Saturday, October 15, 2011

Contra Eliot and Pound, 2

On August 15, 2008 I posted a response to some comments related to my poem Europa, Europa. I entitled that response "Contra Eliot and Pound", in which I condemned both authors, but especially Eliot for their anti-Semitism.  That article can be found at:

Of the many things I didn't mention in that article was the poem by Emanuel Litvinoff, To T. S. Eliot, in which he takes Eliot to task for his anti-Semitism. Litvinoff died in early October of this year, and the New York Times published an article, eulogizing him. However, the article primarily focused on his poem To T. S. Eliot, and his criticism of Eliot. Here's a link to the article, and following the link, a few noteworthy excerpts from it:

The article begins:
Emanuel Litvinoff, an English-born Jewish poet known for his scathing verse indictment of T. S. Eliot’s anti-Semitism — and for reading it before an audience that happened to include Eliot — died on Sept. 24 at his home in London. He was 96. ...

But it was for his poem “To T. S. Eliot” that he was best remembered. Written after World War II and widely anthologized, it was a response to work by Eliot that contained unapologetic anti-Semitic elements. One such poem, “Burbank With a Baedeker: Bleistein With a Cigar,”...

This poem (Burbank ...) was first published in 1920. Before World War II, Mr. Litvinoff, who otherwise admired Eliot’s work, was prepared to dismiss it as simply another link in the venerable chain of British literary anti-Semitism.
Eliot chose to reprint the poem in his anthology “Selected Poems,” published in 1948. That, in the post-Holocaust world, struck Mr. Litvinoff as inexcusable. ...

In early 1951, Mr. Litvinoff was invited to take part in an illustrious public poetry reading at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. He brought the poem with him.
He had no idea, though, that just before he began reading it aloud, its subject would walk through the door. ...
By the time it was Mr. Litvinoff’s turn to read, he said afterward, he was keenly aware that the target of the corrosive lines he was about to utter was sitting in the audience. ...

When Mr. Litvinoff finished, as was widely reported, pandemonium ensued. The poet Stephen Spender stood up and denounced him for insulting Eliot, prompting others in the crowd to cry “Hear, hear” in assent. [And here I denounce Stephen Spender -- smb]
There was, however, a dissenting voice. Amid the tumult, a man in the back of the room was heard to mutter: “It’s a good poem. It’s a very good poem.”
The speaker was Thomas Stearns Eliot.

More on that public reading can be found by clicking the links in the excerpts above, at least one of which will take you here:

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Frederick Turner's "Let Be"

If you don’t know of the brilliant poetry and philosophy of Frederick Turner, let me say a brief word here. He is author of, among many books, two stunning epic poems, The New World, and Genesis, and a philosophical/theological tour de force, Natural Religion. He is one of the great thinkers of our age, and after the dour and accusing voices of Eliot and Pound have long since been washed away, Turner’s visionary work will continue to stand as a towering beacon of knowledge and light.

His blog is:

While I seem to default to philosophizing with a hammer (to steal a beautiful image) Fred enlightens with delicate veils moved and removed. For example:

Let Be

Weeding, I disturb a bee
That is bumbling in the sages,
But she has forgiven me,
Goes off to the saxifrages.

There I will just let her be,
And, since bee-ing is her being,
She will go on being free,
She-ing while I go on me-ing.

“Let it be” was how the king
In that strange old myth or story
Gave the bee its sweet and sting,
Set the heavens in their glory:

Was it permit or command?
Do we own, or was he letting,
Are we in or out of hand?
Was he making or just betting?

So he gave himself away,
Changed from he-ing into she-ing,
Where his “shall” became her “may”,
Time born out of unforeseeing.

If I weed around the sage,
Letting it achieve its flower,
Do I make a kind of cage?
Do I claim a godlike power?

But the weeds are weeding me,
Cells that are, in acting, dying;
Sage-flowers fertilize the bee,
Every selling is a buying.

So creation is a cross,
“Let” and “be” in intersection,
Where the gain is in the loss,
And the death’s the resurrection.

© Frederick Turner; posted here with permission by the author