"Sounds like a good, cool guy until right about here"

That’s the brief note marked by the former owner of my copy of Twentieth Century American Poetics: Poets on the Art of Poetry. It appears here:

Hired to talk about literary matters, Pound could nt resist the opportunity to promulgate his political views. His broadcasts were self-indulgent and digressive to the point of incoherence, but there was no mistaking his devotion to fascism, his hatred of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and his virulent anti-Semitism. (Pound’s talks were so chaotic and bizarre that some Italian officials suspected he was an American spy broadcasting in a secret code.)

From a perspective beyond party politics

“This is an historic election, and I recognize the special significance it has for African Americans and the special pride that must be theirs tonight,” McCain said.

Doesn’t this election have special significance for all Americans? Shouldn’t we all experience “special pride” today for “doing something” that took an embarrassingly long time to accomplish…? Beyond parties, beyond platforms, beyond everything: just talking about people here.

I have yet to come across mention in the national media of California’s vote to strip married gay couples of their marriage rights and to reserve marriage for heteroexual couples.

And I’ve been looking.

Banned Books Redux

From the Los Angeles Times:

Yet it’s foolish, self-defeating even, to pretend that books are innocuous, that we don’t need to concern ourselves with what they say. If that’s the case, then it doesn’t really matter if we ban them, because we have already stripped them of their power.

Books do change things: Just think of “Common Sense,” which lighted the fuse of the American Revolution, or “Mein Kampf,” which laid out the blueprint for Hitler’s Germany.

These are very different books — one a work of hope and human decency, the other as venal a piece of writing as I’ve ever read — but what they have in common is a kind of historical imperative, the sense that, at the right place and time, a book can be a galvanizing factor, for good or ill.

Can you separate the poet from the Anti-Semitism, the racist from the reaction?

When Mr. Hollander was considered for the award three years ago, some members raised comments he had made in interviews, reviews and elsewhere that they felt should be examined when judging his candidacy. In one example, Mr. Hollander, writing a rave review in The New York Times Book Review of the collected poems of Jay Wright, an African-American poet, referred to “cultures without literatures — West African, Mexican and Central American.” And in an interview on National Public Radio’s “All Things Considered,” a reporter paraphrased Mr. Hollander as contending “there isn’t much quality work coming from nonwhite poets today.”

Other board members said they felt that such comments were not characteristic of Mr. Hollander’s views or had been misinterpreted. Mr. Louis-Dreyfus said that even if the comments were representative, they were irrelevant criteria for judging the Frost Medal, just as he would argue that Ezra Pound’s anti-Semitism should not detract from the literary appreciation of his work.

I’m curious about what other people think of this response. Personally, I can’t think of Ezra Pound without thinking about fascism, his support of Mussolini’s political regime and his reluctance to admit error in his old age. Pound is an interesting case study to consider in terms of separating oppression from art.

Should we? And if so, why?

When it comes to the politics of oppression and art, is there a separation between what we can appreciate and what we must condemn?