17 October 2002
It's hidden behind the Premium wall, but there's an interesting piece by Suzy Hansen in Salon.com this morning which follows up on the fallout from New Jersey poet laureate Amiri Baraka's blither about how Somebody Blew Up America. The remarks I found most pertinent were those by former United States poet laureate Robert Pinsky, who offered this:
The poet laureate of New Jersey has the same right as any other American to make a fool of himself.... Does anyone doubt that the Cantos would be much better if [Ezra] Pound's thinking were less cockeyed, provincial, demented, nasty? Poets are people; their works are human works.
I don't know, really. Inevitably, the Cantos (which I haven't so much as looked at in thirty years, but which now I feel compelled to tackle once again) reflect Pound's personality and his politics, but by no means does this constitute a qualitative judgment; no one (perhaps save Robert Fisk) writes from within a vacuum.
There is, I believe, a romantic notion on the political left to the effect that artists, simply because they are artists, are necessarily more in tune to the ways of the world than the rest of us, and the Baraka debacle is probably not enough to dispel that notion. Baraka's politics, ultimately, are of little interest; only the poetry matters. And Somebody Blew Up America, as it happens, strikes me as not so great a poem; were it a great poem, its positive qualities, I believe, would ultimately outweigh its political posturing. Ezra Pound might have appreciated the situation.