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EZRA POUND IN THE WORLD

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Presentation2 

 

VERSIONS, VARIATIONS, AND REVERBERATIONS:

EZRA POUND IN CHILE*

Fernando Pérez Villalón

 

Ezra Pound’s relation to Chile and its literature can be considered tenuous at best: there are three small references in The Cantos to the country and its most famous writer worldwide, Pablo Neruda,1 and there is written testimony of Pound’s passing acquaintance with the work of Gabriela Mistral, and perhaps of Vicente Huidobro. In a 1919 interview with Ángel Cruchaga Santa María about his poetical school known as Creationism the latter declared that “there is [. . .] a young English [sic] poet by the name of Ezra Pound, who has also become close to us, and who wishes to translate my Horizon Carré into his native tongue” (Huidobro 1637). That translation never happened, and one wonders whether Huidobro was making up, or at least exaggerating, Pound’s interest in translating his work, but the chance of a meeting between them in London or Paris seems high, since they moved in similar circles.2 As for Gabriela Mistral, Pound may have become aware of her work after she was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1945: in 1950, he wrote to James Laughlin that he might be interested in translating her work, which he considered better than Neruda’s, and in 1951 he addressed her (who was then living in Rapallo) two letters from St. Elizabeths hospital, to which it has not been established whether she ever replied,3 although we do know that she later campaigned for his release from the asylum. 

In contrast with Pound’s lack of interest in Chile (and in Latin America in general), his work has for a long time been widely read here, and it has provided inspiration for numerous writers, like Ernesto Cardenal and the Brazilian concrete poets, furnishing them with techniques, compositional problems, and critical perspectives that have been very fruitful, particularly during the second half of the 20th century. Latin American Poundians are also interesting in that their poetry often looks very different from that of Anglo-American poets working in the Pound tradition, suggesting that there may be different possible Pounds, depending on the tradition from within which one reads him. If, on the one hand, Pound is well known among writers and literary critics, his place in academic literary studies is rather reduced, since English departments in Chile focus for the most part on training English language teachers for schools rather than carrying out literary research, and literature departments concentrate mostly on Latin American and Chilean literature. As far as I am aware, there is yet no comprehensive study of Pound’s pervasive presence in Latin American letters: these pages only attempt to offer a general overview of his place within the Chilean literary field, as part of the wider context of his Latin American reception.  

In very general terms, it can be argued that Pound has offered a way out of the predominance of Surrealism and its exploration of the unconscious, which influenced many writers from the first half of the 20th century; of a certain aestheticist reading of 19th century French literature, as it had been received after the modernista poets; and of avant-garde movements that emphasized a complete break with tradition, such as Italian Futurism. Mostly during the second half of the century, Latin American writers found in Anglo-American modernists, such as Pound and T. S. Eliot, the possibility of a dialogue with European and world culture in general, and with a wide range of literary traditions that the avant-garde had tended to obliterate. Pound also provided a model for the exploration of the prose tradition in poetry, of a poetry devoted to the everyday and written in colloquial language, as opposed to the grand visionary epiphanies sought by poets in the Surrealist tradition, as well as a model for a technically inflected literary criticism, and a conception of literary creation where translation played a fundamental role. For this contribution, he is grouped with William Carlos Williams and the objectivists rather than with Eliot. Finally, poets and critics valued his sustained attention to the technical and formal aspects of the literary craft as a salutary antidote to more impressionistic value-judgment, and to more content-based literary projects.

Pablo Neruda (1904-1973), a prolific, famous, politically engaged writer (he was a communist militant from 1945 on), embodies much of what poets in the 1950s might have been trying to get away from by means of a dialogue with Anglo-American modernism and Pound’s poetry, especially. After an early success with the sentimental poetry of Twenty Love Poems and a Song of Despair (1924), he entered the more hermetic phase of Residence on Earth (3 vols., 1933, 1935, 1947) until he discovered his political vocation and started working on the Walt Whitman-inspired Canto general, a work similar in scope but drastically different in its tone and literary resources to Pound’s Cantos. If Neruda’s poetry could be described as a poetry based most strongly on a steady flow of metaphoric imagery (for which he was uniquely gifted), with a strong emphasis on the authorial ego as the vehicle and filter for historical and natural forces, and a poetics of free-flowing inspiration, Pound’s poetry offered a concise, sober, and intellectually more demanding alternative, one that aspired to a kind of objectivity and one that emphasized work and technique over spontaneity and genius.

