ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE MODERN LANGUAGE ASSOCIATION
New York, 4-7 January 2018
OUR SOCIETY PANELS
Manhattan Pound and After
Panel organised by the Ezra Pound Society
Organisers: Demetres Tryphonopoulos (Brandon U) and Mark Byron (U of Sydney)
Time: Thursday, January 4, 2018: 5.15-6.30 PM
David Hobbs. In the Shadow of Pound's Manhattan: Objectivist Poetics after Patria Mia
Ira Nadel. Manhattan Pound and Biography
Mark Byron. New York Rinascimento: Poetry, Art, and Architecture in Pound’s 1910 Visit
Marjorie Perloff. Pound’s Unlikely Heir: New York’s Charles Bernstein
In the Shadow of Pound’s Manhattan: Objectivist Poetics after Patria Mia
David Hobbs, New York University
Expertise and Scholarship: David B. Hobbs is a PhD Candidate in the English Department at New York University, currently working on a dissertation entitled “Verticalities: Thinking 'City' In Modern Lyric,” supervised by Peter Nicholls. His dissertation explores the theories of urbanism contained in modernist poetry (hence his interest in the topic of this panel), demonstrating that the most innovative poets of this period were responding to new habits of dwelling through a formal reinvention of the lyric mode. His academic publications include a contracted edition of George Oppen’s 21 Poems by George Oppen. 1930 (New York: New Directions, 2017); “A Brief Introduction to 21 Poems.” Journal of Modern Literature 40.1 (Fall 2016): 1-22; “‘Deceptively Reserved’: Holding on Upside Down in review.” Women: A Cultural Review 26.2 (2015); “‘The Pleasure of Odds & Ends’: Representing Sylvia Plath in review.” Women: A Cultural Review 24.2-3 (2013); and “An Attempt At An Inexhaustible Site In Lower Manhattan.” Critical Military Studies 1.1 (2015).
Manhattan Pound and Biography
Ira Nadel, U of British Columbia
Expertise and Scholarship: Ira B. Nadel, Professor of English at the U of British Columbia, specializes in biography, the Victorians and such Modernists as Joyce, Pound and Beckett. He is the author of Biography, Fiction Fact & Form (1984), Joyce and the Jews (1989), Leonard Cohen, A Life in Art (1994), Various Positions, A Life of Leonard Cohen (1996; 2006), Double Act, A Life of Tom Stoppard (2000), Ezra Pound, A Literary Life (2004), Joyce and His Publishers (2005) and The Cambridge Introduction to Ezra Pound (2007). He has edited The Letters of Ezra Pound to Alice Corbin Henderson (1993); The Cambridge Companion to Ezra Pound (1999) and Ezra Pound, Early Writings, Poems and Prose (2005). His biography Leon Uris, Life of a Bestseller, and the collection Ezra Pound in Context both appeared in 2010. He is currently editing (with Demetres P. Tryphonopoulos) the MLA Approaches to Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose. This paper testifies to his continued interest in Pound scholarship and biography.
New York Rinascimento: Poetry, Art, and Architecture in Pound’s 1910 Visit
Mark Byron, U of Sydney
Pound’s return to New York in 1910 followed two years of intensive immersion in London’s literary circles (including Pound’s first meeting with W. B. Yeats) and time exploring Italy, particularly Venice and Sirmione. Pound’s reactions to the city he had last seen in 1908 were shaped by his evolving aesthetic sensibilities – he was already well on the way to translating the poetry of Guido Cavalcanti and was deeply immersed in the study of Troubadour lyric. But Pound was also shaped by the changing complexion of New York itself: its demotic crowds and the rising tide of advertising on one hand, and its art and architecture on the other. He saw the Metropolitan Life Building (complete with its ‘campanile’) and the since-demolished Penn Station Building (constructed in the Beaux Arts style with a main waiting room modelled on Baths of Caracalla in Rome) as expressions of a potential American renaissance or Risorgimento, supported by strong institutions such as the Metropolitan Museum, where Pound observed the strength of its recent acquisitions and frequented the Prints Room. In its examination of his 1910 stay in the city, this paper will assess Pound’s reactions to New York in his correspondence, especially to his close friend Margaret Cravens. The paper will also place this moment in historical context, reading Pound’s New York alongside Thomas Edison’s 8-minute film New York of Today (1910), noting in particular the film’s attention to such new architecture as the Flatiron Building. Pound’s view of the city in 1910 provides him a privileged view of two different cultural moments on opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean. His visit occurs just prior to one its most transformative events in the visual arts. The New York Armory Show of 1913 announced European avant-garde art and especially Cubism and Futurism to an American audience for the first time – an artistic milieu with which Pound was already intimately familiar from his time in London and Paris in 1908-09.
