Poets can be fascists too.

After a brief hiatus, I seem to be back in the book reviewing saddle. I sent off my review to Gutter magazine just before Christmas, and I have Marguerite Duras’ wartime memoirs to review for the next issue of The Skinny (I’m still waiting for them to turn up in the post, which means the deadline’s getting tighter by the minute). In addition, I should (hopefully) have something to review for the next Scottish Review of Books. On top of all this, I’m making tentative progress on the last part of my novel, and I’m losing myself in the curious byways of Social Credit and Distributism for the essay I’m writing for the first issue of Free State. This essay has rekindled a long-dormant interest in Ezra Pound, as has beginning Helen Carr’s comprehensive study of the Imagist poets, “The Verse Revolutionaries”. Part genius, part huckster, all fascist, Ezra Pound was the purest demonstration that great artists are not necessarily great people. Still, no one was more important in the history and development of modernist literature, and his work runs the full gamut from tedious to extraordinary. I’ve owned a copy of “The Cantos” for over a decade, and the first half of it is heavily annotated from early attempts to wrestle with its meaning. (I could have saved myself the bother – it mostly boils down to “usury is bad, Mussolini is great.” That doesn’t prevent is being a masterpiece though.) Even though he was a fascist, a traitor, and an anti-Semite, I still find something ineffably moving about Pound’s experience at the end of the Second World War, and the brutal way he was treated by the American military authorities. Poets and writers shouldn’t get a free pass for their odious beliefs just because they’re artists, but there was something heroic about Pound’s suffering, and his stoicism in taking it. I’m going to turn again to his “Personae”, and his shorter poems, and perhaps even pick up the Cantos at the point where I abandoned it when I was in my early twenties.

All in all, 2011 has started with a lot of work to do. I hope it continues in that vein.


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