Pablo Neruda Canto generalSeveral critics have contrasted Pound's and Neruda’s writing in general terms: José Miguel Ibáñez Langlois wrote that Pound opened poetry to the domains of culture and history, to the prosaic, through an intensification of the resources of verse, whereas Neruda is an omnipresent poet in our century “because of the visceral, subliminal, dark, subterranean, oneiric, unconscious, telluric, intuitive roots of his best poetry, volcanic as a natural force” (12). He adds that Pound “is the universal homme de lettres, the archeologist, reader, translator, pure inventor, who would like to breathe life into all forms of erudition, and erudition into all forms of life,” whereas Neruda, “in contrast, conceives himself as a primary and vital man, on the antipodes of bookish knowledge, the Singer of life and naked reality” (15-16). He sums up this contrast in the following terms: “If Pound is the incarnation of artistic intelligence and of the adequate balance between erudition and sensibility, Neruda, more innocent and primary because of his American character, represents creative unconsciousness, the nearly blind energy of verse, infallible in its moments of plenitude and painfully weak in its declining moments” (16). Hugo Montes writes about Neruda that “his words seem to emerge from things rather than from books, from nature rather than from tradition. They are abundant and cumulative rather than sparing and selective. Nerudian poetry does not define, it presents and offers, it does not distinguish but fills and associates, identifies and confuses. A river-like voice, because of its potency; forest-like because of its abundance; wave-like in its reiterations. Far from Jorge Guillén’s lucid intellectual precision; far from Valéry’s subtle mathematics; far from Ezra Pound, always conscious and cultivated” (138).

The contrast between these two writers, assigning Neruda the place of unconscious, uncultivated, intuitive nature and to Pound that of consciousness, tradition, and culture is, of course, painted in very broad strokes, and it is not at all free of ideological implications (especially considering that both assessments were published after Neruda’s death in 1973, during Pinochet’s military dictatorship, when many wished to distance themselves from Neruda’s militant conception of literature). They nevertheless offer a good example of how the contrast between them might have been perceived in those years, and they give us an idea of what writers aligning themselves with Pound may have been looking for in his work. One could imagine other ways to frame the discussion (for instance seeing Neruda and Pound as poets that attempted to reconcile the historical breaks of the avant-gardes with some kind of political and ethical commitment, considering them as contrasting readers of Whitman’s heritage, or looking at the place the erotic impulse as a transcendental vital force has in their poetics), but there is undeniably some truth in Ibáñez and Montes’s considerations. It is interesting to point out that writers who became attracted to Pound’s model were not necessarily aligned with the right, and often rather inclined to the left. What they found in him was a political commitment that stressed work with language as a writer’s main responsibility, rather than agreement with a party’s ideas or a commitment to the representation of certain themes. This conception of the ethics of literature proved very
attractive at a time when creative freedom and critical perspective often found themselves in conflict with political engagement.

Nicanor Parra 70In the case of Chilean literature, one of the first fruitful contacts with Anglo-American modernist writers may have taken place during Nicanor Parra’s stay at Oxford University from 1949 to 1951. Parra has often been praised in Chilean literary history as the first poet who offered a viable alternative to Neruda’s poetics, and although he never made much of his acquaintance with Anglo-American modernism, there are several features of his poetry that can be easily traced to Pound: the conversational tone, the pervasive use of irony, the creation of literary personae, the deliberate exploration of prosaic themes, and the consistent avoidance of a conventionally poetic diction. Niall Binns, who has written extensively on Parra,4 has referred to Pound as a silenced influence on him, who chose to focus on other writers as his explicit predecessors, and often portrayed himself as an anti-poet breaking with all literary conventions (although he was clearly transgressing only the conventions of certain specific kinds of poetry).rsz parra poemas y antipoemas

