…and Ezra Pound: An Encounter at St. Elizabeths. On my reading list for the weekend. In the introduction Catherine Seelye says:
Though there is very little to be found in this record of Pound’s literary influence on Olson, there is reason to believe that his visits with Pound figured in the transformation of Olson from a minor prose writer to a poet writing in the tradition of Pound and Williams. For in Olson’s notebooks of the period, we see him almost frantically searching for an identity, for an impulse, for a focus, for a framework strong enough to support his “special view of history.” And in Olson’s “Cantos” on Pound, we see him during this same period face to face with perhaps the most potent literary influence of his life. Out of these forces came Maximus, Olson’s “tumescent I.” Somewhere “among the ruins,” Charles Olson found his poetic voice.
Last term, I lingered among this inspiring poet as I studied Olson’s Projective Verse for an essay and seminar on Daphne Marlatt, and I found Pound’s influence in more ways than one, but to me this was understandable, as we naturally study those that come before us, don’t we?
For example (a quote from Olson):
1) A poem is energy transferred from where the poet got it (he will have some several causations), by way of the poem itself to, all the way over to, the reader. . . . the poem itself must, at all points, be a high energy-construct and, at all points, an energy-discharge. So: how is the poet to accomplish same energy, how is he, what is the process by which a poet get in, at all points energy at least the equivalent of the energy which propelled him in the first place, yet an energy which is peculiar to verse alone and which will be, obviously, also different from the energy which the reader, because he is a third term, will take away? This is the problem which any poet who departs from closed form is specially confronted by. And it involves a whole series of new recognitions. From the moment he ventures into FIELD COMPOSITION–puts himself in the open–he can go by no track other than the one the poem under hand declares, for itself. Thus he has to behave, and be, instant by instant, aware. . . .
(2) . . . the principle, the law which presides conspicuously over such composition, and, when obeyed, is the reason why a projective poem can come into being. It is this: FORM IS NEVER MORE THAN AN EXTENSION OF CONTENT. (Or so it got phrased by one, R. Creeley, and it makes absolute sense to me, with this possible corollary, that right form, in any given poem, is the only and exclusively possible extension of content under hand.)
(3) Now (3) the process of the thing, how the principle can be made so to shape the energies that the form is accomplished. And I think it can be boiled down to one statement (first pounded into my head by Edward Dahlberg): ONE PERCEPTION MUST IMMEDIATELY AND DIRECTLY LEAD TO A FURTHER PERCEPTION.
Olson, of course is talking about a more open form, or fluidity to poetry, and that includes, sound, image, sense, syntax, speech, and mainly the breath. There is so much to linger over in what he writes. I’ve reread this at least a dozen times in the past few months, and strangely enough, still find something interesting and stimulating in the essay, in what he says.
A Pound A Day:
NEVERTHELESS you still charge words with meaning mainly in three ways, called phanopoeia, melopoeia, logopoeia. You use a word to throw a visual image on to the reader’s imagination, or you charge it by sound, or you use groups of words to do this.
Thirdly, you take the greater risk of using the word in some special relation to ‘usage,’ that is, to the kind of context in which the reader expects, or is accustomed, to find it.–Ezra Pound