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POUNDIAN POETRIES

 

Salamanca                            

Ron Smith 

 

Eat days? Oh, heat wave she just said  

in my own language. I’d say a dryish wavelet

in sultry Savannah or even in Richmond,

but miserable for walking, for sure. The local beer’s

cold, if uninspired. Seems nobody here knows

how to make a Manhattan or a Negroni,

not that you’d want one till the sun goes down.

All over town white storks clack on chimneys,

bristling nests bewitching bell towers.

Disguised Frenchmen from Paris, she says

then laughs at her own wit. I jot a note to look

this up. The new cathedral’s astronaut floats

in the sandstone void near today’s morning-

shift beggar, a bulky butterfly out of his

blackened palm . . . Above our glistening brows,

all around our revolving heads, Salamanca

glows gold beneath flawless cobalt. Lord,

grant each charra under heaven only the babies

she wants, and let us simmer in Salamanca

a few days more. Let drenched me slog

the steep calles rather than lean and loaf

in screenporched Georgia or hammocky Virginia.

I have descended to the Puente Romano,

guarded by its faceless boar, and climbed back

in summer slow motion to Plaza de Anaya where I

caught what was left of my breath. When Hannibal

mounted that hill in 220 BC, I choose to believe

he wheezed, at least a little. Iberians, Celts, Romans,

Visigoths, Moors, Frenchmen, Fascists—think

of all the blood beneath these stones.

Columbus slept here, scheming, his dreams

full of bad maps . . . . Delores booked a room

with a balcony on Plaza Mayor, big room blissful

with A/C and a firm, obliging bed—and, after dark,

visions of elegance and order that sink deeply

into savage senselessness. Past the cafes, bars,

restaurants thrumming with their medleys of tapas,

clutches of smoking students in their unlined,

intelligent faces, past bright museum banners, under

cigüeña blanca soaring, gliding, having given up

the arduous voyage to Africa, searching now for

urban scraps, this old heart flails erratically away

on its vintage drum set, its measure a scatter of

iambs, anapests, dactyls, trochees, quail exploding

from cover, Bobbie Hendricks getting off two shots

whatwhat before I can raise my barrel. I am

fifteen years old and have never heard of Salamanca.  



The Berth of Modern Poetry
(at rest in a vague sort of afterlife)

Ron Smith


EP

Can you believe Willyum the Wumpus
put up with me sixty years? Never
have another friend like him. Cautious, cagey.
Good listener. Got stuck in Amygism,
couldn’t yank him out of her
huge tight ass. In fairness, he tried to bow-wow
the Big One. But that Paterson, big a mess
as my Cantos—no, smaller, but still
a mess.

            We were on the Penn fencing team
together, while all our tastes were keen,
you could say. Fencing made you think
with the other fella’s head, feel
the other fella’s muscles rippling
toward a specific action. We used épées,
heavy as they were, none of that flimsy
foil slinging. He was good. But I was better,
more aggressive, good at riposte. Boxing, stunned
ol’ Champ once with a sharp counter-punch.
Bill—Bill was polite, even with a sword in his hand.

And now he’s gone. Gone. “Struck of the blade
that no man parrieth,” I said once,
about some guy I made up. They won’t let me
keep my fencing things here,
but I’ve still got ‘em,
somewhere.


WCW

Shit, I’m not gone. Sitting right here, wherever the hell
here is. Sure, I remember meeting Ez, the liveliest,
most intelligent, damndest thing
I’d ever come across. Talked poetry all night
in the dorm, nearly put my eye out
with his father’s walking cane, thinking
that was fencing. I could have spitted him.
Should have. Sombitch thought he’d defeated
the whole fencing team he couldn’t make, including
Leonardo Terrone, our coach from It’ly. Ez
was as bad a fencer as he was a dancer, cook, or carpenter.
Madox Ford said he played tennis “like an inebriated
kangaroo,” though he was the only one of us
didn’t really drink. Tennis didn’t look like tennis
Page 2 / “The Berth of Modern Poetry”
when Pound played it. He’d shout “Egad!” and wheeze,
sit down, jump up, jagged and surprising and slap-dash
as his home-made furniture. Ford did extra time jawing
in a Paris chair cause he couldn’t get out of it!

