his mind with the finest cadences he can discover, preferably in a foreign 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 counter-point and all the minutiae of his craft.”

“Don’t be descriptive; remember that the painter can describe a landscape much better than you can, and that he has to know a deal more about it.”

“Consider the way of the scientists rather than the way of an advertising agent for a new soap.

The scientist does not expect to be acclaimed as a great scientist until he has discovered something. He begins by learning what has been discovered already. He goes from that point onward. He does not bank on being a charming fellow personally. He does not expect his friends to applaud the results of his freshman class work. Freshmen in poetry are unfortunately not confined to a definite and recognizable class room. They are ‘all over the shop.’ Is it any wonder ‘the public is indifferent to poetry?’”

“A rhyme must have in it some slight element of surprise if it is to give pleasure; it need not be bizarre or curious, but it must be well used if used at all.”

“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.’”

(Ezra Pound, “A Few Don'ts by an Imagiste”)

Words-in-Freedom . . .

“Casting aside all stupid definitions and confusing professorial verbalisms, I declare that lyricism is the rarely found faculty of intoxicating oneself with life and with oneself. The faculty of changing into wine the muddy waters of the life that surround us and flow through us. The faculty of coloring the world with the unique colors of our changeable ‘I.’

And in order to render the exact weight and proportion of the life he has experienced, he will hurl immense networks of analogies across the world. And thus will he render the analogical ground of life, telegraphically . . . . This need for laconicism not only responds to the laws of velocity that regulate us today, but also the age-old relations that the public and the poet have had. For between the poet and the public, in fact, the same kind of relations exist as between two old friends. They can speak to each other with a half-word, a gesture, a wink. That is why the imagination of the poet must weave together distant things without connecting wires, by means of essential words-in-freedom.”

(F. T. Marinetti, “Destruction of Syntax – Wireless Imagination – Words-in-Freedom.” Trans. Lawrence Rainey)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Like bubbles in a glass of soda water . . .

“He was sitting on a tree-trunk, smoking a cigarette.

‘What are you doing here?’

‘Nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing, nothing at all,’ he replied, smiling happily.

‘What is amusing you so much?’

‘What is amusing me? Why, nothing. That’s just the point. What amuses me, gentle sir and travelling companion, is precisely nothing, the nothing one does the whole of one’s life. You get up, sit down, speak, write, and it’s all nothing. You buy, sell, marry, don’t marry, and it’s all nothing. Like bubbles in a glass of soda water.’”

(Witold Gombrowicz, Cosmos. Trans. Eric Mosbacher)

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Ex post facto . . .

“But how can one avoid telling a story ex post facto? Can nothing ever be described as it really was, reconstituted in its anonymous actuality? Will no one ever be able to reproduce the incoherence of the living moment at its moment of birth? Born as we are out of chaos, why can we never establish contact with it? No sooner do we look at it than order, pattern, shape is born under our eyes. Never mind. Let it pass.”

(Witold Gombrowicz, Cosmos. Trans. Eric Mosbacher)