Expertise and Scholarship: Mark Byron is Associate Professor in the Dept. of English, U. of Sydney and an Australian Research Council Future Fellow. He teaches and publishes across the genres and practices of Modernism. His current work is in developing digital scholarly editions of complex Modernist texts and their manuscripts, including the Watt model of the Samuel Becket Digital Manuscript Project. Another project, Modernism and the Early Middle Ages, has thus far produced the monograph Ezra Pound's Eriugena (London: Bloomsbury, 2014). This paper is part of Mark Byron's continued work on the poetry and prose of Ezra Pound.
Pound’s Unlikely Heir: New York’s Charles Bernstein
Marjorie Perloff, U. of Stanford
The Jewish third-generation New York School poet Charles Bernstein seems a highly unlikely candidate as successor of Ezra Pound. In a number of essays, written in the 80s and 90s, Bernstein was highly critical of Pound’s problematic politics; his affiliations lay elsewhere—with Gertrude Stein, William Carlos Williams, the Objectivists, Black Mountain poets, and the Brazilian concrete poets. But ironically, these two groups were nothing if not indebted to Pound, especially Louis Zukofsky, one of Bernstein’s key mentors who was also one of Pound’s greatest disciples. By the second decade of the 21st Century, it has become obvious that, despite his protests, Bernstein has absorbed many of Pound’s lessons. Such longer poems like “Lives of the Toll Takers” and “Dark City”—New York poems in their range of reference and allusion—are collage works in the tradition of the Cantos, highly allusive and shifting mood and tone quickly. Like the Pound of the Cantos, Bernstein creates meaning from metonymic juxtaposition, like Pound he gets much mileage from proper names, and again like Pound, he creates an urban space by means of carefully chosen images and references. Bernstein’s New York is a very different locale from the New York of 1910 Pound described, but similar anomalies and contradictions occur in both poetic landscapes. In recent years, Bernstein has expressed a new admiration for Pound: the “anxiety of influence” is finally coming home to roost.
Expertise and Scholarship: The Sadie Dernham Patek Professor of Humanities, Emerita, at Stanford U, Marjorie Perloff teaches courses and writes on twentieth and now twenty-first century poetry and poetics, both Anglo-American and from a Comparatist perspective, as well as on intermedia and the visual arts. Her first three books dealt with individual poets--Yeats, Robert Lowell, and Frank O'Hara. She then published The Poetics of Indeterminacy: Rimbaud to Cage (1981), a book that has gone through a number of editions, and led to her extensive exploration of avant-garde art movements in The Futurist Moment: Avant-Garde, Avant-Guerre, and the Language of Rupture (1986, new edition, 1994), and subsequent books (13 in all). Wittgenstein's Ladder brought philosophy into the picture and Perloff has more recently also published her cultural memoir The Vienna Paradox (2004), which has been widely discussed. Differentials: Poetry, Poetics, Pedagogy won the Robert Penn Warren Prize for literary criticism in 2005 as well as Honorable Mention for the Robert Motherwell Prize of the Dedalus Foundation. A former President of the MLA (2006), she continues to speak and publish on the modernists and their descendants
Ezra Pound, William Carlos Williams, and New York City
(panel organised in collaboration with the William Carlos Williams Society)
Friday, January 5, 2018: 8:30 AM-9:45 AM
Demetres Tryphonopoulos (Brandon University). Ezra Pound and Marianne Moore’s Shift from the Syllabic Verse to Free Verse (1921–25)
Mark C. Oxoby (Loyola University). ‘Obscene / beyond Belief’: William Carlos Williams’s (Sub)Urban Ambivalence
E. W. White (Oxford Brookes University). A Machine of Words, a Machine of Mirrors: William Carlos Williams and Networked New York
Caitlin Hurst (New York University): ‘Contempt of the Unit’: Early Pound and the Unlyrical City
Among the cities most often associated with Ezra Pound’s life and work – Venice, London, Paris, Rome, Rapallo, Philadelphia, Washington, D. C. – and William Carlos Williams’s lifelong residency in Rutherford, New Jersey, the role of New York City (NYC) in Modernist poetics tends to be understated. This panel examines the surprising significance of NYC for Pound and Williams, and its implications for their poetry. Pound visited maternal relatives in the city in his childhood, and as a youth met the poet Witter Bynner to have his poetic aptitudes assessed. His return in 1939 from Italy on the eve of war may have been motivated by attempts at political intervention, but it also saw him meet in NYC many artistic friends and contacts. His last visit in 1969 witnessed the recently unearthed original drafts of The Waste Land in the NYPL, the very text whose genesis depended on the cosmopolitan Pound functioning as its “sage homme” and champion upon its publication in 1922. Williams instead was threatened by the success of Eliot’s poem, describing it in his Autobiography(1951) as impacting his specifically American poetics that were “rooted in the locality which should give it fruit.” After medical training in NYC, Williams firmly resisted both Pound and Europe, but also the city itself, choosing instead a vocation as a general practitioner in Rutherford. Williams, nonetheless, continued to travel to Manhattan in his T-Ford vehicle, immersing himself in its cultural and artistic milieu.