Paris’s where Ez traded lessons with Hemingway,
writing for boxing, boxing for writing, blow for blow.
Wyndam Lewis popped in and found them going at it
(Pound’s fencing gear visible in a corner), said Hem
“without undue exertion” repelled one of EP’s
“hectic assaults” after which “Pound fell back upon his settee.”
1922, the year of litrachur’s nuclear atrocities, Hem wrote
that Ez led “wit his chin” and had “the general grace
of a crayfish,” whatever that means. That snake Hemingway
flattered and coddled our wild man till my friend
pulled In Our Time out of him and bullied a publisher
into launching Mister Macho—who then allowed as how
Ez had “developed a terrific wallop” in his private Paris gym.

From the beginning I let him be village explainer
to my village idiot. I had a lot to learn and he to teach
for all his affectations. Wrote to my mother that
Ez was the essence of optimism. Well, wadn’t he?
Even in the loony bin he was the same guy
who taught me what poetry could be.
While failing history at Penn, he was making it,
even in drag in Greek drama, heaving massive breasts
in one ecstasy after another. Euripides,
that was. Genius? A genius passed through him—
a presence—from time to time.
He was a beautiful cracked pot, vase
beautifully cracked. Wit and profundity,
profundity and wit, with a huge serving
of plain bull shit.

Slow reader, never read the Rooshans, though
he still had opinions. Eliot said he knew
next to nothing about philosophy, theology,
even French literature. How to describe
his intellect? “Desultory,” he said more than once.
And intellect’s only a slice, edges in the mind.
But who has a great mind anyhow? Not me.
“Prose for the detestable; lyric for the desirable,”
something like that, he said. Eliot? Too great
for his own good, probably. Book worm.

Did he go crazy? He was always
a bit of a nut, a pure product of America,
especially the First Amendment.

Ha! When Joyce asked his opinion about that
Work in Progress, he wrote, “Nothing short
of divine vision or a new cure for the clapp
could possibly be worth all the circumambient
peripherization.” Though he helped JJ at first,
in the Bug House (and long before)
he was anti the cult of Sunny Jim.

Whadya think of this:

There, in the forest of marble,
the stone trees—out of water—
the arbours of stone—
marble leaf, over leaf,
silver, steel over steel,
silver beaks rising and crossing,
prow set against prow,
stone, ply over ply,
the gilt beams flare of an evening.

That’s the left hook Hemingway could never teach him
with gloves. That’s a Venice that can knock you out colder
than the real thing. His name means “help” in Hebrew
and he was that to all of us. Still: energy.
Ezra means energy
to me.


 

L'Ormeggio della Poesia Moderna

Ron Smith

Translated by Angela d'Ambra

 

EP
Ci credereste che Willyum the Wumpus[i]
m’ha tollerato sessant’anni? Mai
avuto un altro amico come lui. Cauto, discreto.
Buon ascoltatore. Incagliato nell’Amygism[ii],

non mi riuscì cavarlo dal quel budello 

di smisurato rigorismo. A esser equi, tentò di latrare
il Gran-Poema. Ma quel Paterson, un casino grosso
quanto i miei Cantos - no, più piccolo, ma pur sempre
un casino.

                   Eravamo nella squadra di scherma della Penn
insieme, quando tutti i nostri sensi erano acuti,
direste. La scherma ti fa pensare
con la testa dell'avversario, senti
i muscoli dell'altro incresparsi
per un'azione specifica. Usavamo le épée,

benché pesanti, non quei fiacchi
fioretti d’alluminio. Era in gamba. Ma io ero meglio,
più aggressivo, più reattivo. Una volta, boxando, 

stordii il vecchio Champ con un netto contrappunzone.
Bill - Bill era garbato, persino con la spada in mano.

E ora non c’è più. Non c’è più. "Spacciato dalla lama 
che niun schiva", dissi una volta,

d’un tizio che m’inventai. Non mi lasceranno

tenere gli oggetti da scherma qui,
ma li conservo ancora,
da qualche parte.

