22 March 2011

More yo! eos!

I've shared countless conversations with David Brazil about the lasting legacy of Pound (and how younger poets seem generally apprehensive to acknowledge his influence). When I first read Brazil (probably his The Book Called Spring on Brenda Iijima's Portable Press at Yo-yo Labs) I was reminded, of course, of Pound's intertextuality: the polysemous, multivalent voice drawing from readings in anthropology, mythology, philosophy, sociology, histories of civilization(s), theology, the esoteric... 

Take this short section from "12.1.2010," the first poem in yo! eos!:

I wipe condensation off the
big front window with the
flat of hand so I could
see through it, drosos is the
word we find in Aeschylus for both
dew & the young of an animal,
xaire Eos,
salve Aurora,
I met dawn just out the
threshold of my dad's house in
forest, Forest Home...

While Brazil constellates his reading and thinking and writing as did Pound, I'm interested in how this material enters the poem. Brazil's conversation is never far from his pedagogy, and his pedagogy is never far from community building (a community, mind you, built through conversation and collective learning). His reading enters the work because it's furniture in the room (and, yes, there's a lot of furniture, and, yes, some of it is very ornate), but it enters into a line of thought meant to illustrate and/or illuminate and/or inspire. In conversation, Brazil possesses the rare gift of making each conversant feel special (as if he's always speaking directly to you) while completely side-stepping condescension (though he's regularly juggling a wide swath of sometimes esoteric material). His poems function similarly in that his "reading" isn't meant to function  as "learning" or "kulchur" or "sophistication," but part of the grammar or shape of the conversation itself.

Spicer claimed in his second Vancouver lecture that "it must have struck Pound as odd that he was able to write the most moving, the most immediate cantos when he was in the monkey cage, without any books." And while it's certainly true that the Pisan Cantos are some of the more moving poems in his oeuvre, Pound still weaves in all kinds of material (despite being far from his library). The difference (despite having on hand, what, like three books? Confucius, The Bible, the Pocket Book of Verse?), perhaps, is that he's working from memory, letting resonance and correspondence naturally lead through thought: letting the line breathe without plugging the more poignant observations with "kulchur."

From Canto LXXIX:

Maelid and bassarid among lynxes;
   how many? There are more under the oak trees,
We are here waiting the sun-rise
   and the next sunrise
for three nights amid lynxes. For three nights
   of the oak-wood
and the vines are thick in their branches
   no vine lacking flower,
no lynx lacking a flower rope
   no Maelid minus a wine jar
this forest is named Melagrana

Now take this section from my favorite poem in Brazil's chapbook, "12.8.2010":

I can feel the blood of my pulse in its
rhythmical travel,
what kind of ground is this in which to
cultivate a judgment,
Dante did it in hell, it's what
hell was for, for him & no one else in
history, to save him, by going to the
bottom, we all often go our own ways,
without all the scenery & set-pieces,
there's enough in us to make the
poignant matter from whatever
happens to be handy,
one two three four five lanceolate
leaves turned yellow & I
plucked them from the stem.

Brazil's books are certainly always open, but his reading enters the poem more as a desire to learn than knowledge as such. I continually get the sense in Brazil's work that, in the words of Zukofsky, we "rate the impalpable 'compounded' event (i.e. thought) by [a] senuous stand in the 'simple' look." If the "simple were so well compounded" (get it?! com-Pound-ed?!), in Brazil's work the compound is always pointing back to very fundamental, simple truths about being together. As such, reading Brazil's yo! eos! feels a bit like suffering Pound to arrive at Eigner: that while "the 'simple' cries out to be 'well compounded,'" "the nature of the object is 'simple' because there is no other way to see it with the eye..." (Zukofsky, Bottom: On Shakespeare).

My thanks to Chris Daniels and his Berkeley Neo-Baroque chapbooks for getting this into my hands. Go here to learn more.

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