If the effect of Neruda’s poetry depended greatly upon the virtues that Pound characterized as melopoeia and phanopoeia, Parra explored the possibilities of logopoeia, largely untouched by Neruda: his poems are often dramatic monologues spoken by personae that are distinct from their author, and whose verbal quirks and obsessions are symptomatic of larger cultural conflicts. Parra is highly skilled at the use of commonplaces and truisms as a way to cast doubt on the reliability of his lyrical speakers’ voice, and he proposes a poetry at the antipodes of political commitment, solemnity, or belief in the poet’s sacred connection to telluric or celestial forces. In that sense, his poetry may be strongly linked to Pound’s achievement in the Homage to Sextus Propertius and Hugh Selwyn Mauberley, or the satirical vein of Lustra, rather than to the Cantos’ larger vision, which does imply at some points a connection between writing and some kind of transcendental enlightenment.

A good example is Parra’s “Self-Portrait,” from his Poemas y antipoemas (1954) a poem which, far from being the candid presentation of the self that the title might suggest, confronts us with the voice of a weary school teacher:

 

Considerad, muchachos,

este gabán de fraile mendicante:

Soy profesor en un liceo obscuro, 

He perdido la voz haciendo clases.

(Después de todo o nada

Hago cuarenta horas semanales). 

¿Qué les dice mi cara abofeteada? 

¡Verdad que inspira lástima mirarme! 

Y qué les sugieren estos zapatos de cura 

Que envejecieron sin arte ni parte. (Parra 30)

Consider, my friends,

This mendicant friar’s robe:

I am a teacher in an obscure school,

I’ve lost my voice teaching.

(After all or nothing,

I do forty hours a week)

What does my slapped face tell you?

Don’t you feel pity when staring at me?

And how about this pair of priest shoes

Who got artlessly older?

 

The speaker demands our commiseration, but elicits instead mistrust and even some degree of antipathy or disdain because of his exaggerations, his distasteful grandeur, and his appeal to slightly misused familiar turns of phrase. These features of the teacher’s persona are reinforced by the classical meter of the lines (hepta- and hendecasyllabic, a combination that was common in the classical silva form, normally used for elevated subjects), which gives the poem a rhythmical and rhetorical poise that contrast with the mediocre reality that it presents and represents.

          Similar resources can be found on poets of the later “generación del 50,” such as Enrique Lihn (1929-1988), who included a couple of dramatic monologues in La pieza oscura (1963), and who learned a lot from Parra’s mistrust of “the poet as little god” (Huidobro) and “the poet as sacred cow” (Neruda).5 Lihn mentions Pound by name in a passage of the long monologue “Escrito en Cuba” (1969), a poem that attempts to come to terms with the place of the poet in relation to political commitment and expressive freedom (one of the then current debates among Latin American writers):6

 

Veo a Pound en ‘El Patio’

como un anticipo de toda soledad.

A ese fantasma crucial

que oscila desgarrado entre la poesía y los excesos

de una razón delirante. ‘Contra la usura’

dilapidamos la noche, nos acercamos a la muerte.

I see Pound in the courtyard

as a foreboding of any loneliness.

That crucial ghost

who hesitates, torn between poetry and the excesses

of a delirious mind. ‘Against usura’

we squander the night, getting closer to death.

 

Interestingly enough, what poets in the 1950s seem to have found in Pound is a lesson in concision, a mistrust of lyrical impulse and unbound metaphoric imagery, and an emphasis on conscious mastery of technical resources over inspiration and contact with the unconscious, as well as an ethics associated to the charged use of language. Some poets also derived from him a model of the author as someone engaged in critical, theoretical and political debates (such was the case of Enrique Lihn, but not of Parra, who deliberately avoided writing criticism outside of his poetry).

