Thursday, June 18, 2009

Henri-Cartier Bresson visits Ezra Pound after Hollis Frampton, Venice, 1971

"Martine Franck, Cartier-Bresson's widow, accompanied her husband to just one — probably atypical — portrait session, that of the poet Ezra Pound in Venice in 1971, a year before his death at 87.

'There was a tremendous, heavy silence,' recalled Ms. Franck, herself a photographer. 'Pound didn't say a word. He just seemed to condemn the world with his eyes. We were there for about 20 minutes. I stayed to one side. I huddled in a corner. Henri took seven pictures.'"

- From This Decisive Moment On by Alan Riding in The New York Times, January 26, 2006

"In a letter of the year 1914, the poet Ezra Pound tells his correspondent that it took him ten years to learn his art . and another five to unlearn it . The same year saw the tentative publication of three cantos for a "poem of some length" that was to become, though nameless and abandoned, the longest poem in English . . . prominent among whose denumerable traits were a lexicon of compositional tropes and a thesaurus of compositional strategies that tend to converge in a reconstitution of Western poetics.

Since it has been widely asserted that art can be neither taught nor learned, that it is a gift from Jehovah or the Muse, an emanation from the thalamus, or a metabolite of the gonads, we may pause to wonder what Pound, a failed academic and life-long scholar of diverse literatures and arts, meant by the verb to learn . . . let alone unlearn. In the same letter, Pound himself is obliquely illuminating ; he had begun, he says, around 1900, to study world literature, with a view to finding out what had been done and how it had been done, adding that he presumes the motive, the impulse, to differ for every artist.

A few years later, in the essay How to Read, Pound diffracts the roster of poets writing in English into a hierarchic series of zones, of which the most highly energized comprise 'inventors' and 'masters' . The essay, like most of Pound's prose writing of the period, is addressed primarily to other (presumably younger) writers it is permeated by Pound's highly practical concern for what might be called an enhanced efficiency in the process of 'learning' an art . We need not look very deeply to find, inscribed within the pungent critical enterprise that extends and supports his concern, a single assumption : that one learns to write by reading . Moreover, one learns to write mainly by reading those texts that embody 'invention', that is, the vivid primary instantiation of a compositional strategy deriving from a direct insight into the dynamics of the creative process itself."

- Hollis Frampton, Notes on Composing in Film, October, Spring 1975

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Laura McPhee's "River of No Return"

I'm looking forward to getting my hands on Laura McPhee's book, "River of No Return," sometime soon. There are a few low-resolution jpegs of her work on her website. Do look!

T.S. Eliot on Art and Responsibility

"No poet, no artist of any art, has his complete meaning alone. His significance, his appreciation is the appreciation of his relation to the dead poets and artists. You cannot value him alone; you must set him, for contrast and comparison, among the dead [. . . .] what happens when a new work of art is created is something that happens simultaneously to all the works of art which preceded it. The existing monuments form an ideal order among themselves, which is modified by the introduction of the new (the really new) work of art among them [. . . .] And the poet who is aware of this will be aware of great difficulties and responsibilities."

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965), The Sacred Wood: Essays on Poetry and Criticism