Sentences — October 24, 2008, 5:40 pm

Weekend Read: “Better Mendacities”

ezra_pound_mugshot
Certain times, these times, often leave me wondering, late of an afternoon, what certain artists long dead might have been prompted to say about them. Although good guy Bruce Springsteen, a songwriter with a conscience, has been stumping for Obama with respectful acoustic sets in swing states, one wonders what John Lennon—never too concerned with propriety—might have done if he’d been allowed more life than he got. One could imagine him having made quite a noise this season, noise to which one might have sung along.

My other wonder today involves Ezra Pound. A complicated figure, an anti-Semite, a great poet and critic, and the sort of patriot so patriotic he became a traitor to his cause, not to say to himself. Pound’s voice could, when decrying any of his passing hatreds (the demise of the democratic experiment under the weight of a capitalist system that he found barbaric, for one), grow shrill. I wouldn’t argue that more shrillness is what we need right now, but from a selfish standpoint, the idea of Ezra Pound, at his best and worst, being interviewed by, say, Bill O’Reilly, offers more imaginary pleasure than SNL or the Daily Show are managing to deliver.

Imagined comedy aside, for the weekend read, I offer a little something for your ears, beauty and sadness: Pound’s recorded poetry. From 1939 to 1972, Pound made made many recordings of his poems. During the summer of 1970, very old and very unwilling to talk to anyone, having come to the conclusion that he had failed everyone, he put down his versions of the Confucian odes, among which is the sing-song sadness of “Alikter-Ole Brer Rabbit watchin’ his feet.”

Earlier, in 1958, just off his release from St. Elizabeths Hospital, its wing for the criminally insane, Pound in a strong voice descanted his early poem, “Hugh Selwyn Mauberley,” which begins:

“I am going to read my poem with great emphasis on the rhythm, and that may seem strange if you are not used to it,” Yeats said, before his own reading of “The Lake at Innisfree.” If such rhythms suit you, spend time this weekend over at Pennsound’s page devoted to Pound’s collected recordings. You can download them all, too, onto your whatsit, and have Pound between your ears as you try to outrun other voices.

Share
Single Page

More from Wyatt Mason:

From the October 2014 issue

You Are Not Alone Across Time

Using Sophocles to treat PTSD

From the February 2010 issue

The untamed

Joshua Ferris’s restless-novel syndrome

Sentences May 1, 2009, 2:41 pm

Weekend Read: The Last Post

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

October 2014

Cassandra Among the
Creeps

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Today Is Better Than Tomorrow”

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

PBS Self-Destructs

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

The Monkey Did It

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“This is not a fable about a young woman whose dreams were dashed by a sexual predator. Maya’s narrative is one of institutional failure at a school desperately trying to adapt.”
Photograph © AP/Josh Reynolds
Article
Kandahar’s Mystery Executions·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“He told me he was made to stand on an ice block for thirty minutes at a time, and would then be forced to run barefoot across the gravel while an officer cable-whipped him.”
Photograph (detail) © Victor J. Blue
Article
The Tale of the Tape·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Heroin isn’t the weakness Art Pepper submits to; it’s the passion he revels in.”
Photograph (detail) © Laurie Pepper
Post
Art Beyond Politics·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Arab artists take up — and look past — regional politics
“When everyday life regularly throws up images of terror and drama and the technological sublime, how can a photographer compete?”
“Qalandia 2087, 2009,” by Wafa Hourani
Criticism
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia

Percentage of G.O.P. House and Senate members in an April 2006 poll who believed humans are causing climate change:

23

Bees can remember human faces, but only if they are tricked into thinking that we are strange flowers.

“All I saw,” said a 12-year-old neighbor of visits to the man’s house, “was just cats in little diapers.”

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today