During the 1960s we find a constellation of Pound translations into Spanish that made possible a wider readership of his work: there are the Brazilian Concrete Poets’ translations of a selection of Cantos in 1960, Carlos Viola Soto published Antología de Ezra Pound in Buenos Aires in 1963, Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal published versions of Pound first in a literary review in 1961, then as part of his Anthology of American Poetry in 1963, and then as an anthology of Pound himself in 1979. Chilean poet Armando Uribe published a short critical essay accompanied by a small anthology also in 1963. During the 1970s, there’s José Vásquez Amaral’s Armando Uribe Pound y LéautaudCantares completos and Carmen R. de Velasco with Jaime Ferrer’s Introducción a Ezra Pound, a book including critical essays, an excellent selection of poetry, and literary portraits by Pound’s friends.

Uribe deserves some attention: born in 1939, he is usually considered part of the 1950 generation of poets. Before publishing his “Pound” in the collection El espejo de papel (“The paper mirror”) of the Centro de Estudios de Literatura Comparada de la Universidad de Chile, directed by Roque Esteban Scarpa, he had produced two books of poetry, Transeúnte pálido (1954) and El engañoso laúd (1956), as well as a critical essay on Eugenio Montale within the same collection in 1962. The book is interesting in that it does not only synthetize some of the then available information and critical reception of Pound’s work, but also records the author’s perplexities and adverse reactions to some dimensions of it, thus serving as a historical document of how a young poet from Latin America could assimilate the encounter with Pound. The essay is also in some ways a self-portrait of Uribe himself, or at least an early attempt at defining his critical persona: cranky, self-deprecating, somewhat stilted, and dryly humorous. The beginning of the essay sets the tone:

I have read Pound for five years with acute interest, with much attention, and mistrustfully. I have no other excuse now that I intend to speak about some of his works and deeds than having read many pages about what he did and did not do, and even more of his real deeds and works: his books of poetry and essays, his translations from many languages, in prose and verse, his letters; in sum, everything that he wrote that was accessible in our milieu. (25)

He then proceeds to remember the moment when he first became familiar with Pound’s work, in Rome in 1958, as he was studying abroad for a year on a fellowship. He started reading some of the Italian translations then available, then moved onto his letters, which presented a considerable level of difficulty for a non-native speaker, and then he started (as so many poets after getting to know Pound) to read with amazement and delight some of the authors that Pound recommended. Uribe repeatedly confesses that he never managed to understand or appreciate The Cantos, and his anthology of translations only includes canto XLV, “With Usura”, which he describes as the most accessible poem in the work. Nor does he care for Pound’s economic theories, which he describes as “irritatingly pedantic” (67), and he does not have any enthusiasm for Pound’s “fascist” sympathies (his quotation marks).

Apart from Pound’s valuable reading advice, Uribe made a case for the Homage to Sextus Propertius as the most significant of his works, and translated the poem in its entirety. He wrote that the poem “corresponded directly to my experience of Propertius; not to the letter of the Latin writer, but to the fact of reading those Elegies two thousand years after their composition, an experience affected by the everyday life in the twentieth century…” (34) At first the idea of translating a translation seems improbable, even if it is a free imitation as is the case with Pound’s, but Uribe handles the task with undeniable mastery, opting for a middle road between complete literal faithfulness to the Poundian text and a free paraphrase. He also consulted Propertius’ original (in a bilingual Latin-Italian edition), so in a sense he was attempting to understand what Pound was doing with each passage of his version.7 In his prologue to the 2009 reprinting of Uribe’s essay, Andrés Claro praised his translation for managing to reproduce the poetic effects of Pound’s poem: the ironically sophisticated diction, the mistrust of the act of translation itself through several intentional blunders or purposefully literal renderings, and a wonderful rhythmical variety which Uribe managed to reproduce and even enrich with his own inventions, often learned from other places in Pound’s work.

