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A Quick Graph

1. Recent BBC broadcasts of Pound interviews summarize the following:

a) Writing: "You can't have a literature without curiosity. You cannot have a literature without curiosity . And when a writer's curiosity dies out, he is finished. You can do all the tricks you like, but without curiosity you get no literature with any life in it. . . ."

b) Literacy: "A man has a right to have his ideas examined one at a time. . . ." (This parallels another comment made earlier, to the effect: literacy consists of the ability to recognize the same idea in different formulations. Both relate to Pound's insistence on the need to be able to dissociate ideas, i.e., to separate those living from those dead.)

2. Measure—which Dr. Williams continues to hammer at, as in a recent mimeographed sheet, "The American Idiom":

"We must go forward uncertainly it may be, but courageously as we may. Be assured that measure in mathematics as in verse is unescapable, so in reply to the fixed foot of the ancient line including the Elizabethans we must have a reply: it is the variable foot which we are beginning to discover after Whitman's advent. . . ."

One academic, Scully Bradley, some years ago made use of a shifting stress concept in an attempt to 'scan' Whitman—prompted

Floating Bear , no. 2, 1961.


quite probably by the need to regularize common to such men; yet he showed understanding of the fact that the stress may be variable and yet cohesive in over-all effect. Too, he made the point of the 'rhyming' implicit in parallel or recurrent thought patterns (much as those used by Allen Ginsberg). Our ears tell us, certainly, that syllables may be grouped in a poem in such a way that they defy usual concepts of metric, and yet maintain a decided rhythm. In practice this has long been established. What does need revision is the old practice of 'phrasal' grouping, qua line, a loose solution tending to fall apart as the 'idea' the phrase implies exhausts itself and/or reaches its end. Poems of this sort read: The man sat down/ on the chair/ and lifted his foot/ into the air, etc. At no point should the rhythms peculiar to the given word, in the context it comes to define , be lost track of. All rhythm is specific. (Which in turn explains the boredom implicit in generalized iambics, etc.)

3. A sense of order—Louis Zukofsky defines one in his essay, "Poetry":[*]

"With respect to such action ["utterance," i.e., the movement of spoken words toward poetry] the specialized concern of the poet will be, first, its proper conduct—a concern to avoid clutter no matter how many details outside and in the head are ordered. This does not presume that the style will be the man, but rather that the order of his syllables will define his awareness of order. For his second and major aim is not to show himself but that order that of itself can speak to all men."

Or reading backwards:

"The choice for science and poetry when symbols or words stop measuring is to stop speaking."

Such order proves as well "the contest any poet has with his art: working toward a perception that is his mind's peace," which Zukofsky has spoken of in Bottom: On Shakespeare .

4. Range—which can be variously characterized:

a) Zukofsky: " . . . the scientific definition of poetry can be based on nothing less than the world, the entire humanly known world."


b) Olson's Maximus has built from a like premise, with the corollary:

He left him naked
the man said, and
is what one means

that all start up
to the eye and soul
as though it had never
happened before

c) It is equally Duncan's:

        that foot informed
by the weight of all things
             that can be elusive
no more than a nearness to the mind
            of a single image

Range implies both what there is to deal with, and the where-withal we can bring to that activity. Range describes the world in the limits of perception. It is the "field" in the old Pythagorean sense that "terms," as John Burnet says, are "boundary stones" and the place they so describe the "field" itself.


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