Pound’s reflections of his 1910 visit to the city are summarized in Patria Mia (1913), a book-length essay on the future of American culture, in which he announces that America “is almost a continent and hardly yet a nation, for no nation can be considered historically as such until it has achieved within itself a city to which all roads lead” (21). In “‘Contempt of the unit’: Early Pound and the Unlyrical City,” Caitlin Hurst examines this essay in which Pound, looking upon Americans after returning from Europe, described a people alien to “lyric measures and the nature of ‘quantity,’ and “against all delicate things.” Manhattan itself, with its buildings “Egyptian in their contempt of the unit,” raises the poetic problem of an epic, inhuman scale, which dissolves all sense of measure. Hurst explores, then, Manhattan’s challenge to Pound’s sense of “measure” in relation to the promise and predicaments of modernist American poetry. Pound responds to the formal problems raised by unpoetic Manhattan by cultivating exilic gestures of approach and departure that reclaim lyric quantity, translating these strategies into his early and later work.
Pound paid close attention to the cultural fortunes of NYC throughout his career. He intervened, praising or chastising artistic initiatives and individuals, often as foreign correspondent of NYC little magazines.
These papers articulate together the complex responses Modernist American poets brought to NYC, and the varied ways in which they deployed its metropolitan tropes and images. This network of ideas had a profound impact on subsequent American poetry (Objectivist poets, the Beat Generation, the New York School, and the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E School), occasionally by direct intervention.
Each presenter shall be allowed 15-minutes for delivering her/his paper, leaving safficient time for rigorous discussion.
Ezra Pound and Marianne Moore’s Shift from Syllabic Verse to Free Verse (1921-25)
Demetres Tryphonopoulos Brandon University
The paper explores such a crucial moment of intervention. The NYC-based Moore did not come into direct contact with Pound until the spring of 1918. Responding to Pound’s request for a few poems to be published in The Little Review, Moore sent Pound two poems, including “A Graveyard.” First composed in syllabic verse, it ultimately appeared in Observationsas a free verse poem, “A Grave.” Its composition history is instructive since it’s also the story of Moore’s turning away from syllabic stanzas to writing in free verse between 1921 and 1925. Tryphonopoulos argues that the evidence contained in Pound’s and Moore’s letters in late 1918 (housed in the Rosenbach Museum, Philadelphia) in which they discuss “A Graveyard” explains why, among Moore’s revisions, the most drastic was that of reshaping a work of symmetrical syllabic stanzas into free verse—this being one of many instances of Pound’s influencing the NYC poetic scene.
Expertise and Scholarship: Demetres Tryphonopoulos is the author, editor, or co-editor of fourteen volumes. His essays have appeared in Paideuma, Journal of Modern Literature and elsewhere. He is the author of The Celestial Tradition: A Study of Ezra Pound’s “The Cantos” (WLUP, 1992), a book whose Italian version is entitled Pound e l’occulto: le radici esoteriche dei Cantos (Roma: Mediterranee, 1998). He has chapters in several collections of essays and edited or co-edited seven books, including Literary Modernism and the Occult Tradition (NPF, 1996), “I Cease Not to Yowl”: Pound’s Letters to Olivia Rossetti Agresti (U of Illinois P, 1998), William Carlos Williams and the Language of Poetry (NPF, 2002), An Ezra Pound Encyclopedia (Greenwood P, 2005), and A Critical Edition of H.D.’s Majic Ring (UP of Florida, 2009). His current projects include The Correspondence of H.L. Mencken and Ezra Pound (OUP). He currently serves as Secretary of the Ezra Pound Society and as Associate Editor of Paideuma: Studies in Modern and Contemporary Poetry and Poetics. Along with co-editor Ira B. Nadel, he is currently completing an MLA Approaches to Ezra Pound’s Poetry and Prose.