By 1977, Pound’s influence was pervasive enough among young Latin American poets for Gonzalo Rojas to write his “No le copien a Pound” (“Don’t plagiarize Pound”):

No le copien a Pound, no le copien al copión maravilloso

de Ezra, déjenlo que escriba su misa en persa, en cairo-arameo, en sánscrito,

con su chino a medio aprender, su griego translúcido

de diccionario, su latín de hojarasca, su libérrimo

Mediterráneo borroso, nonagenario el artificio

de hacer y rehacer hasta llegar a tientas al gran palimpsesto de lo Uno;

(…) ríanse de Ezra

y sus arrugas, ríanse desde ahora hasta entonces, pero no lo saqueen; ríanse, livianas

generaciones que van y vienen como el polvo, pululación

de letrados, ríanse, ríanse de Pound

con su Torre de Babel a cuestas como un aviso de lo otro

que vino en su lengua;

                                             cántico,

hombres de poca fe, piensen en el cántico.

 

You shouldn’t copy Pound, no copying the marvelous flood of the copying

Ezra, let him write his mass in Persian, in Cairene Aramaic, in Sanskrit,

with his half-learnt Chinese, his translucent Greek

straight from the dictionary, his leafstorm Latin, his freest

blurry Mediterranean, nonagenarian artifice

for making and remaking until gropingly reaching the great

palimpsest of the One (…); you should laugh at Ezra

and his wrinkles, laugh starting now right up until then,

but not plunder him: you should laugh, fickle

generations coming and going like dust, boiling

of scholars, laugh, laugh at Pound

with his Tower of Babel on his back like an advisory of the other

that came in his language:

                                                canticle,

men of little faith, consider the canticle.
                                                           (Trans. Elizabeth Macklin 292-293)

 

The poem is highly astute in that it reads at first as a dismissal of Pound’s erudition as pretentious, but then reveals itself rather as a homage, and an invitation not to imitate the more external aspects of Pound’s poetics (his arcane references, his use of many languages) but the impulse underlying them, what Rojas calls “the canticle.” Rojas’ rhythmic jazz-like subtlety and precision, with his recognizable line breaks that go against the sentences’ syntax, probably owes much to Pound’s work on melopoeia, and his poetry manages to combine smoothly the arcane and the colloquial, obscure images with everyday anecdotes, and lived experience with learned literary allusions. In his poem, Pound is not an unknown poet that has just been discovered, but a familiar figure (“Ezra”) that is already part of our literary landscape, and the Pound that this poem refers to is clearly the enigmatic, difficult Pound of The Cantos rather than the Pound of the shorter poems.

The 70’s and 80’s witnessed indeed many poets “plagiarizing Pound,” and focusing not so much on his concision, irony, and conversational tone, but rather on the larger, more ambitious enterprise of The Cantos, whose failure to be completed may have been part of their attraction to writers working within the many Neo-avant-garde movements of those years. Poets were fascinated by his montage technique, by the seemingly random and chaotic paratactic juxtaposition of fragments that promised an order that never manifested itself, by the effects produced by the collage of quotations, and by the questioning of the authorial ego emerging in the polyphonic nature of the poem. This reading of Pound was also clearly inflected by the post-structuralist thought of authors like Barthes, Kristeva, Lacan, Derrida, and Deleuze and Guattari. It was thus Pound’s “failures” that made him more attractive as a literary example, and if the Pound of the 1950s and 1960s tended to be a poet of clarity, concision, and conversational tone, the Pound of the 1970s and 1980s was compatible with the neo-baroque explorations of ambiguity, hermeticism, and fragmentation.

Many poets from the 1970s and 1980s in Latin America and Chile learned from The Cantos, without which Diego Maqueira’s La Tirana (1983), Bruno Vidal’s Arte marcial (written between 1983 and 1987), Gonzalo Muñoz’s Exit (1981) and Este (1983), and Juan Luis Martínez’s La nueva novela (1985) would be unthinkable. Raúl Zurita structured his trilogy of books (Purgatory, 1979; Anteparaíso, 1982; Paradise is empty, 1984) as a Dantesque commedia without hell (which for him can only be described through silence) and with an unreachable paradise, a scheme that owes much to The Cantos.

