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:

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