March 20th, 2003

breaking bad

Poems about war

I just read the selection at

Thoughts I had

- How relevant Auden's poems continue to be. Yet the sentimentality of his expression means that I find it hard to put any extracts into this blog, without finding them cloying. How foolish: that I should be so embarrassed by references to love and justice. But we are so used to language being framed with insincerity, that we shy from those words which have been most embedded in the insincere.

Into this neutral air
Where blind skyscrapers use
Their full height to proclaim
The strength of Collective Man,
Each language pours its vain
Competitive excuse :
But who can live for long
In an euphoric dream ;
Out of the mirror they stare,
Imperialism's face
And the international wrong.

Hey! I quoted it. I truly like this poem. But I feel embarrassed by it too, like a friend crying at a party. When everyone should be crying but only one person is uninhibited enough to do so.

- Ginsberg: No, I just don't like him. Beyond uninhibited. Get a bit more inhibited.

- TS Eliot. Many of the people I like most are introverted and intellectual types, keen on abstract thought. Yet when I read Eliot, I never feel as if I am with a friend. A person whose ideas you are happy to hear, but whom you would not wish to know.

"The enduring is not a substitute for the transient,
Neither one for the other."

It's a fair point, but how irritating to read it.

Conclusion - what a touchy and hard to please reader I am. Mr Auden - please refrain from your sentimental expressions of emotional sincerity. Mr Eliot - please inject your astute observations with an emotional extroversion which is alien to you.
breaking bad

Ezra Pound and 'Usura'

More wacky poetic fun

A detailed discussion of Pound's Canto 45, which is all about the destructive effects that high interest rates have on creativity. Or, by extension, the destructive nature of an economy that is based on money making money, rather than the fecundity of things.

seeth no man Gonzaga his heirs and his concubines
no picture is made to endure nor to live with
but it is made to sell and sell quickly

with ursura, sin against nature,
is thy bread ever more of stale rags
is thy bread dry as paper,
with no mountain wheat, no strong flour

"Pound's claim is that usura, in an absolutely memorable line, 'lyeth between the young bride and her bridegroom'. All I can say about these stanzas of Canto 45 is that if you don't recognise a fundamental truth about them, then the life you have led up to this date has been sheltered to an almost morally culpable degree. It is absolutely horrible to be deep enough in debt that you worry about it, and this simple truth about modern life is one which is not mentioned anything like often enough. "

The big problem with Pound of course is that instead of taking this intuition forward thoughtfully, he takes refuge in blaming not the system, but an arbitrary subsection fo the system. In this case, those who make a living from charging interest or (more offensively) ethnic groups that he sees as particularly embodying 'usury'.

Comments from the site -

"If you believe that poor people are poor because the system exploits them, then you need to blame the system, not the particular exploiters. George Orwell saw a similar tendency in Dickens; the belief that the only thing wrong with Victorian capitalism was that some employers were cruel people, and if they only changed their hearts, happiness would be universal"

Interesting points throughout, but I think what I enjoy most is his dogged persistence in unpicking Pound's meaning and treating it seriously.

"Claim One: Usura is bad for the housing and baking industries"