“‘obscene / beyond belief’: William Carlos Williams’s (sub)Urban Ambivalence”
Daniel E. Burke, Loyola U., Chicago
The paper offers an ecocritical response to Williams’s engagement with urban space. Although it was just a short drive from NYC, Williams’s hometown of Rutherford, NJ was a world away from America’s major metropolitan hub in its culture, people, and lifestyle. Burke triangulates Williams’s ambivalent relationship with NYC as an urban space by taking into account the culture and community it offered him, in contradistinction to his very purposefully suburban lifestyle. With close ecocritical readings of several of Williams’s poems, Burke argues that Williams rejects the mainstream Modernist view of the city as a concrete “Waste Land” and instead views it as fertile ground for his ideas. In his deliberately contrarian and positive version of NYC, Williams describes the city’s transplanted population in botanical terms, using such concepts as irrigation, cultivation, and new growth – all in the context of the artistic avant-garde itself.
Expertise and Scholarship: Daniel E. Burke is a Lecturer of Writing and Literature at Arrupe College, Loyola University Chicago. He has a BA from the University of Minnesota and an MA and a PhD from Marquette University, where he completed his dissertation on Modernist ecopoetics in the works of William Carlos Williams, in part as contrasted with those of Wallace Stevens and Lorine Niedecker. He is currently in the process of completing an article on Spring and All, anthropocentrism and the ecopoetic imaginary. That article emerges from his larger monograph project on American modernist poetry and the Anthropocene, provisionally titled Silent Spring: Pre-Environmental Ecologies in Modernist Poetry. The book examines the ways in which Williams and his contemporaries model the imagination as a literal force of nature, and how tropes of environmental degradation (for example in Paterson) both stimulate and militate against that force. Burke is also interested in exploring questions of Williams and pedagogy, a subject upon which he has presented several papers at national and international conferences. The Secretary/Treasurer of the William Carlos Williams Society, he operates @W_C_Williams, and is on the organising committee for the 7th Biennial Conference of the William Carlos Williams Society at William Paterson University (June 2017).
A Machine of Words, A Machine of Mirrors: William Carlos Williams and Networked New York,”
Eric B. White, Oxford Brookes University
The paper explores how NYC epitomised the technological imaginary of the American Machine Age. However, rather than espousing the typical Modernist “technological sublime,” this paper argues that for Williams and his avant-garde cohorts, NYC represented a technological bathetic in which human corporeality and everyday experience was augmented and supplemented rather than transcended or overawed by technology. Williams’s late-20s-30s work invokes the glittering skyline of NYC and the myriad of optical technologies transforming its streets and marketplaces. For Williams and his transatlantic avant-garde, NYC became a template for the augmented urban spaces of the twentieth century, which in turn mirrored the cultural transition from the Machine Age to the Information Age.
Expertise and Scholarship: Eric B. White is Senior Lecturer in American Literature at Oxford Brookes University. He is President of the William Carlos Williams Society and founder of the Avant-Gardes and Speculative Technology (AGAST) Project based at Oxford Brookes. His first monograph, Transatlantic Avant-Gardes: Little Magazines and Localist Modernism, was published by Edinburgh University Press in 2013, and he is currently writing a new book on avant-garde writing and technology. His essays have appeared in Modernist Cultures, European Journal of American Culture, Symbiosis, and OUP’s Modernist Magazines: A Critical and Cultural History. He also served as Guest Editor and wrote the Introduction for The Early Career of William Carlos Williams: A Critical Facsimile Edition of His Uncollected Prose and Manuscripts, the special Thirtieth Anniversary Number of The William Carlos Williams Review, (Spring-Fall 2013). White has published and presented research on Ezra Pound and William Carlos Williams for over a decade, and his most recent contributions include “William Carlos Williams and the Local” in The Cambridge Companion to William Carlos Williams (CUP 2016) and the forthcoming chapter “Canto XXXII” in Readings in the Cantos (Clemson University Press, 2017).
‘Contempt of the Unit’: Early Pound and the Unlyrical City
Caitlin Hurst, New York University
Expertise and Scholarship: Caitlin Hurst is a PhD candidate in the English department at New York University. She received her MA from the Poetry and Poetics program at SUNY Buffalo. Her dissertation, Dilettante Modernism, develops a theory of aesthetic dilettantism and explores the place of the dilettante within the modernist professionalization of reading and writing. Her research and teaching interests include American literature and culture, poetry, international modernisms, critical theory, affect theory, psychoanalysis, feminist theory and praxis, dilettantism and the amateur. Her publications include a review essay of a contemporary Noh adaptation in the Ezra Pound Society’s quarterly Make It New and a forthcoming chapter in The Edinburgh Companion to Ezra Pound and the Arts on Pound’s afterlife in political theater. She teaches at NYU and Fordham University.