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10 February 2009

Canto XXIII

I googled 'reading ezra pound' today, to see if anyone else is doing anything like this. I found this, which has something in common and I like a lot of what the writer says.
Don't treat the Cantos as a crossword puzzle. Ultimately, in large part the annotations are irrelevant.

Good. That's exactly what I'm hoping. But she suggests following a guide, such as Terrell's Guide to the Cantos and Leon Surette's book A light from Eleusis. I'm not doing that. I'm relying on what I already happen to know, and trying not to care that I'll misunderstand a lot. (Also I'm occasionally learning new things, like the stuff about Borso d'Este.
In large part, in my opinion, Pound was mostly working very intuitive level in the overall organization of the Cantos. He wanted to include just about everything that he considered important for the world to know about.

Reading the Cantos is like paying a visit to a wonderful enormous shop run by a devoted antiquarian. (A cultural antiquarian, in this case.) He walks you around the shop and shows you all sorts of unusual objects (or rather facts and quotations) which come from all over the world and many distant periods of history and archeology (and literature and folklore). Some of them are beautiful, some are merely strange. In other cases, it's not obvious on the surface exactly what is supposed to be interesting about them. But to the shopkeeper, each of these objects has profound significance, and as he shows them to you he expects you to be able to appreciate this significance.

I like that a lot. It's a better-expressed version of my view of the Cantos as like reading postcards in a dead relative's papers. But I disagree with this:
To some extent (in my opinion) to really be able to understand the Cantos you have to strive to become Pound.
That's back to the Borges/Cervantes story I quoted earlier.

Anyway, enough delay. This is a short canto (3 pages) and the first page is really not just postcards, but scraps of fading newspaper. There are references to religion and to science (M. Curie) and to Greek etymology.

The second page isn't really any better. It's mostly in English,though, seemingly another fragment from some pastoral work. And then the third page goes through troubadouris wanderings into Homeric/trojan scraps of narrative ("well, they've made a bloody mess of that city."). To quote Borges again, is this a universal history of infamy?

Contrasted with the position a few cantos ago, I'm finding this less enjoyable, dissatisfied at not feeling any overall direction to each canto or to the run of one canto to the next.

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