For Zurita, Pound is already a mythical, tragic figure, defined by his failure to reconcile ethics and aesthetics. In a brief critical note about Pound with the title “Poetry and Power,” he writes: 

Demented and a traitor, and paradoxically at the same time one of the great poets of this century, Pound responded to an epoch marked by the music of war and death with a dream that no political power could contain: 'he wrote, he says, for humanity in a world rotten by usury.' He writes, that is, for a humanity freed forever from the original sin of money. (…) Great works of art seem to have been born to withstand what the great powers that be cannot withstand: a certain weight, an excess of humanity that is nevertheless the root of all love and all freedom.” (Uribe and Roa 145)

Pablo Brodsky Vestigios de un golpeThis Pound is a tragic figure, who lost his moral compass in his embrace of fascism, but who nevertheless attempted to live by his critique of capitalism and to reconcile his poetry to it. In that sense, and because of his punishment, he could serve as an example for poets writing under (and against) a military dictatorship which in many ways resembled the fascism that seduced il miglior fabbro

Pablo Brodsky wrote Variaciones en torno a los Cantares de Ezra Pound between 1984 and 1990 as part of an only recently published project of a series of books composed with the technique of montage of other writers’ words. As the author explains, quotations had the function of allowing him to say what he wished with another’s words: “This use of others’ voices, this procedure, allows me to incorporate it as my own, and to construct what I want to say from the editing, from the montage of the many other voices. This procedure takes words out of context, as did Pound, for instance, with the words of American lawmakers” (69). This erasure of the authorial voice in the 1980s has been linked not only with discussions about the notion of authorship originating in Roland Barthes’ “The death of the author”, but also with the authoritarian regime and its strategies of censorship and repression, which sometimes could be eluded by pretending not to have a voice, by a complete erasure of the author’s subjectivity.

Pound’s readers will recognize in this variation the echo of “Canto I” (which in turn echoes Homer), the second poem in Brodsky’s book:

 

Nos preparamos para una noche de sacrificios,
obligándonos a la calma.
Abrimos un hoyo y encontramos un pozo;
luego abrimos otro, y encontramos una fosa;
sacamos piedras, destapamos lozas de cemento.
Cavamos la tierra llevando aire y un poco de luz a sus entrañas.
E hicimos libaciones sobre cada muerto…

                                                                   (Vestigios 32)

We prepared for a night of sacrifices,

forcing ourselves to stay calm.

We dug a hole and found a pit;

then we opened another and found a grave;

we extracted stones, lifted concrete slabs.

We dug the earth bringing air and a little light into her guts.

And we offered libations unto each dead. 

  

Juan Luis Martínez La nueva novelaTranslating this fragment implies retracing the translation in a broad sense from Pound’s English into Brodsky’s Spanish, but also going once again over the many layers of tradition that overlap in Pound’s “Canto I.” Moreover, in this instance, it is not just a case of referring back to those layers, but of adding new ones as those traditions are made new, moved into fresh ground and transported to new geographical, cultural, and historical contexts. For a text written in the 1980s in Chile, the resonance of these images of a funereal rite with images of secret graves for the disappeared for political reasons is inevitable. Thus the Homeric nekuia is charged with new meanings, and the journey of the Cantos reaches regions that are far beyond their original plan.

In the same vein, one of the most striking dialogues with Pound happens in Juan Luis Martínez’s enigmatic La nueva novela, a book that reproduces in its last section (“Epigraph for a condemned book: politics”), with the title “El oficio del poeta” (“The Poet’s Job”), the facsimile of a typed note from Pound to the Base Censor at the Pisa Disciplinary Training Center, declaring that “the Cantos contain nothing in the nature of cypher or intended obscurity.” There are many levels to this incorporation: the letter refers obliquely to the censorship exerted by the Chilean military dictatorship, while also commenting indirectly on La nueva novela’s own obscurity. Martínez is an excellent example of how a dialogue with Pound’s Cantos could be seamlessly combined with Duchampian-conceptual procedures of found text and surrealist montage techniques: the incorporation of a letter in facsimile form goes beyond Pound’s use of quotation in the Cantos, and has a visual dimension that is usually absent from that work.