WCW

Merda, ci sono ancora. Seduto proprio qui, ovunque sia

il dannato qui. Certo, ricordo l’incontro con Ez, la più vivace,
intelligente, più dannata cosa in cui io
mi sia mai imbattuto. La notte intera a parlare di poesia
nel dormitorio, quasi mi cavò un occhio
con la canna da passeggio di suo padre, pensando

che quella fosse scherma. Avrei potuto infilzarlo.
Avrei dovuto. Er fijo de pensava avrebbe battuto l’intera
squadra di scherma che non riusciva a fare, incluso
Leonardo Terrone, il nostro allenatore dall’It’lia. Ez era un 

cattivo schermidore, come pure danzatore, chef o falegname.
Madox Ford diceva che giocava a tennis "come un canguro 

ebbro" sebbene, in verità, fosse l'unico fra noi 

che non beveva. Il tennis non sembrava tennis

quando era Pound a giocarlo. Gridava "Egad![iii] " e ansimava,
s’acquattava, balzava, sbronzo e sorprendente e sciatto
come il suo armamentario fatto in casa. Ford fece tempi suppletivi

di ciarle in una sedia di Parigi ché non gli riusciva venirne fuori!

Parigi è dove Ez barattava lezioni con Hemingway,
scrittura per boxe, boxe per scrittura, colpo per colpo.
Wyndam Lewis capitò lì, e li trovò che ci davano dentro
(la roba da scherma di Pound visibile in un angolo), disse che Hem
"senza sforzi eccessivi" respinse uno degli “assalti frenetici” di EP
dopo di che "Pound s’abbandonò sul suo divano".
1922, l'anno delle atrocità nucleari di litrachur,  Hem scriveva
che Ez “agiva con aggressività” e aveva "in generale, la grazia
di un astaco, "qualunque cosa ciò significhi. Quella serpe di Hem
lusingava e coccolava il nostro selvaggio finché il mio amico
tirò fuori da lui In Our Time e costrinse un editore
al lancio di Mister Macho - il quale poi concesse che Ez aveva
"sferrato colpi tremendi" nella palestra privata di Parigi.

Dall'inizio lo lasciai fare il maestro del villaggio
per il mio scemo del villaggio. Avevo molto da imparare, e lui 

da insegnare, malgrado tutte le sue pose. Scrissi a mia madre 

che Ez era l'essenza stessa dell'ottimismo. Beh, non è vero?
Persino in manicomio rimase lo stesso uomo
che m’insegnava cosa la poesia poteva essere.
Mentre a Penn falliva in storia, la stava facendo, la storia,
persino in costume, nel dramma greco, esaltando cuori 

immani, estasi dopo estasi. Euripide,
questo era. Genio? Un genio a tratti lo possedeva-
una presenza – per intervalli.
Era una splendida testa tocca, una testa
splendidamente tocca. Estro e profondità,
profondità ed estro, con una copiosa portata
di pure cavolate.


Lettore lento, non lesse mai i Rooshans[iv], pure
aveva ancora opinioni. Eliot diceva che di filosofia
sapeva nulla o quasi, così di teologia,
e persino di letteratura francese. Come descrivere
il suo intelletto? "Desultorio," disse lui più di una volta.
E l'intelletto è solo una fetta, i lembi nella mente.
ma, in ogni caso, chi ha una grande mente? Non io.
"Prosa per il detestabile; lirica per il desiderabile, "
qualcosa del genere, diceva. Eliot? Troppo grande
per il suo stesso bene, forse. Topo di biblioteca.


Uscì di senno? Era sempre stato
un po’ svitato, un puro prodotto d'America,
specie del Primo Emendamento.


Ah! Quando Joyce gli chiese un’opinione su
Work in Progress, lui scrisse, "Niente anche solo vicino

a una visione divina o a una nuova cura per la gonorrea
potrebbe giustificare tutta la marginalizzazione

di contorno." Sebbene all'inizio aiutasse JJ,
nel manicomio (e molto prima)
era contrario al ​​culto di Jim il Radioso.

E che pensate di questo:

«Laggiù, nella foresta di marmo, 

gli alberi di pietra - fuor dall’acqua -

 i pergolati di pietra - 

marmo, foglia su foglia, 

argento, acciaio su acciaio, 

rostri d’argento si levano e incrociano, 

prora opposta a prora, 

pietra, strato su strato. 

I travi d’oro fulgidi nella sera».


Ecco il gancio sinistro che Hemingway non riuscì mai a insegnargli 
con i guanti. Ecco la Venezia che può metterti KO più fredda
della cosa in sé. Il nome di lui significa "aiuto" in ebraico
e per tutti noi egli lo fu. Ancora: energia.
Ezra significa Energia

per me.

(Translated by Angela d’Ambra)



[i] When, in 1931, Ezra Pound suggested that Louis Zukofsky might come to Europe, to Rapallo, and join his “Ezuniversity,” William Carlos Williams … replied that this promising younger poet would benefit from more exposure to America.

