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                        by Carlo Parcelli




My interest in Ezra Pound, especially The Cantos, began when, in 1967, at age 19, I attended a creative writing class taught by Dr. Rudd Fleming at the University of Maryland. I read a poem I had written wherein I attempted to advance its argument through source material with no commentary. After the class, Dr. Fleming took me aside and suggested I read Ezra Pound’s Cantos. Subsequently, I purchased a copy of the poem. In the morning, I was afforded an hour’s break between dropping my baby daughter off at the sitters’ and opening the record store directly off campus, which I managed in order to pay the bills.

I became an immediate enthusiast of Pound’s Cantos style. I could have not had a better Pound mentor than Rudd Fleming, who translated Greek drama with Pound for nine years while the poet was incarcerated at St. Elizabeths, here in Washington DC. I subsequently did a year’s independent study on Pound under Rudd’s tutelage. Our conversations grew into a lifelong friendship. We focused on our mutual interest in Pound as well as other High Modernist poets such as T. S. Eliot, Louis Zukofsky, Charles Olson, Mel Tolson, David Jones etc., with a huge dash of Fleming’s favorite author, James Joyce.

But as a very young poet I had little to write about and I felt that, though admired, my first book Three Antiphonies (Proteus Press 1976), lacked substance even as it assiduously avoided the solipsistic, confessional pitfalls of the ‘selfie’ poetry that has for decades dominated the poetry scene.

This lack of substance quickly changed when I encountered Charles Olson’s list of suggested reading to Ed Dorn, called “Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn.” Olson had a stormy relationship with Pound, recoiling at his fascism, anti-Semitism and racism, and Pound’s unsavory alliances with bigots and crackpots like John Kasper and Eustace Mullins. Pound, sensing Olson’s distress, often taunted the younger man on his visits to St. Elizabeths. 

In Olson’s “Bibliography on America for Ed Dorn,” one entry stood out for me: Alfred North Whitehead’s Process and Reality. Whitehead’s book was my introduction to quantum theory and, through a young mathematician whose boyfriend was in charge of the day-to-day operation of the cyclotron at the University of Maryland, I began socializing with graduate students studying high-energy physics. This was the era of specious synthesis between Western scientific epistemology and Eastern thought, manifested in such works as Fritjof Capra’s Tao of Physics and Gary Zukav’s Dancing Wu Li Masters. Though I shared the young scientists’ impatience for such pop fusion, I was equally alarmed by how little concern they showed for so-called quantum paradoxes, e.g. wave-particle paradox, position momentum paradox and the gap between quantum states as witnessed in Planck’s energy packets. The quirky “realities” of Planck’s constant and quantum paradox elicited little concern among the young physicists. Niels Bohr’s “vizualization,” as he called it, remained stubbornly impossible, but over the decades following the Copenhagen Interpretation, several purely mathematical resolutions had been put forth which allowed the field to move forward, ignoring its assault on common sense.

Such concerns on my part, led me to the philosophy department, where I was graciously allowed to sit in on classes on Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason and Hegel’s Phenomenology of Spirit. I found Kant’s limits of perception and Hegel’s critique of quantity enlightening. I also began reading Martin Heidegger, Hans-Georg Gadamer and, especially, Edmund Husserl, whose Crisis of the European Sciences and Transcendental Phenomenology became a key text for me. Also, there were works by Frankfurt School philosophers Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno especially the former’s Eclipse of Reason and their collaboration, Dialectic of Enlightenment

There have been many physicists and mathematicians who voiced philosophical concerns about the paradoxes surrounding Quantum Mechanics and the Copenhagen Interpretation. Many are cited in Deconstructing the Demiurge: Tale of the Tribe and elsewhere in my work. These informed voices included quantum’s two progenitors, Niels Bohr and Werner Heisenberg. As regards quantum and sensibility, even a mathematician of the caliber of John von Neumann came to a rather specious, quasi-Zen conclusion when attempting to beat the perceptual dents out of the quantum paradox. There are too many voices weighing in on this subject to address here.

Suffice it to say that the above forms the backdrop, at least in part, to Deconstructing the Demiurge, my ninth long, Canto-like poem, of some 3,200 lines (also available on FlashPoint Magazine). Using Pound’s methodology in the Cantos, through Deconstructing the Demiurge I attempt to create an historical critique and trace from Newton and Leibniz and the Calculus to the accelerated use of what I call formalized systems (e.g. mathematization, quantification etc.) which have become the sine qua non, if not the ne plus ultra, of rational knowledge creation and validation, and which predetermine our reality, whether it be the mathematics that defined just what properties will constitute a Higgs Boson or the reliance on quantized field data collected by MACV during the Invasion of South-East Asia. In short, Deconstructing the Demiurge repeatedly takes you from the micro to the macro consequences of the mathematization of reality. As physicist Brian L. Silver confirms: by limiting the number of permissible variables “[w]e put in some physical facts, follow the rules for obtaining the needed results, and almost always get what we want.” By limiting the nature of nature itself, “[t]he comparison between the theoretical results and experiment is rarely disappointing.”

What Pitrim Sorokin described as “Quantophrenia” in the social sciences is extended to the hard sciences, including high energy physics and mathematics, both pure and applied. Rather than discovering the “secrets of nature,” the use of mathematics and its myriad, quantized systems of measurement create a dislocation from the natural world which, given the global paradigm, has become self-evident in its very ecology. It is my contention in the poem to demonstrate, as Walter Elsasser states, that the “[a]daptation of the homogeneous [e.g. the mathematical sciences] to the radically heterogeneous [e.g. nature]” is responsible for the destruction of the planet. The poem therefore is not an ethical judgment, but merely a series of epistemological observations in Pound’s Canto form.


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