Roa y Uribe Antología de Ezra PoundThe dialogue with Pound’s work continued during the following decades. Traces of his style, procedures, and techniques, can be found in the work of Armando Roa (perhaps the most explicit Pound follower among contemporary Chilean poets, who has also translated large selections of his poetry), Jaime Huenún (in his explorations of colonial history), Gloria Dünkler (in her use of historical documents to construct a narrative collage in Yatagán), Matías Rivas (in his exploration of personae for satirical purposes), to name only a few. There have also been new translations of Pound’s poetry and prose: Armando Roa published in 2015 a third edition of his Cántico del sol, a very extensive anthology of Pound’s poetry; and in 2016 his complete Literary Essays were published in Tal Pinto’s translation. Several translations of classical works that follow Pound’s example of creative freedom to make it new have also appeared in recent years: Leonardo Sanhueza’s Leseras (a contemporary colloquial rendering of Catullus), Juan Cristóbal Romero’s versions of Horace, and my own Escrito en el aire (a selection of classical Chinese poetry inspired by a study of Pound’s Cathay). There is also the book Antología de Ezra Pound: un homenaje desde Chile, which includes an anthology of Pound’s poetry together with many Chilean writers’ testimonies of meeting with him or critical essays on his work, and a recent reprinting of Armando Uribe’s essay of the 1960s.Armando Roa Ezra Pound Cántico del sol

I mentioned at the beginning of this essay the nearly complete absence of academic studies of Pound’s work in the Chilean context: two recent important exceptions deserve to be mentioned. Universidad de Chile professor Andrés Claro published in 2012 Las vasijas quebradas, an extended discussion of Walter Benjamin’s essay on the task of the translator and on the ethics and aesthetics of translation which devotes an entire section to a very detailed and astute reading of Pound’s translational strategies (in his translations of Provençal troubadours, Propertius, and Chinese poetry). Andrés Claro also just published a chapter devoted to Pound in his Imágenes de mundo, a book on literary style as shaper of world views in Classical Latin, Classical Chinese, and contemporary poetics. The third chapter proposes a reading of “Canto II” as an example of the technique of montage and the representation of the world that it entails. As these examples show, Pound’s legacy is very much alive in the Chilean literary landscape, and will probably stay so in years to come.

This brief overview offers only a glimpse of the diverse and complex ways in which Ezra Pound’s writing has been read, translated, and discussed in Chile. A fuller understanding of this process, but one that exceeds the limits of this essay, would entail a careful consideration of the context of Pound’s Latin American reception, a task that might be useful in revising some of the narratives of our literary history and putting them into a larger map of world literature. This kind of work, however, is also of great importance for Pound studies, which sometimes tend to remain safely confined within the limits of Anglo-American and European Literatures, without always realizing to what extent Pound’s paideuma is now part of the wider realm of world literature.

 

_______

NOTES

* This essay is part of the author’s research project “La imaginación del ideograma: entre Pound y Michaux» (FONDECYT 1150699). All translation from Spanish sources are mine unless otherwise indicated.