[ii] Scuola/corrente poetica: fusion di Amy +imagism, la parola è coniazione di Pound per riferirsi al movimento poetico. Il gioco è fra movimento e figura centrale del movimento, Amy Lowell

[iii] Il dizionario traduce ‘perdinci’, ma forse è una pronuncia deformata di en garde

[iv] Il termine è nelle Lettere di Pound

 


 

La Fanciulla

Silvia Falsaperla

(for Mary, Brunnenburg 2015)

That you should be born

                                       far away from that half-savage country

                                       seeds and petals blown from oltreoceano

                                       in a modernist storm

                                       to settle in the green valley towns of Südtirol

Shepherdess

                      of the golden braids

                      where the edelweiss grow

                      a peasant woman taught you the first words of consolation

                      and fortitude in prayer books

That you kept your father’s words

                                                       falling from turbulent stars

                                                       bursting into music,

                                                       canti

                                                       non sempre dulce

                                                       spesso amari

Destiny’s daughter

                               the crucifix you keep

                               to your bosom at night,

                               the shadows in the castle

                               even clandestine

                               can burst

Poetry’s daughter

                              keeping legacies on display

                              for us in the castle rooms

                              masks of parental faces, a yellow scarf,

                              the image clean and clear

                              the edelweiss water you offer

In this little village, kleines dorf,

                                                larches endure

                                                and apple and pear trees

                                                grow in abundance

 

 


 

WCW: Rutherford, N.J.

Silvia Falsaperla

I

OH DOC!

you would turn in your grave—if

you saw the house on West Passaic—filled

with dolls, a back room chock-full of dolls from

floor to ceiling in glass-casings—a

collector’s madness—

nevertheless

I saw you at the mahogany table in the dining room

with its turn-of-the-century wall-paper

and the heavy curtains hung by

Mrs. Williams, a Puerto Rican immigrant with circumspect eyes       

in fresh emerging Anglo America.

I saw your brother Ed in a starched Sunday suit

sitting on the living room settee

and you climbing up the narrow staircase

hurt in pride because Charlotte, the subject of your desire,

said yes to him.

II

The last house on the corner of Ridge Rd. teal blue;

across the street what was once a hardware store

where you bought light bulbs for Floss;

and the unadorned church where you married her,

a reminder of abiding love, the asphodel.

I look up at the attic window;

and see you writing at your night desk odes to rivers, the burls of trees,

other flowers and your sick desperate patients of Rutherford

too poor for the contagious hospital.

Say it in things not ideas.

And you danced half-naked in front of the mirror

the dance russe.

III

Ezra, that brilliant ass, away in Pagany.

But you loved A-mur-ka, that green half-savage country.

Doctor Williams in that crisp 1950s black-and-white

photograph in front of the teal blue veranda door,

snowball in hand on a winter’s New Jersey day.

Great-uncle Carlos. I too stood in front of my veranda,

a tomboy daughter of immigrant parents on a frozen heap of snow

in the true-blue north of the border.

IV

Looking for Mr. Marshall who kept a chicken coop  

in his backyard on Washington Ave., the black neighbourhood—

the house with the closed-in pale yellow veranda

to tell him he had left the red wheelbarrow

outside in the yard where it filled

with rainwater.

V

At Hillside Cemetery in Lyndhurst your words are hymns

to the burls, the asphodels, the young girls that still blush,

at the simple stone on the ground overrun by grass, Flossie beside you.

I leave you a greeny leaf of any tree, a common stone, as tokens of my affection.

The towers of New York City in far distance are visible in pre-sunset, your

weekend ride across the river to shape words in the American grain;

desert music, al que quiere, to he who wants it!

VI

Waiting all night at the Colonial Diner for a cab to take me to

Newark for my flight, you resting at Hillside across the street, for 52 years now.

Night hawks pull in for burger and fries. Ridge Rd. ain’t far. I can hear you hum.

I imagine you and Floss ate here, soup, coffee, a slice of pie.

Yesterday a man from Idaho had called you a chicken poet because of the red wheelbarrow,

preferring the opaque quartet lines of one bête noire.

I think of the old strangled house on West Passaic of the two thousand dolls—

a turn of thought—each doll, the two thousand babies you delivered,

like the two thousand poems—

like, just to say,

the plums in the fridge

were so sweet and so cold.