“His message is my message. We will see that men hear it.”

January 17, 2009

I’m inclined to agree with Helen when she writes:

“If your traditionalism makes you comfortable, you’re doing it wrong.”

My footnote to it would be that within it, there should be some aspects which comfort and/or reassure, but the tradition is something like wearing someone else’s shoes and learning how to make your feet fit.  Or the relationship between Pound and the American poetic tradition, embodied in Old Uncle Greybeard:

“I see him America’s poet. […] the only one of the conventionally recognized ‘American Poets’ who is worth reading.

He is America.  His crudity is an exceeding great stench, but it is America.  He is the hollow place in the rock that echoes with his time.  He does ‘chant the crucial stage’ and he is the ‘voice triumphant’.  He is disgusting.  He is an exceedingly nauseating pill, but he accomplishes his mission.

[…]

I read him (in many parts) with acute pain, but when I write of certain things, I find myself using his rhythms. […]

I am (in common with every educated man) an heir of the ages and I demand my birthright. […]

Mentally I am a Walt Whitman who has learned to wear a collar and a dress shirt (although at times inimical to  both).  Personally I might be very glad to conceal my relationship to my spiritual father and brag about my more congenial ancestry — Dante, Shakespeare, Theocritus, Villon, but the descent is a bit difficult to establish.”

(from “What I Feel About Walt Whitman”; for the poetical version, see “A Pact”.  I’m bound to get in trouble someday for insisting that Pound’s poetry and poetics were more traditional than avant-garde.  There is also a case to be made that I should be quoting either Joyce or Yeats if I’m going to insist on someone from this period as an illustration.)

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