1. In Canto XXVI: “And there was that music publisher / The fellow that brought back the shrunk Indian head / Boned, oiled, from Bolivia, said: ‘Yes, I went out there. Couldn’t make out the trade, / Long after we’d melt up the plates, / Get an order, 200 copies, Peru, / Or some station in Chile.’” (130); In Canto XLVI: “The bank makes it ex nihil / Denied by five thousand professors, will any / Jury convict ‘um? This case, and with it / the first part, draws to a conclusion, / of the first phase of this opus, Mr. Marx, Karl, did not / foresee this conclusion, you have seen a good deal of / the evidence, not knowing it evidence, is monumentum / look about you, look, if you can, at St Peter’s / Look at the Manchester slums, look at Brazilian coffee / or Chilean nitrates.” (233-234); Canto LXXXVII contains a passing allusion to Neruda: “Religion? With no dancing girls at the altar? / REligion? / Cytharistriae. / Vide Neruda’s comment, / but focus, can they even animadvert on focus?” (595)

2. I have attempted an examination of the relationship between Pound and Huidobro’s work in my “Huidobro/Pound: Translating Modernism.”

3. The letter to Laughlin can be found in Ezra Pound and James Laughlin, Selected Letters 200, whereas the two letters to Mistral have been published in Spanish translation in Uribe and Roa’s Antología de Ezra Pound.

4. See his “Nicanor Parra y la poesía dialogada” and “¿Qué hay en un nombre? Poemas y antipoemas Oxford 1950.”

5. These lines come from Parra’s poem “Manifesto,” from Poems and Antipoems. Niall Binns quotes them and offers an interpretation of the allusions in them.

6. See Roger Santiváñez, “Poesía y revolución: Enrique Lihn en La Habana, circa 1968” for a discussion of the political implications of Escrito en Cuba.

7. Interestingly enough, Uribe’s is not the only version of the Homage published in Chile: in 2006, the critic and poet Ronald Kay published a trilingual version of the poem (with Propertius’ Latin original alongside Pound’s). While Uribe’s version struggles to achieve a plausible contemporary diction, Kay’s underlines the strangeness of Pound’s language, and stays closer to Latin syntax (and farther from everyday language).

 

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WORKS CITED

 

Binns, Niall. “Nicanor Parra y la poesía dialogada.” Revista Atenea 510 (2014): 57-72. Scielo. Web. 14 February 2017.

—. “¿Qué hay en un nombre? Poemas y antipoemas u Oxford 1950.” Nicanor Parra o el arte de la demolición. Valparaíso, Ediciones Universidad Católica de Valparaíso, 2014.

Brodsky, Pablo. Vestigios de un golpe. Santiago: Alquimia, 2016.

Claro, Andrés. Las vasijas quebradas. Cuatro variaciones sobre ‘la tarea del traductor.’ Santiago: UDP ediciones, 2012.

—. Imágenes de mundo. Santiago: Bastante editores, 2016.

Gordon, David M (ed.) Ezra Pound and James Laughlin. Selected Letters. New York: W. W. Norton, 1994.

Huidobro, Vicente. Obra poética. Paris: ALLCA XX, 2003.

Ibáñez Langlois, José Miguel. Rilke, Pound, Neruda: tres claves de la poesía contemporánea. Madrid: RIALP, 1978.

Kay, Ronald. Propercio Pound. Santiago: S’estret d’es temps, 2009.

Montes, Hugo. Para leer a Neruda. Buenos Aires: editorial Francisco de Aguirre, 1974.

Parra, Nicanor. Obra gruesa. Santiago: Editorial Universitaria, 1969.

Pérez, Fernando. “Huidobro/Pound: Translating Modernism.” Hispanic Issues Online. 6 (2010): 167-186. Dialnet. Web. 14 feb. 2017.

Pound, Ezra. The Cantos. London: Faber and Faber, 1994.

Rojas, Gonzalo. “No le copien a Pound.” Trans. Elizabeth Macklin. The Oxford Book of Latin American Poetry: A Bilingual Anthology, eds. Cecilia Vicuña and Ernesto Livon-Grosman. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2009.

Santiváñez, Roger. “Poesía y revolución: Enrique Lihn en La Habana, circa 1968.” Anales de literatura chilena 11 (2009): 177-190.

Uribe, Armando and Armando Roa eds. Antología de Ezra Pound. Homenaje desde Chile. Santiago: Editorial Universitaria, 2010.

—. Pound y Léutaud. Ensayos y versiones. Santiago: Ediciones UDP, 2009.